Friday, February 11, 2011

The Other Council pt 2

The Doc reached into his jacket and withdrew a three-tube leather humidor. Removing one of the two cigars still inside he took a moment to sweep it under his nose, enjoying the fresh and spicy smell of tobacco. He replaced the case and pulled a blade from his sleeve, like a magic trick. The tip came off the cigar and found its way into his hand and then his pocket; his hand re-emerged with a box of matches which he proceeded to use.

He was in his own world. The whole ritual was done slowly almost devotionally and with absolutely no deference to the small crowd waiting for his next words. Chambers drew deeply on the hand-rolled Bahico. The smoke rolled around in his mouth and after a moment he exhaled it, releasing smoke but also tension he had been carrying, to his mind, for far too long. He smiled, at first for himself, then becoming aware once again of the people around him, in thanks for their patience.

“We need to translate this declaration of principles into actions. This means politicizing the Guild in a far more direct manner than before but it also means building more alliances and expanding our influence.

To protect these principals we need to protect Badlanders from threats, both covert and overt. We have an intelligence network, but we need more influence and power to protect against open hostility.”

“Is that something you are expecting, are we going to get attacked?” Ellen asked.

“If by we you mean the Guild or our persons, then yes. Once our principals are known, that will make us a threat in the eyes of the Poles and the NEC. But the Badlands at large stand before the same threats, and our principals demand that we protect all of them as well.” The Doc responded.

“You’re talking about an army or a militia at the very least.” Ben offered from the back of the room.

“The former, yes. The Badlands needs an army, composed of a core of professionals, but I hope, eventually swelling with reservists as well. That is the cornerstone of our deterrent against war in our backyard and our insurance should war be unavoidable. An army, a strong internal economy, free press and the rule of law. All of those things are the nuts and bolts which are required to make our declaration of principals more than just idle ideology.”

“An army, economy, rule of law, who know what that sounds like?” Ben asked rhetorically.

The Doc said nothing; letting a self-satisfied smile express he knew exactly what he was selling. Others were less sure.

“What, what the hell does all that mean?” Jo said, mildly annoyed and confused at the same time.

“Those are the institutions of a nation, some of the elements that make up a state. He’s talking about a new country.” Maia answered to Jo who was sitting next to her.

“A federation to be precise, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” The Doc said with a wave of smoke. “Before we ever get there we need to set our foundations - those alone could take the rest of our lives. However I’m an impatient man by nature, so I’m going to concentrate on our strengths and see if we can’t jumps start this. We have NuCoal and Port Arthur, with them we already have the grounds for commerce and an armed forces, there is SNS so Free press is already taken care of. We need to preserve what we have and expand on it. So, what does Khayr ad-Din have to offer to the world?”

“Trash?” Celina answered a little too emphatically. There were smiles all around.

“Anyone whish to offer a less cynical answer?” The Doc said between puffs.

“Gear dueling” Jimmy offered helpfully.

“Thank you. Khayr ad-Din is the most important city on Terra Nova for gears and we don’t even make them. So if the Guild is going to maximize our comparative advantage, we need to play to our strengths. The Casino, the Guild and our relationship with Paxton all allow us to play a more prominent role in dueling.”

“OK Tom, I see that, but how does dueling tie into the grand scheme of the ideals?” Julie asked, shifting in her seat. Jimmy and Josephina nodded in agreement with the question.

Gear dueling. Gears being the operative word. What stopped the KEF from ripping us to shreds during the war, it was the gear. If we go to NuCoal and propose building a joint force protecting the Badlands from the Poles or even from another Kef reinvasion than what can we offer which will impress one hundred thousands GRELS, or thwart the 42nd Regiment to the north and the 11th to the south? Gears are not only the key to Khayr ad-Din’s popularity; they are the tool of our salvation.”

Tom took another puff, there were gentle nods as the assembly processed his premise. There was no immediate opposition so he continued.

“Jimmy, we need to recruit a new pool of talent, we need to get in amongst the up and coming duelists and snatch them up aggressively. We’ll need to pool the Guild gear armada and get as many as we can afford to take of security available for dueling. That means expanding our trashers, our mechanics, everything.”

“That’s going to take cash, lots of it and we won’t win over the big names, though that would be useful.”

“Right, well Maia here is about to get us a very lucrative deal with Paxton for sponsored weapons, that should help inspire and finance our endeavour. She’s our new BCG dueling rep.”

“I am?” Maia asked with equal measure surprise and poise.

