Worlds Collide

Got another straight fiction story for you this week (about 11500 words). It’s about two brothers. Don’t want to say much else as it might give the story away. Hope you enjoy, Worlds Collide.

Daniel Jameson, a man who is roughly one hundred and eighty five centimetres tall with swept back brown hair and blue eyes that perfectly compliment his charcoal grey suit, rushes out of the revolving door of AlphaTec Industries head office building. He’s late by more than an hour more than be planned to be, in fact. That is why he moves with a flurry as he juggles his access badge that doubles as his identification, his bag which contains his laptop and his phone.

Normally Daniel is the epitome of calm but that couldn’t be further from reality at this time. Today, more than any other day, he needed to be in early. You see Daniel has a presentation to give today. What he would call the single most important presentation of his life. After all, the presentation will be to the partners of his division as well as AlphaTec CEO, Alfred Vermont. Mr Vermont is not a man who likes to be kept waiting, not that any of the other partners buck that trend either. But Daniel would always have the hope of being able to smooth things over with them. The same cannot be said of the man who sits above everyone else in this company. With him you seem to get one chance and one chance only.

Why did his car have to breakdown today? He wonders as he squeezes through the ever narrowing gap that were the closing doors of the lift. He’s made it aboard, much to his relief. But he is fully aware of how he must look. He can’t go into the presentation in the state he must currently be in. That would lead to questions, none of which would impress Mr Vermont, and that is what today is all about. If Daniel succeeds then he has a real chance at being the newest partner in his division. It’s something he has worked towards for years. In fact, it’s been his dream since the day he landed his first position at AlphaTec, as a mailroom attendant, to reach the dizzying heights of the corporation that he is so close to now that he can taste it.

Thankfully, as Daniel impatiently waits and urges the elevator to hurry toward his goal, he phoned ahead and informed his assistant, Alice, of the breakdown. Which in itself wouldn’t have been so bad were it not for an accident that had in turn caused a traffic jam, making it impossible for his vehicle to be recovered in a timely manner. He doesn’t know what will happen to his car as a result of him having abandoned it. But he doesn’t care right now. If he nails this presentation and gets the promotion he so sorely dreams of, it won’t matter. He’ll be able to buy several cars to replace it. Whether he will or not he can’t say. At this moment he’d say he would, but Daniel has never been a man to waste money and fritter away possessions. Possessions are hard earned. That is the lesson his mom had taught him growing up.

In his eyes it was an invaluable lesson seeing as they grew up poor, never sure from one day to the next how they would put food on the table. Until the day Daniel had started work at AlphaTec that was. Now Daniel has an apartment of his own, but still makes sure to send money to his dear old mom every month. In his eyes it’s the least he can do, especially as she raised him and his brother, Vince, alone.

At the thought of his brothers’ name, Daniel pushes aside any memories that might feel compelled to well to the forefront of his mind. No need to dwell on the past right now, he thinks as the elevator comes to a stop and then emits a soft ping in the seconds before the twin plain shiny grey metal doors of the lift part to reveal the floor beyond. The doors are so shiny Daniel would, if he tried, be able to make out his own warped reflection. He chooses not to however.

This isn’t Daniel’s floor but he makes his best attempts to shuffle aside to not get in anyone’s way. None of the departing faces are familiar, but that shouldn’t be a surprise when you work at a company like AlphaTec, who in this building alone has fifteen thousand employees that cover a wide range of industries from cleaning and maintenance all the way up to legal and financial affairs.

Daniel himself works within the finance and investment division, which is why he is hoping that if this presentation goes well he will be offered a position as a partner. That would make him a big deal, predominantly within the division he is in, but still it would be another positive movement forward. One that has thus far taken him eight years to reach, during which he has worked regular eleven hour days for months on end without a single day off. Mr Vermont is, after all, a very busy and difficult man to please. You have to show that you are on a similar level to the man himself in terms of dedication and work ethic. And Daniel thinks he’s shown that in spades. Not that Mr Vermont will know that. He won’t and Daniel doesn’t expect him to. But Daniel’s own superiors do and they have assured Daniel that they have relayed this to Mr Vermont, which is apparently why the CEO agreed to sit in during this presentation. Such things are not the norm, but it seems, from what Daniel has heard, that Mr Vermont is very impressed with what he has heard about Daniel.

The lift stops for a second time, and for a second time a soft ping emits and then the doors part to allow more of the massive industries employees to file off of the elevator and toward their respective desks and offices. This still isn’t Daniel’s floor. The seemingly slow ascension is worrying him and causing his anxiety levels to rise sharply. That in turn is making him feel even more uncomfortable than he already does, seeing that he had to run the last couple of miles down the sidewalk to have had any hope of reaching the office at the time he did.

