Saturday, October 15, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter IV - A difference of opinion

Nadya finished her report. The Forzi were hiring every goon they could and Ti didn’t know why. He thanked her and she left him alone. After a few minutes of scratching his head he picked up his phone, made a call, and left a message on a voice mail.

It was an hour later when his phone rang. “Tom, I need to know what the Forzi are up to.”

“Hello to you too, Ti. How are things? How’s the weather in Port Arthur?”

“Please, Tom, I’m not in the mood,” Ti cut Tom Chambers off.

“What’s wrong, Ti?” Tom asked slightly concerned by his protégée’s abruptness.

“This city is falling apart, my mission is floundering in dead ends from lack of intel, one of my friends was seriously wounded and is hospitalized while the rest of my friends think I’m a duplicitous spook. So forgive me if I’m a little short on pleasantries tonight.”

Chambers let out a sigh over the phone and apparently decided not to press further. “I don’t know what the Forzi are doing, either locally or globally. I wish I did. In fact, I’m trying to earn more of their trust.”

“How?” Ti asked.

“Well, they approached me to negotiate for a swap of duties and franchises in Port Arthur. They wanted to take over Guild security there, but they made some sizable concessions to the Granis so it was a win, win and win. I’m counting on the goodwill to get more out of both cartels in the Casino. I could try and find out what they’re after down there.”

“You didn’t ask why they wanted to make the trade, why they were so keen on doing security for the Guild out here?” Ti pushed.

“I’ve asked Bill to look into it, but I’ve had to compromise some short-term knowledge in favour of long-term gains,” Tom responded frankly and apologetically.

“And you aren’t worried that you’ve made things worse in the short term, that maybe in your pursuit of long-term interests, you’ve made things worse in the here and now?” Ti asked, his question a mixture of hypothetical debate and a hint of tangible accusation. “What happens when your short- and long-term interests conflict, Tom?”

“I don’t know. I guess I tend to look at the larger picture. What are you getting at specifically, Ti?” Chambers knew something was up. Ti had always challenged Chambers -- that was how they had started working together -- but this was different.

“For starters, I’m stuck with the Forzi as a wild card now because you’ve temporarily empowered them for some larger strategic goal. But you also want me to deal with the threats against Vovelle. That’s a conflict of interests. Or how about Helena Luka? I’ve heard she’s been detained and expelled from Port Arthur and her trideo footage was intercepted. Seems unlikely that SecBuro could manage that with what’s going on right now. They’ve sort of got their hands full.” Ti tried to keep his voice from rising, forcing it to come out in a raspier snarl than he would have liked.

“Ti, what are you getting at here? Do you want to know if I betrayed Luka? Sure, I played her, yes. You needed a cover so I provided you with the SNS team. Now they owe us a favour because I gave them an incredible scoop, the chance to interview Sebastopol during the riot.” Tom sounded fairly sure of himself.

“Then you turned on her?” Ti said accusingly.

“I don’t owe her any allegiance. I gained some favour from SNS for the effort. They don’t know that I then reported her position to Major Diego, just as he doesn’t know I helped the SNS. Plus, you managed to curry favour from Sebastopol. We made out like thieves. Everybody owes us one for this.” Chambers was genuinely surprised to being reproached for this coup.

“You also managed to betray all those same people. What happens if they find out? No, never mind, that isn’t the point. Aren’t you a little ashamed for using people like this? I mean, you compared yourself to a thief,” Ti said shaking his head as he changed the handset from one side to the other.

“Hold it there, Titan. That’s just an expression and this isn’t a game. I know full well the risks and I measure them against the rewards. We have an important mission and that means doing some unsavoury things, but I won’t apologise for what I’ve done. This is how we wield the tools we have.” Chambers was clearly getting more defensive and his voice became brittle.

“What about the Forzi? How do I clean up that mess? If I have to move against them, then it could lead back to you. Then what happens to your best laid plans?”

“Don’t let it, Ti. It isn’t that hard to figure out. You and your team are supposed to be the covert operatives working secretly to achieve Badlands security. If you can’t outwit the Forzi, how long will it be before the NGIS or the SRID figure out what the Lelland Foundation is up to?” Chambers had raised his voice and used a tone verging on belittling. Ti had never had anything but respect for Tom Chambers and had until this moment only felt that respect reciprocated.

There was a silence as Ti reflected on what he was feeling. Tom also realised in the silence that something had just been hurt, maybe even broken.

“I’m sorry, Ti, that wasn’t fair.” Tom said after a while with apparent regret. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe we need to rethink all this.”

“What do you mean?” Ti asked, his voice cautiously neutral. There was another pause as Tom thought. After a moment he sighed again.

“I think it’s time you and the Lelland kids strike out on your own,” Tom proposed.

Ti sat down, unsure how to process this statement. “Are you firing me or shutting us down?” He asked shocked.

“No, no, Prophet no. I’m just realising that maybe your mandate to the Badlands is something that should be distinct from me and my goals, my...ambitions. I’m not firing you, I’m promoting you. The Lelland Foundation in its PR capacity will remain under my wing, but the kids, the mission are all yours. That way there won’t be any conflict of interest and you won’t need to question my motivations. You have your priorities and I have mine and we share a common goal. It’s just a difference of opinion in how we reach it.” Tom said, his voice pleasant again as his spun his strategy like some business plan.

“Funding?” Ti asked, avoiding the murky waters of Tom’s comments about different means to the same end.

“Same as before, and you can still call on me for favours and contacts, but you know that I may try and use that to my advantage as well. I’m not saying that I’m going to play you, but this way at least you have the choice. I’m leaving it up to you, Ti. I have complete faith in your gut, your sense of honour and your sense of what’s right.”

“OK,” was all Ti managed to say before hanging up.

Tom’s voice betrayed some patronising pride but Ti didn't register it. He wasn’t feeling proud or independent, he was feeling alone.

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