No Other Way: Part Six
“No deal,” said Allso. The Shoyru opposite looked confused.
“What do you mean, no deal?” he said. “I gave you the use of my factories for a month – you can’t refuse payment now!”
“Actually, I think you’ll find I can,” said Allso smoothly, leaning back in his mahogany chair. “After all, the deal was... unofficial.”
“But...” spluttered the Shoyru. “But... you gave me your word! We had a gentleman’s agreement!”
“Words can be twisted,” said Allso, “and I think you’ll find that I’m no gentleman. You’re new to the business world, I can tell. Do you want to know a secret?” He lifted a hand to cover one side of his mouth, and spoke in a loud whisper. “Businessmen aren’t gentlemen.” He lowered his hand, and the Shoyru looked stunned. “Now get out of my office.”
Shaking, the Shoyru rose, angrily pointing a finger at the relaxed figure opposite.
“You’ll pay for this!” he said. “I promise, you’ll pay for this.” And, without another word, he turned on his heels, and strode out of the room, trying to hold a dignified posture whilst quivering with rage.
“Fool,” he muttered to himself.
There was a knock at his door.
“Enter!” he shouted, and sat alert, ready to take the next client of the day.
The door opened, and a smartly-dressed Pteri, flanked by two burly Skeiths, entered the room. Allso involuntarily stiffened slightly, before putting on a shaky smile.
“Brandon!” he said, with false cheer.
“Allsy,” drawled the Pteri, easing himself into the chair opposite, whilst the two bodyguards stood either side of the door.
“It’s Allso!” the Mynci snapped, before he could help himself. Brandon smiled slightly, and Allso knew he had taken an early victory.
“Of course. How careless of me. Anyway, Allso,” he said, over-pronouncing the name just enough to be noticeable, “I heard that you’ve matched my bid for the majority shareholding in the Kreludor Mining Corporation.”
“I bid first,” said Allso. Brandon waved a hand airily.
“Details, details. It seems foolish for us to bid against each other, since that would only lead to a bidding war, leaving both of us considerably out of pocket.”
“You could step down.”
“Oh, Allso!” he said. “Is that really the best you can do? And what possible incentive could you offer me to do that? No, I will not stand down. And I know that you will not. But one of us needs to make way for the other. The Mining Corporation is too valuable a commodity for us to fritter away in futile discussions.”
“Why have you come here, Brandon?” Allso said through gritted teeth.
“Oh, no reason,” said Brandon. “Just wanted to see where you stood on the whole matter. I see that you’re not going to back down. I guess that this’ll have to be settled another way.” He stood up, and offered his hand to Allso. “Until we meet again, I guess.” Reluctantly, Allso shook the hand offered. The two stared into each other's eyes, both smiling, both applying severe pressure to the shake. Allso’s smile was faltering, and his hand slowly crushing, before Brandon released it.
“Come,” said Brandon to his bodyguards. “We’re leaving.” One of them opened the door and stepped through it, and Brandon followed, the other Skeith waiting until he had passed through.
“Oh,” said the Pteri, taking a quick, casual glance backwards as he walked out of the door. “I hear you’re going to the Space Station on business tomorrow. Good luck with that. I’m sure you’ll have an... interesting time.”
Allso’s heart thumped as the three left the room, the Skeith shutting the door forcefully behind him. How, he asked himself, had Brandon known? And, more importantly, what was he planning to do with it?
* * *
It was night. Allso lay in his bed, wide awake, thinking.
Nothing even slightly unusual had happened in the trip. He’d met the enthusiastic young entrepreneur, full of hope and bright ideas, and bought the business and the rights to it for far less than it was worth – all through nothing but a bit of sweet talking and a couple of well-chosen lies. Soon, the Kyrii he’d met would learn an important business lesson.
But he still couldn’t quite shake Brandon’s final words from his head. What had he meant by them? They could have just been an innocent passing shot, but, then again... who knew? Brandon certainly wanted the investment, and Allso was his only major rival. Maybe he wanted to get him out of the way.
Allso shook himself. This wasn’t helping. The scene in the office kept replaying itself, and he couldn’t stop it. Brandon had the upper hand. And Allso needed to get it back.
But what could he do? There was no way he’d be able to psyche out his opponent – Brandon was a master of mind games; nothing he could say would faze him in the slightest. No, it needed to be something greater. Something that would put him firmly in the eyes of the public. Something that would boost everybody’s opinion of him. He could see it already – Brandon sat in his office, the morning paper in front of him, with Allso’s face plastered all over him. People coming up to Allso in the street and praising him, and other people mentioning his feat to Brandon. No, Allso couldn’t worry Brandon – but every inhabitant of Neopia could.
He came back to the same question, though – what? What could he find of that magnitude?
There was one thing he did know, though, and that was that he wasn’t going to find it lying lazily in bed. He rose, and looked at the clock on the wall. 2:10 am. He moaned softly. Brandon had kept him awake for five hours. Well, that was all going to change.
He stepped out of his room, blinking in the synthetic light. Nobody was about – not surprising. But, he decided, if you were going to be anywhere at this time of night, it would be on one of the observation decks. Fortunately, he was fairly near one, and he headed straight for it.
As he neared the room, music came to his ears – the sound of somebody playing a saxophone. He muttered to himself – so much for quiet reflection. Instead, he bypassed the observation deck. There was one on the other side of the Station – he’d go there instead. Passing the lone musician, who seemed too wrapped up in his peace disturbance to notice anything happening around him, he entered the corridor on the other side of the deck, and carried on his walk.
He heard footsteps ahead of him, and, appearing as if from nowhere came a small team of technicians, seemingly in a hurry.
“Problem?” he asked.
“Don’t worry,” said one of the technicians. “We’ve got everything under control.”
