Categories > Original > Mystery > Prometheus

Butterfinger

by JennBarny 0 Reviews

Charlie's passed up for team leader.

Category: Mystery - Rating: R - Genres: Romance - Characters:  - Published: 2008/05/11 - Updated: 2008/05/11 - 1742 words

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It was a beautiful service. Paul had many friends and family who came to his funeral to say their final goodbyes. Catherine, his wife, gave a tear filled account of his life and had nothing but kind words for all present. As Charlie walked by his casket, she kissed her fingers and pressed them against the glossy black surface so hard that it left marks from the heat of her hands. She then laid a single yellow rose across the top.

“It is hard to imagine why the Lord would call such a good man back home so early in his life, but we can rest assured that it is in the plan that God has laid out for us all. Each of us is born with a purpose and we will not be called back until that purpose is fulfilled. It is readily evident that Paul’s life was filled with purpose. He raised two brilliant young men and tried his hardest to make life easier for all who were around him.” Reverend Mitchell turned a page in his sermon. He nodded at the men standing to the side- Ray and Greg, his sons, Michael Ramirez, Jonathan O’Reilly, and Cameron Boone from Prometheus, and his brother Howard. They stepped forward and lifted the casket from the pedestal, walking it slowly out to the hearse.

Close behind were Catherine and Charlie, tears falling easily from their eyes. The funeral procession carried on to the graveyard where Paul’s casket was placed next to his father’s grave. The reverend made his closing statements, but Charlie couldn’t hear him over the wailing in her heart.

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Cameron said, pushing his glasses back up his nose.

“It is really a shame. He was a good man and honestly, I think he was the best mind on the team,” Michael said. He had been slated as next team leader already. He was a broad shouldered man of about fifty. His black hair was graying at the temples adding a distinguished look to his style.

As though even the angels felt the sorrow of Paul’s loss, the heavens opened and rain started to fall.

***

“Big boss man wants to see you.”

Charlie looked up from her coffee cup at the young gofer who had popped his head into the Think Tank. “Thanks.”

Michael, Jonathan and Cameron looked at her, trying to find any clue as to why she would be going to speak to Mr. Appleton. He generally made it a point not to deal directly with any of his employees, particularly the ones associated with Prometheus. He decided, probably correctly, that if he did attempt to speak to them often, it would only distract them from their true purpose- making him rich.

“Lord help me,” Charlie muttered as she stood and walked through the door. She stopped before she reached Evelyn’s desk and took a deep breath. The times she had to speak to Appleton on her own over the last three years could be counted on one hand. She turned the corner and smiled at Evelyn, the attractive 20-something in the receptionist’s chair.

“Mr. Appleton will see you right away,” she smiled back.

“Thank you, Evelyn.”

Charlie knocked on the door twice and opened it. Appleton was standing at the side of his office, pouring water into two glasses. “Water, Charlotte?”

“No thank you, sir.”

“Please, take a seat.” He gestured with one hand at the chair in front of his desk before picking up both glasses and carrying them to his seat. He put one on a coaster in front of her and the other in front of him. “Now, Charlotte, I understand that you are very busy downstairs, but I needed to see you to emphasize how important you are to me. I know that you suffered heavily from the loss of Paul, probably the most out of anyone else here, but the point is that we need you. You’ve been on Prometheus since the beginning and you are arguably the most brilliant mind on the team now. Ramirez barely beat you out for the position of team leader, and, between you and me, I think it was politics.” Appleton flashed his fake smile as he raised his glass to his lips.

You probably fought for him yourself, you self-serving two-faced bastard.

“Yes, sir. Well, I’m sure that decision went beyond just experience level. It certainly wouldn’t look right to the stock holders to have someone in charge of another person almost twice her age. Even if we were completely matched in ability, I can see where they would err on the side of Michael.”

“Yes, well… I’m pleased that you are taking this so gracefully. I do, however, still want to stress just how important you are to the Prometheus project. I know that you and Paul worked many hours, even after hours and on the weekends, on the project. We cannot afford to lose you.”

