ACT 1, Chapter 3: Race for the sanity.

In his private apartment suite the coocoo clock struck nine o'clock as Macbeth surveyed the Georgian's Conference Centre parking lot. In the interest of time all of the candidates were scheduled to be interviewed together, and at present they were awaiting him in the conference room.

The meeting was scheduled to begin in 15 minutes and before it begun, a little peak inside their lives tickled his fancy. You can tell a lot about a man from a car he drives. Sometimes a lot more than from a job interview.

In his field of vision next to the well-kept greenery of the Georgian's backyard, he saw all kinds of cars parked there. New and gleaming Beamers that looked as if they had just come out from a car detailing shop indicated, that their drivers were driven and organized individuals.

Older distinguished looking Benzes proclaimed their owners to be people of taste and lovers of high quality that put their comfort as a high priority.

Represented in higher numbers were the sensible Vauxhalls, for people who knew the value of money and turned every penny twice. The sporty Fords, fun for the whole family, for dads. Some Japanese compacts for those who followed the latest trends, and a solitary Volvo, for a man who treasures safety above all else.

In their midst his Cossie stood out like an angsty teenager in a line of responsible adults. But alas, it was custom build suit for his needs, and he liked it. Not to mention the added value it accrued over the years as a classic young timer.

With a sigh, he donned his brown tweed suit and buttoned up his brown shirt, before taking his brown leather briefcase and bid his room a final goodbye. At least the queen bed was comfy and the fridge well stocked he thought to himself.

Moving on to the conference room he arrived five minutes before the time of the meeting. It was filled with office chairs set around a large brown wooden table. There was a set of refreshments in the middle of it, and a coffee maker next to a water dispenser in the right corner of the room. On the left side there were various potted plants. Entire front wall was made of glass, while the others were painted a warm beige color but otherwise empty. He welcomed every candidate personally, then politely ordered them to take a seat, and began the interview.

-Gentlemen. Please put your car keys on the table, phones, and wallets so that we can commence this job interview. – Macbeth said confidently. Like little obedient sheep they've all complied and awaited eagerly for next instructions.

-I am pleased to say that all of you passed the initial requirements and are qualified to take this position. Perhaps in an unorthodox move we shall not be discussing your past experiences but since there is only one position available, it will be your character that decides whether you get the job or not. – Macbeth continued, leisurely pacing around the room.

-First, I'd like to get some bearing on how you'll perform throughout the years on the contract. Just because you'll do well on land doesn't mean it'd be enough. As you know, before you get to the area of land operations, your journey will take place on our ship, where you'll also be performing your duties.

It is currently docked and undergoing last maintenance checks in Glasgow port, where you'll need to find yourself three days before setting sail. – Looking at each of them in turn, he saw that all of the candidates had their attention only on him. So far everyone had their game face on, and probably came to this meeting with a mindset of a kid who received their golden ticket to the chocolate factory. Oh how delightful the next moment was going to be.

-The name of our ship is "Dacha", she was formerly known as the "NS Lenin". She's a sixteen thousand ton, and over one hundred and forty five yards long of Soviet Atomics Nuclear Powered Icebreaker. The very first in fact. – Having finished pacing right back at the head of the table he delivered this bombshell with a wide smile on his face. To say that his listener's reactions were mixed would be a gross underestimation, but that is exactly how it was. This chocolate factory is not one of Willy Wonka's, no rivers of candy here.

Mercedesesseesseesmans and Volvo began laughing, probably thinking that it was a joke. Beamers and Fords looked eager, as the promised cash was good and a big ship added credibility to the company. Not to mention if they got the position, to work on a private scientific enterprise that required a nuclear powered vessel it would be a career height for any of them .

Vauxhalls and the Compacts had an expression of shock on their faces, because really, who in this day and age has nuclear powered ships except for the armed forces? There was also one guy whose car key was upside down, and thus the maker's logo wasn't visible. He looked contemplative.

-I see that some of you are amused by my words. – He said, slowly at first, but reacting to the commotion from the German and Swedish comfort club he then got behind them in a few quick steps and in a quiet voice that howled "you don't want to unleash the fury that lies in this tweed" continued.

-Let me assure you, that if you get accepted to this position, you will travel through the Arctic Ocean to Anchorage, then Taiwan, and then to the Antarctica research site on a real, no joke, nuclear powered Icebreaker. – All of the laughing stopped as soon as he was behind them. Now that he was finished the little comfort club members, not only dropped their smiles, but one of them – Volvo's – hands started to tremble.

-If you already know that this is not for you, there is no point in keeping you, and I'd like to bid you good day. – After seeing Volvo's hands he walked up to door saying this and gently opened it showing the little sheep that it was ok to leave.

