Newstars

This is a Sample from the Second Novel by Bob Foster.

The full text of this novel or a bound paperback version, can be ordered from:

http://www.bobfoster.co.uk

Chapter 1

Patrick awoke with a start. His four month old God son was sleeping peacefully in his cot by the side the bed. Patrick held his breath, listening...

 

After some brief instructions from the nurse, several successful feeds and supervised nappy changes, Patrick had begun to recognise the different sounds the baby made to indicate each of his needs. However this time he'd not been woken by any of those sounds. Dan was clearly fast asleep.

 

Nevertheless Patrick did hear something unexpected. He turned his head towards the window.

 

A housefly was buzzing and banging its helpless little body against the window in its repeated attempts to be free.. to fly out into the freezing air beyond the inexplicable, infuriating barrier of the transparent window pane. The fly fell slowly downwards on the inside of the window as it continued to beat itself up trying to make progress. On reaching the bottom there was a time of quiet as it crawled up to the top again, only to renew its futile attempt to escape.

 

Patrick turned again to watch and listen to the baby's steady breathing. Then he felt again the instinctive anger at an uncaring God which had coursed through him after the doctors had first broken the news of his Godson's incurable deafness.

 

"There's a complete absence of any inner ear development at all Mr Mahoney" the doctor had reported. "... It's a very rare condition, and I'm afraid there's no reliable treatment available to us. He is going to have to learn how to live with permanent deafness"

 

Patrick tried to relax. He knew that he should have been sleeping last night to get himself ready for today's union negotiations, but of course Dan's needs came first and anyway his anger and frustration with the world, gave him easy empathy with the house fly. He had no chance of any sleep!

 

Two hours later he rose unrested. He gave a full report to the nurse who fluttered with excuses before even looking at him.

"I came as early as I could, but the traffic was awful... Goodnes, Mr Mahoney, you look really drained. Are you sure you can't take a few days off work.. Given the exceptional circumstances?"

 

He shook his head, pulled a regretful face to hide the anger she was unlikely to understand, and pushed himself out into the street to get himself to work.

 

*****

 

Julian held his head in his hands.

"How can they be so stupid?"

He surveyed the stony faces of the union representatives glaring back at him across the negotiating table... a mass of non-communication.

How could he hope to reach any kind of agreement with their leader Patrick Mahoney if they didn't even speak?

 

That morning he'd been sure his proposals would save the day. Every detail of the union demands had been addressed and he'd received nothing but positive feedback from private conversations with representatives from both sides. All Patrick had to do was to either agree or make suggestions for improving the plans and they could all get back to normal!

 

Why then was he being so negative?

 

The only non positive feedback had been from his wife Barbara. She'd married & divorced Patrick before marrying Julian so she had a unique perspective. That very morning she'd warned him to minimise the insecurity Patrick was bound to feel from Julian's radical proposals for change.

 

"Make sure Patrick is the centre of attention darling. He's always had a serious 'separation anxiety' buried in his subconscious. When I first met him he was very dependant on his mother. Then when we divorced he had the same problem. He doesn't cope with big changes in his personal circumstances."

She paused, then continued more gently:

"Anything you suggest that he sees as forcing a change.. A 'separation' from a pattern of life he's become accustomed to, is going to be met with his usual 'stony stare'."

 

Julian was looking at exactly that stoney stare as he recalled her words and realised he should have listened more closely.

 

Finally Patrick spoke

"We will have to consult our members, of course, but it would seem that once again management have not listened to us here today. Therefore I suspect this proposal will be treated in our ballot with the contempt it deserves."

Another dramatic pause:

"We're prepared to offer one more chance to bring to the negotiations a proposal which will enable us to settle this dispute amicably. We'll hear your revised proposal tomorrow morning at 9am".

 

Julian opened his mouth, but there was nothing left to say. Every possible area of manoeuvre had been included in the proposal and now it was rejected. Julian was beaten.

 

*****

 

As soon as he'd managed to escape the suffocating atmosphere of the negotiating room and his fellow workers, Patrick made straight for his flat. He knew he must relieve the hospital appointed babysitter who'd agreed to stay until Patrick had made alternative arrangements .. and if he was honest, that was the only topic that had received his full attention through the whole day of negotiations. He'd hardly heard a word of the proposal from the management, although he had noticed the lead negotiator becoming increasingly unreasonable as the day had worn on.

"It'll do them good to stew for a bit longer" he thought to himself.

