Quaranteam: Phil’s Tale Ch. 01

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Chapter 1

“God, I barely had anything to drink, and I still feel like I’m fucking hung over two days later,” Phil thought to himself as his Tesla slowly crept up towards the military gate outside of the research compound where he worked. “Still, new year, new start. Now to see how badly everyone fucked up during the holidays.”

The sign outside of the gate said Boeing, but the checkpoint was all Air Force. The research facility had done its best to straddle the line between subtle and secure — the work they were doing was very important, and security was of the utmost, but if it looked important at a quick glance, the compound would draw attention to itself, and that was the last thing anyone here wanted, so the installation veered towards the external security looking like they were just any other research outpost that had a military contract.

Phil brought his electric blue Telsa to a stop at the gate as a new airman walked out to meet him. The gate staff tended to change every six months or so, and was generally manned by people so wet behind the ears they were still dripping. The airman walking up to him bore the name Jones on his camo’d chest, looked disdainfully into the Tesla as Phil held out his ID to the guy.

The airman walked back to the booth, swiped the ID, then walked back to the Tesla, holding it out to him. As Phil took it, the guy practically shot himself in the face with what he said next. “Have a good day, Mr. Chin,” he said to him, starting to turn back to walk towards the booth.

“Airman Jones!” Phil shouted. “Come here a minute.”

The airman turned back, annoyance on his face, before walking a few steps back. “What?”

“Take a good fucking look at that badge again, and why don’t you try a second time?”

“Sorry,” the airman said, no apology in his voice, “have a good day, Mr. Marcos.”

“First, it’s Doctor Marcos,” Phil said, his eyes trying to bore a hole in the soldier. “Second, right below that it says ‘Section Chief.’ Maybe you didn’t do any of your basic reading about where you’re currently stationed, but this is a Boeing/Air Force joint research station with over three hundred civilians working on it. There is one project chief, two division chiefs and five section chiefs. That means I am one of the ten most important civilians on the goddamn base. Third, and perhaps most importantly, you decided to try out your ‘razy lacism’ to someone driving a goddamn Tesla, which has external cameras and microphones, who just caught and recorded that little slur of yours and could have your ass in a sling if you don’t learn to get your shit together. And finally, I’m fucking Filipino, not Chinese, you moron. So unless you want me to tell Major Peters that she’s got a racist fuckup manning her checkpoint, I suggest you stow that shit as far down as you possibly can and never let it see the light of fucking day on this outpost ever, ever again. You understand?”

“Yes sir,” the man said, anger and embarrassment mixing behind his eyes. “Sorry sir.” The apology felt like Phil had twisted it out of him by force, but he’d still gotten it. Phil had gone through enough shit over the years that he was not going to let some bumfuck redneck hillbilly try and push him around at his own research center.

“Good,” Phil said. “This had better be the last fucking time I or anyone else working here gets shit like that from you, otherwise Major Peters is going to get this little recording and you are going to get yourself a dishonorable discharge.”

As Phil pulled the Tesla forward, he had to laugh a little bit at the hillbilly’s gullibility. While he could tell Major Peters about the incident, and the guy would probably take a decent amount of flak for it, he wasn’t going to get thrown out of the Air Force for just that. Beyond that, though, while the Tesla did have external cameras on it, it certainly didn’t have external microphones, so the recording wouldn’t actually show anything incriminating, but the moron didn’t know that, and all the better for it.

Most of the people the Air Force had working on site were good people, but it seemed like the dipshits who were stuck working gate duty often had IQs lower than anyone should be comfortable with for people holding loaded machine guns.

Phil drove his car over to the row of chargers, put his car in park and then opened the charging port, hooking the Tesla up and letting it start to charge. He’d move it to a regular spot after coming back for lunch, but the vehicle needed juice. The charging station at the base was complimentary, so better to get it powered up here than at home.

