"Andrew, I know what you're thinking." said the woman pointing at her surrounding. "This all took a long time to built. Giving some of it away seems like a ripoff. Like a trick made to deceit you and take away what you created. I get it, OK? I really do."
The woman, whose name was Nora, stood imposingly in front of the man who was sitting behind his desk, with her legs wide apart, shifting her weight mostly in one side as they protruded beyond her skirt that reached a couple of inches above her knee. Her two feet stood comely and voluptuous and her hands were tagged on her waist as spider feet, reigning upon the man who was sitting reticent in his tall aeron chair. Andrew observed her stolid face, and the straight blonde hair slanting beyond her face and thought about the effect she had on all the men in the office. Nora was something like a sex symbol, a luscious and sensual woman that all men desired and wanted to have, and thus she could exert influence on them just by her presence. Through the years he had witnessed a number of them make their move, trying to approach this mysterious woman that seemed to be untouchable by all just to get humiliated in front of their peers, triggering a series of rumors and discussions that were bound to permutate through the office.
He never understood them really. He could never share any of their feelings himself for her and that would make him the only man willing to keep a distance from her. Something that ironically brought her closer to him instead of further away. Through the years she had been working as his financial adviser, they had developed a strong friendship, a relationship that although mostly professional, would still allow them to speak to each other directly and openly for all matters and that was something that Andrew appreciated a lot in his time of directing B.P.M. inc.
"I'm not worried to give some of it away if what I get in return is equivalent to the value I'm offering," Andrew said. "But what they propose is just not good enough."
"50 million for a 10% equity is not good enough for you?"
"It's not that simple," said the man calmly. "These guys wouldn't make such an offer if they hadn't come to the conclusion that is profitable to them don't you think?"
"The fact that they win does not mean that we lose Andrew," said the woman. "We get lots of money back in exchange. Money that we won't be able to find anywhere else and that we need urgently at the moment."
The man fumbled his hands over the table and darted his eyes away from Nora, looking abstractly over the window in a distracted mode while he remained silent. His office was located at the furthermost side of the floor, in the far end corner where one side was overlooking the street and the city that was expanding beyond it on his left and the rest of the office on the other where the desks were lying scattered in the unified open area, overlayed with a light blue carpet.
"I'm not saying that the offer is not enticing," he said after a few seconds. "Sure we could use some money and sure we could put them to good use if we had them in our hands. But opportunities like that will always be there and based on the rhythm we are developing the last year, I think it just isn't the right move for us at the moment."
He glanced once again outside the window as he noticed Alice, one of the employees who joined the team recently, tackling her bag on top of her desk and rummaging through its surface. He muttered something ineligible as he observed her getting approached by Rachael the red-head secretary with the big bust and the gaudy earrings and then slid his eyes slowly towards Nora who was now waiting with her hands folded in her chest.
"Look, I'm not saying that I have made up my mind yet. But I definitely wouldn't want to rush any decision we might regret later on. That's all".
Nora stared at him suspiciously and approached the inner side of his desk as she leaned opposite to him. "I think we both know you are not going to do that," she said blatantly. "I'm here long enough to know when someone is lying to me. And if one thing is for sure is that whatever lies beyond that office is of more interest to you than this particular offer."
She turned sideways as she watched the two women outside chatting in a cheerful manner and then checked back with Andrew again who got quite restless by the comment.
"I think you got the wrong idea," he said eagerly.
"A woman's eye is never wrong in these things" Nora replied sardonically. "You are distracted. It is obvious. And you stopped paying attention to the things that happen in front of you,"
"Nora," Andrew began trying to explain but thought better of it and cut the sentence short.
"It's fine," the woman said. "Everybody deserves a bit of time off here and there". "I just hope that yours is not gonna last so long that we'll regret the fact a few years from now," she said as she slowly leaped up and got herself out of the office.
Andrew burst a sound of relief once Nora left the room, slid his head back to his chair closing his eyes, and enjoyed the solitude he so much craved the last few hours. It wasn't so much that he didn't like the company of others and especially of people like Nora, but he would find that many times it was hard to pass his point as he intended to and he would inadvertently enter some conflict that would be hard to avoid.
