It rang again.
She turned to look at her digital clock.
It read 5:22 a.m.
’Are you serious?’ Is all she could imagine. She was usually an early riser, but she also normally did not spend her days climbing in and out of ancient stone chambers in the middle of the South American jungle with an eccentric archeologist learning the stories of long lost tribes and mysterious islands.
Today, she had planned to sleep in.
It rang for a third time.
She presumed those plans were lost, not unlike the tribe and the island.
Danica reached over from her bed, back still flat on the mattress, her one hand holding the covers while the other crept along the tabletop and pressed the speaker button on the base. Once activated, she curled back under the covers.
“Good Morning Doctor Van Altena.” She answered.
She was addressing the director of medical operations in Toronto and her superior. His friends called him ’Mom’ because he always took care of those under his watchful care, regardless of their activities.
“A little early for a wakeup call isn’t it?” Sarcasm lacing her tone.
“I prefer to get up at five a.m. myself.” It was a deep resonate voice, but not that of her director. “But we all have our vices.”
She sat right up, muscles rigid, pulling her covers over her like she was worried she could be seen in the confines of her cabin sporting only her underwear and bra. She responded with a bit of annoyance. “This is a private line specifically outfitted for Maximum Pharmaceuticals.”
The man laughed, deep and heavy. “I would certainly hope so, considering how much I pay for it.”
Danica was silenced. She suddenly flashbacked to all the town halls, the big television interviews and online video conferences with him as the main speaker. His voice was like a storm, able to encompass everyone in earshot and saturate their minds with his energy. It was so distinguishable, it was impossible to believe she did not immediately recognize it.
“Doctor T-Thorne?” She stuttered, sleep weighing down her tongue.
“The one and the same.” Doctor Maximus Thorne replied, CEO and president of Maximum Pharmaceuticals.
She was at a loss for words. She offered the first thing that came to mind. “I’m so sorry… I thought…”
Maximus cut her off. “You’ve nothing to be sorry for. I called you and unexpectedly I might add. Not all of us find the early morning hours as refreshing as I do.” He paused and spoke with more authority. “That and the fact I find apologizing is an act for the weak. Personally, I never apologize. I do what I want because I can and let the rest of the world learn to work around my actions.”
Danica held quiet, unsure how to respond, knowing after that, another apology would be unwelcome. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Might as well get right to the point.” Maximus stated. “I hate wasting time with idle chit-chat or impersonal platitudes when we both know damn well you could care less how my day will go or what I plan to have for breakfast.”
Danica was about to ask him just that, so luckily, she had not spoken.
Maximus explained. “Last evening, you submitted a very strange report to Maximum Pharmaceuticals.”
Danica was suddenly wondering if the last few days she spent in the chamber and on its excavation detracted from her real assignment and now she was about to get reprimanded for it.
‘But by the CEO himself. She barely wasted two days. She would gladly allot them to vacation time if that was the issue. She was owed much more than that. Was this not overkill?’
“The report and pictures you returned to us last night...” Maximus declared. “And your discoveries are absolutely amazing.”
Danica smiled, her fears quickly subsiding. “Thank you sir.”
“Call me Maximus.”
Danica froze. She was too overwhelmed to cross that line yet. “Can I call you Doctor Thorne for now and maybe later, change to Maximus?”
Maximus laughed, friendly and open. “Whatever makes you comfortable.”
Danica quickly asked. “I thought Doctor Van…”
Maximus cut her off. “Is no longer the one you’re reporting to. From now on, you report directly to me.”
“Is he okay?” Danica felt some concern.
Maximus gently confirmed. “He’s fine. I felt this project was better handled by me.”
“And me.” A second voice joined the conversation, deep and heavy, but decidedly female. It was obviously the company’s Chief Financial Officer and ironically, wife to Maximus, Doctor Maxima Thorne.
Danica could offer nothing but nervousness. She balled both her hands into fists and thanked the stars she had grabbed her sheets before answering or her nails would be digging holes into her palms instead of tearing the material. “Of course.”
Maximus spoke with enthusiasm. “I see a bright position in your future young lady.”
Maxima added. “Very bright.”
Danica beamed. She had never spoken to her executive team before. Not even an email for questions to the anonymous Human Resources box for companywide staff meetings in the form of webinars for those questions to be presented and answered by the CEO. She considered herself a confident woman, but these two people who ran a multibillion dollar medical organization totally intimidated her.
