by Ian Taylor
Yuriana Torres did not ask permission to enter. She never did, and at this point, nobody expected it. Her shuttle had docked at New Belfast Station five minutes ago, and she was already striding through the outer office of CEO Miles Canton with the withering confidence that had served her well in her short, yet lucrative career.
New Belfast Station was the temporary HQ for the Garland Spaceport Group. The old HQ was still under repair at the Sydney Dockyard. Nobody had yet claimed responsibility for the attack that crippled it, but Yuri had some idea.
“Yuri. Hello.” Miles Canton looked up from the endless series of reports to which he had been paying no attention whatsoever.
Canton was old, and enjoyed chit-chat way too much. “Let me go after them,” said Yuri, ignoring the opening for small talk.
“Barnes. I traced the weapons back to his own security warehouse.” Yuri showed Canton the documentation. He squinted through his glasses, and made a show of reading the information, but Yuri knew better by now.
Miles Canton was in his late 90s and, even with conventional rejuvenation techniques, was aging into oblivion. Yuri’s official position was Chief Tactical Officer, though her actual duties seemed to include bullying the old man into making a decision. Any decision. Preferably her decisions. Canton was a founding member of the Corporate Senate, and had the respect of anybody that didn’t have to work with him directly.
“Barnes Technic? No. They’re allies!”
Yuri sighed. “No. They stopped being allies two years ago. Remember? They tried to sue us in Federation Court. They tried to vacate your Senate seat.”
Canton shook his head. “I’m sorry, Yuri.”
She ignored him. Random apologies. A sign of weakness. Though she did sometimes wonder what he was apologizing for.
“You need to leave,” she said, grabbing his arm and encouraging him out of the chair.
“The sales treaty with Rasmusson. You need to be there.”
Canton smiled. “I remember Rasmusson. Good man.”
Yuri’s smile tightened. Rasmusson’s incursions into Trade Federation space had put some of the mining operations in the red. Defense fleets were expensive. Rasmusson was not, by any fiscally responsible definition, a good man.
“Where are we going?”
“Flynn Station,” said Yuri. She guided him through the side door to the office, towards the private port doors. Canton insisted on walking under his own power. His legs were mostly gone, replaced by cybernetics, but his reflexes were still those of a very old man with no sense of urgency.
“I’m sorry, Yuri,” he said again, for no reason whatsoever.
The John D Rockefeller, Canton’s flagship, left New Belfast within the hour. The trip to Flynn station took the fleet close to Machine Cult space, but was uneventful. Using jump gates, the journey only took about seven hours. Returning would take longer of course, since the Federation didn’t have jump gates out this far.
Miles Canton opted to sleep the entire trip while Yuri caught up on her trade deals and fleet movements. As Chief Tactical officer, she had to coordinate the whereabouts of all Trade Federation ships to minimize losses, and she often butted heads with Regional Field Officers that were trying to maximize quarterly profits, sometimes at the expense of everything else.
Flynn Station was one of the larger Spaceports that bordered Star Empire space. Yuri’s company constructed it many years ago as a United Earth station, and in many ways it retained a lot of the diversity from that lost time. Now it was decked out in the shining yellow of the Star Empire. Yuri saw Rasmusson’s ship, the Gallipoli, already dominating the upper docking pylons.
Yuri saw the obvious negotiation tactic as she ordered the John D Rockefeller to dock at the lower pylons. There was to be no negotiation today, but that didn’t seem to matter to Rasmusson. He was arrogant, and very dismissive of the Trade Federation. His grandfather had been Earthborn, and Rasmusson felt that this gave him some claim of ancestry that superseded the Federation’s ownership. But Star Empire citizens simply didn’t have the money or connections to live on Earth. It was just business.
An hour later, Yuri and Canton, flanked by Federation bodyguards, entered the meeting chamber. Rasmusson was already there, stoically relaxing, having already marked his territory with his own guards.
“Take a seat, Mr Canton.” Rasmusson waved towards a bank of empty chairs. Canton did so. Yuri opted to stand, as did Rasmusson.
“I wanted to bring your attention to an adjustment in the language of the sales treaty” said Rasmusson. “It affects nothing of consequence.”
“No” said Yuri.
“I said no.” Yuri stared him down. “No adjustments to the sales treaty. We sign what was agreed, or we walk.”
Rasmusson’s icy stare turned from Yuri to Canton. “Does this…person…speak for you?”
