Excerpt for Decision Time by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




Decision Time

Book 1 of the Mars Corporation Series

By Stephen Brandon

Copyright 2017 Stephen Brandon

Smashwords Edition


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cover image courtesy of NASA

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Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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Author's Notes

This book is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, incidents, and dialogue are from the authors imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or other persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Real and fictional locations are used for background only.

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Acknowledgments

My wife has put up with me for over forty seven years. Without her support and love I don't know who, what, or where I would be, so I thank her from the bottom of my heart, and I dedicate all my books to her!

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Table of Contents (ToC)


Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

About Stephen Brandon and his other books.

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Prologue


BLUE BOX DELIVERY

Blue Anderson returned from the meeting stunned. He realized that if he pissed off his father one more time, he was gone. For three days he avoided his Dad and then he was called in. Knowing what his father wanted, he carried the briefing materials he'd picked up as he left the meeting.

“Son, why have you been avoiding me. What the hell happened in Nevada, you get drunk again and miss the meeting?”

“No Dad, I was to sober for the information I heard. That economist that was scheduled, never showed. There was a guy in his place. He didn't even have a suit on. Everyone else was overdressed.”

“Damn it you lazy ass, I never should have married your mother. What did he say?”

“Sit down Dad and take one of your blood pressure pills, I've got over an hours worth of briefing with documentation. If my mere presence still upsets you afterwards, then I'll quit. You neglected mom and have belittled me since she died. I''m at the point, my Harvard education says screw you.”

“Boy, you might have a pair after-all. Tell me what you heard, I watched you when you got back and it looked like someone pole-axed ya.”

“First, tell your secretary we don't want to be disturbed.”

“Bullshit son, I may need a piss break. Get started.”

“Well Dad, like I said, the speaker didn't sound that educated, but the way he wove the facts he presented was convincing. He described the economy as a train, and ...”

“Well son, you're the one this information affects. What do you want to do?”

“Shit Dad, you're doing it again.”

“You are correct son. You have no anchor, mine is money. Forget about my comments about you not having a pair. Forget about my comments about all your previous girlfriends. Forget about everything I've said since your mother died ten years ago. Think about your future, wife, and maybe children. Now, how are you going to provide and safeguard them?”

“I, ah, ...”

“Well son, what is your first step?”

~ ~ ~



CAPE HORN AERONAUTICS

Jane took the rest of her vacation and then returned to see her Dad.

“Janie, anything interesting happen in Vegas?”

“You wouldn't believe it. You asked me to attend that symposium. You ruined my vacation Daddy.”

“Sorry baby, you can go back next month.”

“Dad, I don't want to go back next month. The guy that was supposed to give that economics talk wasn't there. His replacement was a redneck hick that was only one step above a used car salesman. I think that whoever put that briefing together wanted, almost everyone to disbelieve it. However, it struck a chord, and I ruined the rest of my vacation verifying the data. This won't affect you as much as it will me, and my sisters. Book an hour or two in the secure briefing room and I tell you.”

“Is it that serious Jane?”

“Yes Dad, it is.”

~ ~ ~


IRON INTERNATIONAL

It all began when Johnston came back from that meeting in Nevada. The economist that called for the meeting didn't show, there was another speaker. Mr Iron was pissed when he first heard the presentation, just like several of his VP's.

A week later Johnston was fired. He vanished without a trace two days later.

~ ~ ~


TRANS-GLOBAL SHIPPING

Mrs Ellis returned from the economic strategy meeting in Nevada stunned. She moped around for almost two weeks without mentioning the meetings contents. Then she requested a meeting with Mr Global.

The afternoon, he entered the briefing room with his son. She just knew she'd loose her job. For two hours she presented the information from the meeting in Nevada.

Mr Global looked at his son and said, “She needs to go.”

“You're right Dad. You know my new section has been working on a plan to try to balance our books internationally. You've known the money problem is getting worse. The others you've been in contact with about the problem are just as clueless as we were. Should we fire her? Then hire her under the table, or just transfer her over to the Air Division?”

“Son, what position do you want her to fill?”

“I think I'll create a number 3 position, after all Billings has some good ideas.”

“Just transfer her and give her a ten percent raise.”

~ ~ ~


VALUE CONSTRUCTION

Miss Alice Anderson returned from the meeting and found it hard to avoid her boss, the owner. She remembered what she'd discovered the day before she left, he was having affairs with two secretaries.

After her boyfriend stormed out last night, she was ready to move on. She typed up her resignation and put it under the copy of presentation. As she walked into the office she turned to her assistant, the slut, and told her that this was a private meeting. She'd already cleared his schedule for two hours. “If the building catches fire, you just walk out. I'll take care of the boss. If anyone gets past you, I'll rip those fake tits off your scrawny chest. Am I understood?”

