Chapter 10 How I Operate, How I Win

Bash Banks’ POV:

(some language)

It’s been two weeks since I met up with Rico at Georgio’s. I had agreed to come on board and be part of whatever plan he was devising for Jupiter. I thought something would’ve happened by now, but I’ve had no indication of the doom and gloom of Jupiter’s demise thus far.

The company status quo continues. The pissy whiny liberal arts brats with their third rate degrees, but just so happened to land a job in tech because daddy was in the same country club with the VP. The insufferable hipsters and neckbeards who spent too many years in their mothers’ basements with delusions that they were worth more than the package of condoms their parents should have used because they can write a few lines of code.

A sea of ass-kissers surrounded me, all lined up with their lips out ready for Timothy to unbutton his dockers and bend over. Lather on the chapstick boys, because all that butt licking you’re doing is going to give you blisters.

What was worse than anything, my team, Tim’s team moved to another level in the building. What I liked about my old space was that our area was small, now we shared a floor with some of the analysts and other developers who were working on Cypher and other applications. Not only was I reporting directly to Tim’s incompetent ass, but I also had to put up with a bunch of imbeciles who greeted me each morning with some word or phrase black people stopped using six months ago, that they just looked up on Urban Dictionary.

Charles Ridley told me one morning when I came in that my blazer/trouser combo was “on fleek.” I guess that was meant to impress me. I don’t even pretend to like these muthafuckas. He knew he messed up by my “get the fuck out my face before I sock you in it” expression and hasn’t tried that shit again.

I was sitting at my desk, not getting much work done. My mind was preoccupied with this Rico deal and how much I utterly loathed coming here each day. On top of that, I’ve been working overtime like crazy, a lot of us has. I’ve barely had a social life over the last couple of weeks.
I noticed it had gotten quiet in my area.

“Hey Bash, we’re waiting on you!” called Charles.

I turned around in my chair and glanced at my watch. Shit, it was time for our weekly meeting with Tim in his new supersized cubicle, complete with a small glass table and four hard plastic Ikea worthy chairs.

I got up and made the short walk to the opposite side of our office where Tim now sits.

I didn’t bother to apologize for my tardiness and plumped down in my seat across from Tim.

“Bash, how’s it going?” asked Tim in his annoying cheerful too early in the morning way. His bright blue eyes crinkled in the corners as his smile stretched from ear to ear.

I nodded. “Fine.” I didn’t offer anything more than that. I was over this already, and I had only been here less than two hours.
I listened for the next fifteen minutes while Tim droned on about how honored he was to be part of such a great team made up of the brightest minds at Jupiter. Charles, Leo, and Adam hung onto every word and vigorously nodded their heads; probably in the same rhythmic motion if Tim were to pull out his tiny pecker and told them to suck it.

Eventually, Tim got out his own ass, and we began to discuss some of the bug issues with the Cypher framework. The more the conversation went on and the questions Tim asked, the more I realized he really didn’t know shit about the barest of essentials when it came to our top application. I looked at Charles, Leo, and Adam and wondered if they were thinking the same thing. From the robotic Pavlovian dogs’ looks of admiration on their faces, it didn’t seem so. If they thought what I was, they were doing an excellent job of covering it up.

I didn’t volunteer anything in the meeting, no input, even when asked. I had nothing to say. Oh, I could definitely say a lot, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. The meeting eventually concluded, and I was the first one up and headed toward my desk. It was still too early for lunch. I thought about calling GG and seeing if she wanted to meet me across the street at noon, but I most likely wouldn’t have time. I would probably end up eating at my desk again while I attempted to get through my bug reports as I had not touched them all day.

All I could do right now was wait and hope on Rico. Once Jupiter goes down like the Titanic, I’ll have my black ass on the first lifeboat out of here.

******************

My communication with Rico had been scarce at best. He advised it was best to limit our communication. I heard my phone ring in the middle of the night. It was after one. I knew Rico kept late hours on the weekend, but his call was most unexpected. I had to pretend that I wasn’t dead to the world just thirty seconds before his call. GG, who was sleeping next to me softly murmured and turned over, but she didn’t completely wake up.

Rico said that the information I had provided him with had been helpful, but it wasn’t enough for the type of “leverage” he needed. Rico hasn’t specified what he needed; he only says “everything.” Well, when it comes to an application like Cypher “everything” is an inclusive term, and that includes a lot. I had a feeling Rico was testing me yet again to see if I would pull through without him having to goad me in the right direction. He indicated that the sensitive information that was most imperative was privy only to those above my pay grade.

Yes, I do have access to internal and protected intellectual property and information, source code, and bugs but it was limited. I didn’t have firsthand knowledge about the more severe bugs and stabilization efforts for the application being addressed by the senior developers and upper management.

What I needed was access to the very foundation of Cypher’s mainframe; not just it’s vulnerabilities. It’s important to know how well it would do once it goes to market, if it will be readily accessible for the majority of users on various operating system platforms and if Cypher could easily be integrated with other applications. Unfortunately, even though I have more education, general knowledge, and I know what the fuck I’m doing, Tim as a senior developer was privy to that information.

