FROM ONE MANY Pt. 5
Veldt – Imperial Cutter
Miss Ariel Franklin was more than slightly perturbed about not only the way she had been handled by the security personnel, but by the way Bandura had made her look a fool in front of the Consortium delegates. The security search had been more than thorough, being scanned with devices she had never seen before. She was then escorted to her quarters, which were plush beyond measure, and unexpected. True to his word, after the scans were finished, an aide entered with fresh clothing, and a pad to take any reasonable request.
"The meeting will begin within the hour. Is there any refreshment you prefer?"
Ariel was enraged, but did not want the aide to see it, as they would surely report it. She knew that information was a weapon, and hired help were almost always willing to divulge nasty secrets if they felt secure enough to do so.
"Nothing at this time sweetie, thank you. I am curious though about your employer, or is he your master?"
The aide's eyes slowly narrowed, maintaining focused contact with Ariel's as a smile slowly formed on her lips.
"You seek information, this is good."
Ariel did her best to mask her surprise at the sudden appearance change of her aide, though her voice remained measurably professionally calm.
The aide's eyes were eerily intense and unsettling…boring behind Ariel's eyes.
"Here is what you need to know. Do not lie or attempt deceit. Your motivations are known better than you yourself know. Do not attempt any schemes or harbor thoughts of trickery, as they will only produce amusement at your expense. Whatever is offered, grasp it with both hands. The end result will be far beyond what you may imagine. He will be polite to a fault, but never mistake this for a lack of will to act, in ways exceeding your worst nightmare. If you want no part of what is offered, then simply be honest. You are not his prisoner, but you are not allowed to roam free while here either. If you seek more, or had a possible motive in seeking deceit in my answer...which yes you did; matter of fact, you were mistaken."
The aide turned smartly and stopped at the door, her demeanor and tone unchanged. "He is my friend, not my master. I will come and get you when it is time for the meeting". With that the aide exited as the door smoothly closed.
The way the aide's appearance changed scared her somewhat. What the aide said when she left "he is my friend, not my master"...it was not cult of personality, but a devotion boarding on protecting someone you loved. The intense fire in her eyes betrayed that. What type of person sparked such in his hired help? Looking around the room for clues, Ariel was taken aback by the luxury of the quarters. As a person of wealth herself, Ariel was impressed, as all that lay before her was clearly beyond her means. What was the threat Bandura had made the other day "one hundred million bounty". Ariel could believe it by what lay before her. The clothing she had been provided was not a simple outfit. The craftsmanship of the silk was second to none, and graced her skin beautifully. The pattern was simplistic, and in one of her favorite colours; a coincidence a couple of days ago, now Ariel was not too sure. Just how much was known?
The hour passed rapidly, as the aide re-appeared at the door, impassive expression on her face...Miss Franklin, if you will please follow me. Ariel stood professionally at the door, looking down the corridor. As Ariel approached, her aide moved economically, guiding the way to the ships conference room. Ariel had been in Cutters before, but the walls of this one were different. The material used for the walls was not of a type she recognized. At first she thought it was her imagination, but the further they went, the more Ariel knew that she was not seeing things. In certain areas the walls pattern appeared to shift subtly, as if fluidic.
Upon entering the conference room, Ariel was met by the other seven Consortium personnel who remained. All were dressed in a wide variety of clothing, with different colours and pattern coordination. Only Logan Osborn was in a suit, a simple yet well fitted ancient Chinese cut. Ariel smirked, as the suit seemed appropriate for an Imperialist.
Each delegate looked around the room, astonished by what they were seeing. The walls themselves appeared to move, as if made of fluid. The air had a slight tinge of Cinnamon, and a barely audible soft instrumental tune, played from all around them.
The door softly opened, and in strolled a black and gray haired man, wearing a nice fitted v neck shirt with a black shirt underneath. He approached the head of the table, each delegates eye’s upon him. His face and expression was neutral, as he looked briefly at each delegate, before focusing briefly on Ariel. His hazel eyes appeared to glow softly, before he outstretched his hand. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be seated. Much there is to discuss within little time.” The door to the room open softly once more, as each delegate’s aide entered, placing a tablet before their assigned guest. The man at the head of the table spoke, after all the tablets had been delivered.
“My name is Tzebra. It is my humble pleasure to meet each of you. Please read your individual tablet to see purposed offerings. Any specific questions about said offering should be addressed in private, to maintain future anonymity. Should you choose not to partake, you will be escorted towards waiting craft, to return you from whence you came.”
“I can walk easily enough” Cillian Mustafa retorted.
The wall across from the delegates changed, showing the outside of the ship. They were no longer on the surface of the planet, and were moving through space, at a rapid pace.
This naturally caused surprise in all, and explosive anger in one of the delegates. Cillian Mustafa was closest to Tzebra, and suddenly leapt from his seat, in an attempt to grab him. The motion from Tzebra was rapid, as he easily trapped Mustafa’s arm, while sidestepping and re-directing Mustafa’s motion into the necessary energy to flip him over. As Mustafa hit the deck, Tzebra’s maintained control of Mustafa’s arm, as he brought a knee gently down on his neck.
