Anna glanced across the boardroom table and smiled. Her next move was going to give everyone at the table exactly what they’d asked for, and exactly what none of them wanted to have. Before she could unveil her masterstroke though, her phone buzzed. Tam was calling.
This surprised Anna for a number of reasons. Tam had only been researching cases and plotting out the changing ley lines of the world when Anna last checked. That sort of work didn’t tend to lead to emergency calls. Also, and more worringly, Anna’s phone had been off. She’d powered it down before she came into the meeting with the Androska Enterprises executives precisely because she knew she couldn’t afford any interruptions.
“Please pardon me,” she said in the thickly Russian accented English she’d been using in her dealings with Androska. “I must take this.”
The collected executives looked either startled, or annoyed. There’d been an unofficial agreement that, since the timing on the deal had to occur within a razor thin margin of time, no one would call for any delays. Anna herself had insisted on it as a condition for moving forward with the highly favorable terms she was offering.
“My associate can complete the final paperwork, if you like?” Anna offered as she rose from her chair, nodding to Sarah who had been sitting beside her quietly through each of the meetings which had setup the transfer of a significant portion of Prima Lux’s old Mediterranean holdings.
No one liked changing team leads in the middle of the deal, and they would like it even less when Sarah revealed the particulars of the deal which none of the Androska executives had managed to grasp. Or at least they wouldn’t as long as Sarah could keep them sufficiently distracted with the wealth and influence that hung dangling before them like a shining star.
Anna spared a glance at Sarah who offered a small nod and calm blink of her eyes. It was a trivial bit of body language but it reassured Anna that the deal was going to go through exactly as planned. Sarah had the same read on the executives that Anna did. If she’d needed to, she could have enchanted her words to carry the weight of authority and sincerity, but professional pride and an utter lack of necessity kept that option off the table. With the understanding she’d developed over the course of a month of negotiations, Sarah could have sold the Androska executives their own company and turned enough profit to buy it back out from under them. In another like she might have jumped at the opportunity to do just that but given the duties and burdens the Androska executives were going to be saddled with, she found it easy to suppress her natural urge towards mischief.
“I believe our next point to review is the holdings on Crete?” Sarah said, speaking for the first time to the frowning executives. There was an air of disagreement that lingered in Anna’s wake but no one appeared to want to slow the proceedings any further.
Anna closed the door to the conference as she stepped out into the hallway, and accepted the call from Tam.
“Sorry to interrupt, but we appear to have a global level issue developing,” Tam said as soon as the connection was made.
“How much lead time do we have, and what do you need us to do?” Anna asked, dropping her faked accent. Tam was not an alarmist by nature, and Anna saw no reason to doubt her claim.
“Less than day,” Tam said. She didn’t sound desperate or panicked. She sounded focused and intent.
“Good, that’s time to assemble everyone if we need,” Anna said. “Can you describe the situation?”
“Cynthia and I were just called into a fairy realm,” Tam said. “We met someone there who asked us to evaluate the closest realms to Earth and warned that if we mishandled things, we’d basically have a War of the Worlds scenario on our hands.”
“That certainly qualifies as a ‘global issue’,” Anna agreed, blowing a short breath out through her lips. “I take it you’ve also reviewed the realms in question?”
“Yeah, just finished in fact,” Tam said. “Short form: It looks like Kael was right. Since we broke Prima Lux, the realms have been drifting into new orbits around each other, for lack of a better vocabulary to describe it with. The ones which are coming closest to us aren’t terribly pleasant, and it looks like they’ve made some inroads already.”
“I have many questions, but we should all gather. The others will need to hear the answers too,” Anna said, glancing at her watch. With JB’s social magic, she knew she could back at the Club within a couple of hours. That wasn’t a lot of time, except things like global threats didn’t tend to allow for much leeway when it came to responses. Their options would be limited as it was, carving off one hundred and twenty precious minutes might be too high a price to pay.
“Val and Aranea are traveling at the moment, it’s going to take them a bit longer to get back than you and Sarah,” Tam said. “Jen’s already here, but Connie’s out too, as are James, and Jim, and most of the rest of the associates we’ve been collecting.”
“Put out the call to as many as you can,” Anna said. “Anyone who can’t make it, we’ll bring up to speed once they’re free, but we’ve known that global conflict was a possibility for a while now, and our best bet it to engage it before it can come to us.”
“On it!” Tam said, and hung up the call.
Anna spent a moment considering her options for the meeting that was taking place. If the deal went through, the Androska executives would gain personal control over the frankly staggering resources Prima Lux had possessed in the countries which bordered the Mediterranean Sea. In fiscal terms it was a sizable windfall, but on a personal level it would make each of them the inheritors of various mystical contracts and bonds which Prima Lux had spent centuries building into a nearly untouchable portfolio.
It was the sort of power which transcended wealth. The sort of power which set its possessors as the equal of nations on the world stage. And, since Anna was offering it to them, it was the sort of power that came with some unexpected liabilities.
