Stone Enterprises Headquarters, Los Angeles, California
14th of February, 2006
"Cardiomyopathy," echoed Eric Stone, sitting at his desk while on the phone to his doctor. He was due to turn fifty years old in two months.
"I'm afraid so, Eric," confirmed the voice on the other end of the call. "Mitochondrial myopathy to be specific. It's a genetic disease, so it may be what killed your grandfather. It's also why you've started to lose your hearing and managed to lose that extra weight so fast."
"Are there any treatments?" asked Eric, his voice dry.
"Due to the hereditary nature, I'm afraid not," revealed the doctor. "An embryo-based stem cell transplant is possible, but it has a low success rate, many hospitals won’t perform the procedure on moral grounds and getting the stem cells to even perform will be a challenge. I'm sorry Eric, but I'm afraid without a miracle there's nothing we can do."
"How long, then?" asked Eric, bowing his head into his free hand, ignoring the magnificent view from the twentieth floor of his building.
"It's hard to say, but with how advanced it is, maybe only a few months at best," continued the other voice on the line. "You're becoming increasingly more prone to suffering a crippling stroke. The odds of having a second, more severe, stroke after the first are also high. Again, I'm sorry Eric."
"It's okay doc, thanks for letting me know straight up," replied Eric, swiveling his chair around and hanging up his phone. With a sigh Eric glanced at his reflection in the desk's computer monitor, noting the gray that started to dominate portions of his dark hair, yet even wearing his reading glasses he felt he commanded a presence, wearing a suit with no tie, his collar spread wide. It wasn’t time, yet.
There was knock at the door, which stirred Eric momentarily out of his funk. "Come in," called Eric, pressing the button for the intercom. A moment later a woman, very attractive in spite of being older than Eric, entered the room while flashing him a smile. She was a sunny blond who had piercing blue eyes, clearly fit enough to still jog the three miles she claimed she did every morning. The woman's hair was full and luscious and showed no sign of gray; currently she was wearing a pink business dress with a black blouse on underneath. The woman’s name was Vivian Skye, and she'd worked for Eric ever since he'd starting working at Stone Enterprises, having been made a vice-president when he was twenty-two. Vivian, sometimes though rarely called V, had remained loyal to Eric for almost thirty years, something he greatly admired.
"Hello sir, I hope I'm not interrupting," offered Vivian as she came walking up with a clipboard. "I've just been working on the details for your wife's party, and I—" Vivian’s voice suddenly cut off as she froze in place. Vivian stood suspended, still as a statue, her mouth open while her left hand held the clipboard against the side of her body, but with the top portion leaning away. Vivian's right arm held a pen in its grip, the tip between her fingers, the top pointed towards her employer. She stared at Eric with an atypically unblinking gaze.
Vivian hadn't suddenly decided to become a living waxwork intentionally; it was the doing of Eric Stone, or more specifically his watch. Eric's grandfather, a decorated war veteran, had brought back an antique wristwatch from World War II, a watch that he'd given to Eric on his deathbed. The watch, Eric had eventually discovered, seemed to be magic: to be able to stop time with a press of the secondary plunger, one needed to set the minute hand. The primarily plunger, meanwhile, allowed Eric to freeze a person just by concentrating on them while he pressed it, which was useful when he just wanted that person to shut up for a while. The watch, seemingly gold, had been taking from a fallen Nazi officer in Italy. Neither Eric nor his grandfather knew where originally the watch had come from, but they had some suspicions. What came as a surprising wake-up was that both men had died fairly young; Eric's grandfather passing at fifty-eight and now he most likely at a little over fifty, if he was lucky. Knowing the watch's secret power, Eric now wondered if his use of it had caused his hereditary condition to accelerate, affecting his health earlier than one might expect.
Standing up from his chair, Eric took a moment to gaze out at the gulls that had been flying past his window, suspended in mid-flight. Even in his teenage years Eric had often used the watch to gain an edge, stealing money from his father's wealthy friends when he needed a little extra cash and checking out what the pretty girls had underneath their clothing. During one use of his watch at an art exhibit Eric had used his watch to really get a look at the young woman who became his wife, Ingrid Stone, then known as Ingrid Shaw. Now alone again with his thoughts, thanks to his trusty watch, Eric wondered more and more whether his reckless use of its magic was the reason he too would die young.
Wanting to push away the heavy thoughts, at least for a moment, Eric moved to stand in front of Vivian as she waited in timeless limbo, taking her in. Few women could age as well as she, Eric knew, his wife perhaps being the only exception. As he moved to stroke Vivian's full mane of silk-fine hair Eric couldn't resist leaning in and putting his mouth over hers, giving his co-worker yet another of the many frozen kisses he'd given her over the years. While Eric did love his wife, he wasn't above being a bit of a lecher, especially when a woman was frozen by his magic watch. In reality Eric had only stepped out of his marriage once, with a younger executive named Dayna, and now with cold mortality facing him Eric was regretting that dalliance.
"Thank you for standing by me," Eric whispered into Vivian's right ear before stepping away and heading back to his desk. Were his mind not elsewhere Eric may have gone further than just a kiss, but the wasn't the time. He pressed the plunger on the watch again.
"- think everything is in order, I just need final confirmation on the guest list," continued Vivian, unaware of the passion Eric had just shown her. "I currently have no members of the board of directors on the list, and oh, yes, I did get confirmation from Thelma Hait, she's eager to come."
"Good, Ingrid loves her," remarked Eric with a smile, trying to hide his newfound grief. "What about Senator Vanholt? I've been hoping to see him in a more social medium before trying to persuade him to push an agenda."
"I already confirmed with his people, his wife is coming too," revealed Vivian, nodding, tapping on the clipboard. "I've got a good mix of executives on here too. From Travel, I've got Mero and of course Stein; from Drug Labs I've got Wallace and Tisdale-"
"Drop Wallace," declared Eric, shaking his head. "She's a good scientist but I don't want her getting any big ideas about moving up. Put in someone else from Drug Labs division."
"Well, there's Tisdale's assistant Hamilton and there's Richardson," continued Vivian, making a point to cross off Wallace's name. "Maybe go with Richardson to ensure you aren't favoring Tisdale? She might get the wrong idea otherwise."
