"Unraveling conspiracies is a deadly job, but someone has to do it."
Before even settling into his office, Craig Jackson, newly appointed VP of Operations at Houston based Docking Strategies, America’s last viable corporation in 2052, is sent to Ft. Smith, AR on another troubleshooting assignment. Craig was born there, but hasn’t been back since he was sixteen and isn’t sure how family he hasn’t seen in two decades will react to him.
Adding to his dilemma, Craig is sent to Ft. Smith without a clear picture of what’s wrong. Docking Strategies has been tasked to run what’s left of the American government, now subservient to China over unpayable debt.
Not knowing where he stands or who to trust, Craig must quickly find allies with family and key employees. His first cousin, Jeff, and Felicity, a young female security guard are his only backup to investigate missing supplies and rumors of a medical miracle. When Felicity is critically injured, Craig must gamble using the unproven drug with the potential to save her life, and the future of the United States from total collapse before the Chinese derail him.
Chapter 1. Monday, April 1, 2052
(This chapter contains some sexually suggestive content)
Bounding down the stairs to the garage below his Houston apartment at 5:10 A.M., Craig Jackson unplugged his newly issued company car from the overnight charging system, then looked over at his pride and joy. Sitting in the dim light of the garage is a red, hydro powered, 1963 split window Corvette replica. Reaching to touch the dual flag emblem on the nose of the Vette, he stopped, hearing a soft, female, Texas accented voice.
“Mornin’, Mr. Vice President.” Sherrie, his girlfriend and other pride and joy said while standing on the last step, wearing the red teddy he’d given her for Valentine’s Day.
Moving her direction he said, “I tried not to wake you.” Craig picked her up and they kissed passionately, then he twirled her around, gently placing her on the hood of the Corvette.
“Oooooo,” she said with a laugh as their lips parted. “I remember the last time we were together on the car.”
“The morning I left for Maine,” Craig replied. “I’m glad being a road warrior is a thing of the past. I have a permanent office now, so come by for lunch and we’ll try out my new desk.”
“With Paula in the outer office?” she said chuckling. “I don’t think so. You make too much noise.”
“You’re right. We do make noise.”
Sliding herself up onto the windshield Sherrie asked, “Not drivin’ your baby today?”
Stroking Sherrie’s tanned, smooth legs he said, “You’re my baby, but showing up in Vette on my first official day as Vice President wouldn’t send the right message.”
Sherrie rubbed her fingers across the edge of the windshield and whispered, “We’ll be waitin’ when you get home.”
Craig smiled and said, “Having regular hours feels good, doesn’t it? Speaking of which, you’re gonna be late.”
“I know. Love ya, honey. Go knock ‘em dead, Mr. Vice President.”
Scampering halfway up the stairs, Sherrie waved as Craig got in the company car. Waving back while exiting the garage, he turned on jazz music and reflected on the upcoming day during the thirty-minute drive to his downtown Houston office. Turning into the parking garage of Docking Strategies corporate headquarters Craig mused, “I’ll bet Dennis is already here.” His good friend and mentor, Dennis Hong was appointed CEO of the company last week.
The sun broke over the horizon and beamed light into Craig’s seventieth floor office. Adjusting its carbosolar panels, the building routed sunlight to the illumination system while absorbing energy to drive the power plant. A voice coming from the communication terminal on Craig’s desk interrupted him from unpacking a box.
“Mr. Jackson, Mr. ---”
Paula’s voice was overridden by a louder one entering his office. “Hello, Mr. Vice President,” said Dennis. “I knew you’d be in early. Looks like you’re settling in okay.”
Seeing Dennis brought a smile to Craig’s face and he said, “You know I travel light. Paula already has everything in place, but left a couple of boxes so I could tell Sherrie I’d done something to get myself moved in.”
“She knows you too well,” Dennis said with a chuckle. Craig looked past Dennis to see Paula in the open doorway smiling.
She asked, “Can I get anything for you, Sir.”
Before he could answer, Dennis turned back to her and said, “Not right now.” He moved to push the door closed and whispered, “Stand by to order flowers for Sherrie.” Paula gave a puzzled look as he shut the door.
