Offspring Ch. 026byTalemaster©
It had been three days since my meeting with Feng when Colonel Nakov rang and asked me to come to his office at two PM.
I nearly stuffed up my salute when I saw Nakov in the uniform of a Brigadier General and Arden in the uniform of a Colonel.
"Congratulations on your promotions, Gentlemen," I said with as firm a voice as I could muster.
Feng's uncle must have very good feelers right into Federation High Command for Feng to be able to forecast that about Nakov. I found out later that, the moment his promotion became active, he promoted Arden to Colonel, as was his right. Nakov immediately went up several notches in my estimation when I heard this. I like a man who remembers his friends and allies when he's had a bit of luck.
After the obligatory handshaking we went on to business. Nakov handed me a letter from General Taubner. It was an informal letter informing me that the committee had agreed with my assessment of the situation and approved my suggested course of action. General Nakov will brief you on the new arrangement, it said. He then went on to say to inform him if there were any problems with it. He wished me luck with my investigation.
I wanted to show the letter to the General, but he said Taubner had sent him a copy.
"This is how the Federation sees your new involvement. They will accept your resignation and provide you with a reference thanking you for your contribution and wishing you well in your new career. That is where the official relationship ends. Unofficially you will remain on the payroll as a consultant at the same pay and conditions as before. You will report to me or to Arden if I am not available. Remember, you are still bound by the official secrets act. I have had your resignation typed up, ready for your signature."
He handed me the document and I signed it.
"Your resignation will be effective as of tomorrow two PM. If you would be so kind to hand in your uniforms. Your reference will be ready for your collection. As far as your deposited security items and your access to a secure terminal are concerned nothing has changed. You will still be able to use the officer's mess when in the building. Any questions?"
I told him there were none and I was happy with the arrangements.
"And now, Gentlemen," said Nakov, "Let us commit a blatant breach of regulations and murder a bottle of French Champagne. I believe even General Taubner would not begrudge us a drink on such a magnificent occasion."
When the bottle was empty and I was about to take my leave Nakov said to me: "Seeing that you are now a civilian, Frank, I would like very much if you called me Ivan from now on. Besides, it will do wonders for your reputation when it gets around that you are on a first name basis with a General and a Colonel of the Federation. Things like that seem to have extraordinary significance on this God forsaken piece of concrete."
"I shall be honoured,General."
"Ivan," he corrected me.
"Not until tomorrow two PM. I am still in uniform,Sir."
That got Nakov and Arden to laugh. A fitting end to our meeting.
I rang up Feng the minute I left the Federation building. He said he would meet me in the bar of my hotel for a drink shortly. I went there, still in uniform. Feng turned up in a Tuxedo.
I told him what had happened at the Federation.
"Oh good. You got a Tux Frank?
"Every mining engineer carries at least two good suits and a Tuxedo. You never know where you get invited to."
"Go and change into your Tux, we're going to a party."
I was in a mood for a party. I didn't even ask Feng where we were going and went to get changed. I even had a shave.
"You scrub up alright," he said when I got back. We're a bit early, let's have another beer. We'll leave here at around five."
"Where are we going then?"
"My uncle is giving one of his parties. He wants to talk to you."
"Hang on then, I have to get something first."
I went back to my room, printed out a copy of the letter I had sent to General Taubner, folded it, put it in my pocket and returned to Feng. He didn't ask what I had been doing.
At five o'clock we went down to the basement where a limousine was waiting for us. Vehicular traffic moves underground in the CBD as a rule, only very early in the morning deliveries are allowed in the city streets. The rest of the time they are for pedestrians only. We drove for a while, I had no idea where we went. Eventually we wound up above ground outside a tall building. We entered the foyer and took a lift to the top.
We emerged in another foyer. This was obviously some sort of office floor. There wasn't much more than a reception desk, a couple of leather settees, an elaborately carved coffee table the only item that betrayed its Chinese origins and not much else.
The receptionist was a middle aged Chinese who greeted us and said to Feng: "Your uncle is expecting you in his office. You can go straight in."
Feng took the lead. We took the door to the left, walked down a corridor and wound up before a door at the end. Feng knocked and we entered the inner sanctum. If I had expected to wind up in some sort of exotic setting it was not to be. The office was modern and functional. There were just some cabinets, a couple of visitors chairs, the obligatory computer and a large desk, all in off white, the only decoration being some illustrated Chinese calligraphy, on parchment, under glass, in simple black frames on the walls. They looked old, very old. It looked more like an engineers office than the office of the most powerful tycoon on the planet. A place designed for work, not for show.
The man behind the desk stood up and went to greet us. He was nothing like I had pictured him. Barely five foot four tall, impeccably dressed in a tuxedo, trim, with strong Chinese features, rimless glasses, greying hair, perhaps in his sixties, he gave the impression of a rather unassuming no nonsense man. Only his penetrating eyes betrayed that this guy didn't miss much.
"This is Major Walters, Tai-pan," said Feng by way of introduction.
"It is an honour to meet you, Tai-pan," I said. "Thank you for inviting me."
His handshake was firm. He bade us to sit down and arranged for drinks. We settled for some beer. The Tai-pan did likewise, a man of simple tastes.
"So Mister Walters, you have managed to pry yourself loose from the Federation, I take it," said the Taipan when we had settled down with the drinks.
"In a way," I said.
"Seeing most of this will be common knowledge soon, it might not be too grave a breach of secrecy if I show you what I've proposed to the Federation."
I handed him the copy of my letter to General Taubner. The old man studied the document carefully, drew a piece of paper from his desk drawer and compared it to my letter. Seemingly satisfied he put the two documents face up, side by side, on his desk.
"Yes," he said.
The old sly bastard had a copy of my letter.
"So much for Federation level one security, your eyes only," I said with a grin.
The old man smiled.
"Seeing you managed to get a hold of this, I assume you have seen all my reports to the Federation and are aware of what the new arrangements are."
"You assume correctly Mister Walters. Excellent work, incidentally. I started off as a mining engineer myself so I am quite able to judge the quality of your analysis."
"I further assume you are more interested in my knowledge of Oktonian affairs than in my expertise as a miner."
"Why do you say this?"
"It stands to reason, Tai-pan. The only situation I can think of why you'd want to employ a guy like me here on Okton4 is if you are negotiating a deal with the Oktonians to exploit one of the planets in the proscribed zone. Nothing else makes any sense."
"Not a bad guess, Mister Walters. You are as sharp as Feng said you were."
"And you are a very clever man, Tai-pan.
"How do you arrive at that conclusion?"
"By establishing a mining operation in the proscribed zone you are effectively putting yourself outside the jurisdiction of the Federation. In effect you will have sovereign control over an entire world as long as you pay something to the Oktonians. You'll be able to do whatever you want there, in time."
"It has crossed my mind."
"I bet it has. It will please you then to hear that you are in a much better situation than you think. There is much I have come across in my investigation that I have not told the Federation. Things you need to know. Now is not a good time. Besides, I need my computer; the computer I'm hiding from the Feds that is. You need to see for yourself, just talking about it isn't enough."
"I must admit you have made me curious. When can you show me and, above all, what is your price?"
"No price, Tai-pan. Let me show you what I have that will interest you and then we'll work out some deal. I am not a greedy man. As to a time, tomorrow I must finish off a few things with the Federation. Any time after that is fine. I'll get Feng to retrieve my computer for the meeting. All I need need is a conference room with a large screen and and two or three hours of your time."
"Shall we say we meet in my office day after tomorrow at twelve noon. We have a canteen here, the food is good. After the meal you can present your material, if that's alright. But now, I fear, we must join the party. I don't want to be rude to my guests."
We went back to the foyer and from there into a large room. On one end was a small stage, there were no windows. Evidently some sort of corporate auditorium. It would seat about two hundred people, I guessed. For this occasion most of the seating had been removed and tables and chairs had been set up, coffee house style. There were red tablecloths and a candle in a brass candle holder as well as an ashtray on each table. A buffet with Chinese food as well as a bar completed the picture.