With a scared look she answered, “Yes Miss Anderson.”

Mr Jenkins looked up and said, “Hump, so what is it Alice? Staking your claim or just being a bitch like my wife.”

“You know, I know enough to bury you before your next foundation is poured. Well that doesn't matter any more. Your secrets and sluts are safe.” Setting his copy of the presentation on his desk she took a seat and said, “The bottom page is my resignation with a fat termination package. You can think about signing it later. Now the information put out in Nevada was not by the economist that was scheduled. The speaker was a guy that looked like he would be at home selling refrigerators to Eskimos, but the information was sound. ...”

~ ~ ~


The Presentation or the

Red-neck Briefing


“Morning gentlemen. I know that most of you don't want to be here, but are because my letters to your companies and corporations created just enough interest that you were sent. None of you are at the top of the food chain for your organizations. I'm not even at the top of the food chain in my organization. He or She, is guarding their identity to prevent unfortunate repercussions.

“Your briefings to your supervisors and VP's will stir the pot, and then you'll have to watch your back. I suggest that you arrange for multiple levels of supervisors, reaching all the way to the top, be present for your first briefing.

“Now that I've covered the interesting information, let's look at the train wreck headed our way.

“First, if you have half your neurons firing you've seen many of the signs. Apart they look like loose railroad spikes and cracked support timbers. If you combine them, they begin to resemble a railroad bridge that someone let go. Maintenance wasn't preformed. Structural integrity is marginal. It'll support the train for now, but a penny placed on the rail can cause enough of a bump to bring it down. That's where we stand today with the economy.

“Going off the gold standard forty years ago was one step in the chain. Money without a physical object backing it is only good as long as the population has trust in the government issuing it. Read the news papers, and listen to the news on TV and the Internet. People are loosing trust in the government. It can be seen in many areas. Barter organizations are becoming more prevalent. Investors jump to sell at the slightest hint of bad news.

“Mentioning the stock market. Look at the variance between the physical value of a company and its stock price. Look at the gap in assumed value of the products it produces, and their cost to the consumer. Inflation can't account for it.

“Mentioning inflation, there is an organization that prints the money. It kowtows to the government and has recklessly increased our money supply. That is one of the problems with fiat money. If you want more, you just print it and put it in circulation. That devalues the money instantly. Inflation, at least has a reason the consumer can understand. They don't like it unless their wages rise to compensate, and that doesn't happen that often. As they fall further and further behind in their bills and savings, they become less complacent.

“I'll pause here for a break so you can catch up on your notes and write down any questions you'll want to ask at the end of this presentation. Take ten, refreshments are on the sidebar.”


“Everyone settled in? We talked about money. Now lets talk about consumer goods.

“You guys, think of the suit, shirt, underwear you have on. Ladies, think about the shoes, purse, blouse, skirt or pants you have. Where were they manufactured? Who manufactured them? What was their wage per hour or day? Who shipped them to your store and how much of a cut did they take? How much markup was required for the store owner to make a profit? And last, but not least, how did you pay for it? Cash, credit, or barter?

“That's one area. Now consider the food you eat either at home, at a friends, or out in a restaurant.

“Think about your trip here, travel by automobile, bus, train, or plane. Your accommodations from your origin and back. The consumables you use. And last, the value of your time. Either perceived by the value of information you gather, actual by your compensation, or subjective.

“Now back to your clothing. There are probably as many different manufacturers labels on them as there are people sitting in front of me. They were manufactured in half a dozen countries, or more. Those made from natural fibers may have been grown in one country, shipped to another country for turning into cloth, and maybe even shipped to another country to be assembled. Trade is good, and labor cost determine where they were assembled, unless the manufacturer has such a quality or prestigious label they can choose their labor market, and still make an profit. We'll not consider the clothing made from man made materials.

“In a perfect world there would be not taxes or tariffs on goods manufactured. Of course that would mean that labor cost would all have to be basically the same. Never going to happen!

“Somethings have to be manufactured locally, such as houses, business buildings, and warehouses. Contractors bid on these projects. The workers expect a certain wage per hour and this is figured into the bids. These local workers plow their wages back into the local economy for things they want and need. However, there is even a way around that. Imported labor that will work for less. They only return a portion of their wages back into the local economy, and take the rest back home.

“I'll take questions for fifteen minutes, then we'll break for lunch and return at 1 PM.”

~ ~ ~

“Everyone have a good lunch? Are you all full and ready for a siesta?

“To bad, this afternoon we'll discuss possible ways to avoid the economic train wreck we're headed toward.

“The first method I'll discuss is letting it happen. The populous will riot when that happens. I know you've seen the results of a few riots in a few cities. Think of it worldwide. Will your organization physically survive? Odds are against it because without an organized and effective government, rioters will loot and destroy anything they can reach, like your factories and stores.