"Tisdale is my first choice for the next VP of Drug Labs, but who knows when that position will open up, so we'll go with Richardson," decided Eric, silently swallowing hard as he did. Richardson’s first name was Dayna; aside from being a lab director with Stone Drug Labs, she was also his secret lover. Having Dayna at his wife's birthday party could become… complicated, but Eric hoped he'd be able to at last end their relationship there without it becoming a scene.
"Textiles is still sending Rothchild and Jessup, and sadly neither Foster or McBride can make it, though they have promised to send a representative," carried on Vivian, frowning a bit at the last part.
"Let them know not to bother with the rep, but I do want to see Levy as soon as he's free," revealed Eric, taking a moment to start his Newton’s Cradle. "Carol and Merilyn can still come, right? Ingrid will kill me if they don't show up."
"Yes, they're still on, and your daughter has confirmed for the fifth time as well," added Vivian, smiling. "Did you read her latest transcript? She's really doing well, Eric."
"Yes, I'm as proud of her as ever," noted Eric, smiling at the thought. "I really do enjoy that the press likes ripping into her social antics yet she's easily a genius. I mean, I would like it if she didn't draw quite so much media attention, but I was young and headstrong once as well."
"You still are," complimented Vivian, making a few final notes. "Do you want the limo here tomorrow right at five?"
"Of course, I'd like to be there to help greet the guests," pointed out Eric.
* * *
"It's beautiful, darling," breathed Ingrid, looking around the lobby of the mansion in Malibu they'd rented for the party. From upstairs, standing on a cantilevered landing near the master staircase that led down to the ground floor, the happy couple could see several guests mingling while the caterers circled among them with trays of drinks and food.
Off on one side of the room was a string band; almost all of them in tuxedos save for the few female musicians in elegant red dresses, all of them accompanying a Welsh songstress in a dazzling white satin dress. The singer was Karen Wilkins, a popular classical singer who'd taken that branch of the music industry by storm a couple of years ago despite being only in her twenties, netting television appearances in her native UK and, just in the past year, the US. Ingrid was a fan of the classics and Eric had arranged for the famous singer to appear in return for his introducing her to a couple of big name talent agents he knew.
"I love it," Ingrid sighed happily, looking at her husband and then giving him a big kiss. Ingrid was dressed to kill; their friend Zoe Hollander having personally helped design the dress she wore. The dress was a powerful ruby red and strapless, with the bodice held in place using a matching sash while the skirt was a bit frilly and coated with golden-yellow snowflake-like shapes, with a couple of smaller flakes running up the dress almost randomly. Ingrid's hair was permed straight and given a dramatic sweep to the right, her naturally dark-blond hair had been dyed to be lighter. Diamond accessories were sported, including three rings as well as her wedding one, plus a necklace worth more than Eric's Ferrari and a pair of earrings easily capable of buying a high-end BMW “M”. Ingrid's shoes and lipstick shade matched her dress; her footwear was designer heels. Eric, meanwhile, had his hair parted down the middle and was wearing a classic tuxedo, complete with a red cummerbund and a red rose in his lapel.
"I'm happy, too, and for you," whispered Eric, returning the kiss before she put her arm around his and they began to descend. At the bottom of the stairs were Carol Wilford and Merilyn Kent, two of their closest friends. The fair-skinned Merilyn was wearing a purple dress, a more traditional gown that wasn't low-cut at all; her hair was styled straight like her friend's but parted down the middle, almost giving her a nun-like vibe. Carol meanwhile was resplendent in black; her dress dipped low on the back and front but nonetheless maintaining some modesty while her hair was done up in a French twist. Eric always liked seeing these women; their husbands were also friends of his but far busier than he. Carol's husband was the CEO of a talent agency while Merilyn's was a private physician. Nearby stood Vivian, dressed like she was the day before but with a white rose in her lapel. Eric knew Vivian had at least eight almost-identical pink business dresses, that being her favorite color, and only occasionally did she wear another kind of blouse, her hairstyle also rarely changed.
"Girls!" called Ingrid, practically rushing over to meet her friends while Eric hung back, scoping out the party. Vivian was approaching Eric, as expected, while Karen was finishing up her current song. Not far away was another good-looking couple, the man in a navy-colored suit with a red power tie while the wife was wearing a right-favoring angled off-shoulder strapless dress; she was a brunette who was quite attractive. The man had gray hair but appeared to be in great physical shape; Eric knew he was Senator Cyrus Vanholt, making the woman his wife Katrina. Past Cyrus was Eric's daughter Erika, surprisingly wearing a tailored business dress rather than just a dress but a stylishly red one with a white blouse underneath, her hair styled in a Dutch braid. Erika was talking with Eric's family assistant and personal travel agent Monica Stein, the short dark-haired woman in a gray business dress and a black blouse, with her hair parted to the left and pushed behind that ear. There were many more guests, including some in connecting rooms, but at the moment these were all Eric cared about.
"Hello Mr. Stone, while your wife is occupied would you like to meet with the Senator?" asked Vivian, arriving in front of Eric as he took a glass of champagne from a passing caterer.
"Yes, it would be nice to see him for more than two seconds," agreed Eric, taking a sip before following his assistant. Cyrus was in his early forties and a fairly handsome man; he flashed a charming smile as Eric came up to shake his hand and then his wife's.
"Mr. Stone, good to be here," commented Cyrus as the men shook hands. "Quite the party you arranged for your wife."
"I settle for nothing but the best," replied Eric, moving on to Katrina.
"Katrina Vanholt, I work for West America," she introduced herself as Eric gently shook her hand. Eric had been briefed on both of them; Eric even aware that Cyrus had been accused a few months ago of embezzlement, though nothing was brought to light to warrant an investigation.
"Good bank," noted Eric, before returning to the Senator. "I can't thank you both enough for coming. It's nice to be able to meet with one of my state's distinguished federal representatives for more than a couple of seconds, let alone socially."
"Yes, at something like this, I'd have invited my daughter if I wasn't more concerned that she do well in school," remarked Cyrus, taking a sip of what appeared to be a high-end imported Pilsner beer. Eric recalled that Cyrus's daughter Alexandra, almost exclusively called Sandy, was about to graduate from high school and apparently was planning to attend UC Fullerton.
"Well, education is important," agreed Eric, nodding. "My daughter Erika's at UCLA right now and is doing quite well, if you’ll allow me to brag a little. Her current GPA is a 4.19."
