Here at Veridian Dynamics, our commitment to improving your life is only beat out by our commitment to your children. Improving their lives. Teaching them. Ingraining loyalty to within an inch of their sanity. Because what good are children, if we can’t use them to create new, more replaceable you’s?
Veridian Dynamics: because children aren’t our future, so much as spare parts.
While I like to avoid having my personal life and my work life mingle under any circumstances, there are times when I think about letting it to benefit my daughter. And when she comes up to me, assignment in hand, worried about what to make for her first-ever science fair, I am ready to come to the rescue.
“I participated in many a science fair; I can absolutely help you figure out what you could do -- “
“Actually, I was wondering if you could ask Mr. Phil and Mr. Lem?” My brain sort of skids to a halt, and Rose notices. “It’s not like I don’t think you would do a great job, Daddy; it’s just that Mr. Phil and Mr. Lem would let me play with all the things that you as my parent would get yelled at for by my science teacher Mrs. Perkins and you never like getting yelled at.”
She’s perceptive, I’ll give her that much.
“You sure you don’t want me to help?”
“You can order pizza! I don’t think Mr. Phil’s wife feeds him too much. Maybe that’s why he’s always trying to grow something in the lab, don’t you think?”
“Alright, I’ll ask. But if they’re too busy working on something...”
“Oh, they’re not.” Rose leaps from her chair at the kitchen table to retrieve my laptop I let her use as she pulls up Veridian Dynamics’ internal Facebook clone and I see how many messages have been pinging on my notifications inbox.
“Sure. Anything to get them from trying to put each other’s faces on rival farmers.”
“Do you ever get the feeling like we’re being watched?”
Phil does not even look up from his Petri dishes. “Are you sure it isn’t just the array of security cameras throughout the entire lab? That wouldn’t be it or anything, right?”
The sarcasm wins Phil a glare through heavy-lens glasses. “All I was trying to say is that I have this unmistakeable feeling deep in my gut, somewhere in the gall bladder region, that someone is watching us right this very second--”
“Hi guys,” I walk into the lab, and watch Lem jump about a foot in the air. “I need to talk to you about something.”
“Is it the attack of the edible moss? We tried to destroy the last of it.”
“Is it the fact that you have been watching us from the skies and now have come to take your revenge?”
“What? No!” Loonies. “I want to talk to you about my daughter. She wants me to ask you if you would help her plan a project for her school’s science fair. She asked for you specifically.”
Two very predictable reactions happen whenever the two principal scientists in my division are asked a question to which they do not automatically know the answer. Lem, tall despite his wishes to be able to sometimes melt into the seams of the linoleum, is already mentally writing out calculations to some ingenious device I won’t be able to let Rose even touch. And then there’s Phil, whose mental clarity outshines the glare from his growing baldness, who ponders the question at hand with equal parts confusion and fear in his wide eyes.
Phil snaps out of it first. “How come she asked for us?”
I was afraid of that. “I have a theory. She’s been going back and forth with this other girl at school; I think she wants to show her up.”
“I’d love to help out, Ted,” Lem interjects, “Inspiring the minds of young children --”
“-- using them for our own purposes in a laboratory setting --”
“Boys, remember what happened last time you gave a seven-year-old a butane torch?” I offer.
“Yeah,” Phil sighs dreamily. “Out of the mouths of babes.”
“And an insurance nightmare. Be safe. Sodium bicarbonate. That kind of thing. And I want you working here where I can watch you,” I add. “I’ll pick her up from after-care and bring her here.”
I hear ‘I told you they were watching!’ as I leave; I have to laugh. They are crazy, but I prefer them to my next brand of psycho that I get to run into in the elevator.
“Good morning, Veronica.”
“Good morning, Ted. How are my projects doing today?”
“The new hire in XC-3007 finished up the schematics for the new rocket booster we’re selling to the Air Force.”
“And how are they doing in the Ridiculously Tiny Office?” Veronica smirks her traditional cocked smile. Before I have a chance to answer, the elevator door dings for the next floor, opening to reveal a flustered Linda already firing off questions at me.
“Ted! Have you gotten my memo I sent with the results from the consumer report on the holographic solar system models?” In a rare foray into educational products, Veridian Dynamics had been perfecting a new solar system model that had a basis in holographs, but could be tactile and manipulated. The main problem right now was that they were horrendously expensive for schools, but the fact that it was for children made Linda smile and that always works for me.
I nod and listen to Linda go on about the study I would have to go read the memo for anyway, all the while noticing how Veronica was struggling to keep her usual dour expression on her face. She liked it too - the enthusiasm. She is never as good a liar as she believes herself to be.
After copious promises that I will not let Linda’s memo be buried on my desk for too long, I am permitted the privacy to retrieve my daughter from after-school care. “They said yes,” I offer by way of hello just to watch Rose’s face light up with glee. “I’m going to take you over to their lab now, and you can figure out what it is you’d like to do.”
“Oh thank you, Daddy! This is going to be the best thing ever!”
A man can only hope.
Finally - out of the office on a rare vacation day to attend my daughter’s science fair. Rose had insisted that the project remain a secret, and in the interest of fairness, I did not visit the security kiosk on the floor to review Phil and Lem’s lab tapes. Mrs. Perkins walks straight up to me as soon as I enter the elementary school gymnasium and I never really take this as a good sign.
“Mr. Crisp? If I may have a moment of your time?”
“Of course. Is anything wrong?”
“Well...” Mrs. Perkins just lets the word fade as she spins on her kitten heels to head towards the section marked as reserved for third grade entrants.
Which is, naturally, when I see Rose.
“What do you think, Daddy?”
While I appreciate my daughter’s capacity to dumbfound me at nearly every turn, I realized that the scene in front of me was going to be a problem - a major security breach at least. I tried to listen to my daughter’s explanation, that Phil and Lem had wanted to help her build a solar system model for her project after she seemed so interested in the holographic one they had perfected and sent to Linda for testing.
“...and all you have to do is slide a picture into the center piece here, and it shows what you want in the air! Isn’t that great?”
Because really - what do you say when your daughter has put a picture of you as the center of the entire solar system?
“It’s fantastic, Rose. Just what I always wanted.”