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On The Surface - December 18th 2008
Page 8
The conference room was filled with twelve people, sitting around a square black table, waiting patiently. There was a free spot at the head of the table. Nobody said anything, most of the figures looked at documents they brought along.
Finally, the door opened and Jack came in. After more than a decade he now felt quite used to the pseudonym, even though sometimes he wished he could have his old name back.
The attendants stood.
"Please, sit down," Jack said. He took a seat and everybody else followed suit. "I've summoned you all to discuss the current issues at hand. First of all, we still haven't detected any hostile movement. This is highly suspicious, and we can only guess what comes next. However - and that leads me to the second point - our Chosen Victims are in dire need of more items."
Jack took a long breath. His audience listened in silence; one of them was lighting a cigar.
"We have been attacked twenty-seven times on the surface. The last attack has been a disaster, with major casualties on our side." He folded his hands and placed them on the table. "There are tons of items buried in the sand that we have used to defend ourselves. The plan is to send out our Chosen Victims to find and collect still useable items. We do that once every day, in order to avoid raising any suspicion. We are being watched, if you recall that strange everlasting light we're exposed to on the surface."
Everbody nodded.
"Although - we think it's some kind of unintentional side effect of some of the weapons the enemy has used," Jack mumbled, and cleared his throat. "Anyway. I've told some of my slaves to prepare lifelines for our Chosen Victims - long chains that reach up to twenty miles. Thus, even if our Chosen Victims die, we can reel them back in."
The man with the cigar chuckled heavily, with smoke coming out of his nostrils. Everybody else couldn't resist smirking.
"To communicate with our Chosen Victims we will use the newly installed control room, which is connected to our C.H.A.T. system. We won't have a visual though, so we must rely on our Chosen Victims' attentiveness."
"Great," somebody said sarcastically.
"I know," Jack said. "But it's cheaper than building robots, trust me. Though, the bad news is that our Chosen Victims aren't used to, you know, the outside world, let alone that peculiar light. We sent out a test subject and, well, let's just say it didn't last very long."
"So, that means more food for the life cells?" somebody asked.
"Correct, and now you understand the importance of the lifelines," Jack replied. He reached down to the right, and produced a map, which he unfolded on the table. "We ran a sonar scan and verified the existence of hundreds of items. Interestingly, the higher level items are farther out, probably because higher level creatures lasted longer. Remember that, when you're commanding your Chosen Victims around."
For a while everybody examined the map closer, which basically just showed a large ring and a few areas marked with the guessed average level of items to be found.
"What else should we be aware of?" the man with the cigar asked with a raspy voice.
"In fact," Jack responded. "I believe that is all, as far as our Chosen Victims are concerned. Any further questions?"
"Yes," the smoker said. "Are you absolutely certain that we can't find a way to get a visual recording of our Chosen Victims' excursions? I'm sure some of our customers would like to see that, and in turn this could generate some additional revenue."
"I'm afraid the signal won't be clear enough to meet the expectations of our regulars," Jack said. "Besides, we would use it ourselves if it weren't inducing such a headache when looking at it. Anything else?"
Everybody stayed calm.
"Alright," Jack continued. "I'll keep you informed about the enemy's actions. And - let me know if anything strange happens on the surface. Who knows what's out there."
With that, the meeting ended.
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