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Strictly Business - Part 2

Posted on 27 Sep 2018 @ 4:48am by

Mission: Character Development
Location: Loki III

The next day saw Phil and Annie walking into a high class restaurant on Loki. He was wearing a tailored charcoal grey suit with white shirt and lilac tie - an outfit that Annie had picked out for him. She was wearing a form-fitting black dress with a single strap on her right shoulder, with the dress coming down to mid-thigh. She wore matching high-heeled shoes, and looked absolutely exquisite. In all honesty, it was taking a great deal of will-power not to take her there and then. But given that he'd already done that when he'd first seen her in that outfit this morning, it was hardly appropriate to do it again.

Mod and Zog arrived promptly, wearing tailored suits of their own. They were a pair of Orion males, who didn't come in the traditional visuals of being very large fat men, but were actually properly trim and looked quite handsome. They had a certain quality about them that seemed... off... to Phil. They gave off the same sliminess appeal that many of Phil's former interactions had done when he worked for Intergalactic Horizons. Probably why he distrusted them.

"Good afternoon gentlemen." Phil said, cordially, extending his hand which they accepted and shook. "I'm Phillip Sharpe, and may I present my wife - Annie." He said, gesturing towards her.

Annie gave the men a wide smile, feeling as if they were looking at her like prized cattle. What was it with her and somehow meeting the sleazy businessmen? This is for Phil , she repeated to herself. Extending out her hand to Mog, she had to bite her tongue to prevent from telling Phil that they should just not bother with the meeting on this alone. However, she felt stuck since this was her first business type of meeting and it all could have been just a part of the ‘charm’ Orions were infamous for. Luckily they both were prepared to handle their special pheromones. “It’s nice to meet you, gentlemen,” she said innocently.

"Charmed, I'm sure." Mod said, smiling and kissing Annie's hand.

Zog also smiled and leaned down to kiss her hand. "You are quite young looking to be a wife, my dear Mrs Sharpe." He said, with a smooth tongue. "You humans judge us Orions for wanting young women fawning over us, yet you do much the same. Rich men always want young women, just an observation I've noticed."

Annie’s smile dropped slightly as she took her seat at the table. She had gotten over the fact that people would judge their marriage based off of their age difference alone but it still at least somewhat annoyed her whenever people brought up that fact. It was, in fact, none of their business how or why Annie married Phil. Strike two for the brothers. “Well, it sounds like you may be jealous of Mr. Sharpe, Sir,” her smile quickly bounced up to hide her slight sarcasm, “or else you wouldn’t have mentioned it.”

Zog chuckled. "Quite so, Mrs Sharpe." He replied, smoothly, taking his own seat next to her on the round table. Mod sat next to him on the four seater table, putting him next to Phil. "I can see why Mister Sharpe would choose to show you off, you are quite an asset of acquisition."

Phil narrowed his eyes and a dark flash crossed them. Anyone who knew him well would know that this was a dangerous indicator of his mood. He thoroughly resented any implication that he'd 'acquired' Annie, or that she was property or his to own or control in any way. However, being the astute businessman that he was, he knew he had to be completely Vulcan in his approach. Orions thought in different terms when it came to females, believing them to be possessions rather than partners. "My wife is my partner in all things, Mister Zog." Phil said, with false pleasantness. "I am afraid that if you wish to do business with me today, you will also need to impress Annie, as the final decision will rest entirely with her." He gave them a kind smile with false sincerity.

"Of course, Mister Sharpe." Mod said, calmly. "We would never dare to offend either yourself or Mrs Sharpe. Please accept our apologies for my brother's words."

Annie looked over the gentlemen as she let out a breath. Phil had given her the okay to lead the questioning since she was helping him out. "Might as well get down to business. What exactly got you gentlemen into this line of work? It's very admirable and I've noticed your success rate is incredible."

Mod smiled a toothy smile. "Well, thank you for noticing." He replied. "There was a huge refugee crisis following the Hobus disaster several years ago, and many came to Orion looking for aid. Naturally, the wave of people descending on our world was too much for our government to handle, given that it is hugely corrupt and inefficient. It was becoming a very real concern, so Zog and I decided to help out our government by offering free transport services on a few old barges we'd procured through... less than orthodox methods... and take them to a transit point. At the time, we didn't have altruism in mind, but rather getting rid of a plague of what our media dubbed 'space vermin' from our planet. We were in it for the reward."