Allso watched them pass him, and enter the observation deck. There had been no reassuring words to the civilian – the technicians were worried. So, there was an emergency? How... odd.
Yes, odd was the right word. Allso hadn’t been on the Station very much before, but he knew that it was reputedly one of the safest places on Neopia. Certainly he had never heard any reports of any problems, no matter how minor, with it in the past. And it was odd that, now of all times, it was encountering issues...
Brandon. Allso smiled slowly. That was it! Brandon had tipped off the workers on the Station, told them to stage an emergency. He was hoping to unnerve Allso. That must be it! There was certainly no other way that the Station could be in such apparent danger.
An alarm sounded. Allso smiled – it was getting worse. Just as he had hoped. Now, to the control room.
He wasn’t far from one, either – just a few feet farther up the corridor on his right lay a door, proudly declaring itself to be the ‘Control Room’. Exactly what he needed.
He stepped inside. The only person in the room was a technician, kneeling on the floor. Next to him, there was a broken lever. As he entered, the worker was talking urgently into a tube. This was his moment. This was the time to turn the tables on Brandon.
“Stop right there!” he said, and the technician, a Krawk, jumped, and turned to the source of the noise. “That’s enough.”
“Sir, I need you to leave,” he said, firmly. “This is an emergency.”
“Just as I suspected,” said Allso. “An emergency caused by whom, I wonder?”
“I notice there’s a broken lever by you.” Allso pointed to the offending item. The Krawk followed his finger, and picked up the handle.
“It snapped off,” he explained, hurriedly. “Now get out!”
The technician rose, and stepped towards the door. Allso moved into his way.
“Look, sir, this is an emergency. I need you to get out of my way.”
“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” said Allso. “You’ve disengaged the thrusters, and now you’re trying to leave.”
“What the... what are you on about?”
“I don’t believe you for a moment.” Allso shoved the unfortunate technician, who clearly wasn’t expecting anything of the sort, and went sprawling backwards. Allso stepped forward and pushed again, forcing the Krawk into a small annex at the edge of the room.
“What are you doing?” he spluttered. “I need to fix the controls!”
“No,” said Allso, simply. “That’s not what you’re doing.” Carefully, he reached over, and pressed a button. He watched as a glass partition slid between him and the unfortunate technician. “You’re not fixing anything now.”
He heard footsteps behind him, heading towards the door. He smiled. A witness to his magnificent feat.
“Perhaps,” he gloated, speaking deliberately louder than necessary for the benefit of the approaching stranger, “you should have planned your assault on here a little better.”
All he had to do now was convince the visitor that the technician was responsible for the failure of the system. And then he’d be made. He’d caught somebody trying to destroy the Station. He’d saved it.
This would trump anything Brandon could do.
* * *
There was a shocked silence. Allso looked up.
Drakav was shaking with rage.
“You... Morlock didn’t do anything!”
“Maybe he did,” said Allso, quietly. “And maybe he didn’t. Who am I to judge? In any case, we’ll never know now. All that’s certain is that he was tampering with the equipment, and I stopped him. I’ll be the hero.”
“He wasn’t tampering with it! He was trying to fix it!”
“Then we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
Patsy had her hands over her mouth. Jomoro looked as though somebody had slapped him.
“But you’re respectable,” said Jomoro. “You tell the truth.”
“The truth? Nobody wants the truth, Jomoro. Besides, the truth can be altered.”
“You’ve ejected an innocent pet into space!”
“Oh, so I was morally wrong?” Allso shook his head. “Morality is a concept made up by those who have nothing else to offer. Everybody who gets what they want in this world does so at the expense of others. You can’t achieve your dreams without treading on other people's.”
Allso walked slowly across to where Jomoro was standing.
“You want fame? You want recognition? Well, that’s the way you’ll get it. That’s the route to the top. There’s no other way there.”
Jomoro looked as if somebody had taken the floor from beneath him, his eyes widening as the Mynci turned away from him...
...straight into the angry form of Patsy.
“What,” she thundered, “have you done?”
“Now, listen here, you...”
“No, you listen!” shouted Patsy, tears of rage forming at the edge of her eyes. “I trusted you! I could have released Morlock, but I didn’t, because I trusted you! And you betrayed me. Just like my boss. Just like everybody. You’re right – people only care about themselves. They never look for what other people want.”
“Calm down,” said Drakav, comfortingly. “You’ve had a shock...”
“I’ve had a wake-up call!” screamed the Tonu. “No more. No more relying on other people.”
“Sit,” said Drakav, firmly. Patsy looked at him for a moment, then burst into tears and sat down, shaking. Drakav stepped past her, and towards Allso, who stared calmly back.
“You’ve put the entire Station at risk,” he said, quietly. “You’ve put the whole of Neopia at risk. And all to get one over on this Brandon. That’s enough. I can’t finish this, but you can. And you should.”
“Oh no, I won’t!” said Allso. “Do you really think I’ve fallen for this cheap façade? I know that this is all an elaborate ruse! I can see right through it!”
“Are you mad?” Drakav said. “Does this look like a set-up?”
“It could be,” replied the Mynci. “A mysterious poisonous passage, for which I’m the only suitable candidate. A malfunction on one of the safest places in Neopia, the one time I’m on it. And you asking me to be the one to save it all! Why me? Why not the hostess, or the daft Krawk?”
“You’ve devastated Patsy,” said Drakav, gesturing to the still-sobbing Tonu. “She’s in no state to do anything at the moment. And Jomoro...”
Drakav turned. There was no sign of Jomoro in the room. But the cover to the vents had been removed, and the fumes from underneath were rising, forming a purple fog.
Drakav rushed across to the hole in the floor.
“Jomoro,” he shouted into the space below. “Jomoro!”
There was no reply.
To be continued...