Shadows of God

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Chapter 9

Marcus hesitated when he entered Byron’s office. There wasn’t a haze of smoke in the air and the old man wasn’t behind his desk. Marcus looked down at his watch and the objectives meeting was going to start in the next fifteen minutes. Just before he began worrying, the door to Byron’s office closed. Marcus turned around and he nearly tripped over himself when he saw the little man. Byron wore a shining white tuxedo with an extended tail that nearly touched the ground, a white top hat, and a gold cane wielded by white-gloved hands. He looked like some exaggerated caricature of old timey wealth. The only thing he was missing was the monocle, but even that appeared from Byron’s vest pocket as he sauntered. He stood as proud as a child on their first day of school, cleaning the lens with a handkerchief as he came to a stop and presented himself to Marcus.“What exactly are you wearing, Byron?” Marcus asked.Byron’s eyebrows flicked up a few times as he stared at Marcus. “You like it, don’t you?” he asked smiling.Marcus couldn’t help but laugh.Byron smiled. “This is the perfect day to wear this outfit,” he said putting away the lens in his jacket and producing a cigar. “I’m about to see the bane of my existence disgraced and led away in handcuffs! This is a day that should go down in the history books!”Marcus began laughing when the door opened and Katerin stuck her head inside. Byron waved her off and told her that they were just about to leave. Byron motioned for Marcus to lead and the two men made their way to the conference room. The ride up to the conference room was short, the two of them chatting and joking about what was going to happen after Ser Nathan’s fall. Byron was going to take his yacht on a trip around the world while Marcus watched over things in his stead. Marcus didn’t have the heart to tell him he was headed for the Lion’s Club as soon as Dorian made the offer official. However, when the elevator reached the top floor and opened, the two of them froze. Something wasn’t right.

The white walled conference room was perfectly normal, a little jubilant even. The long black table had the same faces sitting around it, chatting or nibbling on something. The mood in the room was light and everyone seemed happier than usual, laughing at one thing or another. Marcus saw Ser Nathan himself sitting on the edge of the table. He was wearing a beige suit with a black shirt and tie, gold flashing on his hands and around his neck. There wasn’t a crack of worry in the smile on his face, his gold tooth flashing for all to see.

Marcus frowned, making eye contact with Bryon who also had a frown wrinkling his gray eyebrows. Ser Nathan had a finger somewhere in the hierarchy of the DPD. By now, Dorian must have reached out to the Commissioner to arrange for the arrest. That should’ve meant Ser Nathan knew of the investigation. Naturally, he would tell all his sycophants so by now this meeting room should’ve been full of terrified and anxious people. Yet, there Ser Nathan and his cronies were, laughing as though nothing in the world was wrong. The two men shared another look before walking into the boardroom. Marcus felt as though the two of them were cats stuck in a room full of mountain lions, relatively safe but wholly uncomfortable.

Ser Nathan looked up and erupted in laughter when his eyes fell on Byron. Ser Nathan’s laughter caught everyone’s attention and they all looked up, joining in his mirth. It seemed everyone wanted Byron to know that they were laughing at him. They all roared with mirth and pointed at Byron, some leaning over on their knees for support and others holding aching sides. Marcus was disgusted. Byron just tugged at the sleeve of his protégé. The two of them took their seats as the laughter continued, a few executives now coming by to pick at Byron’s clothes, his ineffectual defensive swings only making them laugh harder. Once everyone settled down, Ser Nathan turned to Byron as though he meant to ask a question but he waved off his own question. “What kind of man would I be if I questioned the crazy actions of a crazy man?” the CEO asked to no one in particular. Ser Nathan pressed a button on the surface of the table and the morning sun abruptly disappeared behind tinted windows. A large television screen began descending from the ceiling and Ser Nathan reached into his pocket. He retrieved a small remote as he got to his feet, the television flashing to a blue screen. Before he could begin the meeting, the intercom beeped and an ugly look appeared on Ser Nathan’s face. He motioned for one of his sycophants to answer the call.

“What do you want, Gloria?” Ser Nathan asked harshly. “You know I’m in a meeting!”

“Commissioner Spyros is here to see you, sir!” the woman said over the line.

“Commissi-what?” Ser Nathan asked, blood draining from his face. “What do you mean?

“Commissioner Spyros is-”

Ding

All nine face turned towards the golden elevators and saw a large figure wearing a black shirt and black suit with gold pinstripes. Gold flashed from a cravat on his black tie and he wore a gargantuan ring on his right hand that twinkled with precious stones. In the darkness, only the light of the TV’s blue screen gave any illumination, but the golden eyes of Ser Dorian were unmistakable even in that dimness. His presence put a hush on the entire room and he walked forward into the conference room...alone. Marcus and Byron shared another look.

“Commissioner!” Ser Nathan said as though this was the greatest gift.

