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Chapter 9 – “A question of deception”.

‘Balev! What have you done?’ Henry Poole asked the man grabbing his arm as the business group marched across the waiting room towards Balev’s executive office. Georgi Balev’s entourage of assistants and security pulled the Prime Minister away, showing little respect.

‘Not like you to be angry, Henry. It’s okay, he has calmed down now, haven’t you, Henry?’ Balev coolly stated the sentence with a menacing glare, Henry Poole suddenly realising that the security were the least of his concerns.

‘Not here, Henry. In the office,’ directed Balev pointing to his nearby office suite.
The door slammed shut and Henry felt obliged to speak first.

‘The Dead attacks in the Druid’s Rift system; you were behind them, weren’t you?’

‘I never said that. There is nothing that ties CEOL to that pirate faction. How could you say that?’

‘You said a hurricane would hit the region. That I would know it was your doing when it happened. And this happened.’

‘And you think I referred to the Dead attack?’

‘Shouldn’t I?’

‘Henry Poole, it’s a dangerous world out there. Druid’s Rift is a lonely area, a region unprotected from the pirates. No military presence, which is no surprise and therefore like the fabled wild-west. Sometimes bad things will happen to good people.’

‘Are you kidding me? That’s your answer?’

‘That is indeed my answer. I would be a stupid man to admit something if I was guilty of it, something so, wrong, as this. I would be locked up. I am not a stupid man. You know that.’

‘Yes, but are you a criminal mind?’

‘I’m a mastermind, if that is what you are referring to. A criminal mastermind? You should ask Benedict Valon that question. I’m sure he would like the opportunity to reply.’

‘My good man, I cannot, in any shape or form, condone the Dead attacks. I am shocked, appalled and… You said it would be the Alpha-Seven sector. This assault tore across the region. Very few areas were left intact; luckily the medical stations Zebra-Tango-Nineteen and Twenty were left unharmed.’

‘Oh good, nobody would want them destroyed.’

Balev’s condescending words hit a nerve in Henry Poole who just managed to stop himself from reacting.

‘I am not going to stop any requests for an enquiry into this tragedy. Valon will demand it. The people will demand it and I for one will also demand it.’ Henry Poole glared at the CEOL man, unable to take his eyes off him.

‘Good. I trust it reveals whatever it is that you are seeking. You will not find any CEOL attachment to this attack. I promise you that much.’

‘So, your hurricane, your, storm, this was not it?’

‘I told you I would keep my plans to myself. You’re better off out of it.’

‘Total control? All you want is total control of the region.’

‘Don’t we all? We all fight for what we want.’

‘You would kill innocents?’

‘Me? No. The Dead apparently would.’

‘And you would encourage that?’

‘Hypothetically speaking, if I had power over people, I would be Prime Minister. Oh wait, that is you; you are the Prime Minister. If I had power over people I would get them to give the licensed property to me. The Dead are uncontrollable. A man could for instance ask them to attack one target and not another. Chaos is chaos to them. Maybe they would listen, maybe they would not. If they did, the deaths elsewhere would not happen. Deaths in general still would.’

‘So, you are saying the Dead chose specific targets and that it was somehow the region you want?’

‘Coincidence isn’t it. If the Dead are going to kill a thousand people today, would it really matter where the thousand people died? No, the loss is still a loss, a tragedy.’

‘Yes, but manipulating the location would still be wrong.’

‘Power corrupts, if you want power, you need to remember that. Two wrongs do not make a right; however, the evil would be done no matter what. Theoretically of course, I would only be doing what would be best for CEOL, our assets are elsewhere. If you want to become a storm-chaser you should chase the right storm. With your responsibilities you should know that. I am not a bad man, am I, Henry? You see where my loyalties lie. You know where yours lie. If we ally ourselves, our loyalties bring us closer to total control, to where we need to be. Yes, I am greedy. Yes, I have my methods. Yes, I would sacrifice for the greater good. You understand the meaning of the greater good. Valon thinks it is his rule, we think it is yours. Who is right, who is wrong? Might is right. Might - I am the mighty, as are you. Understand that a storm is needed to refresh, to renew, and to cleanse the atmosphere. It’s all hypothetical, of course. I admit nothing, I and CEOL have done absolutely nothing.’

‘Georgi, I am not in a position to argue but… The review of the attacks will continue. It will be painful for all.’

