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Interlude Nineteen point Two, At Bluehardt CompuTech

Alden Bryce looked over the report had requested about Bluehardt CompuTech. The summary was that Bluehardt Computech was big into guidance systems and areospace control systems. They also did a lot of research. The President and founder was Jack Wiper, who had recently been poaching talent from some of the other high tech industries in town.

"Guidance systems, eh?" Alden smoothed his hand across his chin. "I think I have my in. Our new line of self-powered wheelchairs could benefit from some gyro-stability and guidance technology."

He sat the report down on the dining room table. He could see that Ka-sador did not follow. "Simple, I work up a proposal to enter a strategic partnership... I'm losing you again. Okay, my company does two types of production. We do research into using machines to help make life easier for those with disabilities. We also do research into using tiny machines and their biological equivalents to help the sick."

When Ka-sador nodded slowly, Alden assumed he had absorbed enough to understand. "I lie to the people at the company and tell them I want to buy some of their technology to help build our new wheelchairs. I can then set up a meeting with the head guy and try to get a tour of their facilities."

"So we go undercover to find out who may be involved in taking the MUSE," answered Ka-sador through the translator that hung around Alden's neck. "Do we know if Bluehardt got the contract for the MUSE's guidance systems?"

Defender thwacked himself on the forehead. "You know, I knew I was forgetting an angle. It sure would be easy to steal a craft if you created the guidance system, now wouldn't it."

Ka-sador was very familiar with what these earthlanders called an 'inside job,' often the Krai would recruit slaves and promise them great wealth to betray their own. "It is a shame we cannot see their employment records to see who may have left the company after doing the dirty deed. I would be surprised if whoever did this was still there. Certainly the guidance system will be suspected when the investigation is undertaken."

"I'm sure that IPAC will look into that. Now, if we are lucky, they will actually share the info with us." Alden said. "Let me see if I can get a meeting set up."

Alden called his assistant. "Could you please set up a meeting for me with someone at Bluhardt Computing for as soon as is convenient with them? I want to discuss a business partnership with them. Oh, and I'll be bringing one other person with me. Thanks."

"Once inside, I may be able to determine if anyone there was at the crash site," Ka-sador commented touching his nose. The tweets and whistles of his native Orionid flowed so easily from his mouth that they created almost a song along with the translator's synthesized voice.

The assistant called back a half an hour later and said that an appointement had been made two days hence.

"Well, Mr. Enhutch, do you think you are up for a little undercover work?" Defender asked.

Ka-sador ran his hand over his smooth blue-black iridescent skin, and said with a grin "Baretta-style."

		*		*		*		*
Two days later, Alden Bryce and his "associate" Starzkee Enhutch arrived for their meeting with Jack Wiper, president of Bluehardt.

At the appointed time, they were ushered in to see the man himself. He was youngish, in his mid-30s, and in good shape. His handshake was firm, Alden noted, and he seemed only mildly surprised when Enhutch didn't offer to shake.

He gestured them to a seat, sat himself, and asked, "Now, what can I do for you?"

The strange looking immigrant Enhutch declined to sit and instead stood behind Alden Bryce, ocassionally walking around Wiper's office to look at the photos and paintings on the walls and other decorations occupying his office when the conversation disinterested him.

"Jack, I've got a small proposition for you and your company," Alden began. "I'm sure you've done your homework on Hope-Bryce. You know we are in the business of researching hybrid technologies to help make life easier for those with physical disadvantages. Well, we've been working on a new version of our MK14 standing wheelchair and have run into a brick wall in our control systems.

"I'll avoid the details for now. What occurred to me recently was 'why re-invent the wheel.' So, I started researching companies that produce control and guidance systems. What did I find?" Alden paused for effect. "I found that the number one producer of said systems was located merely blocks from our research facilities.

"I'd like to discuss our two companies working together on this project," Alden concluded.

"Interesting," said Wiper. "You want a joint project, joint patents if any, joint IP and all that? Frankly, if any of our stuff works for you, you'd probably be better off just buying the parts. But maybe there's nothing in our catalog that is quite right, eh?"

Enhutch prowled around the room as the men spoke, sniffing the air as he went. There was a faintly familiar tang in the air, although he couldn't place it. It wasn't Wiper, that much was clear, but someone had been in the room who had also been at the Lake.

"We have two problems with off-the-shelf parts," Alden said. "You are correct. A majority of your systems are designed for the aerospace industry. Adapting would be difficult for our engineers. Which leads to the second difficulty. Expense. If we were to buy and adapt, we would have to pass the cost on to our customers. That would price the chairs out of range of most of our targeted customers.

