Walking into the board room Zach feels all eyes on him. He’s surrounded by the group of men and women who’ve spent years making the choices for his multi billion dollar company. They’re all lingering around the long table where they meet. He knows many of them, though he hasn’t seen any since his parents’ funeral. There’s many others he doesn’t recognize and he’s certain he’s never seen. They all know who he is. They whisper as he walks by, flashing nervous smiles. They range in age from the fairly young to the very old. Age doesn’t have much to do with their reactions.
Is she here? Asking Linus feels impossible, like an admission of what he did. She wouldn’t necessarily be on the board, but he wouldn’t be surprised if she is either. She must hate him. He can’t undo what he did. Scanning the faces of every woman in the room, none of them look like her although how would he know after so long? What does she even look like now?
The new suit Linus recommended itches like crazy but he has to admit he looks great in it. It slims him in all the right places and makes him look twenty pounds lighter. He loved his reflection in the mirror this morning. Now he wishes he could stop fidgeting, or that his tie was a little looser so he could breathe.
An older man with a cane comes over and offers his hand. Seeing no polite way around the gesture Zach accepts while trying to remember where he knows this guy from. There’s a hint of recognition but he can’t come up with a name. He’s saved by Linus calling the meeting to order.
Everyone takes a seat. There’s an empty seat near Linus and the man waives him over. His shoulders slump. Why’d they have to put him right at the front of the room? This is his first meeting, somewhere in the back where he can observe without getting in the way would work a lot better. There’s no other free chairs though so he makes his way there and fidgets into his chair.
New business is brought up first and a variety of committee members stand to present new issues or new products they’d like to throw the company behind. Acquiring another company’s discussed but Zach finds the business side of that confusing. Other members of the group are concerned about the cost of buying a company in dire financial straits but the man proposing the purchase suggests at this price they don’t need the company to make money. Their patents alone will make the purchase a steal.
The vote on that one’s close but they pass. Too large a financial obligation. Zach abstains on the vote and can’t miss the eyes rolling around the table. He doesn’t waiver though; he doesn’t know enough to make an informed decision. He won’t contribute to messing this company up. The man who made the proposal seems upset but after a moment manages to calm himself down enough that he doesn’t storm out.
Next is an investment opportunity in VR. A short brunette woman in a long green dress gets up to discuss all the money they’ve been pouring into it and where they can go from here. She presents a program which can map your way around a city and take you on a virtual trip. It uses real time data from a satellite network to show what’s happening in the city in real time. This seems way more advanced than current GPS programs and Zach takes notice. He can see a hundred ways this could help him.
The claws emerge the second she finishes her presentation. They’ve spent too much on VR in the last few years with little to show for it. This could take years to show results. What are the practical applications?
The room goes quiet and Zach worries this isn’t going to pass. He needs a way to sway the room and he’s out of time. Linus notices his agitation and leans toward him. “Everything alright Zach? This all a bit much for your first day?”
“I’m good, thanks. I actually have a question about this last presentation. Do I raise my hand or something? Or just speak up?”
Linus frowns. “You’re the controlling owner, stand and speak and everyone in this room’s going to listen.”
Standing, Zach feels every eye in the room focus on him. His fight or flight instincts kick in and he wants nothing more than to escape and bury his head under a pillow. He breathes in and out a few times, trying to calm himself. There was a time he regularly had to appear confident when he wasn’t and he calls on his best fake smile. “I actually rather liked the presentation, the technology looks impressive. I wonder if we’ve considered what could be our best customer for this though.”
The woman who gave the presentation looks ready to grab any flotation device tossed her way. She can read the room. “What would that be? We’re certainly interested in ways we can get the most out of the technology.”
“How about first responders? Police, paramedics, fire fighters. They could all use a technology that helps them plot the best course around a city. That can shave valuable seconds which for emergency responders can be everything.”
A man sitting a few seats down climbs to his feet. “That’s great Mr. Thomas and I can see the application but usually those public agencies don’t pay all that well. If that’s our main market I question whether we would ever recoup our development cost.”