 

When Patrick arrived home the baby was fast asleep. He was reminded that the baby still needed regular feeds and that he'd probably get very little sleep until Dan settled into the new routine.

 

"Would you mind helping for a few more days?"

 

Patrick's appeal was very hard for the nurse to resist "I'll ask my employer for help of course, but it's going to take a few days.. We're in the middle of a union dispute at the moment, and..."

 

"Yes of course" was the warm reply. "I understand how difficult a new responsibility like this can be. I'll get in touch with social services in the morning and explain the situation. They'll sort somethng out until you've been able to make your own more permanent arrangements"

 

As she left, Patrick felt once again the heavy responsibility of holding the baby. With no family or neighbours to call upon, his first thought for finding help was to try an internet search. However, as so often happens, the focus of his search changed and he found himself looking at the website of a completely different kind of organisation to the babysitting services he'd originally intended to contact.

 

He emailed 'Sebastian Newman', the main contact for listeners.com (a website serving families with deaf children).

 

Sebastian explained that he ran listeners.com in his spare time. His day job was a researcher for MS inc. a technology company specialising in advanced hearing aids.

 

He said he'd read Patrick's description of Dan's 'special educational needs and immediately asked if they could meet up. He suggested Patrick could learn more about Seb's company and would then be better placed to make a decision about how Dan might best be cared for..

 

*****

 

As Julian left after the inexplicably unsuccessful negotiations with Patrick he spoke to no one for fear of needlessly offending or upsetting them.

 

The next words to pass his lips were spoken to his wife as she kissed him 'hello' at the station.

"Did you have a nice day at the office dear? How was Patrick?"

"No I had a terrible day... and Patrick was the main cause. He just doesn't seem to listen to reason!" the exasperation spread right across Julian's face as he spoke.

Barbera wore a wry smile.

"I can just imagine him saying exactly the same thing about you dear"

Barbara was a celebrated psychologist. Her research work for her employer at that time included development of some 'negotiation facilitation' tools and so she'd seen many other negotiators at work. Her husband's emotional display showed he was close to breaking point and as his description of the day's events went on, her concern for him deepened. She was sure there was a simple resolution available and she was equally sure she would be able to spot it if only she was permitted to join them in the negotiating room. However her past relationship with Patrick before her marriage to Julian seemed to stand in the way of this. She realised Julian was unlikely to be impressed by any 'simple solutions' she might put forward at this point. At that moment his bruised ego would probably interpret them as accusations of stupidity. Nevertheless, she decided to try one more time.

 

"Have you thought any more about trying our company's Diplomat?"

He replied absent-mindedly..

"I've all but given up on these negotiations darling, but if you really think he can help us then by all means give me his phone number. I'll try to call him in the morning and see if we can arrange a meeting..."

"No silly, it's one of our computer systems. I told you about it last week when you first realised you were going to have to negotiate with Patrick. I suppose you were too engrossed in formulating your proposal to listen to me but I felt it then and I feel it again now, I think our new system could be really useful to you. The lab have introduced a few interesting new features as well. I'd love to see how they work in a real life negotiation."

 

In the past when Barbara had suggested Julian try one of what he called her 'toys' at one of his 'very serious meetings', he had always rejected her suggestions out of hand.

 

This time he reacted differently. This showed Barbara just how desperate he really was.

"You never give up do you?" he smiled "That's what I love about you."

He paused to think, but only for a short while. "Yes OK we'll try your precious system tomorrow. Everything else has failed. What can we lose?"

"Brilliant!" Barbara was excited now. This was exactly what the research project needed, some real life applications to help justify their claims for more funding from their sponsors. "If you remember, the system works by reading the brainwaves of each person wearing a headset connected to the central 'hub'. It can quite easily read simple emotions (happy/sad, confident/vulnerable etc) but recently we've introduced features for actually suggesting problem resolutions based upon our rapidly growing database of mind maps taken from particularly talented problem solvers. I'm sure it's just what you need. "

"The lab have also been working on some other new features. They need to expand the market for the technology if the sponsors are going to continue to come through with our research grant. Perhaps we could have a go tonight, just to get you used to it? They say the 'telepathic intimacy mode' is amazing!"

 

*****

 

Seb was almost running as he burst into the lab and exclaimed.

"I've found him.. He's perfect!"

 

Max turned his bleary eyes towards the door. He'd been working all night, preparing for today's demonstration of their latest product idea to the board of directors..

