From the valley floor only one of the two climbers could be seen 1,500 feet up the granite cliff. The other climber was higher up sitting on a ledge and pulled up the slack in the rope every time the person below him moved up. The climber disappeared from the view of the campers in the valley as he reached the ledge.
"Thanks for the belay boss. Belay off." Juan Martinez said as he stepped up onto the ledge and shook the rope away from his feet. They were near the top of a large granite monolith at the head end of an inlet north of Vancouver BC . The hemlock forest below looked like a green carpet stretching to the sound. The breeze carried the scent of salt mixed with pine. Brown crusty lichen covered the rock in patches. Juan scraped some loose with his foot and watched it drift downward. "Wow, that is a long way down.” The lichen disappeared. “Enjoying yourself?"
"Rock feels good after a month on ice." Roy Graham said as he took a deep breath sucking in the thin air. "I've gotten used to lower altitude. This thin air is invigorating. Another three hundred feet to the top. Once we get above this overhang we have one easy face." He studied the route above him for a few seconds consciously noting small indentations, cracks and small flakes casting microscopic shadows. Subconsciously he was building a schedule of moves. A mental model of the path he would take up the cliff and playing it like a movie. He gazed at the grey and black flecks of granite until a silent understanding of mind and body merged. He was ready. The warning shrill of a startled eagle pierced the quiet air. The bird swept away from the cliff higher up and quickly rose in an expanding circle then disappeared behind the rock above them. "We will follow that narrow crack running up to the overhang. There are some good horizontal flakes. It should be interesting." He reset the belay anchor and handed the rope to Juan.
started to climb up the crack. It was
just wide enough to jam the toes of his shoes into. He hung on by putting his
hand in the crack and making a fist. He
ascended the crack thirty feet as if he were climbing a ladder. The crack ran up to the bottom of the overhang
that jutted out over the valley floor like the ceiling of a room. The crack ended where another thin crack ran
horizontally along the base of the ceiling where the ceiling and wall
removed a spoon-shaped titanium piton from a harness of other rock climbing
items hanging from his shoulder and slipped it into the horizontal crack. He
carefully took a hammer from the harness and, still hanging on with a fist
clenched in the vertical crack, drove the piton into the thin crack. Each time he hit the piton the sound of the
vibrating metal increased in pitch. When
the ringing stopped and it sounded and felt like he was hitting rock he knew he
had a solid anchor that would hold him if he fell. Replacing the hammer on the harness he
removed an oval shaped carabiner and connected it to the piton and then snapped
the climbing rope into the carabiner.
From below, Juan could now stop Roy,
if Roy fell.
Roy hung onto the carabiner with his left hand and leaning out from the wall and stretching he was able to place the fingertips of his right hand on a small flake on the outer edge of the overhang. The tactile sense of tough weathered fingers on cold sharp granite felt secure. He let go of the carabiner with his left hand and gently swung out, hanging by three fingers of one hand over a fifteen hundred-foot void. He placed two finger of his left hand on the flank and with a grunt he chinned up quickly. With his momentum still moving up, he let go with his left hand fingers and reached up to a small but secure hold with his left hand. As smoothly as a choreographed dance he removed the fingers of his right hand from the small flake, now hanging from his left hand, pulled up and put his right toe on the small hold he had been hanging from. He wasn’t thinking about what to do. His motions were reflex driven from years of climbing. Extending his right arm he reached the top edge of the overhang and pulled himself onto the ledge.
Squatting on the ledge was a blond, blue eyed muscular man. He smiled at Roy and stood with the grace of a seasoned climber unawed by the vertical exposure in front of him.
"Kurt Rail." He said and extended his hand. They shake.
"Roy Graham." Roy responds. "Nice meeting you. I've got to bring Juan up."
Roy quickly scanned the ledge for a crack large enough to hold a "Friend". He found a crack and inserted the spring-loaded cam device and releases the handle. Four heart shaped discs with serrated edges rotated outward from the common axis and expanded inside the crack. The teeth of the discs bit into the granite holding the shaft of the "Friend" like an anchor in the rock. The "Friend" was one of a number of innovative mountain climbing devices developed in the late seventies. They had become part of every climber’s tool kit. Roy attached the hinged chain link carabiner to the "Friend" and tied a loop in his climbing rope using a "Figure Eight" knot. He clipped the loop onto the carabiner anchoring himself to the cliff. Sitting on a bench sized rock that had broken from a ledge above, Roy wrapped the rope around his waist and pulled up the slack from the end of the rope that went to Juan.
