The concierge assured them both their luggage would be well cared for and waiting for them at the airport.
‘Airport?’ Hayden questioned internally. ‘Are we leaving so soon?’
Driving up Yonge Street, past Bloor, over the 401 and into the northern region of Toronto, the industrial district, past several manufacturing plants and one newspaper distribution centre, they continued to coast at a steady pace.
Hayden resumed his dispute from the evening before while walking through the airport. “All I’m saying is we could’ve stopped for a sandwich.”
Danica was reviewing a government report. ’National mortality rates and statistics within the pharmaceutical industry in relation to interventions and prevention protocols.’ She raised her one eyebrow. “As I mentioned last night, all you wanted was to stop for a beer. And like I said, you could do that at the hotel.”
“At hotel prices?”
“It sure didn’t stop you.”
Hayden snidely replied. “I was still thirsty.”
She resumed her reading without saying anything else.
The limo turned right onto a long stretch of road. To both sides were thick green lawns. Directly before them were large healthy maple trees, planted perfectly along the road’s edge with uniform grace, their foliage so thick, their leaves seemed to nearly encompass and block out the sun above them as they drove. Directly behind the trees ran a seven foot high chain link fence with barbed wire coils at the top.
‘Worried about entry…’ Hayden mused. ’Or escape?’ He got bored of it pretty quickly as it ran on for almost a mile. He chose to open up his journal on the ancient symbols from the chamber at this point. He withdrew a pencil from his satchel, placing it upon his right ear for easy retrieval, and started attempting to decipher some of the unrecognized text. He looked like a commuter on his way to work doing a crossword, with the exception, he could not flip to the back of the book for the answers.
Danica took a bottle of water from the fridge in the armrest and nursed it slowly.
After ten more minutes, Hayden looked up from his journal in frustration and found himself distracted by a huge enterprise in the distance. He commented almost immediately. “They sure chose to build this place far from the city.”
“And prying eyes.” Danica interjected, folding her booklet closed. “There’s temporary lodging on site in the southern quadrant for delicate experiments that require constant observation, but other than that, it’s really not that far. Plus I think our limo driver has been riding under the speed limit since we left.”
Hayden proudly stated. “Your employers obviously don’t want to risk us getting injured.”
Danica laughed. “More likely the laptop.”
They passed a giant grey and white marble monument, ten feet tall, with the deep set engraved text of ‘Maximum Pharmaceuticals’. Several spotlights were placed strategically in front of the sign, but not illuminated at this time as the sun was shining bright.
To the rest of the world, Maximum Pharmaceuticals was the third largest medical conglomerate in Canada, housed over ten acres of land with the main complex consisting of laboratories, research and development labs, animal housing shelters and business offices.
A few smaller units responsible for more confidential research resulted in more difficult access routes and thus, not attached to the main structure, but again, also not easily seen from the road.
The limo only stopped once at the main gate to provide the security clearance, and once shown, they were back in transit to the primary facility.
Arriving at the front of the building, obviously the Head Office, a ten floor azure blue glass encased structure with solar paneling interspersed between windows, to maximize solar absorption on all sides, the limo came to a stop.
Both Danica and Hayden exited.
Surrounding the office was a five foot wide reflecting pool which traced around the entire building with a single black stone bridge leading across to the main entrance only meant for foot traffic.
Danica and Hayden found their way inside, past three security checkpoints, six guards and into the private lift leading to the penthouse offices.
Hayden even found the elevator to be elegant with its solid walnut paneling, brass fixtures and beveled mirrors on the ceiling. The only thing he found out of place was the small tinted sphere in the corner with a security camera hidden inside and locked on the two occupants.
Danica had resumed reading her report, trying to appear nonchalant, but her stomach was dancing like butterflies over a field of posies.
They reached the tenth floor and the doors opened. They were greeted right away by a pretty young executive assistant, Amy, with long blonde hair, a slight British accent and well-shaped physique. She asked them to follow her to the conference room, gently noting the president would be with them shortly.
Hayden chuffed. ‘President is how you address the U.S. leader, not business CEO’s.’ But he kept his thoughts to himself.
They entered a large meeting chamber, at least the size of a 747’s interior cabin, with lush tan carpet and a huge mahogany table that ran from one end of the room to the other, framed by twenty five comfortable red leather executive styled chairs pushed in for easy retrieval.
The walls were adorned with numerous sketches placed in thick brown marble frames. They appeared to be all of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions, recreated masterfully on crisp vellum paper and inked with black India ink, all hand drawn, from the Ornithopter Flying Machine to the Armoured Car, from the Eight Barreled Machine Gun to the Artillery Park, giving precedence to the achievements of the imagination, but more importantly, a telltale sign this company believed the past held many things of importance to the future.
Both Danica and Hayden were asked to take a seat neat the rear of the room and directly before a sixty inch flat screen plasma television inset into the wall for conference meetings online.