As a result he can feel the sweat continuing to seep into his clothes, which in turn cause them to cling to his body uncomfortably. Just as well I brought a change of clothes, Daniel thinks as he wills the elevator to go faster. It doesn’t have any actual affect, but it makes Daniel feel better, if only slightly.

The plan had been, before the breakdown, to arrive at the office early, go through his presentation one final time and then change and head in to actually do the deed. Now however, Daniel has no idea. He knows what he is going to say. He’s been drilling it over and over for three weeks and must have gone through the presentation, which he wrote, rewrote, adjusted, tinkered and condensed over months, maybe a couple hundred times. It’s what he’s spent every moment he hasn’t been working, eating or sleeping, going through. He knows the presentation by heart. Perhaps that need to be so well versed in the contents was his subconscious demanding such preparation because it somehow knew that this would happen. He dismisses such a notion before too long. That isn’t possible and he knows it as the elevator comes to its third stop. Daniel cranes his neck round to look up and across at the panel. To his relief he finds that this stop is his own. He lets out an almost silent sigh at the discovery, while the soft ping ripples outward and then the doors part.

There is no one waiting to board the elevator, so Daniel darts forward. He isn’t blocking or cutting anyone off as he is only one of maybe four people who were still present within the vertically travelling cube and its three walls of floor to ceiling mirrors.

One of the other men on the elevator is busy checking himself out in the mirrors, admiring the view of his own looks. Meanwhile a woman is baring her teeth to make sure there is nothing caught between them. Not that Daniel noticed what they are doing, especially now he is off the elevator and rushing across the massive open plan floor. He isn’t quite running as that would draw unwanted attention, but he is as close to running as he can be without actually breaking into a sprint.

The meeting room where the presentation will take place is past his own office and assistant, Alice. He needs to thank her before he heads in. It’s the right thing to do. She’s the best assistant anyone could ask for and he has never had any complaints about her attitude or capabilities. Whatever he needs she gets it done.

He decides he won’t head into his office now that he has glanced at the watch on his wrist, a gift from his grandfather. Daniel has no memories of the man but his mom, Clarice, said he would have wanted Daniel to have it. Daniel wishes he could have met his grandfather, but he died when Daniel had been a baby. Daniel knows his death was hard on his mom, but in her typical manner she soldiered on without complaint. No time to change, Daniel notes much to his displeasure. He’ll just have to slick back his now messy hair with his hands and hope it’ll be enough. But, at least he isn’t late yet. Much longer and he would have been, so he’ll have to take that as a blessing.

Daniel can see Alice now and it is clear that his assistant has spotted him too as she rises out of her seat and steps out from behind her desk as he approaches. Daniel smiles, but the look on her face is serious and by looks of things perhaps regretful. Instantly Daniel feels a burst of panic lance through him. Mr Vermont has cancelled the presentation, is Daniel’s first thought. No, that can’t be it; I’m still early, just. Perhaps something has come up. Please no, not today. It’s been bad enough as it is. Don’t say it’s been cancelled and will be rescheduled for some point in the future. That could be months, if at all.

Daniel braces himself for the bad news he knows is coming his way from Alice, even as she says, “Your brother is here.”

Daniel feels the need to scream his thanks at the trifling matter she has made him aware of. From the look on her face he had feared the worst.

Daniel rolls his eyes. He has no idea what his brother is doing here, but he can guess it’s because he needs money. It’s about the only reason he ever rears his head anymore. Predominantly because Daniel had made it clear that he wants nothing to do with him due to his criminal activities. If Daniel were able to be implicated he could lose everything and that is not something Daniel will allow his brother to do to him. In fact, Daniel would prefer that his brother Vince never contact him, but knows better than to believe that will ever happen. How he isn’t rotting in some cell somewhere is beyond Daniel. The man is involved in drugs, usually distribution, though Daniel isn’t foolish enough to believe that that is the sum of Vince’s crimes. He knows for a fact that it isn’t.

“Can you keep him busy for me, at least until the presentations over?” Daniel queries, hoping Alice will say yes. If she doesn’t he’s got a problem as there is no way Vince will wait patiently in his office. Patience isn’t Vince’s style. Not one iota.

“He’s in the meeting with the partners Daniel, said he was a part of the plan you’ve been working on.” Alice replies. As she speaks she sees the blood drain from Daniel’s face. Instantly she realises that was a mistake and begins to feels awful.