The last thing Rico said to me was “I’ll get what I need somewhere, somehow. It would be most beneficial for you if you obtain that information for me. Because if I have to take other avenues, something, I don’t want to do after you agreed to come aboard, well that’s me doing your work for you. Yes, there is a way to get the intel you’ve yet to provide. But I don’t want to go that route, because it means I’ll have to call in a favor and it gives that person a degree of leverage over me, and that’s not how I operate; that’s not how I win.

I hated to admit that Rico’s call had left me a bit restless and I didn’t get much sleep after that. Thankfully it was Saturday. Jupiter wanted everyone to work this weekend, but I’ve already been working sixty hour weeks, and I wasn’t in the mindset to deal with those fuckers on a Saturday. I had to figure something out to get Rico what he needed, and it had to be soon.

********************

I was at New Crest City Center Galleria with GG. After our initial hookup, I wasn’t sure where this “thing” was going to go. I hadn’t been in a committed relationship in years, and I enjoyed the hassle-free lifestyle of not being tied down to one woman. There was something about GG that made me forget all of that and I wanted to explore whatever was between us.

Except for the last two weeks and me working sixty hours, she and I have spent practically every day together. GG either comes over and spends the night, or I stay at her place. We occasionally meet for lunch since our buildings are next to each other downtown. Often we grab drinks together in the same bar we first met. Now those same Bobby Pedigrees get sick when they see her with me. I love seeing the self-righteous, smug look fall off their ugly ass faces. Giavanna was easily the most beautiful woman who worked in the area, and she’s truly the most beautiful woman I’ve met. If I were Bobby and Chad, I would be mad too.

I bemoaned my work dilemma to GG. She agreed that it wasn’t right for me to continue to get passed over for promotion after promotion, but she’s claimed in the past that I should be more open to gaining “work friends.”

GG didn’t know about the deal I made with Rico. She knew I wasn’t happy at Jupiter. I wouldn’t tell her anything about it until it was assured, as of yet, I had no idea where Rico and his partners were at regarding taking the company.

“It’s hard to get ahead in that environment. The guy I report to directly is a complete idiot,” I said. We quietly walked through the gallery. The courtyard of the City Center was full of people at tables, going into the shops and bars, and eating at outside restaurants. GG was quiet and just listened as I went on about my most recent meeting with Tim and our team.

“He doesn’t know some of the basic processes we have implemented, yet he has more access than I do, and he’s getting paid more than me,” I complained.

“I know, it isn’t right. But Bash, we’ve talked about this before. I know how much you hate your co-workers, I could tell you didn’t think too highly of them the first time I saw you with them at the bar. And if I, a stranger could pick up vibes, I’m sure the people you work with every day can pick it up too. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” said GG. She leaned in a bit and stroked my arm. I guided her toward a bench near the water fountain gardens.

“What you have to understand baby, is that I’m a black man. Things work differently for me than they do for you and the men in the positions of power.”

“How so?” she asked. We stopped for a moment, and I turned to look at her. “Look, it doesn’t matter that I have degrees from UPenn and MIT. I already have a strike against me because of the color of my skin,” I replied.

“And what, you don’t think I face discrimination as an ethnically mixed Brazilian? Most of the people I work with, including the women think of me as some exotic beauty from a third world country. Either they think I’m some sex freak who spent her days lying around naked on Ipanema Beach or they think we all live in Favelas. Nevermind that my family was rich in Brazil and my parents still have money and were successful when we moved here,” sighed GG.

I never really thought of her as a victim of discrimination. Misogyny was a given, especially in her line of work as a financial analyst. Even still, GG had the complexion for protection. She wasn’t a blue-blooded blonde hair all-American girl, but she had it easier than women like my mom and sisters.

“Look, Bash, I’m not saying your feelings aren’t validated, I know how intelligent and talented you are. The truth of the matter is, in the corporate world, you have to play by the rules until you’re in a position to change the rules. Don’t burn bridges. Now, from what I’ve seen Tim seems very likable even you said he wasn’t as bad as some of the ass-lickers in the company. He is your lead now, and he likes you. Why not extend an olive branch? What’s the harm in making new friends in higher places? You’re going to have to deal with Tim anyway, might as well get all you can out of what could be a beneficial friendship for you,” advised GG.


I opened my mouth in protest and remembered my brief conversation with Rico. As much as I hated to have to do it, I would have to get close to Tim. He’s very trusting and honest, but naive. He’ll most likely begin revealing things to me I would otherwise not have the privilege of knowing.

Okay, I will do it GG’s way, and I’ll extend that olive branch. I’ll do whatever I have to complete my mission. The Jupiter train was nearing a full stop, and I wanted to make my transition to something of greater importance.

*******************

The following weekend, I did something I never thought I’d do; I invited Tim and his girlfriend, Cheyanne out for lunch with GG and I.

It was bad enough I had to deal with Tim’s over the top cheery attitude at work, now I had to spend a portion of my Saturday with him. My weekends were my time to get away from the shit Tim and everyone else at work represented. Me, allowing him into my personal time and space wasn’t something I was eager to do. But I knew I had to get the right kind of leverage for Rico. As he said, he could acquire it without my help, but I realized he was testing me, to see if I was up to the task and worth the risk of bringing me into his inner-fold.