He never admitted it to anyone but since the day that his artificial intelligence program made it into the market, he had to abandon the thing that he loved the most -spending his time lazily with friends and company he could trust without needing anything from them or visa versa. He instead embarked into the world of businesses and politics where he would have to struggle with obstacles he was never familiar with together with people he never understood.
That's not the job I signed up for, he thought and he leaped up from his chair, maneuvering through the window where he stood by his side glancing discreetly outwards.
There he saw Alice once again and noticed her gentle figure with the white soft skin and the triangular face with the sharp edges and the freshness of her hair. He had noted her presence since the very first day that she had come to the office two months ago but never had the chance to meet her in person yet or initiate contact. He slid his head and conjured the image of the rulebook that he so fervidly impressed to all members of the team. "Relationships between employees are strongly discouraged to avoid favoritism, bias, or conflict of interest." the paper wrote and it was at times like this that he always thought that maybe he took the rule a step too far.
He jauntily stepped back to his desk and picked up the phone hatching it with his shoulder beneath his cheek and browsed the pages of a book in front of him.
"Zoey, Andrew here", he began. "I was just wondering, what is the status with the new ad campaign". "Still ongoing? Yes, yes I thought so". "I would like to speak with the people that are working on it. I think I have some ideas that might help". He stretched his jacket with his hand and continued. "Yes send them both in together with the new girl. I want to make sure they got the point right".
He closed the phone and remained still for a few seconds in a state of agitation. He pulled out a small rectangular mirror with a green handle and he fixed it before the books pointing its surface towards him. He saw his rich fleshy lips and the slovenly blonde hair falling on the sides of his forehead and used his two hands to pressure them against his head and disentangle them. He then made sure to unjumble his desk and by the time he heard the knock on the door he had transformed the office to resemble something less untidy than what was before.
"Mr. Andrew, Nick, and Alice are here to see you." said the secretary, and Andrew gestured casually for them to come in. The two of them entered the room and stood awkwardly in front of him as he continued to scribble some ineligible notes in his notebook. The two of them glanced at each other in wonder of what they should do and the man cleared his throat in a flashy way but Andrew continued unbothered as if there was no one else in the room but him. Eventually, after a few long seconds that felt like minutes, he raised his hand, glanced at them, and with a raspy voice he said,
"Sorry about that. Please have a seat."
He pointed to the green woolen chairs across from him and waited for them to take their seats.
"Alice" completed the woman eagerly.
"Alice correct," said Andrew. "From what I hear you two have been assigned to the new ad campaign. Any progress so far?"
The two guests glanced at each other on who should be the one to respond on the matter until Nicolas took the initiative.
"Mr. Andrew, we are very close to finishing the scheme for the year as we speak. We are just doing the last refurnishments at the moment but I assure you the matter is going very well."
"Right right," said Andrew distracted. "I'm sure it is". "So tell me, Nick, what are we targeting this time? Any particular strategy in mind?"
Nick took a big breath and continued. "We have made sure to include all the best characteristics, sir. We have a number of posts dedicated just for kids and the younger generation. Revealing all the fun games and activities you can do. We have one coming out straight for social networking and interactions with others which is certain to bring lots of customers and lastly my own very favorite. An ordinary family man, that puts up with all the chords of the house and sets the kids to sleep after a long day, and just as he gets back to his room and everyone thinks that he is about to fall asleep; he picks up the two levers in his hands and enters into this seconds world. The one he really finds joy in." he said with an intense nod, liking the sound of it. "It's a brilliant idea Andrew and also this way we have caught all possible genres and ages. There is no one that escapes this campaign now."
"I see, I see," said Andrew softly. "It's like an unhappy family man that escapes through the device."
"Exactly right. Couldn't put it any better. He escapes into a world of his own choosing. One that he can be happy again."
"Hm, not bad," said Andrew. "But you see the problem is that all of them focus on entertainment. We show kids and grown-ups playing games and doing stuff for their pleasure, but we forgot to mention anything about the rest of the aspects."