"Juan, belay on. Come on up." Roy called down to Juan signaling that Juan could start climbing. He pulled gently on the rope that disappeared over the edge with the thumb and index finger of his right hand like a fisherman testing a line for the slightest tug at bait. Roy could feel the slight changes in tension on the rope and the vibrations as Juan moved.
Juan started up the sheer face and climbed from one small handhold to another jamming his toes into the crack until he was under the ceiling of the overhang. He placed his right hand in the small crack under the ceiling and with his left hand removed the carabiner from the piton but did not remove it from the rope. The carabiner slid down the rope to his waist. Now there was nothing to keep him from falling except the rope going up to Roy.
"Okay Boss, watch me."
Roy's muscles instinctively responded, tightening slightly, ready to react if Juan fell.
Juan shouted. "This doesn't look easy. I don't know how you did it."
He stretched out slowly and smoothly, still holding on with his right hand reaching for the narrow lip of rock on the outer edge of the ceiling with his left hand. He touched the lip and started to curl his fingers on the rock to get a firm grip. The fingers of his right hand slipped out of the small crack he was using to hold onto the cliff. "Falling", he yelled. He dropped from under the ceiling.
Roy's right arm quickly moved across his body to his left hip and gripped the rope tighter. The increase in friction of the rope around his waist stopped the rope.
Juan fell and then pendulumed out from the face and then back under the ceiling. When he finally stopped swinging, he glanced down 1,500 feet, closed his eyes and tried to spit but his mouth was too dry.
"Okay Juan." Roy yells down to Juan. "Feels like you came off. Make like James Bond and get out your fancy shoe lace."
Roy says to Kurt, "You remember the scene in "Never Say Never" when Roger Moore alias James Bond is climbing the rock face in Greece and prussiks up the rope with his shoe lace while the bad guy on top is trying to knock the piton loose with his gun. I love the scene."
"Yeh." Kurt said, laughing lightly. "I like the spy stuff."
Juan took an ascender, a mechanical device that will slide up a rope but not down, from his harness and clipped it onto the rope above him. He slid the ascender up the rope and stood on a loop attached to it. He slid a small knot attached to his harness up the rope and released the pressure on the ascender and sat in the harness. He had moved up a foot and a half. He moved the ascender up the rope again, stood and slid the small knot up the rope and sat down. Slowly he climbed up the rope until he found a small ledge where he could get a handhold and footing. "Okay boss, pull in the slack."
Roy pulled in the extra rope and Juan continued to climb. Juan reached the ledge and frowned in surprised to see a third person.
"Who's he? Juan asked. Where did he come from?"
Roy said, "Juan meet Kurt". "Kurt meet Juan Martinez. He is my right arm most of the time and all of me when I'm out of town. "
"Say, didn't I see you in a documentary four or five months ago? " Roy recognizes Kurt. "Climbing the Dru. You were guiding a couple of German industrialists, east and west types, some form of unification symbol about working together to achieve a common goal."
"You have a good memory." Kurt said.
Roy smiles. "One doesn't have to have a good memory to remember the only significant climbing feat in two years."
"By the way how did you get here?"
Kurt gestures upward with his thumb. My rope is around the corner and in a crack. You can't see it from here."
"Why you here?" Juan questions skeptically.
"Mr. Graham." Kurt says looking at Roy. "You are a hard person to catch up with and I wanted to meet you and find out if you need a climber or mountaineer for any of your upcoming trips."
"We still have to get to the top." Roy comments as he scans the cliff in front of him for the sequence of handholds and footholds that he will use. "Let's talk at the top."
"Or on the way up." Kurt says. "Let's go." Kurt starts up the shear face parallel to where Roy planned to climb.
"Moves like a cat." Juan says watching Kurt.
"Needs to, its a long way down. I'll go up and belay you. See you on top." Roy untied the "Figure Eight" he had used as an anchor when Juan was climbing and runs the rope attached to his harness though the anchoring carabiner. As he climbs he will attach other anchors into small cracks and clip his rope to the anchor with a carabiner. He can only fall as far as the distance to the last anchor.
Before he started up he tied a knot in a section of rope in front of Juan and anchored Juan to the wall.
Juan gave Roy a thumbs-up signal when he was ready to belay. "Okay boss. Have a good trip."
Roy moved up the face with grace of a ballet dancer. He thinks how different rock climbing is from hauling a sledge across a glacial field like a mule in front of a plow.
His movements bring him within talking distance of Kurt. As they both search for small cracks or ledges for their fingers and bumps on the face for their rubber soled shoes. Roy says, hanging briefly with his right hand before chinning himself to where he can jam his left hand into a crack, "Come into my office. I'd offer you a chair but there aren't any. You will have to enjoy the scenery."
"Thanks." Kurt says. "I'll just take this big crack and make myself at home. "As I indicated, I'm looking for some work in the area for the summer if possible." "I get around the world by working as a freelance guide." Searches for a handhold. "The pay isn't always good and the jobs are short but I do get to see the interesting places."
Roy is looking at a ledge just above his fingertips. "We don't have any trips scheduled at the moment, but I will keep you in mind. When we get to the cars I'll get your phone number so I can get in touch with you." He leaps up and grabs the lip of the ledge with the fingers of his right hand, places a toe on the cliff and pushes enough to raise his left hand to the top and pulls himself up to where he can see onto the ledge. "Ah, the top."
"Give me a minute." He yells over to Kurt. "I'll bring Juan up and we can talk."
Kurt gestures in the direction behind Roy. "There is a quick way down the back side. I'll meet you at the cars." Kurt pulls up the rope, he had used to rappel down to meet Roy, and scrabbled over a small pile of boulders and disappeared
"Juan." Roy shouts down the cliff. "Belay on."
Juan arrives on the top. "Where's Kurt's his face?"
"Whoa there partner". Roy says noticing the dislike in Juan's voice. "He's okay. He just went down the backside. We'll meet him at the cars. "
Roy and Juan set up their rappel and descended the backside to a series of ledges that led them to the base of the cliff. Kurt wasn’t there but had left a card with a phone number on Roy’s car.
Three days later Roy called Kurt and got an answering machine. "Kurt, this is Roy Graham. Something has come up that you might be interested in. Get back to me as soon as possible. It's kind of a crazy project with a tight timetable. So long."
Raymond Wallace, President of Wallace Images stands up at the end of a long glass conference table. The walls appear to be opal grey glass and blank. "Let's get this meeting started. I'm concerned about our market position and why Krager Enterprises keeps beating us to the punch. If we are going to win in this market we have to have better marketing and better communications ...ah.. cooperation within this team. There is too much fighting between departments. We have to find a new way to work together.
Harry Kuznets, Director of Finance, leans over to whisper to Grant Barnsworth, "Oh boy, here it comes- this years trip."
"Harry. You have something to add?" Raymond glares at Harry.
Harry remains seated. "No sir. Well, I was just thinking. We, in Finance, have been thinking a get together would be useful so others could see people in Finance as being on the same team."
Grant Barnesworth says with his teeth clenched trying to keep his lips from moving. "Geeze, Harry, you'll need a lip condom if you keep this up."
"What does the Director of Information Systems think of Mr. Kuznet's idea?" Raymond Wallace said moving his stare from Harry to Grant.
Grant stands abruptly. "Sir. I think Harry has a good idea here. I know that the Information Systems Department seems to be perceived as having a glass wall around it and inaccessible to specialized work groups. A company picnic would be appropriate."
"Interesting." Raymond says with a sarcastic tone. "You two are reading my thoughts, but with the same limitations you read the writing on the wall. I am not concerned with the rest of the people in your groups. I am concerned about those of you in this room, now"
"Each year we take an
executive retreat with the idea of understanding each other a little
better. Last year St. Pete. What happened? Within a week everybody was back to the same
"I want to do something different. This time no cushy bungalows where you sneak around, or bars where you get soused."
"Sir." Brad Longstretch interjects hesitantly. "These get togethers reinforce the fabric of..."