Run away. The urge is strong. Zach’s legs shake but he stands his ground. “That may be true and I know we’re here to make money. There are other considerations though. Working with the police to help with this sort of technology could be huge for public relations. I’d also argue that if we get this working everywhere then every first responder in the world will want one. That may not be a huge amount per unit but the amount of units adds up.”
The crowd starts whispering and everyone seems to be considering his points. If there’s one thing the board likes more than money it’s public recognition. The vote starts soon after and while there are a few nail biting moments the proposal passes. Zach’s relieved to see Linus votes along with him.
Another hour goes by before the meeting ends and none of the other proposals interest him. He abstains from the remaining votes though none are close enough that he could have mattered. When everyone gets up to leave the woman who proposed the VR technology makes her way over to him and offers her hand. “Mr. Thomas, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support. If you hadn’t spoken up I don’t think we would have passed.”
She’s a little older but attractive and Zach starts to sweat as she comes close. “Glad I could help. Your proposal was fascinating.”
Her eyes narrow. “Thanks, I had considered the law enforcement angle but I guess the potential for pushing that hadn’t occurred to me. I think there are a lot of other applications as well but that could be great for the company’s image.”
“Ya, big help. Glad to do so…” Zach sticks his hands in his pockets. He realizes how weird he must seem but feeling awkward about his awkwardness just makes him more awkward. Finally he decides to end things. Removing his hand from his pocket he offers it to her. “I really want to see more of this when it’s done Ms…”
“Moore. Charley Moore. I’ll make sure you receive any updates Mr. Thomas.” She takes Zach’s hand and he’s suddenly very aware of how sweaty it is. She doesn’t seem to mind though and she smiles as she leaves.
Linus sneaks up behind him and slaps him on the back. “Great first meeting. I was surprised you stood up for a project but you made some excellent points.”
“I saw you voted for with me. Did you like the project too?”
Linus puts a hand to his head and rubs his temple. “Honestly? Not really. It’s okay and could be cool but I think the business applications are small and even if we can sell it to first responders, that’s years away. It’s not going to break us or anything though and I wanted to support a project you were passionate about. Everyone in this room understands you have pull now. The next time you speak up, they’re all going to listen.”
His skin crawls. Zach’s never liked getting ahead because of who he is and knowing that this only passed because he’s a Thomas hurts. He reminds himself his success wasn’t at stake here. Charley’s was. “If this thing doesn’t work out am I going to take the blame?”
“Not at all, don’t worry about that. Nobody hits them all out of the park. I’ve championed plenty of investments that bombed. Try to make more of your passion projects hit than not and you’ll be fine.” Linus pulls his phone out and starts scrolling through it. “By the way, I wanted to grab lunch with you tomorrow. We can go over the meeting, I can answer any questions you might have, then we can start looking at next steps.”
Every instinct in his body tells him that he doesn’t have time. Sami and Lorelei are in the hospital and he needs to track down the people responsible. He needs to keep Linus in the dark though. “Now definitely isn’t the right time. I have a lot going on with the business I’m investing in. Maybe in a couple weeks?”
Linus’ eyes narrow, not much but enough that Zach can tell he isn’t happy. “I know this all seems like a lot and maybe you don’t want to rush things. Today went great though and I want to keep the momentum going. Besides, it’s my treat. You have to eat.”
Fidgeting in place, Zach tries to think of another excuse. None come to mind. “Alright, we’ll make it work. Send Beth the details about where and I’ll be there. Try to pick somewhere that’s not super fancy though. I don’t want to dress up.”
Another slap on his back sees the smile return to Linus’ face. “You’ve got it. I have the perfect spot. Low key, secluded, not super busy. Fantastic Cuban food and you don’t have to wear anything fancy.”
“Sounds perfect.” The men shake hands and Zach calls his driver. His original plan was to take today for himself since he knew this meeting would be a lot to handle. If he’s going to make time for Linus tomorrow though, that means he needs to make more time today for hunting down these men.