Danica shyly inserted. “Thank you.”
“Thank you again?” Maximus sounded surprised. “It should be us thanking you.”
Danica never imagined having the two highest executive officers of her company call her and being so… thankful.
“It was dumb luck. Nothing more.” Was all Danica could add.
“Chance favours the prepared.” Maximus explained. “And let me tell you, that little site you found is something vitally important to both myself and Maxima.”
‘Really?’ popped into Danica’s head, but she kept it to herself.
“I want every drop of information you can derive from it. Bleed it dry. Some say there’s no blood in a stone. But I think if anyone can find it, it’ll be you.”
Danica never heard such passion from her CEO, not even in his public forums. “Absolutely.”
Maxima spoke again. “Some of the files you sent were corrupted, so I will need you to send it again.”
“I’ll do it the moment I terminate this call.”
“Excellent.” Maxima replied.
Danica asked with some reservation. “But technically, we only have a permit to search for biological and scientific evidence. Not a historic landsite. Should we…”
Maximus cut her off again, a bit of a habit, and applauded her quick thinking. “Have no concern. We’ve already dispatched our senior legal counsel to the South American consulate in Brazil. I have been assured by Mr. Darby that by the end of the week, that site will be the exclusive property of Maximum Pharmaceuticals.” He chuckled “At least for the time being.”
Danica was shocked.
Mr. Anthony Darby was the Chief Operating Officer as well as Senior Legal Counsel to the company, so his being sent personally meant this was very important to the Thornes’.
“Pardon my asking.” Maxima spoke. “But in your report, you’ve translated a good deal of the symbols.” She waited a second to pose the next query. “I’ve seen your resume and consider you a talented bio-specialist, but it does not note your skillset of interpreting South American ancient dialects?” She sounded puzzled.
“Hay….” Danica froze. “Doctor Lattimer has been able to translate…”
Maximus interjected. “Doctor Lattimer?”
“He’s an archeologist who was working another site near to my own for South American artifacts. Upon my discovery, I took advantage of his knowledge.”
Maxima jumped in. “You procured an archeologist who can read the text?”
Danica replied, voice soft, filled with deep concern. “Yes?” Hoping she had not overstepped her authority.
Maxima sounded proud when she replied. “Dear God woman, you’re amazing. I assume you can get him to sign a non-disclosure agreement. I will email one immediately. Standard incentives apply.”
Which was usually money, products or favours in the future.
Danica understood. ‘Protect the site, protect the discovery, and most importantly, protect the secret.’
Danica was about to ask a question before Maximus cut her off.
Aggressive personalities tend to interrupt others without thinking.
Maximus asked. “But what about a location? Your report makes no mention of it. Does the chamber tell us where we can find this Island of Eternal Night?”
’Island of Eternal Night?’ Danica paused. She never called it that in her report. ‘Guess he feels he can name the discovery since it is his company and all.’
“No.” At this Danica sighed. “Doctor Lattimer said it is one of the most detailed tableaus of a tribe and their history he has ever found. He explained that the walls talk much about the island itself and its people, but with all the details, he claims the storytellers seemed to go out of their way not to reveal where it can be found.”
Maximus could be beard talking to Maxima in the background.
Quiet, not for Danica’s ears, but he seemed unaware how sensitive his speaker unit was.
Maximus whispered. “Not unexpected. But combined with the other pieces we have, this chamber is a Godsend.”
Maxima whispered next. “Finally another piece.”
“We’ll see.” Were Maximus’ last words to Maxima.
Maximus returned to speaking to Danica. “Good work. Doctor Swift.”
“You can now consider yourself the Director of this operation.” Maximus declared. “Whatever you need, you shall have it. I’ve had a same day courier dispatch to you a corporate credit card with no limit. Whatever equipment is needed, sought or wanted, do not hesitate, have it brought to you.”
Maxima paused and quickly suggested. “In fact, I want you to hire your archaeologist friend as a consultant for this project. If he can read what he found now, we’ll need him.”
Danica was about to add. ‘We’re not friends, but she held it back.’
Maxima made very clear. “Whatever he asks, you’re approved to pay it.”
Danica chuckled, knowing Hayden. She jokingly replied. “What if he asks for half a million dollars or something?”
Maxima replied. “Then ask him what currency?”
Danica was silenced by the seriousness of that last response.
This was obviously far more important to the Thornes than Danica realized.