tagNovels and NovellasSchemes of the Unknown Unknown Ch. 04

Schemes of the Unknown Unknown Ch. 04

bybradley_stoke©

Chapter Four
Almond Grove - 3750 C.E.


It was not without a little trepidation that Ellis followed the woman who'd greeted him when his private space ship docked at Almond Grove. Partly, this was because he'd always wanted to see for himself the private residence of the second wealthiest man in the Solar System and this was the reason he used to justify to himself the expense and trouble of travelling for very nearly a month from Venus to Earth orbit. The main reason, of course, was that a summons from Alexander Iliescu was not one that any businessman—even one as wealthy as Ellis Gidding—could choose to ignore.

Almond Grove was built to impress. There weren't many trillionaires in the Solar System with the wealth to make their home a space colony large enough to house several million people, although only a minuscule fraction of that number actually lived there. Even Ellis' immense fortune was only just about enough to purchase the outermost level of the Aphrodite space colony at the equidistant point of Venus' orbit.

Ellis had inherited the third largest teleporter company in the Solar System and its shares had continued to rise under his stewardship whilst the fortunes of his competitors floundered. One quarter of all goods bought and sold across the vast distance of commercially viable space was transported, or rather reconstituted, via a Gidding Teleporter. But his riches were a mere fraction of that possessed by Alexander Iliescu whose patents had revolutionised interplanetary trade and commerce. It was unprecedented in recent centuries that one man should have profited from the exclusive patent of so many now almost ubiquitous products. Chief of these, of course, was the matter convertor that made it affordable for virtually everyone to regenerate the raw material of one product from the blueprint of almost any other. Any molecule composed of elements up to the atomic weight of iron could be reconstituted at any other location within a light hour of its source. And this technology was used extensively by the Gidding Corporation.

Few people were aware of the full extent of Alexander Iliescu's business empire. He owned many companies with intentionally unexciting names such as Interplanetary Hardware, Nanosoft, and The National Bank of Neptune. But despite this, his fortune was still surpassed by Bunker Little, the philanthropist quadrillionaire, the scale of whose business and financial empire in the Socialist Republics of Saturn appeared to contradict his socialist principles.

Gidding was genuinely impressed by Almond Grove's majesty. The orbital ring was home to forests, deserts, grasslands and even a small sea. Only a fraction of it was set aside exclusively for human habitation.

Iliescu's life and habits were a mystery. It was known that he had a prodigious sexual appetite and the only other people on Almond Grove that Gidding had so far seen were women who were either naked or very nearly so. In the century or so since his business ventures first recorded a healthy profit, Iliescu's only other known characteristic was a preference for privacy.

Gidding followed his guide up a long trail in a wooded hillside to a modest cottage. It was misleading, of course, to imagine that Iliescu lived in such a small residence on such a huge orbital colony. The man owned not only the cottage but every cubic millimetre of earth, air and water within a light second of it.

The figure standing at the oak door to the cottage appeared to be Alexander Iliescu, but Gidding wasn't so easily deceived. Alexander Iliescu didn't extend a hand in greeting and his skin had a faint shimmer. In fact, this was a holograph so remarkably realistic that it was attended by a shadow.

"I'm delighted to see you, Ellis," said Iliescu. "I trust your journey wasn't too arduous."

"It's a break from Venus orbit," said Gidding. "And I'm pleased to see you too, Alex. But you still haven't told me why you invited me."

"All in good time, Ellis," said Iliescu, whose image was exactly like the man Gidding expected to meet. He was dressed in an expensive suit with blond hair that cascaded over his shoulders. "I can assure you that it will be a proposition of mutual advantage. In the meantime, you must want to recuperate from your voyage. My assistant will take you to your villa. I trust it will be to your liking."

With that, Iliescu's image disappeared and a tall black woman with short blue hair and a very tight rubber uniform appeared from the cottage doorway. She strode up to Gidding and shook his hand with the firm shake that Iliescu's holograph was unable to do. Ellis noted with approval that she was a muscular woman with broad thighs and a splendid bosom.

"Daphne," she announced. She gestured towards the cottage door. "Come in."

