Story day is here! But first I just want to talk about the inspiration behind this story. It’s quite simple really. This story was written because of all the leaks that now occur. In this case I’m referring mainly to the games industry, but it applies to media across the board. Anyway, hope you enjoy Spoil And Leak!
Edward Phelps, referred to as Ted by everyone that knows and works with him, and Preston Isaacs have been working on a new software application that they think will revolutionise the use of physical input devices, namely by removing them entirely. It’s an ambitious claim but one that they believe is entirely fair to make. That’s why the pair of veteran Albion Industries software developers have requested a meeting with the five heads of their corner of the vast multi-national corporation that has offices on every continent.
The project, which at this time is nameless, originally began as an idea the two colleagues and friends started exploring during their off hours nearly two years ago. But after getting as far as they could go without more allocated time they took the concept to their supervisor, Allan. The young line manager of the two older men loved the concept and allocated them to work on it, much to the pair’s relief. That had been months ago and now they can scarcely believe that the day is here for them to demonstrate what they have to their bosses, including head of Tomorrow’s Software Today division, Rupert Santos.
The name of the division isn’t a name that either Ted or Preston would have adopted if it had been their calls, but then they don’t come from a marketing background. And seeing as market research had determined, through the use of questionnaires, that the software development division sounds friendlier with the title it has now adopted, who are they to argue? Apparently, marketing were worried before the rebranding that the development arm of Albion sounded more like it was focused on military grade software as it was adorned with the moniker, Alpha Dev Group, or ADG for short.
Still, none of that matters right now as Ted paces backward and forward in the corridor which he and Preston are the only occupants of. Preston has elected to stay seated on the lightly padded metal frame bench seats, the legs of which are bolted to the concrete floor that is below his feet.
Both men are dressed in grey suits which neither feels comfortable in. That is part of the reason Ted is pacing nervously even though he is sure the app they’ve developed will be a sure fire hit. However, he knows that just because he believes that it doesn’t mean that he and Preston, mid and early thirties respectively, won’t have to convince the five heads of its brilliance. They will and that is why he is pacing. Ted hates presentation, but still he runs through what he and his friend have planned for the demonstration. He just hopes the five realise that kinks and issues are a high probability when they show what they’ve been working on. In some respects he wishes Allan could be here too, but the man, though having put his head on the chopping block to allow them valuable time and resources to work on this, didn’t want to be seen as trying to steal any of the thunder that is clearly this duos. Ted respects his younger supervisor for that as he takes a quick glimpse at the analogue face of a watch that had once belonged to his grandfather. Ted had received it when the elderly man had died. That had been when Ted was maybe eleven. The loss had hit the boy hard. But he was happy to have something to remember his grandfather by and plans, at some point, to pass the watch on to his son or grandson. The only problem is that like Preston, Ted is single. The pair have both spent the last nine and eleven years respectively putting all their effort into working at Albion. That’s how Ted has gone from an intern to his current position of senior software developer. It’s a position that the skinny, black haired man with dark brown eyes is proud of.
“Come on Ted stop for a few. You’ll wear yourself out otherwise.” Preston urges him with a concerned tone of voice as he watches Ted pace up and down a four metre stretch of the corridor.
“I can’t. I’ve got too much nervous energy to sit still.” Ted replies as he lets out a sudden long breath, all while continuing to pace.
“We’re going to be OK Ted. You know that right?” Preston assures, and for the first time since they arrived in the corridor of the forty fifth floor of the Albion Industries building which they work in, Ted stops. He stares at his slightly younger friend who physically looks nothing like Ted. Where Ted is skinny Preston is toned and muscular. Not overly so, but what Ted would describe as just the right amount. Anymore and Preston would start to look muscle-bound and resemble a weightlifter. He knows that is not what Preston is going for, which is why he never tries to put any more muscle on than he currently has.
Preston runs his right hand through his brown hair, which is long on the top but short at the sides. Again, nothing like Ted whose own hair is short all over due to the fact that if he allows it to grow out then he will simply be left with tight curls, and Ted hates his hair in tight curls. It’s why he refuses to let his hair grow out. Many have asked the question but for some reason they don’t seem to quite believe when he says that the curls don’t suit him. But it’s true; curls do not suit his face at all. They make him look like a mop and he has proof of that as that is exactly how he looks on his yearbook. That’s why he’s buried it deep in the mountain of boxes that fill his apartment. He never has visitors and if he did they’d likely ask when he moved in. His answer would have to be years and years ago, and yes it really is that bad. The space, which is small and comprising of just four rooms, if you can call a corridor that connects the other areas together a room, serves a purpose as a place to sleep but little else.