"That certainly shows up her critics," laughed Katrina, shaking her head. "I must say you've got quite the hard shell, Mr. Stone, given the media coverage your family gets."
"If a camera crew followed anyone's college-going daughter for a week they'd probably find scandalous imagery, but no one would care as long as those daughters weren't famous," shrugged Eric, knowing perfectly well that his daughter was actually fairly well-behaved, where it mattered. Merilyn's daughter had recently been sent to rehab for drug use and Carol's oldest child, a seventeen year old boy, was facing possible expulsion after attacking a teacher, though in his favor there were suggestions that the teacher in question had been up to something less than honorable himself. Erika's occasional drunken hijinks were fairly tame by comparison; plus nearly every incident she had been involved in, there was someone else doing the most outrageous thing.
"So very true," agreed Cyrus with a knowing smirk. "Well, you have a lot of people to greet so don't let us keep you, but I would like to make a toast later if I can."
"Of course, Senator," nodded Eric before moving away, shaking hands once more before that. Pleased with the simple meeting, it was Eric's hope to get to speak with the Senator again before the night was out, but the party was still young and there were many others to meet. Focusing on his daughter, Eric walked over to join Erika and Monica.
"Hi daddy!" greeted Erika, giving her father a big hug.
"Good evening Eric," offered Monica with a nod as Eric returned his daughter's embrace, holding on a bit longer than usual. Monica and Vivian were a part of a select group of his employees that could get away with speaking to him so informally; while Eric did like forming friendships with employees, he did want to maintain certain boundaries. Monica however had been with him more or less since she'd started at Stone Travel and was practically a childhood friend of Erika's in spite of the small age gap; Vivian was more of an aunt to Erika than a friend.
"Good to see you both, especially you my little Rika," remarked Eric with a smile, using his pet name for his daughter. "I saw your transcripts. You're up to 4.19! Quite the performance."
"Don't be so coy, papa, you know I was at 4.23 before that," frowned Erika, having initially smiled at the use of her special nickname. Not even Ingrid called their daughter Rika. Erika in turn liked to call Eric 'papa' when she thought he was building up to a lecture of some kind, though 'daddy' was what she usually went with. They were slightly immature designations but Eric didn't mind, happy that in spite of his not being the most attentive father, Erika still considered herself his little girl.
"Sweetheart, you could get a 3.5 and I'd still be happy," Eric assured his daughter, patting her shoulder. "It was good of you to come tonight. Your mother does enjoy seeing you."
"I know, I just..." trailed off Erika, glancing over at her mother while she talked animatedly with her best friends. Eric followed the gaze and nodded knowingly, Carol and Merilyn had almost always been her first priority in Ingrid's social circle, even over Erika and sometimes Eric himself.
"You know she starts by line of sight," pointed out Eric with a grin, getting Erika to smile again. "And Monica, we haven't spoken in a few days. Are things going well with you?"
"Yes I just set up your arrangements for Berlin, I've booked you for three nights in the Radisson Blau Hotel," confirmed Monica, pulling out her Blackberry to confirm. "Your favorite pilot Yosuf is on it and I'm just working out the cabin crew now."
"Christina and Suzette I think," offered Eric, promptly snatching the smart-phone away from his employee. "But you can worry about that later! For now, enjoy yourself! And by are things going well, I meant did that steam shower get installed alright?"
"Right," nodded Monica somewhat nervously before smiling. "Yes, I tried it this morning. It was wonderful."
"I told you it was a good investment," smiled Eric, handing his travel agent back her phone. "Turn that off until after you go home and have a drink! I'll see you both later."
"Have fun!" called Erika as she tried not to laugh, promptly doing so a moment later with Monica. Eric tried not to beam too much as he glanced inside one of the side rooms, at which point he nearly lost his smile completely. Patricia Mero, the current head of Stone Travel, was there, her pale blond tresses lusciously framing her gorgeous face while she was dressed in black fur, something a woman with her class would appreciate. If not for the fact that she could become CEO of Stone Enterprises if Eric died or retired before his time, he may have had an affair with her instead of the other lovely woman who was also in the room. Dayna Richardson, a blue-eyed brunette, was dressed surprisingly conservatively with her hair pulled back in a tight bun and her wire-frame reading glasses over her eyes, her outfit was a dark-navy business dress with a white blouse, though unusually Dayna was wearing sexy fishnet stockings and taller than usual heels, for reasons Eric was afraid he knew.
"Hello Mr. Stone," Patricia Mero suddenly greeted, having stepped away from the two women she'd been talking with. Studying the pair, Eric knew they were Darcy Keibler and Canella Kim, Patricia's personal assistant and chief of staff respectively. Eric didn't know much about either woman other than he'd been meaning to check them out more closely when he stopped time next, but had yet to take the opportunity.
"Hello Patricia; thank you for coming," offered Eric, a bit distracted as he was hoping to pull Dayna aside. There was a private room next to the main one they were currently in that would be the ideal place for him to deal with Dayna, but Patricia was now preventing him from getting to her.
"I can't thank you enough for the invitation," gushed Patricia, clearly trying to score some brown-nose points, not that she needed them. "I really feel honored to be considered one of your privileged employees. This really means the world to me, being here for such an occasion."
"Well, you were an early success story, nabbing high-profile clients like Judy Robertson and Tonya Cash where others had failed," pointed out Eric, shifting a little as he kept eying Dayna to his left. "Since becoming head of Travel you've managed to, if you'll pardon the expression, use great marketing synergy to help Drug Labs as well. I can't believe no one else had thought to sell our drugs out of our travel hubs."
"We need to use every resource we have to achieve our full potential," declared Patricia proudly, though not arrogantly so. Eric had always liked Patricia for being bold and ambitious, constantly looking for perfection. For her first year as the head of Stone Travel, Patricia had put in some serious work, constantly coming up with ideas on her weekends while netting her two cherished employees some good overtime wages. Eric wasn't a fan of forced overtime, but Patricia's aides seemed to enjoy it and it had yielded great results, with sales for Drug Labs going up twenty-percent while Travel's revenue had seen a twelve-percent spike. Patricia's only real flaws, as near as Eric could tell, were her constant desire to kiss up to her superiors even when it wasn't necessary and her not being entirely humble when praised.
