3 of 4 | Chapter 8

 

“Tonight's performance promises to be interesting,” said Karen, abruptly changing the subject. “Artyom Georgiev is conducting. If his Russian name is anything to go by, I imagine he will be performing something by Tchaikovsky.”

“I'm sure he'll want to try something different, understandably,” observed Steersman.

“Quite possibly,” replied Karen.

“Do we have any news from the Professor?”

“Hashimoto?” Karen asked.

“Yes. Has he been in touch?”

“No, not yet. If I'm right, then his courses for the new semester have been moved to a new building which means that he's rather busy right now,” said Karen.

“No need to find excuses for him. If he doesn't take the job, which is regrettable of course, it won't be a problem for us. If he doesn't get in touch by the time we have finished with the GlideCraft campaign, we'll find someone else.”

“Don't you think that the demonstration was perhaps a little over the top?” Karen asked.

“You know, Karen, at times, your legendary positive insight can become a little volatile.”

“I know, Sean. I can't help it.” Karen secretly felt slightly ashamed. She resolved never to show her doubts to her boss. She simply could not afford to. She tried to regain her previous good mood, with only partial success.

The car turned into a private courtyard at the rear of the Diamond Hall, where guards were already waiting for them. When all three vehicles had stopped, the bodyguards jumped out and surrounded Steersman's vehicle before the hall guard could get near.

The guards recoiled at the sight of the giants towering over them, and they all stepped back. They watched in silence as the director of the Concert Hall hurried to meet his guests and escort them into the building along with the bodyguards. They quickly disappeared through the door.

“What kind of monsters are they?” One of the guards turned to his commander.

“Machines. We were informed that they'd be coming, but I wasn't aware of their size!”

“Makes you wonder what they can do.”

“I'm pretty sure they can do their job,” said the commander, drily. “Just like us. Everyone get to their positions! Mr Steersman may not require our protection in the building, but everyone else does. Get to work!” he shouted.

Inside, the giant shell-like concert hall was almost full. There were eight separate tiers layered on top of each other. Throughout the massive space, the surfaces were inlaid with exquisite mother of pearl, pastel shell colors and motifs. The hall clearly owed its name to the chandeliers that floated above them resembling millions of brilliantly cut diamonds. The splendor of the crystal clear light flooded the room.

Steersman and his elegant escort seated themselves in the royal box, in the middle level. Two armchairs had been prepared for them, overlooking the stunning spectacle. In every corner, the guards stood rigidly to attention.

The lights dimmed and the orchestra began to tune. A chattering murmur began to sweep through the hall as many people in the audience looked towards their box, curious glances raining in from all sides.

“I'm beginning to think that they came to collect gossip for tomorrows office chat, rather than to hear the music,” Karen noted quietly.

“They are practicing the most useful, yet annoying of human characteristics: curiosity.”

“Unfortunately, there's a thin line between useful and annoying, the difference being intention. It's a shame that there's no nuanced word to describe the desire to explore.”

“Yes, it would be useful.”

The sounds of the orchestra trailed off into a few moments silence, then ecstatic applause greeted Artyom Georgiev as he entered and made his way to the podium. He bowed three times to the audience and then once in the direction of the royal box.

Karen almost giggled in embarrassment.

Luckily, the stirring sounds of Beethoven quickly washed away unwanted thoughts, and by the interval, she no longer cared about the surrounding world anymore, but by then, no one was looking at them.

 

The external factor

Outside, the world was spinning and people were madly buying up the GlideCraft models, paying in cash just to be at the top of the waiting list. Thousands placed multiple orders, and there were those who would have immediately taken the demonstration models, but they were destined for disappointment when they found that a proportion of the show models were to be sent to car manufacturers, and the others were to distributed among the population of Excolopolis.

By midnight, global orders exceeded three hundred million and—as it meant immediate income for the ASEC—it was a huge injection of capital for further operations.

In the morning, huge orders were being sent to the interior pod suppliers, who had come back with very unfavorable delivery times. The ASEC, considering such delays untenable, acted.

Steersman visited the factory personally and made the shareholders a takeover offer to which no sane person could have said no.

“Your offer is overwhelming indeed, Mr Steersman,” confessed Dylen Rentz, one of the factory's owners.

Steersman was sitting in a glass-walled conference room that boasted a panoramic view of an artificial waterfall and a perfectly groomed garden. A busy highway could be seen in the distance, and a water reservoir tower stood in the fields with a large flock of birds circling above it.

“We did not establish this company with the intention of building it up and selling it,” said Boris Tharp.

“Gentlemen, it's not a matter of whether you accept my offer or not. Rather, the question is how you can get out of it. Trust me, we can build a company from scratch, right down to the last nut and bolt, but what the most important to me is time. As time is something that you cannot give me,” said Steersman seriously, “I have no choice other than to buy you out.”

The two owners looked at each other, their faces showing the vexation they both felt at the situation. They had founded the plant two years before and had dedicated so much time and energy to ASEC orders that there had hardly been time for any other work. Of course, as a result of the business ASEC had brought them, they could live like kings for eternity, but they could not carry out the fast growth and development that was needed right now.

“You leave us no option, Mr Steersman,” Rentz said finally, with a sigh.

“As a matter of fact, you didn't leave me any either. With the two million interior cabins being manufactured yearly at the moment, it would take us one hundred and fifty years to satisfy current demand,” Steersman summed up. “Look, you are experienced managers and it's obvious that you've invested your dreams in this company. I respect that, but from the money you would've coming you could build far more of these plants than you began with.”

“Yes, but selling the company would mean losing employees and their expertise, and we need both to start over,” argued Rentz.

“I have another suggestion,” said Tharp. “Why don't you consider the amount you have offered us as more of an investment? We could use it to expand the factory so that we could meet your deadlines.”


 

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH