Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers - Chapter 2

Chapter Two

“We already control 31% of the market. There is no need to force out what little competition remains. They will be forced to capitulate. I’m telling you…”

“You tell me? You tell me! I tell you! I run this company. I control our next move, not you!” Gunter’s face turned dark crimson and contorted with rage. His rational control teetered on the point of no return. His eyes bore straight into the man, malice and contempt for the subordinate evident. “Get out of my sight!” screamed Gunter, rising slightly out of his chair, his intent to commit bodily harm all too evident.

The Board Room grew silent as the chastised executive hastily stuffed his papers into his briefcase and hurried out of the chamber. The other members remained silent, their eyes riveted on the papers in front of them. There was no need to attract the ire of their boss. Each had been on the end of a tongue-lashing when his wrath had been kindled. While his employees tried to make themselves less noticeable in their chairs, Gunter’s heavy breathing seemed to echo off the paneled walls.

“Does anyone else think we should not force out our competition?” asked the CEO of Gutenburg Incorporated. Gunter’s face had resumed some sense of normalcy, but his bright blue eyes still burned with hatred for the subordinate who had dared contradict him. Running his hands through his bright blonde hair, the eccentric CEO shook his head in disbelief. How stupid did they think he was?

Bob Wooden spoke from the other end of the table. “Should we wait until their position deteriorates even more or do we move now to acquire their assets and distribution rights? It all hinges on our next product, correct? Is it ready to be marketed? If so, we move now. If not, then I would recommend we continue our strategic initiative to weaken their market position, drive their stock down and acquire them at a fire-sale price.” Bob was the only one at the meeting with enough courage to approach his emotionally erratic boss when he was irritable. As the Senior Vice-President of Gutenburg Incorporated he had oversight of domestic distributions in Germany and marketing strategies in other countries. His contributions to the wealth of the organization had given him the power—and safety—to speak when others did not dare.

Gunter stared down the table at Bob for a split second, before turning to Willow Yang, Chief Accountant for his company.

“Willow. What Bob says makes sense. What do you think?” asked Gunter, his heavy accent pronouncing “Willow” awkwardly.

“It depends on our next product. Is it market ready?”

“It will be in about nine months,” answered Gunter.

“Then we move now. With a hostile takeover, the litigation issues take time. In the interim we should do all we can to undermine their position in the market. Rumors, innuendos, anything that can call into question their market position and lower their takeover price. An age-old game we’ve played before. I’ll get on it right away. I’ll start with their last quarterly report to shareholders—there is always negative fodder in them. By the end of the month, Akron Pharmaceuticals will be begging us for help as sales slip and their precious share of the market dwindles even further.” Willow smiled at Gunter, her black hair glistening in the artificial light.

“Good. Make it happen. I want that company.” Gunter shuffled papers in front of him, stretching his arms to release the tension that constantly hung on his shoulders like a heavy coat.

“You will get the company. Their founder and CEO have already dumped in reserve capital in a futile effort to shore up Akron’s stock. But it will not be enough.” Willow made a few quick notes on a pad in front of her.

“Is there a problem with our research facility in the South Pacific?” asked Bob.

“No. An allergic reaction by one of our patients unfortunately led to her death. The autopsy revealed she was allergic to papaya seed extract which, as you know, is one of the key ingredients for our formula. Somehow when she was screened, her reaction to the plant was not detected. All is back to normal on the island.” Gunter closed the file in front of him, ending the discussion.

The rest of the meeting was concerned with global positioning and international marketing. Gutenburg Incorporated had acquired a vast majority of pharmaceutical sales within the last five years, dominating the market and forcing out weaker competition. They had patented over a dozen breakthrough drugs currently being used by doctors in major hospitals all over the world. Their discoveries astonished the medical community, and two members of the research team had won the Noble Prize in medicine. Gunter Gutenburg had won the Noble Prize the previous year for donating his company’s latest drug to combat malaria to underprivileged countries. The breakthrough drug had saved more than a million lives, mostly children.

Gutenburg Incorporated had expanded into mining, forestry, and deep sea exploration. In each instance the company had been immensely successful, purchasing modest operations and turning them to gold.

The medical field had made Gunter wealthy. His company had already purchased over sixty percent of the hospitals in Germany, Austria and Belgium. Not content with his acquisitions on his side of the pond, Gunter set his sights on the United States and acquired major hospitals in ten states. His aggressive management team trimmed costs and turned profits. His company’s drugs, mostly experimental, had been successful. In the medical war against tumors, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In each instance the results had been impressive.

