The projector splashed every detail of their plan on the conference room wall. Anna could see how all of the elements of it were going to come together. Each minute counted out. Each second crafted to a fine precision. The only thing she couldn’t see clearly was the moment when they were going to fail.
“PrimaLux, in its current incarnation, is over two hundred year olds. It is privately held and it has interests and investments in every corner the world. It is also, by some measures, responsible for more human casualties than the Black Plague, the Spanish Flu and both World Wars combined,” Charlene said. She was speaking over the conference line as usual but in the background a chorus was in mid rehearsal. “While it maintains a legal and acknowledge presence on the world stage, current estimates place less than 10% of its activity in areas where there is any form of public oversight.”
“That sounds like a perfect recipe for the kind of out of control black ops stuff we’ve seen them engaged in,” Val said.
They were in the deepest conference room within the Second Chance Club’s current headquarters. Around the perimeter on the floor, wisps of silver light ran along finely etched swirls which formed letters and words in a language Val guessed no human tongue had ever spoken. Her cellphone was not only out of its service area, it wasn’t capable of powering up at all, the ozone charged air suppressing any technology which wasn’t explicitly permitted to function in the club’s most secure space.
Without windows, and with only a single entrance leading into the room, Val couldn’t help thinking about how tactically poor of a position they would be in if anyone trapped them in the conference room, but anyone who could penetrate that far into the Club’s sanctum was going to be able to put them in tactically poor positions by definition.
“Even accounting for 90% of their work being outside the public eye, they’ve gotten a lot done secretly for an organization as large as they are,” Tam said. “With as much wealth and influence and we’ve seen them throw around, they should leave a huge financial footprint for us to follow. Even with the data we got off the warehouse servers where they were holding the stolen drugs, I’m still not finding a lot on them though.”
She was working with a new laptop James had provided, directing various documents to the different projectors in the room to highlight the few details she’d been able to turn up about PrimaLux’s public projects. Her frown and knitted brow were unusual additions to a briefing, but fitting with the mood of the room.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t turn up more,” she said. “It’s not a great position to be in that we still know this little about them.”
“It’s no failing on your part Tam. I’d be concerned if you’d found more in fact,” Charlene said. “PrimaLux supplements its wealth through the use of force and intimidation. In the past they’ve run whole projects through veiled threats and unspoken promised. They’re adept at manipulating their relationships to maximum advantage, and taking resources and developments from the people who put in the work to create them. And what they can’t simply steal, they find other methods to acquire.”
“So thanks to theft, murder, and general ruthlessness, they’re punching above their financial weight class?” Val asked, leaning back and lifting her booted feet to rest on the table. It was too nice a table, all polished dark wood, to treat that casually but if she took the situation as seriously as it deserved, Val wasn’t sure she’d be able to sit still at all.
“They are two hundred years old,” Anna said. “For many things they won’t even need to resort to illegal measures. They will have relationships reaching back decades or even centuries. While they may lack the market capital of an Apple or a Wal-Mart, their influence and true wealth will be far greater than their profit and loss numbers would suggest.”
“Yes. Thanks to how long they’ve been stockpiling favors and other intangible resources, their reserves are deep,” Charlene agreed. “Those reserves are not inexhaustible however, and they’re current depth of projects, plus their willingness to move in such a direct manner against us, suggests that they are vulnerable, which means now is the time to strike.”
“Can we afford to though?” Tam asked, folding her hands over her laptop’s keyboard. “We tried to begin building a case against them but they were willing to sink an ocean liner to keep themselves safe from St Laurent’s testimony.”
“Their goal was more than to simply kill a renegade employee,” Charlene said, her voice growing momentarily distant, though their connection remained solid.
“I surmised that,” Anna said, steepling her hands with her fingers just touching her lips. Her words were calm and even, only the fractional weight of slow consideration they bore showed the turmoil that churned under her smooth and even surface. “We were their intended targets as well.”
“You were one of the targets,” Charlene said softly, her voice clear and present again despite the unknown distance that separate her across the phone line from the others. “As important as you are, and as large of a thorn in their side as you have been, an endeavor this grand and public is one they would only undertake in the interest of sending a much broader message.”
“Who else are they trying to intimidate?” Val asked. She fiddled with her pen, twirling it absently in her fingers with the same care she would have taken if it were blade. The Second Chance Club dealt with problems of many sizes and shapes. She preferred the smaller, more personal ones, in part because once it became an issue of grand finance or global powers, she knew there was very little chance her pugilistic talents would be able to resolve things.
“A concern as large as PrimaLux has become will, by definition, have a wide array of hostile interests aligned against them,” Charlene said. “Most would not move against Prima’s interests or Prima directly as you have. Open conflict is rarely profitable, even for the victors. Prima’s move against you on the ocean liner was, perhaps primarily, about sending a signal to those looking for weakness in Prima’s ranks.”
