Chapter 2

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“I’m here for a 9:00 a.m. interview with Richard Wilkie. My name is Brody Taylor.”

The pudgy receptionist pushed her glasses further up the bridge of her nose and checked her computer screen. She squinted in confusion.

“We don’t have a Mr Wilkie based in this office.”

“Yes, sorry. It’s a video interview. He’s calling in from Dubai.”

“Ah, I see. Yes, here you are. The ground floor video conferencing suite is booked for you, Mr Taylor.”

The receptionist printed off a security pass, pressed a button to open the gate, allowed him to pass through and escorted him to a meeting room labelled ‘VC1’. She pushed open the door and allowed him to enter.

Impressive. She was efficient and security conscious. It made a pleasant change.

“When Mr Wilkie dials in, it should answer automatically. Is there anything I can get you? Tea, coffee perhaps?”

“I’m fine, thanks.” Brody gave his best sheepish smile. “Maybe you could just wish me luck?”

She smiled obligingly. “Good luck, Mr Taylor.” She shut the door behind her.

Brody quickly surveyed the room. An oval board table took up the length of the room, but looked like it had been cut in half lengthways, with six black leather seats on the curved side facing onto a massive elongated video screen, actually made up of three widescreen monitors placed side-by-side. Above the centre screen was a unit housing three cameras angled to capture two seats each. Brody knew from experience that when the Cisco TelePresence system activated, the screens would display a similarly furnished room located somewhere else in the world, giving both parties the optical illusion of one complete boardroom.

Brody dropped his leather laptop case on the table and rummaged around inside. He removed his tablet computer and placed it in front of him, flipping it open to reveal its detachable keyboard. He then pulled out a roll of silver duct tape and peeled off three strips, sticking them over the cameras. Grinning to himself at the irony of employing such a low-tech solution, he pushed a panel set into the board table and revealed the touchscreen tablet that controlled the TelePresence system. Deftly he muted the microphones in the room he was in and then searched through the address book. Twenty other Atlas Brands Inc. video conferencing suites were listed by city name. Brody chose Dubai and pressed the green button. 

The screens jumped to life. Suddenly, an image of six other people sat opposite him, chit-chatting with each other. The older man in the centre noticed that someone had dialled in. His brows furrowed. “Who’s that dialling in from Birmingham? Is there something wrong with your video system? It’s just a black screen here.”

Brody used the touchscreen control panel to send a text message to their system in Dubai. Yes, it’s Rich Wilkie here. I can see and hear you guys fine. Must be a glitch. Don’t worry, I’ll message you like this if I’ve got anything to say.

Brody watched the older man read his message displayed on their screen three thousand miles away. 

“Okay Rich. No problem. How’s the weather in the UK?”

Brody typed out his answer. It’s raining, Andrew. It’s April. Would you expect anything else?

Andrew Lamont, Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Brands Inc., laughed. The woman on his left said, “Look, here’s Chu in Sydney.”

At that moment, the image in Brody’s room shrunk to just the middle monitor, destroying the illusion of them all being in the same room. The right hand monitor suddenly displayed another room, with just one inhabitant. It was labelled Sydney. A few moments later, the remaining left-hand screen was taken up by Munich, with three people. 

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