On the other hand Preston’s apartment is large, spacious and devoid of stacked half opened boxes. That is where Ted spends much of his off time, especially since they began working on what they will be showing today. The app which can be installed on embedded smartphones will use the links between the temple mounted interface, which is connected to an earpiece, and the optic link that permits the eyes to be used like the lens of a camera. That in turn will allow for electrical impulses and thought processes to be captured and transferred into words thus eliminating the need for eye tracking or older physical, and far more accurate, inputs that are also a lot more common.
Still, they should be called into the meeting room in just a few minutes time. Not that such a realisation is doing anything to calm Preston’s nerves. Though, he may not appear as on edge as his partner, he is. That is why his left leg is furiously tapping the heel on his brown leather boot against the carpet covered floor. Hot flushes wash over him in waves, threatening to make him pass out. He knows he won’t but still just the threat is enough to concern him. It’s been a very long time since he’s felt like this and he had hoped that with age the intensity of such feelings would diminish. They haven’t and Preston is disheartened to have learned that as his eyes dart away from surveying his pacing friend and colleague and instead gaze around at the motivational posters set into silver metal frames that are hanging from the walls in front and behind him. The posters are staggered and their pattern only broken where the half dozen doorways have been cut into the otherwise unbroken cream coloured walls. But Preston doesn’t read the posters, he has no interest in the marketing department approved quotes, most of which he would roll his eyes at if he did read. Instead, Preston looks to the floor and studies the carpet a few metres further down the corridor, away from the lifts and emergency stairwells that sit at the centre of each floor of this hundred and thirty six storey edifice of steel and glass.
Preston and Ted work on the fifteenth floor in a large open plan space that is crammed full of desks that butt up against one another. Thankfully Preston has Ted as a desk mate and he counts himself lucky for that. Many on their floor haven’t been so lucky and have been seated with people they have real issues with, rightly or not. Preston thinks Allan might have had a hand in the pair’s placement however and if he ever gets evidence that proves it he’ll thank his supervisor profusely.
“Phelps and Isaacs.” A soft female voice says before poking her thin face around the edge of the doorway.
“Y-yes that’s us.” Ted blurts sounding more nervous than he would like to.
“We’ll be ready in two, gentlemen.” The young woman in a trouser suit says before flashing a brief smile and then disappearing back into the meeting room, closing the door as she withdraws.
Preston looks at Ted who looks back at Preston and simply blinks several times. Preston shrugs after a few seconds and then he himself blinks several times. At least Ted doesn’t return to pacing as the brief exchange has left him immobilised. Preston hopes his friend isn’t in a state of shock or panic. If he is Preston has no idea what they’re going to do. This meeting has taken weeks to first organise and then set a date for. If they blow this, well Preston doubts they’d get another shot, but it would take perhaps weeks or even months before every schedule would align and another shot at it could be taken, if permitted.
It’s a long time since anyone called me by my surname, Preston soon thinks. He doesn’t know if he should take that as a good sign or a bad one. It could be taken either way. Perhaps the five have only agreed to this meeting simply to refuse. But why would they do that? Preston hasn’t got a clue but still for some reason it makes some sense, he doesn’t understand how but a portion of his brain has decided it does. Preston lets out a deep breath and then rolls his head, his neck cracks almost silently and then as if on cue he hears the meeting room door open again. He hadn’t heard the low rush of air before but he has this time. His head jolts up faster than he anticipated and briefly leaves him feeling dizzy, but the dizziness only lasts a couple seconds. Again the young trouser suit wearing woman is in the doorway. Except this time the door to the space is fully open and she is wearing a full smile, instead of just the brief one she’d demonstrated previously. Preston looks to Ted who is already looking his way and upon seeing Preston’s eyes on him motions with his own eyes that they make their entrance. Neither are confident public speakers or presentation givers and that is part of the reason they work as developers. Still, if they wish to get their idea off the ground proper, and within a reasonable amount of time, then they will have to bite the bullet. Preston knows that for a fact as he rises from the badly padded seat, his legs stiff, and follows the young woman through into the meeting room with Ted a step and a half behind him.