Ellis entered the cottage, past flowers that were wreathed around the doorway and a small wooden pump that stood by its side. The cottage's interior, however, was totally out of character for such a rural scene. There was no hearth and no window looking out across the fields and woodland. Instead the room was almost empty and more resembled the inside of an elevator. And this was exactly what the room was. It travelled smoothly inwards towards the core of the orbital colony while Gidding could observe what was passing by through the glass walls. Initially, the view was of solid earth. Then immediately afterwards and for as much as a minute the view was of an underwater seascape in which swam fish, sharks and giant squid.

The elevator came to a halt on the surface of an island surrounded by many square kilometres of seawater in a level that housed an artificial lake. Daphne took Ellis by the hand and escorted him to an idyllic landscape of palm trees and seabirds. A villa was situated on a glorious sandy beach fringed by a palm-tree forest.

"When will I see Mr. Iliescu for real?" Ellis wondered.

"Tomorrow," said Daphne. "But first, we have luncheon waiting."

Ellis was usually a busy man. His time was mostly spent in the administration of his extensive business concerns. But the repast laid out for him on an extensive dining table on the beach was truly of the highest quality.

While Ellis dined on the freshly prepared food and was waited on by nude female androids, Daphne sat opposite and engaged him in very undemanding conversation. Seabirds swooped and soared around the island and seals sprawled out on the beach. Waves lapped on the shore. Out to sea Ellis could see a school of dolphins and a flock of gulls feasting on fish. No doubt these fish were much like those that had been served for him on delicate china plates. Ellis was sure that the wine he sipped had also been cultivated on the colony: no doubt on a different level with sunlit hillsides and rich soil.

Alexander Iliescu was obviously well-informed about Ellis' tastes and not only of the culinary kind. Gidding speculated how the man happened to be so knowledgeable. Ellis wasn't a man who paraded his partialities to the world. The news articles on his married life and private tastes placed the emphasis much more on his happy children, his collection of original Renaissance Art and his untarnished fidelity for his wife. Nothing printed or broadcast hinted at Ellis' love for rubber, leather and a good spanking.

Hardly had Ellis sipped the last drops of a rich and fruity vintage with a delicate woody aroma, than he felt a rough hand on his shoulder. It was Daphne in her tight-fitting outfit and her nipples hard, erect and protruding through small vents in her rubber brassiere.

"You have been a very naughty boy," Daphne announced, as she turned Ellis' head round to face her and gazed at him with a stern expression. Gidding's penis almost immediately sprang to life. And when he saw the small cane that Daphne brandished in her left hand, he gasped with a slow choke at the anticipation of the punishment he would no doubt soon receive.

And deservedly.

"I have been very naughty indeed," admitted Ellis, already gleeful at the prospect of a merciless beating on his buttocks.

Gidding had, of course, indulged his passion on the cyberwhores and sex robots on his space ship during the month-long travel between the two planetary orbits, but none of his robotic partners, however convincing, had Daphne's command or natural dominance. She was a woman with an almost unnatural understanding of Gidding's desire for humiliation but who also knew the precise limits to which he would allow his buttocks to be caned or his penis to be chewed between her sharp teeth. She was merciless in her demands for his submission as she alternated the cane with the hard smack of her hand across his reddened buttocks.

She let Gidding fuck her anally, not even hinting that she might prefer a vaginal penetration, as he let his knees sink into the fine yellow sand on the beach while gulls flew around them and waves lapped on the shore. And then other women joined in the sexual frenzy as eager to be anally penetrated as Daphne. They were submissive also to Gidding's mistress' demands on their flesh which was both more vicious and more unremitting than that inflicted on Ellis.

The following morning, Gidding awoke in the vast bed that dominated the villa's bedroom embraced by four naked women, of whom none was Daphne. One woman had the red marks of birch visible on her buttocks and thighs. Another had a prominent bruise around her left eye where Daphne punched her when she hesitated as Gidding slid his penis inside her arse. Ellis rolled around the bed and luxuriated in the warmth of the women's bodies. He embedded his nose in the vagina of the woman who'd seemed most genuinely innocent and had complained most bitterly during the brutal lovemaking of the night before. The aroma of sexual secretion was still prominent as too was a trickle of blood from her much abused anus.

Daphne appeared at the door to the bedroom. She wore only a white apron over her bosom and was carrying a silver tray of coffee, caviar, toast and marmalade.