The comfort club got up and left almost as if on que, but the rest of the candidates sat in their places resolutely. Only about a dozen of them left, but Macbeth had no intentions of stopping the eliminations and asked the following question.

-Do any of you got any questions? – With a smile back on his face he inquired politely, still at the door.

-How exactly reliable is that ship of yours? – One of the Japanese compacts piped up.

-After a little meltdown in the sixties, no problems. – Macbeth replied calmly.

This time it was the compacts that left almost as one. He shook their hands, thanked them for coming and now there were only ten of them left.

-Further questions? – Again he asked.

-You've mentioned sailing through the Arctic Ocean, what can we expect in terms of contact with our families throughout the journey? – This time the question came from the Fords. Understandably, family was a big deal when you're a dad, hence no wonder it came from that section.

-As soon as you're out of the Bearing's straight you'll have a constant satellite communication with whomever you like. Until then the company that we're signed with does not provide the signal cover needed for radio or satellite contact. – He replied with a sad smile on his face. Knowing full well what it'd cost the men in front of him to part ways with their families, it was a given that it'd be a condition "sine qua non" for some of them.

-How long will that part of the journey last for? – Asked the other Ford from the Dad club.

-It is impossible to foresee, but given previous experiences it could be between a month and if the weather gets really bad, then you'd clear the straight next year. If that's something that you just cannot do, I understand and wish you luck someplace else. – He replied, his voice full of compassion.

Some of them just got up, shook his hand and left. Others needed a moment to think this through but still, ended up leaving. He thanked them all for coming, shook hands promised to contact them if anything changed. And then, there were three.

-Gentlemen! Now that there is only three of you left, please take back your car keys, you no longer need them. We'll be getting to know each other a little better in a while… But I believe that I promised this gentleman a dinner. Isn't that so? – He asked smiling, seeing for a split second that the guy's car key was that of a Saab.

-Yes, sir. That is correct. -Came the reply from the Saab. As every candidate looked more or less the same at this meeting, same somewhat tall build, dark hair, same sheep like expressions and so on, and so forth. This guy had a little, almost unperceptive, smile on his face.

-Splendid. So, if that'd not be a problem I propose a change of venue. Let's all have something to eat in the cafeteria at the company expense. After we return, we'll have a little test, and a final decision will be made after that. - He stated, walked up to the door and led his little flock to the cafeteria.

The cafeteria was set in an expansive room with windows on one side and the kitchens on the other. The place was divided by a line of glass food cabinets, and tables with breakfast stations. Walls matched the stone floor and were painted in white. Throughout the room there were wooden tables and chairs aligned in symmetrical lines. White cloth covered the tables, currently empty except for napkins and salt and pepper dispensers.

After they had all sat down at a table for four in the corner of the cafeteria, he pulled out of his briefcase three identical Samsung's Virtual Reality headsets. He then handed them out to the candidates. Dressed in a navy blue suit owner of a BMW got a blue one. Dressed in a light grey suit owner of a Vauxhall got a silver one. Last but not least the owner of the Saab, dressed in a charcoal suit got a black one.

-This is your warm up for the test. As you'll be operating in hybrid reality on your contract, throughout the assignment you must be able to perform your duties with these on. For now, put them on and finish your meal. Please activate them and begin. – The shepherd ordered his sheep, and the sheep let themselves be herded around without complaint.

After everyone ordered, Macbeth had a few laughs as the candidates adjusted to their new reality. Understandably, there were some difficulties as it's not as if everyday one does have to relearn table manners. Soon though everyone adjusted and the rest of their meal passed in relative silence. After a while they came back to the conference room and as they entered eleven o'clock struck.

-Before you sit back at your places, put the boxes from underneath the table on top of it. Inside you'll find parts for the server unit. First one to get his server to the post screen gets the job. You may commence as soon as you lunch the Indianapolis app on your VR headset. Using your head movements you'll be controlling remotely a real life car that is currently at the start line of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You mustn't crash it. Ready? Begin!

– And they were off. Each of them fiddled about with the side of their headsets, before running to the other side of the table and unpacking the boxes with computer parts. Meanwhile Macbeth leisurely took his place at the head of the table, unpacked his laptop and opened the video stream from the track.

All three cars were already in motion by the time the stream loaded. They drove slowly at first but Macbeth set a protocol of minimum speed to kick in in a minute. Every minute the cars would be picking up speed 5 miles each time.

It looked kind of funny 3 men working assembling computers dressed in suits, constantly tilting their head at an angle. Tilt. Back straight. Tilt. Straight again. Tilt. Again, and again, and again. Oh what fun, the only thing missing was a baa sound, but you can't have everything in life, now can you?

