The Earthseed Chronicles Free to read science fiction blogfic

19Aug/110

1-1: The Hidden Mogul

Her head was throbbing, but she was way too excited about her findings to let it deter her. She had spent over a year now sifting through the financials of several multinational companies in a quest for tax fraud signs or other financial irregularities. She had found a few minor issues, but that was not what held her interest. It had only been a hunch at first, but a year of research, of tracking down account holders and subsidiaries had begun to materialize a pattern: all of the top ten worldwide companies were indirectly owned by a single company based in France called Thorvalds Technologies. Its CEO was a Ragnar Thorvalds, and from what little information she could glean it had no more than 8 employees.

She suspected that the company's net of ownership was more extensive, but she had only been given access to the books of these ten companies. The thought of a mogul controlling earth's industry was slightly terrifying, but it also seemed quite impossible to pull this off without it being publicized at all. If you have such power, you will want to exert it - and that never goes by unnoticed. She was thrilled, and loved the feeling. She loved numbers, otherwise she would not do this job - but this?  There was a huge monster lurking in the numbers, and it smelled of sweet mystery. The big question was what she was going to do about it. There was no crime here so far, just a very clever chain of ownership. There was no valid reason to stir up that pot, and would she even want to?

She knew there was no rush, it had taken her a year to find the "monster" in the accounts and it was not likely to disappear overnight. She forwarded the few irregularities she had uncovered for review to her project manager, but she already knew they would not take action with them - they were literally not worth the trouble. She kept her discovery of the monster to herself and headed home.

Madrid was as lively a city as ever, she never regretted moving here six years ago. She caught the next shuttle and made a detour by Retiro Park to grab a bite and finally head home on foot. Her apartment was right next to the botanical garden, and the walk always helped her sort out her thoughts. Besides, in the evening the park was chock-full of interesting people. Sitting on a bench just watching the endless flow of people was pure entertainment. Her mind was on other things though this time - she knew she would not be able to let this go, she had to learn more about Thorvalds Technologies and its owner.

She did not meet anyone in the staircase, and on entering her living room routinely dropped her things in a heap on the sofa.

"Hello, lady Zoya," a rich male voice said out of the doorway to her kitchen.

Shocked out of her wits, she stumbled back and grabbed the first thing she could lay her hands on and shook it threateningly in the man's direction.

"Who the hell are you?" She half shouted.

"No need for that, m'lady," he said pointing a finger at her improvised weapon. "Your window was open, so I let myself in. I'm here to ask for your help," he said very calmly.

"You want my help? I'll help you - get out of here and if you're fast maybe I won't call the policía." Her voice sounded even less confident than she felt. No matter how threateningly you shake a toilet brush, the effect is usually not the intended one. She clumsily put the brush back, keeping her eyes fixed on the stranger. She felt her face heat up, she had bought that brush about a week ago as replacement for her old one, and it was still sitting here on the cupboard. Undeterred, she grabbed the heavy iron candle holder next to it and kept it leveled between her and the intruder. Its weight was a lot more comforting. He watched her calmly with the hint of a smirk, apparently amused by the whole situation.

"Please, let me at least introduce myself. Maybe we can discuss this over a cup of tea?" He sounded confident and rather reasonable for a burglar/rapist. She turned on the lights and allowed herself to study him more closely. He was a lot taller than her with a rather athletic build judging from what his casual attire revealed. He was unusually pale for this latitude, and he spoke spanish with an accent she could not quite place. He was also distractingly handsome, which somehow just managed to infuriate her even more.

"Pardon me if I don't feel like inviting you to my table just yet."

He smiled. "I understand. My name is Frank Halderberg, your friend Antonio told me to come to you." With that name, he was probably from a Germanic country. She frowned.

"Anotonio, huh? So far I have not heard anything that would give me a reason to trust you, although I have to admit I'm intrigued. What do you need me for?"

"I need your mathematical skills to break down a cypher."

She whistled. "Ooookay. And now tell me why I shouldn't just have your sorry ass dragged into prison? "

He sighed. "Because it is for a good cause? I'm sorry, I can't tell you more as long as you stay so stubborn."

"Me, stubborn? You've got some nerve!" She glared at him, but he seemed impervious to glaring. She sighed.

"I think I'll have that tea you mentioned earlier now. I suppose that if you had come here to harm me, you would already have done so?"

"Yes," he answered matter-of-factly.

"Charming," she murmured, put the candle holder back on the cupboard, and brushed past him into the kitchen. He watched her silently as she took out her favorite tea bags and heated up some water. She could feel his gaze on her neck, and it robbed her of her wits.

"Stop watching me, go sit in the couch or something so I can salvage a semblance of composure before we continue this conversation," she snapped. He simply nodded and disappeared into the living room. She absently put the tea bags into the Kettle and took out the sugar pot and two spoons. She didn't know what to think - Antonio was a friend, but quite unreliable and she had always suspected him of being involved in somewhat shady activities. He was a great entertainer at parties and could cook like a god, but she did not really know him. Her certainly was not one of her inner circle of friends.

On top of that, she could not simply toss aside the fact that this guy just broke into her home. Just thinking of it sent shivers down her spine. What madness was this, drinking tea with your burglar? She put two cups and the rest on a floating tray, and sent it ahead of her into the living room.

"Alright, start talking. What the hell is wrong with, you know, knocking like normal people do?"

He helped himself to a cup of tea, and waited until she was sitting on the chair opposite to him, the tray between them on the low table.

"I needed someplace to hide while I waited for you. Your place was a convenient solution."

She rubbed her eyes in disbelief. "You're really not making it easy to trust you. Why should I let myself be dragged into your shady affairs?"

"It is for a good cause-"

"Oh, cut the bloody crap. My sympathy for you is hanging by a thread right now, and you need something from me. Either you start talking earnest, or I start screaming."  He fixed her for a while, then he visibly relaxed and smiled.

"Fair enough."

 

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