"However." Zog carried on. "We soon discovered that people actually liked that we were doing it, and we soon got donations of money. Volunteers started appearing to help fly these people on, some even providing their own ships for the task. The efforts soon exploded beyond anything we had imagined, but we were still facing a huge logistical nightmare of trying to organise all these flights, and where to take them. Eventually, we purchased a sizable plot of land on Loki III-D, and created a way-station of sorts. We also expanded our operations onto other worlds, mostly as the volunteers kept coming from different places due to their own worlds being covered in refugees. So we had them all come here, then we had our staff attempt to find places for these people to go. Looking for family or genetic histories to various different worlds."

"Which is what brings us to you, Mister and Mrs Sharpe." Mod said, carrying on, not missing a beat. "Whilst this operation is going reasonably well, the cracks in the fact that this is a ramshackle operation put together on a shoestring budget are getting bigger. We need to invest heavily in the relocation centre to improve basic sanitation. The Federation was kind enough to provide us with a load of emergency shelters and field replicators, but we're just getting more people in than we can safely accommodate. Plus, due to only having a handful of staff, we're struggling on turn-over for these people, and some have spent months there already. Finally, the vexed problem of transport. Despite having a fleet of volunteer ships, a lot of them are old and dilapidated, and often very unsafe. Plus, we don't have volunteers for the 'onward flights'. So we're using the two ships we started out with for the onward flights, but they're taking days to do the trips, plus we can only go to so many places in converted pirate raiders."

"So, we're looking for a sizable investment in our operation from yourself, Mister Sharpe." Zog carried on. "Investment in the relocation centre, investment in staffing, investment in an improved fleet for transport."

Annie looked at Phil. The men may be sleazy but what they were working on was pretty admirable and a real solution to a real historical problem that fortunately had been handled on Earth a few centuries before. "I'm not sure what your knowledge is on ancient Earth history but there was a massive transient issue after unemployment had skyrocketed in the early 21st Century. Municipal governments were sending their transient populations to other locations just to 'clear the scum' so to speak. It wasn't helping the problem, only placing a band-aid on it and creating an increase in crime rates and an inability to afford to care for this population. Supply versus demand, so to speak. Our problem was eliminated after a complete overhaul of the government. While that helped us, it may not work for other governments. I admire your attempt, while selfish at first, to assist those who aren't able to care for themselves."

"Whilst it goes against our better instincts, it is quite nice when we get people to their new lives." Zog replied. "Of course, we're not altruistic by nature, but it is what appears to have consumed our lives. We can't extract ourselves now without the whole thing falling apart, so we might as well roll with it, so to speak."

Phil nodded. "So, you require the investment you asked for to pay for the proper foundation of this endeavour. However, should it be necessary, are you able to set it up in such a way that it is not incumbent on you two always being there?"

"If we could hire actual staff, and get a management level in there, then that would liberate us from the direct management of the whole enterprise." Mod stated. "If I'm honest with you, Mister Sharpe, that was our intention. To get this venture set up as a fully funded and self-managed enterprise, and then step out of it. Neither Zog or I are charitable people, and we do have other interests that we've been forced to neglect whilst looking after this. So, and I know I speak for my brother here, we'd like the investment to go to the endeavour, so we can hire enough people to allow us to leave, then an ongoing stipend to help keep what we started going."

Annie's lips curled up a bit. "I appreciate your honesty, gentlemen, that you will more than likely step away from the endeavor for personal reasons. Is there someone you have in mind to take over? Or would you be in search of them after establishing it a bit more?"

Zog answered this time. "We would need to find someone suitable, who was acceptable not just to us, but to your Program Manager as well, since they'd be working directly with her. If it were just down to us, there's a good chance we'd hire anyone just so we could get away. However, we're mindful we put in a decade's work into this project, so I'm not content to just hand it over to any old person. It has to be someone who wants to see this succeed."

As noble as their projected intentions were, Annie still needed a bit more information before they decided either way. "What is the extent of your background checks for pilots? Because the clients are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of, is there a way you are able to help curb that risk?"

Mod sighed. "For a long while, we just let them get on with it. We honestly do not have the resources for us to do background checks on everyone. In the beginning, we just trusted people. But about three years ago, one of our transports was picked up by Starfleet for running illegal substances whilst carrying our flag. Was a huge mess. We still can't do deep background checks, but we do try to check out where the pilots are coming from and if there are any criminal checks out on them. That's about as far as we can go at the moment. If they're independent pilots flying their own ships, and doing it for no monetary gain, its very hard to turn them away."