Tzebra’s expression remained the same, as he maintained control of Mustafa while looking towards the other delegates. “This has answered a question for you, yes?”
Tzebra released Mustafa, helping him off of the deck and guiding him back to his chair.
Ariel remained silent, noticing Tzebra’s defensive move as typical of Federal military training; yet everything else to-date spoke of Imperial.
Tzebra slowly sat down, studying the delegates. “Do not be alarmed, as it was necessary to insure privacy of affairs. Please study gifted offer. What each of you will read is well within simplistic means. Your new futures wait for you to but grasp them. As previously mentioned, you are free to decline.”
As each studied the tablet before them, Roman Tran turned towards Tzebra. “I am having difficulty in following what you are offering here. Is this even remotely realistic?”
Tzebra softly smiled, nodding at Tran’s tablet “continue reading” Tran whistled softly. Looking around the conference table, Tzebra’s eyes locked on Logan Osborn. Ariel, who had been silently watching and mentally recording everything she could about these events, took notice of the shared look. Osborn only nodded and went back to his tablet. Tzebra’s eyes then shifted to Ariel. She could tell where her aide had developed her soul depth stare, as Tzebra’s eyes were looking more in her than at her. There was something off about those eyes, the light tinge of a glow to them, the way the pupil moved and focused. Ariel felt unsettled deep within, and turned her gaze back to the tablet, and the offer being made.
The offer was indeed generous. Her name would be changed, along with slight feature alterations. She would maintain control of her ship, and any of her personnel she chose. A prosperous corporate minor power was hers’, across the bubble from where she had previously operated. Certain members of the board would be an employee of Tzebra, and would advise on specific details, but the corporation was hers to run as she deemed necessary. Attempts at engaging in previous actions would see all offers forfeit. The natural politics of the system she would operate in would be as any other system, with its’ highs and lows. This was not an issue, as the corporate structure before her would profit in either direction, regardless of system influence. She was use to wealth, though per annum figures before her was considerably more than what she was accustomed to; becoming obscenely wealthy in short order. As with other items in her package, one area highlighted was a small percentage of her profit going towards humanitarian causes, funneled through a list of shell companies outlined in her package.
Tzebra turned in his chair and looked at the wall. In a small section, an unknown face appeared. The person was speaking but Ariel could not hear what was being said. Tzebra only nodded his head, and the face was replaced by the space around them, as the stars outside the window shifted with the ships altered course. Ariel watched the events closely, out of the corner of her eye, taking note in not feeling any change of motion. Tzebra was looking right at her again, a chill went through her. She refocused on her offering.
During the course of an hour, each delegate had read and re-read their offers. Tzebra looked to each one. “Specific questions regarding your individual offers will be in private. Other questions, not concerning such, may be asked freely. For those who choose another path, please exit room at this time. You will not be harmed, and you will be safely returned to your ship. Those who choose new futures may remain.”
Directly across the table from Tzebra sat Cassius Odonnell. He was an older gentleman, an Alliance native, and a seasoned financier. He was the original brains behind the ‘pump and dump’ tactics the Consortium had used against area agricultural systems. This tactic initially produced staggering capital for the Consortium; by breaking the backs of the agricultural areas. The end result would have seen the Consortium gaining control of the agricultural areas, for their own purposes, starving and bleeding those who remained. Unfortunately for the Consortium, these systems were nurtured by other interested parties, who required these agricultural areas remain vibrant, for the feeding of their own people.
Odonnell looked at Tzebra, and bluntly asked “What is your involvement in all that has taken place?”
Tzebra calmly looked around the table at each member. “It is but lofty heights of naivety and conceit to think my role is singular, in any given event. I am but interested ending to this sordid nonsense. You each have skills which are of use, and generous offer has been made towards such end. Those who are interested would prefer head upon pike, I prefer skill honed to useful purpose. Why you were given choice of path, nothing more.”
Odonnell looked around at the other delegates and was preparing to say something, when he was abruptly interrupted by Logan Osborn. “Our host has been gracious to a fault with his offer. We should move our minds from such heavy thoughts of the past, and towards brighter visions of the future, but first I would see to nourishment and refreshment.”
Ariel Franklin voiced agreement, as did many of the other delegates. Odonnell took the hint and abandoned further questioning.
Tzebra stood up and motioned graciously towards the door. “Ladies and Gentlemen, your aides wait to fulfil any reasonable request. Your ships will arrive to escort you towards new beginnings tomorrow. Should you have further questions, your aides will advise you on appropriate scheduling for personal appointment. To maintain anonymity of new beginnings, communication with one another will not be allowed. This is for your future protection. Until such time I wish each of you success.”
The door softly opened, with aides taking position just outside. The last delegate to leave was Ariel Franklin. The door had not yet closed when Bandura entered the room. “Medical bay appointment is ready. Miss Sutton has been recovered; her report waits…at your leisure.”
The aide said nothing, expressionless face with the same eyes as Tzebra. Ariel began walking towards her quarters, with the aide leading the way. This was just all too creepy.