At the end of the table sat a sterling silver tea set, positioned on an ornately designed tray, with coffee percolating inside a single decanter and matching cups for drinking. The scent of freshly ground beans permeated the room.
The executive assistant poured them each a cup, prepared it to their liking, without having asked, and placed it before their chairs as they took their seats.
Hayden took a sip of his drink and was thoroughly impressed. The only thing he could offer was, “Nice spread.”
Danica was a little awestruck, speaking directly to Hayden. “I’ve never been up here myself. Most of my work is in the field. I mean, I’ve been to the fifth and the seventh floors, the seventh being where my lab is, but other than that, I’ve never been invited to the penthouse offices.”
“And that is something we shall very much see rectified.” Bellowed the deep voice of Maximus as he entered the room from the side double doors leading from his private office.
Hayden turned and for one brief second, his mouth dropped. He quickly snapped it back up.
Doctor Maximus Thorne, Chief Executive Officer of Maximum Pharmaceuticals was a massive human being, standing at six foot three, with sharp and intelligent brown eyes, thin blonde hair and three hundred pounds of solid muscle. His black suit, custom-made, stretched around his limbs like a parachute, revealing a man, if he so chose, able to crush boulders with a simple squeeze.
All Hayden thought was, ‘Is Mr. Universe in need of a champion?’
Following in his wake, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, his longtime bride, Maxima, also equally formidable. Only one inch shorter at six foot two, deep brown eyes with a hint of blue, vibrant red hair with dark tanned skin. In all appearances, she was a walking tank.
In deference to Maximus, Maxima wore a low cut velvet red dress which barely passed her thighs, but only as a result of huge quadriceps which pulsed and flexed with each step she took. She dressed classy, yet provocatively, but clearly to show off her form where any skin was revealed.
They were obviously a couple who spent all their free time in the gym, pumping weights, exercising constantly and maintaining their near invincible physiques.
Maxima nodded to them. She smiled with eloquence and refined sophistication, stating firmly. “Good morning to you both Doctors Swift and Lattimer.”
Hayden and Danica returned the greeting.
Hayden stood to offer his hand, but Maximus waved it off. “Friends don’t need to shake hands. But since we’re not yet close enough to offer a hug, let’s be civil.”
That and Hayden imagined he would be crushed like a bug in this behemoth’s grip.
They all took their seats.
Maximus had his assistant bring him a protein beverage, as did Maxima.
Hayden suddenly felt awkward drinking coffee.
Maximus seemed to sense his discomfort. “Doctor Lattimer. I’ve already had three cups of coffee this morning at four a.m. before my workout. I find too many more this early and I would be less a hospitable host as I would be a twitching lunatic.”
Hayden relaxed and took another drink.
Maxima turned to Danica, getting serious and down to business. “Doctor Swift. I assume you safeguarded the laptop?”
Danica smiled and placed it before her on the table. “As promised.”
“Excellent.” Maximus declared. His eyes glowed with genuine pleasure. He motioned to his executive assistant. “Please have it brought down to Mr. Grover.” He turned to Hayden. “He’s our I.T. director. He’ll have it downloaded to a server, one not on the network I assure you, copied a dozen times onto numerous backs-ups so we can review the data later, now forever safe from…” Maximus grinned. “Future annoyances.”
Maxima gave him a wink.
Hayden provided a quick ’thumbs up’, not sure what else he could offer.
Danica smiled at Hayden’s discomfort.
The room was silent for only a few seconds as the assistant disappeared with the computer.
Maximus cut through it all. “Time is valuable, and I admit, not to be arrogant, mine is the most. So there’s no point wasting it on idle bullshit or asking about flights when let’s be honest, none of us give a shit.” He clasped his large hands together. “So let’s get down to brass tacks shall we?”
Hayden was actually warming up to Maximus.
Maximus looked out his window at the expanse of Toronto. In the far distance, the CN Tower needle poked up through the horizon. He asked loudly across the room, but directed to Hayden. “Do you believe God created the Earth, Doctor Lattimer?”
Hayden felt that warmth start to ebb away at the sudden shift in the conversation…
‘A Bible thumper! Just what I fucking needed.’
Hayden knew he had to tread on eggshells, especially because he was still being paid very well by this thumper’s company and more importantly, the deposit had not yet arrived. He replied carefully. “I believe in a lot of things.”
For a few seconds, everyone waited on bated breath for Maximus to either agree or disagree.
“Good answer.” Maximus replied. “Personally, I do.”
A genuine exhale oozed quietly from Danica in relief.
Maximus continued. “While I don’t expect everyone to share my faith or agree with my ideals, I do expect compromise. That and I believe the ends justify the means, so I will work with believers and non-believers alike to achieve my goals.” He looked to both Danica and Hayden. “But I also expect, if you’re paid by me, you’ll follow orders when given.”