"How much of the money would be budgeted for background checks if you were to get the funding?" Annie felt this was a very good indication of the men's true care and respect towards the clients involved. She would also look into the Starfleet case just to verify everything. Better to be safe than sorry.

"Were we to receive the funding, we'd be able to hire people dedicated to doing employment background checks, a 'HR' department in your human terminology. We'd likely need to go back through all our current staff to check them out, then proceed from that moving forward. I'm thinking about three people full time doing it to start, but with the intention of expanding as needed." Zog replied. "We'd also be able to afford to hire an investigator who might be able to look into more questionable things. We would also look at other ways of improving operational security, to prevent our ships being misused. As I eluded to before, it is an absolute logistical nightmare. I'm sure, Mister Sharpe, as someone who manages a huge logistics freight company, you know our troubles. Running it as we do now, without the funding you had, its impossible to stay on top of everything."

Phil did have a considerable understanding of the problems involved in managing a fleet, but Zog had a point. They'd started out small, with suitable funding, and only expanded when they had the finances to do so. They could afford to do detailed background checks on all their employees from the start, whereas these two had just accepted the charity of others - having come from disreputable backgrounds themselves. Presumably, this endeavour of theirs had expanded rapidly without any growth control, and they were now reaping the problems that inherently brought. He looked back to Annie, since this was her line of questioning. He was glad he'd brought her along, her insight into the questions on risk management were very impressive. She might have a better understanding of how his world worked than even she realised.

Annie nodded slowly. It seemed they had an answer for everything. Maybe because they knew their own reputations were at risk, especially when it was Phil, one of the most successful investors in the quadrant, was being approached for the backing. She looked over at Phil again, who seemed to be a bit more relaxed than he was before. She reached under the table and gave his thigh a firm squeeze, their agreed sign that this may be a worthy cause. But she still wanted to look into the smuggling incident before Phil handed them anything.

Phil placed his hand on Annie's and gave it a gentle pat, the reciprocating sign that he understood. "Thank you for your time today gentlemen." He said, offering a smile. "You've certainly answered our questions, but obviously you appreciate I need to do a bit more checking before I give the final sign-off. I'll have Miss Culdrose contact you once we've made a decision."

Both green men nodded, and rose together. "Thank you for your time today, Mister Sharpe, Mrs Sharpe." Zog said, bowing his head respectfully at both.

Annie nodded in return, slightly surprised at how well the meeting went especially with it's rather slimey beginning.

As both men left, Phil let out a deep sigh and took a deep gulp of the water glass on the table. After finishing, he turned to face Annie. "How was that for you?"

Annie's lips curled up a bit. "Surprising, to say the least." She placed her hand back onto his thigh and gave it a gentle squeeze. "They had an answer for everything and a good answer at that. I want to look into the Starfleet files a bit more now that they mentioned that issue with the smuggling just to see if it sticks. Otherwise it's a very worthy cause and it has done a lot of good for people."

"I did appreciate the honesty that they demonstrated. I have a few concerns with the lack of details regarding the hiring aim, which I want to look into. Just saying 'oh we'll just hire people' isn't really a solution. I suspect it's because those who had no intention of running a massive organisation, and have no clue how to do it, hence their strong desire to leave as soon as they can." He said, smiling at her, and putting a hand on the one on his leg and patting it. "You did really well today hun, I should ask you to do this more often. Added bonus is you look super-hot in that dress right now, but then, I pretty much say that about everything you wear, so I'm totally biased." He was teasing her, and he knew she knew it. She'd been stressing this meeting, and it was finally over, so he wanted to put her at ease that she'd done really well, with the usual playfulness they had between them.

Annie leaned forward and gave Phil a soft kiss on his lips. "I'm glad I could help you out, Mr. Sharpe." She gave him another kiss on his lips and then leaned back in her chair. "Now, I should probably take advantage of being here and grabbing something to eat and spending some more time with you. I need this lunch for all its worth since I'm not sure how late I'll be in the office today."

"Considering you took the morning off, probably quite late." Phil lamented. Still, he'd got to spend a bit of last night and most of the day thus far with her, he couldn't complain. "Why don't we order some food to take away, head on over to the hotel, and spend some time together in the privacy of my room there - before you have to go back to work." He offered. "I figure I'm not going to see you for a day or so, might as well make the most of our time together."


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