Mark pulled up to the gatehouse, as usual. His new 5l charcoal Hummer purred as he pressed his smartcard pass against the keypad. Ugh! Even opening the window for a second was oppressive, he grimaced. And it was a real pain in the ass, but constant breaches by the climate brigade had prompted his employer, Natural Development Global, to dramatically increase its security.
A green light permitting him to proceed, Mark looked down to the ditch beside the gate. Originally dug to help with drainage, if he had any concern, he needn’t have, for it was at least a dozen years since it had contained any water. Instead, a few persistent wildflowers clung desperately on to its sides.
Once on site, Mark was an automaton, driving mechanically up to the ninth storey of the car park – a height which might have afforded a breath-taking view over the surrounding countryside, were it not for the ubiquitous slate-grey offices obstructing him.
But Mark had no time for views. He had a deadline as early as 10:30 that morning. An early start today, to prep his manager, Jim, for a meeting at 11.
The increasing heat hit Mark as soon as he flicked the engine, and the air conditioning, off, and he found his hands already sticking to the black leather steering wheel. As he climbed out of the car, he could feel the discomfort of his pressed white cotton shirt, as its smart creases began to evaporate. The immediate heat from the engine block was quickly replaced by the ambience, as Mark hastily opened the back door and reached for his briefcase, taking one last gulp of the still-cool air inside the car, before braving the journey.
By the time Mark had covered the hundred fifty yards back into his air-conditioned sanctuary, he was already sweating.
The first stop each morning was the coffee area, where Mark discovered that his cup had been miraculously cleaned, and tidied into the cupboard, from the day before. But this morning, he could not resist a drink from the water fountain first. Looking forward to the cool flow, he pushed the lever. A dribble. Then he remembered. Low pressure in the system, they would be out of action, today and tomorrow. In the meantime, the water supply would be diverted to allow for hot drinks, and bottled water would be provided instead. As he pulled the chilled bottle of Evian, specially imported from the Swiss Alps, from the refridgerator, he felt Jim entering the area.
“Morning, sir, gonna be another hot one today.” He mustered a smile, and quickly offered the man his bottle of water.
The older man, grossly overweight, mopped his brow. “Man, this summer feels like it’s never going to end.” And then to business. “Are you still good for later? I found out last night that one of the bigwigs from the fourteenth floor was making an appearance today.”
Mark exuded confidence. He’d been preparing this project for weeks. All he had to do was polish up his presentation to Jim.
And he had good news.
It would be NDG’s next big deal, Mark thought. The atoll of Elauru. Way out in the Pacific, down toward Papua New Guinea. Currently, ripe for development, with just a handful of inhabitants. And with surveys that tantalised with promises of the third-largest oil reserves in the company’s history.
And yes, safe in the knowledge that the rights could be bought, that the people could be bought, Mark was confident. This was his ticket into the boardroom.
I just hope I don’t need to go there, thought Mark.