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Quandary over Phantom...

Posted 04-05-2012 at 09:43 AM by PhantomCruiser

Billy Tanner trudged into the “Cellar Door”, the officially the unofficial watering-hole located in the basement of the housing office at WideAwake International. He was enough of a regular for the bartender to know that he’d be asking for his typical rum-and-coke mixture before he headed over towards the pool tables, but today he just wasn’t in the mood. After accepting the proffered drink he wandered over to a booth to nurse his drink and fired up his tablet to work on his article.

Find the dirt!” his editor had told him, “Don’t come back until you’ve got the dirt. I don’t believe in any of this Cult of Personality crap around Kirby. Nobody is this clean, nobody. Do you hear me? The man’s got three ex-wives for goodness sake. Find me the dirt!”

Normally Tanner was quite good at doing just that, finding the dirt. Seventeen years as a journalist had made him jaded towards most any development, project, philanthropist or politician (elected or otherwise). But after nearly two years following John Kirby around the world he felt that he’d hit a brick wall.

Actually his editor had it wrong. Kirby had four ex-wives. Three of them were currently employees of Phantom Manufacturing. Two of them were here on the island as part of his “Space Division”; another was in England working as a project leader on a petro-chem contract. Only his first wife maintained any distance, mainly because she worked out of the FBI field office in Los Angeles.

The only dirt that he could find were stories that Phantom’s public affairs coordinator, Nancy Davis, could tell him. As it was, Nancy was Kirby’s babysitter when he was young. Davis (then a Travers) recounted tales of a young John Kirby terrorizing the staff of his families’ ancestral antebellum estate near Nashville. More than once the groundskeeper would complain about Kirby tearing up the meticulously kept lawn with his collection of Tonka trucks and little green army men.

After all this time, he still had nothing of any substance for his editor. All he could prove was that Kirby was human, had good taste in rum, was loyal to his country; possibly even more loyal to his friends, and loved to play in the dirt as a boy. He’d initially viewed Kirby as a target, so he fixed his sights and began his research into his background, upbringing, school life, college life and early career choices. Put simply, Kirby didn’t follow any of the typical “rich-kid” templates. While Kirby had been known to tip a bottle or two, he’d never attended any wild parties, never got caught with any senators daughters, prostitutes or married women. While his business dealing were constantly being scrutinized by the SEC, he was also constantly being exonerated. His taxes were all in order, and despite his jaded philosophy towards the ultra-rich, Tanner couldn’t find any fault.

His research had led him to the conclusion that Kirby was one of the few true “boy scouts”, an Eagle Scout on top of all that. After declining an appointment to the academy at Annapolis, he’d graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in chemical engineering. Kirby then worked in the aeronautical field doing some proprietary work with fuels, and was let go when the project lost funding. Kirby landed on a job at a chemical processing facility and developed a new blend of fertilizer. After buying the intellectual property rights for it he made a fortune, bought the chemical company to start Phantom Manufacturing; and then promptly vested everyone in the company with the proceeds from the patent on his miracle fertilizer.

One thing he was able to find was that Kirby had an uncanny ability to identify talent and network with his friends. Tanner had seen some of the interns that would come to Phantom that didn’t’ work out. Kirby was pretty ruthless when it came to people that he wanted to hire, but if they didn’t work out, he always seemed to have someone on speed-dial that could benefit from the prospective recruits abilities. Phantom Mfg wasn’t a very big company. But Kirby seemed to know someone at every large and small company across the globe.

Kirby’s venture into aerospace and lunar bases is not only recent, but seemingly out of left field. After landing a contract with Spectre Mining Corporation, Kirby set out to provide a base of operations on the moon. Once the base is operational it’s to be turned over to the people at Spectre, but Phantom will continue to provide launch services for resupply, maintenance and crew rotation.

None of the data Tanner had collected helped him in the slightest to satisfy his editor. As he stared at the tablets blank display and wondered how much longer he’d be tasked with finding something that he no longer believed was there, he was startled by the appearance of Cleveland Davis, a long-time friend of Kirby’s who’d plopped down on the bench across from him.

“Hey Bill, somebody shoot your dog man?” Cleveland asked, with only a slight Jamaican accent. “Nancy and I are having crab legs on the grill tonight. Why don’t you come over?”

“Mmm, Thanks for the offer Cleve, but I’m not sure if that’s good idea right now”.

“Nah forgot that man, you looking too glum to be living above the daisies. You come by or Nancy will come hunt you down”, Cleveland grinned, “Besides, she wants to talk to you about something” (with the barest hint of sometin) Cleveland continued with the invitation. “Kirby’s off to England again to see Rebecca and we need to celebrate another rocket launch. Those Ariane 6’s are some beast eh?”

“They do make some noise that’s for sure” Tanner agreed. “I tell you what, let me finish my article and I’ll head right over?”

“You do that; we’ll be seeing you in a bit”. Cleveland replied as left his seat.

Tanner watched Cleveland amble over to the bar and order a case of Red Stripe. If you can’t beat ‘em, he thought as he turned again his attention to his tablet. Might as well keep riding the gravy train.

Another Ariane Six blasted its way into the sky from WideAwake International…
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  1. Old Comment
    Codz's Avatar
    Posted 04-05-2012 at 05:18 PM by Codz Codz is offline
  2. Old Comment
    ky's Avatar
    Posted 04-07-2012 at 12:23 PM by ky ky is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Aeadar's Avatar
    More please.
    Posted 04-10-2012 at 10:32 PM by Aeadar Aeadar is offline

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