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All characters in this story are at least 18 years of age.
James Scofield whistled his way through the hallways on his way to the board room. He flirted with the office assistant as he breezed past her and into the conference room. The Chairman of the Board was waiting for his arrival and appeared impatient at the leisurely way he strolled in.
“What’s this?” the acting Chairman of the Board asked.
He tossed a file folder from his position at the head of the table to where his head scientist stood. The tone in his voice and the anger he displayed in tossing the file made it clear to James the situation was not a pleasant one.
“What?” James asked as he picked up the thrown folder from his side of the conference table.
James was summoned to the company conference room to explain an anomaly in the Mating and Matching system that was developed a century before. He had taken the helm of the scientific wing of the Company as the third-generation lead of the project years before. His grandfather started the company as an enterprising graduate from college.
The charter of the Company laid the foundations of its principles and morals that would guide the company for as long as it existed. When James’ father passed suddenly, James was sure to take over the company immediately. In his will, however, his father dictated that Scott Ambroste was to be acting Chairman. James would take his rightful spot when he had spent sufficient time running each department in the Company as his father did. He thought anyone who led the Company must be intimately familiar with all aspects of it.
Scott was elevated to that position from his seat in the Board of Directors. James knew Scott was unhappy with the lack of promotion opportunity in his position. He also suspected that Scott would not release his hold on power so easily, even if the Board demanded it.
He picked up the folder and began flipping through the pages quickly as he perused the data being presented to him. He recognized the pages all too well and flipped through the data as he had seen it all thousands of times before. It was all identical to the data he had seen before until he flipped to the fifth page. He paused to verify what he was reading.
“What the fuck?” he gestured quietly as he reread the data. “This is impossible,” he added, pointing at the anomaly.
The data he reviewed was all familiar because it was presented in such a way that the person reviewing it would see a pattern in the data if they were familiar with what it was and where it came from. It was determined long ago that an anomaly would easily present itself in that form. James had only seen anomalies in system tests.
“The board wants an explanation immediately,” Scott demanded of him.
James looked over the file folder at Scott, “there is no explanation I can provide for it. What do you want me to do about this?”
Scoot slammed his fist loudly against the conference room table as he rose from his chair.
“Fix it!” he hissed before adjusting his tie, leaving James standing dumbfounded in the middle of the room. “I have men in place that will fix it for you if you can’t. I have a responsibility, James, and I will make sure this company survives.”
James knew what he meant when he said, “fix it.” It was a first-of-its-kind anomaly in the more than century old company. He pushed his glasses up and reviewed the documents again. When he was sure the data in the file was accurate and the problem that was fueling the growing fear in his gut was real, he pulled out his hand-held radio.
“Mike, get the team together in the lab right now.”
The technician on the other end responded hesitantly and rightfully confused but understood the sense of urgency. James drifted casually out of the conference room toward the elevator when he saw Scott talking to several members of the Board of Directors. One of the men glanced at him menacingly just before he turned to get in the elevator.
“It’s like they all fuckin’ hate me,” he thought. “This day is turning to shit.”
He pressed the button for the floor his lab was on while avoiding eye contact with the group who was, no doubt, discussing contingency plans if James could not contain the situation.
The elevator sounded off as it approached his floor. He cursed the doors for not opening sooner. As they did, he squeezed himself through the widening doors and headed directly to his office. He tossed the file into his desk, locked the drawer, and put the key into the pocket of his lab coat. He walked into the lab, pushing the two bi-directional doors open before walking into the center of the room where his team was gathered waiting for him. He looked around and found the newest hire.
“You, new guy! Tell me the mission of this company,” he demanded impatiently.
The junior tech looked nervously around as he tried ankara escort bayan to recall the precise mission statement.
“We,” he began, then stopped. He thought again. “We use a variety of biological factors gathered from a comfortable implant to match people who, chemically and biologically, would be a match. We stand by that match through more than a hundred years of experience and millions of successful lifelong partnerships.”
James smiled, “Exactly.” He looked around the room to a more senior programmer and pointed at them, “Tell me how we match people.”
The young man looked around as if to wonder if James was being serious, “Well, we push thousands of pieces of data gathered from an implant and push it through hundreds of algorithms…”
“Stop right there!” James said loudly, interrupting him. He looked around for the senior mathematician on staff.
“Rob, talk to us about the algorithms.”
Rob struggled with where to start, “Um, well, there’s chemical readings primarily that tell us a lot. There’s also DNA that’s…”
“Stop right there, please,” he asked more calmly.
James was always unusually harsh toward the new technicians. The rest of the group had been with the Company for years. He had formed a trust with them. While the young technician was new, Rob was the oldest remaining scientist in the group and James’ most trusted friend.
He found his lead bio-medical engineer in the group and singled him out.
“Talk to me about how DNA is analyzed, Harold,” James asked, shuffling his feet nervously.
“We look for genetic disorders, primarily trying to ensure two people won’t be matched if their DNA analysis reveals their offspring would have significant developmental issues,” Harold said proudly.
“Is that it?” James genuinely asked.