“Sir, I have not even hinted at a desire to leave the company. Paul’s death has hit me rather hard, but he and I shared a deep interest in getting this project underway. We both felt strongly about what the possible applications could be, and I think it would be an insult to him to quit just because he isn’t here any longer. I am not sure about what kind of effect his loss will have on my work, but I will do my best to get Prometheus up and running.”

“That’s all I can ask. Thank you, Charlotte.” Appleton stood and grasped Charlie’s hand in a firm grip before letting her go to the door.

Charlie wandered the halls of the building, going back to the office they called the “Think Tank” in a very roundabout way. Though they had begun work on Prometheus just over three years ago, they had only worked in this building for the last several months. The computer power housed in this concrete building outdid that of any government agency. The simulations they ran here required unimaginable amounts of processing speed and memory.

DLA started as a computer-designing firm, but expanded to manufacturing and eventually its research and development team became more important than the actual manufacture and distribution of products. DLA was often the first to discover a new form of technology, such as laser sculpting for plastic surgery and a vast improvement in methods used to capture solar energy.

Prometheus was a semi-secret project intended to refine the use of nuclear fission to create compact reactors capable of powering space shuttles, airplanes, and other mobile platforms that are not big enough to hold the kinds of reactors used in current applications like submarines and aircraft carriers.

Some, like Paul and Charlie, hoped that eventually it could be made fool proof and safe enough that it would find its way into personal vehicles as well. The amount of fossil fuels that could be replaced by these fuel cells would be worth any amount of time if you asked either Paul or Charlie.

Charlie snapped out of her reverie near the vending machines and decided to bring back some treats for the other three. She pulled some quarters from her pocket and listened to them fall into place. Her mind envisioned the workings of the machine as she selected a candy bar from the bottom shelf. She could almost see the gears and pinions inside pushing the spiral around until the chocolate fell into the basin below.

***

“Spirals!” Charlie yelled, throwing the candy bar onto the table in front of the three men.

“What?” Cameron asked, picking up the chocolate.

“The heat transfer problem we had. We use spirals instead of straight tubing. More surface area, more heat transferred.”

“That wouldn’t… wait… Charlie, you’re a damned genius. I could kiss you right now,” Michael said, amazed at the fact that something so simple had escaped him. He stood, mumbling about spirals and walked out to visit the team that set up the simulations.

“I’ve gotta go run some tests. Great job, Charlie. I don’t know how you do it.” Cameron took a bite from the candy bar as he left the room.

Charlie grinned at Jonathan. “It was just… the vending machine… It just kinda clicked.” Jonathan shook his head, smiling at her.

“You’re amazing. Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced as though at a press conference. He started spinning as if he were talking to a room full of people who were surrounding him. “I’m here to inform you that the nuclear reactor that is powering the next series of space shuttles, the newest commercial jet, your new Chevy truck, all of that was based on a design for a Butterfinger dispenser.” He stopped in front of Charlie, and dropped his arms to his sides. “And here’s the hero, Charlie Burke.” His eyes sparkled as his hands came back up to her cheeks. “If Michael passed…”

Jonathan didn’t even get a chance to finish his sentence. Charlie was already kissing him, pushing him farther into the room until he ran into the table behind him.

“Goodness, Charlie… If you just wanted some alone time, you could have said so… you didn’t have to go and come up with the newest revolution just to clear the room to get to me,” Jonathan chuckled as he pulled away from the kiss.

Charlie blinked, then took a step back. “Oh… ah… shit. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t know what happened. I just got so excited.”

“And for good reason. You may have just saved us months of research. You have a good reason to celebrate.”

“But not here. I shouldn’t have… we probably shouldn’t…”

Damn it, now you’ve gone and done it, Charlie. Couldn’t just leave well enough alone. You know a relationship in the office never works. You’ll never be able to concentrate on work. Not with you knowing exactly what’s waiting for you on the other side of the table.

“Charlie? Is that a no?”

“What? I’m sorry, did you say something?”

“Tonight. I’ll pick you up for dinner and we can celebrate properly.”

“Sounds great.” Charlie smiled even as she mentally smacked herself in the head.
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