Tuesday 5 February 2013
‘Mr. Blackwood, sir!’ the tall and gangly personal assistant chased after Terence Blackwood as he strode rapidly from the conference room to his office. The man behind the corporation did not slow down; he had little time for anyone who couldn’t keep up with him.
‘What is it, Austin?’ Blackwood called back to the young man he considered more as his personal slave than assistant.
‘Sir, it’s not something that I can scream out as you’re racing through the building. It’s a rather sensitive matter.’ His words stopped Blackwood more out of irritation than concern.
‘Again, Austin, what is it?’ Blackwood demanded as Dale Austin caught up.
‘Research Facility Five, sir, it’s –’
‘It’s what?’ Blackwood interrupted.
Not fully understanding the meaning of Austin’s statement, Blackwood frowned. Austin, ‘Upper management team one reported at fifteen thirty that Facility Five suffered catastrophic damage when several labs exploded and were incinerated. Secondary explosions occurred at approximately fifteen fifty, and levelled what was left of the facility.’
‘My office, now,’ Blackwood snarled. He gripped Austin firmly by the arm, shepherded the assistant into his office, and pushed him into a chair.
The personal assistant touched the screen of his iPad and opened a video message sent by Verity Flynn. He handed the device to Blackwood who tapped the play icon. Austin had already viewed the message seven or eight times, and it didn’t get any easier to watch. He maintained eye contact on his employer as Blackwood took in the clip. After this there would be hell to pay, firstly because he hadn’t informed Blackwood of the disaster the moment it had happened, and secondly because he’d allowed Blackwood to go into a stakeholders meeting without the knowledge that the most important research facility in the company had been razed by explosions and fire.
Terence Blackwood replayed the video message three times before he returned the iPad to his assistant. He said nothing as he slowly walked around his desk and sat in his chair. The only thing to escape his lips in that time was a lengthy sigh that Dale thought might have originated somewhere near Blackwood’s feet given its duration.
Sitting in uncomfortable silence, Dale waited for the disciplinary measures to begin. Blackwood sighed again then leaned forward on his desk.
‘Tell Verity that I want anything that can be salvaged to be salvaged. That includes any files, hard or virtual copies, any samples that are still viable, anything at all that isn’t compromised. And then tell her that contingency plan A seven must be implemented across the board.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Dale said.
‘And then, Austin, once you’ve done that, I’ll give you five minutes to explain to me why I’m just finding out about this. I just spent forty five minutes in a stakeholders’ meeting telling everyone that Facility Five was . . . fucking ninety eight per cent ready. And now it’s not fucking there? What the fuck is up with that? Huh?’ Blackwood pounded his fist on the desk as he spoke. Austin flinched every time Blackwood’s hand made contact with the desk. It was a remnant of growing up with an abusive parent, and then jumping into a relationship with an equally abusive partner.
‘Yes, Mr. Blackwood. Immediately,’ said Austin.
‘Now,’ Blackwood replied, ‘get the fuck out of my office.’
Dale Austin leapt from the chair and bolted out of his employer’s office and straight in to his own. He barely made it to his own chair, collapsing in to it, shaking and hyperventilating and almost in tears. He did his best for Mr. Blackwood but sometimes with a man who was such a hard taskmaster and a perfectionist, his best wasn’t quite enough. This was one of those times and attempting to explain to Blackwood that it wouldn’t have been in his best interests to hear that information before or during a meeting of the stakeholders was not going to suffice, regardless of the fact that Austin knew that it was right to withhold the information until a meeting debriefing.
He took a little time to steady himself before make a video call to Verity Flynn, head of the upper management team that was on site at Facility Five. His voice was still shaky but he did his best to pass on Blackwood’s instructions.
‘Mr. Blackwood wants any and all viable samples, files, anything that can be recovered brought back to headquarters. He also said that you are to implement contingency plan A seven across the board. I’m assuming that you’re fully aware of the parameters of A seven.’
The video was blurry but Austin made out Verity Flynn nodding her understanding.
‘Yes, Mr. Austin, I’m perfectly aware of A seven,’ she replied.
‘Across the board,’ Dale said again.
‘Yes, Mr. Austin, across the board. All contaminants will be purged. I’ll contact you once we’ve fully implemented A seven.’
With those words, Flynn ended the video call.
* * * * *
Gus Portland approached Verity Flynn when he was sure that she was no longer communicating with Blackwood’s lackey.
‘What did he say?’ Portland asked.
‘Contingency plan A seven, across the board,’ she replied.
‘A seven? Are you sure?’
‘Across the board? Does Blackwood understand the implications of that?’ Portland was beginning to look worried.
‘At this point, Gus, it’s irrelevant what Blackwood does or does not understand. He wants A seven across the board, so we have to do it. Get Thoms and Best on listing every one of the response crewmembers who attended the scene. The rest of them can do salvage. You and I will go through anything Best and Thoms have already collected on Nicholas Kent.’
‘Verity,’ Gus was determined to try once more, ‘contingency plan A seven, across the board requires that we eliminate everyone who isn’t with the corporation who had any contact with a site in catastrophic decline.’
‘I’m well aware of what it means, Gus,’ she replied, ‘I thought you would’ve been happy. You’ll get to exercise your trigger finger.’
. . . To be continued . . .