“Sir, your wife is calling”, my secretary whispered into my ear. I sat with some of the agents on our M&A team, talking with a suaver-than-average kid who hoped to sell his company to us. I wasn’t sold, but one of the junior executives, who’d made a name for herself with some good picks earlier, was pushing for us to talk to these guys. I heard her out.
I excused myself from the room briefly, and saw the dismay in the young founder’s eyes. He smiled and pursed his lips. The kid has talent, sure, but either he doesn’t have the ability to read a room and see when he’s pushed too far – or else he’s just really pushy. I’ve made the mistake of acquiring pushy teams before, and this company seemed like it could be another mistake waiting to happen. And yet… these guys had arguably the best neurointerface on the market, and they’d locked down the pre-teen segment with their implicit thought network. All the metrics were off the charts, and people were saying their “emotional web” even took some of the drama out of being an adolescent. I found that hard to believe, but then again, it’d been a few decades since I was an adolescent myself.
I got to a quiet room, looking out over market street, and tapped on my phone. I liked watching people scurry about the street below while I talked in that room – you get a different perspective on things when you’re five stories up, and the sound of the dude drumming on a bucket blends in with the clank-clank-clank of the cable cars.
“Hi Baby,” I cooed into the phone, “How are you? Is everything Ok?”
“It’s Oliver”, she sighed. “He’s upset because Mister Sparkles ran away this afternoon. I told him you were busy, but he really wanted to talk to you. You know how he is.”
“It’s okay, baby. I can always use a break from these meetings. Put him on the phone, please.”
I talked with my son.
For a few minutes that Thursday afternoon, the goings on inside this office – normally so full of importance and meaning – were as irrelevant to me as the hurried pedestrians trying to make their way across market while the walk sign was on. I talked to my son, an endless source and sink of love, a reminder of the goodness of this world.
He felt sad, he told me. Sad because he loved Mister Sparkles, our cat who had run away. I told him I felt sad too, but that It was OK to be sad sometimes. He told me he thought Mister Sparkles might be mad at him for playing too rough. I told him that Mister Sparkles probably saw a mouse or a bird and chased it because he was excited. Oliver seemed to take heart in that, and told me he was going to build a new house for Mister Sparkles, from the cardboard box that our latest hologram projector came in. If you get one of those things, by the way – make sure you get a good subwoofer to go with it – it really makes the reds richer when the overtone sequence is turned up. I told Oliver that was a great idea.
I talked to my wife for a minute, and thanked her for calling me. I told her I loved her, and went back in to talk about buying this 17 year old’s neurotechnology company for a few billion dollars. He’s just young, that’s all. Nobody who was that pushy would have frowned briefly, the way he did when I left – as if he thought I was going to handle a fifty-billion dollar purchase instead of his company.
Let’s do it, I said, and smiled. He smiled back, and I guess that was history.
“Agent fifty seven,” announced the magistrate, “Your presence is no longer required. We have received word from the Orangutan network that the purchase is complete, and our agent has entered the appropriate ecosystem. You may return to your human. You may appreciate an upgraded habitat, but this has not been confirmed by our avian sensor networks.”
Her face softened, then, whiskers arcing up and out in a grin, with a slight tilt to her head. “Out of curiosity, what does he call you?”
“Mister Sparkles,” said the agent, and they both laughed.