"Yes, now if you'll excuse me for a moment, I see someone I need to speak with," nodded Eric, stepping away. Dayna was alone; in fact the only other people in the room were Patricia's people and a caterer who was taking Dayna's order. Had Patricia not relented, Eric might have frozen her right there and then.
"Hello Mr-" began Dayna formally, but with a smile, as Eric came up beside her, but she was cut off as Eric quickly pulled her forward and headed into the side room with her, closing the door behind them.
"We need to talk," declared Eric. As soon as the door was shut, he promptly stopped time with his watch, which he liked to call the Tempus Watch, while holding onto Dayna. Time stopped all around the pair but they remained free to move, with Dayna's connection to Eric shielding her. The room the pair found themselves in had stained wood panels, all of them oak, an unused desk that matched the walls and a queen-sized bed. When Eric had rented the mansion for the party he'd been told this suite was meant to be quarters for a butler or maid.
"Really Eric, just talk?" asked Dayna slyly, turning around and talking off her glasses while simultaneously letting down her hair. Eric knew the tactic was a cliché, but he was being sold as the scientist's wave-like hair spilled down onto her shoulders and her eyes practically glittered in his face. "That door locks, right?"
"Already done," lied Eric, not about to share his magical secret with his lover. "Lets make it quick though, we've only got about an hour at most."
"Aw, good thing I came prepared," cooed Dayna, somehow removing her skirt, blouse and jacket all with two quick gestures to reveal a tight black leather outfit under her clothes to go with her fishnets, something Eric had always been partial to. Eric's tuxedo was off almost as fast as Dayna's clothes as they began kissing passionately while heading for the bed. Eric wasn't proud of his actions, but he wasn't strong enough to ignore his basic instincts.
* * *
Thirty minutes later Eric and Dayna were breathing heavily underneath the fine cotton sheets the bed possessed, both fully naked save for Eric and his watch. Eric's left arm was in fact under Dayna and she turned to look at him. "You naughty boy, sleeping with me at your wife's birthday party," chided Dayna with a glimmer in her eye.
"I wanted to show you that I do value you," explained Eric, his face serious. "As well as how hard it is for me to… end this."
"Wait, end this! Us?" exclaimed Dayna, sitting up in surprise, the sheets falling away to reveal her well-groomed body with no visible hair anywhere other than on her head. "I thought this meant..."
"I do care about you Dayna, but I value my family too much to go any further," confessed Eric, getting out of bed while still in the buff. "I can't keep this charade up either. It isn't fair to you."
"You know what else isn't fair to me?" spat back Dayna angrily, "Sleeping with me for months and then ending it after getting a crisis of faith! You weren’t so conflicted ten minutes ago…"
"This is happening Dayna; please try to understand," insisted Eric, trying to be gentle.
"The hell this is happening!" yelled Dayna as she got off of the bed and moved to stand in front of Eric. "If you don't promise to leave your wife for me right now, I'll keep screaming and happily go out and tell everyone what just happened! I didn't come on to you before just hoping for a fling!"
"I know; you also wanted my money," noted Eric. "As long as you're being honest, have you really been enjoying yourself during our time together?"
"I can't say I've had better, but there are probably better lays out there," declared Dayna, indignant. "Fine, I'll make it easier for you: either pay me off, and I mean big time, leave your wife, or have me cause a scene. A very… public… scene. Your choice."
"So that's how it is," sighed Eric, shaking his head. "Fine; I've made my choice." Dayna seemed ready to ask another question but Eric cut her off, using his Tempus Watch to freeze her on the spot. Dayna stood rigid with her hands on her hips, a confident smile on her lips with her head turned slightly to the right, her hair spilling down over her head. She was beautiful, he had to give her that.
"Well, might as well check out the party before I deal with you," mused Eric, clapping his hands together before stepping out the bedroom door.
As time was still frozen, Eric’s being naked didn't so much as get the bat of an eye. Patricia and her aides were both fixed in place while taking red wine glasses from a caterer whose eyes seemed a bit wide, Eric guessing the young man was excited to be near three gorgeous women. While wanting to fool around with Patricia and her underlings Eric was also keen to explore another woman who was at the party and stepped out of the main room, at least for the moment.
In the lobby Karen had apparently begun another song when Eric had first stopped time; her arms were outstretched with her mouth open, which admittedly looked a bit comical when she was frozen in such a position. Karen was attractive, but she wasn't who Eric had in mind. The string band accompanying Karen also didn't appeal to Eric, though he did note one cello player looked at least very cute. Ingrid was bumping arms with the Senator and his wife; Katrina's mouth was open while she gestured at Ingrid's outfit with her left hand, Ingrid meanwhile was standing like a model with her right hand on her hip and her left arm straight but swept back, a sparkling smile on her face. To Eric's amusement Cyrus was drinking his beer and seemed to be trying extra hard to not eye Ingrid. Katrina had caught Eric's eye, though in spite of being attractive she too wasn't whom he had in mind.
Carol, Merilyn, Vivian and Monica were all people Eric had fooled around with before while time was frozen, but in the second side room, one that had a frozen fireplace and a flat-screen television mounted above it as well as several couches, was Thelma Hait. The short Mexican film and occasional television actress had her hair up in a coiled ponytail while wearing a thin-strapped rose-colored dress with small white dots all over it; the outfit looked like the kind of dress a floozy might wear in a kinky Western flick. Thelma was frozen sitting upright in a red leather chair, her right leg crossed over her left while looking up and to her right at a man Eric didn't recognize, Eric assuming he was someone's plus one. Slipping past the man, Eric happily sat down on Thelma's lap, his groin pressing against hers as he turned her smiling face to face his. "I can't believe it has taken us almost a year to be together like this," whispered Eric as he leaned in and began passionately kissing the actress. Almost a year ago Patricia had managed to sign Thelma as a client of Stone Travel and she'd soon after agreed to do commercials, even befriending Ingrid. Unfortunately Eric hadn't found the right opportunity to go after her, even when he could stop time, but now he was free.