“Well, no,” Harold said plainly, “we look for hundreds of possible issues that could arise if we erroneously matched someone who should not have been matched.”
James looked around at everyone. “Does anyone know,” he said, pausing to ensure he had everyone’s attention, “exactly what criteria, if any, would cancel out a match if certain conditions existed?”
“James!” One of the new lab techs announced, “He just explained how a match would be prevented, didn’t he?”
“What Harold said is something everyone knows. That’s what we advertise,” James said.
Harold walked up to James and whispered in his ear. James looked up for a moment and shook his head.
“We cannot predict mutations in DNA as a process of natural human evolution or procreation so, no. I don’t think there is anything that would flag a match once everything has been analyzed.”
James looked apprehensively behind him then scanned the room one more time.
“Do we, or can we check for,” he said, his hands moving in circles as if he were brainstorming on the spot, “close family relation? Like, what if two siblings were split up at birth?”
He was throwing out an implausible scenario to mask what was more likely to be happening in the file he reviewed earlier.
“What if they somehow ran into each other later in life. Could they ever be matched by the System?”
He looked around the room quickly to gauge initial reactions to his question. He felt the blood rush from his face when he realized his suspicions were true. A million thoughts ran through his head. The ones he feared most all involved the Company and its potential downfall.
“How have we been operating for more than a hundred years and this never came up?” he asked in a near whisper, not expecting an answer. He looked up again.
“Chemically speaking, what is going on inside a person that would match them with someone with the same thing going on?” He asked.
Rob spoke up first, “If you were to sequence the algorithms, you would find that we check for chemical dependency like narcotics, nicotine, caffeine, etc. At some point after, I believe near the end of the analysis, we measure levels of certain chemicals and determine which, if any are elevated.”
James was happy where the discussion was headed.
“Can you elaborate on that?” he asked.
“Um, sure. So, we check for three major groups: lust, attraction and attachment. There’re chemicals that originate in the brain that kind of drive those things. Primarily, we look at the chemicals involved in attraction. Well, I think it may actually be entirely what we look at, actually.”
“Why don’t we look at the other two?” James asked, sensing a possible cause for how they found themselves in the situation they were in.
Rob shrugged, “I guess company policy would say lust is not what we’re after considering the mission statement. Attachment would mean they’re probably already married or involved in a relationship and if that was the case, they should not have their implants anymore.”
The gears in James’ head began to spin, “What would it take to evaluate lust and attraction on top of everything else?”
“Years,” eryaman escort Rob answered quickly and matter-of-factly. “Seriously, it’s taken more than a century to get where we are, and we couldn’t roll that kind of feature out reliably any time soon without damaging the company’s reputation. What’s going on, anyway?”
James’ thoughts went into overdrive as he tried to consider all possible approaches and the ups and downs with each. In an ‘ah-ha’ moment, he asked the question that gave everyone an inkling as to what was happening.
“Is there any way we can tell by the data we already collect if two matches are related in any way?”
“We could submit data to another lab for comparison, but I would need the ID numbers to do that,” he said, knowing the implications his request had.
“That’s not a problem,” James said quickly. “Outside of that, though, is there some way we can manipulate the System to check for close biological relation? In my head, I’m thinking we could establish a paternity-like test and reject any potential matches that are above a certain threshold.”
Everyone in the room was stunned by his response, knowing that the company’s public trust policy was specific about who can gain access to the data associated with an identification number and for what reason. James dismissed everyone but requested his top technicians to stay behind.
“This is not for discussion with anyone but us, but there is a problem with the System. We have a match between two people whose public data suggests that they are closely related, possibly siblings. We don’t know if their implants have alerted them, but we have work to do to confirm our suspicions. I owe a report to the Board this afternoon.”
James scanned the room to make sure everyone was on the same sheet of music.
“Rob, I’ll give you the identification numbers you need so we can get that analysis done. Harold, I will need the brain chemical data from the pair analyzed and results reported to me as soon as possible. Everyone else, begin working on how to integrate the additional chemical analysis.”
James looked around nervously and lowered his voice, “We are in damage control mode, guys. If necessary, we will have spin some data to make sure the company image and public trust isn’t harmed. You need not worry about anything else.”
He turned and walked out of the room in the same manner he walked in. He made his way back to the board room and requested the office assistant summon the Chairman. He waited in the board room with a smirk on his face as he walked around looking at the paintings on the wall.
“You either have extraordinarily bad news or remarkably good news based on how fast you found yourself back in this room,” Scott said as he walked in, buttoning his suit jacket.
“I have a bit of both.” he said, turning quickly around, “Hear me out, though. What I need to fix this problem is not a part of our internal processes. I met with my team and we have a work-around.”
James explained as quickly as possible the limitations of the System but explained that they had the tools to confirm company suspicions.
“We need a few days for analysis and number crunching. Once we can confirm the data, I think you’ll be able to spin this the way the company needs to,” he said with a hopeful smile.
Scott stared at him, “What way would that be?”
James approached him, placed his hand on the table and leaned close, “I’m not a policy man but I would imagine we would prefer to protect the company’s reputation when accusations start flying about how flawed the system is.”
