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Posts Tagged ‘Andre Kubik’

Day Eighty-six: Poolside [MAKE-UP]

November 3, 2011 10 comments

The BlueSky Resort and Entertainment Complex promised clear skies, crystal blue water, and the most relaxing vacation a person could possibly have. Clean, modern vacation villas dotted the miles-long beach, each one furnished with all the vacation luxury anyone could want. The beaches themselves were white and smooth, and sunlight was practically guaranteed in the brochure. Beautiful people with beautiful bodies lay on the sand, enjoying the brilliant sunlight and splashing in the pristine waters.

If the beach wasn’t for you, the interior of the resort promised shopping and restaurants, cuisine from all over the world, entertainers of every stripe, and countless swimming pools for guests to lounge by. Families played in the water, splashing and dunking each other. Young women chatted over brightly colored drinks, young men tried to out-dive each other, and everyone did their best to make every minute of their vacation count.

Ross Toomey sat on a lawn chair and tried to balance his laptop on one knee and an iPad on the other. His phone was in the pocket of his pastel Hawaiian shirt, and he cursed quietly to himself as he answered emails that came in from the office. Every now and then he would reach to the table next to him, pop an antacid tablet out of its paper wrapper and crunch it between teeth that were already starting to show signs of wear.

After a mandatory company health check-up, the doctor told Ross in no uncertain terms that if he continued to work the way he was working, then we was looking at an early grave.

“Look, mister Toomey,” the young doctor had said. Ross sat in the man’s office with his arms crossed, utterly unconvinced that this kid had actually graduated from medical school. No one that young should be telling me what to do, he thought. “You’re living an unsustainable lifestyle here.” The doctor flipped through the notes he’d made during the preliminary interview. “You work 90 hours a week, you sleep most nights in your office, and you don’t have any actual social life outside work.”

“Don’t see what the problem is with that,” Ross grumbled. “Life isn’t supposed to be about parties and fun. I have responsibilities to the company.”

“Yes, you do,” the doctor said. “But you also have a responsibility to yourself to stay alive and healthy, and right now you’re blowing it.” He let out a deep breath and glanced at the file again. “Mister Toomey, your blood pressure is ridiculous. You’ve got ulcers on top of ulcers, and your bloodwork seems to show that your immune system is having a hard time keeping up with you.” He dropped the file on his desk. “If you don’t learn to relax, mister Toomey, you are going to die.”

Ross crossed his arms a little more tightly. “Everyone dies,” he said, not looking at the young doctor. “Are we finished? I have work to do.”

The doctor sighed, reached over to his phone and hit two buttons. The speaker popped to life, and they both listened to the phone ring. In a few moments, a woman answered. “Albeth and Halding, how may I direct your call?”

“Andre Kubik, please,” the doctor said. “This is doctor Valant.” Ross’ eyes went wide and he sat up.

“You’re not –” He stopped short when the doctor held up a finger just as Andre spoke up on the phone.

“Kubik here. How’s it going, Taylor?”

“I’m doing well, mister Kubik,” the doctor said. “But I’d like to talk about mister Toomey. I have him here with me.”

Ross stood up and leaned towards the phone. “Andre, I don’t know what this quack is telling you, but I’m fine! Okay? Fine! Now can you let me get back to work, please!”

“No can do, Ross,” Andre said from the speaker. “Look – we need you healthy. You’re one of our best brokers, but if your heart explodes and you keel over, then what’re we going to do?” He put on that affected chumminess that he was so good at, and Ross tasted bile. “A&H cares about its people, Ross, you know that.”

And that was true. Albeth and Halding had an employee health and wellness plan that was the envy of all the other Wall Street banks, and they seemed to be one of the few in their sector who actually spent money on their employees rather than preposterous bonuses for executives. Everyone was given two weeks’ vacation, and they were pressured to use it. There was a counselor on staff, and “Zen Rooms” where people could go to relax during the day.

“Sure,” Ross said. “I get that. But Andre, I’m fine, really! I just…” He waved his hands a bit, searching for words. “I just don’t want to let everyone down. Not again.”

“Ross, that wasn’t your fault,” Andre said. “A divorce takes its toll on everyone, and nobody expected that you’d pretend like nothing was happening, okay?”

“Okay,” Ross said, and he was ashamed at how small his voice sounded.