There’s no one in Rico’s circle that doesn’t offer some benefit to him or contributes to his goals in some way. He was helping me out of a situation and giving me the opportunity to step into a better one. Yes, Rico helps people, but you better believe sooner or later, he’ll come to collect the debt.

GG and I met up with Tim and Cheyanne at The Mighty Oyster, a seafood restaurant on the waterfront. I don’t know what I was expecting when I met Tim’s girlfriend, aside from the same shade of blonde hair, their styles were completely different. She was one of those artsy hipsters, while Tim dressed more Abercrombie & Fitch.

“Hey, Bash! This is great, meeting up like this. I want to introduce you to my girlfriend, Cheyanne,” Tim brightly greeted me.

“Hello, Cheyanne, it’s good to meet you,” I said and extended my hand. Cheyanne’s eyes lit up, and instead of taking my hand, she hugged me. “Hi! I’m happy to know you, Bash. Tim has told me so many good things about you,” she gushed.

I was a little surprised to hear that and was taken aback by her forward and warm demeanor. “Tim, Cheyanne, I’d like you to meet GG, my lady,” I said, turning toward GG.

GG graciously smiled and offered her hand, which Tim shook, but Cheyanne hugged her as well.

“Wow, you are drop-dead gorgeous!” exclaimed Cheyanne. GG blushed. “Thank you. It’s nice to meet you both.”

We were shown to our table and browsed our menu. GG decided to go vegetarian and ordered tofu chicken salad platter. “Are you a vegetarian? I am too! But there’s not a lot to choose from on this menu. I think I’ll get the tofu chicken platter too,” said Cheyanne to GG.
“I’m not a complete vegetarian, but I often go without meat several days a week,” she replied.

“So, GG. Bash tells me you’re from Brazil? When did you move to the states?” asked Tim. When I initially extended that olive branch, I gave little details about GG to Tim. He would meet her soon enough, and I knew it would be a painful experience. At least GG had my back and decided to come and support me. She’s much better at putting people at ease within social settings.

“I was ten years old when my family and I moved here from Rio de Janeiro. I went to university in New York, but most of my family lives in Willow Creek,” replied GG.

“That is amazing. I swear every woman I’ve seen from Brazil is beautiful! You’re no exception at all. What part of Rio are you from?” asked Cheyanne. She was hanging onto GG’s every word. She’s made a new fan.

“São Conrado. It’s an old neighborhood in the South Zone.”

Cheyanne’s eyes grew big. “Wow, is that the same area located right next to Favela da Rocinha?” asked.

GG drew a breath. Speaking of the Rocinha Favela isn’t something she often liked to do, and it was part of the reason her family wanted to move from the city. “Yes,” she nodded.

“I can’t imagine. Have you ever been to one? A favela?” asked Tim.

GG took a long swig of her Moscato. “No. Girls like me, where I was raised and based on who my family is, shouldn’t go to the favelas.”

Although she hid it well, I could tell this line of questioning was making GG uncomfortable, but she remained gracious. I decided to switch gears a bit. “So, uh Cheyanne, was is it exactly that you do?” I asked.

“Oh, I am a freelance graphic illustrator. I know, it’s weird that Tim and I are together. I’m the least techy person I know. I know graphics and all that stuff, but I know nothing of programming,” laughed Cheyanne.

GG and I learned through her babbling that Cheyanne graduated from Sarah Lawrence, she composts, collects rainwater for drinking and bathing, and she grows her own food. Typical.

“You know, GG I have such a good team at work, and your guy here is one of the smartest people at the company. Bash is such an asset. I’m fortunate to have him on my team,” Tim enthused.

GG looked at me and smiled. “Yes, he’s like an encyclopedia. I am not very techy either, so if I have questions about computers, I just call Bash and let him handle everything,” she giggled.

Tim and I didn’t discuss work too much, other than him mentioning some of the future projects for Cypher he was eager to start on. He told me he hoped I would be fully on board once we go to launch and build on the application soon. I told Tim he could count on it. Surely, it would be a slower climb than I would want, and I have to play Tim just right. I can’t push anything on him. I seriously doubt I would arouse suspicion from Tim, but others would be watching.

*********************

After lunch, we split the bill. I paid for myself, and GG and Tim took care of his and Cheyanne’s portion. They said they would love it we could go hiking with them in a couple of weeks. I saw the look of panic on GG’s face and knew almost certainly it was out of the question. I didn’t commit to anything, but I told Tim that it sounded like a good time and we’ll talk about it soon.

GG and I said goodbye and headed toward the boardwalk near the parking lot where my car was. “Well, that’s two and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back,” I sighed.

“I mean, they were a little Donnie and Marie, but I thought they were cute,” she laughed.
“Cute? Are you serious? Well, I guess you can add Cheyanne to your growing list of fans. She’s mesmerized by you,” I said, dryly.

GG shrugged. “She was adorable. But, now that I have formally met one of your co-workers, and I don’t mean at the bar during happy hour, maybe I’ll meet more people.” GG was hinting at wanting to meet my family in Oasis. As much as I loved being with her, GG was the one bright spot in my life, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to taint that by bringing her to my old neighborhood and introduce her to some of the most unambitious people I knew who thrived on mediocrity. No, I would put that off for a long as I could.

