THE RASK PARTY
Arturo Devlin stood at the balcony
of the Rask mansion, looking out over The
Lake at the luminous cityscape in the distance. Krania was the seat
of power in The Quadrant, and its tower rose majestically above everything
into the night. He was pleased with himself because he had successfully
completed the final arrangements for the Zerb divorce, pocketing a hundred
million Quadits in fees. His financial future was assured and he could now
increase the scope of his activities.
"Arturo, what are you doing out here away from the party?"
The older female voice was mildly castigating. Arturo turned around and
faced the woman. She was well fed, light haired, and richly dressed, with
a heavily made-up but still beautiful child-like face.
"Ahh . . . Meerna, don't
you think the better question is 'what are you doing out here away from
"Fair enough, Arturo. But I think you know why I'm here."
"I can't say I'm absolutely sure. Enlighten me."
She hated that he had grown more powerful and could force her to divulge
first what she wanted, but she gathered herself.
"My information was that Alicia
was to step down after the divorce. It appears that she's staying on."
He knew that she already knew this. What was she after? He crafted his reply
"That may be . . . but who stays and who goes is none of my doing."
"It's enough of your doing, Arturo. Because of you half of the Zerb
fortune is now in play and I don't like it!"
"Really? One would have thought your relationship with old
Zerb tipped the balance in that regard. At any rate, things we don't
like sometimes have a way of coming up."
"I can think of certain things about you that could also 'come
up,' my dear Arturo."
The direct assault. He knew there was little she could use against him,
but still there could be something. At least now she would tell him exactly
what she wanted.
"Hmmm . . . let's not be too hasty, my dear. What is it that troubles
"Only a minor annoyance. It's this matter of Sergei
Zerb . . . he's been out of favor with his mother for some time, and
I'm just not clear on who now inherits Alicia's half of the fortune."
"I see . . . You know, I'm going into the city tomorrow, and I hear
that the "twinz" are not available. If they were to be made available
for a pleasurable evening, I would be disposed to discuss reasonable terms
for conveying that information."
She smiled, leaned over, and kissing his neck, whispered in his ear.
"Are we interrupting anything?"
The voice belonged to Tarn Rask,
host of the party, and head of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families
in the Quadrant. His son Roland was with him. The two men walked out onto
the balcony toward Arturo and Meerna at the railing.
"Mutual admiration, nothing more, I'm afraid" said Arturo smiling.
Meerna turned to Tarn. "I'm having a marvelous time, Tarn. Your parties
are always works of art." She glanced up at Roland, and smiled. "And,
congratulations again, 'Security Praetor' Rask on the appointment. It suits
"Thank you, Meerna," Roland replied crisply. Tarn placed his hand
gently on Meerna's shoulder.
"Now that we've found you, my dear, we can relay important party business.
It seems that my wife, your lovely daughter Lena,
Tira Von Arle, and other creative forces of the Kolony, require your presence
to help with the entertainments in the main hall. It would be a pity to
keep them waiting."
It was obvious the men wanted to talk, and it would probably be about something
she wanted to hear. To her, that was the pity.
"I'm on my way," she said, and hurried off the balcony.
The men watched her depart, then turned toward the view of Krania shimmering
across the lake. Tarn spoke first.
"You know, this asshole Kronstadt
is beginning to disturb me."
"He's begininng to disturb us all," said Arturo.
Tarn slammed his fist down on the railing. "That idiot Derzet should
never have appointed him Praetor of QuadOps. The sonofabitch now knows Quad
infrastructure systems backwards and forwards . . ."
". . . From QSU main climate control pressure valves to every telecommunications
up-link," added Roland. "That's why we're having difficulty tracking
Arturo looked at Roland for a moment. "Surely, Security must have the
means to ferret out Kronstadt's movements," he said.
"I understand that we do, but I've only been on the job for three days
and my chief deputy and several of his assistants have all come down with
some sort of food poisoning. It seems they are paralyzed and can't talk."
"Hmmmm," observed Arturo, "a rather ideal turn of events
for Kronstadt, I should think."
"He's had them poisoned, obviously, " said Tarn. "Look, we're
dealing with a crude, ruthless bastard here! He's got one half of the Zerb
money pledged, and the Narloff
brothers, who have thousands of rental units on the Outer Boardz, are
leaning toward his camp. He's certainly got dirt on some key people, a very
good intelligence network, and he owes us nothing. That adds up to a lot
Arturo realized that Tarn purposefully left out both Meerna and Lena in
this calculation, hoping to sound him out about their roles in some way.
He preferred not to engage in self revealing analysis at this stage, so
he looked quizzically at Tarn and said: "You mean he's going to run
for the Directorship without the 'support' of The
"I mean exactly that, Arturo."