"Breakfast," she announced as she placed the tray on the extensive mattress.

Ellis scraped some caviar onto a slice of toast. He savoured its taste on a tongue furred up by the previous night's abundance of wine.

"Mr. Iliescu will be here in less than an hour," said Daphne. "I have prepared a bath for you once you have eaten."

Ellis was unable to enjoy breakfast in quite the leisure he preferred. He ate only half of the food set in front of him and swiftly gulped down two cups of freshly ground coffee. After a very brief bath, mostly administered by his naked female companions, he sat waiting for his host in a freshly pressed suit on an armchair on the veranda.

"Good morning, Ellis," said the man, who appeared from behind Gidding while he was still looking ahead. "I trust you slept well?"

"Good morning, Alex," said Gidding who shook Iliescu's hand, content at last that he was greeting the real man and not a holographic avatar. "Are you going to tell me now why you summoned me with such urgency?"

"In good time, Ellis," said Iliescu, who then proceeded to discuss business matters in a rather discursive nature. He asked pertinent questions about the Gidding Corporation, made some apposite suggestions as to how trade could be improved and discussed the politics of the colonies in Venus orbit and most specifically the upcoming presidential elections on Aphrodite.

Alexander Iliescu was an unostentatious, soft-spoken man who listened to Ellis with respect and said relatively little. Gidding was drawn to the man but was also uncomfortably mindful that his natural wariness towards a potential business associate or, for that matter, rival was being steadily eroded as he drank first coffee and then champagne while Iliescu proffered his fellow trillionaire a sympathetic ear.

"You've stayed well-informed on political affairs in your orbit," Iliescu remarked approvingly as Gidding described the woeful business opportunities and punitive taxation in the Aphrodite colony and its impact on inward investment.

"I always keep an eye open for business opportunities," admitted Ellis.

"And not just those affecting the inner planets," said Gidding. "You've been active even as far afield as the Asteroid Belt."

Ellis hesitated for a moment. "The affairs of state in the various nations there have always fascinated me," he remarked.

"Especially those of Pallas, I gather," said Iliescu.

"Pallas?" wondered Gidding, who was nevertheless beginning to suspect what his host was hinting at.

"Such a beautiful colony," said Iliescu with a broad smile. "One of the earliest to be founded in the early history of space colonisation. But at the same time such an ill-starred colony. Its government's aggressive policies towards its neighbours have cost it dear. It became very nearly bankrupt, I believe. And a bankruptcy that could have resulted in a major disaster. Especially for a colony with few friends amongst its neighbours and whose belligerent arrogance had lost it any sympathy from the Interplanetary Union. The bankruptcy could so very easily have become terminal. But Pallas managed to avoid the awful fate of the ill-fated and equally self-destructive Bellona colony."

"That was indeed a matter of good fortune," said Gidding, already aware of where the conversation might lead.

"Wasn't it just?" agreed Iliescu. "But less of politics. We're businessmen. It's our mutual commercial interests we are here to discuss. No doubt you're wondering what it is that I can offer the Gidding Corporation?"

"Indeed, I am," agreed Gidding.

"I have several new patents that aren't yet in commercial production but which I'd like you to have exclusive rights to," said Iliescu. "I don't have to spell out to you how much of a competitive edge this could give the Gidding Corporation."

"Just what are these patents?"

"I have, for instance, a patent that extends the range of elements that can be securely teleported to beyond gold and uranium. I have patents that prolong the life of some normally unstable elements to several years half-life. I have patents that double the fuel efficiency of antimatter thrust; patents that enable artificial gravity to be used on the surface of gas giants; patents that allow certain microbes to flourish on the inhospitable surface of the Kuiper Belt Objects; and patents that increase the distance to fifty light seconds at which terabytes of data can be transmitted without the need for transmission boosters."

Gidding almost salivated at the list of patents his host revealed to him. These and the many others that had emerged from Iliescu's many laboratories and workshops throughout the Solar System would bring enormous financial rewards to a corporation with the commercial muscle to market them.

"What do you think of the women who entertained you so eagerly last night?" Iliescu asked almost as an aside.

"They were delightful company," Gidding was more than happy to assent.

"You noticed, I'm sure, that they were all sexbots of a model that Cyberwhore, one of my companies, will soon be rolling off the production line for brothels and private ownership throughout the Solar System."