The meeting room space is a lot narrower than Ted would have expected but about as long as he presumed it would be based on the location of the next door on this side of the corridor. The entire long wall opposite the doorway is from floor to false ceiling glass panes tinted a slight shade of green to stop the glare of the sun. In Ted’s experience the film applied to the glass doesn’t really work but seeing as he and Preston face the windows on their floor it isn’t an issue that can hamper their working conditions. At the centre of the space is an equally long and narrow wooden topped table lined on all sides by comfortable looking leather cushioned seats. Ted can barely believe that this is what the higher-ups are provided, but it doesn’t surprise Preston who once dated a fellow Albion employee who worked as a PA on the fiftieth floor. He’d visited her from time to time and on those visits become privy to the sort of comforts that higher levels of the corporation are afforded.
At the far end of the table are the five heads of the development department including the young woman who called them in and Rupert Santos himself who is clad in an expensive and shiny navy blue suit, no tie and an ambivalent expression on his face. The head of the software department is in his late forties, a twenty year veteran of Albion, and has short blonde hair and brown eyes. He isn’t looking at the two men. Instead, he is looking through them, and that makes Ted and Preston both feel uncomfortable. Preston is sure that is the point but still he feels the need to introduce himself. As even if they know who is before them, they don’t know which of them is which. It doesn’t enter his head, like it does Ted’s, that they may not actually care.
“Morning ladies and gentlemen. I’m Preston Isaacs.” Preston says by way of introduction before motioning to the nervous looking man at his side and says, “This is Edward Phelps. And we’re here today to show you an exciting new piece of software that we think will revolutionise physical inputs for tech.”
Preston has noticed just how terrified Ted looks with his wide eyed stare that makes him look as though he is a deer caught in headlights. But there’s nothing he can do about it.
“Wonderful, now can we get on with the presentation. And preferably before your colleague, Mr Phelps, passes out.” Rupert Santos remarks still without a hint of an expression on his face.
Preston is stymied. He’d expected there to be a reciprocal introduction by the five they are being faced with and not the dry remark he got from Rupert. In fact, the only person he knows by name is Rupert Santos, though he does recognise one of the two young for their position men present. Preston thinks he might be a member of the Albion family, but he can’t be sure. The corporation isn’t owned by the family which it shares its name with, however, they still hold a large collection of public traded shares. If Preston remembers correctly the family shares account for eight percent, but he could be wrong. He isn’t into stocks and shares but he is usually good at remembering numbers. However, right now he doesn’t feel like he is as he begins to question why he and Ted volunteered to put themselves through this. He knows the answer but still maybe they should have got a confident speaker to deliver this presentation and not try to take the burden on themselves. Allan would have been a good fit but he’d declined and Preston is now starting to understand why. This group are terrifying. Then he realises that’s he’s probably been silent too long and that makes him panic. He tries to recall what he had planned to say, but he can’t. So it is just as well that at that moment Ted finds his voice.
“Of course. We don’t wish to waste your time. We know how busy the five of you are.” Ted sounds almost, bar the cadence of his voice, like a completely different man. If Preston didn’t know better he’d swear that it isn’t his friend and fellow developer speaking now.
“We’re here to show you a form of input for embedded smartphones that will remove the need for a physical input method.” Ted continues sounding confident now, though he still looks uneasy as his eyes dart across the blank faces staring back at him. He feels hot under the collar and wishes he wasn’t wearing a tie, but he can’t let those he’s presenting to know that. It’s bad enough that they could clearly read the panic on his face before he’d started speaking. Truth be told, he doesn’t know where his sudden confidence has come from, but it’s just as well it did as, surprisingly, Preston fumbled. Ted knows his friend had expected Rupert Santos and his fellow department heads to reciprocate Preston’s own introduction, but they hadn’t and it had thrown the man for a loop. Ted isn’t going to question where his sudden bravado is stemming from. That he can reserve for later when this ordeal, which really is an ordeal in his eyes, is over.
“This is achieved through the use of the embedded smartphones optical link, predominantly present to allow users to capture images with their eyes. In our app we can track those same electrical pulses and use the signals from the brain as an input.” Ted explains with a calm and even tone.
