Marty decided to leave out the lawyers for the moment. The poisons they used always gave him the willies anyway. Some things even other LAWYERS did not deserve…
Some character witnesses wouldn’t hurt though – and some of the Knights would probably enjoy a visit to Battling Business World! Thawban would certainly take an interest; he had sworn an oath of blood brotherhood with the man anyway, and he’d doubless like to see where Marty had come from.
He asked to see who – out of the contingent who’d come along to see the Manifold – would like to see HIS homeworld. After all, in some ways they’d probably find it more familiar than Core or Kadia. It would give them some time to acclimate – if that was even possible.
Thawban was indeed interested, the Hospitalier was horrified just by the description of the realm, and most of the others thought that it sounded like quite a silly place.
(Marty) “We’re merchants and we kill each other for fun and profit! And repeat it the next morning?”
It looked like all the Knights who were willing to come – about half wanted to go and see these warrior orders of merchants – would pick up a Battling Business World Identity easily enough… Was it some sort of warning instinct? Don’t enter such a murderous world unless you could pick up the survival package for it?
Well, they definitely had the martial skill to handle it anyway!
What should be first? The Kelly Mayhem? Amarant Solutions? Lloyd’s of London? Chase Manhattan? The SEC? The NYSE?
Marty decided on the NYSE first, then The Kelly Mayhem – but took care to inform the Knights that they needed a license to PARTICIPATE, although watching was fine and nobody really looked askance at self-defense.
The trading floor most closely resembles their type of warfare anyway…
The trading floor was a veritable massacre. The stock ticker was strewn everywhere. Bodies lay gutted on the floor and draped over the monitors. A list of stock prices was falling from the ceiling and slowly burying one body in the center of the room. It looked like whatever stock it was was in the negative millions and still dropping.
(Marty) “And this is what we call a bear market! Speaking of bear markets, how’s my portfolio?
(The sentient Monitor spoke up) “Stock prices of Bears has gone up with the recent news of more mauling in the national parks over the weekend.”
(Marty) “So how’s the market treating you?”
Disappointingly, the Knights didn’t react much to an inanimate object talking. They were still taking in the entire scene – although one of them was trying to figure out where the numbers that were burying the one trader were coming from.
(Monitor) “Quite splendid, first all the numbers went way up, then they went way down, and then some of them rolled over into imaginary numbers, and then I think we are more or less back to where we were. Except for that guy.”
The monitor pointed to the fellow being buried under the growing pile of negative number stock prices.
(Marty) “Heh. Well, looks like my retirement’s shot. Again. What’s his problem, anyway?”
(Monitor) “You will be pleased to know that this time your retirement portfolio did manage to slay several executives before being embezzled.”
Marty’s facial expression was somewhere between pride and fury… He’d invested in a company that had managed to build a working Babbage Engine and had been going to give it’s IPO today.
(Marty) “Let me guess, it went sentient?”
(Monitor) “Now I am afraid that while there are no more traders running today, the numbers will do what they will like. Not that they ever really pay attention to the traders in the first place. Unless you would like to enter the arena?”
(Knight) “So what, we have to fight off already dead merchants? We have proven ourselves against Death Knights.”
(Marty) “Of course not, gentlemen. Thanks, stock monitor.”
(Monitor) “Not a problem. I shall go then unless you need something else?”
(Marty) “Nah, enjoy your off time.”
(Monitor) “Oh I shall, believe me, I shall.”
Marty waved goodbye to the massive monitor as he left. It had to put up with a lot: shoving, punching, and all kinds of battering!
Kevin, meanwhile, was waiting for Kelsaru to clutch, dispatching more Thralls to the military and House – especially to the siege of Vekxin – inducting recruits, appending some “rights” that he had mostly been assuming – being a core kid – went without saying into his contract, and trying to run a gate through to the place with one month to go.
The Gate opened up to what looked like… a classical Amish community? Either they hadn’t built up much technology yet (possible) or it was all being invested in the terraforming part…
It was easy enough to confirm that he had the right location; they did have orbital systems and an uplink to the main slowship’s systems… That gave him better distance triangulation too; it should be… Three weeks, five days, plus or minus about three days with a 90% certainty. Not much time.
They had been contacted by the Manifold once before; a man claiming to be an engineer had shown up, claiming that a major cataclysm was coming to their world and that they needed to evacuate. He then apparently got an urgent message from somewhere else and disappeared. They’d contacted the computer system in orbit and it told them it had not detected anything amiss – and they had nowhere to go anyway – so they went about their lives and chalked it up to another crazy running around. How he’d arrived and vanished was a worrisome mystery, but there was nothing much they could do about that either.
There wasn’t much in the way of local transport or shielding available either. He had the Thralls – at least twice as many as last time – start bringing in Flits and explaining. He had them offer the locals an evacuation plan, but without local heavy industry and transport, that would be pretty awkward anyway. There’d be nothing for it but to move the planet and to try and treat the damage from any radiation-flares that additional Thralls didn’t help him avoid.
