2290: Let’s roll just like we used to

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

Stender barely looks up from his terminal when Huey walks in and throws himself into one of the comfortable chairs opposite to his desk. In front of him the figures of the Lauritzen accounts are starting to swim, but he’s fairly sure he’s already figured out exactly how to take them down. Another step in the right direction. Miles and miles of abandoned factory grounds, and Lauritzen and Sons are just sitting on it. He has plans for that area. Great plans. Too bad Lauritzen won’t cooperate.

Ah well. He’ll get what he wants, one way or the other.

“You smell like a sewer.” He comments, still not glancing up at Hugh. Just a few more figures, and it’ll be done. Across from him the other man raises his arm and sniffs at his armpit. Stender smirks, knowing that Hugh just made a face at his own smell.

“Eau de Black City” Hugh mutters.

Stender finally looks up, and sees that his long time business partner and friend looks exactly as haggard as he sounds.

“What a fucking shithole. Remind me why we didn’t bomb the shit out of it during the war?”

“Russia was on our side.” Stender deadpans. “Also, we weren’t in charge at the time. I’m sure you could have convinced some people to go along with a good carpetbombing, if you’d been around.” He closes his terminal and sits back in his chair, feeling the kinks in his shoulders. Barely in his mid-twenties, but after a good thirty hours of looking for loopholes in the Lauritzen contract, he feels about twice his age. Huey looks at least a decade older than Stender feels.

“So how was Solchov?” He asks. Hugh makes a face.

“Fucking useless.” He grumbles, pulling a stack of photographs out of his inside pocket and tossing them on Stenders desk. On them Solchov’s face appears. Stender knows it well by now. They’ve been watching the Black City mogul for a while now, ever since he started his own underground deathmatching circuit. His green eyes are full of malice where they look at the camera. His dark hair is slicked back and everything about him exudes the air of a man who’s used to power. A gangster daddy, Hugh had called him before. A little heavy around the middle. Maybe he’d been physically intimidating once, but these days he’d passed forty, and he had people to commit violence for him. His eyes were still cruel though.

“They way they’ve set up their games now is alright, but entirely open to corruption,” Huey continues. “Which is right up his alley, of course. I’ve seen one match live, and looked at the footage of four more. They were all rigged. He runs the Black City betting stations, so he wins no matter who wins. I’ve talked to a few… connoisseurs, if you will, and apparently everyone and their mother can buy the outcome of a match. Just make sure you pay on time, or Solchov’s people will fuck you up.”

“What we expected, then,” Stender says. He can’t hide a disappointed frown. Solchov’s wasn’t the only illegal deathmatch circuit out there, but it had looked promising from the outside. From the inside it was rotten to the core though, and it would never be marketable to a greater audience. If the Corporation ever wanted to go public with the Leagues, they couldn’t go about it Solchov’s way.

“Don’t get me wrong, Solchov is a very scary sort of man. Useful, in his own way… but his syndicate has outgrown him, and he doesn’t have the ambition to do anything more with it. He just wants to rob his customers.” Huey shakes his head, the disdain obvious in his face. “He’s sitting on a potential goldmine, but he’s too busy terrorizing his way through the city to make something great out of it. He’s a sadist and a coldhearted bastard, and one of these days one of his underlings is going to gut him and he won’t even see it coming because he’s too busy with his own mindgames.”

Hugh rises from his seat to shake his suit jacket from his shoulders. In just his shirtsleeves he somehow looks sharper. More like the man Stender knows he is, and less like the social butterfly that the general public knows. It’s so very easy to underestimate the man, but Stender knows better. Huey had come from a dark, decrepit place in South America and rose to be one of the most influential men in the world, and he always hungered for more.

“Sorry to waste your time.” Stender says, shifting through the other photographs. His eyes linger on a man with ash-blonde hair for a moment. Younger than he is himself, but his eyes are the eyes of a murderer. On the picture he is staring at Solchov’s back, intent clear on his face. One of these days, indeed.

Huey’s mouth twitches in a smile. “Eh, it wasn’t entirely a waste, buddy. I did see something interesting.” He pushes a few pictures aside, until the image of a young woman with dark hair, pale skin and weary eyes catches his attention. “This is Irina Weisz. Some people call her Solchov’s whore. Dumb people, mind. She handles most of the operations of the betting stations these days. He’s given her almost complete freedom to do whatever the fuck she wants, and trusts her almost explicitly. Probably because he’s fucking her or because she owes him some kind of debt. Or both.”

“Probably both.” Stender mutters, looking at the next picture which shows Solchov leaning over Irina, his hand on her waist in a proprietary manner. He looks like a man who thinks he owns a woman. Irina in turn looks entirely blank in a way that’s schooled.

“It wouldn’t surprise me. Either way, the best part about that is that he has no clue that she’s robbing him blind. She had a worm running when he introduced me to her, and he had no idea. She sat there in front of him, while he played his mindgames and she stole a good thirty percent of that game’s income.” Hugh grins, looking impressed. “I gotta tell you buddy, that chick has got one hell of a pokerface. She must’ve realized that I knew, but she didn’t break a sweat.”

“Did you rat her out?” Stender leans forward, suddenly feeling more interested in the Black City circuit.

“Fuck no.” Huey shakes his head. “I’ve asked around about her a little after that, and she’s got serious potential. This is the kind of person we want in our team when we go public with the League. Not fucking Solchov.”

Stender picks up one of the pictures that shows Irina clearly. “But Solchov’s whore. That’s a lot of stigma she’ll have to work her way through, and I doubt Solchov will give her up just because we want to usurp his sad excuse for a deathmatch circuit.”

Hugh leans back in his seat, looking so relaxed he’s almost catlike. It’s a farce, and they both know it. Irina Weisz won’t be recruited unless Stender agrees, and Hugh is going to convince him. That’s what his body language really means. “So we wait. We’re years away from going public with the league. You’re going to have to do a fuckton of PR-work alone in the years to come. Irina’s not ready yet, but she will be. Solchov’s organization is a snake that’s eating its own tail. I give it maybe… two or three years before someone kills that waste of space. It’ll give Irina time and space to grow into her own person, and not just his fucktoy. She’ll be ready when we are. Meanwhile we keep an eye on her. Dig a little deeper, maybe nudge her in some subtle way.”

“You sound pretty sure about her.” Stender sounds skeptical. Hugh grins at him, and it’s not his nice playboy grin.

“She’s like me, buddy. She came from the street, and now she’s running her own business. Solchov won’t hold her back for long. She’ll want more. All us streetkids want more, eventually.”

Stender arches an eyebrow at him. “If you say so. Alright, I’ll start an initial investigation into her, see if she’s as promising as you say she is.”

“That’s all I ask of you, oh great leader.” Hugh’s grin softens, and suddenly he’s Huey again. “So how about those Lauritzen accounts?”

 

(written by Brenda)

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