5 of 7 | Chapter 7


“I am sorry,” he said, smiling.

“Well, Mr Steersman, thank you for your time,” Natalie brought the conversation to a close, knowing that that was all she would get out of him for now.

“Miss Garner, it was my pleasure.”


The dinner

As Natalie and her erstwhile camera operator left the building, a renowned French restaurant deployed its personnel. Burnell Chauvet, the world famous three diamond chef, rushed to the office to meet the unusual and bountiful orders that Steersman's staff had placed. The restaurant was directed by Olivia Carroll, who had previously managed some of the highest level luxury hotels in the world, and from whom it was impossible to ask the impossible. If needed, she could organize dinner on the Moon, as long as her client was able to pay. In short, organizing lavish business catering in an office was, for her, nothing more than a gentle stretch between two yawns. Olivia had also sent interior decorators who made sure that the high standard of the French restaurant was ensured on site.

Karen was also invited to dinner. She was at home, getting ready. She fed her Japanese ornamental carp, got into her car and drove to the hotel where the professor was already waiting for her in the lobby. He was dressed in a low-key style; a well cut grey suit made from high quality textile, noticeable only to those who knew something of fashion. It was not fashion, however, that gave him style, but rather his accessories and the way he wore them that made him unique. His jacket was draped over one arm, in his hand rested a rosewood cane that reminded Karen of a magic wand.

Karen took it all in and then discovered something that made her smile: the professor's footwear. He was wearing the same canvas sneakers that he wore as paced up and down the lecture theater, while passionately explaining concepts and ideas to his students.

The long time friends greeted each other, and they headed towards the science center as they reminisced. Crossing the security barrier took no more than half a minute, after which they went through an underground causeway and arrived at the tower elevator. At exactly seven, staff ushered the guests into Steersman's office.

Steersman was already waiting and hurried to meet them with a big smile on his face.

“Professor Hashimoto, it is truly an honor to personally meet you.” Steersman bowed, and shook hands with the Professor.

“Mr Steersman, it is also an honor to meet the man who can stir up the deep, tranquil waters of the scientific community,” the professor said, his voice resonating with a palpable spiritual power, his accent adding to the aura of respect. His small stature and gray-white hair made him resemble a wise man from legend. His gaze, however, did not seem like the gaze of a man who sat cross legged meditating and creating miracles. He gave the impression of a solid man firmly grounded in reality.

“Karen, good evening! You look beautiful.” Steersman turned to look at her. She did indeed look amazing. The black Donna Karen dress outlined her stunning figure; a figure that was usually hidden behind the facade of a gray business suit. Her make up and hair added the finishing touches to her already breathtaking appearance.

“Why, thank you.” She smiled.

“Please, be seated,” he said, gesturing to the waiter, who helped the guests to take their places.

“What a remarkable choice of venue for a dinner engagement,” noted the Professor, looking round the office that had been transformed into a French country restaurant. “Though, I must say, it is much more interesting.” His smile emphasized his facial features even more.

“I wanted to combine the outstanding French catering with the serious matter that made this meeting possible tonight,” Steersman admitted. He had been delighted by the result and had already resolved to express his gratitude to Olivia more tangibly.

“Well, you have succeeded admirably,” the professor said, nodding in approval.

“Yes. This is indeed a very special atmosphere,” said Karen quietly.

“Thus far, then, my expectations regarding this evening have been exceeded,” said Steersman. The subtle atmosphere that the catering team had created eased the tension of the first few moments.

“Let us celebrate this auspicious meeting with a glass of champagne.”

The waiters were ready to pour the champagne and by the time he had finished his sentence, they were already offering them slim crystal glasses filled with the golden nectar of a two hundred year old Krug champagne.

“With pleasure,” said the Professor, raising his glass to Karen.

“Let's drink to the beginning of an enterprise that will bring change and a more sustainable future,” Steersman toasted.

“Here here, Mr Steersman! I can hardly wait to hear the details of your proposal,” said Professor Hashimoto, his eyes twinkling.

“You are absolutely right, why not?” Steersman waited until the waiter had served the appetizers of sweetbreads in truffle sauce, accompanied by a dry white wine, then he broached the subject.

“Professor Hashimoto, we are now sitting at the top of the control center that will soon define the world's technology trends. Current developments will shortly bring a change in people's everyday lives that will make the industrial revolution look feeble in comparison. The biggest difference, however, is that this development in civilization will not be at the expense of the planet. In fact, there won't be any developments leaving the ASEC area that will, in any way, cause harm to the environment.” Steersman talked with such enthusiasm that he didn't notice the surprise that the name of the science center had caused. They obviously accepted it though, as neither of them interrupted him.

“Our goals require ongoing resources. Resources that are currently scattered all over the world. Energy and raw materials are not a problem, but one thing is: human resources, knowledge and creativity. We still don't have enough of those things. I don't wish to start a global brain drain, though in the short term that would be my easiest option. In the long run, however, it would threaten our survival. Therefore, I have decided that we must create opportunities to foster and develop a new generation of exceptional young minds, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, all of whom we will certainly need; individuals who will be able to meet the highest expectations, and who can be entrusted with the greatest of challenges.”

He paused briefly, trying to gauge the professor's reaction and then he continued.

“The plan is to create a campus with the best equipment available, and ASEC will provide a stable practice ground upon which students will be able to develop and hone their knowledge. In fact, it is on the practical side of things that I would like to place the emphasis. Professor, I need you to manage this university city. To direct teaching faculties, to establish a framework for the highest quality education institute in the world”

“Mr Steersman, I'll be honest with you,” the professor began judiciously. “I am sixty-seven years old. The University of Tokyo, the institution that I am the director of and where I teach, is also a very well-equipped institution. We have close relationships with corporations, high tech companies in particular, to which we regularly send our students to gain valuable practical experience. I do not, essentially, see a reason for me to leave my university,” he confessed openly.

Karen moved slightly, showing her discomfort at the direction of the conversation. She looked down, then felt a strong urge to interject.

“Professor. Knowing Sean as I do, I think that you have yet to hear the real offer.” She smiled at him.

“I am sure this is true.” The professor looked at his host.



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