Saturday, September 6, 2008

Meeting Basil Paleologus of the Terranovan Transrail Corporation

After both passive and active security checks, Doctor Chambers was admitted to the antechamber of Basil Paleologus’ lavish office in the TNTR tower of Khayr-ad Din. A banquet of flowers and art were laid out sumptuously, enticing a visitor with the wealth and power of the corporate entity. He was promptly admitted into the office proper by a decadently dressed executive assistant where he was met by the distinguished-looking Station chief.

“Mr. Paleologus, it’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“Dr. Chambers, please do sit down. May I offer you a drink, a tumbler of fine whiskey perhaps?” the reply was said as the delicate mannered executive stood from his chair and pointed to a crystal carafe with a significant smile.

“I’m gratified you received my small trifle” said the doctor with a gracious grin and nod to acquiesce to the offer.

“A case of FortJames Special whiskey is not a trifle Doctor. Not in the Badlands,” continued Paleologus while he offered the amber nectar to his guest.

“One of the perks of my enterprise: I come across such prized things without too much effort” lied Chambers. He had to barter fiercely before expending a significant sum for the spirit. “Please accept it as a minor act of courtesy and then think of it no more”

“As you wish Doctor. So what would you like to discuss with the Terra Novan Trans-Rail Corporation today?” Basil sat back down in his chair and fixed his cool gaze on his guest.

“Well sir, I had a thought on how I could make you some more money. You see my business is starting to be noticed, it is growing and as it does it will have a profound impact on the transport of goods in and out of the Badlands. What sets the BDC apart is its use of the Hermes-72 network. We know exactly what, where and how much we are shipping with unprecedented clarity. This logistical miracle could be of great use to the TNTR. Would you like to hear how?”

Paleologus nodded quietly, giving the doctor his undivided attention.

“TNTR is responsible for the transportation of goods and people between the poles and to the Badlands and back again. The free-willed manner in which caravans traditionally do business is chaotic. Chaos is not profitable. TNTR can never know with certainty what types of goods it will be transporting, to where, nor when. This uncertainty requires you to be flexible. That flexibility comes at the cost of efficiency. If you knew the size, weight, special shipping requirements and destinations of goods well in advance, you could streamline your entire operation. Such logistical rationalisation translates into one word: profit.”

Doctor Chambers paused before laying that last word out, like a steak set down in front of the TNTR station chief after an exquisitely prepared entrée. Paleologus nodded, as though to signal that he was appreciative of the dish. Then he leaned forward to speak:

“Bravo Dr. Chambers, so far it sounds like you’ve come here to do ME a favour," there was a gentle pause, as if to signify that there was a bemusement in the maglev executive's attitude, "so what do you want from us so that we may access your Guild's network?”

Chambers smiled to himself. He loved dealing with capitalists; their minds cut away all the fat and always saw straight to the heart of the matter.

“Well sir, it logically follows that as the BCG grows, so will its knowledge of inventory requirements and hence the greater potential for streamlining to the TNTR. I’m hoping you will assist in that growth by offering preferential corporate shipping tariffs to the BCG.”

Paleologus nodded, a tight little smile forming slowly at the creases of his mouth. What information he had on the Doctor and his Guild was indeed true. The man was ambitious and creative. "Please Doctor, continue."

“I would like the TNTR to offer my guild the largest shipping discount available, like those offered to polar corporations or to Paxton Arms. Along with all the corporate privileges," there was a brief pause as the two men eached sipped their whiskey, "right now we won’t fill the volume requirements, but I just see that as room to grow. Besides, I believe that the numbers will show that what we can offer in logistics streamlining will more than offset the discount. We can then use the bulk shipping discount to increase our clientele, thereby providing you will better information and saving you more money still. It’s a virtuous cycle. What is better for you is better for us which in turn makes it better for you and so on.”

Paleologus nodded almost imperceptibly. The Doctor made a good point, but then again, to an international corporation like TNTR, this offer would barely make any difference in logistical streamlining or profits. He swirled his whiskey in its glass, as Chambers spoke again.

“The thought has also occurred to me that you may have just as easily come up with this idea yourself. Your superiors would no doubt be impressed with this means of increasing their profits while the shipping discount the BCG received could easily go unnoticed. In fact we could easily say that you invited me here to make such a proposal, couldn’t we?”

This elicited a smirk. Basil sipped at the whiskey and then put the glass down on his desk quietly. He sat and gazed at this Doctor Chambers in silence for a while before turning towards the large bay windows that looked southwards. He stood, admiring the view of the maglev line, the Core, and even the Heaps and the desert further in the distance.

"Doctor. I don't know exactly who you are, but I can tell you a few things," he began, still presenting his back to his guest, in a clear breach of Mekongese propriety, "I know from your mild accent that you are from the Mekong. I know that you served at Baja. Your service record is accessible for someone in my position. I know that you started the Baja Development Company last cycle as a means of blunting Republican domination in New Baja. It is a success story of a sort. I know that your Badlands Caravan Guild is one of a few new corporations that are capitalizing on the Hermes 72 system. And I know that my friend Alister Granis refuses to speak of why he has so benevolently lifted the embargo on your organization. I imagine it must have something to do with his deceased relative, that boor Gellin."

Paleologus finally turned, showing a predatory look that can only come from a difficult life on the street, in the shadows. Tom recognized it because Sam, Kain and Gade all exhibited similar looks at one time or another in the past cycle.

"I have taken a great deal of interest in your Guild, Doctor, not because of what it means for the corporation I serve," he emphasized that last word to make it clear that Basil Paleologus was not a corporate servant in the slightest, "no. I have taken interest in you and your Guild because the potential the Guild has for me."

Tom Chambers sat, listening, attentive. The decadent man he met aboard the landship at the gala was clearly a fascade for a no-nonsense predatory businessman. There were no sumptuous pillows, no water pipes and no servant girls in this spartan and efficient office. Moreover, the Doctor had a sneaking suspicion that Paleologus ran the TNTR compound in Khayr-ad Din like a private fiefdom because it was Paleologus' own private fiefdom. His eyes widened only slightly.

"Doctor, I think I can do business with you. All Terranovan Transrail stations on the Westridge Range though to Khayr-ad Din will be happy to offer you our corporate rebate," Basil raised the glass and downed the last of his whiskey.

"And what can we offer in exchange?"

Basil smiled. The assessment of the Doctor was accurate: Tomohiro Chambers caught on quickly.

"I'm sure I'll have a need for your Guild's services in the future."

Matching smile for smile, Chambers stood up, with a final swig he let the whiskey rush warmly down his palette and put his hand out to meet Paleologus’.

“Then, on behalf of the Badlands Caravan Guild, I am pleased to accept your
offer sir”


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.