Chapter 7 Going to the Mattresses

Rico Thomas’ POV

I was in New York for a meeting with Harrison to discuss the Jupiter Works acquisition. Edward Enterprises L.P. is a diversified holdings conglomerate located in the 9 West building in Manhattan. One of Harrison’s subsidiaries is Edward Capital L.P., an activist hedge fund with just over seventeen billion in assets under management. Aside from being a businessman and billionaire philanthropist, Harrison is an old family friend and my mentor. He’s currently married but separated from his wife.

I had the highest respect and admiration Harrison, even more so than my father. He taught me everything I know about my business, how to obtain power; ultimately he’s shown me how to survive.

Harrison had gained a reputation a pit bull corporate raider in the nineties; the preferred modern term is “activist investor or shareholder.” He told me once when I was at Harvard that he preferred the name “corporate raider” because it invoked a feeling of fear and that “activist investor” made him sound like he was outside on 57th street holding up signs in protests. Edward Capital is one of the top hedge funds in the country, particularly in the software technology market. It’s well known for being at the center of many hostile takeovers, acquisitions, and mergers. Several of the takeovers Harrison’s executed over the years have resulted in corporations breaking up, selling off, or shutting down altogether. Harrison was nothing pleasant when it came to a boardroom coup d’etat.

I don’t go to Harrison for every merger or acquisition my firm consults on. There is a multitude of ways we strategize for our clients if they’re looking to merge with another company or completely acquire it. Not all takeovers were hostile, and frankly, I preferred when they’re not. Since Jupiter decided to shut down talks with Grazier, they came to us to execute the best plan that would eventually get them controlling shares of Jupiter.

I wanted to see Harrison face to face to talk about our strategy, and it was better to meet in his New York offices, rather than San Myshuno for various reasons.

Cassandra, the first assistant, greeted me in the executive reception area on the 44th floor. “Good afternoon, Mr. Thomas. Mr. Edward is expecting you,  right this way, please.” I closely followed behind Cassandra, admiring the way her sleek black dress fit snuggly over her swinging hips. I could tell she wore Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue because it was the same perfume I’ve purchased for Shoshannah many times.

She showed me into Harrison’s massive corner office with views overlooking the park and expansive surrounding buildings that seemed to go on forever. The hardwood floors were freshly shined and buffed; you could smell the finish the janitors used from the night before.

The sunlight coming from the high windows bounced off the wood-paneled walls. Other than the notifications of the stocks rising and falling on the monitors, the only sound you could hear were the pop and crackle of wood burning in the fireplace.

“Long time, no see,” Harrison smiled, standing up from his desk and extended his hand. His eyes were a piercing ice blue, but there’s warmth behind them. “Cassandra, could you please bring us two coffees?”

“Of course, Mr. Edward.” I slightly turned to watch Cassandra walk out of the room. “Nice view,” I remarked. Harrison raised his eyebrow. “How’s Shoshannah doing these days?” he asked, smirking. I laughed. “The same as ever.”

“Still the heartbreaker, eh?”

“No, not at all. Shoshannah keeps throwing hints at getting married, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.” Harrison gave me a wistful look, undoubtedly looking back on his youth and mistakes he wishes he could’ve remedied, especially now with the problems that led to his moving out his family home and away from his wife.

“How are you? It’s good to see you.” I was genuinely happy to see Harrison. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how good of a player I become of the game; I always learn something new after meeting with him.

“Here, sit. I’m good. How was the flight? It’s been a long while since you’ve been home hasn’t it?” asked Harrison as he headed over to two leather sofas; probably worth the equivalent of a mortgage payment on my first high-end apartment. I nodded. “The flight was fine. And yes, I haven’t been home in nearly a year.”

“You’ve been home to New York in recent months, just not your parent’s home, is what you mean,” observed Harrison. I sighed, not wanting to get into the reasons I’ve avoided going to my parent’s house. Harrison already knew, for the most part, I just didn’t want to discuss the more recent problems I’ve encountered with my father.

“My mom isn’t in the city anyhow. I would see her, but she’s in Tokyo.”

“And Connor?” asked Harrison, wryly. I shook my head. “I haven’t talked to him; he doesn’t know I’m here,” I replied.

Harrison sat back and studied me for a moment. “Connor is certainly aware you’re here, don’t be mistaken. Akira’s in Tokyo, hmm. How are Richard and Ryan doing?” he asked, referring to my brother and sister. “I suppose they’re fine.” I hadn’t expected to see any of my family although I grew up in Manhattan and had many ties to the city. My brother Richard lived in DC and Ryan lived on the Upper West Side. None of us were exactly close. I had a feeling Harrison wasn’t done grilling me about my family just yet.

“You know I ran into your old man at the Met not too long ago. It was for the opening of Kennedey Leeds’ new collection. I spoke with the artist briefly and remembered she was somehow related to your mother’s cousins, the Powers brothers,” recalled Harrison.

“Yes, she’s the sister-in-law to my mother’s cousin, Jaylen Powers. Did you and my father speak?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. Harrison laughed. “No, not even a little bit. You know your daddy doesn’t care for me.”