After he hooked up the charger, he opened up his cellphone and set it to redirect calls to the hardline in his office at the base, then shut the phone down. That had taken some getting used to, not being able to walk around the office with a cell phone, but it was part of the security protocols, and the Air Force felt it was important enough ankara iri göğüsleri olan escortlar to mandate it, so that’s what everyone on the base did. He headed inside of the tiny little building that gave the appearance of being a tiny little standard office, capable of holding maybe a couple of hundred people in cubicles.

The guys in the lobby were Sergeants, Browne and O’Malley, and they’d been working the second checkpoint about as long as the office had been open. Both of them were nice guys and would never pull the kind of shit that the hillbilly at the gate had. “Hey Phil,” Browne said to him, grabbing Phil’s lockbox from behind the counter, opening it up as Phil waved his ID card over the checkpoint reader to log himself into the building itself.

Phil dropped his house keys, his Leatherman and his cellphone into the lockbox, then took his authenticator out from it, as per usual, before Browne locked the box up and put it into the storage with the rest. When he left for the day, he’d get all of it back. After that, he walked through the metal detector, without so much as a pip, and gave the two men a wave as he headed towards the elevator.

Once inside the elevator, Phil waved his ID badge in front of the little RF reader, and the steel box started moving downwards. There weren’t a lot of basements in California, so the idea of a subsurface research station was an unusual one, but the area had been carved out carefully, and reinforced thoroughly so that everyone would be fine even if a relatively major earthquake hit.

A little bit later, the elevator came to a stop and opened into a small chamber. Phil stepped in and the elevator door closed behind him, the steel box starting to work its way back upward. This was The Cage, as it was affectionately known. A small panel opened to the right of the door on the other side of it, and Phil waved his ID once more, then placed his hand against the palm scanner and pressed his eye up to the optical retina scanner. If any of those three things came back at all fishy, the room would be flooded with knock out gas and nice folks with guns and gas masks would be in within seconds to take the intruder into custody. It had only happened the once, and it had been in error, because the researcher in question had come in with a cold, so the palm reader had put the man’s body temperature outside of acceptable deviations.

Since then, people had always made quite the point to stay home if they were sick.

As always, Phil passed the third check, and the doors opened up for him with a friendly ping! sound that filled the air, a polite signal to go ahead, you’re authorized.

Working beneath ground meant there was a complete lack of natural daylight in the research center, much to Phil’s annoyance, but he also had to admit the level of security and privacy was necessary. The last thing anyone wanted was their work falling into the wrong hands, be they a foreign government or the less scrupulous members of the private sector.

What had originally started as a way to improve drone pilot response had evolved into a potential neural net interface, a connection between a human brain and a machine, where the brain could direct a drone without the added lag time of physical dexterity. They were still a decent way from getting a fully functioning prototype, but they’d had some early levels of success, enough that the Air Force had doubled down on the research last year, as well as testing to see if individual aspects of their work could be applied to other things.

Phil was just starting to walk down the hallway to head to his office when he ran into the project chief, Adam McCallister, walking towards him, a soft smile on his face. Of course McCallister was wearing a Stanford t-shirt, which just made Phil hate him even more, as a UC Berkeley grad.

The rivalry between Berkeley and Stanford ran deep and wide, and with enough drinks in him, Phil could occasionally be called upon to tell the tale of the time that Berkeley beat Stanford at a home game, and they had torn down the goalpost and marched it through the streets of Berkeley, bending streetlights as they went.

Sometime great victories required sacrifices through minor acts of vandalism.

“So Phil,” McCallister started in, “what’s the hold up? I ran into Hunter earlier this morning, and he said your team was putting his team behind schedule. The last thing I need from you and your team is more delays, if you know what I mean.”

McCallister was, and had always been, a grade-A dick, and there was no excusing it, but unfortunately, he was also the project lead, a decision that Phil had questioned Boeing about multiple times, only to be told, repeatedly, that McCallister was ‘their man for the job.’

Of course, it didn’t hurt that McCallister was white, straight and came from an affluent family. As a Filipino, Phil had been forced to work four times as hard to get half elvankent götü büyük escortlar as far in his career, and some days it was utterly sickening. So one thing Phil had gotten incredibly good at was documentation, and making sure that nobody could put him and his team in a corner.

