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Meditator
March 22, 2024 Story loosely based on Headline animation script, about a newly-built mobile phone repeater tower on an apartment building roof, but adapted for use as a novel.  The story notes have been sorted into a timeline.
Make much of the fact that, in either the past or the future, main character Dennis would be thinking about the exact same things, making the same conclusions, looking for same possible personal gains, so could rely on that for fairly accurate guesses.  He convinces his work associates that he uses a form of meditation to predict probable share market price moves.  Meditating, he contacts nobody except himself, at two different times.  Events are so often things that haven’t yet happened, so he believes them to be near-future.  Whenever they seem likely to be true or surprising after the meditation ends, he researches them, and they often provide reason for profitable action.  They are not always true, but often enough to keep trying.  A different form of “inspiration” for significant trading clues.  Better if people think him a bit daft than suspect some illegal scam.
Following a technical discovery, he actually uses a system he calls “Hindsight” to send simple messages to himself, two days ago, and some would consider that illegal.  He worries that it’s at least unethical.  See below for a draft of an opening sequence, just introducing the two main characters.

Timeline:  To view the actual Timeline, see separate page here.

Story Start (Version #1):
1:  Plan Thirty
Like other countries, Australia’s main Stock Exchange was located in a major city, but there were stockbrokers in all towns and cities, connected online to the ASX in Sydney, and Dennis Gordon worked for an inner-city stockbroker firm in Brisbane.  Although his actual job description was Research Assistant, Dennis was essentially an industrial espionage agent.  Research for a stockbroking firm meant keeping a very close eye on all local firms listed on the Stock Exchange in which his employer’s many clients held shares in their investment portfolios.
The Share Market had essentially always been a huge global gambling market, sensitive to rumors.  There was a common public perception that the Share Market merely made rich people richer, and poor people poorer, so stockbrokers regarded public relations as important.  They tried to always present a squeaky-clean public image, and relied on their team of Research Assistants to quietly deal with market activities that might draw public criticism.  Sometimes Dennis’s research work entailed investigating a corporate body’s activities by digging a bit deeper than they found convenient, in ways that bordered on illegal.  Certainly listed companies often loudly claimed them to be illegal, although Dennis was always careful to avoid that.
All stockbrokers found this sort of research work essential, and all market-listed firms knew that they did – there was a type of competition between watchers and watched.  Vigorous rivalry between firms active in the same market sector often led to some firms deliberately leaking rumors to seed market speculation in their favor at the expense of another.  Quite wild share price fluctuations could happen at the slightest hint of unexpected market activities.
Dennis was very good at his investigation work, largely because he rarely stopped investigating.  Whether at work or at home, he was on duty, seeing the work as the single most important part of his life, because it paid generous dividends.  But he was very aware of the ethical and legal risks.  Actual company activities were often not what a company claimed, and company directorships, which changed with business diversification, commonly revealed second- or third-hand association with serving politicians.  There were well-established procedures for reporting officials with fingers in inappropriate pies, but there was a real risk of angry responses in those cases.  These potential market influences were what Dennis had become very good at detecting, along with probable implications.
The job definitely had its dangers, especially when political involvement was revealed, mostly legal backlash.  Dennis knew that several Research Assistants, from different stockbroker firms around the country, had been made Sacrificial Lambs after past shady investigations had been revealed.  Scapegoats, fall-guys, some even prosecuted and fined.  It was necessary to stay on the right side of the law – even if only marginally – and Dennis, now in his late twenties, had been careful for eight years, longer than most.
Research Assistants had, in general, a ‘bad name’.  They would never become official Stockbrokers.  That was a publicly-sensitive position, advising clients and often making bland, politically-neutral media statements about current market trends, so they could not afford to have a disreputable business history.  They kept their hands scrupulously clean, but needed accurate background information, so that various market-listed companies could, for reliable reasons, be represented to clients as good, neutral or bad investment choices.  Some market sectors were always turbulent, so these investment assessments were constantly changing.
Dennis was no longer worried about the poor reputation of Research Assistants, because he had slowly reached a decision about that.  He now regarded his job as a temporary measure.  When he reached the grand old age of thirty, he intended to retire from Stockbroker Research and probably just become a private investor, since share market trading was all he really knew, having been recruited straight out of College.  He was paid well, so he could afford a fairly comfortable lifestyle for a young man.
