Hendrik felt like his body was a battlefield. On one side there was the exhaustion from the last period of work. Removing the Terran loyalists from power, creating a new nation and its laws, contacting, and outsmarting the affini, and keeping the modernization project a secret while preparing the last steps of his plan.
It weighed on his mind and shoulders like an anvil, when was the last time he had eaten? He felt terrible. The only way to keep it all secret was if he made all the plans, gave all the orders, and made every preparation.
On the other side were the shots of chemicals both natural and artificial that flowed through his veins. They gave him the energy he sorely needed. Today was the day. the crowning achievement of his work. Nothing would be allowed to be anything but perfect.
The meeting was in 2 hours and 32 minutes. The proclamations and reforms were loaded in the bureaucracy like the barrel of a cannon. his pawns and knights were in position, soon his opponents would fall. They had stood in his way all this time. They had laughed, disapproved, and undermined. In the end, he would get the final laugh, The Game was his for the winning.
For a moment his thoughts traced back. When he first started, he had started as a naïve clerk with a knack for bureaucracy. His superiors had exploited him, tried to keep him down, and fed off his work.
When he first outsmarted his superior and exposed him for the incompetent fool that he was, he got his first promotion. Each rank he climbed he learned that power and control were the only things that kept one alive.
Henrik remembered his mentor, the one who had saved him from naivete and foolishness. Under him, he had learned how to play The Game for real. How to learn what your enemies were thinking. How to spot those who were a threat. The fact that fear was a far more potent emotion than any other.
As his mentor made plays for power, he stood behind always watching and always learning. He took the strengths of those who lasted longer and cut out the weakness that made others crumble.
His mentor was old and soon became arrogant, complacent…comfortable. When he could not see the enemies that circled, he left Hendrik no other choice. Using all that he had learned he destroyed his mentor.
When his mentor finally realized it was too late, he gave his final lesson. How to bow out of The Game gracefully. Hendrik could not feel guilty, it was less of a betrayal and more of a final test before he took his mentor’s place. He could not feel guilty…as the emotional suppressant entered his blood supply he felt focused one more.
Soon, very soon he could deliver the final blow. In time there would be no one that would disrespect him. Even the affini would learn to fear him. He grabbed a gray bar of nutrients. Sleep could wait, but he would not gloat starving.
Hendrik entered the conference room with Nora by his side. As he sat down, he could feel the eyes of the 5 Mega Corporation representatives trace his every move.
The president began his presentation “As you know from the agenda you were sent, the affini have agreed to a large and substantial trade agreement with the republic. As you have all proven loyal in this time of chaos you will have first picking and exclusive rights.” Nora distributed 5 identical stacks of paper to the CEOs as he talked.
The vultures tore into the document looking for the promises of profits and riches.
“With such an increase to trade many more ships will be required, NISSAN stock will soar!”
“And all of your ships will need our fuel, we will make bank.”
“With trade, comes riches and those that need the protection, Mr. President I am sure the mercenary market will be booming in a matter of hours once the news gets out.”
“The increased workload will doubtlessly cause more injuries and health conditions. LITZ will be there to make sure everyone is fine, for a price.”
“With the demand for so much metal, we will have to put our miners into 12-hour shifts, not that they will have the opportunity to complain."
Hendrik looked at the farce unfolding before him with rising disgust. He might not be able to afford compassion but this disregard for human life was just grotesque. As the CEOs continued to brag and speculate how much they could earn from the suffering of others the light went off.
There was a bit of confusion, “hey! turn the light back on you peasant!” one of the executives shouted at Nora through the darkness.
The president started his explanation “It has nothing to do with the lights, at this moment the entire power grid is offline.”
The lights flickered on, the kings and queens of capitalism looked confused and nervous. They had no idea what was going on……perfect
The president let himself grin “And that was the power grid being connected with the 8 affini power generators that just went online”
The youngest of the five, a woman in her late 50s was the first to show fear.
He would drag this out “at this very moment affini medical stations will open and offer free treatment to anyone who needs it.” The face of the LITZ CEO went white. He could see the gears work overtime in their heads as they slowly realized what he was saying.
They understood what was happening now “the miners of all major mining operations are at this moment replaced with affini automated drones.”
But it was far too late “The next time the republic constructs a ship it will be millennia more advanced and far beyond NISSANs capabilities.” He stood from his chair with his hands flat on the table. The CEOs recoiled from him like he was a specter.
Seeing their fear, this demonstration of his power and control was supremely satisfying. These corporations had been a threat to him almost his entire career, now they would suffer.
He continued the explanation “I am sorry to inform you that the mercenary market will not be exploding but rather imploding. My shadow division has already scattered Fireside forces and decapitated its command structure.” Now to deliver the final sword stroke.
