Looking back on it, I can’t believe I ever forgot about Timothy. I wouldn’t be reminded of his existence until nearly the second week in October. Sunday afternoon after lunch and the study group, the board of Olympus Incorporated had welcomed Professor Krieger to discuss the first order of business: the sale of the pistols and ammo to the mystery group.
“Our friends,” Krieger began, “find that your pistols live up to all your claims so far. They admit to over-ordering the pistols, but are offering around five hundred dollars per additional ten thousand rounds of ammunition.”
“Any critiques?” I asked, trying to ignore that May looked disgusted with Krieger and Andy seemed like he was about to vomit.
“These weapons,” Krieger said, “are somewhat controversial. But the objective fact is they can penetrate any material you could reasonably expect and its bleedin’ uncle. It’s also an objective fact that the little bugger’s very noisy, and if you aren’t wearing some armor, you might spend a good few minutes before realizing you’ve been shot.”
With this comment, Nari asked, “Do our honorable buyers know enough to aim for the center mass? Or do they prefer to aim for the legs and shoulders?”
Kreiger laughed. “Oh, they know where to aim, missy. Sometimes, though, you can’t always hit the heart or brain. In those situations, a few very small bullets won’t do as much damage as a lot of heavy bullets. That being said, apparently a third of the people who use it are in love with it.” Nari smirked in satisfaction. “The other two-thirds want it to be lighter, have less recoil, have a higher rate of fire, or some combination of the three.”
Nari gave Krieger a glower that almost matched May’s. “Do they realize that the only way to control recoil for that gun is to make it abnormally heavy? Even if I added porting, switching from steel to polymer or seltsametall would make it kick too much.”
Krieger shrugged. “Just giving you their words, girlie.” He considered this. “You know, a platform with a bigger form factor could potentially…”
“Allow for an effective counter-balancing system, which in turn would allow for controllable, rapid semi and full-auto fire,” Nari said, rolling her eyes. “We know. We’ve thought it through, much better than any of your friends.”
“They’d like to hear your musings,” Krieger said.
Nari, suddenly cautious, looked hesitantly to May, Andy and me. Andy and May shrugged. I guess it was my turn. “Between company politics, finances, and just plain old engineering,” I said, “we feel we should keep our speculations academic for the moment. That’s not to say it can’t happen in the near future, but it’s unlikely.”
As I said this, I tried to not even think of the two guns in the case we had spent the morning testing in the forest. If you didn’t have anything to hold to scale, you could be forgiven for thinking it was an M-4/M-16 with an MP-5A3-style telescoping buttstock clone at first. That was because the receiver was designed to accommodate an M-4 barrel shroud. Then, you’d notice it took its magazines through a pistol grip and the ambidextrous charging handles were very similar to a SCAR or AK. If you held it up to an UMP-45, you’d also notice that without the barrel, this gun was more compact, but with the barrel it was slightly longer.
Internally, it was radically altered from all its progenitors to accommodate a revolutionary counter-balancing spring made up of a shelved university project called BounceCore (a material with a high compression strength that could be reduced by running a current through it.) The act of firing the gun pushed back the barrel and the BounceCore spring instead of the entire gun as well as pushing the six-and-a-half millimeter bullet forwards. The only problem with BounceCore was that in order to have it stand up to the kinetic and thermal energy our ammunition created when it fired, we had to make it way too thick to be put in a pistol. Still, that allowed us to make the rest of this SMG out of Seltsametall and synthetics.
It was deadly, efficient and easy to use. Nari and I were both rightly proud. In short, it was everything May (and me) did not want falling into the wrong hands, which also made it the kind of thing Nari wanted to put in boxes of breakfast cereal along with her biography.
We called it the Ballpeen, and it was beautiful.
Krieger, not seeming to suspect my lie, said, “I’m sorry to hear that, lads and lassies. I’ll give you until Saturday to come to a decision. In the meantime, I’m going to get some sleep. I’ve got Hell Semester pukes to deal with for the next five days.”