Feng and I went to get ourselves a beer and some food and sat on one of the tables. The Tai-pan went from table to table to say hello to his guests, all male, all in Tuxedos and all Chinese. I seemed to be the only outsider there.
The food was good, but not very filling, even after my third trip to the buffet I was still hungry. No one spoke to us. About two hours later we saw the Tai-pan at the bar getting a drink.
"Come on," said Feng. "We've can piss off now without appearing rude. These parties give me the shits."
We made our way over to the Tai-pan and said our farewells.
There was a limousine ready when we arrived downstairs. It took us back to my hotel.
Feng nudged me "You as hungry as I am? I could eat a horse."
"We'll have to settle for a steak, I don't think they serve horse here."
"No, you'll have to go to a Chinese restaurant for that. They'll have it. Alright, let's slum it. Steak it is."
We went to the dining room and had a huge steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli.
"My uncle is very impressed with you, I can tell. It's not often he is impressed with anything. A word of warning. The old prick is generous to a fault. Help him to get what he wants and he'll give you the world, fuck him up ... watch out!"
"About what I figured."
"So what are you going to give him?"
"All the stuff that indicates the Oktonian caper is a scam. I'll give him my infrared analyses that show the real level of activity on the planet. Then I'll tell him that the spaceships are little more than prisons for the masters and that the planet is being run by a human colony under duress."
"He won't buy the human colony bit, unless you show him the videos. Do you want to do that?"
"Not on your life. I thought of another way to prove it to him. I can't provide the proof, but he could."
"This I got to hear."
"I had thought of it a while back, but I had no way of checking without giving the game away. See, according to you, there are about fifty human negotiators who set up the deals for the Oktonians. This has been going on for about two hundred years. You and I know they would use indigenous humans and not spacers who have joined them via a pussy. Depending on how long these people stay in the job that would add up to hundreds of people over that period. I bet you anything you like, none of these people could prove when, how and from where they arrived here. If there is no record to show their arrival they must have been born here, an impossibility if there are, as stated, no human women on the planet. I can't check this, but a man who can get a top secret report from a Federation General's desk would have the wherewithal to find out."
"This is the stuff the old bastard thrives on. He'll cream in his pants. How is this going to help him though?"
"It will show him that any Oktonian checking on his activities will be severely handicapped and at best cursory. They'll probably just ask him to land on Okton4 and be checked for weapons, as they do now, before they allow him to travel on. They wouldn't have the resources for much more than that. If that knowledge isn't pure gold to him I don't know what is."
We called it a day after that. When I wanted to settle the bill Feng stopped me.
"This meal as well as the last one will go on the corporate account. My uncle is paying for it. He treats his people very well."
Next day I sorted out my departure with the Federation. They had given me an excellent reference and wished me well with my new position in the Chang Corporation.
As a matter of courtesy I showed it to the liaison officer at the hotel. She thanked me and said she was aware of my new appointment and that Feng at this moment was arranging an office suite for me on the business floor.
"First floor, suite seven," she said. "Mister Feng should be there now."
"That was quick," I said, pretending I knew all about it.
"We aim to please."
I made my way to the first floor. The offices were at the end of a fairly long corridor. There was a small reception with a desk and the Chang Corporation logo on the wall behind it, a settee with a coffee table and a couple of glossy magazines and a small fridge with a coffee maker on top. I was still looking around when Feng joined me.
"I thought it would be a good idea to be as far away from the lift as possible to stop all the idiots from coming in and asking where the coffee machine, the toilet, or Mr. Whatshisname's office is. Let me show you our new domain."
"How did you get this set up so quickly?" I asked.
"It helps that the Chang Corporation owns the hotel," he said with a grin.