"Well..." hesitated Gidding who had noticed no such thing. "I did think they were exceptionally compliant."

"And also convincingly reluctant when required," said Iliescu. "And what about Daphne..."

"Daphne? Your assistant?"

Iliescu smiled and turned his head towards the tall Amazonian woman. "Please be so kind...?" he suggested.

"Of course, sir," she said.

And then Daphne, the woman who Gidding had been fucking with such intense pleasure and whose bodily fluids and sexual aromas suggested nothing remotely unnatural, put her hands to the sides of her head and slowly unscrewed it from her shoulders. This was something that Gidding didn't know was even remotely possible. She then placed her head in the crook of her arm, while she continued to smile and blink as naturally as when the head was in its expected place.

"I am happy to do as you ask, sir," said Daphne, quite unnecessarily.

"Daphne represents a model that I shan't be rolling out on production lines for a while yet," said Iliescu. "An android as utterly convincing and versatile as her would be wasted if she were employed only as the object of masturbatory pleasure for those who enjoy the company of women who are compliant to the extreme. I'm sure you can already imagine countless other commercial opportunities that androids like Daphne could address."

"The Interplanetary Union will surely insist on some very tight regulation..."

"...with which the Gidding Corporation would be honour-bound to comply," said Gidding. "Though I believe at least one tenth of the Solar System is still not bound to the international laws of the Union."

"Indeed," said Gidding, who made a disproportionate amount of profit from trade with such rogue colonies and asteroids.

"I'm sure that I've said enough to convince you that there is a great deal that I can offer you," said Iliescu as he refilled Gidding's glass with fresh champagne. "You must already be wondering what it is that I would like you to offer me."

"Shares in the Corporation?" suggested Gidding. "A seat on the board of executives? A controlling interest in one of the larger subsidiaries?"

"No," said Iliescu with an indulgent laugh. "I'm sure you've already guessed what is that I'm most interested in."

Gidding shook his head, but felt distinctly uneasy.

"You're not a man who's noted for your philanthropy, Ellis," said Iliescu. "You are certainly no rival to Bunker Little who has done so much selfless service to the downtrodden and oppressed of the Solar System principally, of course, within the Socialist Republics. You've not even been as generous as I've been. However, unlike the majority of your generous deeds, there is one example of your philanthropy that you've chosen to keep remarkably secret. Few of those who know you as the benefactor of hospitals and schools in Aphrodite or of emergency services on Venus, or even the founder of animal hospitals that ensure that no domestic animal in Venus orbit need ever suffer, will have even an inkling of your greatest and most selfless act."

"And what was that?"

"Why, the writing off of all the debts owed by Pallas which you anonymously purchased and paid off. And this just days before the space colony's life-support systems would have collapsed with immediate catastrophic affect. Just why were you so incredibly generous to a colony with so few friends?"

"I was persuaded that..." began Gidding uncertainly as he began the alibi he'd been inwardly rehearsing since his host first referred to the colony.

"Poor Pallas!" interrupted Iliescu. "If only it had spent its wealth more wisely rather than squandering it so profligately on arms. If only the wealth of the colonies it had acquired with so much loss of life and property had been spent on the greater good of its people, rather than on building a war fleet wholly out of proportion to its status. Its efforts didn't even earn the asteroid a seat on the Permanent Council of the Interplanetary Union. All those arms fairs where Pallas outspent Mars, Ceres and the whole of the Kuiper Belt. All that huge wealth spent on antimatter bombs, dark energy missiles, nanotorpedos, the latest cloaking devices and whatever else the sales representatives from Mars, Saturn or Jupiter could tempt the government of this benighted colony. And where is it all now?"

"Erm..."

"I know exactly where, Ellis," said Iliescu with a twinkle in his blue eyes. "This massive arsenal of armaments is housed inside a small Kuiper Belt Object nearly a light day away from the ecliptic of the Solar System. And the current owner of this vast collection of the most truly lethal hardware within the Solar System but outside the supervision of the Interplanetary Union is none other than you. Not the Gidding Corporation. But you: Ellis Gidding of Aphrodite. What a bargain, I would say. The cost of bailing out Pallas was but a fraction of what this military hardware is really worth. And just why did you buy such a deadly arsenal, Ellis?"

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