Zoran could barely believe what had happened over the course of the last two months, the doors that had inexplicably opened up, the opportunities that had been presented to him.
Ten long years he had spent trying to get someone to just listen, to have a little faith and, perchance, to make a minor investment that would allow him to push forward the research and development phase. Ten years that had cost him his friends, his marriage, his house. Ten years that appeared as twenty on his face. He did not believe himself to be an old man but the mirror told a different story.
Everyone had mocked him, even from the ivory towers of the largest companies, serving to harden him against the corporate world and turn him instead towards his own government. They, of course, would see the potential, and the funding he needed would be as a drop in the ocean to them! And yet it was to no avail. Department after department he went through, each seeming to take a perverse glee in slamming the door in his face, in the amount of scorn they could pour upon him.
And then the letter. It had arrived from the Department for Scientific Development, a department whose existence he was not even aware of. Surely, it would have been one of the first places he would have tried.
The letter apologised to "Dear Doctor Zoran", firstly for the magnitude of broken appointments and unreturned messages, and then for not being in a position to discuss the matter further with him (his heart had sunk at this point), but they new someone who would! To a man who had actually received letters deriding him as a timewaster this had been somewhat new territory!
Johansson, Johansson and Milton had been a revelation. They had been welcoming and, more importantly, they had actually listened to him. Admittedly, it had all seemed to have transpired very discreetly, with evening scheduled meetings convened in a small interview room. His interviewers were fleeting, as were their names: Smith, Roberts, Davies, Jackson, never anything out of the ordinary.
But the funding had been forthcoming, and in a greater amount than he had initially requested. In addition they had provided him with an aide, an assistant. The man's name was Henrik, descended, as he was himself, from European immigrant stock. He was bulky and muscular but not unskilled. He followed orders well, but, whilst he could perform quite intricate procedures, Zoran knew that he could not even begin to grasp the scientific subtleties involved, the delicate chemical and physical balances that Zoran strove to achieve.
And now, some eight weeks later, here he was, seated in the stark JJ&M boardroom opposite its CEO, a man by the name of Matheson. He was spindly and greying, a nervous tick in his cheek betraying an otherwise unreadable façade. He flicked a dime constantly, catching it time and again in his right palm. Alongside him sat the diminutive Davies, one of Zoran's former interviewers. Initially he had appeared commanding and resourceful, yet in the presence of his senior he was revealed to Zoran as little more than a lapdog, anxiously awaiting his master's slightest whim.