Tomar Donovackia smiled, as the board members sitting around his board table remained silent, still quite rattled from witnessing Greylorent Lamrainkia slaughter in front of them the day before. Tomar had breakfast served before he arrived although only a few of the board members seemed to have much appetite.

“My dear board members, let us proceed from where we were yesterday,” began Tomar, as he brought up a three-dimensional representation of the galaxy. He then tapped the podium, and all the pieces of the galaxy went dim, except for the known inhabitable planets. Each planet was color-coded according to the Corporation that held the license to “develop” it. The colors were scattered about, with some Corporations having a few more than others.

“As I began to explain yesterday, we have too long lived in a world dominated by assumptions put in place before our parents or even grandparents were born. We have long assumed that having Eleven Corporations was simply the right, proper, or blessed way to live. We have placed our view of the Eleven and how the Ministry regulates the Eleven above common sense, and above business sense, and, my dear board members, we have even put it above the potential profits that could be reaped by looking at EVERYTHING rationally and logically.”

The entire board remained silent. A few of them began nodding their heads, either appreciating or, at least, understanding what he had said. There was some truth in it. On more than one occasion, the Ministry had bailed out Corporations that would have simply gone bankrupt or been liquated or sold in any other industry. The two worlds of Koranth and Zoranth simply assumed that the Eleven must exist. While there were no laws that mandated Eleven or forbid discussing an alternative structure, the concept of the Eleven had become embedded in culture and society. In some ways, it was almost like heresy to consider that something else might be better. The two worlds had become complacent, and nearly everyone believed that the Eleven would not be allowed to fail.

“It is time for change,” Tomar continued. “We are again at a point where the Ministry is facing a failing Corporation. The changes that are coming, and should be coming, are radical. We’ve grown fat and happy, sitting here on our laurels, blindly believing that things won’t really change. Stameyerson Corporation is on the brink of failure. The Stameyerson board of directors and the Stameyerson family have run that company into the ground.”

Tomar paused for a few moments. Many years had passed since a Corporation faced financial collapse. However, the fact that the Stameyerson Corporation was in trouble was not a secret. Every person in the room knew that it was struggling, but to what depths remained unknown.

“Every one of you sitting here, and every other so-called rational business person, believes the same thing. That is, if things get bad enough at Stameyerson Corporation, the Ministry will rescue it. Let me ask you, why would the board at Stameyerson Corporation bother to change things, to try to rescue their own company? And they aren’t trying. A huge infusion of cash and support is bound to come from the Ministry. They don’t believe they would be allowed to fail.”

Tomar pushed a few more buttons on the podium, and only the planets licensed to Donovackia and Stameyerson Corporations hovered above the table, with Donovackia’s in blue and Stameyerson’s in yellow. Tomar looked around the table. Every board member waited eagerly for his next statement. He pushed one more button, and the four yellow planets turned blue.

Wodoval Yipson, one of the newer board members, whom Tomar had put in place, asked, “Chairman, are you suggesting that the Donovackia Corporation purchase Stameyerson?”

“No, I am not suggesting that we purchase it,” Tomar responded and then pushed a few more buttons, so a small stack of documents appeared in front of each board member. Tomar paused so that the members could quickly glance through the papers.

“Chairman, this can’t be, can it? Is this even possible?” asked Wodoval.

Tomar smiled widely again. “My excellent board members, we are in an amazingly fortunate position. The Ministry has within its charter, a unique power to intervene in the Eleven. The Donovackia Corporation is very favored by the Ministry. At the next meeting of the Ministry, everything is going to change. The Donovackia Corporation will absorb the assets, employees, military, and all licenses of the Stameyerson Corporation. And because we are willing to step up and, in some respects, save Stameyerson, the heavy debt load that Stameyerson carries will be distributed to various governments, via the Ministry’s authority.”

Wodoval Yipson, whom Tomar had brought on board partially because of his brilliant capability regarding corporate finance, was mentally running the numbers. His face transformed from a studious, focused look to a smug grin. He burst out, “Tomar, this will make Donovackia Corporation the largest of the Eleven – I mean – of the Ten! And unless the calculations and assumptions that I’m running through my head are wrong, we will have an unmatched, unheard of cash flow and profit level.”

Tomar smiled, and, as the shock of having their assumptions stripped from them faded, the rest of the board began to express their approval. They all knew that Tomar was frighteningly ambitious, but this was even more than anyone had guessed. As Tomar looked around the room, he felt enormously satisfied. He knew every member of the board would now support whatever he wanted to do.

“This, my friends, is only one item on the Ministry’s agenda,” Tomar began again, “and it is only one of the items that will greatly expand the opportunity and profits for all of us.”