“The second method, is going back to using precious metals to back the fiat currency. Unless the governments that printed the money can pull immense amounts of paper money back from the economy without crashing it, they're puffing in the wind. The result is instant devaluation by 50, 75, or even 90%. The citizens will demand hard currency, like coins made out of precious metals. The governments will have to confiscate precious metals to make those coins, causing more unrest.

“Or they can announce the true value of the fiat currency and take steps to try and control the rioting. In that case those lucky few that have precious metals hidden away will profit. Everyone else will be wiped out and then have to rely on the government for all their needs, food, clothing, and shelter. Any person or organization trying to repossess the physical goods of the consumer, such as electronics, homes, business building, to name a few; will put their lives in peril. A desperate person with no hope, will do anything to hold on to what they have. Think about it. Repossessing a house now involves the local sheriff to enforce the paperwork and eviction. What happens when the sheriff and agent show up at the end of a block of homes where every homeowner thinks they'll be next. Probably an instant riot that'll spread as fast as the word gets out. It will not matter that the mortgage company has its main office in another town or state. Every bank and mortgage company will become the target of the rioters.

“Now that you've seen a couple of possible outcomes, lets look at a way to probably avoid the train wreck for a large number of people and companies. Get yourselves a cup of refreshments and I'll continue in ten minutes.”


“In the 70's some college students were given an assignment. They were to figure out how to put a population into space using existing technology. It was a short term assignment.

“By using existing technology, a large group of corporations could invigorate the local economies of many areas. The first space station would be expensive. Materials would all have to be lifted from Earth. A suitable workforce would have to be recruited with a contract that would stipulate they would never return to Earth. That means that their immediate families would have to have a place on the space station. Of course there would be casualties in its construction. The contracts must also have a provision that their families would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. Job and family security is one thing that the every head of a family wants.

“As imported labor, these individuals will have to purchase necessities from the station stores. Other items, which I'll call luxuries, they can pay to have imported from Earth. I would suggest the use of a hard precious metal currency to pay for these items. This would help stabilize global economies for a period of time.

“Now lets get to a second area. After the first space station is completed, move it to an orbit around the moon. A portion of the workforce could then build facilities on the moon for mining and manufacturing. The second and subsequent space stations would be mainly built from moon materials. High technology items would still be imported from Earth until manufacturing reaches the needed technical level. This would involve importing equipment and trained personnel over a period of years. This process would have to be monitored carefully so no indication would upset the Earths economy. Farmers and farming equipment should also be imported and set up. Farms will allow fresh food, and produce oxygen as a byproduct. Fish can be imported as a source of protein until fish farms are built. Other food animals, such as cows, pigs, and chickens will need their own farm areas to supply their food. As you can see, this will not be a quick process.

“With a little luck, precious metals will be found and mined on the moon. Then the moon would be the cash cow to implement the plan without completely draining the companies supporting this endeavor. By shipping precious metals back to Earth, the fiat currency would then be backed by the precious metal, and extend the time to the economic train wreck. When the fact that a few hundred pounds of silver, gold, and other rare metals are found on the moon, the recruitment process for more workers, skilled and those that would need to be trained, would skyrocket.

“As long as the governments and population of Earth see a group of pioneers doing all the hard work and money flowing their way, they'll support the plan even if they don't know the end point.

“After several space stations have been built, one plus a manufacturing station should be sent to orbit Mars, or into an orbit between Mars and the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt will become another source of raw materials, and it does not have an expensive gravity well to fight. Priority there should be manufacturing several more space, farm, and manufacturing stations plus importing crews to work them. A self supporting economy at the moon and outer locations is extremely important.

“This should ensure that when the economic train wreck happens on Earth, and it will, your descendent's will be safe. Any questions?”


“Yes, what do you get out of this plan of yours? You don't have any money to contribute.”

“That's an easy answer. I want a safe place for my descendent's.”

“OK, what kind of government do you envision for the stations.”

“Another easy question, each space, farm, and manufacturing station would be company run. Trade agreements between the stations would be the responsibility of the different companies. In a few hundred years when the space population reaches millions, there may be a reorganization depending the perception of how fair the company governments are. As long as the general work force does not see an elite upper-class of super rich loafers, I expect the companies management teams will control the population peacefully for centuries. Everyone is now fairly comfortable with supervisors and managers running companies. They will need to create a way that entrepreneur can thrive, because they will improve on any technology they use.”

“That's all well and good as you explain it, however who will own the resources and stations?”

“A slightly tougher question. There should be provisions for individuals to purchase their own property. However that would probably mean that they'd then have to pay for everything they consume. Another method might be to pay each worker a wage in hard currency, and have them pay for what they and their family consume. Not last, nor lease, could be a credit system where the worker sees a living wage plus. Then they would be able to convince themselves that they are getting ahead.”

