The next day, Tom was busy at his microscope, monitoring the progress of his regenerations, when Senator Billy Baker, accompanied by Toby, walked into the lab. "Attention everyone," announced Toby. "I have the pleasure to introduce Senator Baker as a new member of the board of directors here at Oscorp. I expect all of you to extend the usual courtesies to an honoured guest and to offer your full and unreserved cooperation. He may pass by and ask some questions, so feel free to explain everything to him. Thank you. After you Senator." Toby waved Baker on ahead of him.
Before long, the Senator sidled up to Tom's workstation. "So what are you working on here, son?" he asked, in as friendly a tone as a New Yorker can assume.
"I'm regenerating valves for a human heart," said Tom, stressing the word human.
"That's fascinating, young man, truly nothing short of astonishing. To achieve what you have, you need to know what you are doing, and that my friend, is real power. You've done some great work here, my young scholar, great work indeed. You must truly love life, to dedicate yourself to the biosciences in this manner. But as a reasonable man, you must know that to be true to this love, you ought never to live for the sake of another man, yes? So I trust we can count on your devotion to your science, and the company, not just an individual?"
Tom was stung by the remark. "Sir, if you explained your interest in my work a little more plainly, than perhaps I could better explain," he said, dully.
"Listen up, my young savant, and hear me well. This company stands to be the leading innovator in medical science, but will only survive if it receives a major shakedown, starting from the top. Why do you think they brought me onto the board?"
"Surely I don't know, sir," said Tom. "I thought you didn't agree with what we were trying to accomplish here."
"Look, son, I will speak plainly to you. I feel that you have earned it. I am, first and foremost, a philosopher, and as such, I understand better than any that the purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live. I believe in what you are accomplishing, I only fear that you are under poor administration. Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. I believe that Oscorp has assembled a team of leaders, real A players, to pave the way for a bright future. But Dr. Connors has made a critical error: it is morally ludicrous to be offering such marvellous technology to even those poor who could never appreciate what they have received. Perhaps in the short term, it seemed a clever political move, but if any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. And giving away for free your hard work is hardly laudable, and simply does not make fiscal sense. Money, after all, is the barometer of a society's virtue. Connors' program gives away all our power. These impoverished mobs will take what they can from you, and then turn around and rip you open. Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins. I assume your family is well to do. How would your folks feel if you fell off the ladder of success, by missing the rungs of opportunity to help some penniless rabble?"
Tom was getting more and more frustrated. The Senator's views sickened him, yet he talked with a seductiveness that Tom was struggling to logically refute. "I won't go against Dr. Connors," he finally said stubbornly.
"Whoa, son, you mistake my meaning, sir. Yes indeed, you misunderstand me. But remember, even when a man says I love you, he must first be able to say the 'I.' You think about that, son. You think about that."
That afternoon, Tom didn't want to be at the lab anymore. Office politics were really ruining a job that he had loved. At that point, he was summoned over to the television once again. 'What is it now?' he thought.
This time it was a diehard supporter of Oscorp, and of Connors in particular, expounding why their medical research was worthy of endorsement. Wilson Fisk, local businessman, politician and philanthropist, lavished praise on Connors' charity. "Finally we can welcome a corporation with a conscience into our communities and country. It is my prayer that more companies will learn from Dr. Connors' shining example and follow suit helping the disadvantaged into a bright future," he said.
"I'm so sick of these politicians!" Tom complained. "They're all as transparent as Grandma's underpants." His protests were greeted by being told to hush from his colleagues. 'Will this day never end?' he groaned to himself.
After what seemed like eternity, he was out and on his way to the sanctuary of Mariah's house. When he arrived, she was at her piano. When she took a pause, Tom greeted her with a passionate kiss and poured her a glass of wine.
"'And now kiss me, for minding you so well,'" she said, quoting Wuthering Heights.
"You certainly make me feel like the luckiest man on earth," he said, smiling and kissing her again. "But play The heart asks pleasure first again." Mariah cheerfully complied, playing as well Big My Secret. Then she took a break and Tom sat next to her on the piano bench. He was not as accomplished a pianist as Mariah was, so he played the song he knew best, Hallelujah, which he sang to her as well."That was delightful, my love," she said, with her face on the back of his neck. "You want to eat? I prepared you a special dinner.""I would love to. Thank you."
They sat down to enjoy a lovely meal of beef tenderloin with balsamic tomatoes, accompanied by an almost chocolatey Pinot Noir.
After they finished eating, Tom requested Mariah to play the piano again. "Renoir was inspired by the way the female form is accentuated when seated at the piano.""Well Renoir was also inspired to paint people dancing." Her eyebrows went up enticingly.Tom looked into her eyes, as Live played in the background off the Bose SoundDock. "You make me see a sky full of the stars that change our minds, and lead us back to a world we would not face. You make me actually wanna dance with you." Mariah put on some mambo and Bossa Nova while Tom stumbled his way through the latin dance moves. He really liked Perez Prado, Sergio Mendes and Buena Vista Social Club, but he wasn't very experienced. Mariah guided him through the steps and after practicing the basics for quite a few songs, they finally started to gel. As they swayed slowly together to The Look of Love by Brasil '66, Mariah put her head on his shoulder and said, "You seem like you're finally starting to relax. Did you have a tough day at work?"
"Yeah, a little. My projects are going well, there's no worries there. It's more the people I work with."
"I saw on the news some of the controversy surrounding Oscorp. Is there… is there a chance that this treatment you're preparing for me won't work?" Her normally stoic voice betrayed anxiety.
"All of the evidence we have leads us to believe in a favourable outcome. It's office politics that are the problem. And because Oscorp is a huge multinational, the politics involve several powerful entities. But it's really nothing for us to worry about."
"Oh, I'm happiest when it's just the two of us here, isolated from the world! I wish the outside with all its greed and hate could never infiltrate into our secluded Eden, where we're free to be ignored and live and die as one! Promise me, Tom! Promise me that if this treatment is successful we will not become famous. I think that would make for the most tedious life, if we had to live in the public eye. Unwanted attention is such a prison! Living so close to death has opened my eyes as to what is most important in life. And life without the freedom to search for beauty and truth would be no life at all. Promise me, Tom, that we will remain nobody's that can just blend into a crowd and that you'll continue to look at me as you do now."
"I promise. I do. But promise me that you will continue to hum the sweet song of hope. It is far from being lost, and although we may not always understand how it will be, it is that which propels us forward."
"Oh kiss me, Tom! Kiss me like you did that first day when we watched the sun rise like a ruby." Tom happily complied, as they softly swayed in the moonlight.
The next morning, Rosie awoke and looked over at Tom, still asleep. She rolled over to face him and her movements caused him to stir, so she fully roused him with a kiss. He kissed her back, "Good morning, love.""Good morning. I love you too," she said, with a bashful smile. Tom's smile came from deep within his very being, fired by pure, unadulterated joy.