But the main reason was his own investment portfolio.  It had started off very modestly six years ago, as he became comfortable with share trading, but had grown in size over the years, and the realization that it could support him had grown, too.  It was ‘properly managed’ by his employer, but they kept a close eye on his buy or sell decisions, because he was so often right!  The healthy profit from his investment portfolio had made him a quite wealthy young man, although not in real terms.  Investments earned profits only while they remained investments.  Even dividend earnings were plowed back into the portfolio so it continued to grow.  He was wealthy ‘on paper’ but relied on his wage earnings for actual cash.
When Dennis picked up his mail in the late afternoon, it included a card from the Body Corporate for his apartment building explaining that a Telco wanted to build a mobile phone repeater tower on the roof to boost phone reception in this inner suburb, since the building was the tallest in the immediate area, and many people – including some apartment residents – had complained about poor phone reception.  Objections were invited, but rooftop towers, taking advantage of the height of the building, did not need to be large, so approval in principle had already been granted, and building progress was expected as soon as all consultations had been properly completed.
A new phone tower?  Whoopee!  I might get reasonable mobile reception at home at last!  But I bet there’ll be some residents who object, for stupid reasons.  Phone problems seem to follow me around!
At work, Dennis’s very expensive high-end mobile phone had recently developed some faults, and he had grumbled about that because he used it extensively for his investigations.  His cheap personal mobile phone did not have some of the online attributes that he used.  Whenever that arose, he had to use an office computer instead of his phone.  But the expensive phone was a company asset – supplied to all employees with a need for reliable connection – so his grumbles were taken seriously.  He was pleased to be described as “our top research guy” when he made his complaint official, and he was promptly issued with a replacement phone.
Handing over his old, faulty phone, he asked, “What will you do with this one?  If you’re going to just dump it, I’d be prepared to buy it.  My own personal phone model is nowhere near as good as this one for voice, and that’s just about all I use for private purposes, of course.  Phone reception around my apartment building is a bit dodgy, and this one has strong reception.  I’d be easier to contact at home with this phone.”
The outcome of that was that Dennis became the owner of a sophisticated personal phone, for an agreed ‘peppercorn’ cost of just twenty dollars – even if it did have some minor technical issues – plus another new one for work use.  It also meant that he now had a spare phone, a much simpler model, which went into a drawer at his apartment along with other older gadgets.  Like many young men, he tended to collect gadgets, then abandon them after using them for a while.
His Age Thirty career target demanded an extremely work-focused, spartan life, with few social distractions.  In theory, it would allow him to jump all his financial hurdles in a way that most young people never managed to do, so that took priority.  The plan was definitely working, but it was not ideal.
I am human, after all, and I definitely miss meeting and dating girls.  But now...  shit!  That’d be harder.  They’d all be women now, with higher personal values than girls, and my moral standards have changed since my College days, too.  The age thing, again – have to be more responsible, now.  My job gives me no adult social experience and my investment portfolio gives me great profits, but no actual cash.  I’m like other guys, scratching to survive on a wage, paying rent!
Shunning all social engagements, Dennis knew, meant no chance of sex, and no young man really wanted that, but he had made his career decision on financial grounds and was very determined to meet his goals, even if it did mean that his private life was a little dull.
He was also aware that he was no longer the affable person he had been during his College years when he had been recruited.  His job had shaped his character in a way that would not appeal to most women.  He had become similar to his two research colleagues, who were both much older, but also both taciturn, self-centered and tight-lipped...  the job did not exactly demand that, but a secretive and relentless attitude often helped to achieve good results, so it had slowly become the default approach.  Research Assistants were rarely open, friendly, chatty and engaging people.  When he reached his target age, he would have to endure a minor personality change to allow a more normal social life, and expected that he would find that hard to do.
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Transport was another aspect that would have to change when he retired from full-time market research and ‘slowed down’ a little.  As a young man in his late twenties, he was quite aware that many of the physical attributes of his student days were now truly behind him.  He wasn’t getting old and decrepit, but he was certainly less inclined to do things in the aggressively manual fashion that he used to think normal.  These days, he preferred to take it a little easier, and transport was a typical example.  He owned a little moped.  The main trouble was that Brisbane had a sub-tropical climate.  Summer was the wet season and Winter was the dry season.  Riding a moped in the rain did not just get him wet – it got him drenched!  Arriving at work soaked was less acceptable now than it had been eight years ago, when he was straight out of College!