“What about education?”

“With a free education tailored to the individual child, there will be a constant striving to improve themselves. As long as they see someone getting ahead, the overall population will work hard and push their children to improve themselves. Promotions to higher positions should be written into each stations government rules, and these rules should emphasize proficiency, not heritage. You might even write into the rules, the ability for any person to change jobs and occupations as time goes on. The child of a technician may want to become a farmer, or miner, or any other occupation that contributes to the welfare of the station, or another station. Young adults should be encouraged to change stations to prevent inbreeding. Overly adventurous children may be steered toward mining and exploration. The child that takes apart the family toaster and his toys to see what makes them tick, may be steered toward a technical education, and from those the most promising challenged into the scientific field. They will provide the inventions that will improve life.

“I know there are holes in my presentation, but I expect once your companies figure out how to enlarge on my plan, your experts will fill those in, and think of the items I've omitted. There is no quick profit from my plan. The long term profit, well that depends upon factors beyond anyones control.

“Thanks for your time. Copies of this meeting will be available in the morning. I'm not leaving until tomorrow afternoon. You may call upon me for a private meeting. After that, you have my contact information. As you can see it is simply Josh @ redneckenterprise.com.

Have a good evening.”

~ * ~



Chapter 1


A few weeks later every attendee that emailed Josh received a reply, it contained the contact information for the others. A suggested meeting place was New Orleans in a week. They were requested to bring what their company was willing to contribute, including their available resources. The last line was the question, What does your company wanted out of the collaboration?

Each of the five did quick research of the hotel and found it was close to downtown, but it didn't rate but two stars. Typical mid-budget tourist accommodations. Some immediately realized that its location next to the quarter gave it almost perfect cover.

~ ~ ~


When they checked in there was a message for them, an invitation to a private restaurant. The five of them ate dinner at separate tables, glancing around at the other customers.

Josh sat at the bar watching. He knew that each was wondering.

As planned, as each finished dessert, they were informed that coffee would be served in the conference room. They were directed to the second floor.

Josh followed the last one up the stairs. A man in a suit stood by the third door. He directed each inside and handed them an information packet. Josh looked down at his information packet and thought, I could have gotten a better pictures to put on them, but …

Several recognized him instantly and started to rise. He waived them down and continued to around the table to an empty seat.

Good evening all, and especially you Mr Johnston. When I received the information that you'd been fired, and then you disappeared two days later. Well, I jumped to the apparent conclusion the Mr. Iron had dropped you into the forge and you were now part of some bridge support.

Miss Jane, so sorry I ruined your vacation.

Alice, it is so good to see a hard worker such as yourself get promoted.

Wanda, nice to see you this evening. Beware of Billing, he is sharp and will stab you in the back to get ahead.

Blue, my operatives have heard some disparaging remarks at the beauty parlor. Marry that beautiful young woman before she jumps ship. Just between you and me, word is that your dad thinks she'll be good for you. He is afraid you'll loose her like he lost your mom.

Enough introductions, tonight we will briefly discuss what each of your companies bring to the table and what you want. I am disappointed that several of the others did not have the foresight to follow up on the invitation.”

Jane slapped her hand on the table and growled, “Josh, you are an underhanded ass. A used car salesman could take lessons from you. You are a dead man. Sooner or later those spooks from the usual alphabet agencies will catch up. Your presentation two years ago gave the President a heart attack. The Fed put a bounty on your head. Have I missed anything or anyone?”

“Yes Jane, the EU also has a bounty on me.”

“They don't count. I've checked. I want to see your plan now. I think that everyone here will agree with me, you pulled the eagles tail feathers, and pissed it off.”

Josh looked embarrassed and commented, “I just love complements like that Janie.”

“Each packet contains the outline for my plan, they will hunt you down if they think you know the details that are in here are. I was a playboy when younger. The names on the last page are my children, and other worthy individuals. I will leave it in your capable hands. Please try to include those individuals on that list when you move to a safe location. And cover your tracks. Be safe and goodbye.” He then got up and pulled his tie and jacket off. Putting on a bright touristy shirt, he exited using the balcony door.

Wanda looked at Jane and started to say, “Was that --”

“Don't even say his name, EVER! I wasn't joking when I mentioned the alphabet agencies. You never know what location is bugged. I'm sure he included some code breaking words, or we'll get them soon. Until then, I'm going to be a tourist, and then home.”

Blue commented, “You forgot to mention the fact that if we scan the packet into our computers, they will have it within days. I'm going to hire a secretary that knows how to use an old fashion typewriter. I suggest everyone do the same. I'll see you around for regular business deals.” Then he got up and walked out.