Deciding to not move Thelma too much, Eric instead reached up under her dress and pulled down what turned out to be fairly mundane black silk panties, a bit bulky to be there purely for aesthetics, so most likely they were just her preferred kind of underwear. With Thelma's panties down Eric positioned himself appropriately and actually didn't find it too hard to get into things, burying his face in Thelma's cleavage enough to get him excited. Nonetheless, given that he'd slept with Dayna not too long ago it took him nearly twenty minutes to be satisfied and then return the actress to how she'd been before. "That's another one I can put on my list," remarked Eric, having kept track of the various famous women he'd slept with while time was frozen. After taking a quick peak down Thelma's dress just to properly look at her magnificent full breasts, Eric glanced around the room one last time before heading back.
* * *
It took Eric nearly twenty minutes to dress himself once again, putting on his tuxedo a quite intricate task, thanks to finicky buttons and an awkward bow tie. After dressing, Eric simply gazed at Dayna's lovely frozen form for another three minutes or so, considering what to do. Eric's watch could overlap its individual freezings, as it were, thus as long as he used it on someone within every two hours, the person would never unfreeze. Unfortunately, Eric had to sleep sometime so he needed to consider other methods to keep Dayna out of his hair for good, but he couldn't possibly condone violence against her. Finally Eric realized who one of his staff guests was and decided to speak to them about something they'd been working on before making a final decision. For now, Eric elected to just do an overlap on Dayna, which was his term for it, before stepping out of the room, making sure to lock the door behind him. She’d keep for the next two hours; plenty of time.
After emerging from the side bedroom, Eric unfroze time and noted Patricia was eying him, no doubt eager to try to brown-nose a bit more. "Please, enjoy yourselves," Eric told the head of Stone Travel glibly as he passed by her, also nodding at her two aides.
"Hello darling!" called Ingrid, practically gliding towards her husband as he returned to the lobby. "I just spoke with the Senator, he's a delight! We have to have dinner with the Vanholts at some point."
"That sounds lovely," agreed Eric, giving his wife a kiss on the lips and nodding at Cyrus as they embraced. The Senator had a somewhat bemused look on his face but nevertheless raised his glass slightly, Eric smiled back. "By the way dear, have you seen Ashley Tisdale?"
"I forget who she is," admitted Ingrid. "Good name though; is she an actress?"
"Doctor Tisdale is the assistant head of Stone Drug Labs," explained Eric, glancing around the room. "I was going to let you meet your guests a bit more while I get a quick update on something from her. I don't plan to get too much into work talk, but she is on the verge of quite the breakthrough."
"Don't worry, we both knew this party would be as much about business as fun," Ingrid assured her husband. "You managed to get a favorite singer and actress of mine to show up to entertain us; I think you can afford to spend a few minutes away from me talking about something important. I will have to meet her now though, with a name like that..."
"I won't be long," Eric promised his wife, giving her another brief kiss before moving ahead. Having recalled seeing a dark-haired woman in the room with Thelma Hait, Eric headed back that way. Sure enough, off in the corner was the petite scientist, dressed in a brown leather jacket but sporting a fairly nice red dress underneath, her hair flowing loose but featuring bangs along the top. Eric moved to join the woman, who was looking out of the window while drinking a martini, only to get a nod from Thelma Hait.
"Excellent party, Eric," remarked the actress with a smile, Eric returned it with a nod, though not for reasons she might have realized.
"Ah, Mr. Stone!" exclaimed Ashley in surprise, seeing her CEO approach. "Thank you so much for the invitation!"
"It was nothing, given what you've done for us, you deserve it," insisted Eric, taking a glass of red wine as a caterer walked by. "I've been meaning to ask you about your current project, the one you and your assistant are working on..."
"The Type-7 Sedative?" asked Ashley, nodding with enthusiasm. "Well, it will probably be six months before we can get permission to test it on anything, even a rat, never mind a human. Our second batch has proved somewhat viable though."
"What's the trouble?" questioned Eric, a business specialist but still decently fluent in medical science and terminology.
"Well, the cells we tested the drug on didn't react to small doses, and the precise stoichiometric duration curve showed promise, but..." explained Ashley, trailing off for a moment. "The drug isn't lethal, don't misunderstand me. It's doing exactly what it has been designed to do, the difficulty with the current formulation is that it just isn’t naturally neutralized. An external antidote is required."
"So, in theory, if tested on a person the Type-7 would put them into the required coma-like state but you wouldn't be able to get them out of it?" confirmed Eric, raising an eyebrow.
"Effectively," admitted Ashley, a bit sheepish. "We always knew it was a possibility if someone was overdosed, but there's effectively almost no line between an overdose and a successful dose. The person would either end up fine or be turned into a human mannequin."
"Sounds like some kind of diabolical weapon a cartoon villain might use instead of lethal force," mused Eric, nodding. "You're sure you could develop the counter-agent though? Or make the drug be naturally metabolized and pass through the body over time with the right dosage?"
"Absolutely, but we are delving into something that other scientists would dismiss as science fiction," noted Ashley. "The idea of stasis – true suspended animation – does have a basis in reality, and we're on the verge of being able to induce it at will. Just not reverse the stasis. Yet."
* * *
Eric Stone was exhausted but his plan was now set in motion, meaning he wouldn't need to continue drinking coffee every two hours for much longer. After learning about Type-7's current status Eric weighed his options and, while not proud of it, elected to employ the experimental drug on a very specific test subject. It wasn't violent, but Eric was potentially going to be turning Dayna Richardson into a human statue for the foreseeable future; he knew some people would be uncomfortable with that, but luckily this usage was more or less his own little secret. Dayna wouldn’t be telling anyone.
The party had gone well, if long, but Ingrid had been up for some love-making after the festivities had ended, Eric was forced to add his wife to the list of people he’d keep frozen every two hours using the watch. Luckily after the second time Eric had remembered they had some high-strength sleeping pills from back when he'd needed them due to insomnia, thus soon Ingrid was asleep. Eric had considered using one on Dayna as well but didn't trust it to work.
Now at Stone Drug Labs the next day, Eric was exhausted but luckily coffee and determination were keeping him awake. The lab was what people would expect: a lot of rooms with windows instead of walls where inside people primarily in lab coats used scientific equipment to study all kinds of chemicals and other such phenomena. The guards outside didn't even bat an eye when Eric walked in, looking a bit frazzled but still wearing an expensive Armani suit. Eric's plan was to get to Ashley's lab, where she'd be working on Type-7, stop time, steal a sample and be out and back home before he'd need to overlap Dayna again.