“Flawed?” Scott asked.
“Well, yeah. The public doesn’t know it, but we’ve somehow avoided checking for a certain type of human connection due to certain assumptions. I imagine it just never occurred to anyone to look beyond the obvious. It’s not easily fixed, either.”
Scott appeared in deep thought until it seemed an idea arrived in his head.
“You mentioned spinning this a certain way,” he said as a tiny smile began to show on his face. “How could we do that?” he asked, forcing James to spell it out.
“The two subjects seem to be siblings by what I saw in the report you showed me earlier. We could use that information and out them, saying that the system had always been designed to alert when that situation arises, but it never had before,” he said. “Plus, even if we missed something in the past, nobody would be dumb enough to come forward about it with our current laws.”
James was sure his plan would be better received, despite him having no intention of outing anyone. His interest was the continued perfection of the System. Someone else’s relationship was of no interest to him, despite the odd nature of it. His eyes shifted between Scott’s skeptical face and circles he was making on the desk with his middle finger. Scott stood up and patted James on the shoulder.
“Get the data as soon as etlik escort you can and do me a favor, James,” Scott said quietly.
James raised his eyebrows, ready to know what the favor was. Scott leaned in closely.
“Don’t summon me again, eh?”
He turned and walked out of the board room before saying “Good job, James!”
James breathed a sigh of relief. He had several problems to deal with and no plan on how to do it. He needed to confirm the data that was recorded. Once confirmed, he needed to locate and find the pair so they can get their implants removed. Finally, he needed to find out why Scott was so interested in this couple. Despite James’ morose demeanor in the lab, he could explain away any complaint as a glitch that was easily fixed.
“What are you up to, Scott?” he wondered as he turned and headed back to the elevator.
Several weeks before the shakeup at the Company, Pamela Maloney was in her backyard finishing preparations for her family’s annual picnic. She hosted the annual Labor Day picnic and enjoyed turning it into a massive affair. She called it a family picnic, but she was sure to invite the prominent members of the neighborhood and church. It was important for her to be surrounded by influential people. It had long been suspected the picnic had become less about family and more about the display she put on to those she wished to impress.
Her house was meticulously decorated inside and out. Scented candles, pumpkins and fall-colored leaves adorned nearly every horizontal surface. Outside, there were lanterns staged around the deck and a pool with streamers draped from the trees. There was plenty left to decorate and food that remained to be prepared and set out. She enlisted the help of her three children Donna, Mark and Christian.
Donna was the oldest at twenty-five and the apple of her father’s eye. Mark and Christian were twins at twenty-one years old. Pamela treated her children well but discovered early the power her children had as pawns in her never-fulfilled quest of improved social standing. Her need to be seen as the image of perfection drove her to enroll her children into the local Catholic school system at great financial burden to her household. By the time all her children graduated high school, she believed the Maloney family was the gold standard when it came to family values.
She took extraordinary steps her whole adult life to seek approval and be admired, her efforts in setting up her annual picnic was the capstone event.
Pam’s children showed up early to help finish the decorations and backyard setup. They loathed the steps their mother took to get everything ready. She had prepared a spreadsheet and assigned everyone their specific tasks. She practically lined them up in formation and dictated each task to her family. When the tasks list was handed out, everyone got to work.
The morning sun approached center sky and guests began to arrive. Pam left her children to complete their setup tasks while she took coats and food and set up the buffet meal. She considered the job of greeting guests the most important of them all and trusted no one else to do it.
As the guest line neared its end, Pam called for assistance in the kitchen to prepare the vegetables and fruit.
“Coming!” Donna announced from the other side of the house.
As she pranced into the kitchen, she had her brother Mark in tow. They stood in the kitchen while Pam directed them in their various tasks. Mark began cutting the vegetables at the sink while Donna retrieved the fruit from the fridge. All three ended up happily discussing their eventful summers when Donna and Mark both jumped in surprise. Their implants came alive and alerted each of them as advertised.
Pam was about to ask if one of them had cut themselves while chopping before she noticed the light on Donna’s left hand. Her eyes instantly trained to her son’s left hand and noticed the alert he had also received. She understood what the entire situation suggested and the threat it posed to her image of perfection. Her eyes darted back to focusing on what she was doing to avoid letting her children know she saw what took place.
Pamela put every effort she could muster into maintaining her composure. Inside, though, her world crumbled. She knew the obvious implications of what she learned. What consumed her was the impact to her image if anyone were to find out before she could play the victim. She cared very little that her son and daughter appeared to be having a romantic relationship. Anger began to swell when she convinced herself that her children were being selfish in their behavior and did not take the family image into account before engaging in such behavior.
Mark was frantic in his attempt to cover his hand with his sleeve. Donna was less panicked. She simply put her hand in her pocket. They both acted as if nothing happened while Pamela’s anger continued to rise. She dismissed herself from the kitchen before she made a scene in front of those she desired to maintain appearances with.
“I’m going to make sure Christian got everything set up where it needs to be,” she lied as she turned and walked out of the kitchen to the deck.
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44 thoughts on “Ocean’s Edge – The Tides (Book 01)”
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