Raymond cuts him off. "I've had enough of this wimpy touchy feely stuff you guys in Human Relations come up with. Show me where happy means productive."
Brad's voice toughens. "Sir,... the consensus in behavioral research is..."
Raymond cuts him off again. "The only consensus we have is we are
losing our technological edge. This
group seems to lose that one singular focus we need to stay ahead. I thought our hike up
Tom Gilmore leans over to Ralph Dresner. "Give you odds that here comes the announcement of this years Lets Get Together In The Great Out Of Doors."
Ralph whispers back. "It's not always that bad. "
"Oh!", Tom keeps his eyes on Raymond Wallace while he responds to Ralph. "I don't think banging Tod's wife in the surf is what he meant by a peak outdoor experience."
"What are you talking about?" Ralph says, loud enough for several others to hear.
Tom scoffs, "Don't act surprised. I'll show you the pictures next time you make a run for my job."
Raymond hits his water glass with a pencil. "What the hell is the Research and Development Department conferring about now? How to stick it to Engineering?
"Not exactly." Tom responds.
"As I was starting to say," Raymond continues, "we are going to find a way of working and surviving together or this company is dead."
"Did any of you see the
article in the paper last week about the fellow who just skied solo across
He is going to be working with us. I have asked him to set up a challenge that you can't escape from. You are going to learn to work as a team to survive."
Harry Kuznets looking across the table to Marcy Wallingford, asks." Who is Freidhof Nansen?"
Marcy Wallingford shakes her head and asks of nobody in particular. "Why do we do this..?"
Grant responds. "Our jobs."
Raymond glares at Grant, pushes the intercom button on his phone, says, "Miss Peabody send in Mr. Graham", and sits down.
There is the hum of motors running as lights dim and a three-dimensional hologram of a mountain range appears over the conference table.
Roy Graham entered from Raymond Wallace's office where he has been watching the meeting. The wall of office adjoining the conference room was a one way mirror with sound pick-ups that allowed him to hear the conversations, even the whispers. While he listened and watched the meeting he reviewed the personnel files that Raymond Wallace had set out for him.
"Good morning." Roy Graham starts talking without an introduction. " What we are going to do is fly to here ...pointing with a red holographic tent shaped locator to a small flat section of a glacial valley. The head of the glacier was at the base of an enormous cliff topped by overhanging blocks of ice from another glacier that led to a rock summit. The sides of the valley surrounding the locator were steep and led to smaller summits. The entire display was rocky peaks and flowing ice covered with rocks that had fallen from above.
The image was one very large glacial
valley in the middle of the Fairweather range northwest of
Zooming back from the valley, the
cameras from the three satellites that were used to create the display revealed
nothing but peaks glaciers and peaks to the north and south. The
"From here we move 45 miles
along this glacial system, climb over this 10,000 foot ridge into this glacial
system. From here we move across a
fifteen-mile wide glacier, cross the shoulder of Mt. La Perouse and descend to
This is spectacular country. I spent two years up there with an exploration mining company. The glaciers are big, the cliffs are big the challenges are big. You should find this an interesting trip. We should be gone fourteen to fifteen days weather permitting."
"Mr. Wallace," Roy hands him the pointer, "I'll let you discuss how we proceed."
Roy Graham leaves the quiet conference room through the door into Raymond Wallace's office. Everyone is still staring at the image in front of them when he opens up the viewing window.
Roy reopened the personnel files. He found it easier to remember the information when he could match the security photo in the file with the face of the person at the table and their posture and actions.
Jim Wallace, Vice-President and younger brother of Raymond Wallace, stands. "I've been quiet up till now but this is absurd. You can't expect us to take on such a ...a... "
Raymond says, still seated, "Why little brother. I've never heard you at such a loss for words. Maybe you are right. I've had such high expectations about the things I thought we all could do. Since we can't seem to do the everyday common things, maybe we should take on the preposterous." He stands and waits while Jim Wallace, his younger brother and Vice President, sits down. "Damn right. It's time to find our limits."
Ralph Dresner murmurs to himself. "He has got to be kidding."
