Taking Stock
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A fleet of black SUVs smoothly swept over the blasted plain. Several thousand fine Armani suits were carefully swept free of dust, imagined or otherwise, and then filthied by the gravel and dust that filled a long walk to a building most thought abandoned. Several thousand adam's apples bobbed in unison as their owners carefully imbibed water and an anti-radiation pill.

Few would believe that one of the most, if not THE most capitalistic organization in the world met in the ass end of the Ukraine for the annual stockholder's meeting.

Security was, as always, tight as a drum. Hard faced men with scars checked and double-checked assault rifles and pistols, loaded with rounds made illegal decades before. Comm units squawked with static and fell silent as their owners checked in, every three minutes and ten seconds on the dot. Satellites were re-purposed to scan the terrain.

All the security money could possibly buy.

And every PMC and hired goon was informed that if anything interrupted the meeting, accounts, (significant pause) would be balanced (significant look).

A wrinkled aged throat carefully cleared itself.

"Jenkins. Tell me, how do you think I'm feeling about Acquisitions? Do you think I'm giddy? Do you think the sight of your quotas not being met fills me with breathless joy?"

A rhythmic hissing steadily echoed across the room, from the large mahogany table to the steel catwalks. Sunlight gleamed red through a cat's cradle of tubes.

"Sir, you understand as well as I do; we push more into intelligence, we lose out on actual obtainment. Frankly, it's becoming hard to find any that aren't either intolerably lethal, or boring."

A hand reached up to straighten a tie. Rheumy eyes glazed over for a second, imagining a checkered noose slowly strangling its owner. If only.

"But, as you can imagine, the benefit of our frequent tip-offs is working wonders on our relationship to the Foundation. We've been experiencing unprecedented geniality from the directors of Sites 54, 13, and 10. We think we may be able to leverage this into getting some intel on the safer, more eccentric artifacts discovered near those sites."

Lips drew back over teeth stained an ugly brown. Jenkins mentally compared the expression to that of a tiger, and found the animal wanting, at least in pure cruelty.

"Let me guess. They're sending you the occasional encrypted email to a, what do they call it? Ah, an "Anomalous Item". You, meanwhile, take this as a sign of good faith and tell them where a-a, I don't know, a giant man-eating bug or some such fuckery, you tell them where that is located. They gain a new item to study, and you get table scraps."

Jenkins' eyes widened. Harsh, wracking laughter overtook the man in front of him. It abruptly cut off.

"You really are a fucking imbecile aren't you. They've been doing this game for how long? Longer than I have. You think they're going to be impressed by a song and dance routine, followed by blowjobs? Christ. Now I know why Marshall was smiling so hard when he appointed you, the fucking prick."

A nod towards the balconies.

"M-Mr. Carter, pleas-"

The shot was deafening, a roar accompanied, however quietly, by the noise of Jenkins' leg exploding. He cried out, a shrill animal noise.

"Jenkins, you're going to serve a purpose. You're going to succeed Franklin when he's done, just like you did when you took over Acquisitions."

The agony in Jenkins' eyes gave way to horror, then panic. He struggled to crawl away, but his hands slipped in the slick of blood created by the panicked beating of his own heart. Men walked over and grabbed him, dragging him away.

"Now then…"

The man known as "Mr. Carter" gazed at the assembled members of his organization. They stared back, impassively.

On the back of Carter's wheelchair, Franklin gazed sightlessly through milky eyes, his body twitching spasmodically every few seconds. Blood ran through clear tubes that extended from his back into Carter. His heart, fatigued though it was through working for two bodies, pumped steadily. The iron rings that suspended him to the chair squeaked slightly, as an involuntary muscle spasm twitched the stump of the limb it was attached to. Perspiration gleamed on the scar from his lobotomy.

"…Back to business."

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