Celestina Wiroviana’s plans required her to leave Stujorkian City early in the morning. She received the message from her pilot that her shuttle was en route to Schmarlo Tower’s landing pad. She rolled over and looked into Tomar’s eyes.
“I suppose you are leaving soon?” he inquired.
“Only because the universe needs us to save it,” she whispered, with a coy look in her eyes.
Chuckling, they embraced in another passionate kiss. Their relationship was one of extreme passion and intensity, but also of distance and selfishness. Tomar was now the Chairman of one of the Eleven. He commanded one of the most influential organizations in the known universe. Only six Corporations boasted a higher valuation, but he knew that would soon change. She was the Chief Executive Minister of the Ministry for Interplanetary Corporate Relations. It was an elected position that arguably was the most powerful government position on the two planets, and more importantly, it regulated those powerful Eleven Corporations.
That their relationship should be a secret was more than an understatement. It was expressly forbidden by the bylaws of the Donovackia Corporation and the rules that governed the Ministry. For a Minister, especially the Chief Executive Minister, to be involved in an intimate relationship with any board member or employee of one of the Eleven, especially a Chairman of one, was not only unethical, it was also potentially perilous. But neither gave a damn. Power breeds arrogance, and often an arrogance that believes that rules only apply to others.
“In any event, my dear Tomar, you have a board meeting in a few hours. I wish I could be there to see their faces. After watching Greylorent blasted into that wall and slumping to the floor yesterday, I can only imagine how compliant and agreeable they will be to any of your ideas and suggestions.”
He studied her as she dressed, knowing in a few moments she would slip into the secret elevator that connected his apartments with her official residence in Stujorkian City.
“You look radiant as always, my love,” he declared, as she began to walk towards the door. She returned to the bed and kissed him one last time before she left.
“Behave while I am gone,” she remarked, trying to sound serious.
“Perhaps, I will. Perhaps – I won’t,” he replied.
“Tomar,” she warned seductively, “you never behave, and I promise to punish you the next time we are together.”
She looked at the silk straps, which were tied to the bedposts, and both of them laughed. This relationship had what both of them craved in so many ways. With each other, they could express their secret desires, not just those that are played out in the bedroom, but also the lust for power that consumed each of them. They were soulmates. It was a cruel fate that brought them together when the rules forbade their love. Breaking those rules only fanned the flames of their desire and added intensity to each of their personal ambitions. Eventually, their relationship would be public, but only after they reshaped the universe to their vision.
“My lady, welcome aboard,” said one of her secretaries as she boarded her shuttle. As always, Celestina looked impeccable. She had long ago known that she was destined for great things, so she looked and dressed the part. With the shuttle abuzz with activity, she headed towards her private office. While she had multiple “official residences,” an “official office” in Stujorkian City, and another on Zoranth in the beautiful city of Zanthantium, this shuttle and another nearly identical one on Zoranth were her real offices.
The morning was filled with the official business required of her position, and she executed her job with absolute precision. No Chief Executive of the Ministry had ever been so effective, efficient, or as ruthlessly focused and driven. She had gathered power to herself at an astounding rate. Those close to her in the Ministry knew that she was becoming an unstoppable force, but to the public on both Koranth and Zoranth, she was loved and adored. She was heading to the Moran-Kathor Portal, which would transport her to Zoranth. Because her official duties would keep her there for some time, she decided a small detour was needed.
The shuttle, changing course, headed towards Fraterian City, in her home country of Beliasium. She planned to surprise her uncle at his country residence. Her parents had been killed in an accident when she was very young. Her father’s older brother, Hareold Wiroviana, had taken her in and raised her as his own. He was driven man – a politician to his very core, but he loved her with all his heart.
When Celestina came under his care, he was rising in the Beliasium Parliament. Her teen years were spent in the Prime Minister’s palace, where he was re-elected for multiple terms. She loved every bit of the pomp and circumstance of political life, and he preened as any proud father would when she followed him into politics. In many ways, it had emboldened him, and he accomplished the impossible. He became the first Interplanetary Corporate Relations Minister elected from a country that wasn’t a superpower. Not even one of the Eleven Corporations was based in Beliasium.
As he had done when he was Prime Minister, he retained his position as one of the five elected Ministers and reaped the personal, professional, and financial rewards of such an office. However, his greatest achievement wasn’t his own. It was guiding his niece, Celestina, through the meteoric rise of her career. She followed in her uncle’s path at a dizzying pace, trumping every achievement and milestone that he had set. Her election to Chief Executive Minister of the Ministry of Interplanetary Corporate Relations validated everything that he had ever done, every sacrifice that he had ever made. He may have been her uncle, but he had created her, and now he would follow his own pupil as if she were the master.