Tom Gilmore says in an apparent attempt at humor. "There are no Macdonald's or Chez Rogers out there and I don't think there will be pizza delivery. How will we eat?"
"Good question Tom." Raymond explains. "Several strategic air drops will be used to provide basic provisions. At each drop we should be able to pick up days of food and fuel. There will be no communications with the outside world until we reach the coast. "
He raises his right hand to block any more questions.
"Brad, I want you to give Mr. Graham a tour of the facilities and have him spend some time with each person here. He needs to find out what he has to deal with."
"Tom, stick around."
"Okay meeting adjourned. We leave in two days."
Brad Longstreth shouts over the shuffling of papers and chairs. "Our families?." The room quiets down.
Raymond says, "Tell them whatever you tell them when you leave town for two weeks."
Everybody leaves, and Tom Gilmore walks over to Raymond. Tom Gilmore and Raymond Wallace had been working together since Raymond started Wallace Images fifteen years before.
"Tom, this was a brilliant idea of yours. I didn't know you liked this outdoor stuff. I won't let on it was you who suggested the trip. The others might not appreciate your insight. How did you come up with it?"
Tom looks down modestly, "I had heard from an acquaintance about Roy Graham. Graham, it seems, comes up with some unique approaches to corporate problems. Apparently he has advanced degrees, had corporate experience. He even worked in the White House on some organizational problems. I know we have been having some internal problems. He sounded like someone who might be able to help."
Roy heard a knock on the regular door into the office and slipped the personnel files back into Raymond Wallace’s desk and closed the viewing panels. "Come in."
"I'm Brad Longstreth, Director of Human Relations." Brad walks across the office. The walls are lined with pictures of Raymond Wallace and various generals and admirals and other military personnel in front of ships and aircraft. Brad extends his hand to Roy. They shake. Brad's hand seem white and soft against Roy's leathery callused hand that still had signs of being scrapped hard against the granite cliff a few days before.
"I've been here ten years and have always been impressed with Mr. Wallace's offices. They have been like technology museums."
"There are other offices?" Roy asks.
"Oh no. I was referring to the two other offices Mr. Wallace has had. Since I've only been with Wallace Images there have been two major expansions. Six years ago we added a second building to support Research and Development. Then four years ago a third building was added. The three are separated by a triangular shaped courtyard. Each time there was an expansion Mr. Wallace changed his office. This one apparently has all the most recent communications and control systems built into it. None of the staff, including me, has been privy to what Mr. Wallace can do from here. It is almost like some of the new technology they develop here."
Brad led Roy
down a windowed hall that overlooked a room where computer boards were being
tested. The room was brightly lit. The
workers wore facemasks and green or white caps over their hair. "I saw some of the TV coverage of your
"Some think so." Roy answered absent-mindedly studying the room below. "It's not as bad as spending thirty-five days with someone you don't like"
"I didn't know anything about this trip that Raymond called you here for." Brad commented as if trying to get Roy to explain more about the reason for the trip.
They had moved to another window overlooking a room in which the workers had white suits, caps and shoes and wore masks.
"This is the clean room were they assemble the chips that are the heart of our new "Virtual Screen" display."
"What does it do?" Roy asked.
Brad explained. "It provides a
flat screen three dimension image for computers. Sort like a credit card
hologram that can be changed. Our
R&D staff developed the original concept.
The first models were made in
"I haven't seen them in the computer stores."
"You probably won't for a while." Brad explains, " The primary use is military. Data from three satellites is used to generate a three dimensional landscape, I mean, image."
"Like the one in the conference room?"
"Sort of." Brad hesitates. "Actually not too many people have seen that either. Most of the work is done in the R&D lab in the building across the courtyard. It is one of our new developments. That was only the second time I'd seen it. I'm surprised you were allowed to see it, use it. Do you have top secret clearance?"
"Something like that." Roy
answers as he continues down the passage. They pass another window. Its surface
is at an angle so they can see into a courtyard where staff could relax, eat
lunch and get together. The first two stories of one the walls across
three-walled courtyard appeared to be large mural of the pyramids in
"The walls in the courtyard contain large holographic displays." Brad says. "But, they are only two dimensional. Some are being installed in theatres. They can be used to provide scenes from anywhere in the world. Last week it was a Parthenon motif. Next week it supposed to be the moons of mars from mars. I guess I'll miss that one if I go on this trip of yours."