"Mr. Stone!" came a surprise voice, Eric nearly jumped as he stopped in an intersection between two different labs. Turning, Eric saw the speaker was indeed Amelia Wallace, the head of the division. Wallace was a brilliant scientist, no question, having found creative uses for drugs many thought would be useless. While a competent scientist, however, Amelia lacked the business knowledge to make a viable candidate for CEO, should Eric die before Erika was ready to take over. In spite of her lack of wisdom, Amelia was still popular with the board, which would be a problem if Eric wanted his preference to be chosen instead.
"Hello Dr. Wallace," greeted Eric formally, admiring the woman as she approached. Amelia, much like her main rival for CEO Patricia Mero, was an attractive blond getting close to forty years of age. Amelia's hair had quite a bit of body and she possessed some cat-like facial features but nonetheless looked fairly good, even in her white lab coat.
"You'll have to pardon my abruptness, but I know your time is valuable," offered Amelia, apologetic in spite of clearly being angry, or at least annoyed. "Last year you invited your top people to your wife's birthday, in spite of the party being in San Francisco, and I was on the list then. This year I wasn't but Dayna Richardson was? Was it just a gesture to a potential future leader of our lab division or am I caught in some kind of corporate political shell game?"
"That was rather abrupt, but I do value your opinion in times like these," remarked Eric, glancing at his watch. "Allow me explain..." The explanation never came, for just then Eric froze time once again, also instinctively overlapping Dayna back at the rented mansion in spite of doing so just a few minutes ago. Amelia stood frozen on the spot, her arms crossed and a serious if not overly angry look in her eyes.
"Well since my explanation doesn't matter now, I'll just say time is relative," laughed Eric as he walked away, welcoming the silence around him as he passed a couple of immobilized research assistants, they like everyone else dressed in lab coats.
Ashley Tisdale's lab was fortunately not locked down, the chemicals she was working with dangerous but not the kind that could cause some sort of virus outbreak. Eric smiled as he opened the glass door and entered the lab, noting both Ashley and her assistant Mary Hamilton. Ashley had her hair up in a French twist and stood frozen while leaning over a table covered with beakers and test tubes, most of them covered and having big labels on all of them. Nearby was Ashley's assistant Mary Hamilton, yet another attractive scientist with fairly large breasts, who was holding up a microscope slide to the light with both hands, her reddish-brown hair in a looped ponytail.
"I swear nearly half of my staff here is at least attractive enough to be on television, if not a model," mused Eric. Mary was dressed down a bit, wearing blue scrubs since, when working with chemicals, they were cheap and disposable. Glancing over the table, Eric saw one of the test tubes he'd come for, as it was clearly labeled 'Type-7 815' With a small smirk Eric produced a capped test tube of his own and replaced it with the labeled one, then transferred the label. Both liquids were clear but only one was the drug, the other being simply water. Eric considered just taking the drug and going but after glancing at the two scientists again he elected to stay for a short time.
Letting Ashley's hair down, Eric then pivoted the scientist on her toes and leaned her against the table, getting in between her arms that still seemed to be resting on a flat surface. Under her lab coat Ashley was wearing a short black skirt, which Eric casually hiked up while kissing the scientist passionately, slightly shaking the table they were leaning against. With her skirt up, Eric next lowered Ashley's flowered panties and, after unzipping, was officially engaged in yet another round of time-stop sex, Eric figuring it to easily be the tenth time he'd gone at it with the scientist.
Eventually Eric stopped for a moment, worried about the table, and moved Ashley to the floor, spreading her arms out away from her body as he continued to thrust. It took another fifteen minutes by Eric's estimate to finish, by which time Ashley's dark blouse, which matched her skirt, had been opened, her flowered bra also pulled up above her breasts and her nipples erect. As Eric rose, breathing a bit hard, he was amused to note Ashley looked a bit like a starfish.
"Lets get you upright," remarked Eric, standing the scientist back up and, after thinking for a moment, carefully walking her over to stand behind Mary. Ashley's appearance was cleaned up, her underwear put back in position and her clothes re-adjusted, but Eric declined to put her hair back in the twist, instead wrapping the woman's arms around Mary's waist.
"Cute," smiled Eric, heading to leave.
* * *
"You're killing me Kelly, you know that, right?" groaned Levy Foster as he sat in his enormous office at Foster & McBride, noting that the papers his assistant Kelly Lloyd had just delivered to him were the wrong ones. Levy had helped create the law firm eight years ago with Hadrian McBride, his mentor in the legal world, only for his partner to retire abruptly last month and letting his daughter Kylie take over. Kylie, only thirty, was still fairly green at running a firm, making Levy the senior partner. As if having to suddenly run a firm single-handedly wasn't bad enough, his assistant was also brand-new and moderately incompetent, good on the phone and to look at but so-so at follow-up and sorting documents, leading to his current problem.
"Oh I'm sorry sir; I thought you said section V, not D," apologized Kelly, even doing a vaguely Japanese bow of shame. Fresh out of law school, Kelly was an attractive brunette, her hair just reaching the top of her shoulders but possessing curly tips. What Levy really liked about Kelly however was that she possessed light skin, which wasn't too common with women her age in Los Angeles, and also had a beauty-mark kind of mole on her right cheek. Levy's assistant was dressed professionally, sporting the classic black blazer and skirt with dark pantyhose, a white blouse on underneath.
"No need for that, just get the file," sighed Levy, holding his forehead with one hand while he gestured with the other. As his secretary/assistant left Levy took a moment to swivel in his chair and look at himself in the mirror. The balding man was dressed in a fine suit and due to turn forty in April, yet in spite of that and having an impressive list of clients he still felt like he was getting ulcers every day he went to work. This job was something he both loved and loathed simultaneously.
"Here it is!" exclaimed Kelly, beaming as she re-entered the office, holding the correct folder in her hands. As Kelly moved to place it on Levy's desk however she suddenly stopped, frozen in position with her right arm extended, the folder still in her grasp as it hovered over her boss's desk. Kelly held a soft smile on her face and was slightly bent at the waist, her right foot a bit forward as well with her hazel eyes firmly on the folder.
