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KJ Wilkins
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Joined: 16 Dec 2017
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Can Be Found: New Haven, RhyDin
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:13 pm    Post subject: Angie Reply with quote

November 29, 2017

The New Haven office of McHale Green Energy Solutions was one of those converted brick factories that only left the pretty vestiges of its former life as a cigarette manufacturing plant. Gone were the machines and the smell of tobacco leaves but the large glass windows letting the muted winter rays flow in unfettered and the exposed pipes overhead were left.

Walls had been put in to create individual office and conference space on this floor. On the lower floors, there were fewer individual offices and the employees instead sat in communal cubicles with low walls to create a “family atmosphere”. On the executive level, though, there was no family atmosphere, no cubicles decked out in winter garb, no laughter between phone calls. The executive level is where serious people did serious business.

At least that’s the impression that Karl James Wilkins got through his first two interviews with the company.

This was his third time with the company and it didn’t feel like an interview this time. He’d been called in by the secretary of Mike Richardson, the head of McHale Energy’s corporate security division, and K.J. had dressed in a suit, and they were sitting in Mike’s office but it lacked the tension of an interview.

For ten minutes they had shot the *** about the weather and then Mike’s eyes had lost focus as he watched his colleagues pass by his office window. “These are some privileged assholes, K.J.”

K.J. huffed out a laugh. Mike had been his boss at the FBI until he’d left for the bigger paycheck that corporate security had offered. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard Mike rail about people born with a silver spoon in their mouth. “Privilege comes in many forms, Mike,” K.J. replied. “When we have our own privilege pointed out to us, though, it has the tendency of leaving us feeling slapped across the face.”

“Yeah? What sort of privilege did you grow up with?”

It caused a heavy exhale as K.J. leaned back a bit further in his chair. “I grew up with two parents in the house. My father’s military paycheck was solid. But, more importantly, I grew up in that cloud that being an elite basketball player presents. AAU travel teams recruiting me and high school principals kissing my ass.”

Mike nodded, allowing for that. “A free education at Duke,” he added.

It didn’t get much better than Duke basketball and he had been their kind of athlete -- talented, hard-working, and wicked smart. Coach K had loved that he spoke Italian, German, and Spanish in addition to English thanks to that childhood as an army brat. His mother was always shocked by just how quickly he picked up languages. In college, he’d added Arabic to the list.

“And the connected friends that can be made in an institution like Duke,” K.J. replied.

He’d never been good enough to play in the NBA. Maybe he would have made it in Europe. But his junior year a torn ACL and lateral meniscus ended his playing career. Duke was good to him. They made sure he was able to finish his bachelor’s for free. It was a college roommate’s father who was a FBI agent that encouraged him to look at the FBI and helped him through the interviewing process. His talent with languages had come in handy and he’d became proficient in Urdu as well.

The decorated seven year career that followed had been so fascinating that K.J. wasn’t even entirely sure why he was sitting in an office on a world he’d only learned about through his work with the FBI interviewing for a new gig.

Mike sighed heavily. “Well, you might be privileged in some ways then, K.J., but you’re not a privileged asshole at least.”

“I’m glad you think so, Mike,” he replied with a huff of a laugh.

“But these people are and I need your help,” Mike said firmly.

Right. The reason he was here interviewing for a new gig…? Mike needed his help. It had been a phone call that K.J. couldn’t ignore. “Can you tell me what’s going on, Mike?” K.J. asked quietly.

“Now that I’ve got the official okay to hire you, I can,” Mike replied as he opened up a folder on his desk full of news clippings. “Some of the scientists and technicians in research and development have felt like they’re being followed. Someone even noticed his trash being searched at the curb. And some of the analysts in the think tank have said that people are asking their neighbors about them, posing as local police officers.”

“Do you think it’s competition trying to steal new designs?” K.J. asked, his features twisting thoughtfully.

Mike shook his head. “I don’t know. I have this… bad feeling about this. I feel like we’re looking at… you remember the story of Michael Mann and the hockey stick graph?”

“Yeah, yeah. Climategate. He was the climate change scientist that the Kochs and the Scaifes and all those big oil guys went after under the guise of shell foundations, trying to prove he’d made climate change up,” K.J. replied.