With that, he got up and exited the borrowed conference room. In the split second after Krieger had exited from view and before the door began to close, I saw my waiter from the Veranda, Timmy, sitting at the conference room across the hall, consulting his laptop. Before I could really register, the door was blocking my view again. Oddly enough, he appeared to be wearing business formal attire. Even the stuffiest of the business majors wore business casual unless they needed to present.
We waited for a few seconds to make sure Krieger had really left. When we were sure he was gone, Nari asked, “So, why did we not sell him the Ballpeen?”
“Because,” May said through gritted teeth, pulling out a manila folder, “I’m not sure they are who they say they are.”
“And even if they are,” Andy said grimly, “they’re still pretty dang shady.”
Before either of them could elaborate, the door to our conference room burst open. “I’ll say,” Timmy said, striding in like he owned the place, much to our surprise. “I mean, they’re definitely stiffing you.” He paused, and flashed what he obviously thought was a charming smile. “I can help with that.”
“…Who the hell are you?” Andy asked.
“This,” I said, “is Timothy, I believe. You’re a business major, right?”
“Technically,” he said, “my name is Cheung Tao, but my English name’s Timothy Cheung.” He sat leaned down, looking oddly serious despite his hipster glasses and stupid widow’s peak. “But that’s not important. What’s important is how I can help you.”
“And how could you help us?” May asked.
“First of all,” Timothy said, getting up, “not only is this room bugged, but it’s also not soundproofed.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the room he had previously been inhabiting. “Mine is. Plus I know how to baffle the bugs.” He got up. “If you would follow me…”
Andy, May, Nari and I consulted each other silently for a moment. Finally I said, “What the hell? Let’s humor him.”
“Ok,” May said.
We all got up. After we filed into the room, Timothy sealed the door. I noticed that his laptop, a MacBook of some sort, was plugged into the TV via an HDMI cable. The window shades were mostly drawn, except for a small sliver where what appeared to be a wireless speaker rested against the window.
“The cool thing about music,” Timothy said smugly, taking a gold-plated iPhone out of his pocket, “is that not only can it cut off room mics when played at the correct volume, not only can it disrupt laser mics if you put the speaker up to the window, but you can also impress your client.” He then pressed a button on his phone. “Aw yeah, it’s that dope shizzle, my nizzles!”
For one brief, shining moment, I thought I was listening to Under Pressure. Then Vanilla Ice started rapping. May, our hip-hop head, looked like she was in physical pain as soon as she heard the first few bars.
Sensing that Vanilla Ice hadn’t gotten him the points he had desired, Timothy said, “…I also have some Fetty Wap, Rick Ross and Limp Bizkit if they would be better.”
“How about if I put on some music?” May asked as tactfully as she could possibly could.
Once May had begun cleansing her palate with some Tupac, she asked, “So, Mr. Cheung, what proposal do you have for us?”
“Also,” I asked, “how did you find out about us?”
“Please,” he said, “Call me Timmy.” He turned to me. “Well, Mr. Jacobs, I discovered this company through you, when you were talking with your lovely lady about how many units you shipped.” He gave me a wink to let me know where he thought I had shipped that night and where it was delivered. I just stared at him. He continued on. “To be fair, you didn’t mention units of what, but I was intrigued. Then, at a recent study group for Black Market Econ at the Vulture Capitalist, I managed to get a bit more info out of Jennifer Kagemoto. Don’t worry, she didn’t say your name, just that she’d discovered someone working on some really cool guns. To be fair to her, she also had twice as many shots of tequila as you did of bourbon.”
I recognized the name Vulture Capitalist. Basically, it was The Drunken Mercenary for Business Majors, except instead of using sub-par booze, it kept outsiders away via exotic menu options and exorbitant prices. Any study group there would turn into a drunken revel.
“Are you offering us security?” I asked. If he was, I’d have to take it. I’d obviously messed up if he was here.