“Actually, Adam,” Phil said, “my crew’s ahead of schedule. The delays aren’t on our end.”

“Hunter says you don’t have anything his crew can use for initial testing with their interface yet, and that’s the reason they aren’t set to go into phase two yet.”

“They haven’t provided their specs yet for what level of bioelectric currents they need for their interface to work, and we’re waiting on them to provide those specs to us. Once they do get them to us, we can have something ready for them basically in a day or two.”

McCallister sighed, as if he was above this kind of petty micromanaging, and that he wasn’t entirely convinced by Phil’s explanation. “Well, you probably just haven’t asked him for those specs yet, so you should definitely just go and ask him for them.”

Here’s where Phil’s paranoia about documentation came in handy. He’d gotten used to these kinds of bulllshit excuses around the office, trying to shuffle blame onto him and his team. “There’s an email chain, which you’re CC’d on, that shows I’ve been asking him once a week for two months now, telling him we can’t provide anything functional to him until we have the specifics about what level of bioelectric current they need generated, so I don’t know how much more I can do, beyond the large amount of emails I’ve already sent.”

“Well, go ask him again, in person this time,” McCallister said, as if he still didn’t believe Phil, despite the fact that evidence was sitting in the man’s email box. “He’s busy doing the real work around here, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. Be more of a team player, would you, Phil?” Without even giving him a chance to answer, McCallister walked past him, patting him condescendingly on the shoulder, before heading back towards his own office. It took everything in Phil’s willpower not to deck the smarmy asshole.

McCallister pulled this shit regularly, and each time Phil got a little less tolerant of it, but there really wasn’t much in the way he could do about it right now, as McCallister was the project chief, even though he didn’t full grasp all of the science being done, something Phil still didn’t quite understand. But he had friends in high places at Boeing, and that was all that mattered. Boeing had stressed that Phil was a project manager, not a researcher.

What was most annoying about all of it was that it was generally quite predictable who McCallister believed and who he didn’t. White dudes? Always right. Anybody else? Probably wrong. But proving that McCallister was a racist jackass had been ridiculously hard to do.

Instead of continuing straight to his office, Phil pivoted and headed over to Hunter Wilson’s office down the hall, so if it came up again, he could say he went straight to Hunter’s office and told him in person, not that it would make much of a difference.

Naturally, Phil found Hunter at his desk, not working, but watching BMX trick videos on YouTube of all things. Hunter was the section chief for the electric-to-electronic interface, the stuff that would translate the bioelectric energy into usable signals. It was the most complicated part of the project, which of course meant that it had never worked reliably, and Phil had his doubts they were ever going to get it hammered into something usable.

While Boeing had been optimistic that the finer controls would be easy enough to work out, Phil had stressed time and time again that the level of precision they would need would be exceptional, and while the electric currents from their serum could offer some degree of that, he highly doubted they would be able to generate the kind of precision that the Air Force wanted, or that someone would be able to decipher those bioelectric signals into something usable.

Once again, his concerns had been noted and dismissed, and Phil had been told, as he often was, to just make sure his part worked fine and leave the rest to the ‘big boys.’ It was annoying. “One of these days,” Phil thought to himself, “this is all going to bite them in the ass.”

“Hunter,” Phil said, after watching the engineer engrossed in the videos for at least a minute or so. The guy didn’t even have the self-preservation instincts to have his desk facing the door, as if he was so convinced in his invulnerability that he was daring people to say something about his lack of working. “I’m here to check on how soon you’re going to send us the specs of what level of bioelectric current you need, so I can have a prototype in your hands.”

Hunter had paused the video, but was shameless about leaving it up on the screen as he turned to look at Phil. “It’s like I was telling etimesgut çıtır escortlar Adam,” he said, rolling his eyes, “I sent you the specs weeks ago, and you haven’t delivered shit.”

“You haven’t sent them, Hunter, otherwise you’d have had it already.”

“I’m telling you I sent them, Phil. Are you calling me a liar?”