“We’re sending you on a trip, Ross,” Andre said, and Ross’ head snapped up to stare at the phone. “A&H has a place down in Florida – a nice little resort where you can relax and maybe work on your life balance skills, okay?”

And that was how Ross ended up in the BlueSky Resort and Entertainment Complex. The memo he’d gotten from Andre about the trip had expressly told him not to bring any electronics with him – no laptop, no cell phone, no mp3 players, no tablets, no nothing. But when Ross tried to leave his house, he found that he couldn’t even get out the. Panic had taken him over, and before he knew what he was doing, his suitcase was filled with all the electronics he would need to work from poolside.

He tabbed between a spreadsheet and a memo that he was drafting when his computer chimed, telling him that he had a new email. He flipped over to it and cursed again.

Ross,

Your express instructions were to NOT bring your laptop. I’m having IT redirect all your work email to support staff until you get back. Count yourself lucky they don’t shut down your computer from here. For now. ;)

Now go swim or suntan or learn to dance or something. Just stop working.

– Andre

Ross typed out a quick response to Andre and hit SEND. A moment later, the mail bounced back with a form response that simply said, See you in two weeks, Ross.

He stared at the screen for a minute and then slammed the laptop cover down. The iPad on his knee teetered, and he grabbed it before it could drop to the concrete poolside. He put them both on the table, careful to keep them in the shade, and gripped the arms of his chair.

Everyone else was having fun. There was a family in the shallow end, teaching their littlest how to swim and laughing as she splashed around. There were a young couple sitting across the pool from him, and they were holding hands as they sunbathed. A group of elderly ladies were doing slow and graceful exercises in the water while their husbands sat off to the sides and played cards.

Ross had his To Do list running through his head like a litany. It was everything that he knew he was missing right now, that he knew he would never get a chance to catch up on. Meeting planning, PowerPoint slides, financial spreadsheets and a database of client information that he’d wanted to finish for ages. He needed to reorganize his accounts by activity level, add pictures to the investment-acquisitions flowchart that he needed during the next department meeting, and go over the accounts for a subsidiary of a subsidiary of one of the companies that A&H was thinking of snapping up in the near-to-mid future.

There were a thousand things, and they all needed to be done. By him. Now.

“Well, don’t you look like ten pounds of misery in a five point bag?” A shadow fell over Ross and he looked up. The woman who was standing above him looked to be about his age, with the soft, formless figure of someone who’d worked behind a desk all her life. But she was in a simple, floral bathing suit, with a sarong around her waist and a broad straw hat perched on the back of her head.

“You shouldn’t be looking so miserable out here,” she said. “You’ll ruin the mood for the rest of us.” He couldn’t tell if she was smiling, with the sun in his eyes, but her voice sounded like she was.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Just a little stressed out, is all.”

The woman put a hand to her chest in mock alarm. “Stressed out? Here?” He clucked her tongue and pulled over another chair to sit next to him. Now the he was able to see her more clearly, she was really rather pretty. She had curly hair, going gray, and bright blue eyes that were shining even in the shadow of her hat. She smiled, and Ross had the urge to smile back.

She sat down, arranging her sarong as she did, and then reached out a hand. “I’m Elaine,” she said.

Ross looked at her hand for a moment before taking it. “I’m Ross,” he said. “Look, Elaine, I’m really very busy right now, and –”

“No you’re not,” she said. She glanced down at the stack of electronics by his side.

“Yes, well, when I figure out how to get my email working again, I assure you that I’ll be very busy.”

She shook her head. “No, you won’t,” she said. They looked at each other for a long moment before she stood up and lifted the hem of her sarong up to expose her ankle. “Take a look,” she said.

There was a tattoo there, small and delicate in deep black ink, and Ross’ heart sank. It was like the one he had, only his was on his shoulder. And in a different design. But the tiny, calligraphic “A&H” in her tattoo was all he needed to see to know what it was.

Every employee at Albeth and Halding, from the CEO to the new guy in the mailroom, had one of these tattoos. The location didn’t matter, the design didn’t matter, but what did matter were the tiny nanoparticles embedded in the ink. Properly encoded, they were your ID badge on A&H property. They let you into the rooms you were authorized to get into, they proved where you were at any given moment, and were the most secure method they had for proving that you were who you said you were. Some labor groups decried the tattoos as part of a Big Brother system, but the benefits of working there far outweighed any privacy concerns that anyone had.