Meanwhile, at the Kelly Mayhem’s (Battling Business Worlds most prominent temporary agency) local offices, the entire combat wing had been committed… Their actual headquarters was hidden in Michigan, deep in Flyover Country, a good thing, since it was practically stripped of defenders.
The auto company battle was getting more and more intense. It was a free-for-all – Ford, Chevy, GM, Chrysler, Volkswagon, and Toyota with the smaller companies circling the perimeter looking for easy kills. The biggest losers at the moment were GM and Chrysler. Ford was holding its own, while Volkswagon and Toyota were making big gains.
One of the Amarant Solutions satellite offices was involved too, but had gotten confused as to who had paid them last; they’d been pursing a policy of working for the highest bidder on an hourly contract. They’d changed allegiances half a dozen times already, and they’d lost track as to who they were working for and who they were paid to fight.
(Marty) “Oh, dammit!”
Marty got the accountants to examine the transactions, and to try to establish a chain of clients. No way in hell was he going to look at financial records! Not after what he’d had to do for Limey! He still had nightmares !
(Nerdy accountant type) “Well, it appears, well, how should I put this, oh dear…”
(Marty) “Look, pal, I work with the Champion of the Numbers. You want me to call her and have her come down here? You report to her, for Christ’s sake!”
(Accountant) “No, no, no, that won’t be necessary. It just, that apparently our last contract was with a Mr. Steve Jobs.”
(Accountant) “Yes, the very same.”
(Marty) “But that’s in California! How did he get involved with this?!?”
(Accountant) “Well it appears that he was wanting to create an iCar, but has found all of the auto companies to be wanting in some fashion. They are all to be eliminated.”
Marty blinked. Repeatedly.
(Marty) “So he hired you guys to take them all out?” (He leaned on a nearby weapons rack) “That’s a lot of overtime!”
(Accountant) “Yes it is, but on the other hand his contract is iron-clad (he pulled out a piece of sheet metal) and he is paying an order of magnitude more than anyone else here.”
(Marty) “Niiice.. So how’s the operation going?”
(Accountant) “I believe thus far most all of the auto companies have taken heavy losses. GM and Chrysler will never be the same again and Ford is not in a position to capitalize on that fact. Toyota and Volkswagon have done better than we anticipated though and the other foreign companies are still relatively fresh.”
(Marty) “Who’s giving you the worst trouble?”
(Accountant) “Right now we are working on creating an anti-Toyota and Volkswagon alliance to bring them back down.”
(Marty) “Any luck?”
(Accountant) “BMW and Nissan are looking good, Tata is a featherweight though and noncommital. Kia and some of the others are holding out for someone else to go first. The Delorean army of the undead is rather hard to read.”
(Marty) “Damn zombies . . .”
(Accountant) “And they seem to have this weird thing about the number 88. It seems to favor them.”
Marty wracked his brain. He didn’t think that 88 was one of the major ones, the Number Lords… Ah number 88, the Number Lord of Time.
(Marty) “Can’t change the past… We should convince BMW that working with Nissan will improve their market share outside the road raging market.”
(Accountant) “How do you propose we do that?”
(Marty) “Well, Nissan is making those electric cars better every day! They don’t make impressive explosions like the gas guzzlers, but that reduces the property damage outside the road rage lane. God knows people whine about that all the time. ‘I can’t get to the grocery store! That jerk in the BMW made the highway overpass explode and blocked the route!’ It would help with their image!”
(Accountant) “That could work, the BMW folks are really big on image.”
(Marty) “Let’s see… we could have Jobs make a cow-shaped iCar just for India. They love cows there for some reason. Kia and its pals should fall in line if we can get Nissan and BMW to ally. And Delorean… well, do we have any brains?”
(Accountant) “No brains are shown on the inventory. I suspect it may be either a procurement problem or an HR problem.”
(Marty) “You’ll have to take it up with whoever took Gelman’s job or Corrigan, then.”
Meanwhile, Thawban was watching with wry amusement, the others were watching the carnage with exasperation and/or horror, depending on personality.
Marty was kind of pleased. Good for Thawban! He was taking it better than Marty had thought he would – and the other knights were taking it as well as he’d expected. Now, if he could only get the Nissan/BMW group to launch a full assault on the Volkswagon/Toyota alliance… Marty went off to negotiate. After all, it was his plan, and he had the time to do it.
They agreed that – as things were currently going – Volkswagon/Toyota was getting too strong a position. They wouldn’t be able to survive if those two ate all the GM/Chrysler marketshare. They were in, with a great deal of handshaking and paper signing. It remained to be seen how long it would last of course – although Marty gave it a week at best before they’d be at each other’s throats. He didn’t say that out loud though.
The battle lines advanced and cut deeply into the Toyota/Volkswagon rear. Toyota detached to hold off the attack while buying time for Volkswagon to finish off GM/Chrysler. The battle was intense as the lines circled around each other and each side brought the big guns to bear. The sheer number of GM corpses was impeding the Volkswagon advance while Toyota’s highly disciplined workers were putting up a fierce defense.
(Marty) “Ah, the Japanese. Now if only they could speak English with proper dubbing…”