Canton cleared his throat. “I’m not …I… What are the changes you made?” Rasmusson started to respond, but Yuri cut him off.
“No. No deals, no adjustments.”
Rasmusson sneered. “You don’t even know what I’m proposing.”
“It doesn’t matter, but if I had to guess, I’d say that you became aware of a Blob mining operation on the outskirts of the Morgana Nebula, and you thought to negotiate yourself some mining rights. You swoop in, take out the Blobs, and have yourself a nice, cheap, lucrative source of materials that you didn’t earn, and have no rights to.” Yuri stepped forward, smugly. “Unless we’re stupid enough to sign this treaty.”
Rasmusson wasn’t used to being spoken to like this, especially by an underling. “Is this your position, Canton?”
Rasmusson stepped forward, putting his hands on the table right in front of Canton. “Do I need to remind you that we have the ability to take what is ours? Also consider that the Garland group have built very closely to Star Empire space. Your assets are vulnerable, and so are you.”
Canton looked down, and slowly put his thumb print on the scanner. Rasmusson did the same, and the treaty was signed.
“I’m sorry, Yuri” he said, but she had already walked away.
Thirty minutes later, the John D Rockefeller was leaving the Flynn Station dock. Yuri felt the deck plates shudder as she walked around Canton’s office. The CEO tried his best to calm her down.
“It’s for the best, Yuri. It really is.” Canton was almost pleading with her. “One day, maybe you’ll see that.”
She couldn’t even look at him. “You don’t back down. You never back down. Make the other guy blink. That’s what you would always say!”
“That doesn’t sound like me,” said Canton.
Yuri sighed. “You need to retire.”
“You heard me. You’re too old, and too soft.”
Canton stood, his eyes were fire. “I will have your respect, Ms Torres!”
“You had it! Once! You stopped being Miles Canton years ago, and I refuse to spend any more time as the lackey of a crumbling, ineffectual fool.” Yuri’s fingers slid across the screen on Canton’s desk. A document appeared. “My letter of resignation.”
Canton’s anger never subsided. This was the fury of previous years. He felt good. He felt alive. Perhaps she was right, though her insubordination could never be tolerated. He pressed his thumb to the signature plate.
“I accept your resignation.”
Yuri smiled. “Have a safe trip back to Earth.”
Canton nodded and resumed his seat. The fire was no longer there. He couldn’t sustain his being for long. It was far too exhausting. All he could do was stare at her, and age.
He wasn’t stupid. He knew that her document wasn’t a letter of resignation. More likely it was an automated command sequence, designed to lock the defensive shields or crash into a moon. The game had to be played. It’s what was expected.
A CEO should never fade away.
A CEO of the caliber and reputation of Miles Canton deserved a Viking funeral.
He was about to get it.
“I’m sorry, Yuri,” he said.
“I’m sorry too, Miles.”
Miles Canton, CEO, leaned back in his chair and waited. He heard the evacuation sirens, ensuring the crew would be safe at least. No point in paying out survivor’s benefits. He wondered what Yuri would be like as CEO.
He wondered if it was raining back home.
“I don’t understand.” Admiral Rasmusson did not appreciate Yuri’s tone. He did not appreciate a lot of things, especially being contacted by a subordinate, but Yuri was no longer a subordinate.
Yuri leaned directly into the comm screen. “Then I will repeat. CEO Miles Canton was killed an hour ago when his shields failed during an asteroid storm. I was named the new CEO”. Yuri sat back, trying to not look smug.
“You were aboard the same ship,” said Rasmusson. “How did you survive?”
Yuri ignored him. “Furthermore, I am informing you that the treaty between the Star Empire and the Garland Spaceport Group is null and void. We will be willing to negotiate a new treaty…”
Rasmusson’s angry growl cut her off. His stony face showed little emotion, but it was definitely there. She had hurt him. And she knew it. Eventually, via supreme effort, he mastered himself.
“Ms Torres. I wish…I really wish…that we had met under any other circumstance. Such a waste to have you as an adversary. If you were to ever consider becoming a citizen of the Empire…”
Yuri smiled, despite her professional mask. Power. It was invigorating. It opened doors. And it made an Admiral into a fawning simp.
“I’m sorry, Rasmusson.” She swiped the comm channel closed. She had a lot to do. Plans to enact, worlds to buy, and her own Viking funeral of which to be worthy.
Great game. I love all games, but this one is better than most. I will be giving it my best shot.