Gutenburg Incorporated was managed by an experienced staff of international professionals. With branches in fifteen countries, the prospectus on the growing conglomerate was long, impressive and received the highest rating from investors in the financial community.

As the meeting drew to a close, the team of experts calculated a timeline to take over an additional twenty-seven major hospitals in the United States. The timeline indicated it could be accomplished within eighteen months.

Expansion—to feed the acquisitive appetite of their CEO—was not just a goal, it was mandatory.

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The long shaft bore straight into the mountain for more than a thousand feet. Large enough to drive a truck through, the tunnel was perfectly straight with railroad tracks on the floor, evenly spaced and supported by thick wooden beams. Four men wearing hard hats stood on a small electric rail car. The vehicle ran quietly down the rails. The occasional clatter of a loose chain was the only sound to punctuate the eerie passage. Lights strung overhead created shadows that danced across the walls. Support timbers positioned every few feet held tons of bedrock over their heads.

Coming to the end of the rail line, where the shaft opened out to a rectangle the size of a small house, the four men jumped off and joined six others gathered there. The smallest in stature was shouting at the foreman, “This is pointless! There is no gold here! All of our readings indicate rock, solid rock. There has been no quartz or any other telluride in any of the samples. Nothing to indicate any precious metal. It’s madness to continue drilling. This is a wild goose chase!”

“Relax, Dr. Britton,” the foreman said. “My orders are simple. They are to dig where he tells us to dig.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of a young boy walking beside the far wall of the man-made cavern.

The boy the foreman had gestured toward ambled down the granite face several feet before returning along the same path, dragging his hand across the face of the rock. Stopping in the center of the wall, he pulled at the stone with both hands, his head lolling from side to side. Occasionally, his eyes would roll back behind his eyelids, and a wheezing sound could be heard coming from him that lasted several seconds. After each episode, he turned and walked back and forth in front of the rock wall again. He stared into places unknown, his dilated pupils riveted, oblivious to everything but the wall in front of him.

The young boy’s name was Gary. His clothes were neatly pressed, his shoes polished to a glossy sheen. His pleated trousers had picked up dust from the tunnel floor and glimpses of white socks could be seen as he walked. Slight in stature, Gary had long arms and curving hawk-like fingers. His slender neck sat above rounded shoulders, adding to his awkward physique. The boy appeared to need a healthy diet of comfort food to add meat to his bones.

Gary’s movements and the repetitive nature of his behavior attracted attention and gave a clue to his condition. He obsessively pressed the rock with his hands, walked to and fro, or pulled at the corner of his left ear as his eyes darted off to a horizon only he could see or distinguish. The uncertainty of his actions was unnerving; his mannerisms unworldly. Gary was different. Even the workers kept their distance from the strange boy, staring at him more out of fright than curiosity.

The first man out of the electric rail car had heard the exchange between the foreman and the doctor and had observed Gary. Nigel White was in charge of the Argentina project and had been conducting digs all across the globe for forty years in search of the precious yellow metal mankind knew as gold. He was ruthless, dedicated and an absolute believer in the cause before him. The first person he addressed was the geologist.

“Dr. Britton, I understand your concerns, but this is an exploratory endeavor as much as a scientific one. I appreciate you analyzing the samples brought to the surface, but I need you to have your staff cross-check each one and make sure…”

Nigel was cut off by the angry geologist. “What do you think I’ve been having them do? Of course, I’ve had the samples checked repeatedly! Nothing has ever indicated gold would be found here. None of the ancient people who inhabited this land spoke of gold in this mountain, and all modern explorations have yielded nothing. The Spanish Conquistadors enslaved the people and had them dig exploratory tunnels into the mountain and to no avail. It’s preposterous for you to think your company will find anything!” Dr. Britton turned to stare at Gary as the troubled young boy began to claw at the rock again.

“Your concerns have been noted, Dr. Britton. Foreman, dig into the rock face where Gary is motioning and let’s see what’s on the other side.” Nigel turned back to the rail car.

