Tome: The Pitch
Dave Ackerman stepped into the executive board room just as the aides were finishing up; filling water glasses, passing around fresh copies of information packets, and taking lunch orders for later.
He was as nondescript as a man could be, standing just under six feet with neat, brown hair and average features. All his life, he thought of it as a curse, but then it landed him a six figure job and suddenly years of being overlooked didn’t seem so bad anymore.
There wasn’t any need to shoo the aides out at his arrival; they’d been with the firm long enough to know that they didn’t have the security clearance to be in the room when he was working. There was a slow motion stampede of fresh faced young men and women past him and out into the hall.
Dave locked the door behind them and turned to the prospective investors.
They were seated around a long, oval shaped table made of white enamel, and were bathed in natural light, thanks to most of the room being glassed in. The only decoration was the floating hologram of the company logo over the table. Classy, but spartan, especially for people used to posh offices with plants and paintings and other accoutrements that made a place bearable for a human to live in. All by design: they were out of their environment and in his.
“Gentlemen, Ladies.” Dave inclined his head to them and started to move around the room. Constant motion, like a shark’s, was key to his method. Along the way, he took a remote to the holographic projector from his pocket and toggled it to his first setting. He wasn’t even sure which company’s logo it showed for the aides before he switched it, but it was replaced by one he did know.
It had started life as the internal emblem of a military project; a simplified book shape, open and in the claws of an eagle, backed by thirteen arrows arrayed in a fan, pointing down.
“I believe we all know why we’re here. I trust you all read over your info packs? That will make this easier.” He scanned the room and made sure all of them were nodding. Most of them were lying and instead had their assistants give them the highlights.
“Good. Since everyone is an expert, it’s all very simple: we’re planning on mounting an expedition to establish a foothold and do a proper survey to determine what exploitable resources are there and what it will take to acquire them.”
“You mean people.” The man asking was red faced and balding. The anxiety wasn’t helping the redness, or the worried look in his eyes, as if some of the things described in the info pack might leap out at him at any time. “Meaning you want to send actual human beings to what even the people writing your copy here call a ‘death world’?”
Across from him, a woman who looked too young and whose large eyes made her look too innocent to be part of the kind of meetings Dave led, nodded. “Granted, we accept a certain level of disregard for human life where your organization is concerned, but looking down the list here of just the things you’ve recovered from the crossings… Five species of predatory plants, a large rodent capable of burrowing through concrete, over a dozen sapient species and what exactly is an ‘symbiotic, emotional parasite’?”
Dave waved away her concerns. “Oh, those are just part of the native wildlife. Not a threat outside of a host as long as the team keeps their protective gear on to prevent the creatures from bonding. The wildlife might be strange, but it only requires as much caution as visiting a jungle here on Earth.”
“Except it isn’t here on Earth.” At the other end of the table, a man in his fifties with hair going gray at the tips, browsed through the info pack. “This is another… planet?”
“We don’t actually know that.” Dave admitted, but steamrolled right over that fact in the next breath, “That’s one of the things a foothold base can find out. Thanks to research into the astral plane, we now know that other dimensions exist, so this might be one of those instead. But what we do know is that this is a physical place with gravity and water and an Earth-like atmosphere. And more importantly, an estimated eighty-three percent of the sentient inhabitant present some degree of allergy to metal, with is particularly pronounced severity when it comes to iron and rare earths.”
The doe-eyed woman looked incredulous. “They’re allergic to metal? All of them?”
“Not all of them, but enough that we expect they might be happy to see us take it off their hands. And if they’re not, then they have one hell of a weakness we can exploit to take it from them.”
A third man, thin with a pencil mustache and black hair tied back, tossed his packet on the table. “It doesn’t seem worth the expense. Even if they gave us mining rights for free, they’re called ‘rare earths’ for a reason and we would need a much larger presence over there to perform the continent-level mining surveys needed to find them. This facility you mention alone is going to require it’s own power plant to keep the lights on.”
Dave chuckled derisively. “Mining is just the bare bones of what we’ve got in mind, folks. Mining is the obvious idea, but let’s look at the big picture here: we have an alien world out there just waiting for us. New plants, no matter how many teeth they have, mean new biochemical compounds, the fauna we’ve captured from these crossover instances already have our lab rats drooling over themselves.”
“But we’ve got no guarantees of a return on our investments.” the red faced man pointed out. “And again, the lives we’re throwing away on this. All on what little information you’ve been able to glean from these crossovers.”
“You get no guarantees on anything, Mr. Tolson.” Dave paused at the man’s chair and put his hands on the back of it. “But none of you got where you are today by playing safe. Just associating with my organization is a risk. Technically, for those of you born in the US, it’s treason. Punishable by death.”
A woman who hadn’t said anything yet, later forties with brown hair cut short, made an amused noise. “Trials don’t scare us. That’s what lawyers and campaign contributions are for. But sinking nine figures into building a facility in order to exploit a world we know nothing about? That’s unacceptable risk.”
Pencil mustache nodded in agreement. “And this place here: the ’embarkation point’, considering the location is described as inside an underwater mountain… It’s going to take years to build something like this.”
“Ah. Ha.” Dave circled the room again. “I think you all may have misread parts of the proposal.” he clicked the remote and the hologram became a wireframe, detailing a building inside a mountain and a shaft leading from it to an oil rig a quarter mile above.
“You see, that facility? It’s this. Designated Deep Twenty-three. It did take years, five years, in fact, ending about eight years ago. It was built for small scale, but highly illegal particle acceleration experiments, sadly unproductive. But we’ve given it new life and retrofitting will be done by the end of this month with test firings of the gate already proceeding as are psychological experiments on the alien sapients. We’re teaching them to speak English so we can wring every valuable ounce of information from them. In fact, we’ve already calibrated the arrival point to a sub-continent populated mostly by small, disorganized tribal villages.”
The older man raised an eyebrow. “If you already have the station built and the experiments running, what exactly do you need our capital for?”
“Oh that’s very simple. I thought I told you when we started.” Dave said with false sincerity. “Yes, we have the emplacement and the technology, but that does not an expedition make. We’re in the process of vetting the top mercenaries in the world. They, understandably, won’t do such dangerous work unless the gear provided is up to their rigorous standards and the payment is well worth it.
“So what you’ll be paying for is specialized equipment, supplies and support for a team of one hundred and twenty-five,” Dave smiles coldly. “For an invasion.”
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