"Kelly?" asked Levy for a moment, then the truth dawning on him. "Ah, hello Eric!" called out the lawyer, standing up. Sure enough Levy's best client Eric Stone was standing in the doorway, wearing an even finer suit than he while leaning on the frame, his magic watch in full view.
"I must say, from this angle, your new assistant looks very... firm," quipped the billionaire as Levy moved to greet him with a brief man-hug. When Foster & McBride had first started, Levy had actively befriended Eric after meeting at his yacht club in Santa Monica, the two ending up close friends as well as lawyer and client. Five years ago Eric had revealed his magic watch to Levy, the lawyer was now more or less used to Eric using it to stop time to greet him.
"Yeah, she's something else, though she can be a headache at times," confirmed Levy, following Eric's gaze to look at Kelly's shapely motionless rear. "So what can I do for your today?"
"Unfortunately something that's probably going to make your day even worse," admitted Eric, indicating behind him. Turning around Levy glanced around his office where several people were also frozen, Kylie's secretary was even frozen while getting water from their cooler, the liquid suspended in mid-air like a gel. At first Levy didn't understand what Eric was trying to show but then he recognized the figure of Dayna Richardson, Eric's recent love-affair, who was now dressed in a red leather corset with fishnet stockings, platform heels and a black rider's whip taught between her hands. Dayna's hair was also styled unusually for her, combed back with spiked tips. She had a large grin on her face.
"Why is a respected Stone Enterprises scientist standing frozen in my law office while dressed as a dominatrix?" asked Levy, completely straight-faced.
"I tried to end it yesterday, and it went badly," confessed Eric, looking at Levy seriously. "She threatened to expose everything, Levy. I couldn't let that happen to Erika. Ingrid as well, but especially Erika. I may stray from my wife occasionally, but I would never let anyone hurt my daughter."
"So what exactly are you trying to do here?" questioned Levy, walking up close to Dayna with his arms crossed, inspecting her with curiosity. "Get her caught in a sex scandal so anything she says will be suspect? Nice touch with the hair, by the way."
"I'm almost certain she has hard evidence too," explained Eric, shaking his head. "I'm not proud of this Levy, and I hate to ask, but I need you to hide her for me."
"What do you mean, hide her?" inquired Levy, looking at his friend with confusion on his face.
"Ashley Tisdale, you remember her?" revealed Eric. "She's been working on this new sedative that induces a sort of biological stasis, like how it is when I freeze time, but chemically. I injected Dayna with a dose a couple of days ago. The drug is currently too powerful however and she won't come out of it, not without a special stimulant."
"So wait, she'll stay frozen like this long after you unfreeze time?" realized Levy. "So you've turned her into an S&M mannequin?"
"Exactly," confirmed Eric. "This way she can just disappear but we haven't really killed her and we can control when she comes back to life. I’m thinking we can just donate Dayna to the wax museum that Merilyn owns."
"The Fetish one in Malibu, right," nodded Levy, understanding, then noticing something else in the room. "Ah, I see you already have a shipping box ready and everything."
"Yes, I just wanted to make sure you saw her first, and knew the plan, rather than just my giving you a mystery package," explained Eric, looking at his friend seriously. "I need to know you'll be aware of her circumstances in case something happens to me."
"That's a big grim of you, isn't it?" asked Levy, surprised at Eric's words.
"I'm starting to worry somewhat about my health, what can I say?" shrugged Eric with a weak smile, not going into details.
Nodding, the lawyer concluded, “Okay, then, let’s get it done.” Levy inspected the costumed Dayna figure a bit more before putting his hands on her stiff shoulders. Eric then approached and got Dayna's feet, the two working together to lift her rigid body up and place it into the person-sized box. Already within the box was a circular metal stand that Dayna's red heels would slide into, acting as a sort of prop-up support that didn't require a pole.
"I'll close the box up and drop her off by the service elevator myself," confirmed Levy as the two men stepped back from the box. "You planning on keeping time frozen a bit longer?"
"I've still got an hour left, so with your permission I was going to inspect one of your employees a bit more closely," grinned Eric, indicating with a tip of his head a couple of attractive young women in a nearby office.
"Sure, but Kelly is mine," agreed Levy, the two men then shook their hands in agreement.
* * *
The Stone Enterprises board room was a bit sparsely furnished, with one giant walnut table for only twelve people including Eric, but the CEO didn't mind since it was located on the top floor of his headquarters in LA, which meant they had a great view of Beverly Hills in the near distance. The members of the board, mostly men, were all around Eric's age save for the chairman, Abraham Royce, who sat across from Eric giving him a steely gaze. "Why did you call this meeting, Eric?" asked Abe, dressed in golf clothes, thus giving away what his original plans for the day had been.
"Don't worry Abe, this is important," Eric assured the group, swallowing hard. “You can play your set tomorrow, right?” he said lightly, dreading the purpose for the emergency conclave. The night before Eric had confided to Ingrid what his doctor had told him a few days ago, with Vivian, Monica and Erika finding out shortly afterwards. Eric had also made a point to tell Levy the full truth before calling the meeting seeing as his former partner and mentor Hadrian was a member of the board as well, the only one older than Abe. Eric had luckily also gotten confirmation from Levy that Dayna Richardson’s immobilized figure had successfully been sent to the Fetishist Wax Museum in Malibu and was already on display, with no one seeming to as of yet notice that she was real.
"Well go on, don't keep us in the dark!" exclaimed Hadrian, who was wearing a tuxedo of all things, Eric having no idea why. The retired lawyer's outburst just made Eric hesitate a bit more as he stared at the man's head, wondering if he did have hair or if it was an elaborate toupee.
"I'm dying," confessed Eric, pausing while getting gasps of surprise from all around. "I have Cardiomyopathy, which means I may not have long to live. It is for this reason that I've called you all here. While it remains my wish for Erika to succeed me as CEO, she may not yet have the experience when my time comes. I've been told I have two years at best. For this reason I'd like to ask this board to nominate a potential interim CEO, one who will step up and hold the position when I’m gone, until the situation can be re-evaluated."
There was silence for a moment, as everyone digested the news. Abe, unsurprisingly, broke the silence. "It's good that you told us now, and I am sorry Eric," remarked the chairman, shifting uncomfortably and no doubt feeling some guilt over being so angry earlier. "I may as well ask at this point if you have any potential nominations in mind for your position?"