“Uncle!” she cried out as she walked to the small, open pagoda on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. The old man sat comfortably in a chair, the sea breeze blowing through his thin, white hair. He could not hear her as she approached due to the waves crashing on the rocks below. This was a private place, a place where he went to meditate, which was becoming more and more of the time. He found that he was at a point in his life where he longed for peaceful moments to drink in the beauty of the ocean. He was no fool. He knew his time was short and looked forward to finally resting.
“Uncle Hareold,” she spoke gently as she approached him, so as not to startle him. He turned to her with a surprised, yet joyous look, a smile spreading widely across his entire face.
“My dearest Celestina! What a wonderful and excellent surprise. I had not expected to see you until the next meeting of the Ministry,” he voiced warmly to his niece.
“I don’t have long, Uncle, but I wanted to spend a little time with you before I headed over to Zoranth. There is so much to do, even though we’ve already accomplished so much. I just wanted to personally thank you.”
“Celestina, you give me too much credit. You set everything up. All I did was meet with them and follow the plan that you laid out. You, my young lady, have architected more in the last two years than any Chief Executive Minister of the Ministry has since the Colonial Wars. You are to be commended,” he said with sincerity and pride.
She attempted to interrupt him, but he silenced her with a determined look and a gesture. They were both Ministers and she the Chief Executive, but he was still her uncle, and she would always respect that.
“Only two years ago, the Ministry only dealt with issues concerning the Eleven Corporations. When you took office, you understood the historical significance of the Ministry. You quickly returned it to some of its very esteemed roots. You sent me to the meeting of the three factions of Greater Morlovia. Based on your plan, your insights, and your strategy, we avoided what would have been a devastating civil war. This comes on the heels of your guiding the Ministry to intervene and stop four major territorial disputes, including one that could have plummeted the entire planet of Zoranth into a global conflict.
“My beautiful niece, it is I that should be thanking you. You have made me prouder than I ever dreamed I could be. I wish your parents were here to tell you the same. You are truly a gifted and talented politician, and you are re-crafting the Ministry and our two planets with a vision that has long been neglected.”
She was flattered by the old man’s words. While he was simply another pawn in her game, he was an important one, and she wanted to play him out with the respect he deserved. She
tried to speak, and again, he demanded that she listen.
“You are sweet to come here to thank me in person, but I taught you all that I know, and therefore, I know why you are really here. You have sent me two proposals that you intend to present to the Ministry at our next official meeting in two months. These are radical and, to some, almost heretical ideas. You want to reduce the Ministry to three seats and allow the Donovackia Corporation to acquire Stameyerson Corporation and mount a hostile takeover of the Kathor Corporation.”
Her mouth started to become a bit dry, as she tried to search his face for more emotion than he was revealing. If she could not convince him to support her proposals, then they would almost certainly fail. A smile moved across his face.
“Celestina, for generations we have had five Ministers and the Eleven Corporations. It has worked, but it has become stagnant. In your short time as Chief Executive Minster, you have achieved so much. I am not long for this life, but I know that in what time I have left, I will get to see you achieve many more amazing things. From this day forward, you have my unquestionable support for whatever proposal, plan, or idea you put forth.”
She tried to maintain her composure but was simply too overjoyed. She had expected that she would have to debate with the old man about the proposals. They had played these games her whole life. Even if he supported her, he would make her vigorously defend her positions. He watched with a happy soul as he graduated his protégé to the next level. She reached out to wrap her arms around him.
“Now go, tend to the Ministry’s business on Zoranth,” he bid her. “I will see you in two months, at the next meeting.”
They both gazed out into the ocean, but their thoughts stretched down two very different paths. The old man was settled in his thoughts. He saw the endless waves and water as evidence of the cycle of nature. The Ministry had brought peace many centuries ago, and once again, under his niece’s guiding hand, the Ministry returned to where it had begun. Celestina saw the vast ocean quite differently. It ate away at the shore, eroding and sculpting. It pounded rocks into sand. It made things that were once one thing and ground them into another. She would do the same with the Ministry. She would change it all.
She kissed him on his forehead and headed back to her shuttle.
• • •
|Chapter 6||Chapter 8|