 

Once Customers understood the benefits of the Newstar system it would sell itself . Max knew that if he could just find a single 'power user' who would sing the praises of the system to a novelty-hungry world media then the promotion oroblem would be solved.. And he would keep his job.

 

He knew the apparent barrier of the operation upon every customer's ears would melt away as people flocked to get in on the action of this jaw dropping product.

 

However, no last minute solution had leapt into his mind , and he knew that no matter how often he reassured them that "Newstar overlaps several of our competitors' strongest products, rendering them obsolete in a single stroke, the board were sure to dwell upon this barrier. He was particularly concerned about the miserly Chief executive, Gerald Lindley.

 

In spite of all his worries he managed an indulgent smile for his enthusiastic and completely dedicated research scientist.. Seb was sometimes idealistic and mis-guided, but he was well intentioned and therefore deserving of some attention.

 

"That's amazing, Seb" Max only managed to hold back some of the sarchasm. "In a quest in which the entire resource of the world health organasation's patient databases has failed, You, Sebastian Masters have managed to track down the parents of a clinically proven, profoundly deaf baby, who is less than 4 months old and yet has conveniently managed to grow sufficient nerve endings to allow us to make connections to our prototype NEWSTAR .. Oh and of course you've also managed to overcome that smallest of minor details, you've managed to get their permission for us to use revolutionary, untested major surgical techniques upon their baby!"

 

Seb smiled...

"I couldn't believe it either... but it's true!"

 

 

*****

 

Gerald stood stock still. He allowed his suddenly rejeuvanated Midas instinct to grow from deep inside. His mind was being bombarded by a gaggle of breathtaking. marketing possibilities, wrestling with each other for his attention.

 

Max delayed his approach to allow the full impact of the demonsation to settle upon the chairman

 

"That wretched operation is bound to hit our sales, Max. Is there really no other way?"

 

The recently appointed head of marketing turned his smile back to a serious frown. This was it. Max knew his career depended on what happened in the next 45 seconds. Although things were definitely on an upward trend, he reminded himself. Earlier that morning he'd been convinced he would be sacked today.

 

Max shook his head slowly, rippling his long blond hair..

 

"It is essential I'm afraid sir. but I feel now is the time for this product. The benefits are just so profound ... they outweigh the costs.. Even a medical procedure."

 

Both men nodded slowly and fell silent, reflecting agreement over the stickiness of this problem..

 

"We're masters of the 'marketing push' when it comes to innovative communications. If anyone can sell the necessity of an operation on our customers then it's us"

 

"That's exactly how I see ithings, sir."

Max was smiling again....

"There are some in R&D who disagree, but I'm confident I can deal with them." Max looked directly into Gerald's eyes, willing a confirmation from his new boss.

 

The old familiar passions for market domination and rapid company expansion grew again at a rate that surprised even Gerald. He became increasingly sure this was it! This was the breakthrough they'd been waiting for. NS inc MUST be the first to bring this technology to market. No cost would be too high.

 

He allowed the silence to continue and gave no facial expression to the excitement he was beginning to feel.

 

He was waiting for that moment when the momentum began to fade before he replied.

 

"How soon could we be in the marketplace with this?"

 

Max perked up again. This was even better than he'd hoped. He'd been ready to fight for support... A whole string of arguements were carefully planned, ready to be brought nto the conversation if required. But Gerald had already said 'yes' . Now he just had to deliver.

 

"Well sir, Seb's following up an idea as we speak which would get us to market a lot faster than you might expect. If this works sir, then the first revenues should be in almost immediately"

 

"EXCELLENT. Go ahead and keep me posted... And make sure Julian Lightly doesn't hear anything about this until we go public. I'm sure you understand?"

 

*****

 

Patrick and Julian were both woke up feeling nervous about the last chance negotiations that would be happening that day.

 

Patrick left his house early before Dan and the night babysitter had a chance to wake up. He wanted to be sure Julian wasn't trying any 'funny business'. However his attempt was in vain because when he arrived, he found Julian was already there talking to the secretary who'd been given responsibiliy for logistics at these negotiations.

 

Patrick overheard Julian finishing off his requests: "If you manage to provide enough power sockets so each negotiating team can have a headset then I'll be delighted." he smiled, trying to encourage the relatively inexperienced girl to help him out.

 

She wasn't impressed by his fawning, but she realised how much praise she would receive if these negotiations succeeded as a result of her efforts, so she re-assured Julian that the existing 3 sockets would be extended to 12 ready for the start of the meeting.

