Innovations Inc. is a small privately held company founded in 1987 by two close friends, Walter (Walt) MacKenzie and Paul Van Zandt. Walt handles the financial aspects of the company, directing day-to-day operations, and helping develop practical applications of the company’s research. Paul is the dreamer of the two, leading the research, setting objectives and direction, but has final say in all hiring decisions. In many ways, the two men seem to be polar opposites of each other, but their strengths reinforce one another, while compensating for the other’s weaknesses.
Innovations Inc sits off Lake Washington Blvd in Seattle Washington. The oldest original structure (nicknamed The Castle) is a huge chateauesque building built in 1903 by a magnate from America’s Industrial Revolution. It has cast-iron roof cresting and steeply pitched hipped roofs. Its stone walls are a mixture of French Renaissance and Gothic styles, and it has tall, elaborate brick chimneys. In the 1950s it was converted to a sanatorium. Innovations Inc purchased the mansion and surrounding land in 1989, outbidding a pair of brothers who had sought to convert the building into a brewery/hotel. The Castle houses the main offices, IT department, conference rooms, cafeteria, daycare center, and even a couple spartan apartments for visiting researchers. In 1991, they broke ground on the main industrial center of the facility, (nicknamed The Fortress) which was completed in 1992. The Fortress houses manufacturing equipment, a versatile machine shop, and high end equipment for experiments. A third building has been planned, but expansion is currently tied up due to legal wrangling for permits and tax breaks with city and state officials.
A job at Innovations is often the dream job for that individual. Good pay, great benefits, challenging and interesting work combine into an exciting atmosphere that help keep employees motivated. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by people who love what they do, and do it well to motivate one to also do their best. Benefits range from standard offerings (a comprehensive dental & medical package) to the indulgent (gourmet lunches and free snacks cooked daily) to fantastic (onsite daycare and afterschool program complete with pickup/dropoff services).Children of employees are guaranteed spots, and all available open slots in the afterschool program are raffled off to qualifying disadvantaged families in the community.
The company specializes in cutting edge scientific research in multiple disciplines, patenting those ideas and processes, then spinning prototypes off into new startups or licensing the patents to other companies. Currently, over 85% of the companies income comes from outside sources and investments. The company directors are always on the lookout for the next big idea, developing it until its robust, and leaving it for others to try to ramp them up for large scale production.
But all is not rosy for the company, as the last six months have been a difficult period for the team. Bad publicity and misfortune have formed a cloud over the company that everyone is working hard to overcome. Paul Van Zandt was rumored in the press to have had an “improper sexual relationship” with Amy Heseltine, a senior researcher at the company. The unsubstantiated rumors were denied by both Amy and Paul, who believe they were spread by Amy’s ex-husband during their divorce. Regardless, the press had a field day (especially after finding out about the upstairs apartments in the Castle).
Four members of the Life Sciences division became violently ill with flu-like symptoms after one experiment failed. Faulty equipment that leaked an airborne fungus was blamed.The IT department has seen several coordinated cyber attacks. They were persistent for a period of two weeks, but then stopped abruptly.
One of the key researchers in the physics lab, Dr. Hui Leung hung himself during a 2 week vacation in Hawaii, which was a complete shock to his co-workers. His suicide left much of the research on erratic superstring particles in complete disarray. Even worse, 2 weeks later a competitor, Quantum Dynamix, published findings disputing much of what he’d been working on. Saddened, the team at Innovations put Leung’s research in storage. Two months ago at the APEX Expo, Quantum Dynamix unveiled a new power conversion regulator that operates on the very principles Dr. Leung was researching and that they had disputed earlier.
If the internal turmoil wasn’t bad enough, recently different groups have been picketing and leading demonstrations outside the company grounds. They are a mixed, motley bunch; some seemed to be protesting the environmental impact and dangers of chemicals and equipment kept on the premises. Others are protesting the research on religious grounds as “seeking to look beyond the veil to see what only God should see.” A third group seemed to be more politically minded, claiming that MacKenzie and Van Zandt have been influencing local elections through large political contributions, which they deny, or are just protesting ‘big business’ in general. In a move usually more humorous then threatening, a fourth group has begun protesting the protestors. And of course, the media covering it all ensures that it will remain a top headline.
After some property damage and graffiti, Walt MacKenzie pushed for increased security and safety onsite. Paul agreed, allowing Walt free reign on hiring the team. The security personnel include several with military backgrounds; all carry tasers and pepper spray, and it even includes a group of 6 highly trained guard dogs. Some whisper that Walt is getting paranoid, others think he’s right to be worried and is only safety conscious.