"What operation is that over there?" Through a window across the courtyard Roy could see Grant Barnsworth and Ian McGregor in a highly gestured discussion.
"Oh dear." Brad seemed embarrassed. "That Grant's office. Information Systems. He has one of the newest of the large Cray super computers. It looks like he is having another argument with Ian. Ian thinks that the newer generation of networked desktop computers will be a better way for day to day operations to work together. It seems to be an argument that has gone on since Ian started here four years ago."
Roy says, "Raymond wants me to understand this place. No secrets. Okay?"
Brad continues. "Ian wants to use some of the new ideas coming out of R&D for three dimensional modeling of the paper flow and work flow here in Wallace Images to provide better management. He calls it Virtual Operations Simulation. They both get pretty heated up about it. Grant's general position is over his dead body."
"Ian thinks better internal management with PCs could have prevented the budget problems in one of communications projects." Brad stared at the two across the courtyard for a few seconds. "Sometimes I think Grant is too stubborn."
"If you are going to talk to people where do you want to start?" Brad gestured he wanted to continue down the hall.
Roy looked Brad in the face and smiled. "How about with you. Lets go to your office. Among other things, can you give me a staff roster and an overview of who does what?"
They take an elevator to the first floor and go to Brad's office. Brad pushes a couple of keys on his computer and a printed page slid onto his desk.
Roy studies the list and mentally compares it with the files he had reviewed in Raymond Wallace's office. "Where are the hot spots?" he asks.
"What do you mean?" Brad asks.
Roy explained. "Mr. Wallace has asked me to organize some form of outing experience where everybody has to work together. He provided some insight into organizational issues that concern him."
Raymond Wallace - President (15 years)
Tom Gilmore - Director of Research and Development (15 years)
Grant Barnsworth - Director of Information Systems (15 years)
James Wallace - Vice President (13 years)
Brad Longstreth - Director Human Relations (10 years)
Harry Kuznets - Director of Finance (8 years)
Michael Kirby - Director of Engineering (7 years)
Todd Malcolm - Director of marketing (6 years)
Ralph Dresner - Assistant Director of Research and Development (6 years)
Ian McGregor - Operations Manager (4 years)
Eugene Langley - Chief Software Engineer (2 years)
Marcy Wallingford - Chief Accountant (1 year)
Roy's tone changed to a quiet monotone. "What he has told me, and what you or anyone else tells is basically confidential. I need to know your perceptions of the problems here at Wallace Images. You might see things differently than Mr. Wallace or the others. Also, keep in mind we will be taking a potentially hazardous trip and personal problems might impact on everyone."
"The scene we saw upstairs." Roy took a deep breath. " Was that personal or a matter of professional differences?"
"It seems to be both." Brad shrugged his shoulders.
"How so?" Roy asked.
Brad looks past Roy then back. "At times Grant seems to think that Ian is after his job. The thing is, Ian isn't interested in mainframe computers but networked desktop and laptop machines. He always says mainframes have their place and more attention should be given to providing better interfacing between the two systems. Grant then argues there are too many security problems if the two are connected."
Roy asks quickly. "What kind of security problems? Viruses? Proprietary data? Wallace Images designs? Espionage?"
Brad hesitates, stunned by the directness of Roy's questions. "Grant doesn't say specifically. However, there does seem be a concern about leaks of design concepts but not from the computer departments. Rumors if that. A feeling. Some people think that ideas are being stolen. On the other hand everybody knows it is a competitive business and lots of companies are working on concepts similar to what we are."
"Who is most vocal about the idea stealing?" Roy softens his voice.
Brad hesitates. "Tom Gilmore, the head of R&D, seems to point a finger at Ralph Dresner, his assistant, the assistant head of R&D. He thinks that Ralph has too many friends on the outside that are working for competitors. Ralph started working here about six years ago. That was about the same time we started to have problems."
"Who hired Ralph? Roy asked. "Tom?"
"No." Brad said. "James Wallace hired him. There was a major proposal being developed for the airforce and Ralph apparently had the right credentials. Tom started to complain about him early on. Tom said Ralph asked too many questions."