Johnston looked at the three young women and stated, “I'll be at the bar downstairs. If any of you want an escort around town tonight, stop by. In the morning I head south.”

“I'm leaving tonight,” stated Jane, “anyone want a ride.”

The room was empty five minutes later, even though it was booked for two hours. The guard at the door stopped anyone from entering until nine PM. Then he walked down the back stairs, out the back door, and off the grid.

~ ~ ~

Several days later David and Wanda were called into Mr Globals office. As they sat he stated, “I just received a one page note that was delivered by a courier. Any guess what it might contain?”

Wanda coughed and said, “If it is about Billings, I was warned that he is a backstabber.”

Mr Global commented, “Bill, she just confirmed my gut feeling about him. Is he critical?”

“No Dad, but like you always said, Keep you friends close and your enemies closer. I've had hints of his double dealing for weeks, and have crafted the information he now is able to access. The spy you know is easier to control than the spy you don't know.”

“Be careful son, he may not be the only one.”

“Thats not all. I've let out a contract for a new building. I want the contract to go to Value Construction. A certain person over there knows the special details not listed in the contract.”

“Hum-mm, and how much is this going to cost the company.”

“Dad, it isn't the cost that worries me. I've got to kick Wanda out of the main building so she will have somewhere secure, to work. Everyone has seen her spend hours on end in here with you. The only idea I can come up with is you two, aha ... That will allow me to kick her out of the office and banish her to the basement of the new building, yet allow her free access to you and me. Wanda I'm sorry, but my plan will ruin your reputation.”

With a scowl Mr Global asked, “Wanda, want to be my girlfriend or is there another term now? Hum-mm, as the bosses bimbo, you won't be questioned if you take off on trips, or almost anything else you do. How about necklaces or maybe a private jet, wait, I'll just have an old friend fly you anywhere you want. Just watch my boys back.”

“I'll watch his back Sir, if you'll watch mine. Reputations are a dime a dozen. A loose woman doesn't have to be careful who she's seen with.”

David said, “Well, that went better than I thought.”

With a sly look at them she commented, “I just thought of something, I'll have more power than anyone except you two.”

Everyone started laughing.

~ ~ ~

A year later the new building was completed. A week later Wanda sashed into the office an hour late and David called her into his office. Few employees noticed it, until she showed up at the new building, and her office was listed in the subbasement. The next day his father stormed into his office, and after a few loud words left. The company limo was parked at the new building for over an hour before he returned to his office.

One of the regular secretaries was tasked to take some correspondence over to Wanda several days later. When she walked into Wanda's new office, she threw the paperwork on the desk and stormed out.

The rumor mill went into high gear when the secretary described Wanda office. It had a big screen TV, refrigerator, and wide couch, plus thick wall hangings.

No one knew of the two walk in vaults behind the plush wall hangings, or the fact that neither vault contained anything electronic. Value made sure that neither would even show up on any floor plan. The multiple frequency Faraday cages built into the walls would defeat almost any kind of electronic scan. All Wanda had to do was remember the combination to the doors.

~ ~ ~


The Trans Global airfield tower was surprised a week later when a private jet requested landing instructions. The dispatchers called up David for permission. His comment was, “Damn it. It's probably that bitch from Cape Horn. Dad said let them have access. Tell them to park down at the new building.”

The woman that got off the jet looked like a movie star. Emerging later with Wanda they chatted before boarding the private jet and departing. The rumor mill went into high gear again, only this time it was the flight crews and mechanics assigned to the new building, spreading the rumors.

~ ~ ~

“Wanda, I've heard through the secretarial grape vine that you are now the bosses bimbo.”

“They're talking about me half way across the country?”

“Gossip travels fast. Dad even told me not to associate with you in front of several of the secretaries. I simply yelled at him that you were my friend, and I'd see you whenever I wanted.”

“Thats right Jane. Since I can't act the part of a rich spoiled airhead, I took the other end of the spectrum.”

With a laugh, Jane commented, “Alice told me that Value got a contract to build a new factory in Mexico, for Iron International. That may be why William wants to meet us in El Paso.”

“Do pilots need passports to fly to other countries? I guess I'll have to ask David. I'm assuming Bill will get the small high priority cargo and we'll get the heavy loads.”

“You guessed right Wanda.”

~ (ToC) ~



Chapter 2


You are invited to the marriage between

Mr. Blue Anderson

&

Miss Lillian Smith

on the

26th of June

at Blue Box Corporate Headquarters


The invitation came as no surprise to Wanda. The interesting part was it came to Bill, the boss. With only two weeks notice she questioned Bill about what to get Blue and Lillian. He had a very simple solution. That evening they left in his limo and spent the night at his estate. In his wife's storage room he pulled a small wooden chest.

