Chasing The Dark Star
She closed her eyes with a quiet sigh and rubbed her temples. She kept the comm line muted as she took a sip of her jasmine tea. She held the small glass cup in both hands, enjoying the feel of the hand crafted glass, the raised flower design pushing against her palm. She took another sip and savored the sweet flavor before taking a deep breath and looking to her terminal. She had muted the man as soon as he started to rant. While, yes, she was meant to actually hear his proposal, he had done nothing but recite the same idea as the other six division heads and smaller CEO's had said. She'd had quite enough of their anger. So she would simply mute them for a moment and sip her tea, enjoying the fragrance as she watched the comm line dance on her terminal. She was more than a little curious as to why they objected to her veto quite so much. The usual motives were there: lust for money and greed, more factories and more power. But they could have that on any other world just as well as this one. But this one was a core planet, an old world that was colonized long ago, but that wasn't the issue. This couldn't be any simple act of greed, not from all the subsidiaries at once. She clicked a button and sat silently as his voice came back through. It seemed like no time had passed as he was still ranting at her with no indication he even knew he was ever muted. While he said his piece more politely than others, he was saying the same things. She took a deep breath and looked out at her view of the city. It streched as far as the eye could see in every direction. It was tall enough to touch the clouds and deep enough to never truly see the bottom. But she knew there was a whole planet out there. The city, while massive in scale, didn't cover the entire planet. Beyond her vision, just out of reach, were the traditionalist sectors: the old abandoned towers and massive farmlands. The old temples and small communities built around them. She knew they were nestled against the mountains and hidden the in the valleys stretching away in waves of green and blue. She knew of smaller cities and ports lining the beaches where earth met ocean. They were things a painter would dream of. It was a planet full of natural beauty; but that was all beyond her reach. She was trapped in a glass tower, trapped by her success, with only herself to blame. And my beloved father, she mused with a wry smile. It took a moment to come back from her imagination, but she could once again hear the man talk at her. She turned back to the monitor, taking another sip of her tea watching the wave lengths bounce as he spoke.
"Mr. Takashi, please settle down." she spoke slowly and loudly, as if to a child, hiding her annoyance at him like a professional should. It was several moments before his blustering stopped. "Why must it be the temple?" she said it bluntly, knowing it would annoy him. "Why not ask for land outside the city? There is a whole planet under us, and a lot of free space. You could ask for any swath of land and I would help you get it, but you, just like everyone else, demand the temple dome be torn down and the monks expelled so the land can be used for whatever it is you were ranting about before. So I ask, out of this whole planet, this whole system actually, why do you all ask for the temples?" she stood, her chair rolling across the gleaming white floor until it halted against the small table holding a bonsai tree in the corner. She walked around her desk, her short heels clicking with every step. She let her hand run across the old wood and smiles as she feels every fiber and grain of the desk in her hand. She had it brought from the old world: an ancient thing carved from a solid piece of blood wood generations ago when people cared about craftsmanship and elegance. It was one of her guilty pleasures; not just the desk, but the tea cup as well. Her chair and her shoes, the table in the corner and the little bonsai tree. Even her clothing was hand crafted. She loved things crafted by hand. She loved to know that her things were crafted by someone who loved to it, someone who poured love into their work as they made it by hand instead of machinery. She once again pulled herself back to the situation at hand. He had yet to reply by the time she rounded the desk, so she raised raised her cup and sipped the tea again, closing her eyes and enjoying the simple pleasure it gave her.
"Ms. Sato... I know you are young and have yet to fully grasp the opportunities set before as branch manager..." she let out a small mmm as she sipped the tea and muttered to stop him.
"Future Industries Shen Branch President, Mr. Takashi, I have a plaque on my desk and everything." she wasn't joking either. She set the small ornate tea cup down on the plate with a small clink and turned the plaque, the gold inlays flickering from the ceiling light. She frowned at it, she didn't like the title, nor her opportunities. He cleared his throat before continuing.
"My apologies, President Sato... but as I was saying, the land these archaic temples inhabited could be used to gain huge profits in only you would utilize them. I understand you are too young to know the danger these temples pose to use all. The harbor terrorists and mutants alike and they fund raids on the transports that keep the outer colonies alive. You haven't experienced first hand the absolute horror that is an attack from one of these monsters. They are deranged savages and need to be routed at the source." she rolled her eyes and turned her monitor, typing in commands and clicking her tongue.