“The feeling is mutual for you both,” I shrugged. It was good to see Harrison again, but I wanted to move our meeting along to discuss the reason I was here. Talking about my family, especially my father to anyone is not something I revel in.

Harrison sensed my agitation and changed our discussion to the business at hand. “As I told you before, the synergies from combining Grazier and Jupiter would be very profitable down the line. They’re better together than they are apart. Jupiter is undervalued, plus after my research, they have some issues with their latest application Cypher. Once I start buying shares, it will drive the price up. I’ll stay between twenty-nine and fifty-one to start. Just enough so Jupiter will see I mean to set about making changes. They need to reduce cost and fix the issues with their software. I’ll need a clearer picture of their debt as well. When I have a certain percentage, I’ll send a proxy to the shareholders until I can get a specific amount of control. Most of their board if not all will be replaced. Once I sell my shares to Grazier when it’s most profitable, they’ll most likely remove everyone from Jupiter. Then I’ll get a seat on their newly formed board.”

The work of a real mastermind. I loved how Harrison’s mind worked. “It’s a smart plan. Once I hear news of some unexpected early morning raid, I’ll know the play’s in motion,” I said.

Harrison wryly laughed. “There could be a spot for you too,” he said, pointedly. Now that a board position for me was on the table, the stakes were even higher.

“It’s something I would have to review. If I were to take a position, it could risk a conflict of interest for current and future clients of TGS,” I replied. “I wouldn’t concern myself with that, Rico. If a conflict came up later, you have the option to recuse yourself from those dealings and delegate those responsibilities to your associates.” Harrison made a good point, but I’d have to think about what the implication could mean if I became a Grazier Technology board member in the distant future.

Grazier “technically” walked away from Jupiter after their last talks. If they voted to go after them, undoubtedly, Jupiter would employ whatever defense accessible to them to defend itself from a takeover, something Grazier didn’t want. They wouldn’t be expecting Harrison to come along and get the majority of their shares. I was sure once they saw Edward Capital had a significant amount of control, they wouldn’t have much choice but to adhere to any demands Harrison made.

It may seem Machiavellian to some, but the fact is that once everyone saw Harrison buying shares, it would create value for their shareholders. There’s a term in the business people like to refer to whenever they see that Harrison is interested in a company. It’s called the Edward Drive due to his ability to drive up the price and adding value to the shares of the companies he invests in. Jupiter won’t know right away of Harrison’s intention to sell off to Grazier once he fixed their internal issues and made the company more profitable.

It was just another Monday for Edward Capital. The firm bought and sold companies on a regular basis. Harrison had the insight to see where different companies are undervalued, in trouble, or doing well but could be better; he will get enough shares to advocate on behalf of shareholders to their board to bring about changes he wanted to see at those companies. Many dislike Harrison, but funny enough some of the people who hate him have great respect for him.

Harrison narrowed his eyes. “We need a closer look at Cypher, and any vulnerabilities it has that surely will cost Jupiter’s stock to go down were it made public. I don’t need to know how you’ll obtain this information, but I won’t go into a battle without being fully armed.” I nodded in agreement. Whatever Tanner found through his “research” it wouldn’t be enough since Cypher hasn’t gone to market. He could only look at the current data.

Once I got back to San Myshuno, I would follow up with my associate, Bash Banks. I sent him a text not too long ago telling him that I wanted to meet up. Jupiter not only undervalued their product, but they undervalued their employees in many ways. It’s not so much that I think Jupiter isn’t aware of Bash’s education and talent, they’re aware of his negative feelings. More likely than not in most corporate climates having an attitude with a sense of entitlement will get you nowhere fast.

Bash is young, but not too young where he should believe merely having degrees from specific schools is a guarantee of anything. He’ll only have one shot with me; I won’t tolerate ineptitude.

******************************

I left New York only hours after meeting with Harrison. I texted Bash telling him to meet me at Georgio’s the following afternoon. He didn’t need to know the specifics of Harrison’s involvement nor his plans for Jupiter once he held a controlling interest.

Not only did I want Bash to give me the information on Cypher technology and other data systems, but I also wanted to gauge what his thinking was like. Sometimes bitter people act out irrationally and make less than smart decisions. If the sting of being passed up for this latest promotion heavily weighed on him, I couldn’t count on Bash to watch his step and not make a big mistake that could put everything at risk.

I stepped into the lounge at Georgio’s where I found Bash sitting across the room near a window. I specifically chose this location because it was out of the way and there was a better chance we wouldn’t run into a lot of people. The atmosphere was quiet; not many patrons had made it from downtown, which was just about twenty-five minutes from here. Georgio’s was more or less on the upscale side, but not in an unattainable way.

Bash spotted me and gave a short wave. He was here before me, which is good. I didn’t see he had a drink already. “How long has he been here?” I asked Roger, one of the servers and a longtime spy. “Not long, less than ten minutes.” I nodded. Getting here too early would signal desperation, it was good for Bash that he hadn’t committed such a transgression, yet.

I headed to Bash’s table and frowned. After we exchanged pleasantries, I got right to my first point. “Sebastian, let me give you a pro tip. When you’re meeting someone for business, especially when that person is of higher rank and standing than you, wear a tie.” I was aware that people in tech, usually didn’t dress to the nines for work, but one must always be prepared, especially if they know they have an important meeting to attend.

