2290: Carte Blanche

Posted: December 10, 2012 by Kelly in stories, the world

No matter how she anticipates and prepares, post-game management remains hectic as all hell. By the time the third hour has passed after the victor is declared, Irina is exhausted. Her caffeine pills are not enough anymore and she’s been trying to cut down on the stimms, so for the past half hour her eyes have felt like someone’s thrown sand in them. She can feel her thoughts slow down and dreams of a long bath and solitude.

It doesn’t help that Polanski has been a total asshole to her all night. She’s rigged the game for him, and now he’s refusing to pay up. She’ll give him another half hour and if he hasn’t paid by then she’ll send Gershan and his team after him. His insults that he doesn’t want to talk to Solchov’s whore are rubbing her in all the wrong ways.

“Carte blanche?” Gershan grinned, when she gave him the heads up an hour ago.

She’d shrugged at him. “Be creative. Polanski is an asshole. He’s leveled up his shit stirring skills in the past few months and I’m done with him. Burn his station to the ground, take his kid hostage, I don’t care. I want that money.”

“Do you have Solchov’s okay for this kind of action?”

She grinned her best shit-eating grin at him. “You’re not the only one with carte blanche.”

She’s set a timer at the right hand of her screen and fills the upcoming half hour by managing the flow of money that’s coming in from the betting stations. In her left screen her worm program is merrily fiddling with percentages and margins, diverting bits and pieces of the money flow to her own private accounts. The game was profitable; it looks like she’ll be able to make a lot of money tonight.

Irina leans back in her chair and takes in her screen. Her timer is down to nineteen minutes left. Messages are glowing on her screen, her financial accounts are blinking for her to pay attention to. All those balls to juggle in the air. Despite her exhaustion she seems to be doing pretty well so far. She yawns and leans to her desk drawer to see about some more pills. Maybe some Adderall or something; if Polanski keeps this up she’ll be here for a while.

Right at that moment the door opens behind her.

It’s Solchov and a guest.

/Shit./

And she scrambles. She tries to keep her movements fluid and unhurried, so Solchov won’t expect anything. She moves her hands over her screen and redirects one of her glowing waiting messages to obscure her worm program. Her heart is pounding a million miles an hour as she does everything she can to hide what she’s doing. The moment Solchov finds out that she’s embezzling his precious money she is as dead as dead can be. Either that, or he’ll hide her into one of his underground prisons until she rots away. Or worse. He always is able to think of worse options. Sometimes he whispers them to her when she’s half asleep.

She’s too late. Still, she swivels her chair around and smiles her sweetest smile at the bane of her life as if there is nothing edgy going on.

“Don’t we greet our guests anymore, Irina? Or are you too busy?” Solchov tells her sharply, walking over to stand next to her. He’s sharply dressed and smells of vodka and oranges again, but that is nothing new. He lays his hand on the back of her chair, close enough to touch.

She looks up at him with the trace of fear he wants to see. The trace of fear is real this time, though. Tonight, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. He’s never suspected her embezzling in the past year she’s been doing it. He’s not a genius on money management, that is why he’s left more and more of it to her in the past few years. There is no way he can know. He doesn’t know what a worm program like she’s been using looks like; and even if he had any fucking clue, she’s reprogrammed the GUI to make it look different at first glance. For all he’d know in the glance he got on her screens it was an administrative program. She’s redesigned it to look at way, at least. And when she meets his green eyes, she sees nothing but the usual malice. “My apologies,” she says as smoothly as she can muster. “Who is your guest?”

“My name is Hugh Sanchez Cuberes,” the unknown man says. His voice sounds warm, with a hint of a south american accent. It sounds very attractive. Very manly, too.