‘I assure you, your election is going to go well. Do not jump to any conclusions on the attacks or the elections.’

‘Those Dead attacks make it more likely that Valon wins the election. The people will side with him now.’

‘Does it? Have you waved the white flag of surrender so soon? Valon needs the tax to win. If enough people think that it is not coming in or do not want it, then we will have our way in the elections. I have enough people within my persuasion, my employ. Valon has everything but the smoking gun. It is I that holds the smoking gun and I am not about to lend it to that showman. He can charm the Devil to give him his soul back but he cannot charm me.’ Balev smiled calmly.

‘We have talked enough, Henry. It is time for you to get home. Think about where your loyalties lie. The lines of what is morally right and wrong are blurred depending on who is looking at the line. Sometimes those in absolute power, and I mean absolute power, they have to look after the majority by ignoring the minority, or by personally blurring the so-called moral lines. I have accepted my role. Have you accepted yours, Mr Prime Minister?’ Henry Poole remained quiet as Balev’s words sank in.

‘After all this time, I know that you are a man of means and wealth, earned from many ways and by squinting when needed, for the good of your people, Henry, of course. So, I ask again before you leave, think on this one; I ask again, have you accepted your duty, Mr Prime Minister?’

Lynette de Cesare sat upright in Balev’s resplendent meeting room. Gold and crystal glittered defiantly, a statement of financial affluence.

‘Georgi Balev, as the leading provider of minerals, the dominant force in the manufacturing of metals, medicine, technology… The list goes on. No matter what people’s widespread opinion of you, and nobody disputes that you have a reputation as a man who knows what he wants, and is forceful in the way that he gets it; there are very few people more qualified to have an opinion on the terrorist attacks in the Druid’s Rift system, and in the greater regions. You are an influential rejecter of the proposed taxes by Benedict Valon. So, my first question to you would have to be; in light of the recent disaster, the pirate attack killing several hundred poor souls, and the number may rise, has your opinion changed?’

‘Not one bit. My heart goes out to the fallen in this war on terror, but I am a man who has to look after a huge organisation. As you yourself admitted we make a lot of products, employ a lot of people and protect, yes, protect a lot of people, not just our own people but the fighters we send out give an aggressive statement of intent, a warning that CEOL will not tolerate pirate incursion into our people, our employees and our consumers’ space. We support the end to piracy. Just not how Benedict Valon seeks to end it at our expense. The attacks by Neon One where not on CEOL property but they are our people, all of our people,’ Balev pointed at the reporter as a show of respect to the public.

‘The sources we have stated confidently that the attacks were from Neon One,’ Balev stated dogmatically.

‘What about the reports coming in that the victims who survived the attack have said that it was the Dead and that the so-called “Dead war-cry” was issued to the stations prior to the attacks?’

‘That may be partially true. The Dead may have been a part of the attack. Who knows what was in the minds of such evil as Neon One? Not you. Not I. We don’t know what plans and agreements they have. Are they allies? I cannot say. I am just the founder of CEOL. I am aware though that Neon One is the prime attackers of CEOL craft, more than any others. More than the Dead for instance. That, for CEOL, is enough of a statement to confirm the minds of that pirate faction, of Neon One. Of course, it is not for me to declare who attacked the other poor souls. That much is up to the military advisers.’

‘Do you feel enough is being done in the outer regions to protect those working outside of the standard protection zones?’

Georgi Balev contemplated the question before answering with a glint in his eye. ‘What more can be done? Military forces are limited. The majority of our people are the priority otherwise the military would be spread too thin. Of course, ignoring the nonsensical gibberish of Benedict Valon, the only answer is to hire your own protection force, something CEOL do for our contractors as well as our employed teams. If in doubt get your own security, join the CEOL project and be protected by our security forces or…’ Georgi Balev paused for effect.

‘Or leave the industry to those better prepared to fight.’ The smile was cold and calculating. Lynette de Cesare looked across the desk unsure of how to react. Luckily, Balev’s quick glance over her shoulder alerted the CEOL man that the allotted time was up and Balev knew it would be wiser to end the live interview rather than continue. A sly nod to Lynette alerted her to this fact and she finished up the interview with the standard wrap-up statements. Balev stood up, away from the desk, shook the reporters hand and strolled out of the office en-route to a new undecided destination, leaving his staff to arrange for the news team to vacate the building.

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