“… 28.4% of SimMobile’s sales, accounting for 8.8 billion!”
Trevor pinched his eyes and gave his head a subtle shake. Watcher, he desperately needed toothpicks to hold his eyes open. He sat up a little straighter in his chair, blinking his bored tears away.
This caller was even worse than the last. It didn’t matter how polite nor professional he was, the caller had now begun citing irrelevant company statistics, accusing SimMobile for being money-sucking crooks among other colorful phrases. Trevor muttered something unsavory under his breath as the caller hung up, then slumped in his chair and covered his face.
Seriously, the party was tame! Everyone had a good time, stayed safe, and flooded his inbox with ‘Wicked!’ or ‘Awesome!’ or ‘Lit Party!’ the next day. The furniture was stain-proofed, residual clutter cleaned and security kept out any gatecrashers, except that one guy. Trevor didn’t want to think about that.
Alright, so maybe it wasn’t completely clean. There was some pill-popping, lingering smoke in the air and his indoor pool became a sea of juice. There was also the girl who made a huge scene in his bed the next morning when he couldn’t remember her name. Even so, being forced to work in customer service for a month is an unfair punishment. His dad had made him swallow business manuals ever since he learnt to read. Trevor should be up there with the big guns, discussing company direction, project time-lines and calling the shots. This sucks! he thought.
He absentmindedly flipped through a document he swiped from his father’s desk this morning. At least he had this proposal to occupy his mind. His father and the target company who created this plan were having their partnership signing ceremony right now. He began breezing through the delegation of responsibilities between SimMobile and the lesser known MK Group, then stopped.
His son waved so persistently from the glass doors that the project lead and lawyers on either side of Dwayne Jeong stared in amusement, prompting the man to look up as well.
Dwayne excused himself, shut the door behind him and motioned his boy towards an unoccupied office.
“What is it, Trevor?”
Trevor held up the papers. “Is this the latest copy of the Partnership Agreement between us and MK Group?” Dwayne angled the pages towards himself, pursing his brows as he recognised the missing document from his desk.
“You know the answer to that. What’s wrong with it?”
“Why does this agreement state that we’re manufacturing both hardware and software of these products?
“Because we are.”
“No, we’re not. We’re building from the alpha prototype provided by MK — even contracted their engineers for software modelling. Sure, our engineers are constructing it, but the design is theirs.”
“Nothing wrong with that. Happens all the time. And of course we’ll use their prototype. It’s already working and we need 30,000 units readied by summer. Government contracts run on strict time-lines, especially those issued from the department of defense.”
“Exactly! We’re not talking about building the next telecom tower in San Myshuno — these are specialised equipment and tech systems for the CIA! We’re literally outsourcing sensitive software designs while putting our company stamp on the entire product!”
“And? We’ve done a risk assessment of the company. They’re clean.”
“They’re too clean! No worker disputes, no media scandals, no corruption? All companies have a stain somewhere, a case settled out of court–”
“As much as I’d like to stay and listen to your speculations, Trevor, I have a signing to attend.”
“Dad, wait! Don’t you see how dangerous this is? It even says here that they’re taking care of the after sales services!”
“Because they were awarded the contract in the first place! Enough of this nonsense!” Dwayne fumed. “How do you think government contracts work? Companies compete for these bids, have their qualifications assessed, and only then will the contract be awarded to ONE lucky company.”
“It’s safe to use their prototype and engineers because rest assured, these resources would’ve been thoroughly checked and pre-approved, just like how we had to send samples of our hardware and capabilities for inspection too. This partnership was planned six months in advance when we first met Ms Brown at the Babylon Club! Do you remember her?
“Good. Because the only reason we managed to secure this partnership is our great relations with her! Did you know MK was approached by our competitors? But they picked us! Not only have we acquired the perfect alibi to build an insider network in the government, we stand to gain political favors in the future! SimMobile will be untouchable for generations to come! You’re untouchable!”
“I understand, but–”
“Trevor, I have this. Leave it to me while you get your feet wet.”
“Let me talk to Ms Brown–”
“Enough! Are you out of your mind? How much further do you intend to embarrass me? Watcher knows what MK and the media are discussing about right now, and watcher knows if we’ll ever secure future partnerships with MK when I’ve ditched them to speak with you! You made me walk out of the partnership meeting for nothing!
“Are you trying to cause a media scandal? Because that’s where we’re headed with your ridiculous stunt. You’re the heir of SimMobile. You need to stop acting like a spoiled child and grow up. Otherwise, you can start making yourself comfortable in the customer service department for another month!”
His dad paused at the door. “Love day is coming up. Check in with all your contacts by the end of the week and get that limited edition Birkin bag for Martha, maybe clear half a day for her too. She’s done us well.”
“Of course…” Trevor replied as his father left. He knew how important it was to ‘maintain relations’. Trevor took a seat as the names cycled mechanically one after another in his mind, pairing gift to person until he reached Athena.
For a brief moment, he thought about what she told him the night of the party. Then, he rang his PA.
“The single most important resource one possesses is time. You’ve all heard the old adage. When you realise time is the most important commodity you have, you’ll naturally select only the most worthwhile pursuits.
For the rest of your mundane tasks, this is where being a businessman comes in handy. Making money work for you is a common advice; capitalising resources and juggling connections is another. But I say you are misguided if you become a Merchant of Money. I prefer to be a Merchant of Time.
What is a Merchant of Time, you ask? Simply put, a man who makes time work for him. A man who deals time. If you had multiple instances of time, you’re always one step ahead. And the best thing about being a Trader of Time is that deals are nonrefundable. Time cannot be stopped, changed, forwarded nor reversed. Once set in motion, all one needs to do is steer it in the right direction.
Masato’s sudden interruption of his own speech surprised the audience. Curtis could feel the eyes bore into the back of his head.
“Stand with me.”
“This is the moment when all our timelines converge into one. Tonight, our servers infiltrate government systems, networks and databases. We are the eyes and ears of SimNation. The gathering of domestic and foreign intelligence, global data collection and monitoring, phone calls and messages — all forms of communication made by every citizen, be it national leader or commoner, shall be known to us!”
“The way forward is paved for you, my friends. Whatever information you desire is at your fingertips. Tonight, my heir shall be your host. Enjoy, for it is your victory as it is mine.”
As the applause abated, Masato shot Curtis a quick glance, to which the boy acknowledged with a nod. His night had only just begun.