“I’d like to preview the product,” Ashlan said, “before buying it.”
“Naturally,” Connor said. He placed a flash drive in a port on his laptop and called up the media viewer.
Ashlan leaned forward as images of documents appeared on the screen. The scene was misty at the edges, but the words on the pages were clear enough. Ashlan took special note of the dates on the pages, which were two years in the future.
The view pulled back to show a meeting room with several men sitting around a conference table. Some of them were familiar to Ashlan, especially the one whose lips were moving.
“Why can’t I hear him?” Ashlan asked.
“I have the sound muted,” Connor said. “When you make the purchase, you’ll be able to hear everything clearly.”
Ashlan’s eyes darted to a number of small devices the men were looking at. They were nearly identical, but some differences in size and appearance were evident.
Connor stopped the playback. “I think that’s enough.”
Ashlan set his briefcase on the table. He began pulling stacks of money from it and piling them up in front of Connor. “There we are.”
Connor removed the flash drive from the computer and handed it to Ashlan. “Now you have all the details of what your primary competitor will be working on with its next generation smartphone. You should easily get the jump on them.”
“And you won’t be dealing with them, giving them information about my company, right?”
“We have an exclusive agreement, Mr. Ashlan.”
“Wonderful.” He pocketed the little drive. “I may return some time for information about other companies.”
“Yes,” Connor agreed. “You will.”
Ashlan laughed. “No need for me to make an appointment, then. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Mr. Ashlan. Good day.”
Connor set the pile of money in a laundry basket; it would be safe enough there, he knew. It was a pittance compared to the money Ashlan and his company would make with Connor’s help, but it was more than Connor at his wildest would spend in fifty years. Ashlan expected important things to be expensive, so Connor obliged him.
Connor wasn’t concerned about committing industrial espionage. He knew that Ashlan wouldn’t be able to control the fruits of his success, and his company would be extinct in five years, leaving the field wide open for the competition.
He locked his apartment door and headed back to his bedroom. Like so many businessmen, Ashlan was an early riser; like so many young men without a time clock to punch, Connor was not.
Before crawling back into bed, Connor gave his grandmother’s crystal ball a fond pat. Grandmother had done well enough for herself using it to tell people’s fortunes. Connor had taken the family business an extra step; he had installed a USB port in the ball. Being able to download the future gave him a solid product to sell. It was much better than merely telling customers what lay behind the mists of time.