I have now started work on the rewrite of this new book. Any views would be much appreciated.
This is the second section:
Tow Ragg had his office at the far end of his palatial floating mansion where he could look out over Haven, their home planet and the capital planet of their system – affectionately called The System. He liked nothing better than to gloat over the masses below. Not that there was a lot to see, the surface was always a construction site. The surface that Tow looked out on was the bare Plexiglas that formed the upper tier of what was now the planet, and work was always going on adding another tier to the ever growing edifice. It was hard to imagine what the place had once looked like. Right down through those layers of dwellings, underneath it all, was the actual surface of the planet. It did not seem real. But Tow could visualise the honeycomb of doms, layer after layer that went down hundreds of layers deep until you hit the bedrock of the long unseen surface, and that gave him great satisfaction.
His floating home was positioned high up in the stratosphere overlooking his home world. A great dome encased the whole massive development. His mansion was constructed to one side of the great dome. It had many rooms, with the servants occupying a separate wing while his wives and children occupied another leaving him undisturbed in the centre to go about his business uninterrupted.
In front of the house was the massive heated swimming pool, cum lake, where every morning, at seven sharp, he performed his exercise by briskly swimming forty lengths.
Around it were the gardens. He had commissioned flora to be reconstructed from the data banks of Haven – one of only ten such places in existence. He even had colourful tweezes flitting back and forth – just a few, enough to impress. You did not want to overdo such things.
The magnificence of the floating mansion was unimaginable to the trillions who spent their lives buried in the cramped quarters underground – and that was what always gave him the greatest satisfaction.
‘They have arrived safely,’ Tow Ragg reported, using her encrypted communicator.
‘Good,’ Eldy Mors replied, the relief evident in his voice. ‘It is always tense.’
‘We have a lot invested in this,’ Rhad Flik stated, her anxiety clearly on display.
The three of them were the controlling powerhouse of the business enterprise, known as the Consortium, which employed Tahsin Roeg, and other Starship Captains, just like her. Theirs was the empire that had made them all obscenely rich.
Tow laughed. ‘Not enough to make a dent in your wad,’ she said teasingly. Rhad Flik had a reputation for being miserly. She resented every single credit wasted and begrudged spending every last one – even if the returns were exceptional. To her money had to be deployed to maximum effect. She played the game with an intensity that the others couldn’t match. For Rhad it was all about winning, accruing and investing. That was what she lived for. Every new launch was a fraught experience for her. She stood to lose billions. The fact that she could make trillions if it was successful was irrelevant. A few billion was a microbe on an agar dish to her. She could lose it a million times and she wouldn’t miss it. But even so she loathed losing. Making vast profits – that’s what gave her the adrenalin rush. That’s why she did it. But still she begrudged the billions necessary to carry out the project. She wanted every cred accounted for. Her miserly attitude made her the butt of many jokes but she could not see it.
Despite the huge fortune she had amassed every jump was still a nerve wracking experience for her. She lived it second by second, in a terrible state, on tenterhooks as if her life depended on it, waiting for news that the ship had emerged.
‘You know how precarious these jumps are,’ Rhad muttered resentfully. She did not appreciate being teased.
‘And Roeg?’ Eldy Mors enquired.
‘She seems to be holding up,’ Tow replied tentatively. ‘We’ll know more in due course.’
‘We’ve had a good return from her,’ Eldy noted. ‘But I wonder if we should not rest her up now?’
‘We’ll see,’ Tow replied thoughtfully. ‘She’s the best we’ve had. Nobody has been more successful.’
‘Yes, but we shouldn’t push our luck,’ Eldy suggested.
‘We can’t afford to lose a starship,’ Rhad Flik chipped in.
Tow laughed again with that annoying chuckle that really grated on Rhad. ‘Starships are ten a cred, Rhad. We can commission a new one for a mere trillion. It is starship commanders that are the real difficult gold dust. That’s the limiting factor. We’ve only got twenty of them and they are not so easy to replace. You can’t train them. You can’t breed them. You have to discover them and they’re rarer than sane politicians.’
‘So what’s the situation?’ Eldy Mors enquired, changing the subject.
‘They’ve emerged,’ Tow reported. ‘The ship and crew are intact and there are no reports of anything untoward. Tahsin Roeg seems to have pulled it off again. It appears every molecule has arrived. She’s left nothing back in quantum.’
They listened intently.
‘They are already deploying the gate. It will take several months to consolidate and connect, as you know, but the process is in hand.’
That was always the first consideration. The gate had to be deployed. That enabled the conglomerates to follow through and begin the process of harvesting. The gate was the crucial thing. Even if a ship was crippled and the crew badly disabled by a poorly executed emergence it was still sometimes possible to deploy a gate.
‘And the system?’ Rhad Flik asked impatiently. The bottom line was always the profitability with her. She was dying to know what sort of return she was going to get on her investment. Having planets to harvest could be extremely lucrative. Once the gate was established they could plunder the resources. The real bonanza was to discover a planet that could be colonised. If it was feasible, in terms of cost, to create an atmosphere and make a planet habitable, they could put in the tiers and create massive condominium developments that could prove extremely lucrative. That’s where the real money was to be made – catering for the consumers. Housing was always at a premium.
‘As we already know,’ Tow replied, a little tinkle in his voice. ‘Four gas giants, four rocky planets, three of which might be suitable for colonising, and four planetoids which might also prove good for harvesting. There’s no way we’re going to come out of this without a whacking great profit.’ He was already feeling ecstatic. The difficult part was over.
‘But are they as good as was indicated,’ Rhad asked eagerly. Already the figures were spinning around in her head. The trillions were mounting. This system had real promise. There was a killing to be made and she knew it. This one had looked like a real bonanza.
‘Rhad dear,’ Tow replied, unable to refrain from chuckling. ‘It is far too early to know anything more. Give them a chance to carry out the analysis. They’ve only just arrived. Rest assured – there will be plenty to harvest on this one. We’ll have our bellyful of ammonia, water, hydrogen and the full gamut of metals. It’ll fill the coffers to overflowing.’
‘But are any of those rocky planets habitable?’ Rhad pressed, unable to stop herself.
‘We don’t know,’ Tow said with amusement. ‘Three of them look like good possibilities. We’ll know more when they’ve done a recce. Don’t worry your head. We’ll come out of this one with a really good profit. You can rest assured on that.’
‘I think we should inform the consortium,’ Eldy Mors interrupted. ‘They need to know that the starship has emerged safely.’
‘Already done,’ Tow informed him. ‘The consortium is fully in the picture. I’ve already flashed them. They know their investments are safe.’
‘Such a good idea,’ Rhad said meditatively, ‘to spread the costs across many millions of investors while accruing the bulk of the profits among us three.’
‘Well all those investors stand to make a good return on their money too,’ Tow asserted happily. The emergence had put her in a really good mood. He could already smell the profits pouring in. ‘But we deserve the graaf’s share. We’ve made the decisions and organised the whole thing. They’re just hanging on the back of our tunics. There’s millions more eager to get involved if they don’t want in on it. We direct the operation. We deserve every credit we get, don’t we Rhad?’
Rhad nodded in agreement, not registering that Tow was pulling her string, and the tridee image of her that hovered alongside the image of Eldy Mors on Tow Ragg’s desk, narrowed her eyes thoughtfully as she contemplated the slice of the profits that would be heading her way. ‘Just as long as we screw every cred out of this project we can – to make it really worthwhile.’