"Sorry sir, I don't think I follow," said Nick confused.
"Well let me put it to you this way Nick. Is there anything else in that product that is not strictly related to fun and games?"
"Maybe there are Andrew but I think the most important aspect for us would be to attract people's attention and there is no better way to do that than fun and games."
"People are attracted to what they need Nick not what they would like to have or what seems convenient," said Andrew curtly. "What about you Alice? Any better idea perhaps?"
The woman recoiled with her hands tied in front of her waist and spoke in an excited manner. "I think I agree with you, sir. Games is one aspect of it for sure, but at the same time we can showcase many other things that could improve people's lives."
Andrew sketched a little smirk on his face and let her continue.
"For example, If I may sir," she exclaimed potently.
"Please go ahead," said Andrew.
"I have found that our product could work excellently with doctors and help them in their jobs in the hospitals. And also, it can be a great instructional tool, sir. It can be used for education, and help architects visualize the structures of their buildings, or the poor and the destitute in times of disasters like earthquakes and accidents. I think it is a magnificent tool sir that you have built and it has great potential that we can tap into if we pay attention to them."
"Excellent answer Alice. That's exactly what I'm looking for," said Andrew excited and then turned to Nick who slouched his head a bit lower. "You see Nick when I actually built this product I never focused too much on the entertaining aspect of it. I always found this to be too mundane. Too futile". "What I really cared about was that one day it would actually help others in their lives in ways it would be impossible to do before and that it could really make a difference to people."
He declared his comment pompously with an emphasis on each word and then turned to Alice. "Excellent job again, Alice I really like the ideas you have. Please make sure you follow along these lines and not the trivial ones. We have enough of those in the world already anyway don't you think?"
The two of them agreed and left the room solemnly as Andrew picked up the pen once again harshly and continued to scribble in the piece of paper he had in the beginning. And at the moment the door closed he exhaled a big breath and leaned back to his chair getting into deep thought as he reiterated the events in his mind.
A few hours passed and Andrew was already fatigued from the trivialities of the day as he iterated through the daily issues. He walked over the main hall, among the cylindrical metal pillars in the venue and the blue carpet with the soft bounce and he waddled over the kitchen with anguished steps and evidently troubled. He heard the continuous giggling of the people inside and the general levity of their attitude and walked past them unwavering when he noticed the chatter subsiding and coming to an end. He had been used to this sort of reaction ever since he made it in the business world and he had seen the attitude of the people around him change not without wonder on his part. Friends and family stopped addressing him as the sole geek that was a bit too awkward socially to enrich his life and his peers and colleagues would evince more respect to his face often labeling him as the de facto authority in his field.
That was all welcoming in the beginning but in due time he found it hard to make friends with others and he was annoyed that people would treat him as some sort of distant entity that had passed beyond the norms of the human being. They would keep the conversation professional and strict and no matter how much he tried they would always find a way to keep away from him.
He noticed Nora speaking on the phone in the corner of the room and moved on to the big red machine standing in the center of the shaft beyond the yellow light of the cupboards that were extending above.
"Ian, congratulations," he said with a big smile to the man standing on his left. "I heard you had a baby last week."
"That's true Andrew. Thank you. Finally, I get to be a father. It surely isn't going to be easy from now on."
"I'm sure you'll manage just fine," said Andrew. "Was everything OK with the process?"
"Yes, yes everything was fine," said the man reluctantly, "nothing out of the ordinary."
The man stood curtly with his lips closed and Andrew picked up the cup that was now filled with hot coffee and sipped from it.
"That's great Ian. Wish you all the best at it," he said at the end and watched the man leave as Nora who was standing behind listening to the conversation approached.
"Getting closer with the personnel, I see?" she asked.
"Well I'm trying to but I wouldn't call it a success exactly. What is their issue anyway?" he asked.
"No issue," replied Nora with a sardonic smile getting Andrew arm in arm. "No issue at all". "Just another part of the job," she said as the two of them walked together towards the big windows opening in tall in front of them, overlooking over the city.