“Who are you?” he asked.

She sat down again. “I’m Elaine,” she said again. “And I’m your counselor while you’re here.”

Ross stared at her for a long while, and then fell back into his chair, groaned, and shut his eyes.

Day Seventy-three: Ink

August 2, 2011 1 comment

“Is this going to hurt?” Lila asked, craning her neck to try and look behind her.

“That depends,” Shavenne said. “You good with pain?”

“No, not really.”

“Then yeah, it’s gonna hurt.” She flipped a switch and the needle started its high-pitched whine. “As far as I know, though, I haven’t killed anyone yet. So just lay forward and relax.”

Lila winced in anticipation of the needle hitting her skin, and bit back a yelp when it first stung her. Shavenne chuckled quietly behind her and kept working.

The tattoo parlor didn’t look anything like what Lila thought of when she thought of a tattoo parlor. There were no giant, hairy, sweaty men in leather jackets. There were no cement floors and drunk teenagers and dim lighting. There was no haze of cigarette smoke and overflowing ashtrays. Instead, Violet Nights looked like someone’s living room. A large window let in plenty of light, the walls were decorated with small pieces of artwork. Shavenne said that some of it was hers, others by some friends. There was a deep, beautiful Persian carpet on the hardwood floor that was relaxing just to walk across, and soft instrumental music was playing, rather than the speed metal or rap that Lila had expected.

In her defense, though, all of her expectations had come from tv and movies, which rarely portrayed getting a tattoo a something you do in a casual drawing-room, so Lila didn’t have a lot to go on. If it were up to her, she would never have come to get a tattoo in the first place. But it wasn’t up to her, really.

“So how long have you been working for Albeth and Halding?” Shavenne asked.

“Only six – nnng – six months now,” Lila said through clenched teeth. “My probation ended last week.”

Shavenne made a nodding noise. “So you’re in, what, accounting?”

“Yeah. It’s not what I really thought I’d do with my life, but – OW!”

“Sorry.” Shavenne wiped away a little spot of blood and continued inking. “But what?”

“Well…” Lila trailed off as she thought about it. “Well, I guess it’s because that’s what I’m good at. Numbers and things.”

Shavenne switched off the needle as she changed colors. “You think you’ll keep doing that?”

Lila shrugged, which stung a bit. “I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe. I mean, in this economy you don’t want to risk it, right?” Shavenne made another nodding noise, switched the needle back on, and went to work.

The noise of the tattoo needle and the soft classical music merged nicely, and after a few minutes, Lila didn’t notice the stinging quite as much. She thought about her job, and the question of what she wanted to do with her life. She always thought that question was kind of unfair, asking someone to make a commitment like that for a whole future, sight unseen. But that was what she was doing, wasn’t it? She’d applied to Albeth and Halding, one of hundreds of college grads looking to fill ten positions, and she’d gotten in. She still felt like she didn’t know why – even though she did. Her grades were fantastic, she really did have an aptitude for “creative math,” as it was called by her friends, and her advisor had worked for A&H years ago, before he went into academia. She had the talent, and she had the support.

So why did she feel like she was the only kid in the adult’s party? It seemed like everyone at A&H was throwing around terms she’d never heard of, dropping names that she’d never met, and referencing figures that she’d only ever seen in textbook exercises. Millions of dollars were flowing through that bank every hour, billions every day, and she had no idea where it was coming from or going. All she knew was the tiny portion that her probation supervisor gave her. Small hedge funds, retirement accounts, mortgages, that sort of thing. Basic bookkeeping. The kind of thing they taught housewives in night school

But they wanted her. Mr. Kubik had called her into his office Friday afternoon and said, “We’re very pleased with your performance here over the last six months, Lila.” He looked like someone who stepped out of a financial services brochure, with his perfect hair and whiter-than-white teeth and a tailored suit. And for some reason, she wanted to stay away from him, out of his reach. “We think you’ll make a fine addition to our family,” he said, putting his hand on her shoulder. She didn’t flinch, and was both proud of that and ashamed that she’d wanted to. He took a fat envelope off his desk and gestured for her to sit down. “There are a few details that need to be hammered out first, some technicalities, standard contracts, that sort of thing.”

So for the next hour and a half, Lila went through benefit packages and pension schemes, pay grades and bonus requirements, terms and conditions in that tiny, lawyerly language that she dared not overlook. And somewhere in the middle of that, when her head was spinning from one official document to the next, Kubik handed her a business card and said, “There is one more thing, Lila. It’s a little… unorthodox, but it’s a tradition here at A&H.”