“My grandfather gave me this when she consented to marry me. It is walnut and teak. It has a secret compartment in the lid, and another in the end walls just thick enough to hide several sheets of paper.” Opening the chest, “See these wooden pins, they allow the end caps to come off exposing the secret compartments. These other pins allow the chest to be completely disassembled, except for the lid. The only metal parts are the hasp and the mule shoe that fits through the hasp. I'll have it polished up and wrapped.” Picking it up by the wooden handles, he carried it up to the dining room.

“Bill, you know I have to spend the night to keep up my reputation.”

“I've been meaning to talk to you about that Mrs Ellis. I know you are a widow. I also know you lost your husband in an airplane crash. Well, I think you need to get a pilots license. With the amount of flying you do, you need to be able to pilot anything you're in. Emergencies do happen, occasionally.”

“But Bill, I'm supposed to be your aha girlfriend. Ha Ha.”

“I know Wanda, but you need a plausible plan to move from me to David. I know you probably haven't noticed, but I have. David is following your movements a lot more carefully that he should, and he bristles slightly whenever the gossip turns to your shenanigans. My late wife was much to young for me when we married, and he was born. He's only a year older than you, so think about it.

“The first bedroom at the top of the stairs has clothing and other stuff in it. The staff will have dinner ready in an hour.”

The closet was full of sheer outfits. Downstairs she immediately noticed the dining table was in front of a window. Stepping out on the balcony, she could see the airfield over the stone wall surrounding the estate.

The sunset was beautiful with the airfield and lake in the background. Bill came out and put his arm arm around her waist and whispered in her ear. Security just informed me that there are some extra people mixing with the paparazzi.”

“Bill, you know just how to sweep a woman off her feet. I'm hungry, is the food ready?” With her head leaning on his shoulder they went inside.

At the end of the week a scandalous story was in the usual gossip rags, located at the convenience store checkout lines.

The next Monday David ordered Wanda to his office. He was waiving one of the scandal sheets around and loudly berating her for binging shame on his father, as he slammed the door. Dropping into his seat he calmly asked. “Did you have fun last week?”

Wanda's reply brought a big smile. “Now David, we had to pick out a wedding gift for Blue. Has security identified the extra paparazzi yet?”

“Yea, two different alphabet organizations. Now look properly chastised when you run out of here.”

~ ~ ~

That weekend Alice and Jane flew in. Unpacking their shopping bags they handed Wanda paperwork. “We need to get this to William. He'll be in Mexico City next week.

Pulling up the flight schedule Wanda replied, “Tell him Thursday.”

Alice shook her head and commented, “Those pictures didn't do you justice.”

With a grin Wanda replied, “Hell, I was just over for dinner. How was I supposed to know the paparazzi were camped out, for candid shots. Neither Bill or I expected the crowd that his security spotted.”

~ ~ ~

Blue and William were sitting in the airport lounge when she arrived. Sashaying over to the bar Wanda ordered a drink and sat next to William. As they turned to greet her she asked, “Blue, Bill and I have a beautiful wedding gift you and Lillian. William, I brought a new contract so we have to have dinner before I fly back.”

Oh shit, you'll ruin my reputation next.”

Don't worry about it, security said I needed to leave my gear in the pilots lounge for at least thirty minutes so the alphabets can photograph each page.”

William asked, “Where is the information?”

I've got a half dozen memory chips in my bra. That's why we will visit your office, for the contracts, and dinner to transfer the chips. Ooh, paparazzi outside the window. Blue, straighten up!”

Back in the pilots lounge she changed out of her flight-suit and into a business suit.

~ ~ ~

That evening, the waiter that looked a lot like Josh brought the soup, set a stack of napkins on the table. When William moved the napkins he felt lumps inside. Wanda simply took the top two and placed them in her lap, and slid the lumps into the waistband of her suit. In the ladies room she found that each computer memory stick had a name on it.

~ ~ ~

In the hotel hall just outside her room she was grabbed and a rough hand started running its hand up and down her body. Suddenly the hand holding her fell away. As she turned she saw the smile on the face of man holding the ends of what looked like a necktie, wrapped around the neck of her mugger.

Senora, he will bother you no more. Adiós”

~ ~ ~

A month later Bill and Wanda flew in to the Box private airfield. The wedding and reception was held in the main hanger. Bill pointed out VIP's from a dozen or more aircraft companies and manufacturers. Then with a scowl he started pointing out representative from several government agencies that had their fingers in the shipping and aircraft flight regulating agencies.

Several hours later Bill walked them up to Blue and his bride Lillian. The older gentleman moved to intercept them. “Hello Bill.”

Hi Dirk, I see you finally let your son pick a woman worthy of him.”

You SOB, I don't know why he invited you, and you brought your floozy.”