"Who else is rumored to be linked to ... stealing?" Roy asks. "If that is the concern."
"A couple of people suggest its James Wallace. He would like to see his brother fail so he could take over."
"We will talk some more later." Roy interrupts. "I should really spend a few minutes with the others. Can you introduce me to Harry Kuznets? I'll have lunch with James Wallace later."
Brad calls Harry Kuznets secretary and lets her know Roy is coming.
"Harry is expecting you. His office is down the hall. You can't miss it. There is something I have to do or I'd take you there."
Harry Kuznets, Director of Finance, meets Roy halfway across the office. "I get the impression Mr. Wallace, that is, Raymond, has given you the idea that this place is coming apart. I don't know what all the fuss is about. If James would make up his mind there wouldn't be so much rancor. R&D wants to spend a fortune exploring new ideas. My job as director of finance is to make sure they don't spend money on things that are not necessary for our mission. It’s James's, Mr. Wallace's brother, job to set the spending limits and decide what ideas we pursue. He is after all Vice-President and has overall responsibility for the various projects. Every time I do my job, Tom Gilmore in R&D and Michael Kirby in Engineering jump on me like I'm the one sabotaging the future of the company. "
"After they dump on me, they blame marketing for cutting off their projects and they blame marketing for not promoting the projects to justify their need to spend. I think they are driving poor Todd over the edge. He already has an alcohol problem and they just make it worse."
"How did your presentation go?" Juan asked when Roy returned. Roy and Juan used a renovated fire station on Capital Hill for their warehouse and office and Roy used the upstairs for his living quarters. Juan was sorting rock-climbing equipment into small piles. How many people do I have to provide gear for?"
"Plan on twelve people, Kurt, you and me. It is a crazy group.", Roy answered. "High tech stuff. They have been around for fifteen years. Started to grow about six to seven years ago and started to have lots of problems. Every body blames somebody else for the problems they are having. I think it is just growing pains."
"I briefed them on the trip. I don't think they really know what they are getting into. So far their outdoor trips have involved staying in ski lodges or Hawaiian wicki-wickis and having seminars after dinner drinks. This is going to involve two weeks of backpacking, climbing and sleeping on glaciers."
"Have you heard from
Kurt? How about the permits to land in
"Bad bunch?" Juan asks.
"Not really." Roy answers while he spreads out a map of the area they will be travelling in. "There is a lot of insecurity and something going on I can't put my finger on. There are the usual organizational battles. The more I talked to people the worse it got. Once we have them on the ice and they can't run away. Maybe they will start to talk to each other. Past experience with group encounters and "T" groups and those touchy-feely programs, as Raymond Wallace calls them, doesn't exactly turn me on. My hope is that when they really have to depend on each other to get out of crevasse or up a cliff they will learn to communicate."
"Sounds like the drug abuse crowd we had a couple of years ago." Juan says.
"Might be, at least one person has a drinking problem. There weren't any suggestions about drugs but keep your eyes open. You might want to bring your referees whistle and stripped shirt. Some of these folks really don't get along. I'll let you figure out who doesn't like who and quiz you at the end of the trip."
"Thanks a lot boss," Juan
laughs then frowns. "By the way, Kurt called. Wouldn't talk to me but said you can get
him. The number is on your desk. Also,
I've made arrangements with the manager at the local REI store for us to come
in after hours. A couple of their staff
will help get everyone fitted with parkas, sleeping bags and clothing. They already have our list for tents, ice
axes, stoves and other gear. I faxed the three air drop locations to George
"You have been busy," Roy says. "No radio. This group has to know they are isolated. If necessary I'll trek to the first air drop and get the radio. That should only be two days without communication at most. We will have a location transponder with us. That's strictly between you and me. General Parker will be able to track our progress. I can modulate the signal with aluminum foil if need be."
Juan questions, "Why is the General involved?"
"He is an old friend who sometimes uses me as a guinea pig, so I told him he owed me one. Strictly an emergency backup."
"Boss, sometimes I get the feeling you don't tell me everything."
"Juan," Roy jokes, "did you tell your wife everything?"
"No, but look what happened?"
"Touché. There are some things going on that I haven't figured out yet."