Daniel begins to despair. He is lost for words and can do nothing but stand on the spot blinking slowly. He can’t believe his brother would do this to him. He had no part in this and how did he even know that Daniel was working on something. Then it hits him. Mom must have told him, he realises. He wants nothing more than to scream a string of expletives, but he can’t.

Alice feels terrible. This is all her fault. She’s failed in one of her core duties, in her eyes, and states as much as she says, “I’m sorry Daniel. I’ve screwed this up. He sounded so believable and…and…I’m sorry.”

Alice hangs her head in shame. For the first time in a very long time she knows that she has failed and that all the blame lies at her feet. No one else played a part in this. It was her own mistake that allowed Vince to worm his way past her usually impenetrable guard and charm her until she simply relented, believing what she should have seen as clear lies. Instead, she had been too busy worrying about whether Daniel would make it on time after the horrendous start to what should be his huge chance to shine.

“It isn’t your fault Alice. Don’t blame yourself. This is all on Vince. He’s a professional liar and will say and do anything to get where he wants.” Daniel responds trying to comfort the clearly deflated Alice, while also keeping his mounting anger in check and not give too many details away. It’s a struggle, but his anger isn’t with Alice. It is directed purely toward Vince. He really can’t believe that his brother would do this. He told him, point blank, that he would not permit any interfering in his life. Daniel could have added the clause, unless you give up the life of crime, but Daniel knew Vince would never do that. It’s all the man has known since he was twelve years old.

Daniel knows what has to be done. It isn’t something he wants to do, but right now it’s a lot less than he thinks Vince deserves for his actions.

“Alice, can you call security please.” Daniel says with a soft tone of voice. He is seething and at least one of his fists is clenched tight, as far as he knows. He isn’t sure about the other, but it wouldn’t surprise him if it was.

“Daniel, are you sure?” Alice replies shocked. She doesn’t know much about Vince. Daniel rarely speaks of him, but still to call security on his own brother seems a bit extreme.

“I am, but it’s just a precaution encase he won’t listen to reason.” Daniel says trying to explain his actions. He doesn’t know why, but he feels the needs to. Alice doesn’t know Vince like Daniel does, but if she did he thinks she would do the same.

I should have given security his picture and told them if they see him trying to gain entrance to eject him immediately, Daniel concludes feeling a healthy dose of the blame really lies at his door. He could have done it and should have years ago. There was always the possibility Vince would try something like this. Daniel just hoped he wouldn’t. Stupid, he thinks as he chastises himself.

“Do you want me to ask them to stay back then?” Alice questions.

Daniel nods and says, “Just until I can get him out of that room.”

He’s pleased that Alice got exactly where he was going with his train of thought. He doubts any other assistant would have, at least not that quickly anyway.

It’s like they operate on the same wave length, which is why he wants her to move up with him if he gets this promotion.

Will I even get the chance? He asks himself the question suddenly. He doesn’t have an answer. He hopes so. If Vince has blown this for him then avenues will have to be followed to keep his brother away for good. He can’t afford to have Vince destroy his life. If he wishes to destroy his own, that’s up to him, but he has no right to try and crush his brother’s where he’s a blood relation or not.

Without hesitation Alice grabs her desk phone and dials for security. It’s a single button press on speed dial as it is for every desk phone in the building.

Daniel wishes he could stay until they arrive, but if he delays much longer he’ll be late and on top of that he needs to get Vince out of that meeting room before he has anymore chance to do real harm to Daniel’s career. A career that is everything he has spent his life working toward. So he departs, leaving Alice to issue his orders to security, and heads toward the meeting room. It isn’t far from his office, though he was surprised when Mr Vermont and the partners had agreed to hold the presentation on Daniel’s own floor. Such things are usually conducted in the comforts of Mr Vermont’s own office come meeting suite. Daniel has never seen it, but he’s heard the company executives and partners from his division talk about it. He hopes to see it one day, and might get the chance if he can eject Vince, give the presentation and patch over any damage his brother may have caused.

At least, Daniel has an excuse as to why Vince is here. He dreamt it up years ago. Not long after he started working at AlphaTec. Back then he’d been sure Vince would come to him after some sort of in, whether that he information or names of potential clients. But much to Daniel’s surprise he hadn’t. Now, Daniel understands why. Vince had been waiting all these years for Daniel to reach a certain level, in the hopes that his elevated position would merit more possibilities, and probably also because it has pretty likely that after so long Daniel would have let his guard down. Vince had been right on one count; Daniel had foolishly let his guard down. That realisation only makes Daniel’s anger burn even brighter than it already had been. He, like so many others, has been played by his brother, but he more than most should have known it was coming.