“Check again while I’m here, would you?” Phil moved in close, so he had a prime view of the man’s screen. “If you sent them, they should be in the sent folder.”

After a few seconds of clicking around, Adam found the email and gestured at the screen. “There, you see? I told you I sent it.”

“That’s your drafts folder, Hunter,” Phil sighed. He leaned forward, took the mouse from Hunter’s hand and clicked on ‘Send.’ “If you don’t send the email, nobody gets it. You can’t just leave it in your drafts forever and expect us to work from that.”

“Oh,” Hunter said, as if he still somehow thought it was Phil’s fault. “I guess that’s my bad then. Was it urgent?”

“It’s only been holding you up on getting to the next phase, so I guess that’s a matter of perspective,” Phil said. “But you’re the one who’s going to have to explain why you forgetting to click a button meant your team was in a holding pattern for a few weeks. Anyway, now that we have your specs, we’ll have a chemical prototype ready and balanced for you by the end of the day.”

Phil headed out of Hunter’s office and back to his own, so he could finally get a proper start to this day that had been filled to the brim with other people’s fuckups until now. As a section chief, his office was of a decent size, and he’d slowly brought in piece after piece of customization into it, to make it feel less sterile, from the Ryu statue on his desk to the Gran Blue Fantasy wallscroll that hung off to the side. People tended to notice them more quickly than they did the carved wooden Jesus on the cross that hung on the wall high above his desk, looking over him protectively.

He reached forward and turned the Ryu statue to one side with a sigh. There were days when Phil missed the simplicity of the fighting game tournament scene. It was one of the few places where he felt he could totally be himself, where he fit in with a bunch of like minded souls. In school, he’d hung around mostly other Asian kids, but being Filipino put him in a minority even among them, as they were predominantly Chinese, with both Japanese and Vietnamese being more common than Filipino. But when he’d been at the stick of a Street Fighter cabinet, he’d been able to just be another competitor, and there he felt like he absolutely fit right in.

Evo 2020 wasn’t for several more months, but just knowing it was coming was like a balm for his nervousness, as he turned on his computer, fishing out the authenticator from his pocket, entering his password and then the 12 digit authentication number that was currently on the little digital keyfob he had to carry with him everywhere around the base. The number changed every thirty seconds, and was designed so that Boeing knew exactly who was using any computer terminal at any time.

The first thing he did was check the Discord where he and his friends chatted, and saw there was a message from Andy, reminding him that it was his turn to buy pizza for next week’s poker game, so he’d better not show up empty handed. That reminded Phil to update his calendar.

On the wall behind his desk, he kept a paper calendar with all his non-work related stuff. He pulled down the December 2019 page and looked at the January 2020 page, making a note for next week’s poker night that he was up for pizza, before sending a message to the Discord, at’ing Andy that he’d written it down so he wouldn’t forget.

Most of his January was pretty empty, although he did have to make a point and visit his mom’s grave to put flowers on it near the end of the month, on the anniversary of her death. She’d died four years prior, complications from ovarian cancer, and her passing had left a hole in his heart big enough to park a battleship in, even this far on. His dad had moved down to San Diego a year or so after she’d passed, wanting to be closer to his brothers, and Phil figured his uncles would do everything they could to keep his father from going too crazy. His dad had even sold him the house in Fremont for a song, saying it was more Phil’s now than his, because the memories of mom were too plentiful to bear.

That made more than enough sense, so as sad as Phil was to see his dad pack up and go, he understood that his father needed to find his own sense of peace in the world.

After spending a few minutes getting settled in again after the vacation for Christmas and New Year’s, Phil opened his email, looked at the specs Hunter had sent over. Of course, Hunter had only sent them directly to Phil, so when he replied, Phil made sure to CC not only his team, but McCallister as well, so the paper documentation continued.

He kept his reply short and sweet, saying they would have a chemical compound for them to begin testing with before the end of day tomorrow, Friday, January 3rd 2020.

Not more than fifteen minutes after he’d sent the email, his phone rang, and he saw it was McCallister, so he sighed and picked up the phone. “What’s up, Adam?”

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