24 Aug Chapter 5: Lowlifes
First day back in the office and already a crisis. Marcs, chief specialist in our chemicals division rushes up to me as soon as I’m at my desk. He’s in his mid-thirties and keeps himself in good shape. As he gets closer I can’t help but notice that panicked look I’ve seen in his eyes before.
“Sir, they’re downstairs, I tried to get them to leave but—” Marcs is hurrying the words out. I hate it when he calls me sir, but he’s ex-military, so I let it slide. “Since you were out I wanted to deal with it myself but I couldn’t, I kept thinking about it and—”
I gently grab his shoulders. “Marcs, I know you tried, I really appreciate it. I’ll take over from here, you don’t have to worry anymore.” I feel him start to relax. “Now who’s downstairs?”
Oh, them. A bunch of lowlifes if you ask me. “Thanks, I’ll take care of it.”
Ever since I shuttled back from the Oliot fiasco a few days ago I’ve been taking time off. I can say with certainty I’ve never been happier to be back on Threa. Our planet may not be much, but it’s utopia compared with that rubble-strewn shithole the Oliot call home.
I head towards the glass-walled main conference room. Laik, my young operations chief is already there.
He starts right in. “I’ve pulled our file on the Association. They’ve upped their terms again—”
I interrupt. “What are they asking for this time?”
“Fifteen percent of our net income.”
“What!? Are you serious? That would bankrupt us.”
“They say it’s fifteen percent or in comes the muscle… And you already know they own the police.”
“Crap, we can’t stand up to that. Can you blow them off? Tell them to come back later?”
“Already did—they’ve been here twice while you were away. Don’t think it will work again.”
Laik is rubbing his hands together, which he does when he’s nervous. I don’t blame him, these guys aren’t ones to mess around with lightly. I sigh. “Okay, send them up.”
“Are you sure? What are you going to tell them?” Laik’s eyes plead for an answer I don’t have.
“I don’t know yet, I’ll think of something.”
I’m trying to sound confident but Laik’s look tells me it wasn’t convincing. He calls through to have the Association people escorted up to the conference room.
I’m leaning back in my chair as the Association goons walk in. There are three of them—two heavies with no necks, and a skinny kid who looks no older than fourteen. It’s a bit odd but one of the heavies is wearing a pink tutu around his black business-suited waist. Maybe he’s intersex like me and this is his way of telling everyone? If so, bravo.
The kid gets right to it. “You’ll transfer our gross proceed percentage to this account number.” He slides a scrap of paper forward. “The first payment is due later today.”
I try to keep my cool. “And what happens if we refuse?”
“You don’t want to think about that. It won’t be pleasant,” the kid says as he smirks.
“Come on, what can you really do, the Association isn’t that stong. Why should I even listen to you?” I hope he can’t pick up on the fact that I don’t really believe what I’m saying.
“Because we’ve now made a deal with an off-world power to back us up. With their might behind us we’re unstoppable.” The kid puffs himself up a bit to seem taller.
This is bad, from what I know of these guys he’s not lying, and it would be… wait a second, I remember something, from when I… This changes everything. I’ve got a feeling about this.
I lean back in the chair, feeling mischievous again. “We won’t pay you anything.” Laik turns to me with a questioning look but I just wink at him.
The kid still has a smirk on his face. “What do you mean you won’t pay? You know we get what we want, and we don’t issue empty threats.”
“Right, with your off-world muscle to do your dirty work for you.”
“If it comes to that, yes. Enough talk—if you don’t comply, someone is going to get hurt.” He glances towards one of the heavies and then back in my direction. “Starting with you.”
I smile. “One last question: what planet is this muscle of yours from?”
“You’ll know when they come down on you like a mountain of bricks.”
Now let’s see if my feeling pays off or if I’m over a shit waterfall without a barrel. “Is your deal with the Oliot, perhaps?”
The kid looks flustered. “Wait, how did you know?”
“Sorry chum, but I have some bad news for you. The Oliot aren’t going to be making good on your deal.”
“W—What are you talking about?”
“I was just there. I can tell you that without a doubt the Oliot are completely preoccupied with their own problems for the foreseeable future.”
“But they told us… They promised—wait, what have you done?” His eyes are burning.
“When was the last time you spoke with them? More than four days ago? I thought so. Your deal is off. Get the fuck out of my office.”
By this point the kid is visibly shaking and staring a hole through the floor. His cheeks puff out and his face starts turning a slightly blueish color.
“Is he holding his breath?” Laik asks.
Now that he mentions it that does look like what he’s doing. “I think he’s throwing a tantrum,” I respond.
The kid turns more and more blue until he lets out his pent up breath all at once and his body slumps. He says slowly through his teeth, “The Association respects power above all else. You have earned my respect. But power doesn’t last forever. This is not over.”
They leave. The big guy wearing the tutu gives me a sneer before he passes through the doorway.
Laik jumps out of his chair. “That was amazing! How did you know the Oliot were behind them?”
“Something I overheard somewhere.”
“I don’t know how you do it, Cevs.” He slaps me on the back on his way out. Another crisis averted, I guess.
Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could leave this stuff to someone else, but I can’t.
I’m the CEO of Mizem Holdings.
And I’ve just turned eighteen.