The Doc continued evenly. “Well my understanding is we have a rival in The Sands, Julie I need to know all about that place, who’s got a stake, who they are and what they’re weaknesses are. For that matter, I need an updated P.O.I. file for all the major players in KAD, breaking down the three Fs.”

“You’re talking about blackmail.” Julie said raising an accusing eyebrow.

“I’m talking about leverage, either to help or hinder depending on which side of the ideological fence people come down on. I’m not above coercion, as long as it serves our goals and doesn’t fly in the face of our basic values. I need you and Jimmy to work the usual angles: friends, family and finances. Think of people I should be meeting, I’m already planning visits to Paleologus and Jarlson.”

“Do you know Sanz?” Jimmy started, “she’s a major duelist coach, she’s worked with the best of them.”

“Great, then I want to meet her,” the Doc replied.

“She also use to be the Spyder’s lover.” Julie added.

“The I want to meet her twice, or twice as fast, can you put that out there and give me some more background on her?” The Doc was up and walking, a cloud of smoke ambulating through the office. “Also I need to meet with the Granis and the Spyder or whoever talks to us for him. The Forzi have been stonewalling us, this goes beyond Peace River, they’re not being upfront with us and we need to know why. Julie can you take care of that too and Billy, look into the underground side, any rumors and such.”

There were nods from both.

“Another thing Billy, find me an expert counterfeiter of IDs or rather and expert on ID counterfeiters. Oh and another thing, I want a piece of the Hammer, a big piece, see what can be done.” The Doc was firing off ideas and demands in every direction as he walked through the crowded office.

“Check boss,” came Billy's usually terse response. “You want me to keep an ear to the ground for ripples of all this, know who’s talking and how they feel about it?”

“Good thinking. Listen everyone, all this is not quite secret but right now it is very important to keep it as discreet as possible. Some of what we’re going to be doing is sure to draw attention, that will be both inevitable and in some case desirable, but the larger plan - the ultimate goal - stays in this room and you speak of it only of this with these people here now.”

There were nods all around, though Ellen was looking at the Doc suspiciously.

“Celina, I need you to start thinking about how to expand the clinic into a hospital almost overnight without giving it away. I know that isn’t exactly clear, but we can discuss it in detail later.”

Tom turned on Ellen, whose attention seemed to have strayed. “Ellen, Prince Gable is going to be just as important as Khayr ad-Din, maybe even more so. Firstly I think you need to draw a little extra staff, I was think maybe Ollie and someone else, it’s up to you. Sooner or later I’m going to have to deal with NuCoal, I need you to discreetly open a dialogue with them, find out what they want: a trial, a lynching or an apology. Whatever it is, I need to know before I start bargaining with them. I also need you to set up two meetings for me, one with the Kolson clan and the other with the Desert wolves. Finally, I need you to get an asset in the 42nd regiment. I was thinking a junior officer, someone cocky, maybe working with logistics or an aide to the general staff. No one too important, but someone who would be aware of the 42nd’s movements and who has a vice we can exploit.”

“You’re reaching in a lot of directions Doc.” Jimmy said, showing restrained concern.

“Yes and not all of them will be the right direction, but all data is good data. I need to know who we can trust and who we can’t. We need to develop a network of the willing or the simply compatible. This has to grow as a political movement, we need this to feel like a water roots movement, not a plan, or worse yet, a business scheme if it is going to gain the momentum necessary to grown into a full-blown reality. There is another faction we need to approach for leverage and I need you to take this one on Ben, I need to talk to the BRF. Lance Point is not only a personal point for me but a major thorn in the side of the whole of the Western Basin.”

“Talking to both NuCoal and the BRF. Tricky stuff Tom,” came Ben's answer.

“Maybe, maybe not. If they both hate me, then they already have that much in common.”

“Sounds just like us.” Julie added smiling innocently. There was a round of chuckles and then silence. There was a mixture of excitement and anxiety in the small office. The scale of these ambitions were greater than anything any one of them had ever dreamt of being part of but at the same time it seemed oddly natural to many of them, as if everything had always been leading to this.

For the Doc, that was exactly how it felt. Wrapped inside his inner cloud of smoke he paused to consider all the angles, we knew he was forgetting some things, but there was only so much they could do at a time. He snapped back to the present.

“Alright you lazy Badlanders, didn’t I give you enough to do damn it? Get out there and get started!” He cajoled through his teeth as he ground down on his cigar.


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