 

Then Julian looked up: "Ah Patrick! Nice to see you so bright and early! I hope you don't object to us using these glasses? They're part of my presentation of the new proposal." Patrick was immediately suspicious but couldn't think of any justifyable grounds for objecting... Anyway, no matter what kind of trickery Julian was setting up, there was nothing to fear because it would still be his own final decision whether or not to accept any management proposals. He nodded his acceptance.

 

Once the power sockets were in place, Julian suggested the three ofthem try the specs out before everyone else arrived. The secretary, Gwen, put on her glasses first, so when Patrick looked into the lenses he saw one green smiley face at the top of his field of vision, smiling happily back at him.

 

Julian explained what was happening "That's Gwen's 'icon'. It's green which tells you she's feeling confident and relaxed and it's smiling which tells you she's happy." Julian paused and then a second face appeared in Patrick's view. "That's my icon. It's red, which tells you I'm quite worried about today's meeting, and its mouth is 'neutral' which means I'm neither happy nor angry. I'm just a bit nervous. You can tell which face is which by looking directly at the icon. The sensors in the glasses decide which face you're looking at and respond by displaying a text label with their name on it." Julian seemed to be enjoying explaining the system.. Patrick allowed him to continue...

 

"Now, if you push the 'mask' button on the left side of the glasses you will be switching on your own icon for us to see." Patrick reluctantly pushed the button. The third face was green, reflecting Patrick's confidence since he was to make the final decision on the proposal, but the mouth was showing a 'sad' shape, accurately reflecting his assumption that management were unlikely to offer a sufficiently attractive package to him in the forthcoming discussions.

 

As the three of them continued to discuss the marvels of the technology the colours and mouth shapes changed regularly, accurately reflecting their changing moods. They found it much easier than before to conduct sensitive and productive conversations due to their enhanced undersanding of the feelings of their colleagues, and by the time the other negotiators arrived, the contrast in the atmosphere compared to that of the previous evening could not have been greater.

 

Each new arrival was given a pair of glasses and the system was explained to them. Soon the entire negotiating hall was a mass of fast moving, heart-warming communication as the details of the latest proposal from the management were explained and discussed.

 

The perceived impossibility of hiding anything from each other as they each described and then discussed their visions for the future of the company, allowed the level of trust between management of workforce to grow to heights never before seen in the company. As a direct result of this unprecedented, high quality trust and understanding of the other side's concerns, the new proposals were passed without any objections first by the union representatives and then by the entre workforce.

 

*****

 

"Your system has saved the company millions!" Julian was ecstatic as he described the scene to his adoring wife that evening ".... not to mention my job. Id have been sacked if there'd been a general strike. You're a genius!" he kissed her long and hard. "Wait a minute, where are those glasses?"....

 

 

Several hours later as they lay side by side in the bed basking in satisfied exhaustion, Barbara smiled and asked her husband: "I presume you didn't show the other negotiators 'telepathic intimacy mode'?"

He grinned back at her "No dear they seemed happy enough with the basic functions of the system, although I couldn't resist taking a peek at Patrick's subconscious after we had passed the critical point in the negotiations." He suddenly looked seriously once more at his wife. "The system seemed to be able to see nearly as deeply into his mind as it allows me to see into yours in telepathic intimacy mode. I thought you said that was only possible when the person has voluntarily been included in the research sample?" he paused and then asked in a quieter voice "You haven't been seeing Patrick again behind my back have you?" Julian's icon turned pink and Barbara saw the smile turn neutral. "No dear..." Julian was surprised to see her icon turn blue for compassion instead of the red he'd expected. "You've no need to fear, darling. There's actually a completely different explanation to the one you expect." she looked more deeply into his e yes t reassure him over the forthcoming revelation"I didn't know myself until this morning but it seems your own brainwave patterns were added to the survey yesterday. " he didn't respond with hurt or anger as she had feared and so, encouraged by his apparent fortitude she continued. " Seb says you're the most creative problem solver he's ever encountered!" she looked for the change of icon colour that would indicate understanding and acceptance. "What you saw in Patrick's response wasn't the consequnece of the system having a deeper understanding of Patrick than you might expect. It was the consequence of Patrick realising gaining a deeper respect for how your mind works... " Julian's icon returned to green and the smile also returned.

 

 

 

 

This is a Sample from the Second Novel by Bob Foster.

The full text of this novel or a bound paperback version, can be ordered from:

http://www.bobfoster.co.uk