This prompt was provided by @thewisevixen ! Another late one, but life has again been busy. Recently joined a chat with a few other people who are all going to be tossing in prompts and critique, and I’m going to try to do my best to do all of them.
Ideally I’ll eventually reach a point where I can write 2-3 of them daily, and start building up a queue of these, and maybe post them regularly. But first I have to get better at keeping a schedule for these in the first place!
“Prompt #5: It’s a day at the office, and person X has a meeting to present to ‘the board.’ They speak with their good friends (However many you please) about it, before going in to present to a board of initially disinterested officials. LOW sci fi if you wish, with a preference on modern.”
A certain man leaned over a desk covered in papers, illuminated by the single lamp sitting atop the wooden surface. He was the very definition of average — if you were to look at the national averages he’d be within 5% of all of them. Not tall, not short, not fat, not thin. Black hair like the majority of the population, brown eyes. Perhaps his only distinguishing feature was his mutton chop beard. Behind him the blinds were closed, but one could still see the lights of the skyscraper facing opposite them. Opposite the lamp was a little clock, red digital display showing it was 7:53 PM.
It wasn’t often you had meetings like this, so understandably Takahashi was more than a little nervous. He had covered every angle hadn’t he? The Antarctic station’s report was revolutionary, and if he could pitch his idea to the board not only would it change the face of the world, he’d probably get a spot on it as well.
Forget the spot they’d probably make him chairman!
If he could pitch it right.
Takahashi was out of his depth here, in a way he knew deeply. Four years ago he’d been a college dropout, and little more than a thug good only for his fists. He’d probably still be little more than a thug if not for —
Knock knock knock.
“Nakamura? It’s open, come in.” The handle twisted, and the wooden door swung open. Moments later, a tall, balding man stepped through. His wispy white hair had been combed over the bald spot on his head in a halfhearted attempt to conceal his mounting age. It might have even worked, for otherwise his skin hardly showed his age — a certain lack of wrinkles did wonders for making him still seem forty.
Takahashi gave a weak smile — it wasn’t that he was unhappy to see Nakamura, quite the opposite. He’d been the man to see his potential, and give him the chance to be more than just another statistic. But the sheer weight of what he’d read weighed down upon his mind so forcefully, any joy was quashed underfoot.
“Working late again, I see,” mused Nakamura as he closed the door behind himself with a quiet click. “Take care to not overwork yourself.”
The younger man chuckled grimly, running one of his gloved hands down the front of his face. He stopped when the tips of his fingers reached beneath his eye, half covering his mouth with his hand. “It’s not even eight, Nakamura, and I have about four hours to prepare for the board.”
A nod of the head came in response. “I know.” The tall, older man strode forward, and took one of the single unused chair in the office. He sat down, crossing one leg over the other and leaning against the back cushions. “It’s been all I’ve heard today.”
Takahashi laughed bitterly, sinking into his own seat. “You must think me a fool.”
This time he was answered with a shake of the head. “Antarctica was gamble, and it’s paid off — if you can do this.”
“If!” The young man threw up his hands in despair. “That’s exactly the problem! How am I supposed to convince them that this thing can really do what the reports say.”
Nakamura smiled faintly, shaking his head. “You’ve vastly over complicated this. You simply must present the facts as they are, whatever they are.” He paused, and inclined his head ever so slightly toward Takahashi. “The board aren’t fools, and neither are you. Trust that your judgment is correct.”
If only it were that simple to undo the knots in his stomach. Takahashi took a breath, lowering his hands down to the arm rests. He picked at the leather as he thought. It wasn’t like he could just flicked off a switch — everything Nakamura had said to him had occurred to him already. Yet hearing it said out loud was profoundly different from his own internal monologue.
Four years ago, he’d not been much of anything until the older man had noticed him in that bar. Offered him work, and more importantly recognition of his worth. It had been the start of their friendship too, when he broke that bottle over an asshole’s head. He owed a lot to this man for, well, basically everything at this point, but all his debts had been waved off with little more than a “This is what friends do.”
Takahashi released the breath he had been holding. “Fine, fine. If you say that’s what’s needed, I believe you.”
“Good! Now how about we break out a bottle.” Nakamura laughed, already reaching around into the drawer of the desk.
“I have to present in four hours, I can’t be drunk.”
The older man grinned, pulling back with the whole bottle. “Well then, more for me.”
Takahashi stood alone on the elevator, his face occasionally illuminated by passing blue lights. How slow was this anyways? It felt like he had been descending into the bowels of the earth for hours at this point. In his hand was a briefcase — his presentation materials. The handle was handcuffed to his wrist, a sensible precaution that was vastly too little for the sensitive nature of what he was bringing with him.
A ding announced the end of the ride, and he stepped off the elevator into the pitch darkness of the Meeting Room.
There were no hallways to reach the meeting room, if you were this deep in it was pointless to go any further. Takahashi simply waited, the elevator sliding closed sight unseen behind him, then rolling back up to the main building.
The air was deathly still, and even after all his preparation and Nakamura’s pep talk, he could still feel his throat constrict with the stress of the situation. And then —
One by one, spotlights turned on to illuminate them. The board. Or rather, their representations.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven obelisks in total. Smooth black marble, featureless until the holographic displays before them lit up. They each projected the stylized logos of the board, along with their number. One, a sphere held in talons. Two, a serpent coiling around a tree. Three, three swords crossing in the center. Four, a ram’s head with two curving horns. Five, a plain ring with no other features. Six, a palm open and facing forward, a single eye open in its center. Seven, a falcon’s head in profile.
No names — those in charge did not care to reveal themselves to those unproven.
“Speak Mr. Takahashi, you have two minutes.” Talon was the one who spoke, indicated by a thin, nearly invisible, line warbling just beneath his symbol. The voice was distorted, naturally, to conceal the speaker’s identity further.
“This remains a waste of time,” spoke Eye, the line beneath the palm wavering. It’s voice was also distorted, but some how a hint deeper. “Dr. Kobayashi’s work has born no fruit.”
Takahashi opened his mouth to speak, but was immediately cut off by another of the slabs speaking. “That is what we are hear to determine,” Ram warbled, before commanding with a single word: “Present.”
The young man felt like his stomach was about to drop out, but he steeled himself. Show the facts, and they shall reach the same conclusion he did. He did not waste the human capital he had spent to get here.
“You may recall the artifacts found in the first crater,” he began, lifting up his briefcase and putting it down in front of him — hoping that there was actually a table set up for him. Thankfully he was rewarded for his faith, with another spotlight turning on over him.
“Useless trinkets, melted upon entry,” came Eye’s voice immediately. “As were all the craters.”
Takahashi took a breath, undoing the latches to his briefcase. “No. Not all of them.”