Location: New York City, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Thomas Gold looked very good for a man who was a hundred and sixty-three years old. He barely looked fifty. He was born in 2269 and was one of the few men alive who could say that he’d been alive in three separate centuries. He wasn’t a particularly tall or large man. In vitro enhancements hadn’t been fully developed when he was born. At one hundred eighty-two centimeters and an average frame, the leader of Gold Technologies looked like any man off the street. His genetically altered hair and blue specks in his eyes would identify him as wealthy, but aside from that there wasn’t anything special-looking about the man.
What was really extraordinary about him was what lay beneath the surface. Thomas Gold had a brain for business that few in the galaxy could match. As a young man he’d turned a patent on nanites into a revolution that changed the way humanity lived. He built upon that foundation to create a corporate empire that dealt in everything from defense contracts to private education. He might have four children, but Thomas Gold’s greatest achievement would always be his company; and everyone except maybe Hope knew this.
“My…my, this has become quite the little reunion hasn’t it?” He strode to the back of Miranda’s chair and started to massage her shoulders. Ben’s mother smiled and placed a hand on top of his, a picturesque vision of a loving couple.
Ben knew that Lord and Lady Gold weren’t a picture-perfect loving couple. They both had their ambitions and desires, and part of what made them work was the freedom they allowed each other in accomplishing their goals. They were still affectionate, they had created two children in their thirty year marriage; but Thomas Gold wasn’t the type of man to walk over and start massaging his wife’s shoulders. It was a calculated maneuver to nurture the rare sense of family that he’d walked into.
While it was nice to see most of his family members, Ben didn’t have time to waste. He had a big day tomorrow and there was business to discuss.
“I cannot stay long, Dad, but can I speak to you privately for a minute.” A surprised expression flashed across the older man’s face, but it never reached his shrewd eyes; eyes that were the same pale blue as Ben’s. Eyes that made the Rear Admiral’s secretary look like a toothless, declawed cat.
“Sure, Son. Let’s step into my office.”
Thomas Gold’s office was what you would expect in someone who’d bought a royal title and decorated his New York penthouse with priceless pre-expansion artwork. Everything oozed efficient luxury. What always caught Ben’s eye was his father’s workstation. A corporate titan never stopped working, which meant he needed a place to work from home. The technological setup on his father’s desk was the type you would expect someone needed to run a galactic empire. Ben had seen flag bridges on battleships that were less impressive.
“Please have a seat, Ben.” Ben noticed that his father was speaking in his business voice. The older man hadn’t forgotten the circumstances of their last meeting.
Ben didn’t have time to dance around the issue, so he sat down and got straight to the point. “I need a favor, Dad.”
Thomas didn’t speak for several seconds. He studied his son’s face carefully before nodding for him to continue.
“When the next admiralty vote comes up I need you to support Rear Admiral Johnathan Helms.” Ben didn’t elaborate, because he knew his father would have questions.
The first one came quickly. “Why?”
“Because I have made a deal with him,” Ben stated firmly. “The Gold family will back him for admiral and he will advance my career.”
Thomas smiled, but he shook his head. “I’m going to need specifics before I agree to support this rear admiral. The capital needed to ensure a promotion to admiral is not small. I need to know I’m going to get a good return on my investment.”
Ben knew his father was going to react this way, which was why he knew this wasn’t asking for a favor; it was making a sales pitch. Ben needed to show his father that this arrangement was going to better the family and the company, not just Ben.
“Rear Admiral Helms is fast-tracking my promotion to Lieutenant Commander and giving me a command position. These are the qualifications that I need if I am going to get into the Diplomatic Corps, and he is allowing me to do it half a decade ahead a schedule,” Ben explained. “As far as what he can do for you, you are going to have to ask him. I’d suggest scheduling a meeting soon, which will at least put a potential partnership on everyone’s radar.”
“Why should I do that?” Thomas repeated. “I’ve already got a few admirals under my influence. I’m playing golf with the Commander of First Fleet later this week. Why should I help this Rear Admiral Helms?”
“Because he is the man that can help me.”
<And now is the point where I compromise.> Ben knew it would come to this, but that was the only way he could make it work.
“Command of a Commonwealth warship comes with a prestige only few can ever know. That helps the family. More importantly, it gets me into the Diplomatic Corps. Give me a decade being a diplomat, and using my degree, and I will have contacts in every system I visit. With your help, I might even know someone in every system. Think about the possibilities.”
Ben knew his father was doing just that. Contacts like the ones Ben was proposing could ease trade sanctions, open previously closed shipping routes, and cut through bureaucratic red tape thicker than battleship armor. Ten years of Ben’s life could open up a hundred years of prosperity for Gold Technologies.
“At the very least I would be an asset to our corporate security fleet. Having an officer with Commonwealth command experience is something we always look for.” Even the least favorable return was still favorable.
“You make a strong case.” Thomas scratched his chin in a well-rehearsed motion. Ben knew the man had already made up his mind; he was just making his son sweat. “You would be an asset in our trade negotiations, political lobbying, or in corporate security. What is this Rear Admiral Helms like?” And just like that Ben knew his father was onboard.
“I know he is from New Kingston, started with very little, has worked very hard to get to his current station, and is very good at his job. He likes the finer things in life, and is ambitious. He has seen the other side of the spectrum and had no desire to return to his roots.” It wasn’t a lot of information, but it was what Ben had been able to glean with his brief time with his boss’s boss.
Ben knew Gold Technologies’ corporate spies would thoroughly vet the rear admiral, and know his deepest, darkest secrets within the week. The rear admiral knew what he was getting himself into. Getting into bed with a corporation like Gold Technologies was just like sleeping with a beautiful woman. You had to get naked and show everything, imperfections and all. The woman could then use those imperfections against you if she was scorned.
“Do we have a deal?” Ben allowed his father to contemplate before asking.
The look Thomas Gold gave his son was something Ben hadn’t seen in a while, pride. “Yes, we have a deal.” They shook hands, and Ben was surprised by the strength of his father’s grip. “I’ll have my secretary call his office in the morning and set up an appointment.” Thomas got up, concluding their business. “Now please join us for dinner.”
Ben wanted to say no. He felt dirty for having to pimp himself out to get his father’s blessing, but he hadn’t seen his mother or little sister in months. “I will stay, but not for long.” Ben followed his father back into the apartment. “I have to present my dissertation tomorrow, and I need to be ready.”