The reception led into a corridor with offices on the left hand side. The first office was fairly small with a desk, a computer terminal, a small fridge and two visitors chairs as well as a couple of cabinets. Simple, functional and off white like the Tai-pan's office. The next office was a lot larger. It was much the same as the first office except it had a large computer screen mounted on the wall, a couple of settees with a coffee table and a cocktail cabinet instead of a fridge.
"This is your office," said Feng. If you want anything else in there just yell out."
Next to my office was a bathroom and toilet followed by an other smaller office furnished like the first one but with a five foot wide bookcase stuffed with technical literature and reference books mainly on mining and electronics.
Feng asked me to enter and carefully locked the door. I wondered what he was doing.
"This terminal only works when the door is locked," he explained, "now watch!"
Feng booted up the computer and typed in a code. When he hit the enter key the bookcase moved to the side revealing a door to yet another room.
"This is where we do the real work," he said and motioned me inside.
There wasn't much so see, two work stations, side by side with large screens on the opposite wall in addition to the smaller monitors on the desks. To the right was a small sitting corner with two easy chairs and a coffee table and the obligatory fridge. There was also a small en suite toilet.
We went back into the small office and Feng switched the computer off. The moment he did that the bookcase slid back into its original position hiding the extra room.
"I'll take this office," he said. "I won't have visitors in here. The fewer people who see this set-up the better. When we need to see people we'll use your office."
He then went on to explain how the system worked and gave me the access codes.
"I installed the bookcase door myself. Only you and I know what it hides."
"Tell me, Feng what do we need the extra office for? Who else is going to work here?"
"The extra office is for the use of the Oktonian negotiator when he is here. They like having their own space when they work. The only other person here will be an Oktonian receptionist. She's been with the company a while. She, like most of them, isn't very bright, but very trustworthy and loyal. Her name is Talla, you'll meet her in a few days when we get this thing rolling.
"And now let's get to the bar for a drink, I'm parched and the fridges here haven't been stocked yet."
Over a beer I asked Feng if he could get me a few things for my office. I told him I wanted some strong steel shelves in off white about the same size as his bookcase. I also wanted some interesting mineral and rock samples, a couple of well used, but serviceable miner's lamps and perhaps an old fashioned, used, but working, theodolite on a tripod.
"I've got an old miner's helmet I keep as a good luck piece and some spectacular photographs of asteroid mining I want blown up, framed, hanging on the walls. I also have a photo of myself in a space suit with the helmet under my arm I want in there too."
"What are you trying to do?"
"I want to set a mood. I want to give the impression of real work being done by experienced operators."
"Good idea, Leave it to me. The old man is going to love it when he sees it. At heart he is still a miner, he talks about it often."
We had a couple of beers and went up to my room. I gave Feng my deposit box key and wrote an authorisation that would enable him to use it. Feng would pick up my computer and pick me up at eleven thirty to go to our meeting with the Tai-pan.
"Just in case the Feds are keeping an eye on me it is better if you pick the machine up. You going into your bank won't raise any alarms," I said.
Feng agreed that was a wise thing to do.
We had our meal as planned. The old man was in a jovial mood and told a couple of stories from the time he was a mining engineer. It was obvious he remembered these times with fondness.
After the meal we adjourned to a small private conference room next to his office. Feng connected my computer to the large display screen and we were off. I started by showing the enhanced photographs and the corresponding infrared images I had withheld from the Federation. I didn't need to explain much. The old man could asses the pictures as well as I could.
"This is very interesting, Mister Walters," he said. "What do you think it all means?"
I explained to him the model Feng and I had developed, about a human colony, the genocide, the backlash and my suspicion that the invaders were virtual prisoners on their ships and that humans were running the planet under duress.
I pulled up the picture of the city I had worked over that had enabled me to go to the mainland. Obviously I didn't tell him that I had actually been there. I pointed out some of the features.
"These cities were not built by a space faring civilisation. There is nowhere on the planet that I have seen where these huge ships could have been built. The infrastructure required for such a project simply isn't there. If it was, it would be visible. I can say with absolute certainty the ships guarding the planet were not built on Okton4."