Hayden offered a positive shrug of compliance, but in his mind, he held no doubts he would dispense with his employment in seconds the moment those orders did not agree with his personal morals.
Maximus was not finished. “Many of my scientists disagree with my belief, but then again, they’re not the CEO.” Spoken matter-of-factly, not with arrogance. “But if we can work together to make a better world, who cares really. I’ll let God do the judging when we all reach the pearly gates.”
Hayden felt far more comfortable. A man of belief who also shared a desire for science was usually a better man for it.
Maximus got down to his main point. “So in that assumption, I refuse to believe God would create a world as unique as this, populate it with man, such perfect beings, and then saturate it with incurable diseases like Cancer, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and so many more, and with a single salute, wish us well and watch us fall.”
Hayden agreed the theory had some merit. It did not sound like the plan of an all loving God. But as he was unsure where this was leading, he turned to Danica for help.
Danica had heard rumours of the Thorne’s religious ideologues, but they never let it intrude on their work or into the media for that matter. She returned Hayden’s look for help with a look of. ‘I’m sorry?’
Maximus continued without having noticed. “To me, it’s like imagining Michelangelo painting his Mona Lisa on a sidewalk with chalk or carving his Statue of David on the beach out of butter…”
“Da Vinci.” Hayden cut Maximus off.
“Pardon?” Maximus paused,not accustomed to such interruptions.
“Mona Lisa was painted by Da Vinci, not Michelangelo.” Hayden corrected, thinking to himself. ‘Spoke a lot to who had any influence in decorating this board room.’
“Thank you.” Was all Maximus could offer, his voice lowered slightly. He took a breath, glaring at Hayden and resumed where he left off. “For me, I refuse to think God has us so easily washed away by disease without providing us a means to protect ourselves.”
Hayden admitted, based on that presumption, it was not entirely illogical. But he did not understand its relevance or its relation to their discovery. “And this has to do with the chamber how?” Hayden asked with a small amount of trepidation.
“That’s the question we brought you up here to answer.” Maxima threw in.
Danica intruded on the conversation. “And me?”
Maximus offered. “You both found it. I’m not a man who breaks up a good couple when he sees one.”
Maximus and Maxima leaned forward and shared a deep solid kiss between them, their opposing hands holding tight over the tabletop.
Danica knew of the stories of their refusal to deny their love for one another, regardless of being on a television interview or at a business conference, as they wanted the world to know it.
Hayden found himself feeling slightly uncomfortable.
As did Danica.
When they parted, Maximus looked at the awkward expressions of Danica and Hayden. “A good team demands energy, direction, passion and expression. It’s a part of who we are as humans.”
Hayden again, gave a quick thumbs up and thinking. ‘I need a beer.’
Maximus smiled. “Me and Maxima….” He trailed off for a few seconds. “Let’s simply say, we were born to be together.”
The two of them shared a look, smiling at one another in a way to confirm they shared a private joke.
Hayden mused. ‘I guess when I meet a girl with the same name, I should marry her too?’ But again, he kept such thoughts to himself.
Danica shyly pointed out. “We’re not a couple.”
Maximus stated. “In this endeavor, you are.” He spoke with such finality, Danica had no rebuttal. “The two of you have discovered in ten days what my company has been unable to do for ten years, if not more. And I will not make the mistake to mess with that… Shall we call it…Karma.”
Danica sighed, realizing the implication.
Where Hayden went, she would be forced to follow.
Maxima pulled out from under the table two small stacks of bills, tightly bound, listed with ‘$100’ on the top one in yellow text, wrapped to depict five thousand on the band. She slid one of each of the piles to both Hayden and Danica like she was shooting a puck over ice into their goals.
They both caught it deftly.
Maximus took on a very serious look. “I have a proposal for you two. All you have to do is listen. If you still think it’s crazy, you can walk out of here with your five grand and resume your work.” Maximus turned to Danica. “And it will not affect your future in this company in any way. I assure you.”
Danica found the words empty.
Maximus ended his statement with. “But ask yourselves this question before you answer. Do you want to walk away now and never know? Of a secret which hundreds of men have died for over centuries and continue to do so to this very day?”
Hayden and Danica exchanged looks.
To them, all they had found was an ancient story chamber speaking of a lost tribe and their unknown island of no sun. And small referrals to miracles balanced by equal evil.
Yet since that discovery, they had been attacked, threatened, their discovery blown to smithereens, but not before it was soaked with acid and all accessible data stolen by sophisticated hackers.
And now, they were being offered a huge chunk of money to simply hear a man out, a powerful business leader, if only before ending their quest.
Both Hayden and Danica slipped the money off the table into their respective laps.
‘In for a penny, in for a pound.’
Maximus slapped the tabletop with authority and excitement. “Excellent. I knew you were my kind of people.” He turned to Maxima and back to them all. “Now that I have your attention, I have a story to tell. And unlike most campfire tales, mine is real.”