"However, with your engineers doing the required adaptions and our facilities working together, we could bring the cost down. Plus, with the promise of joint patents, as well as the charity and public relations potential... I think we can work out something beneficial to all involved."

Enhutch began to cough, hoping to indicate to Alden that he detected something that could be a clue.

"Are you okay, Mr. Enhutch?" Alden asked.

Enhutch smiled and nodded, patting his chest and gesturing for the men to continue. [DREENK OF WATRR] he said as he moved toward the door.

"Of course," said Mr. Wiper, "Down the hall on the left."

After Enhutch left, he nodded in that direction, "One of your engineers?"

"Freelance security consultant and one heck of a personal assistant," Alden replied. "I'd be lost without him some days. Anyway, what are your thoughts?"

"In a general way, I like it. I'll have to run it past legal, and also some of my technical VPs, but the basic idea sounds good."

"That's wonderful," Alden said. "To this point, it's all been mostly my hare-brained scheme. I've run it by a few of my people, but with your tentative approval, I can step up proceedings. I can have my legals talk to your legals. Beyond that, I'd love to swap tours. First and foremost, I'm a gear head. I'd love to contrast and compare set-ups. In exchange, I'd happily conduct either yourself and or your head engineers around our small shop. I know, you have government contracts and thus certain areas would be off-limits."

In the hallway, Enhutch made his way slowly to the watercooler, sniffing as he went, trying to pin down the elusive scent. Now and again he would catch traces, but not often enough to pin it down. Whoever it was was not here constantly, but with some regularity. Disappointed, he headed back toward Wiper's office.

Wiper's response to Alden's proposal was interrupted by Enhutch's return, but then he continued, "Certainly." He touched an intercom button, "Ron, have legal rustle up our usual first draft boiler plate for joint contracts and run it up along with all their contact info. When's my next appointment?"

"Twenty minutes, sir," replied Ron.

"Great." Wiper clicked off, "I have twenty minutes to give you the rush tour, and we'll set up something more thorough later."

Enhutch stepped aside and bowed slightly toward Jack Wiper as he fell into step behind Alden. Before leaving the office, Enhutch spoke up as an afterthought, [IF YOO NEED ANEE SECURITEE CONSULTING, MY CARD] as he placed the business card on Wiper's desk with a smile.

"Thanks, I'll bear it in mind," said Wiper.

The trio passed quickly through a number of offices and labs, with Wiper pointing to various features of the complex. Suddenly, Enhutch stiffened -- the scent was in the room somewhere. He looked around, there were half a dozen engineers working on a couple of tables or around a pair of terminals in the room, but the air-conditioning made it hard for him to get a lock on which one was giving off the scent.

With a look of curiousity, Enhutch meandered about looking at the ceiling, walls and engineers. A friendly smile came across his face as he nodded and approached each one with pleasantries.

Most spared him a quick smile and returned to their work. He was not able to fix the scent exactly, due to the ionization and strange smells being put into the room by the various pieces of equipment.

Frustrated, he looked for names on each engineer's badge in order to conduct some further investigation to isolate the scents. In an effort to inform Alden he got his attention and touched the side of his nose to indicate that there was something afoot.

Alden nodded then cocked his head to the side. He tried to get a look at the project the people were working on.

The project involved some sort of small robot it looked like, presumabley a control system testbed. It was the work of a moment to get the names of the engineers from the garrulous Wiper:

Janet Dorsey, VP, Research Division
Wilhelm Von Kutz, Technical Lead
Brian MacAndrew, Senior Engineer
Leslie Murdock, Engineer (male)
Jill Kryzmanick, Engineer
Don Prince, Engineer
Kelly DiAngelo, Intern from PAU (female)

"Looks like your staff is way ahead of the curve, Jack. My instincts weren't wrong to bring this project to you." Alden smiled, making sure to stay well within ear-shot of all the engineers. "I have a good feeling about this. This project will be worth... No, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's let our legal eagles do their thing first."

Alden motioned for Wiper to continue the tour - please - and for Enhutch to follow.

Wiper finished up the tour and showed the men out.

With a glance back to the engineers Enhutch followed along, perking his ears for any comments upon their departure.

Alden thanked him once again for his time while placing the legal documents in his briefcase. From there, they walked back to Alden's Jag. He put the briefcase in the trunk and got in. He put the top down so Mr. Enhutch could "feel the breeze through his hair."

"That was productive," Alden said after they cleared the gates. "Not only did we narrow it down to a handful of suspects, but I think I've managed to leverage myself a strategic partnership. A good time all round, I think. How about you, partner?"

Last Updated 5 March 2002