Daniel enters the meeting room. He knows he doesn’t look as slick and professional as he would like. His hair, while by no means an actual mess, will not be as flawless as it usually is. But he can’t let the first thing he does now that he has stepped into the meeting room be admonishing his brother. Though, he would very much like to.

That is why instead Daniel says, “Apologises everyone for the delay.”

He wonders whether he should address what has happened, but decides better of it. However, Daniel’s words aren’t accurate because, as yet, there is no delay. Daniel is still early, by a couple minutes, but he feels the need to apologise nonetheless. He hopes it will showcase his humility and understanding of the busy schedules he knows the people he is scheduled to present to are.

“Vince.” Is Daniel’s short, sharp, barely masked irritation of a greeting that he directs at his brother. If he says anything more than his brother’s name, Daniel is convinced he will throw himself, quite literally, at Vince. The man, his brother, is of equal height to Daniel, but has a shaved head and hazel eyes.

It surprises Daniel to see Vince dressed in a suit. He didn’t know Vince owned one and wonders for a moment if it’s stolen. It wouldn’t surprise him if it was. But he isn’t about to ask such a question here and now.

“Danny.” Vince says in equally short reply. Though, the man smirks as he says it. He knows how much Daniel hates being called Danny. That’s why Vince does it. He isn’t Danny anymore. That was his name as a kid. He isn’t a kid now. He’s an adult. Has been for years and has done more with his life than Vince could ever dream of. Not that Vince cares. He loves his life and lives it exactly as he wants. Though, he realises his brother doesn’t see it like that.

“Daniel, Vince here was just telling us how you and he had a meeting scheduled for today.” Alfred Vermont, CEO of AlphaTec Industries says as he leans back in his seat. His styled white hair is a stark contrast to his black suit and bright green eyes, which study the two men like hawks. He can tell instantly that the brothers don’t get on, but he isn’t about to say as much. Nor is he about to pass comment on the fact that Vince has been permitted entrance into a building within which he does not work. In fact, it is clear to Alfred that Vince has never worked a day in his life. At least not in the conventional sense, that is. Alfred should know as he is old enough to have seen his fair share of criminal types attempting to pass themselves off as respectable men. It humours Alfred that such men think they will pass by unnoticed, and perhaps they would if it were left to the types of people that surround him, such as the partners. Thankfully, Alfred still has the controlling stake in the vast corporation that he has spent the last four decades building and growing into the mammoth industry spanning behemoth that it is today.

“Unfortunately Mr Vermont, it appears my brother has the wrong date.” Daniel replies with a well versed lie. One of many he’s prepared and had actually, foolishly, come to believe he would never need. Again Daniel curses himself for letting his guard down.

“We’ll have to reschedule I’m afraid Vince. Now is not a good time.” Daniel continues, trying his best to keep his anger in check. He’s managing, but only just as he glares at his brother now that he’s turned his attention away from Alfred Vermont.

“Strange you would say that Daniel. Vince here has assured us that he is a part of the presentation that you have put together and will be delivering to us today.” Alfred announces. He knows Daniel is lying, though he has to admit that the lie is almost perfectly delivered. That means Alfred can assume that Daniel has worked on it over time. The period over which Daniel has concocted the lie he cannot pinpoint. But if it were delivered at any other time, say at a time when Alfred is not present, the CEO is sure it would have been bought without eliciting any need for questioning. Not that Alfred will question it. This is neither the time nor the place for that.

“I’m afraid again my brother has made a mistake. What I am presenting to you here today is something entirely of my own design. The plan that my brother has mentioned is part of a possible future endeavour that could see AlphaTec enter into a symbiotic relationship that would benefit all prospective parties involved.” Daniel explains. It astounds him that his explanation sounds as plausible as it does. He had been sure that he would fall flat on his face trying to spout this lie, but apparently he was wrong. Not that he feels good about it, as he doesn’t. So again he silently curses Vince for his refusal to follow Daniel’s wishes and just stay away.

“Pity. I would like to have heard about this endeavour, as you so eloquently put it Daniel. Alas, maybe it’s something that we’ll see some other time perhaps.” Alfred remarks hiding the smile he could easily allow to split across his thin face.

But before Daniel can say anything Alfred continues by remarking, “Actually, what is it that you do Vince?” Alfred instantly feels the discomfort emanating from Daniel which is why the man butts in and cuts his brother off just as he is about to speak.

“Vince is in sales.” Daniel assures with what is clearly another lie, or at least a half lie. Technically Vince is in sales, just not of anything legal. Though, he does sell drugs, of all kinds, to anyone with the green to cover it. Those are the exact words that Vince had used, on multiple occasions, to explain his ‘business,’ as he puts it.