“We even have a demonstration video for you to watch.” Preston then adds remembering his cue from the countless run-throughs of the presentation they had planned out. He still isn’t happy that he froze on the spot but there’s nothing he can do about it now. He just has to move on and hope that his silence and the previously terrified look on Ted’s face haven’t blown this opportunity for them. He can’t tell whether it has or not as Rupert Santos and the others are still stone faced. It makes him wonder if the look is a corporate pre-requisite before you can take such a role or whether it’s learned. Preston figures it would be the latter, but for what reason he doesn’t know. Maybe it’s a hope, because if it’s not then he has no similarities with these people. Such a thing isn’t outside the realm of possibility though and he knows that.
“Is there no way we can test the product?” The young woman in the grey trouser suit asks. Her face for the first time since the pair entered having briefly furrowed into a frown as she asked her question.
“Not really.” Ted admits honestly before Preston interjects, “Thus far the app has only been tested on our own embeds. So there is a very high likelihood, that without doing a compatibility test, it would simply not work.”
“Pity.” The trouser suited woman then adds. Her face expressionless again as she speaks.
Preston wonders if it was a simple slip, a break in the façade, but he’ll never know and that bothers him a little for some reason.
“Continue.” Rupert then says with a simple wave of his hand.
Ted doesn’t know if he should take the wave as a simple gesture to continue as the man has said or as the head of their division having grown tired of this display and simply wanting it to be over with. He hopes it isn’t the latter. If it is then it means the executive will likely dismiss their idea and have them reassigned to one of the other countless projects currently in development on the dev floors of this building. Ted doubts Rupert would have he or Preston reassigned to another office, but in truth the man has more than enough power within the corporation to achieve such a thing.
Preston not wanting to delay remotely feeds the screen at other end of the long meeting room the video. The screen is woven into the wall at the opposite end of the space to the gathered five, which comprises of nothing else but the screen, springs into life. The video shaky and pixelated at first, but after a few seconds the artificating disappears and the video from here on out runs like a dream. The quality is still lower then Preston would have liked but Ted had assured him it would be good enough. Preston isn’t sure now that it is, but knows it will have to do. Still the five members of the software division show no hint of interest or dissatisfaction as they watch the two minute long video. But from the look on Ted’s face, which Preston catches a glimpse of, the fives lack of response is starting to irk his friend and colleague. Preston understands Ted’s ire entirely but there is nothing that can be done about it as the video shows clips of test runs of the app using seemingly nothing to write not just short simple messages but also entire paragraphs and monologues. Not a single word can be heard from the video during its playback, which is proof that no transcribing software is running, and in addition there are no physical input devices present. That is not to say that the video shows utter success as the footage is raw and has not been cut to remove the spelling and grammatical errors that are transcribed from Preston or Ted’s electrical signals as they will the words into being.
Then with the video over the two men simply stand with baited breath waiting for a response. Their eyes are now the ones judging Rupert and his fellow managerial minions. However, Preston doubts they could care less about any judgment the pair might be casting in their directions.
Finally Rupert Santos speaks, “What’s the apps accuracy rate right now?”
“Seventy three percent.” Ted answers with little delay. He knows that if he takes too long or short to answer then the upper echelon that are in front of him will doubt his words. Still, he makes sure that his tone is even and confident, even while he is sweating buckets below the layers of his suit. The man just happy that perspiration isn’t pouring out of his head as if it was it would give his discomfort away.
“The accuracy would need to be improved.” The young male of the five which Preston thinks is a member of the Albion family declares. His words result in several audible sounds of approval but no change in expression from any of the five.
“How long have you been working on this?” The young woman in the trouser suit then asks.
“Two years, maybe.” Preston answers now sounding less sure than Ted had. Though in truth neither of them recorded the exact date at which they first devised the idea.
“Impressive.” Rupert remarks with a blink. It’s the only physical indication that the middle-aged man has given during the pair’s presence, but Ted concludes that he’ll take it. He’s sure that it’s a good sign, but doesn’t know why.
“How long do you estimate it would take to complete?” Another of the five, a man, asks from behind his thin rimmed golden glasses which are balanced on the lower third of his stubby nose.