The board members looked at him with rapt attention. What else was up his sleeve? What could he do to top this?

“Before, I proceed, I should share one additional detail about Stameyerson Corporation. One of their licensed planets has not been visited in almost forty years. That last reconnaissance mission revealed a world that was moving in the direction of globalization. Sadly, they had finally harnessed the atom, but as is too often the case with our human nature, they used it in a global war. Fortunately, the war had just ended when the last mission arrived on the planet.”

He continued, “If the experience from other worlds holds true, then this planet’s scientific and technological capabilities would have vastly expanded over these last forty years. We need to get a mission underway within two years.”

Wodoval Yipson, unable to completely restrain his obvious delight at how this meeting was unfolding, piped in again, “With the new combined cash flow, we may not even need any debt financing to fund a mission. This is all such wonderful news!”

Tomar bought up another set of five planets – all colored orange and interspersed with the now eleven blue-colored planets. All of the board members watched as the orange faded to blue.

“Mr. Wodoval Yipson, I hope I am not disappointing you,” remarked Tomar. “Your brilliance in finance will be needed, and we may need some debt financing for this next planetary exploration mission, and/or for the hostile takeover of the Kathor Corporation.”

The board members looked stunned again. They had just had their view of the world radically shifted, and now it was being wrenched even further. Kathor Corporation had not only portals and licenses for other planets, which had just changed from orange to blue but also owned the Kathor side of the Moran-Kathor Portal. Donovackia held the Moran side. No single Corporation had ever owned both sides of a portal between Koranth and Zoranth. They had been built by joint ventures between Corporations, with one Corporation based on each planet. There was probably some logic in those arrangements, hundreds of years ago, not to allow one Corporation to own both sides, but it was merely one more element of the assumptions that everyone believed about the Eleven and the Ministry.

It seemed almost impossible, but Wodoval’s smile grew even wider. “Sir, you are saying that we could be the first Corporation to own both sides of a portal between Koranth and Zoranth?”

“Yes, we would control both sides and a sizable portion of the flow of goods between the two worlds,” stated Tomar. “While it will be a most profitable arrangement, I promise you that the Kathor Corporation has something else that we need.”

Tomar brought up the two motions, one to assume control of Stameyerson and one to prepare for a hostile takeover of Kathor, for a vote. They passed with unanimous consent. Even if there had been any reservations about changing the world in a board member’s mind, the profits and wealth were just far too tantalizing to oppose – not to mention the compelling incentive offered by the lingering image of Greylorent Lamrainkia’s demise.

Just as Tomar moved to adjourn the meeting, Ionia Villegas demanded to be heard. She had long been on the board of directors. Her family’s wealth stretched back generations. Tomar didn’t see her as a threat, but more of an annoyance. She was a member of the board because of her family’s wealth. Ionia was a capable businesswoman in her own right, years ago, when she was more involved. Today, she would simply go along with the majority of the board and spend most of her time and effort on her various social and environmental causes.

Tomar briefly closed his eyes, wondering what little animal or perceived disadvantaged group he was about to be pitched. She would undoubtedly have a sad tale, that was, in his mind, more of a distraction than anything. Would she want money? Would she want him making some speech somewhere?

“My esteemed Chairman,” she began, “as we make these moves to becoming the largest Corporation in history, I believe that we have an obligation to the people of Koranth and Zoranth. I have a few pilot programs that I sincerely believe that the Donovackia Corporation should initiate for the greater good of society. If I may have a few moments of the board’s time, I would like to present these pilot programs.”

Tomar physically fought to keep his eyes from rolling backward. The meeting had taken most of the day, and everyone in the room was ready to move on. The thought of listening to her drone on about anything was more than he could handle.

He put his hand up to stop her from going any further. “Ionia, my respect for you and the accomplishments of your various charities and groups is immense. We have had a long day already. If you have a few small pilot projects that you wish to launch within the Corporation, you have my blessing. Should they have positive success, let us bring those results to the board, and consider, at that time, some greater expansion of the programs.”

A visible sense of relief swept the room, and Ionia graciously accepted Tomar’s invitation. She would proceed and return to present her programs, should any of them produce positive results.

The meeting was adjourned, and all of the members began to prepare to leave. Wodoval was the first to the door. He appeared eager to get to work on the new direction of the Corporation, but he stopped and turned around. “Chairman, pray tell, what is the name of this planet that we’ll be sending a mission to within two years?”

Tomar responded, “The planet’s inhabitants call it ‘Earth.’”

• • •

Chapter 10 Chapter 12

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