The elevator shot up, shifted to the side some ways and exceeded thousands of feet in a mere minute. Yet Kristen barely felt it move or stumble. She suddenly felt lightheaded as the doors opened. Brock’s office was like a ballroom in its vast space, ornate furnishings. Every clear space that wasn’t taken by stacks of paper was decorated in models. She spotted cities, neighborhood dioramas, even prototypes of the park’s statues. All were clustered together in a disorganized mess.
Through a small metal disk Kristen placed on the ground, a slide presentation presented itself as a semi-translucent hologram. Babylon Wonders had taken an incredible amount of land to house its attractions. Enough to be a challenge for the sharpest astronaut’s eye to spot. Acres of farms and forest, as well as all the wildlife that called the area home, had been razed for the project. And all the concrete that was being used to build the statues? The Co2 it generated only bolstered all that. The combined toll on the atmosphere was more than well documented. Kristen explained this with extreme precision. Diagrams, photos and animations demonstrating her point unfolded in the artificial light.
Brock listened with feet atop the large oak desk. Throughout the presentation he remained frozen, likely deep in thought. It was impossible to read his expression or even guess how much he was absorbing.
“So if the park continues to expand,” Kristen concluded. “Then at this time in twenty years, the atmosphere will be totally inhospitable.” The visuals unfurled back into the disk. “Any questions?”
Brock did not respond but stayed as concentrated as he had been as she lectured. Kristen was about to shake him back into reality when he finally spoke.
“Have you reached out to the neighbors? The Lynns? The McKenzies?”
She shook her head. The farms closest to the park. Long ago, the Organization reached out to get some insight into the effect of the park’s presence on the community. But neither was willing to even come to the gate to ask her personally to leave.
“They complained a bit when construction first started,” he continued. “But nowadays, they’re happy with me and their tax-free farm. Same with the state of Idaho. They were worried about the forests I tore up, just like you. But the second I started paying up very generous tax brackets, well, who would complain after that?”
Kristen didn’t like what he was implying. “What’re you saying?”
Brock sat up, facing her with more intensity. “My point is there’s good going with the bad. It pads out and I’m in the clear.”
She shook her head. “No, it doesn’t work like that,” Kristen retorted, astonished by his attitude. “Your taxes don’t mean anything if you’re destroying the atmosphere. This is all about preserving the planet and-”
He cut her off. “No, it’s a matter of how far I can reach.” He strolled over to wall opposite, perusing the shelves of models. “When I was a boy, I loved collecting miniatures. Miniature trains, cars, animals. I had a whole state’s worth of cities and houses. The novelty of recreating something at such a small scale was endless. But when I became a man; I realized true accomplishment lay in the very opposite. By building my statues, I’m not only pushing the boundaries of construction. Quite literally, I’m reaching heights nobody else in history has. I’m walking right up to the gates of heaven itself.” He craned towards her. “Your crowd always touts itself on being progressive and what not. And now you’re standing in the way of pure progress.”
Kristen was floored. She could barely form together the words to describe absolutely how ludicrous this whole spiel was. Had he no conscience? Even a lick of self-awareness? ‘Could I’ always came dead last to ‘should I.’ No exceptions. She couldn’t say she was shocked, but at least other CEOs Kristen had gone toe to toe with were motivated by greed for money. Brock was greedy for achievement.
She stammered as she forced a thought out. “You’re going to kill the planet…so you can build in your own sandbox?”
With a nod, Brock quipped: “If that’s what happens, it happens.”
That’s when Kristen realized. He hadn’t brought her here for wholehearted debate, that she had lost the second she walked in the door. He brought her here to make a point. The smugness on Brock’s face seemed to be the final confirmation of that theory.
“If you keep it up, you’re not even going to have a planet left to play around with. Nothing you make will mean anything if there’s nothing to sustain it.”
Brock pretended to focus on the shelf of miniatures, keeping his back on her. “That’s a tragedy in of itself, but it’s not my business. Besides, Ms. Swain; who’s going to stop me from doing what I want on my property?”
Fuming, Kristen stormed for the door. Clearly, she had wasted her time here.
“Ms. Swain?” he called out from behind.
She whipped around, ready for any rebuke Brock had left to throw at her. But instead he just smiled. The same child-like joy she had seen at the Brachiosaurus.
“Won’t you stay for the shareholder meeting?” He asked calmly. “I think it’s very relevant to our conversation.”
Kristen thought about it for a moment. “I’ll think about it.” And with that, the elevator doors shut, bringing her back to Earth.