"You are right, Mr. Takashi, I am young. Very young given my position. I guess I should thank my father for that. You say you know the danger a bender brings, I know that last month alone the death toll from pirate crews with benders aboard were staggering. And I know that those are the numbers you use to scare your people; but the deaths from benders, pirate benders and every other sort of bender you could imagine were still only a fraction of the overall deaths in the shipping industry. In fact, bending related deaths account for only two-percent of the death toll annually. The pollution from your factories kill more people than these, deranged savages." she waited a moment, tapping her chin as she considered the prompt on her monitor. "You call the temples archaic, but over a third of our consumers believe in the old ways. Just think, if you even can, about how much money we would lose by tearing down such important religious centers. And try, if you are capable, to think back to the history of the colonies and that one of the first structures built on every settled planet was an elemental temple. Would do you think would happen if we removed the centers of faith from the masses?" she frowned at her empty cup, wheeling her chair back to the desk and sitting down, crossing one leg over the other. She waited for his reply, closing her eyes and leaning her head back against the chair. She waited and waited as he tried to find the right words.
"We would recover. And the traditionalists would still have the stations." She almost laughed at him. How could a man with so much power have so little understanding of the way of things. Men like him often made her wonder how they ever reached the stars. She pushed a strand of her thick black hair behind her ear.
"Are you saying we would recover from years of turmoil and open rebellion caused by the destruction of sacred lands by using the stations? The stations built and maintained by the monks you wish to disturb? Those stations are some of the largest trading post in the system and I doubt they would take kindly to open violence against their order. Mr. Takashi, over our conversation it has become clear to me that you are using fear and economic gain as a basis to try and further your own prejudices and that this issue has no concern of the temples." she reaches to the monitor, clicking the prompt and typing in one final command. "It is quite clear that you are not suited for the tasks given to you. As of today you are no longer part of the Future Industries family and all of your automated factories are to be shutdown and your workforce will be brought over to the Shen branch. Goodbye Mr. Takashi." a series of status checks rolled down the thin screen, turning green to red as the comm link closed and the monitor folded into the desk. Asami sighed, turning her chair to once again look at the view, tracing the cities skyline and studying the large dome. It's a beautiful thing, just visible past a series of towers. A dome made of streamlined metal, gleaming white and red and blue and green all at once. The colors shifting in impossible ways with each breeze. She closed her eyes again, breathing deeply and clicking as small button on the arm of her chair, losing herself, just for a moment in the strings of the traditional fire nation music. Losing herself in the idea of living in such a simple time, a time when a bender was just as common as anyone else. A time when they wouldn't be prosecuted for what they were. But it was just a fantasy. Those days have long since ended, if they had ever started to begin with.
She opened her eyes slowly, realizing she had dazed off as the sun had lowered in the sky. She was glad though, she knew she wouldn't lose any sleep over costing the company billions of credits. She watched as the last light of the dying day played and danced off the shuttles zooming through the sky the people. She stood, walking slowly to the window, ignoring the slight hiss of her office door sliding open as she traced a finger on the dome. She watched with tired eyes as the colors continued to shift. So beautiful. She yawned and watched as the first stars gleamed in the sky. She smiled as a shooting star streaked across the sky she was tempted to make a wish, but it would not have been a good one, so she thought better of it. Then another streaked across the sky. Two? Then another and some more. Her smile faded as she realized it was debris from something in orbit. The woman who entered stood next to her. She was well built, her gray hair pulled tight in a pony tail. The worn leather tench coat made seem bigger than she was as she crossed her arms. She watched as the fireballs fell from the sky and struck the city in the distance.
"Ms. Sato... one of your fathers personal cargo vessels was attacked before it reached the station. No numbers but it looks like it was all hands lost." she said it coldly, simply stating the facts. Asami frowned, tracing her finger along the path off one of the larger fireballs. All hands lost? What would drive raiders this close to the core planets? And to attack a ship so close to dock... she furrowed her brow. She knew what it must look like up there. Hulls splitting apart, what little air still in the ships fueling the fires and the crew, dying by fire or asphyxiation as the defense guns spat out what resistance they could.
"Lin, get me the manifest for that vessel, and all reports you can find on the situation. Take care of this personally. Something isn't right." Asami didn't move as she spoke, she simply watched as more and more streaks filled the sky, lighting it up as if it were a festival. Lin, nodded and turned on her heel. "And Ms. Beifong, have Pao bring me more tea, we have work to do. When word of this attack reaches the public, there might be a frenzy and I don't think we have enough troops in the SSF to handle it if so." what were you shipping, father? She had to find out what her father was up to.