A look of embarrassment briefly spread over Bash’s face, he shifted uncomfortably. “I, uh, I-I’m sorry. I came here after work,” he stammered. His nervousness would need to get in check, but at least Bash didn’t break eye contact with me. Shoshannah told me years ago that like her father, I intimidated people. She claimed that when I met the judge and didn’t cower like most guys our age, her love for me was cemented. I took that with a grain of salt, as she proclaimed the same thing after we first had sex and I gave her five orgasms in a row. It wasn’t even my best work yet.

“From here on out, when I meet with you, don’t worry about it. I’m just getting you ready for game-time,” I replied as I slid into my seat. Bash gave me a quizzical look, wondering if I’d been testing him and I was.

“I was surprised to get your text. Then I didn’t hear from you for a while,” said Bash. Roger came over and took our drink orders. I nodded. “I’ve had some things in the works for several weeks now. I heard about that last promotion you were passed over at work.” I kept my eyes laser-focused on Bash, waiting for his response. He dealt with many internal issues, mostly about race and class. While I can guarantee those things do play a part in corporate America, I know for a fact that isn’t the main reason Bash continues to get passed over for promotions. He’s too focused on bitterness and pettiness to see how his attitude can turn people off. I’ve known him for some years now and witnessed it first hand.

Bash is incredibly smart and gifted, and his talents aren’t utilized at Jupiter. He’s not exactly expendable which makes him highly qualified for the type of career he’s in, but it takes more than just your education and skills to climb the corporate ladder.

If I were going to use Bash for our attack on Jupiter, he’d need to get the chip off his shoulder. Once Harrison had controlling shares and made the company more profitable, Grazier would gain control. If Bash helped us with information on Cypher technology and the bugs in their system, I could guarantee he could move up to a much higher position once Grazier fully acquired Jupiter.

“Yeah, I can’t say I was completely surprised by not getting the promotion. All the tap dancing “they” want me to do, acting like I even had a chance. Never again,” scowled Bash.

I wasn’t the type to beat around the bush. “I wanted to discuss your future. I need to know if you’re in or out right now,” I said. A look of strong curiosity spread over Bash’s face. “What is this about?”

Roger walked back over to our table and set our drinks down. “Is there anything else I can get you?” he asked. I shook my head, no. Roger was a long-time informant in my network of spies I have placed all over the region. He didn’t know exactly why I had him watch Bash today nor the other people I keep tabs on, he just knew I paid him well like the others that report back to me.


“I told you, your future; whether you want to be on the losing team and go down with Jupiter or play for the winning side. For your protection, as well as others and mine, I can’t get into too many details. However, as events unfold in the media, you’ll begin to understand.” I replied.

Bash took a deep breath. “Well, I’ve always known you to be smart and capable, Rico. Everything you touch seems to turn to gold. I don’t normally enter into blind agreements, but yes. I’m in. I know different companies have made plans to merge with us. I can see the writing on the wall. If Jupiter is going down, I don’t want to be on that ship.”


“That’s good to know. Before I go any further, you need to pledge your complete loyalty to me; your resolve must be unassailable. I can’t have any doubts and neither can you.” Bash earnestly nodded in agreement. “I understand, Rico. You have my loyalty.”

I informed Bash that I needed specific information on Cypher, the current data encryption software Jupiter was developing. I wanted to know what bugs the application had, what software or operating systems it wasn’t compatible with and what plans did the developers have to integrate it into their existing systems. Bash wouldn’t be engaging in anything illegal per se by obtaining information he already had access to. Nor contributing to any “insider trading” for Harrison’s benefit.

We at Thomas Global wanted to know exactly what we were dealing with. If I wanted this takeover to go as smooth as possible, we would need to know the areas to target first and foremost when it came to dealing with Jupiter’s board of directors. Harrison will want to replace them eventually, but he couldn’t on day one.

If Jupiter even smelled Grazier in the vicinity or knew they were resolved to acquiring them once it was in Harrison’s control, they would fight dirty. They wouldn’t want to destroy themselves internally, but they don’t have the capital for a “pac” defense, they could and would find a white knight. I would do everything in my power to stop that from happening. We’re going to the mattresses.

After I left Bash and paid the check, I headed downstairs for my car service and driver I periodically use when I travel to meetings.

I pulled out my cell phone and sent a single text to Cressida: Line up the mattresses.

 

****Author’s Note: Be sure to check out our Facebook group for writers for previews and character updates before they’re posted to this blog Sims of Color Stories

****Check out Rico, Harrison, and Bash’s biographies in the character bio index 

****You can check out some background information on the artist Harrison mentioned, Kennedey Leeds in my first Sims story Reagan Leeds: Run The World. She’s the younger sister of Reagan and aunt to Marseille. This Is Only a Test highlights the opening of Kennedey’s first gallery in Isla Paradiso.

****The term “going to the mattresses” is a line from The Godfather, basically meaning going to war. 

My hostile takeover storyline contains elements of the power dynamics in the business world, I’ve always had a keen interest in. It’s taken a lot of research and my intense desire to develop this arc in GOP. I appreciate you all who “tune” in to read the story.

