Golden Black Seas
A few hundred miles from Zurich off the French and Monacan coast, a cruise ship pushed into international waters. The outward appearance was deceiving. The ship spent the beginning of its life as a passenger cruise line. After retirement from the fleet, then its sale, it was made into a personal luxury liner for one of the richest men in the world.
The inside of the ship was gutted completely removing the 346 outside cabins and some of the interior to make room for 70 ultra-opulent suites. Each suite was about 1,200 square feet subdivided into five rooms. There was a small sitting room that opened to a large living area. The room was ordained in the finest Italian upholstery. The LCD screen TV stored in the wall and was covered up by a fine piece of art work. A decent sized half bath sat adjacent to the sitting area.
Sliding doors opened to a balcony that could also be reached from the master bedroom. The master bedroom had a king size bed and two reading chairs. The master bath was as large as the bedroom. It had a private water closet, shower with multi-heads, and a two person whirlpool spa tub.
Where the duty free and shopping was had been turned into a multi-level dining experience with full stage for entertainment. The same plan was mirrored in another forward compartment but instead of dining tables it was gaming tables, slot machines, bars, and billiards. On the ground floor there was even a croquet course with living grass.
A helicopter pad was fitted on the aft deck. From each side of the ship ocean level doors could open when the ship was stopped to allow boats up to 40 feet to dock inside the superstructure. In addition, the cruise liner sported a variety of pleasure craft including small fishing boats, jet skis, and even a pair of mini submersibles.
The crowning achievement was for the ships designer and owner. The King’s Suite was the size of a mansion. Almost 10,000 square feet of multilevel splendor it had its own pool, gym, small movie theater, waterfall, all covered in priceless artwork.
Manuel “Matty” Roberto Servije made his billions in oil specifically drilling where no one else has and finding massive reserves. Matty has an interesting lineage, his fathers’ parents were Brazilian and Mexican, his mother was Lebanese. Both sides of his family came from money but nothing like what he turned it into.
The Servije family went from being rich to having a gross national product higher than most countries. Matty was ruthless in business and his personal life. He expected perfection always. If you worked for Matty and failed there was two outcomes; you would be fired immediately or you were exiled to a demeaning job.
As for business if you were a partner you would find yourself without a company. His competitors surprisingly fared better, he tended to ignore them completely in their niche of business. Where he would nail them was in property; land acquisitions and drilling rights. With all his weight he could bribe countries, isolate land locked oil rigs, and plug enough surrounding wells to suck a reserve dry before a competitor could make any profit.
All his guests were already gathered in the banquet hall by the time Matty arrived. He perused the dining area making pleasantries with his guests before taking center stage at a thin microphone.
“Good evening, Welcome to the Golden Black Seas. I hope your stay will be pleasant, educational, and most importantly fruitful in your prospers. It has been another record breaking year for the industry and looking that way for the foreseeable future. So without delay let me welcome the newest members to the Guild.”
Matty pointed to a table a few rows back on the ground level. The men raised their hands in admonishment and bowed their heads to Matty. The room gave a light applause before Matty continued. “Despite the increased productivity of traditional wells, the opening of new fields, and the expansion of our new friends into shale oil extraction prices have been steadily increasing. With the growing middle classes in China and India the number of gasoline burning cars on the road will nearly double. The auto industry has all but shunned electric vehicles opting to make cars that are more efficient and burn fuel with cleaner emissions.
Matty paused and laughed for a second. “The electric car is decades from being a viable option to the masses. The world’s governments have vastly underestimated the oil reserves and their future speculations continues to drive high prices. I for see another highly profitable year. With that being said enjoy your meal and feel free to join me in the gaming hall after.”
After dinner the gaming hall was crowded. Three stories above the floor a platform held a gaming table surrounded by a railing. Matty and three others were playing high stakes blackjack against each other. A man in his late sixties was led across the narrow walkway connecting the platform to the superstructure.
His grey at his temples encroached on the dark black hair on top of his head. Everyone stood to shake his hand and Matty offered him an empty chair. “Mr. Chosset, welcome. Would you care for a hand of Black Jack?”
Richard Chosset Sr. replied, “No, thank you, Mr. Servije, my game is Texas Hold’em.”
A white haired man also sitting at that table chimed in with a southern twang, “Now that’s my cup o’ tea.” Matty nodded to the dealer who promptly pulled out two new decks of cards and loaded them into the card shoe.
As the dealer dealt Matty spoke to Mr. Chosset, “I know you are a relative new comer to the Guild how long have you been with us, five years?” Chosset nodded, while peaking at his cards around cupped hands. Matty picked his up and held them loosely in his hand.
Matty raised the pot from $50,000 to $100,000. The others folded but Chosset called. The flop came down and both sides checked to each other. “How much of your business comes from oil?”
Chosset didn’t hesitate, “Half.”
Matty continued, “How many ships and jobs is that?”
Chosset waited for the fourth card to drop before answering, “100 tankers and roughly 2500 jobs.”
Matty put his cards back on the table and tossed a stack of chips into the pot. The dealer called out, “Raise a million.” Chosset called immediately. The river card dropped, an ace.
“I know my little speech painted a rosy picture but the oil industry is under threat. I check.” Chosset checked. The dealer held his hand to Matty who turned his cards over, a pair of jack’s. Chosset turned a single card over an ace.
The dealer pushed the chips over to Chosset. The dealer dealt again and Matty continued, “The biggest threat to our lively hoods isn’t from future innovations, it comes from our past.” The flop dropped and bets went around the table with everyone playing. “The Nazi’s developed many revolutionary ideas and concepts that could have transformed the war and in turn the world we live in today.” The dealer turned over the fourth card with more betting. The cards were wide open for straights and flushes.
“The supply lines were drying up and with no oil, the tanks and planes sat idle. This gave Nazi scientists an idea, if the Allies were unable to conduct war they would be forced into a stalemate. They pursued technology that broke down oil making it innate or so the rumors go.” The river card came down and the bets were increasing the pot was nearing five million. “We need to make sure the past stays buried and I need your help. Otherwise, our hand will be forced and we are going to have to go all in.”
Matty slowly pushed stacks of chips into the middle of the table. The dealer called out “three million to call.” Everyone around the table looked at each other than at Matty. One by one they folded. When they came to Chosset he pushed his cards in.
Matty flipped his cards showing his garbage hand a three, six off suit with nothing on the board. From over Chosset’s shoulder a large envelope was produced. He took it in his hand as Matty grinned. “You think you can take care of this?”
Chosset pulled out a sheet of paper and quickly read it over. “I think that will be all for me this evening, and I’ll get right on this.”