At this pace they've had enough fuel to drive for the next two hours. The cars would drive and drive and drive some more… And their drivers would shake the brains out of their heads by the time they're done.
Teehee, pip pip, cheerio.

Now, of course those people were no NASCAR drivers, knowing this the protocol was set to not to exceed 100 miles, they had a job to perform after all. Not to mention that it was pretty expensive to replace those cars, so if it were up to him, he'd rather not have to pay for them.

Once the ten minutes mark had passed all of the cars were doing fifty miles per hour. The guys had all of the parts out of the boxes, and Macbeth got up to get some coffee and a peek on how well they were doing.

The Blue worked the quickest and already had his power supply screwed in the case. Then there was the Grey who was fiddling about with the power supply. In last place was the Black having just opened the case.

Ten minutes later when he got back to the video feed, sipping on his coffee a curious thing started occurring. While Blue's and Grey's cars still adhered to the speed minimums, Black's started going faster and faster. It wasn't doing anywhere near the speeds of an actual race but it was getting there.

Not to mention that thanks to the others sticking to the flat portion of the track, Black, driving on the optimum raised part, his race line was free of other cars. He could use more of it take the bends wider then they could, enter and exit corners at higher speed than even the racing drivers. All of that without risking collision. And at much greater fuel consumption.

With greater fuel consumption he would run out of it faster. With an empty tank he wouldn't need to keep driving the car with his head. With a stopped car he could focus more on assembling the server. And with an assembled server faster than his competition he would win. That was a bold strategy Cotton, indeed, let's see if it pays out.

After another thirty minutes , the work of all of the candidates was progressing incredibly slowly. Ever since the protocol forced them to drive at an at least one hundred miles per hour all of them moved as if they had a too full plate of soup worried that they could spill it any second.

However, our boy Blackie almost caught up. Everyone was now installing the coolers, the Saab driver was on the first, the Vauxhall on the second and the Beamer was finishing the fourth. The gap between the candidates was now as narrow as just a minute of normal work, although under the circumstances this was anything but normal.

When the first hour of the unusual test had passed there has been a development. Blackie ran out of petrol. As an utter gentleman he parked the car in the pit lane and immediately after it stopped started meddling with his headset.

Curious, Macbeth pulled up on his screen a window that showed what the candidates were seeing on their VR machines. While Beamer and Vauxhall still raced in their cars, Saab Guy started downloading the software for his server.

Immediately his work speed increased. Not even five minutes had passed before he pulled ahead of both the Blue and the Silver. It looked like the guy had it in the bag and will be finished long before the other two. This of course just would not do. He still had no idea which of them was his target. To remedy this he began arguing in his head on what to do next.

-There needs to be something else that would set them apart. Surely. – The first voice argued. This voice we shall dub Ego.

-But on the other hand, do I really have to? Would it really be that much of a stretch to just hire all three of them and be done with it? Maybe it was best to pass the problem on, and just retire. – The second voice argued back. And this one will be called Super Ego.

-Focus. What do you really know of the target? – The voice of reason interjected. However, calling something "the voice of reason" is something that ain't nobody got time for, so instead it shall be known as Turbo Ego.

-His look obviously. – Turbo deadpanned.

-But they just seem so much alike, there is no way to tell which is the correct one. – Wailed Super.

-So, what else is there? What if the target was one of the people, that already left? – Ego asked thoughtfully.

-Bah. That's nonsense. The intel stated that the target was available, had no familial or work related obligations, and could be easily persuaded with money. It has to be one of them. – Turbo countered in a bored voice.

-What else then? – Asked ego hopelessly.

-Oh, come off it. You're not looking to kill someone, so you're not in danger of having an innocent death weighing on your soul. You're just deciding upon who out of these three will help you save the world from an immortal madman that loves being evil, doing evil, and probably also *doing* evil people.
– Snapped Turbo.

-I don't want a BMW driver shaping my psyche for the last twenty years, not to mention how dependable can a guy who buys cars to score chicks be when it comes to time travel? – Whined Super.

-It's not actual time travel and you know it. It's just access to sending messages to highly impressionable youth to an inch of his eyeballs twenty four seven, three hundred sixty five days a year for five years realistically, and twenty five years at the most. – Turbo drawled out.

-But what if he turns out to be a perv? – Ego asked worriedly.

-Are we in agreement than that it no longer matters which of them is the right one? – Super asked idly.

-Let's syke on them Cash Money Ranger. She'd find out if they're perverts or not. As long as they're not, I don't see a problem with letting the dice land where they will. – Turbo answered, still drawling out the words.

-I like that idea. Cash Money Ranger it is then. – Macbeth said to himself. Having finished playing around with ideas, his next course of action was to arrange 4 flight tickets to Glasgow, and get Ms. Ranger on the case…