She looks up to meet his eyes and nearly dies as she sees a knowing, an /understanding/ in his dark eyes. There is a faint smirk on his face. Nothing too much out of the ordinary; not that much different from how many men have looked at her in her half-slutty Solchov-approved outfits; but the understanding says it all. /He knows. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He knows./

“Nice to meet you,” she says breathily after a pause that is just a second too long. Her fingers itch to look up his information and his life story on her terminal. She has no idea who he is, and this completely unknown man could use this information to make all Solchov’s dark promises come true. /I am so dead./

“God, Irina, show some fucking class,” Solchov tells her coldly. His hand is on her shoulder now. He squeezes. Not as hard as he sometimes does, but enough to tell her he’s there and that he is displeased with her. “All that time I spent trying to teach you some manners.” And, to Sanchez; “You can take a kid out of the street, but you can’t take the street out of the kid, I suppose.”

The man smiles slowly. He’s an attractive young man; not all that much older than she is. Latino descent. Mid to late twenties, she thinks. He looks loose, relaxed. He is wearing a suit as if it’s his normal attire. Top button’s loose, as if he’s tossed off his tie hours ago. “She seems to be doing pretty well for herself here despite all that.” The smile is so relaxed that it seems a harmless comment, and more of a compliment for her state of the art terminal. “Busy with money transfers?”

“Post-game management,” Solchov acknowledges, and explains a bit about the structure of the fighting League and his betting stations.

Irina doesn’t listen to him, she just keeps quiet and keeps her head down in deference. Solchov, standing behind her, doesn’t see that she’s looking at Sanchez through her eyelashes. She doesn’t break eye contact, but she just watches him to see what he does. He is just standing there, loose and relaxed like he owns the place, and he’s not ringing any alarms on what she was doing.

/Perhaps he’ll do it once they walk out. Any moment now. Any moment…/

He just looks back at her with that half-amused smile. Assessing. Quiet.

She doesn’t dare to breathe more easily. “Is there anything I can do for you, gentlemen?” she asks quietly when Solchov’s voice has faded away and her brain finally starts working again.

“I was giving mister Sanchez the grand tour, thought we’d do a social call.” Solchov says. He caresses the side of her neck.

“How nice,” she says with just enough warmth to not make it seem like sarcasm. She’s learned her lesson in that regard.

“Go back to your work, Irina. I’ll take care of you later,” Solchov promises.

She looks up at him while he touches her neck and throat in that possessive way that tells the world that she belongs to him. If there was any doubt in Sanchez’ mind what kind of work Irina usually does for Solchov, it’s now all too clear. “Okay, see you later,” she says. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”

She doesn’t turn her chair back to her terminal until they’ve both left the room. The timer at the right of her screen is still running. Eight more minutes before she needs to send off a message to Gershan about Polanski. She sends another message first, over an encrypted channel that only Gershan and she have access to. /Might be detected, stay on your toes. Could get nasty./

He understands, bless him. He always does. /Keep me informed,/ comes back immediately afterwards.

Irina leans back in her chair and rubs over her eyes, waiting for Solchov to return and scream at her about how she could betray him. Yet several hours pass and she grows numb with waiting and anticipation. Polanski’s case is taken care of. She doesn’t ask how, but only twenty minutes after Gershan tells her that he’s done the job, the money is on her accounts, accompanied by a profuse apology. She hardly acknowledges it. All she can see is that slight smirk and that knowing look in Sanchez’ eyes.

She looks up his information and finds that he’s mostly a business man. His corporation is seriously up and coming; he’s in business with a man called Stender. He has some post-war military experience, but he’s primarily known as a party animal. Why he has interest in Solchov’s doings is beyond her. She looks at his picture and feels so intensely tired. /I don’t even know you and my life is in your hands/.

The night passes. By morning, Solchov drags her out of the desk chair she’s fallen asleep in. He takes her into the bedroom and afterwards he gives her the third degree about Polanski. He seems pretty pleased with how the case has been handled. And as he rolls over on his side, snoring softly, Irina finds herself despite her soreness and her exhaustion unable to sleep. She is wondering why the hell she is still alive and undetected.

The embezzled Game profits settle comfortably into her accounts, and nobody says anything.

/All safe?/ Gershan asks her over their encrypted channel.

/Fuck if I know,/ she sends back, and wonders about Hugh Sanchez Cuberes.

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