Lecture

He was wearing a coat over a gray vest, his starched white collar squeezed by a formal black tie. The meeting had dragged on an additional hour and he had since taken to staring out of a window to admire the skyscrapers and highrises of Myherra IV’s District 2. He wondered if Kat would enjoy the place where he had grown up–a country estate a few hours outside of the urban center.

“My lord?”

Reginald turned, almost idly towards the speaker. NO45 shareholder meetings were always dull, dry, and boring. The corporation itself was small, but its shares were rather valuable, leading to only a few people actually owning any stake. As such, every month, Reginald got to interact with the bespectacled representatives of the high and mighty of the Bleak Lands. This particular meeting saw the table divided almost equally between the shareholders that owned public shares and representatives of the untitled nobility of the Sakakibara family. Notably, the seat reserved for his sister Naomi was unoccupied.

Typical.

“Yes?” Reginald tried to sound like he had been listening for the last hour.

The parliamentarian inquired, “We were hoping to confirm that the reaction towers in Saikamon have indeed gone offline?”

There was a murmur of discussion before the parliamentarian called for order. Reginald rolled his eyes. He went to great lengths to provide these men and women with accurate reports of the corporation’s assets.

He stifled a yawn before replying, “Yes, all but one of the towers have been taken offline.”

There was a wave of disapproval, followed by demands. Reginald weathered the storm calmly, taking note that the parliamentarian wasn’t even trying to quell their disputes. The family’s representatives were silent as tempers flared.

Finally, he raised a hand, “In light of the reaction towers being taken offline, my corporation has seized control of a number of mining installations throughout the warzone. We expect that these towers will pick up the slack with far less required manpower.”

As Reginald provided the estimated income numbers to the assembled, it was readily apparent that it wasn’t much. At their height, the combined reactions of the NO45 control towers were generating billions of ISK a month–billions that had gone into military assets. The additional towers, however, provided less than a full billion. At any rate, Reginald made it a point to expound on the corporation being able to take mining towers as a sign of maturity to lay the foundation for future financial endeavors.

This seemed to appease them, if only just.

He watched the representatives take their turns, bowing respectfully before filing out of the boardroom one by one. The table was strewn with papers–namely pages torn out of his reports, numbers and phrases angrily circled with red ink.

“That was pretty terrible,” L said from a seat in the corner.

“It’s not our worst month,” Reginald stood up, reviewing numbers he had already spent hours upon.

“No. But you promised capital ship replacement within six months of putting the towers up.”

Reginald winced at the hopeless ambition, “Yes, I know.”

L, the spymaster of Project DENT, walked over to the younger capsuleer, his eyes running over the sheets, “You’re distracted, aren’t you?”

Reginald didn’t like where the conversation was going, “We’re not talking about this.”

Suddenly L jerked violently on Reginald’s shoulder, then gruffly seized his collar.

“Unhand me!” Reginald snarled, feeling too much like a schoolboy being bullied.

“Understand. Your father was my friend. He asked me to look after you. When you go and bleed out on a terrace because some robot threatened your commoner girlfriend–that’s a problem.”

“She has a name!” Reginald lost his patience, but couldn’t force L to loosen his grip.

“Yeah, Katerina Tzestu. Her name is irrelevant and meaningless,” L said coldly, “There was a time you calculated everything. You could see moves ahead of your opponents and you didn’t walk blindly into traps. If she’s dulling your senses–”

Reginald stared back, his eyes blazing, “You wouldn’t dare.”

L finally let go, Reginald falling back onto the table in an undignified heap of dress clothes and papers.

“Fix yourself,” L started to walk away, “Or is your sister really more fit to rule?”

“Don’t act like you can–” Reginald started, but the boardroom was already empty.

He stood up to smooth the wrinkles out of his jacket, adjusting his collar back to its proper place. He took a deep breath. L wouldn’t have immediately switched sides in the internal feud–he was facing pressure from other family members. Reginald wasn’t expecting his family to move against him so soon. This had been a warning.

He couldn’t afford to show weakness. While he was only the nominal owner of the family’s properties–Naomi was guaranteed an income and those properties as places of residence according to their father’s will–as head of the family, he had a right to review and audit them. He normally took the time as a holiday–glancing over ledgers was far less stressful than managing control towers. He took out his neocom and sent a message to the head of the staff at his family estate on Myyhera IV. It was a simple message, written in the imperative.

“Expect two.”

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