His plan had worked! “From this point on all of your holdings, corporations and subsidiaries will be liquidated and incorporated into the Centhia republic's admirative functions. All of you and the leadership of your corps are charged with high treason and sentenced to affini transfer.” his face cracked into a smile, they had been completely outplayed.
The previous owners of the sector looked around, like trapped prey desperately searching for a way out. It was only then they noticed their guards on the ground and the semi-cloaked shadow unit soldiers that hovered silently behind them.
With a snap of the President's finger and the soldiers moved as one. His defeated opponents were knocked out and silenced in an instant. He left the room with Nora behind him.
Mertha was taking a well-deserved break. Over the last week, she had been in charge of coordinating between some 85 affini and negotiating with the President. It had been very stressful, but she had managed surprisingly fine.
Clean affini power replacing toxic smog, free and efficient healthcare in every major city center and the barbaric mines discontinuing human labor. Even the most skeptical of the captains would have to agree that they had done well for the humans here. If they had not arrived it would have taken months before the planet could be pacified. How many innocent humans would not have died by then?
Mertha relaxed on the sofa, she was going to brag to the captain after this. They would have to take her future proposals more seriously. She was still worried about Henrik. They had not had any more meetings the last few days, only text and document transmissions.
Serla and Elrax were discussing something, but at the moment Mertha couldn’t care less. As she truly unraveled on the couch, the large wall-integrated screen turned on.
A green and blue flag was blowing in the wind as several Terran instruments blasted a triumphant tune. Mertha collected herself “did any of you turn that on?”
Serla looked worried. “I don’t think so, something important must have happened.”
Mertha felt tense, there was something ominous about this broadcast and it hadn’t even started yet. The video of the flag and music faded. It was replaced with Hendrik, sitting in his office. He looked normal despite some quite bloodshot eyes and clenched hands.
He began to speak, his voice clear and hard “Dear citizens of our beloved republic. I speak to you now because we have finally left this era of crisis. When Terra fell our world was turned upside down. Who are we without our home planet? What is the fate of our species? These questions have gone through my mind the last months and I know I am not alone.” The president took a brief pause.
He continued, pride in his voice “We are Centhians! We have formed a great new republic. Our republic is our future and our mission. I have only managed to bring us into this new future because of your support and unwavering confidence.” A frown had developed on Henrik's face
His voice became harder “Not all of us have shared this hope for a better tomorrow. The Terran politicians wanted to destroy the republic in its infancy, so they were removed from power. Now as our republic begins to thrive with the help of our new affini allies the next traitors have revealed themselves. The Mega Corporations that have lived off Centhia like leeches for centuries finally showed their true colors. Due to your diligence and support, the traitors were discovered before they could spring their plan. In accordance with the Republics' law, they have been sentenced to high treason. This is the same fate for all those that plotted to see our future burn.” Mertha felt something in her core.
Serla stood up “so that’s what he was doing! He wanted our technology so he could remove the corporations…and we just walked right into it.” Mertha was not sad that the repugnant corporations were gone…she felt angry, betrayed…hurt.
The president continued, his composure had barely changed from the beginning of the speech “With the help of our new allies I have built up the infrastructure necessary for a new age of prosperity, one all shall share in! From today of I am happy to announce that power and healthcare shall be free for all loyal citizens of the republic. Work shall be guaranteed to all citizens who seek it. Those that were driven to criminality by the corps wanton greed will have a chance at redemption and amnesty.” Part of Mertha wanted to be happy, these were good changes. But she knew it was not for any other reason than gaining power.
The speech came to its end “I thank you for your maintained confidence and support in these trying times. Long live the republic!” with that the TV turned off and the room was left silent.
Hendrik felt at peace. He had done it! In a single day, he had destroyed the power of both the corps and the families. At this moment the corporations were being integrated into his bureaucracy and the families could only sit and watch as all of their servants abandoned them.
The solution to the families he was especially proud of, many a person who had tried to crush them had found them far more resilient than first assumed. He however had crippled their numbers and removed the basis of their power without even lifting a finger against them.
He had also bought the loyalty and allegiance of the next three generations of citizens that would see their lives drastically improve. And as a nice bonus, the affini could not deny his sincerity in improving the lives of his subjects. Unlike the corporations, he had no need to exploit the people if it did not bring him power. He could rule a utopia for all he cared, as long as he ruled that is.
For a moment he wondered if he would even need to rig the election that he would introduce next year. He was not done, but he was closer than anyone before had ever gotten to winning The Game.
He looked at his office, it was quiet and empty.
He considered going to bed. no, the arrogance of his thoughts clearly betrayed that he had more work to do. Tomorrow after another round with the affini, he would go to bed early.