Thank you once again for reading and Happy Simming,

Camille

Chapter 1.2 The Games Begin

 

Rico Thomas POV:

“I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me. I know where to look for it, and how to use it.”  It’s one of the many profound things I’ve learned from one of the most successful power brokers in US history, President Lyndon B. Johnson.

What I value in LBJ’s methods for attaining power is the practical means to deal with the obstacles and problems that befall a strong and capable leader. Similarly, when I set about achieving a goal, roadblocks are inevitable; it’s how I choose to deal with those roadblocks that determine the desired outcome. Power is a tool that I use to elevate my position and attain my goals. For some people, power is a drug, and if not used wisely and without self-control, it can overtake you.

Let me start with a bit of commentary on history for you. Say what you want about Johnson’s war record or his pre-Presidency civil rights record that doesn’t concern me, because I am living in the modern world. I could choose to be idealistic and cry about how things should be, or I could make changes that matter. Here’s the lesson: Great men, great leaders, go out and make the changes needed. They don’t wait on others to do it for them. Inertia and weakness never elevated anyone to a real position of power. Some methods used may not be favorable in the eyes of many, but the world runs, civilizations thrive, and we wake up with a false sense of security due to necessary evils. Not everyone will agree with what I do or the methods in which I do them; that doesn’t concern me.

For as long as I can remember, it has always been ingrained in my head to set goals and to achieve them by the best means necessary. Notice I did not say by any means necessary because they’re not all smart and “any” leaves you open to considering some less than smart options. No, complete your goals by the best and most effective means.

**************************************

I was up at a quarter past four this morning, which was typical for me. I kept my mattress extra firm; for not only did it keep my posture long and straight, I felt as if I had one that was too soft and comfortable I would not easily get up in the morning.

I stepped out of my bed and carefully smoothed out the percale sheets and bedspread. I was not a wild sleeper, I rarely moved. My housekeeper would come a little later and make over my bed again, not completely satisfied until everything in the house had her approval and final touch. I walked across the wooden floors, satisfied that I spent the money for custom heat controlled flooring throughout the apartment. For some people, it may seem like a waste of money, when I could just wear slippers. Not to me, this was my home. I was going to have every luxury afforded to me within these walls. I couldn’t be bothered with cold floors in the morning.

I keep late nights and early mornings, but I never feel unrested. All the same, I have my unique daily brew, rare Arabica beans naturally refined by elephants. I won’t get into the details; put it this way: it’s very expensive to drink coffee that has been processed through an elephant’s digestive system.

It’s worth it, however, because I wake up with one of the world’s finest coffees in my cup each morning.

After I’d poured my coffee, I headed to my office to check the market and read emails. As expected, I had just over fifty messages from after ten o’clock last night up until fifteen minutes ago. About half of the emails were from my work associates as well as what some may call an executive assistant, Cressida Castro. Her main role was managing the day to day operations of Thomas Global Strategies, my consultation business; that also meant managing me; as much as anyone can do that. Cressida did everything; therefore she doesn’t have an official title. Some of her duties included: maintaining my schedule, determining what was considered high priority, and which problems were salient.

Most of the firm’s clients except for a distinguished few went to Cressida as their first line of contact and information. Many times, my clients insisted on talking directly to one of my top-level team members or me. It wasn’t always convenient or necessary that they speak to me. And nine times out of ten, Cressida was able to answer their questions or handle whatever specific issue that needs addressing.

*******************************

I founded Thomas Global Strategies while I was in prep school; only it was more informal. I didn’t have any staff, nor did it have a name. We provide services to corporate clients with workforces that number into the thousands, to smaller companies with less than fifty people. We consult on matters such as mergers and acquisitions, valuation and financial preparedness, political and campaign strategy, crisis management, investigative forensics, information technology, analytics, and public relations. That may seem like a long list, but you’d be surprised at how closely related each of these areas are, none are mutually exclusive of the other. We meet our clients’ needs through a system I call SIR: Strategy, Integration, and Resolution.

I arrived at my office building a little bit earlier than usual. I wanted to answer some correspondence before my team arrived. I had been at my desk for roughly an hour when Cressida walk in, looking down at her tablet.

“Did you get the dossier on Grazier I sent?” she asked, not looking up. “Yes,” I replied. I pulled up the file on Grazier Technology’s last quarter performance Cressida sent last night.

“Boss, I know you’ve worked with this company before. I assumed you had me gather all this information for M&A. It couldn’t be for another PR scandal. That was before I joined the firm,” said Cressida, sitting down.

I sat back in my chair and looked across my desk at her. “You know what I say about assuming. Yes, a few of years ago, Grazier retained our crisis management services. The company was going through an ugly public relations crisis due to a sexual harassment suit against two members of their executive team.”

“Autumn handled the case?” asked Cressida, referring to Autumn Ross, our main public relations expert at the firm. I nodded. “What we found during our internal investigation was that human resources had failed at every turn to investigate the allegations against their director of marketing and senior vice president of operations. A female project manager had accused them of an inappropriate sexual relationship.”