Apparently, I had accidentally implied I’d been insulted because Timothy quickly backpedaled. “No, no, no!” he said. “I just have some suggestions. For instance, I did some research. The closest analogue to your ammo I could find is .357 SIG. Would that be fair?”
“In terms of velocity and penetration,” Nari said, a little insulted, “.357 SIG is completely inferior.”
“Then why are you selling it for less?” Timothy asked. He pressed a button on his phone and the title Profitability in Weapon Deals appeared on the TV. He pressed another button and he went to a slide with two pie graphs. “These,” he said, “are what I estimate what the price of .357 SIG goes to. Since we’re selling wholesale, we’re going to look at the one on the right, which is cost to the end user per thousand rounds.”
He tapped on the screen. “As you can see, the actual cost of making and assembling the bullet is only about twenty cents per bullet. That means, of the six hundred and seventy-five dollars the consumer spends on, only two hundred dollars is actually spent on making the thing.” He paused for effect, but then moved from the red slice representing the cost to make the bullet, tapping the other slices. “Of course, the manufacturer spends money on marketing, design, benefits, royalties, most of which doesn’t concern you, since you only have shareholders at this point, or any need to market.” Finally, he got to the big green slice. “But this… this is the profit, or at least the gross profit. Now, can I ask… if the rules changed tomorrow, and you had to pay for materials yourself, how much would bullets cost?”
Andy spoke up instantly. “Fifty cents. If I budget in case of the machine breaking, possibly sixty. Most of that is due to the fact we’re in the middle of nowhere and we’re not producing a huge amount.”
“So,” Timothy said, “if you were to have to pay for materials, six thousand of the five hundred dollars you make would go to production costs. That seems a little off to me.” He shrugged. “Then again, if you’re running a charity…”
“If it’s a charity,” May said, finally opening the manila folder, “we need to review our cases. A few days after we shipped our first order, a Cartel middle-management guy living right on the US/Mexican border left his wife and kids for work. As soon as he closed the door, two men walked up and opened fire. A total of five rounds were fired, all of which passed through the man and the heavy oak door. Not only did he die almost instantly, but his wife, eight-month-old infant and fifteen-year-old son are dead. There are five other incidents I believe our gun was used in that ended in civilian casualties.”
“What was the goal?” Timothy asked. “Not your client’s, but yours.”
“Immediate goal?” I said. “FBI’s having a contest. We want in, and Krieger told us they could get us in.”
“Ok,” he said, “No shipments until we get proof they are who they say they are. We also need to find Krieger’s angle…”
“What about yours?” I asked.
“Simple,” Timothy said. “You guys are inventors who need a business guy to sell your products, I’m a business guy who’s looking for a job. Also, apart from the pistol, are you making any other things?”
“Originally,” May said, suppressing her bitterness, “this was supposed to be about just selling medical supplies and automated production.” She brightened up a bit. “Still, Power Sludge and my surgical glue have been approved by the FDA, so I’m going Washington in a few weeks. Andy’s going to be at the factory.”
“So we’re…” Timothy began, then realized that we hadn’t voted him in yet, ““…I mean, you’re also doing medicine and manufacturing. Cool. That’s something we can put sales of weapons towards.”
As May pondered this, Timothy asked, “Can I see the products you discussed?”
I put the case on the table. “You can look,” I said, “but you can’t touch, and you can’t ask how they work. Deal?”
“Sure,” Timothy said with a shrug. I opened the case. Inside was the second generation of the Uilon Mangchi and the two prototype versions of the Ballpeen.
“What’s that on the bottom of the machinegun at the top?” Timothy asked.
“It’s a collapsible foregrip, light and laser,” I said, resisting the urge to correct him that it was actually an SMG. “If you pull the trigger on the grip, you can switch between several settings.”
Timothy looked at the guns for a moment, smiling to himself. Finally, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe your products are Hollywood-ready.”