Yes, let me introduce you to Mrs Wanda Ellis.”

His attitude change as he recognized the name. “She's the one.”

Yes and a perfect cover for her shenanigans, and travel.”

Blue mentioned the name, but I never connected it to the stories in those damn rags.”

Blue walked his bride around his father and said, “Bill, Wanda, this beautiful young lady is my blushing bride Lillian.”

Wanda stepped forward and gave her a hug and whispered in her ear, “I'm glad he finally married you. I've been worried for years that he was going to loose you.”

With a shocked look on her face she stepped back and looked at Blue and his father. “Who is she?”

Blue whispered, “She is my contact at Trans-Global and Bills mistress.

Right Dad?”

Lowering his voice Dirk replied, “Don't let the scandal sheets tint your judgment. She plays an integral part in the plan.”

Lillian then took Wanda's hand and said, “Excuse us old men, we need to freshen up.”

In the ladies room Lillian turned on Wanda. “Your supposed reputation precedes you. If Jane hadn't vouched for you, I'd have floored you the second you looked at Blue.”

With a laugh, Wanda said, “You're more of a spitfire than Blue said. As soon as Blue gives me the OK, we can be close confidants. However, you must continue to play the jealous bride in public.”

Does that mean we can't go shopping together?”

No, no, that means that when I'm around Blue you must hover until you can assume that I am no threat to your marriage. Girls time out is different.”

I've been in love with Blue since high school. It tore me up, when he dated those other women. Finally he again noticed me three years ago. In his eyes, I was a mere friend until then.”

I understand, I had a hole in my heart. I was only married three months when I lost my husband. Now freshen up. We have to go back, and you have to hover and look jealous.”

Everyone notice that they were enjoying themselves until Wanda gave Blue a hug. Then Lillian was constantly maneuvering between them.

Dirk took Wanda's arm and practically dragged her over to the bar. “Don't you dare come between Blue and the only woman he ever dated, that I approved of!”

We had a talk. If you see her act as real, then the others will be convinced too. Now scowl as I go talk to William. I'm sure you've heard of him, he setup everything across the lake from Ciudad del Carmen. Both our companies haul a lot of cargo for him.”

That guy, I thought he was another government type.”

No he works for Iron International. You really need to talk to him then.”

I can't. My son says the alphabets are watching me to closely.”

Sure you can. After all this is a wedding celebration, and you have to talk to everyone, at least for a minute or two, as cover for real conversations.”

~ ~ ~

While talking to William, he mentioned that she needed to tell Jane that everything was ready for her company to make its move on NASA. That other space company was moving past its startup phase.

Wanda nodded and giggled and said, “See Dirk, that wasn't so bad,” as she steered him toward Mr Jones of Space Technologies.

Fredrick, so nice to see you. This is Dirk, the father of the son that finally caught Lillian.”

Nice to meet you Sir.”

Wanda then said, “I heard that there is another space orientated company starting up. You might want to start collaborating with Cape Horn Aeronautics so you can get in on the ground floor with the new company, Space or Bust. It was such a shame the politics played you out of the other companies contracts.”

Fredrick looked at Dirk and said, “Aren't you and Wanda's boss competitors.”

Oh yes, I get the small fast deliveries, and he carries the heavy loads. If Blue and Wanda hadn't known each other for so long, we'd be at each other with knives out.”

Yikes! That's sharp, I won't mention it. It would be like teasing a wounded bear.”

Enjoy yourself Fred, we'll talk soon.”

Wand steered him toward a stuffy looking guy. “Now Dirk, this guy has more influence at NASA than the actual administrator. Get and stay on his good side, and you'll avoid many problems with the new company.”

Good afternoon Mr Berg.”

Do I know you young lady?”

No Sir, but I've heard of you. This is the grooms father, Mr Dirk Anderson, the president of Blue Box Delivery.”

Nice to meet you Mr Anderson. I was surprised when I received the invitation, I don't know but a few people here, and I've never met you or you son. For some reason, my secretary practically insisted that I attend.”

Wanda, would you please get us a couple of brandy's.

Mr Berg, don't think I'm trying use you for influence, but I wanted to meet a mover like yourself away from the distractions of the office. Now, I would hope that you enjoy yourself, and if you need anything, just have someone get me or Wanda. I see she has cleared a couple of chairs. Shall we go and have a drink.”

As soon as they were seated, Wanda disappeared. Moments later she brought Blue and Lillian over and introduced them.

Mr Berg instantly realized that she was introducing them like he was royalty, and they were minor royalty. He studied them for a minute and wished them a long and happy marriage. “Is your boy involved in that new company Space or Bust?”

He doesn't know it yet Sir, but I'm putting him in charge. Space will be a young mans game, but they'll still need guidance from men like us.”

I see you play a good game.”