“That’s one way of putting it. First time I’ve heard that one. I might have to use that in the future.” Vince replies smiling and without attempting to play along with his brother and the web of lies he is so desperately trying to weave to save face. Vince doesn’t get it. These people are clearly stuck up douche bags that couldn’t care less about his brother, or anyone else for that matter. Why Danny wants to work with them he cannot fathom. All the work he puts in and he’s scraping by still. He could be rich beyond his wildest dreams already if he’d used that brain of his and joined Vince in the drug trade.

“What do you mean Mr Jameson?” Alfred asks Vince. The CEO isn’t dumb he knows exactly what Vince is alluding to, but he asks because he wishes to play his own part in this game of torture Daniel Jameson. After all, it isn’t going to reflect badly on Alfred, or even Vince Jameson for that matter. Instead, it reflects poorly on Daniel Jameson only. A man who has spent his life trying to deny what he is, gutter trash. Alfred doesn’t like either of the brothers, but at least Vince has the decency to know his place and stay there. Pity Daniel doesn’t do the same he thinks.

“Sorry Mr Vermont, but perhaps this is best for another time. There is still the matter of the presentation, after all.” Daniel says trying to urge and bring an end to this exchange before Vince can do irreparable harm.

Alfred agrees, though he isn’t ready to admit as much just yet. That is why he instead feigns pondering on the matter. During his pondering Daniel grows increasingly more agitated as sweat begins to pour off his brow. The sight delights Alfred because it means Daniel is uncomfortable and that is exactly how he wants the man to feel. It’s what he deserves, in Alfred’s eyes.

Finally Alfred speaks and admits, “You’re right Daniel. Apologies Mr Jameson, but your brother is correct. Perhaps we can discuss business another time.”

A smile creeps across Alfred’s face as he flits his gaze between the two men. Daniel meanwhile tries to usher Vince out of the room. He hasn’t noticed Alfred’s smile. Instead, he feels like this episode has been running for hours. In truth it has lasted but a handful of minutes. Still, Daniel is exhausted because of it and what makes it worse is that Vince is resisting Daniel’s attempts to usher him out of the meeting room and into the corridor.

“Ma would be spinning in her grave if she heard we needed to reschedule again.” Vince suddenly blurts now that Daniel has managed to get him a little over half way to the door.

Daniel can’t resist responding. He should know better, but right now he can’t stop himself.

“Mom is very much alive Vince and you know it, so that comment is in very poor taste.”

As Daniel says those words he manages to shove Vince into the corridor prior to craning his neck to look over his shoulder and declare, “I’m sorry for Vince. He forgets himself at times and just says whatever comes to mind.”

Then Daniel steps out of the meeting room, closing the door behind him as he goes. Immediately after that he shoves Vince. It’s a silent demand that his brother keeps moving. Surprisingly he complies and wanders a good half a dozen metres away from the meeting room door before Daniel spits, “What the fuck Vince?”

Daniel makes sure to keep his voice low. He doesn’t want Mr Vermont, the partners or anyone else on this floor to hear the exchange.

“Lighten up Danny boy, I don’t mean no harm. But we do need to talk.” Vince replies calmly. He has a thin smirk on his face which is a clear indication that he doesn’t feel threatened by his brother in any way.

“Fine. But only if you go without causing any more trouble.” Daniel says begrudgingly relenting. If he doesn’t there is no way Vince will leave, of that he is sure, and he’d really like to avoid any loud attention drawing displays that might result in questions being raised.

“Speak to Alice on your way out. She’ll schedule something. But then security will escort you off-site. Understood?” Daniel informs without an ounce of concern for how it might make his brother feel to be talked down and dictated to.

“Danny boy, you ratted on me? Cruel Danny, cruel.” Vince offers as his response.

Daniel takes that as a yes, seeing as if it was a no Vince would have point blank said as much. So Daniel spins on his heels and heads back toward the meeting room.

As soon as he enters and closes the door behind him he says, “Apologies again for my brother and the delay.”

“Can we just get on with the presentation?” Alfred asks rhetorically without passing judgment, verbally.

Daniel nods and then quickly pulls out his laptop and sets up everything for the presentation by mirroring the slides on the wall spanning screen behind him.

It’s a fresh start, Daniel tells himself as he casts his gaze over the faces before him. If he didn’t know who they were they would look just like anyone else he might see while walking down the street. But these people are not like all the others he passes while walking down the street. These are some of the most powerful men and women within the finance and investment industries, and now more than ever he needs to wow them.

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