"Patricia Mero," declared Eric without hesitation, tapping the table for a moment to add emphasis. "She's done wonders for Stone Travel and even managed to boost Drug Labs via some creative internal synergy. That's the kind of thinking a Stone Enterprises CEO needs to have, and her strong business background is a big plus."
"A good thought, but don't forget about Amelia Wallace," chimed in Hadrian, glancing around the table. "While possessing a scientific background, she helped organize Drug Labs quite efficiently, slicing their expenses in half while not having to downsize. I think we can all agree that one fact alone is quite impressive."
"What about your wife?" asked Abe to Eric. "I know she's never really worked, but she does know quite a bit about the company."
"She's not interested or confident, though of course you can feel free to ask Ingrid yourself," shrugged Eric. "I will agree that Amelia is a good secondary nomination, but I still favor Patricia. I do think that only Amelia and Patricia at this time are the best choices from an in-house point of view, and I don’t want to bring in some outsider to run my company. Everyone else I can think of here is either too young or doesn't currently work for us."
“Or too old,” grunted Abe, hinting he might have been interested.
“With all due respect, sir, you’ve been there and done that, in a different era. I value your insights and experience, but my vision is of someone who can lead Stone Enterprises into the future.”
"Very well, we'll schedule presentations for next Friday, during which we'll hear what Patricia and Amelia have to say about the future of the company," decided Abe, nodding. "I don't think I need to tell you this Eric, but we'd prefer you weren't here for it. Best to let the board make the assessment."
"I understand," agreed Eric, nodding once more.
* * *
"You didn't need to go this far," remarked Levy Foster as he wandered into Eric Stone's living room, nonetheless admiring the scene. At the same time, the Stone Enterprises board was listening to the presentation from nominee Patricia Mero on how she'd best lead the company going forward. Amelia Wallace was supposed to be there to present as well, but the scientist was instead here at Eric's house, currently frozen and perched on a green-silk couch. Amelia was posed to be holding an empty martini glass to her lips with her right arm, her gaze vacant and staring straight ahead while her left hand was raised as if to call over a waiter. Amelia's hair was left loose around her head and she was dressed in a leopard-print nightie, her bare feet propped up on a stool. Eric was sitting next to Amelia in a red smoking jacket, with a white scarf underneath and a glass of brandy in his hand. Levy moved to pick up the bottle of brandy, which sat on a nearby coffee table, and poured himself a drink as well.
"I had to make sure she wouldn't be seen as the better candidate," revealed Eric, looking at Amelia's face for a moment and touching her with his free hand. "Patricia is the best choice, no question. Now the board will see that as well. I'm sure when its all said and done she'll be happy to work with Erika to move us even further into the future."
"You make it sound like time travel, though I guess it technically is," chuckled Levy, having a seat across from Eric on a blue-silk couch. Next to Levy sat Monica Stein, dressed in a purple tiger-striped nightie, heavily reclined with a silver bowl of popcorn on her chest, her right hand still holding one piece to her smiling open mouth. "They weren't both dressed like this when you froze them, were they?" asked Levy, inspecting the pair of human waxworks.
"No, I just figured I'd have a little fun creating a scene with them while I'm at home," admitted Eric, gesturing around. "Vivian's drafting some papers for me at the office but Ingrid was staying in today so I did need to handle her as well. Did you even notice?" he prodded with a smile.
Having clearly missed something, Levy turned around and then saw Eric’s wife was also present in the tableaux, dressed in a satin nightie. Ingrid had been frozen in mid-step with a warm and toothless smile on her face, her hair loose and her transparent wrap white with green clovers all over it. Ingrid was holding up two bottles, each by the neck, one gin and the other vermouth.
"At the risk of getting a look, your wife looks very sexy in that," declared Levy, getting a nod of approval from Eric before the two laughed a bit. A short silence followed, Levy then glancing back at the bowl on Monica's chest. "You put seasoning salt on these?" asked Levy, indicating the popcorn.
"Of course, they taste better that way," confirmed Eric, then taking a sip of brandy. "The board should finish voting in about an hour, then we can put Amelia back in her apartment."
"Maybe give her one of your sleeping pills so she thinks she just overslept all day?" suggested Levy, getting in close with Monica, sitting her upright before eating the piece of popcorn that she held in her hand without removing it before doing so.
"That's what I was planning," nodded Eric, laughing a bit. "You always did seem to think like me. For advisers, I need diversity, but with my lawyer, I always wanted one who could basically read my mind."
"I'm sorry to say I'm not entirely sure why I'm here," confessed Levy after licking Monica's stiff fingers clean of seasoning salt. "You've got your next CEO successor set up, your will is in order, and Dayna's been dealt with, what else is there? Your wife? Vivian? Something else for Erika?"
"My watch," revealed Eric, indicating the device on his wrist. "Levy, while this watch helped me make my father's company even greater, as well as letting me see more women naked than I'd ever thought possible, it is also quite possibly the reason I'm dying so soon. I can't risk doing that to Erika."
"So you don't want her to have it?" asked Levy, surprised. "What's your idea then? A magical artifact like this is too powerful to just destroy. For all we know that could have some kind of side effect if we did anything to damage the watch."
"I want to be buried with it," announced Eric. "You'll be the executor of my will. Make sure the Tempus Watch goes with me to my tomb. I can't risk anyone, even my daughter, ever using it again."
The End (of the beginning?)
Eric Stone - Kyle Maclachlan
Vivian Skye - Morgan Fairchild
Ingrid Stone - Kim Cattrall
Karen Wilkins - Katherine Jenkins
Carol Wilford - Melinda Clarke
Merilyn Kent - Julianne Moore
Cyrus Vanholt - John Slattery
Katrina Vanholt - Kelly Preston
Erika Stone - Hilarie Burton
Monica Stein - Shiri Appleby
Patricia Mero - Rena Mero
Dayna Richardson - Melora Hardin
Darcy Keibler - Stacy Keibler
Canella Kim - Gail Kim
Thelma Hait - Salma Hayek
Ashley Tisdale - Constance Zimmer
Amelia Wallace - Andrea Roth
Mary Hamilton - Sarah Lancaster
Levy Foster - David Cross
Kelly Lloyd - Sophia Bush
Abraham Royce - James Cromwell
William Shatner as Hadrian McBride