He walked around the table to extend his hand to Ser Dorian. Dorian smiled as he took Ser Nathan’s hand but the smile melted after a second. He had the look and demeanor of an ornery vice principal observing the classroom of a teacher who violated all the rules. His golden eyes held no warmth and he didn’t spare any longer of a glance for Byron or Marcus than he did for any of the other executives around the table.

“Come in please!” Ser Nathan said ushering Dorian closer to the table. “What a pleasant surprise! To what do we owe the honor of your visit, Commissioner?”

Dorian remained planted exactly where was. “Is there any way for the two of us to be alone, Nelson?” he asked.

Ser Nathan bristled before he looked around the table and saw the faces of his sycophants and supporters. All eyes were on the CEO. Marcus felt an odd mixture of emotions when he saw Ser Nathan puff up his chest. There was a definite pang of sympathy for the impending downfall of a man, but Marcus wanted nothing more than laugh because he knew this bully of a man was doomed. It was just odd to know another man’s fate before he did.

“Anything that needs to be said to me, can be said in front of them,” Ser Nathan said staring at Byron for a long time.

Dorian sighed before he opened the folder and retrieved a stiff white page that he handed to Ser Nathan. A sheen of sweat immediately broke out on Ser Nathan’s face as he reached the bottom of the page. Once he finished reading the page, his eyes latched onto Dorian’s face.

“What is this, Spyros?” Ser Nathan asked angrily.

In response, Dorian cracked the folder open again. He took out another page and handed the page over. Ser Nathan’s white eyebrows climbed higher and higher the further down he went. When he finished, he looked up at Dorian with wide eyes, his eyebrows still hovering near his hairline. One of the executives spoke up in the silence.

“What’s going on?” the nameless man asked.

“Go dagger your mother!” Ser Nathan snapped.

The explosion of anger rocked each of the executives around the table. Marcus noticed a few of the sycophants look at one another before turning back to the scene unfolding in front of them. They looked to be just as uncomfortable as Ser Nathan. Some of his crimes could mean years in jail for any accomplices. Dorian just remained silent and stared at Ser Nathan, his face a blank slate as his golden eyes bored into the older man. Ser Nathan’s eyes flicked from Dorian’s face to the folder in his arms and he licked his lips.

“Where did you get this information, Spyros?” Ser Nathan asked.

Rather than answer his question, Dorian cracked open the folder once more and handed Ser Nathan a third sheet of paper. Ser Nathan’s face crumpled.

“You can’t be serious?” Ser Nathan asked, his voice quivering. “You can’t think this will actually happen.”

“Xiao is a friend of mine too, Nelson,” Dorian said. “I have more directly connecting you to everything. There’s no escape.”

“So you want me to sell my family’s soul to you?”

Marcus’s head whipped around to stare at his cousin. Dorian never mentioned any kind of takeover. Marcus was angry, but he knew he wasn’t the angriest man in the room. He didn’t need to see Byron to know what that craggy old face looked like. Marcus almost turned to Byron anyways to try and say something, but there was nothing that needed to be said. A Spyros was going to be a Spyros afterall.

“Its either you sell and step down,” Dorian said. “Or stay on and go down, Nelson.”

"This is blackmail!” one of the sycophants cried out as he jumped to his feet. “I’ll go straight to the Mayor about this blatant breaking of the law!”

Dorian chuckled. “Go on then,” he said with a shrug. “Go and tell them that I, the Commissioner of the ITG, have evidence of the largest embezzling ring in modern history and I, the Commissioner of the ITG, am using that evidence to blackmail Ser Nathan into selling his company to me, the Commissioner of the ITG. Go right on ahead and see how well that works out for you.”

The man sat back down. The problem wasn’t that the police wouldn’t believe him. The problem was that these kind of maneuvers were commonplace in Iota. In Damokles, these kinds of things were almost expected, the only real crime was being stupid enough to get caught, or costing the wrong people fex. As Commissioner of the ITG, Dorian was untouchable as long as the economy was growing. Seeing as how Dorian has overseen the longest period of economic growth in modern history, trying to take him down would be like trying to demolish a mountain with a few firecrackers.

Dorian turned his eyes back on Ser Nathan whose head drooped under the stare, defeated. Ser Nathan held his hand out and one of his sycophants mindlessly supplied a pen. The man cringed as soon as he realized what he did and he looked around, seeing a few faces glaring at him. As Ser Nathan looked down at the document, Dorian cast that intense gaze around the table. Marcus could see he was asserting his dominance to keep the people around the table cowed long enough for Ser Nathan to sign. However, he seemed to avoid Marcus’ angry and confused stare. Instead, Dorian turned back to Ser Nathan and saw that the pen in the doomed man’s hand was hovering above the final line.

“The choice is simple, Nelson,” Dorian said with a menacing edge to his voice. “Either you sign the merger promissory or everything I have will end up in the hands of Commissioner Knight. I know you only minored in law but I’m sure even you know what will happen after that.”

Ser Nathan’s mouth gaped for a minute before he caught himself. The look in his eyes edged on feral but he still seemed to be in control of himself. At least Marcus hoped he was in control.