Purchase-cost and running-costs had been the reason for buying the moped.  It had been a cheap used bike when he bought it but, for his short inner-city trips, quite adequate for simple commuting purposes, and cheap to park.  The basement of his apartment building had very expensive car parking but quite reasonably-priced bike parking.  He was amused that, now well into the era of electric bikes for inner-city use, that was slowly changing.  The Body Corporate for the apartment building had notified tenants that charging stations for electric bikes would be removed from the basement because of the proliferation of battery-charging fires in many buildings around the world, but his old moped would be safe from this ban.
He could afford to buy a small car, but living so close to a city made that an unnecessary extravagance – he could always just hire a car if he really needed one – and a general pattern had slowly emerged.  He used his moped during the drier winter months, but caught a bus during the wetter summer months.  It was a short bus ride to or from his city work, and bus-fares were about the same as fuel-costs for the moped.  Perhaps not ideal for people with active social lives, but Dennis did not have much of a social life.
Dennis’s small apartment was comfortable enough, but it was really just a place to sleep until his early retirement happened.  Living close to the city was certainly not ideal, but it was essential for his work.  Being an older building, the apartments had all been built to an older social standard.  Those on the top four floors were larger, and owned by residents, not just rented.  They had their own laundry facilities.  Apartments on the bottom four floors – like his – were all smaller, all rented, and did not have their own laundry alcoves.  They all used communal laundry rooms.  That was a minor inconvenience.
Years of being secretive at work had become a habit, so he had become more intent on personal privacy than others.  He did not relish the prospect of airing his dirty laundry among other apartment residents who he barely knew, many of them older women, who he found hardest to face.  They liked to chat, and he usually struggled to respond.  The smooth, market-based diplomatic banter that worked so well for share-market research did not work so well in a laundry room!
It wasn’t a serious issue, since he had quickly found that he could simply do all his laundry work late at night, when he was far less likely to meet other residents in the communal laundry room...  that had worked well for several years, but he was aware that this was a small personal failure on his part.  Social interaction on a domestic level had become a weakness, and he really should start making some effort to improve that, now that his Age Thirty target was nearing.
Nor did he much like the ‘fully furnished’ aspect of his apartment building.  Understandable enough, given the difficulty of moving bulky items in or out of the building, but renters had to accept the solid, chunky furniture supplied by the Body Corporate, and there were strict rules about adding new furniture.  When he left the apartment and bought his own house, he would have to buy quite a lot of furniture, a financial hit.  And apartments did not have an area he could use as a workshop – that was another small thing he would have to address at Age Thirty.
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Frank Rossiter, as the caretaker of the apartment building, had an apartment on the ground floor, between the several small retail shops, with access via the western lane-way to the loading-bay for goods deliveries, close to where there was also an entrance for residents.  For Dennis, that entrance was his preferred one, since it was handy to the bus-stop on the opposite side of the street, so he met Frank frequently as he left for work or returned home.  Their greetings had become ritualized over the years, and Dennis quite enjoyed them, because they both deliberately exaggerated their opinions.
“Hi, ho, Frankie, what’s new?”
“Bloody phone tower parts – bloody Telco expects me to disrupt all my normal deliveries whenever they want to deliver bloody tower parts.”
“That wouldn’t be a lot, would it?  I thought the roof tower was only gonna be a little one.  That’s what the circular blurb from the Body Corporate said.”
“Ah, well, even a little tower is five or six meters high, and the buggers wanted to fit a crane gantry on the bloody roof and hoist the whole bloody tower up that way.  Fully built!  Block the lane for a whole bloody day, and imagine the bloody mess if that went wrong!  Had to insist on using the commercial lift and carrying things up the bloody stairs to the roof.  They didn’t like that, did they!”
“No, that’d mean delivering smaller parts and assembling them all up on the roof.  Well, it sounds like it’s going ahead, then.  I didn’t make any objection, and I guess that not many others did, either, then.  Better phone reception for us tenants, at least.  It’s pretty dodgy now – lots of black holes – I know all about that because I have to live in one!”