Immediately the excavation resumed. Everyone moved out of the shaft and the remaining workers were sent back down to begin digging. A small crawler on tracks, armed with a large drill on the end, approached the wall and started to chew into the mountain. Pieces of rock started to melt away, covering the floor of the cavern with debris as the bit dug into the granite. The roar from the machine was deafening, as the operator revved the engine and inched the monster forward. He could feel the behemoth quiver as the bit spit out pieces of rock. Adjusting the angle of attack, the operator exposed more rock to the bit and smiled in satisfaction as the machine started to move into the mountain. What would have taken laborers of centuries past weeks to excavate was done in a matter of minutes.

After an hour of digging, Foreman Joe Patterson motioned for the crawler operator to back away from the wall. Water was used to keep the dust down, and ventilator fans were operating at peak. Walking to the pile of debris, Joe knelt down and flashed his light over the mound of debris. His eyes almost popped out of their sockets as he grabbed two of the larger pieces lying directly in front of him. Rising, he examined them carefully and then passed them along to his assistant who stood in open-mouthed wonder.

Without uttering a word, both men moved to the hole the drill had dug into the rock face. Shining their lights into it, they could see clearly a vein of gold arcing through the rock, evident in contrast to the mottled grey of the bedrock. The swath of gold thickened as it disappeared into the mountain on their left. What they could see was about five feet wide; it was impossible to determine how far into the mountain it ran.

Turning to his assistant, Joe said, “Get Nigel and Dr. Britton down here. They’re gonna want to see this.”

By the time the others arrived, workers had set up additional portable lights, and the entire cavern was ablaze. Two of the high-intensity beams shone directly on the new excavation. The gold vein had been only four feet behind the rock face where Gary had been pacing. The young boy had found the treasure.

Nigel stared at the vast fortune in front of him and the incredible wealth lying at his feet that the crawler had pulled free. Gold was not found like this, not in this abundance. Not even in the Klondike during the heyday of the Alaskan gold rush had prospectors spoken of anything close to a find like this. Nigel had been to the legendary gold fields near the Arctic Circle, and even they could not compete with what met his eyes. All the gold that had ever been mined in the history of the human race might fill two full-size Olympic swimming pools. Most gold operations were barely making it. To find such a promising strike was incredible. He had to take several breaths to make sure he was seeing clearly.

“Do you think your staff can double-check these and make sure it’s gold, Dr. Britton?” Nigel sneered, not bothering to conceal the contempt from his voice.

Without answering, Dr. Britton motioned for his staff to collect samples.

“I’m going to twenty-four hour operations. A find like this won’t be kept secret for long, and we need to move as much as possible before the authorities get wind of it.” Nigel turned to his foreman as he spoke, and Joe Patterson nodded at his assistant who hurried away to carry out Nigel’s orders. “Good. Triple security. I’ll place a call for our own people.” Nigel left without another word. Once he was topside, Nigel went into his trailer and locked all the doors. Selecting a phone on his desk he called, asking for a secure line. Once it was sterile, Nigel dialed a familiar number.

“Yes?”

“We’ve found it. The largest strike I’ve ever seen and I’ve been doing this my entire life. The boy led us to it.”

“Have you started mining?” asked Gunter.

“Yes, round the clock operations. I need additional men for security. This could be the largest quantity ever discovered in a single location. The tunnel is next to an exploratory shaft dug by the Indians centuries ago. The Conquistadors missed the vein by maybe one hundred feet, no more. The Argentina officials will be here the minute they get wind of it. We need to move as much as possible before they arrive. I’ve locked down the camp.” Nigel was doing some quick estimates on a piece of paper. He couldn’t keep the rising enthusiasm out of his voice.

“Where is the boy?” asked Gunter.

“He’s here with his handler and is safe. Why?”

“I need him in Australia. We have a potential site that may yield similar results. I will send a plane for him.”

“I’ll tell the handler to have him ready.”

“Nigel.”

“Yes, sir.” Nigel almost jumped out of the chair. It was the first time Gunter had ever called him by his first name.

“Very good job. I understand Dr. Britton had wanted you to pull off this dig. I appreciate your persistence in sticking with it. Perhaps the good doctor has outlived his usefulness.”

“Perhaps he has,” responded Nigel, setting his pencil down, anticipating what was to come.

“Make it look like an accident. I don’t like to be called by panicky geologists in the middle of the night. And don’t hesitate to contact me for anything you may need.” Gunter terminated the conversation abruptly.

Nigel set the phone down and stared at it. It was a deadly game he was playing, but the rewards were great. Dismissing any potential misgivings, Nigel headed for the door to make preparations to send a young boy around the world and another man to his death. Neither act bothered him in the least. It was business.

Read Chapter Three