“Hey boss, I heard that,” said Craig. “What am I about to do that’ll require sending flowers to my girlfriend?”
Sitting down in one of the comfortable, oversize chairs in front of Craig’s desk Dennis replied, “I was called to a special meeting last night with some of the directors.”
Craig stood, walked around the desk, sat in a chair next to his boss and asked, “Why wasn’t I notified? I’m new to the board, but I thought we’d both be in on those meetings.”
“It took me by surprise, too,” Dennis said. “It wasn’t what I’d call a regular board meeting. No minutes were taken and only three directors were in on it.”
“So, what’s the bad news?”
“Good old Craig. You always cut right to the chase. It’s the reason I pushed so hard to have you in charge of operations.” Craig didn’t respond, so Dennis leaned forward and said, “It’s like this. They ordered me to put someone on the ground at one of the regional offices. I told them we were meeting this morning to prioritize them, but they wouldn’t give us that much time. I’m sure you know what this means?”
Standing up abruptly, Craig walked back to the other side of his desk and said, “You have to be kidding. This sounds like a bad April Fool’s joke. Last week I was promoted to Vice President, now I’m right back in the field.” Pointing toward the door of his office Craig continued, “Guess there’s no point in putting my name on it.”
Dennis stood up quickly with a noticeable change in his demeanor and said, “I know this isn’t what you expected, but when I get hammered you’re going to feel it, too.”
Dennis and Craig were always straight with each other when dealing with tough situations and company politics. Realizing there was no point in discussing it further Craig asked, “Did they specifically ask for me, or is it your choice to send me?”
“The only name mentioned was mine. As in, handle this now or ---. I’m sure you know the rest. There’s no one else I can trust with this one.”
“I don’t like going in blind,” said Craig. “Am I just touring the location or taking over?”
“Whatever is bothering the board members requires you to go in and take over.”
Attempting to relieve the building tension Craig responded, “Interesting first few days on the job. Where am I headed?”
“That’s my man,” Dennis replied. “I think you’ll actually have an advantage on this one. It’s Fort Smith.”
Dennis knew he was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Craig and his sister Katelyn relocated to Houston with their mom when his father was killed in an industrial accident in the family business. Mom’s side of family lived in Houston and she severed all ties with Arkansas and never looked back.
“I’m not sure how the family will feel about me.”
“See them or don’t see them,” said Dennis. “If it was me, I’d patch things up and use it to my advantage.”
“The Fort Smith region isn’t on the low performance list. What am I looking for?”
“I don’t like sending you without all the facts either, but they wouldn’t tell me why they want it handled this way. I’ll try to find out, but my gut tells me you’ll need every trick in the book on this one. Take the day off and be there in the morning.”
Glancing at his watch Craig said, “You’re right, I better send flowers to Sherrie. If she doesn’t kick me out, I’m putting an expensive dinner on your tab at Salvador’s tonight.”
“No problem. Tell her there’s a big bonus in it too, and bring her up there as often as you want. This thing has to be handled quickly, so pull out all the stops. Something really put a bug up the butt of the directors who called the meeting. You’ll have complete control and whatever you need in budget and personnel.”
Touching the communication terminal on his desk Craig said, “Paula, I’m leaving. Send flowers to Sherrie’s office and forward the personnel records and employment applications for the Fort Smith, Arkansas regional office to my XD.”
“The flowers are already on their way, Sir. I’ll have the Fort Smith information to you before you’re out of the building.”
Dennis patted Craig’s shoulder and said, “Thanks man. My life is in your hands. You know I have your back and I’ll make sure the bonus is worth it, too. This is a heck of a way for both of us to start our administration of the company.”
“If Sherrie boots me out, the bonus won’t make any difference.”
“She won’t. Now, go get ready kick some butt.”
They shook hands as Craig left the office to go sell what he hoped would be his last field assignment to Sherrie.
Inspiration to write One Drug. Lots of fear and conjecture is tied to the potential cause of a total economic collapse in America. The idea for One Drug came from predicting a worse case scenario 80 years after my 1972 high school graduation. At least one more book is planned to follow One Drug with the working title, Ready to Go. Craig Jackson is one of my favorite characters and he has more to do in 2052.