“How much did our survival send the opposite message than the one Prima intended?” Tam asked. She had leaned back from her laptop, and folded her arms across her chest to focus fully on the discussion at hand.
“Very little I’m afraid,” Charlene said. “Most of the players Prima is concerned about won’t know, or care, that you made it to safety. From an external perspective, someone tried to betray PrimaLux and PrimaLux punished them in a manner far out of proportion to what would have been reasonable. That alone says that they are still too fearsome to oppose easily.”
“Sounds like we should tell people about how well we’ve opposed them so far then,” Val said, taking her feet down and leaning forward, anticipating a fight that was far off and uncertain to arrive.
“No,” Charlene said. “Many of those groups are ones we don’t want to have aware of you, unless we need them to be.”
“It’s not an ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ type situation?” Tam asked.
”No, it’s not. There may be people opposed to Prima who we can work with but none that I would trust.”
“That’s quite understandable,” Anna said, relaxing at the thought.
“Why’s that?” Tam asked.
“An organization large enough to notice what Prima has been doing, and have both a reason to work against Prima’s interests and the capacity to do so, would need to be involved in similar areas to the ones Prima is,” Anna said. “Smaller organizations such as our own will be in the habit of steering clear of conflicts with large, malevolent entities like of PrimaLux, or they wouldn’t still be around.”
“We’re the exception though, right?” Val asked. “I mean, we’re not going to steer clear of this, are we? This is too big, and Prima’s killed too many people already. We can’t let that stand.”
“To be honest? I had hoped to avoid this,” Charlene said. “PrimaLux has been a problem in the past, but it’s been quite a long time since they were active, especially to this extent. If there was still the possibility of avoiding a conflict with them, I would counsel for a delay, but they’re committed to their path, and so, I believe, must we be.”
“Fortunately their last move against us left them significantly more vulnerable than they were previously,” Anna said, gathering herself and brightening into a smile. Her resolve called forth a similar conviction from Tam and Val’s hearts as well.
“Yeah, Interpol and dozens of national law enforcement agencies are coordinating to find who was the source of the bombs,” Tam said. “Even if Prima can dodge full responsibility for the attack, the investigation alone would shred the credibility and secrecy they’re relying on for that 90% of their business we talked about that’s going unobserved.”
“I notice this plan doesn’t call for working with Interpol or any of the other agencies directly though?” Val said, gesturing to the documents and slides that were projected up onto the wall.
“This is true,” Anna said. “We cannot afford to. We do not know which of the agencies PrimaLux has agents working inside of.”
“If they’ve infiltrated Interpol, that would be a pretty huge conspiracy wouldn’t it?” Val asked.
“In theory yes, but in practice no,” Anna said. “Subverting an existing organization, or planting moles into a hostile security force is difficult, costly, and time consuming. PrimaLux did not have that problem though. They have been around since before most of these law enforcement divisions existed.”
“They wouldn’t need a network of spies,” Charlene said. “All they require are people within each organization who they have developed a long and personal relationship with. I believe if we search the personnel files for the agencies involved we’ll find more than one individual at each major law enforcement agency who was either employed by one of PrimaLux’s holdings, or who was sponsored in their education or career by PrimaLux somehow.”
“They would not need to make up the bulk of any one agency’s forces, though it’s possible in some cases they do,” Anna said. “In all likelihood we would only be facing a few counteragents, but they would be able to warn PrimaLux about any strikes we made well before we could identify who the agents were.”
“Ok, that makes sense,” Val said. “And given that they’ve proven that they’re willing to destroy their former assets before the asset becomes an actual threat, we’d be stuck trying to get answers from a corpse.”
“Which is doable,” Tam said. “But not this time of year, and not if Prima is sufficiently thorough in cleaning things up afterwards.”
“Working with Interpol and the other is also unlikely to net us someone who can provide detailed and damaging information on Prima’s doings,” Charlene said. “Prima will have hidden its personnel who fit that description away from any official investigation. That is why we are going to follow Anna’s plan.”
“There are many higher level employees who will have the the kind of access we need,” Anna said. “Identifying the correct one to engage with will give us a chance to take their entire organization down.”
”The key question though is, will we be able to convince that person to defect from the death cult Prima’s got going on?” Val asked.
“We know at least one of them tried to run away already,” Tam said.
“Sort of,” Val said. “He wanted to run, but they caught him before he could anywhere.”
“That’s likely the largest problem that we face,” Charlene said. “Prima’s work culture is founded on fear. They used to destroy Geoffery St Laurents, and everyone else at his level will know the same fate will await them if they work with us.”
“”I believe we can work with that,” Anna said, as a gleam of vicious delight sparkled in her eye.