Influential Friends

The screen on Genna’s desk buzzed. She swiped, bringing up Ballayne’s face.

“Lorent’s here.”

“Send him in.”

She swiped the screen to sleep and sighed. Let’s get this over with, she thought.

Lorent stepped through the door, approached her desk and took a seat.

“Genna. Good of you to see me.”

“Lorent. What can I do for you?” Genna forced a smile.

“I think it’s more a question of what I can do for you. I have a proposition. You might not like it at first, but please hear me out.”

I dislike it already, and that’s before you explain it, Genna thought. “I’m listening.”

“You’re doing well for yourself, Genna. I’ve been watching your progress, and it’s been impressive. You’ve taken some gutsy moves, but you’re also pretty smart.”

“Thank you.”

She watched his gaze as it came to rest on her, then dip down to her chest. Her top was low-cut, something others had advised her against. They told her it would cause a distraction. She agreed.

His eyes drifted back up, settling on her forehead. Avoiding direct contact.

“But you’re position is precarious, Genna. You have enemies. I’m in a position to help you. I won’t bore you with details, but I can offer you a certain amount of protection. I have important contacts, and they are the kind of people you want as friends rather than enemies.”

“You have a long track record, Lorent. That doesn’t happen without influence. So what are you proposing?”

He eased himself back in the chair, crossing his legs, exposing his waist. Genna caught the sight of the empty sheath. Her guards had strict instructions.

“Sorin,” he said. “You know of the man, I’m sure. He’s‌…‌well, let’s just say he’s a man who gets what he wants. He’s keen to expand his influence, and he will not appreciate resistance from some upstart hiding away in these towers in the centre of her new district.”

He paused, but Genna gave no reaction. He continued.

“You have power and loyal people, Genna. He doesn’t like that. He wants to break you. Believe me, I know these things.” He uncrossed his legs and leant in. “I have solid information that he is planning to strike soon.”

“And you can stop him?”

Lorent nodded. “Like I say, I have influence. I can persuade him that his personal interests would be best served by letting you be.”

“And you’d do that for me?”

“I would. Of course, I would ask for some recompense. I am a businessman, after all.”

Of course. “How much.”

He raised one eyebrow. “You don’t want an advisor in for this?”

“We’re not going to get into deep finance now, Lorent. Give me an estimate.”

He reached into his jacket and produced a screen, swiping to wake it. He tapped a few times, then slid it across the desk. “That’s a summary. I hope it’s not too technical.”

Genna looked at the figures without touching the screen. They were fair, but she could see room for exploitation. The large amount at the bottom was sure to rise once Lorent had an agreement.

“That seems reasonable,” she said.

He took the screen back before she could take a longer look. “So we are in agreement?”

Genna smiled, then held up a hand. “One thing concerns me, Lorent. What makes you think Sorin will listen to you?”

“We have dealings. He trusts me.”

“And that is enough?”

He spread his arms. “Trust is everything. You trust your guards, you trust your informants. I trust my partners.”

“Sorin is a partner?”

He hesitated. “In a manner of speaking.”

Genna nodded. She reached for her own screen and tapped. “Interesting partnership,” she said, sliding the screen across the desk.

She watched Lorent’s expression as he took in the footage. She had no need to watch it again. Lorent on his knees, Sorin holding a gun to his head. The footage was clearly from a body-Eye. Lorent was allowed to get to his feet, and was escorted from the room. But not before Sorin clearly looked at the Eye and nodded.

“Give the screen a tap,” Genna said. “There’s a report that might interest you.”

His hand shook as he tapped the screen. He shifted his position, and the colour drained from his face.

He read slowly — details of his dealings with Sorin, from Sorin’s point of view. They clearly showed Lorent for what he was‌—‌a small-time dealer, arrogant enough to think he could play with the big boys.

Lorent sat back, taking deep breaths. Then he smiled. “Interesting,” he said, his voice almost steady. “Doctored footage and a false report. I’d question your contacts.”

“You think I can’t trust those I do business with?”

“I have influential friends. Clearly others want me out of the way. This is a set-up.”

“Influential friends? Like Sorin?”

He laughed. “Don’t believe that footage. And yes, I have influential friends. Many of them.”

Genna shook her head. “If I were to throw your lifeless body from the top of this tower, I would gain more friends than enemies. You want a list of names?”

His laughter was more nervous now. “So, what, you remove me? Here, in your office?” His voice rose. “You wouldn’t have the guts to do it.”

She would, and she had. But not today.

“You have one chance, Lorent. Keep out of trouble, and you have no problems. But cross me again, and I will have you removed.” She smiled, then nodded to her guards.

As they escorted him from her office, she swiped the screen again.

“Yes?”

“He’s leaving. You know what to do.”

She kept her word, and she didn’t make idle threats. Maybe he would stay out of trouble, but she doubted it.

Within a couple of days, those influential friends would be thanking her.


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