MLM – Chapter 18

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“You’re telling me that he threw this at you? And it blinded you?” Vance was sitting in his chair, closely examining a glowing sphere the size of a tennis ball.
“Yes boss, that’s what happened.”
Vance was in his lair, sitting on his makeshift throne, the beautiful woman standing slightly behind. The room was empty, except for three people in front of him; the two henchman and the skinny Pusher were kneeling with both knees on the ground, their backs up straight and heads lowered.
“And then they ran to Leonard’s.” Vance said with a passive expression.
The thugs visibly flinched. “Yes, boss. We waited all night, but we didn’t see nobody come out.”
“Describe this ranker to me.” Vance said, still observing the glowing ball of units.
“I’ve never seen him before, boss. Pusher here says he showed in town with those two kid trash-scrapers a couple days ago.”
The speaking thug nudged Pusher, who hesitatingly spoke. “He’s… different. I could tell that he’s not from around here.”
Vance pursed his lips. He looked away from the ball, moving his gaze to the kneeling henchmen.
“Do you know what this is?” He asked.
“It’s units, boss?”
“You dumb shit, that’s obvious. Do you know why it looks different?!”
The thugs and Pusher shook their heads hurriedly. Vance laughed. “I’m not surprised.”
He tossed the deep blue orb up and down in his palm. “I’d only heard stories about units like these. How many units do you think this is?”
“Maybe fifty, boss?”
Vance smiled eagerly, sending a weird chill through the three kneeling minions. It was extremely nerve-wracking. The three offenders had thought that they would be thoroughly punished, but upon giving Vance the small ball of units that the trio of scavengers had left behind, his attitude had completely changed.
Vance waved, and the beautiful woman stepped forward from where she was waiting behind Vance’s chair. “Measure it.” He ordered.
The woman reached out, and quickly stuck in a small pin, similar in size to a syringe. Checking a monitor on her wrist, she looked up with a mildly surprised expression.
“424 units,” she said, handing the orb back to Vance, whose eyes lit up with excitement. There were exclamations of surprise from the three kneeling on the floor.
“What have you guys heard about Upper?” Vance said suddenly, seemingly changing the subject. No one said anything at first.
“They say it’s a utopia. That there are oceans, filled with fish, and lots of trees with plenty of animals.” the woman answered. Vance waved for her to be silent, not interested in her statement.
“I’ve heard that the rankers who live in Upper all have levels over one hundred, and that the units that they make glow brighter and are darker.” Vance held up the units. “Just like this one. What do you think that means?”
The three kneeling people looked up at him, trying to follow.
“The units are from Upper?” The bald thug ventured.
Vance suddenly kicked out, catching the man in the stomach, and the man bent over in pain.
“You idiots! I mean that man is from Upper. How else would they be willing to throw away four hundred units just like that?”
Vance sat back down in his chair, his mood good despite the spurts of sudden violence. As he sat down, the kicked thug hurried to kneel back in formation again, clearly in pain but straightening his back regardless.
“I want that ranker.” Vance announced.
The lead thug nodded earnest. “Yes boss, we won’t mess up this time boss. We’ll kill him and bring ba-”
Vance flung the orb at the speaking man, and it hit his chest with a dull thud, sending the man into a choking fit.
“You idiot!”
The furious Vance pointed at the units on the ground. “Do you know how much that’s worth? Units that are denser like that go for a fortune in the Gate. That ball can probably be sold five times its unit amount. The brighter the units are the better.”
His voice became quieter, but more intense. “Do you know what you can use these units for? You could probably power a drooler and its weaponry for over a month!” He leaned back into his metal throne.
“I want that ranker, alive. If he’s from Upper, he’s a walking bag of units.” He pointed angrily at the thugs. “Don’t fuck this up again! Take Howdy and his boys with you, make sure you grab that ranker.”
Vance pointed at the kneeling Pusher. “You. Holdings brat. Bring me those units.” Pusher instantly scrambled to the ball, picking it up and bringing it to Vance.
But instead of grabbing the orb, Vance snatched Pusher’s wrist instead, twisting it viciously. Pusher yelped in pain, dropping the units, but Vance twisted harder and pulled him closer.
“You already fucked up once. For that, I’d usually kill you, but I’m going to give you another chance.” Vance shook the boy slightly, causing another cry of pain to leak out from the terrified teenager.
“You find those little buggers, and you find them quick, otherwise you’re dead. Understand?”
Pusher nodded furiously.
“Good.” Vance released his arm, and Pusher fell back on the ground, sobbing. The holdings boy managed to scramble backwards, stifling his crying, and kneeled again, holding his badly wrenched arm. Vance leisurely reached down and plucked the ball of units from the ground, his mood markedly improved. He waved the kneeling gang members away with his other hand, and the three instantly exited the room.
He stared deeply into the glowing sphere. “Theresa. Go with them. Make sure those two boys get dead.”
The woman standing next to him stiffened. “I’m a merchant, not a murderer.” she said quietly.
Vance didn’t look at her. “Theresa, do you remember the day we met?”
The woman’s beautiful blue eyes flashed, but her expression didn’t change and she responded passively. “Yes. The day you took over the Belmonte Merchant Guild.”
“The day I killed the Belmonte Merchant Guild,” Vance corrected her. “Do you remember why I let you live?”
“I said that I’d make you the most powerful merchant within five hexes,” the woman said calmly. Vance laughed fondly at the memory.
“That’s right. And you know what? You kept your promise. Once Leonard is gone, I will be the single man in control of the markets within three hundred miles.
Then Vance looked away from the ball, looking thoughtful. “But once I’m in control, what use do you have anymore?”
The woman’s face twitched, and she struggled to keep a straight face.
“You’ll need me to keep things running.” she said with a small tremor in her voice. But Vance was already shaking his head.
“Once I’m in charge, nobody will be able to go against me. Nobody has the units, and even if they did, I’d just kill them,” he said plainly.
He stood up from his throne, moving to the woman, patting her on the cheek. “Theresa, I like you. You’re smart. You never waste my time. You were the one who taught me the difference between dirty business and commerce.”
Vance shrugged. “But when I manage all the commerce, there’s only going to be dirty business left.”
He turned and began walking away. “This is for your own good. People have to change with the times. I did.” The heavy man began to laugh, his booming voice filling the room. Then it faded into the distance as he left, leaving behind the woman, who stood silently in the empty room.

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