Chapter 23 & 24
The sun glinted brightly off the steel scaffolding and the tall spires of the oil exploration rig and reflected on the cool blue water of the South China Sea. Several men in distinctive yellow hardhats waited impatiently for the motorboat to discharge it passengers. As they came off the gangplank, two figures broke away from the main group and headed towards the hardhats.
One of the men waiting stepped forward to shake the hand of the new arrival, and introductions were made around.
“John, welcome to Ahmad Compliant Tower # 3.” After shaking hands, he turned to the other men clustered around the pair.
“This is John, our new petroleum geologist from America. He’s going to help us identify the best possible site to move the drilling rig.” John was an older gentleman, with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair. His jeans and red-checked shirt looked worn but comfortable, with a black swiss-style backpack across his back. Behind him was a young woman with nondescript short brown hair, dressed conservatively in a dark blue dress pant and suit. She carried a metal briefcase in one hand, a large duffel slung over her right shoulder. He gestured her forward.
“This is Ani. She’s in the final stages of her doctorate in geophysics and will be assisting me during this inspection.” She nodded towards the group, but didn’t say anything. “If you could show us where to stow our things, we can start the discussion soon after.”
A short time later, they were all grouped together in a large conference room, featuring a simple industrial table and metal chairs. The simple furniture was belied by the complex audiovisual equipment dominated the rear of the room. A series of colorful slides were projected on a wall.
John stood next to the screen, flipping through a binder placed on the podium in front of him.
“I have reviewed the mudlogger’s drill cutting and rock formations report, looked at the views of the seafloor for pockmarks, and checked the geophysical logs. I would recommend we perform our passive seismic and magnetic surveys in the area of Grid O-1c, and continue to Q-1d. The play in this area for hydrocarbons in place is approximately 50%, so it should be good for both oil- and gas accumulations. I would recommend our first gas drill here.” He pointed at a spot on the seafloor. A pleased murmur greeted the news, and, after a short question and answer period, the group dispersed, until there were only the two left.
The woman spoke for the first time, her voice an exotic mix of American and Samoan accents. “That went well, I think. I expect they’ll start with the drilling by the end of the week.” The older man nodded, scooped up the binder and neatly stored in into a leather portfolio, and the two of them headed for the conference room door.
“Ani, my dear, that’s what we’re counting on.”
(Author’s Note: A ‘mudlogger’ is someone who analyzes drilled cores. ‘Pockmarks’ are underwater craters caused by escaping gas. ‘Play’ is a particular combination of seven main aspects associated with proven hydrocarbon accumulations. The magnetic- and passive seismic surveys are used to detect large scale features of the sub-surface geology.)
As the second day of her new assignment progressed, Meaghan had a chance to meet her new co-workers. They were a chatty bunch, exuberant and friendly, and Meaghan felt comfortable with them. Like her, they were fans of Korean drama, and never ceased to talk about their favorite actors or idol stars.
The work of reviewing the reports, however, was more tedium than skill, requiring only a small part of her concentration. Part of her wanted to work more on the file from Ivoire, but she resisted the urge, wanting to leave it until she got home.
One name caught her eye as somewhat familiar; Chiang Mei Investments, a Shanghai-based company. Meaghan wondered where she had seen that company. It appeared to be a smaller organization, delving mostly into oil and petrochemical concerns, but the reason she remember it was frustratingly illusive.
She concentrated on following the lines of commerce, blocking out all other distractions until she felt a cool breath behind her as someone brushed her hair off her nape. She suddenly sat up, striking her head against something. She heard a grunt behind her and swiveled in her chair to see Rickie straightening up and rubbing his nose. She stared at him in surprise.
~ ~ ~
“It’s lunchtime,” he said sheepishly, “Everyone else has already headed out.” He didn’t include that he had waited for her to leave the office; when she didn’t show at the front door, he looked until he found her at her cubicle concentrating on the reports. He had been staring at her for a time before giving into the urge to touch her.
She looked at her watch, and then said, wonderingly, “That was almost two and a half hours.” As if realizing she was hungry, her stomach gave a loud growl. She blushed furiously, much to Rickie’s amusement.
“I’m meeting my sister at Bourbon’s; would like to come with me? She asked me to include you if you wanted to go.” Meaghan looked like she would refuse, but her stomach made another protesting noise. She nodded, and Rickie felt an answering smile bloom on his face, in spite of the lingering pain. He grabbed her wrists and pulled her out of the chair a little too strongly, causing her to collide with his chest.
For a moment, he felt her soft curves mold against his before she pushed him away. The sizzle in his nerve endings seemed to coalesce around his heart, making it beat erratically. He took a deep breath, turned, and said, “I’ll meet you at the front door when you’re ready.” Walking away was difficult, but both of them needed a moment.
~ ~ ~
Meaghan stared at his retreating back before sinking back down on her chair, her heartbeat loud in her ears. Her reaction to his nearness set off warning bells in her head, but her body still felt the hard planes of his chest. Numbly, she reached down to the bottom drawer, retrieved her bag, and followed him to the door. Wordlessly, she got into his SUV, buckling herself in before he could assist, and nothing more was said until they reached the pub.