Mike nodded firmly, pointing at K.J. “Exactly. These naive, privileged assholes here at McHale think I’m overreacting but my gut tells me that what’s going on right now here is the first step. I really think this is coal or oil or natural gas companies coming for this company.”

“The big bad energy companies funneling dark money in RhyDin funding the takedown of green technologies,” K.J. mused, lifting his shoulders in a shrug. “You’d think it would be even easier to do that here than in America given the lack of governmental regulations and oversight.”

The corners of Mike’s mouth lifted in a hint of a grin. “So… are you going to come fight the good fight?"

“Why do you care so much, Mike?” K.J. asked. He’d never turn down a request from Mike, particular not one that presented a challenge but he couldn’t figure out why Mike cared about this company so much.

“I like the kid,” Mike said in reply.

“The owner? The one who took over for his father?”

“Yeah. Shawn McHale. He’s a good kid. No one was expecting his father to die so young and now he’s got to get his company through this time while it feels like the dirty energy conglomerates are looking to take him down because this company creates products that are cheaper and better for the environment. I can’t think of a better reason to fight.”

“Alright, alright. I’m in, Mike. Tell me where to sign.”

Mike huffed out a happy laugh, clapping his big calloused hands together. “Excellent.”
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KJ Wilkins
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Joined: 16 Dec 2017
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Can Be Found: New Haven, RhyDin
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

December 5, 2017

K.J. was packing up his Austin apartment when the call he’d never forget came.

His cell phone was buried, of course, under several layers of newspapers. He scrambled through the layers to catch the call before it went to voicemail. It left him answering a bit breathlessly. “Hello?”

“Hello,” the professional-sounding voice on the other end replied. “Is this Karl James Wilkins?”

“It is,” KJ replied as he rose to his feet, surveying the boxes that surrounded him. He’d leave his furniture. The apartment he was renting in New Haven came fully furnished and his lease on this apartment had another six months. That gave him six months to see how he liked the McHale gig and life in RhyDin.

“Do you have an older sister name Jessica Lyman?”

A million curse words spun through KJ’s brain. He sure as hell did have an older sister and her name sure as hell was Jessica Lyman and whenever anyone asked that question it always ended up in trouble. “Yes, I do. Is she under arrest?” Drugs, prostitution, check fraud. Jessica had been around the block more than once.

“She’s not. It’s not that,” the woman on the other end said after a moment’s hesitation. “My name is Zee Rochester. I’m with the Texas Child Protective Services division.”

That stunned KJ momentarily and he sunk to a seat in a chair at his small kitchen table. “Jess doesn’t have kids.”

“She had a daughter a week ago,” Zee replied gently.

It felt like he’d been gut punched. A daughter. He had a niece. “Where’s Jess now?”

“We’re not sure, Mr. Wilkins. She said she is unable to raise a child at this point. She relinquished her rights and has left the state, I believe.”

“And the baby? Where’s the baby?” KJ asked, feeling panic grip him.

There was a hesitation as if Zee didn’t want to tell him the full truth over the phone. “The baby is still in the hospital here in Austin. She is stable but she’s had some health issues that they feel it best to keep her here for now. Your sister was unsure of who the father is. In these situations, we try to place the baby with a family member if possible. Jessica told us that she doesn’t have much family, though.”

“She doesn’t,” KJ replied, reaching up to rub at his forehead. “Jessica is my half-sister.” He’d given that explanation a lot over the years. Their shared mother was caucasian, Jessica’s father was caucasian, KJ's father was not. “Her father was never really in the picture. He committed suicide years ago. Our mother died five years ago of a heart attack and my dad died a year later. We have a younger sister, Kate, but she’s active duty Navy and she’s deployed right now.”

“Jessica said that you are the only family member she knew of that could possibly step in to this child’s life,” Zee stated matter-of-factly.

His niece. His heart pounded in his chest. “I’m starting a new job and…”

“I understand,” Zee replied sadly. “She’ll be ready to leave the hospital in a couple days and we’ll move her into a foster placement.”

Foster care. His niece. “No. No. Can I at least meet her? I think I need to meet her.” His voice sounded breathless again even though now he was standing still.

“Yes. Yes, of course. How about tomorrow morning? I’ll text you all the information.”

KJ caught himself nodding before he remembered that Zee couldn’t see his nods. “Perfect. Great. I’ll see you then. Thank you.” He ended the call, feeling the massive shift in the ground beneath his feet.
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