“How does an adult accuse another adult of having an inappropriate sexual relationship? Relationship implies there was consent; unless her job was threatened,” said Cressida

“Yes. In this context, it’s a new pc way of saying ‘fucking your way to the top’ The woman alleged the director and VP sexually harassed her and demoted her from senior manager to a position one below. During our inquiry, we found out that the accuser had been in consenting relationships with both of these married men at different times. She pursued both men. While we found inconclusive information on the director’s part, we found enough correspondence from the senior VP that could cause the company a lot embarrassment. The woman claimed once she ended the affair, he demoted her, but there was enough evidence in her previous performance review that her bosses weren’t happy with her. Autumn said she was a piece of work and no one on her team liked her.”

“Did she end up leaving Grazier?” asked Cressida. “Yes, with a much smaller settlement than what she was suing for. The director was allowed to resign, and the senior VP took a leave of absence until the storm was over; he’s still with the company. It’s harder to replace an executive than a low-level project manager. It wasn’t a complete loss to Grazier.” I replied.

Pretending as if sex hasn’t been used for centuries in exchange either for money or other goods and services, is a fallacy. Here’s the lesson: It happens all the time, and a lot of people benefit from sexual favors. Not all. It sounds like bullshit, but you’re not living on planet Earth if you don’t think this happens and is accepted every single day. Am I saying that every little bright-eyed bell with perky tits and a fat ass spending years trading her southern accent away, started on her knees underneath the boardroom table to attain a leadership position? No, what I am saying is situations like this happen more often than you think; that’s the world in which we live. Here’s a pro tip: if you’re not playing the game wisely, you will get run out.

Check out the biography of Rico and other main characters here.

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Rico Thomas, The Ruthless Pragmatic Player of the Game of Power

 

Rico has the Knowledge Aspiration

Rico’s traits are: Ambitious, Self-Assured, and Insider

I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me. I know where to look for it, and how to use it.”

-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

LBJ’s words here are true for Rico Thomas. He adheres to that truth each day. Like LBJ, Rico doesn’t gain his power through ideal tactics and what is considered morally right in the eyes of many (depending on who’s the observer). For someone who knows very few things in life are black and white, the ends will justify the means. It’s essential to Rico to set goals and achieve them by the best means possible, not by “any means necessary,” because not all means are the smartest and “any” leaves one open to considering some less than smart options.

Rico is the CEO of Thomas Global Strategies, a consulting firm that offers expertise and services for finance, legal, public relations, crisis, management, political strategy, and in several other fields. Rico founded his company and ran it on a much smaller scale when he was in prep school. He has a business degree from Wharton, one of the country’s premier business schools and an MBA from Harvard.

As a pragmatist, Rico often employs ruthless methods to get what he needs and serve his clients. He has little use for emotions when making decisions in his everyday life and business. Rico is highly intelligent, but he’s smart enough to know that he can’t assume to be the smartest person in the room. Keeping both friends and enemies alike in his fold, helps keeps his ear to the ground. It gives his associates a false feeling of security and makes them vulnerable to lower their guard, all to his advantage.

Rico’s motivation for his business is to serve his clients faithfully and efficiently. TGS may be a small firm, but its highly efficient and is gaining a reputation for its expertise. A significant portion of the firm’s clients is connected to the elite Blue Bloods in American and European society. However, Rico himself is not a classist and he believes even empowering someone born into a lower social class than he could be beneficial for his goals. For everyone Rico helps, that person is indebted to him. You may not know when he is coming to call in a favor, but once he shows up at your door, you know why he’s there.

As an apolitical consultant and operative, Rico services both Democrats and Republicans alike. Through crisis and management as well as public relations, Rico’s firm has provided consultation services to police organizations accused of brutality to black socialist groups who have nationally opposed the practice of excessive force and racial profiling. TGS counts The Congressional Black Caucus, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and members of the GOP as its clients. Through complete non-biased services to his clients, Rico has at times come to aide those that some see as fighting against “his own people.” However, Rico has no shame and no use for it. He doesn’t allow his ethnicity and background to control his decisions. He sees the world as it is, and deals with it accordingly.

Rico is a student of the 48 Laws of Power and makes many of his life decisions based on the fundamental truths of those laws. For if he allowed relationships and feelings to cloud his judgment, anyone would pounce on the opportunity to destroy him and take away what he has spent years building.

Knowing and spotting advantages for power is essential to survival, and Rico will take any opportunity to gain an advantage. He was born into wealth, but his family went through troubling financial hardships and lost most of their fortune before rebounding, albeit not at the same level. Rico witnessed how in an instant money didn’t secure his family. It can be taken from you in the blink of an eye. He has made it a goal to gain power and an edge for he doesn’t want to experience the feelings of helplessness and depending on someone else as his family did years ago. Power itself can be fleeting. You can’t put complete trust and faith into one person or entity. Loyalty only goes so far before it hands you your ass and you’ve been stripped of all power because you bet on the wrong horse.

The stakes are inevitably high and of vital importance. As a seasoned and skilled player of the game of power, Rico is good at winning, but it’s not always so easy, and when you’re on top, a fall to the floor is all that much harder. No one is immune, and anyone can win or lose at the game, for the power players are forever changing. Rico needs to make sure he can stay in the match in the growing face of adversity if he wants to win the game of power.

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