Prima Lux had held a tremendous amount of leverage over the people, powers, and creatures they entered into contracts with. Anything Prima Lux offered, they made sure was more than offset by restrictions which would prevent the people in question from being able to claim the reward they believed the contracts gave them.
When Anna setup the deal for the contracts which had given Prima Lux such vast power and influence, she had made certain to leave out the crucial bits of leverage which allowed them to exercise that power without paying for the privilege. The contracts which Androska was in the process of accepting would give them every bit as much power as Prima Lux had possessed but would also compel them to not only honor the original terms of the contract but also the pay the outstanding ‘fees’ that were due to the peoples the power had been drawn from.
Throughout the world, Anna had engineered deals like that and all of them were executing at the same time, so that when the first of the new owners tried to exercise their authority, they would all be called to task and forced to use their new power and plenty of the old wealth for the betterment for those who had been only taken from for so long.
Giving up on that was heartbreaking, but a truly global war would take so much more from the people who had nothing to spare as it was that Anna knew she had no choice but to back out rather than spend the next twelve hours reviewing the documentation they still had to go through. She hoped she could still close the deal after the issue Tam found was resolved, but she knew it would be an even longer shot that the current arrangement had been. Sometimes that was how things went though.
“I’m sorry,” she said as she re-entered the room, “A new development has arisen. We must terminate these negotiations now.”
“Oh, I don’t think there’s a need for that,” a familiar voice said, as Zoe, the former head of Prima Lux’s security said, stepping into the room from the Androska Enterprise’s side of the table.
Anna smiled and raised an eyebrow. When she’d left Zoe early that morning in a Zurich penthouse, Zoe hadn’t made any mention of being involved in a major deal. She’d only had a small, mysterious smile that Anna had done her best to nibble the details out of her, to no avail.
“Androska Enterprises doesn’t need to review any of the remaining documentation,” Zoe said. “We’ll be signing as is. Or I should say, we have signed the papers under the current terms. If you can instructed your attorneys to execute their copies of the contract transfer papers we can consider this transaction concluded.”
The Androska executives erupted in a cacophony of angry demands and accusations, but Zoe quieted them with a wave of her hand.
“My apologies,” she said. “I am aware the Executive team needs to officially approve the transfer before the papers can be properly executed. I have a matter I was supposed to bring up before making the announcement that the deal was approved.”
She passed out a series of envelopes, one to each executive.
“These are your termination notices,” she said. “Effectively as of an hour ago, none of you are employed by Androska Enterprises. You will find the severance arrangement details within your individual packages. To forestall further questions, Androska Enterprises hasd appointed a new board, which has terminated your contracts. Your severance packages have been reviewed and you will find the bills for your outstanding debts for documented cases of criminal mismanagement of company assets detailed within your envelopes.”
“This is illegal. You can’t do this,” one of the executives said.
“Sadly, if you’re knowledge of the law was accurate you probably wouldn’t has commited quite so many felonies,” Zoe said. “I will grant that you can, and probably should, fight the charges that are being brought against you, but I believe we both know that you not going to win. If you were innocent, there would be a chance, and if you were still influential enough you could simply buy the verdict you need, but then if you were that innocent or that influential, I wouldn’t have been able to do this in the first place.”
“This is ridiculous!” another executive said.
“I agree. Officers, please escort them from the room. I believe you have multiple warrants for each of their arrests.”
What followed was several minutes of shouting and chaos, but the room was eventually cleared of the enraged executives.
“What just happened here?” Sarah asked.
“My company bought Androska Enterprises,” Zoe said.
“I am curious as to why?” Anna asked.
“You planned to saddle them with Prima Lux’s debts, financial and mystical, isn’t that right?” Zoe said.
“Yes. It felt karmically suitable,” Anna said.
“Perhaps, but the problem with using Androska to manage the distribution of resources is that even if it would lead to their own destruction, those fools would still grasp for what power they could get and would run with it to as corrupt a place as they could find,” Zoe said.
“There are several provisions in place to prevent that,” Anna said.
“Provisions which they would spend all their time and energy trying to subvert,” Zoe said. “Better to let someone carry the load for whom it’s also karmically appropriate and who has no interest in weaseling out of the requirements.”
“Are you sure?” Anna asked. “The burdens of these contracts aren’t light ones. I would never have asked you to carry anything like this.”
“I know,” Zoe said with a broad smile. “And that’s part of why I had to do it. I have a lot of ground to make up if I’m going to properly rival the good you’ve done. This should help me catch up a bit quicker than I could have otherwise.”
“Thank you,” Anna said, her mind turning to how the two them could properly celebrate the occasion.
“Yeah, it sounds like you had perfect timing Zoe,” Sarah said. “What came up on the phone though Anna? Did you know she was going to do that, or is something the matter back the Club?”
“Oh, you might say that. According to Tam, we’re about a day away from the end of the world.”
“And suddenly it feels like I’m falling behind again,” Zoe said.