“Yeah, yeah, but also more maintenance work on the roof – your bloody Body Corporate fees will probably go up!  Ugly, too.  Bloody tower will block the view from the lookout up there.  And more bloody radiation to kill us all, of course.”
“We should all carry semaphore flags and stop using our phones?  Is that the answer?”
“Ha!  Bloody semaphore flags!  Good one, Dennis, that’d make your share market job interesting!  Your whole bloody industry would go up in smoke!”
“Smoke signals, then!  That’d do the trick.  Right.  Have a good day, Frankie.”
But, that evening, Dennis decided to go up on the roof to inspect this ‘lookout’.  He hadn’t even realized that there was one.  He had been up there only once during the seven years he had lived there, but couldn’t remember seeing anything like a lookout.  And, when he got there, there wasn’t one...  the whole flat part of the roof was really the lookout.  There was a hand-rail around the perimeter but he couldn’t get close enough to the edge of the building to look over above his apartment, but that would not have been an exciting view, anyway.  His apartment had a tiny balcony over the loading-bay access lane, but no view whatsoever – another building next door blocked that for the bottom four floors.  On the roof, he could see where the phone tower was going to be erected, from the pile of parts cordoned off behind a simple tape barrier and a couple of warning signs.
Not very thrilling, Frankie.  I’ll come and look again after they get the tower built, see what sort of reception I get right next to a tower, haven’t tried that before.  Gotta be better than it is now, though, even with my new, old phone, with good voice reception but flaky online stuff.
He wasn’t the only resident inspecting the roof.  The notification about the proposed phone tower and recent mysterious deliveries had plainly caused interest.  He chatted to a few of them, vaguely recognizing most of them, and guessing that they vaguely recognized him, too.  He repeated several times that he had an apartment on the second floor, western side, and the fact that he had managed chatting socially to them without causing offense or detecting suspicions about him surprised Dennis.  To them, he was just another resident.
Right.  Time to do something about my privacy attitude, essential at work but a bit too extreme for here.  Two years to thirty, that’s not very long, should’ve started this years ago.  Stop doing all my laundry between ten and midnight, move it back a couple of hours and actually meet a few people in the laundry room.  Build a reputation of some sort.  Keep all the conversations neutral.  Start this week and make it a habit.  Tuesday, then, good as any other day.
So Dennis Gordon’s laundry routine changed...  by a small amount.  He was a creature of habit, so Tuesday evening, at eight o’clock, he entered the second-floor laundry room with his bright yellow laundry basket, making it very obvious why he was there, to find two other residents – both women, one old, one young – and ready to engage in whatever difficulties might present themselves.  But, like on the roof, he found that both ‘washer-women’ accepted him as just another resident.  He introduced himself and explained that he had been using the laundry room for several years, but always during much later hours for privacy reasons, but would now be a regular user in the early evening instead.
The older woman was called Tabatha and the younger one Rosie, and Tabatha commented, “I did a late night laundry once, but it just felt wrong.  Perhaps because women prefer company and like to stick together.  You men don’t seem to mind solitary activities.  But I like an early session.”
“Okay, well...  I got used to using the laundry late, because I often used to get home from work very late.  But I have an office room here now, so that doesn’t happen so often.  Just the occasional phone call while I’m here.  And there’s only three washers and three dryers, so there’ll never be a crowd in here!  If I see more than two others I’ll just wait until later in the evening.  Hardly ever anyone else then.  But I’ll try this Tuesday time for a while, and any extra washing can be a late session some other night.”
Both women claimed that they had seen him around the building or on the street, and had no problem with him sharing the laundry.  Dennis tried to keep strictly to himself, but answer questions politely whenever asked.  He had seen Tabatha a few times but had never seen Rosie, he admitted.  He received a couple of text messages on his phone, but neither of them required urgent attention.  Both women, however, would have seen that he was ‘on duty’ to a degree.
And that was about all he had to do on the social engagement front.  Back in his apartment just before ten, he wondered why he had avoided it for so long.  Maybe men doing laundry will be harder, more aggressive, and I know I’m not the only male-only resident here.  Those two women were friendly enough.  Tabatha and Rosie, must remember in case I see them again, good neighbor stuff.  Rosie was a looker, must stay neutral, no sexy overtone stuff, she’s probably married, keep a good reputation among the residents.  But overall, piss-easy, no worries.
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