Thursday, October 9, 2008

Home Base - Chapter 2

Home Base

Brad pulled out of the parking lot, not really sure what he was doing or where he might go. "Crap! What in the hell?" A fresh wave of confusion washed over him as he pulled out of the parking lot. Turning onto Washington Avenue, he instinctively headed towards downtown and home. IPSO was located in an office park nestled in the suburbs of Denver. This was convenient for most of the employees who avoided lengthy rush hours if they happened to live on this side of town. For Brad it was merely inconvenient, not that it mattered now. He enjoyed the reverse rush-hour of living downtown and working in the 'burbs about as much as he enjoyed visiting with his dentist. A straight-up commute to downtown Denver from the suburbs was misery, but Brad was hardly a suburb kinda guy. At age 30 he wasn't bad looking, just a shade under six foot and when he got around to it he went through fits of exercise, sometimes for weeks at a time. These fits typically fell victim to whatever cool new project he happened to be working on, but invariably started back up when things settled down. He hadn't been to the gym for nearly five months since he and the team had been really cranking on the Triton-3 project.

Jabbing an angry finger at the power button of the stereo, he turned it off. He needed to talk to someone. Sarah was at work, but was likely to talk to him. She was his on again off again girl friend of nearly ten years and a contracts lawyer for a small firm. Unlike Brad, Sarah was in great physical shape, though not in an obvious way. At 5'2" she wasn't particularly leggy and as an avid rock climber her body was more gorilla than princess. Sarah was driven, she had no problem putting in the 60+ hours of work that her job required, generally working that in the normal course of a five day week. Adding to that a healthy workout schedule and her weekend climbing, Sarah held just as much guilt regarding the nature of their relationship as did Brad. Addressing no one in particular, he said, "Rosie, call Sarah at work."

"Dialing 303 055 1922," responded a disembodied female voice from the speakers of his car.

"Babetz and Green. How may I help you?" intoned the pleasant, if uninterested voice of Jenny, the receptionist at Sarah's office.

"Hey, Jenny. Hey it's Brad. Hey, is Sarah available?" Geez, he thought, just how many times can I squeeze the word "Hey" into a conversation. Brad had never been comfortable around Jenny and always felt like an idiot when they spoke. Jenny met every law firm receptionist stereotype. She was blond, leggy and quite intimidating to the likes of Brad.

"Oh. Hi Brad. Let me check for you." Brad imagined Jenny on the intercom, dialing Sarah's office.

"Heya baby, looking for a nooner?" came Sarah's teasing voice over the car's speakers. Just for a moment Brad's sullen face cracked into a smile.

"Carp just walked me out at IPSO."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"They fired me Sarah, it was really weird. Carp called me into his office and said the project was being terminated and I was fired. He wouldn't even let me go back to my desk without an escort. I didn't get a chance to grab any of my stuff. He just walked me to my desk, asked me to check in my code and then walked me out the door. It was surreal, I felt like I was having an out of body experience."

"Holy Crap, Brad, that is crazy. Are you OK?" Sarah's voice was considerably softer than when they had started the conversation. "Where are you?"

"I am on Santa Fe, headed home."

"I am so sorry Brad, Want me to come over?" It wasn't an idle offer, Sarah's office was only about 10 minutes away.

"No, don't worry, are you still coming over tonight?" Just having someone to talk to seemed to make things better.

"Yeah, be there about 8, that OK? I will bring some Thai." Sarah's voice took on an apologetic tone. "I'm really sorry Brad, I need to run." She was working on making partner and generally didn't have much time during the day for anything personal.

"See you tonight." Brad paused for a couple of seconds, not wanting to hang up. "Thanks Sarah." This time he thumbed the power switch off using the rocker switch on the steering wheel.

Accelerating, Brad merged onto I-25 still heading North. "Rosie, order chile verde burrito from Duca's and have them delivered home. Use the Visa."

"Ordering one chile verde burrito from Duca's Mexican Restaurant at 121 Federal Boulevard, charging to Brad Maunikey's Visa account, and delivering to 230 North Federal Boulevard. Confirm please." intoned the same disembodied female voice that had earlier dialed Sarah's work phone.

"Confirm," Brad responded.

Turning off I-25, Brad made his way north on Federal Boulevard which was a very busy road running north/south through much of Denver. He slowed down in front of a rundown car repair shop. Instead of pulling into the drive, he overshot and pulled into the alley that ran next to it. "Rosie, open garage." Almost immediately, a door began to open in the building just behind the repair shop at the end of the alley. The bay he pulled into was large enough for a few cars, although there were currently no others. The floor was clean and the empty bay revealed a large metal staircase leading to the second floor. As the tail of the car cleared the entryway, the garage door started to descend.

Brad slid out of his Cayenne Pepper Red custom Honda Civic coupe. Any other day, he would stop and admire the custom wheels, custom body work, and more importantly a totally electric motor that produced nearly 300 horse power. The only downside was that its range was limited to a hundred miles per charge. This was no problem in town, but it wasn't much for trips. For that he had to rent something.
His head was still reeling from the bizarre morning and instead, he walked past the car and up the steps like an automaton. It wasn't really that uncommon to have a project canceled or even re-assigned once the hard work had been accomplished. Cirkus, Brad's consulting company, charged an arm and a leg for his time. Companies justified the expense when the project had a fresh budget. Once success was in sight, however, it was time to trim the fat. That was what he couldn't let go of. This project had just begun its first round of testing, and out of the blue the entire thing was shut down, citing total project failure. The IPSO project had been weird right from the start. If not for Paul Bently's request, he wouldn't have been involved at all.

He owed almost all his financial success to his good friend Paul. They weren't really hang-out buddies, although they did get together once in a while. They were more the "birds of a feather" type friends. Their friendship began when Paul, in a pinch, had entrusted a fairly pesky regulatory problem at one of his banks to Brad's capable hands. At the end of the project, Paul encouraged Brad to start up Cirkus, even providing some seed capital. On top of that, Paul called several wealthy friends and gave Brad his strongest recommendation. Together they owned Cirkus although Paul was mostly a silent partner unless Brad needed something.

Arriving at the top of the stairs, still mostly lost in thought, Brad stood in front of an oversized steel door with a small safety glass window centered at about five foot high and no visible handle. Directly to the right of the door, a small recess betrayed an industrial keypad and LCD screen. Instead of typing on the pad, Brad simply addressed the door. "Rosie, open front door please." The "please" was unnecessary, but it made Brad feel a bit more human. The door slid to the left, beginning before the words were completely out of his mouth, with just a bit of squeaking. Brad thought that he heard his oversized air compressor kick on in it's basement room, but wasn't sure.

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