Yes Sir, now if you'll pardon me, I see a friend I must speak to.”

Mr Berg analyzed the setup of the chairs. Three plush chairs in an arc separated by tables, with him centered in the fanciest. A pathway was created by three chairs facing outward on each side. To someone glancing at it, it had no pattern, but to someone approaching, they had to walk the path to get close to him.

He spotted Wanda headed in his direction practically dragging a young woman.

Mr Paul Berg, this is Miss Alice Anderson. She works for Mr Jenkins, owner of Value Construction,”

Looking at her, he got the impression she curtsied, even though she didn't bend a knee.

Wanda continued, “she is an excellent researcher and fountain of little know information.”

Putting his hand on his chin he asked, “Alice, what would happen if I tried to hire you away from Mr Jenkins?”

I'd have to inform him and let him deal with the situation.”

I see, and I like your attitude. My secretary may call you in the future. Enjoy yourself.”

Thank you Sir.” as she took two steps back, turned and walked away.

Wanda, why did you introduce her?”

Sir, she has contacts and information you may wish to access in the future.”

I see, are there more?”

Yes Sir, a few if you please.”

Continue, and I need a snack.”

As Wanda backed away she snapped her fingers and a waiter was at his side instantly.

While Paul was munching on his sandwich he thought, Someone knows my secretary. Now that I think about it, I've see that Wanda woman somewhere. Someone wants me to see their players. Now to figure out their end game.

~ (ToC) ~



Chapter 3


Knowledge is power they say. Blue's dad set up the company, and a week after they came back from their honeymoon, Blue moved into his new office.

Calling Jane and Wanda he outlined his thoughts. “Because the other company had an almost two year lead, he decided to use existing hardware for his launch vehicles.

Contracts were put out to Huntsville, and other companies making spacecraft and equipment for NASA. His lawyer went to NASA to arrange for launch facilities and support.

Several three man Apollo capsules were purchased for emergency reentry. The space shuttle manufacturers were contracted to build two with the option of one every other year. New heat-shield technology was incorporated to replace the tiles.

All the boosters were brought into orbit and secured so they could be disassembled later after any remaining fuel was pumped into a storage boosters.

A few of the heavy lifter rockets were modified so steel beams were secured around the outside. Instead of separating, the second stage fuel was pumped straight to the first stage engines. Due to the modification and untested design, these were computer controlled and were met in orbit by shuttles to bring them to the station location.

The oxygen tanks from the boosters were attached to the growing frame, corridors and airlocks installed. After a dozen had been modified and mounted, the living quarters were set up. Six wings of solar cells were assembled for power. One crew brought up dirt and plants. The organic waste that had been collecting in bags, was finally ready to be recycled into fertilizer. A cubic yard of soil was part of every load after that.

Four years of loads to the station, and it was beginning to look like something out of the science books. The biggest problem they had, was the seals between the rotating and non-rotating sections. The companies started renting space on the station to universities and other non-government organizations interested in research.

After five years the original five started allowing other companies to buy in. All together ninety-two companies made up the Space or Bust corporation. A small relay station was assembled, and the main station moved from Earth orbit to Moon orbit. Within a year an underground settlement was established and mining started. At first it was slow going until minerals were found. The first small gold strike really got the ball rolling. Other high value minerals flowing to Earth paid for all the equipment and previous cost several times over.

~ (ToC) ~



Chapter 4


The new station built in moon orbit included all the refinements made by personnel working on the first station. All the new inventions were included, but had tried and true technology as their backups. The new station was named Mars Corporation 1, after the new corporation.

As soon as a hundred mining spacecraft were manufactured and attached, it powered up its rockets and left Earth orbit headed to Mars orbit.

Minerals mined in the asteroid belt would be shipped to the Earth and moon, to pay all expenses.

~ ~ ~

The original five convinced the others that Mars was a peach that just needed to ripen. The geologist had a plan. Moving Deimos to 130,000 miles altitude and stabilizing its orbit would be the first step. The mining spacecraft would retrieve asteroids from the belt and bring them to Mars. After mining out the usable ores and minerals, the tailings would be placed on Deimos. Eventually enough would be accumulated that their natural gravity would hold them together compressing everything. Even before the new Deimos reaches goal of 1.2% the mass Mars, its gravity should cause enough tidal effects to cause the core of Mars to become molten and rotate. This would create a magnetic field around Mars. Mars would then be protected from the solar wind like Earth, and building an atmosphere could commence. Then full colonization.

Surface mining could start within a decade. In 500 hundred years enough progress would be made to start colonization.

# x #

The deep secret, the next generation of the original five leaders held, was that long before then they would have complete control of Mars and the asteroid belt. That would give them the monopoly on the mineral resources that Earth needed to prosper.

# (ToC) #


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