“It would take the two of us eleven months, we think.” Preston says feeling unsure now that the estimation he and Ted decided upon was the correct one. He pushed for it but Ted hadn’t been sure. Now Preston is inclined to agree with his friend as the ten eyes stare at him. He shifts uncomfortably but refuses to avert his gaze. He wants to, but he believes it might be the worst thing he could do right now.
“You misunderstand.” Rupert says with a chuckle before adding, “We meant if you had an entire team.”
“Uh…Um…” Is all Preston manages in response. He’s lost for words. Does that mean they like it? He doesn’t know but that is sure what it sounds like. They’re offering a team! He must be dreaming. This can’t be real, he is sure of it. There is no way Rupert Santos, head of the stupid corporate name the software development division has been given, would be willing to supply them with a team of people. That just doesn’t happen. Preston had thought they’d get a greenlight, but a team!
Rupert and the four others chuckle seemingly amused by Preston’s stumbling and failure to provide an answer, which is better than Ted who is stood mouth agape in shock, blinking slowly in disbelief.
“Ca-can I consult with my colleague for a minute?” Preston manages after he doesn’t know how long of a pause. His guess would be that he was silent for at least a full three minutes. He hopes it wasn’t, but it seems quite possible.
“Of course.” Rupert answers with a smile.
The grin slightly unnerves Preston who thinks the expression has more akin to a sharp getting ready to strike out on its unsuspecting prey than anything else.
Preston however, ignores his feelings as he turns to see the gaping maw of Ted. He manages to suppress a laugh at the sight of his gawping friend, who he grabs the upper forearm of and spins round. As soon as he does Ted snaps out of his apparent trance, much to the relief of Preston.
“What do you think, honestly?” Preston questions while his eyes flit between Ted and a space a metre ahead of him.
“I-I don’t know. Maybe half that. Six months.” Ted replies before performing a long and obvious shrug.
“What do you think?” Ted then asks after a few seconds of silence. He feels guilty for the lack of certainty in his response but is genuinely curious what Preston’s take is.
“Same as you, so do we go for six?” Preston replies blurting his words out rapidly as he too had decided on apparently the same amount of time as his fellow co-creator.
“I think we do.” Ted nods moments before Preston’s mouth morphs into a wide smile, while Ted simply smirks. It’s rare for Ted to actually smile Preston knows, so a smirk is usually about as good as anyone can ever hope for.
The pair turn back. Neither of their faces are adorned with looks of panic or shock and they don’t feel lost for words now either. Instead, they mirror the five faces before them and wear no expressions at all. Inside however, both are smiling as widely as is humanly possible.
“Your answer?” Rupert asks with genuine interest and a raised eyebrow.
“Six months. We think we can, with a team, have the app complete by then.” Preston replies with his arms folded across his chest. He doesn’t know he’s doing it and if he did would almost certainly chastise himself for the action. Thankfully, Rupert and the other four couldn’t care less about the display. They are only interested in the product the two men have pitched them. It’s a product that, surprisingly as they have claimed, could revolutionise input methods. And Albion Industries would be the sole provider of this software product once it goes to market.
“Congratulations gentlemen. Project approved.” Rupert says as a beaming smile tears across his rounded face, even as he asks, “Does the app have a name yet?”
“No.” Ted admits bluntly, which draws a look of daggers from Preston due to the bluntness of the reply. The look only lasts a few moments however and is soon forgotten by both men.
“Have marketing work on that.” Rupert says with a wave of his hand. The response to his order and wave is the bespectacled man quickly touching the embed input on his temple to make a note of the demand using the multi-directional button that covers much of the small squares surface area.
“Now gentlemen, take the rest of the day off. You’ve earned it. And tomorrow be sure to be here bright and early because we have plenty of work to do and little time to do it in.” Rupert says by way of concluding the meeting as he stands, does a small bow and then, with the other four in tow, departs the meeting room leaving Ted and Preston behind.
At first the two men do nothing as they continue to stand in exact same positions they had when they’d delivered the six month response to Rupert’s question. That’s because Ted and Preston are waiting and listening to make sure the footsteps are far enough away. Once they are both sure the sounds are at a sufficient distance the pair explode into raucous cries of joy that sees them jumping up and down on the spot turning in circles with their arms above their heads in celebration.