The card was simple and discreet. Violet Nights Body Art, Shavenne Horio, Proprietor.

Lila looked at the card then back to Kubik. “What is this?” she asked.

Kubik put on his best Concerned Face. “You understand that in a business like ours, security is very important, right?” Lila nodded and felt like she was twelve years old. “We need to to everything we can to assure our clients that their money is safe with us, and that their trust isn’t misplaced. That means making sure we can trust everyone who works in the Albeth and Halding family. From the lowliest of the janitors to the CEO himself.” He took off his jacket, loosened his tie and started to unbutton his shirt as he talked. Lila shifted her grip on her pen. If she had to, she’d stab him with it. But it would probably cost her the job.

“We used to give everyone ID cards, and that was fine for a while. But those can be lost, or stolen, or cloned. And biometrics is fine, for what it does. He took off his crisp white collared shirt and walked over to her. Lila gripped the pen. “A few years ago, we worked with Cerbecorp to develop the best, most secure system we could.” He lifted the sleeve of his undershirt and showed her the mark on his shoulder.

It was a tattoo, done in jet-black ink. It was beautiful, really. A complicated fractal design, all arcs and squares and circles, and embedded in the middle of it, barely visible, was the Albeth and Halding logo. “Like it?” he asked. Lila nodded. “I designed it myself. You don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to – there are plenty of pre-done designs to choose from.” He lowered his sleeve and sat on the edge of his desk. “That tattoo is embedded with nanoparticles, which can be read by the building’s security systems. They’re unique to me, so they act as a kind of permanent ID, letting me into the parts of the building I need to be, and out of those parts I don’t need to be in.” He smiled. “They can’t be lost, can’t be copied, and they work on any A&H property.” He stood up and started putting his shirt back on. “And if, god forbid, I should leave the company, well… They’ll be deactivated and I’ll have a nice souvenir of my time here.”

The looked at her while he dressed, waiting for her to say something. She didn’t know what to say. After a few moments, “So… You’re saying I have to get one of those tattoos?”

He nodded as he buttoned up his shirt. “I’m afraid so.” He picked up his tie and started to re-tie it. “But like I said – you can choose the design, it’ll only take an afternoon, and it means you’re officially part of the A&H family.” He picked up the large package of forms and waivers. “Besides, you’ve already signed an agreement. So unless you think this isn’t a job you’d like to hold on to, there are plenty of others who’d be happy to take it off your hands.”

Lila stood up at that point and told Kubik that no, she would be happy to get it done. It was just a little surprising, was all.

The next day, she came to Violet Nights and was taken aback by its dissimilarity to her expectations. She chose a design that looked like a butterfly as Shavenne explained the procedure to her, and – with only a little trepidation and uncertainty, bared her shoulderblade to have the mark of Albeth and Halding applied to her skin.

“Done,” Shavenne said, rousing Lila from her thoughts.

Lila sat up. “Really? That was it?”

Shavenne raised an eyebrow. “We can do more if you want. It’ll be on your tab, though.”

“No, no, I just thought…” She smiled and went to put her shirt back on. “Thank you.”

“Hold on a second,” Shavenne said. She reached behind her and pulled out a small, hand-held scanner. She ran it over Lila’s shoulder and it beeped, followed by a small red light turning green. “Good,” she said. “This should work fine. And if your clearances change, they can do that at your office.” She smiled. “You won’t have to come down here again.” She shrugged. “Unless you want to.”

Lila tried to demur politely, but she was pretty sure Shavenne could see through it. She wasn’t the type of person to get a tattoo before this, and that hadn’t changed anything. Before she was allowed to put her shirt back on, Lila had to read a pamphlet about proper tattoo care and let Shavenne rub a tingling salve over it. She put a light bandage on top, gave it a gentle pat, and then said, “Okay. You’re good to go.”

She put her blouse back on and flexed her shoulder a bit. It was itchy, and a little sore, but that should go away in a few days. In the meantime, it was official. She was now part of the Albeth and Halding Family.

She shook hands with Shavenne, who wished her the best. Then Lila walked out of the tattoo parlor into bright springtime sunshine, hailed a taxi, and broke down sobbing before the driver made it to the highway….