“I don’t believe you,” Ser Nathan said. Every syllable he spoke seemed to calm him a bit more. “You would never turn over all of this evidence at once. A scandal this large would decimate the ITG once and for all and you could never allow such a stain on the legacy of your glorious reign as Commissioner. Could you, Spyros?”

Dorian stared at Ser Nathan, face calm but with an intensity in his eyes whispering of danger simmering just below the surface. An intensity that promised godlike retribution if wronged. Nothing in Dorian’s demeanor changed. His tall and thick frame remained as still as a statue, but Dorian seemed almost to harden as though he was trying to become one. It seemed like every aspect of him became more tangible there in front of everyone and therefore undeniable in what he wanted. For the first time, Marcus saw what it was to be a Minoan. The fortunes of the past rose and fell with the fortunes of men bearing those golden eyes. Those were the eyes that convinced half the world that anyone carrying Minoan blood was a creature of Perdition and needed to be killed. Looking at his cousin, that superstition made sense, even if that one dumb story didn’t.

“You believe me,” Dorian said. “By now you’ve figured out that the rest of the ITG table is isolated from this impending disaster. How do you think I got this information in the first place? I bought you out of your board seats with Costlow and SIlver Bear. Your ‘secret’ safety-net ties were severed as of this morning.”

Everyone in the room could tell that Ser Nathan knew he was trapped. Even though the companies of the ITG were supposed to remain competitors, it was a well-known secret that they conspired. Companies paid immense amounts of fex for board seats on other companies as shows of good faith or tongue-in-cheek announcements of an alliance of sorts. That way the fortunes of both companies were tied together, but Ser Nathan was completely isolated now. The wild look in his eyes said it all and yet the CEO still just stared at the page on the table, sweat dripping from his nose. Dorian began walking around the table, taking slow methodical steps.

“You’re no more than three minutes away from pissing yourself because you know I have what I have and you know what I have will have you executed.” Dorian said smirking to himself.

By the Divine Everlasting, Marcus wondered if he will ever really know his Spyros family. People accused his family of being bloodthirsty monsters, but to the best of Marcus’ knowledge, no Spyros had spilled blood in decades. With what was unfolding in front of him, Marcus was beginning to understand why people still considered his family monsters. Dorian was now playing word games with the guy? This was brutal to watch.

“The Table will never do that,” Ser Nathan squeaked.

Dorian took a cup from the hands of one of the people he passed and brought it to Ser Nathan, miming for him to drink.

“The government will have you executed if I say its to prevent the collapse of the ITG,” he said. “You and I both know the ITG can’t collapse. If we fail, the world’s economy fails. The world economy fails, the Armageddon will have nothing on what will follow. This is a well-documented fact.”

“You may get the Table behind you on ousting me but never on executing me,” Ser Nathan said stubbornly as he took a sip. “Jefferies and Narciso would never allow it.”

Dorian chuckled. “You just don’t get it,” he said. “Your market share on the trading sphere has dwindled to near nothing! Buying you out of those board seats was cheap! They were happy to be rid of you! Your destruction will be nothing but a bump in the road for us. Your execution will be a means of reestablishing some faith and authority in the ITG. Imagine it. Executing one of our own in the name of justice? You know how rare of an opportunity this is for me as Commissioner? Yet here I am, possibly willing to give that up for a simple signature.”

Ser Nathan put the cup down and looked down at the contract. He looked back up at Dorian and was caught in that gaze once more.

“You would never allow the government to set the precedent of executing businessmen for financial crimes,” Ser Nathan repeated.

Dorian smirked and blinked a few times, shaking his head as he stared at Ser Nathan. “The world economy, Nelson,” he said. “Who in the name of the Divine are you, in the face of the world economy? Who are you really?”

“The Table will never agree to the establishment of the precedent of executing businessmen!” Ser Nathan repeated stubbornly. “They will not do it! I may go down for all this but I will die naturally in prison…as my son runs this company!”

“Executed on TV after a guilty verdict,” Dorian said. “Stabbed in lock up while awaiting trial. Blown up while in transit to prison. Killed in a failed breakout attempt. One way or another, you die and it'll be easy enough to spin it as I need. Whether a horrible death or an easy one, your death will happen. That paper right there is your only chance of survival.”

Dorian shrugged with a look of helplessness on his face still walking around the table. He stopped and stared out of the window with his back to the room. All attention and tension focused on Ser Nathan. Ser Nathan became misty-eyed as he looked down at the pen in his hand. A tear ran down his cheek when his pen touched the paper. There was a shocked sigh from the witnesses around the table at the scratching of Ser Nathan’s signature. When he finished, Ser Nathan fled the boardroom like some overly dramatic actor, a few of his sycophants running after him. Marcus and Byron just stared at Dorian who continued to gaze out of the window. The board members who remained after the departure of Ser Nathan filtered out of the room, all of them happy enough to be away from the place where their company was caught, cooked and consumed in the same morning.

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