Somewhere in the Outback… Present Stardate…

The music played low and delicately in the anteroom as Gendrick stood, studying the old and almost priceless tapestries on the wall with growing impatience. The secretary still sat behind her desk, inputting data entries and paying him little heed. The two security officers lurking in the corners of the room were only slightly more attentive – occasionally studying him from a distance, but never really seeming to be uncomfortable.

Every time Gendrick shifted his weight or paced, one of them would look in his direction, but did not leave their post. The room was very well furnished. Shelves around the room had various collected artifacts and features from what was doubtlessly a lifetime (or two) of collecting. The floors were tiled in ornate, circular plates comprised of hundreds, if not thousands of individually jig-sawed rare metal oxides, coated and laminated – at the centre of which was the great seal of this particular Chapter. The ceilings were high, and well-illuminated – designed to cast as few shadows as possible. Gendrick had long before noted that the room had most of the structural pillars down one end – closer to the doors of the Estate office. There was no physical obstruction at the end of the room through which he had entered, and he was certain it was a deliberate consideration. While The Contracts sternly forbade unsanctioned and uncivilized actions without the approval of the combined board of the Society, they had not enjoyed success for as long as they had through carelessness. 

…Carelessness, Gendrick thought darkly as he adjusted his coat. The very reason he was there.

There was a soft click and a figure emerged from a corridor that was concealed behind the wall of the secretary’s desk. The man wore formal, tailored attire typical of his race – a Xenebrian. Gendrick looked at him, and he simply gestured to the corridor. “He will see you now,” he spoke softly.

Gendrick walked around the Secretary, giving her a pleasant smile as he passed by. The Xenebrian fell in step behind him.

…Dedris Tallick unstopped the bottle of ruby-red liquid and poured a measure into each of the flat-bottomed, hemispherical glasses. He smiled appreciatively as the blue light of the massive star outside the station bounced through the prisms that detailed the walls of the crystal glassware, and turned in time to see Gendrick enter the office. Gendrick paused inside the threshold and bowed politely. Dedris responded in kind, and then picked up the two glasses. “Gendrick,” he said in a low, pleased purr. “To what do I owe your Chapter the pleasure?”

Dedris offered him the second of the two glasses, and it was accepted without hesitation. Both men took a moment to observe custom by lifting them in polite salute, and then drank. Dedris made a pleased ‘mmm’ as he swallowed, and then smiled again. Once more however, Gendrick did not acquiesce to the mood.

“If only it were pleasure,” Gendrick growled. “This… crusade of yours… is out of hand. Your attacks have only emboldened Starfleet and now, through your carelessness, they have begun pointing their investigation towards my Chapter’s investments.”

Dedris huffed as he sipped his drink again, and settled into a high-backed chair. “You worry too much.”

“You’re overconfident in your own position,” Gendrick replied. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because the Exchequer gave you a positive re-assessment on your holdings that you are above the codes. The Contracts are exceedingly clear – No Chapter may take action that jeopardises the Society. And given your exceedingly disappointing results in eliminating the Starfleet Special Operations Group, the others are beginning to question whether your venture is misguided. As it stands, not even Claren is convinced that she can protect her assets.”

“Don’t shield your interests by trying to speak for them,” Dedris said softly. “This is about you, after all.”

Gendrick sat in the chair opposite and looked Dedris in the eye. “Then I shall be abundantly clear. My Chapter has nothing to do with this, and while you may take what actions under the Contracts you please, I will do nothing that jeopardises my investments. If Starfleet continues this inquiry into my businesses… I will file injunctions with the Exchequer.”

Dedris was about to take a sip from his drink, and then stopped, lowering the glass again to look back at his colleague with a content, unswayed smile. “My contact inside the 26th Fleet remains uncompromised, and in their paranoia, their leaders have completely lost their broader perspectives. I’m disappointed you don’t see the opportunity here… Starfinder’s belligerence with the War Monks? Neraea’s blunder with the Asherans? 26th Fleet’s continued tensions with the Futara Union? They are making unforced errors. It would be very rude to interrupt them.”

“To what end?” Gendrick pressed without hesitation. “Yes, I’m sure you’re very proud to have them dancing on strings, but you’re yet to present a single tangible opportunity from this.”

He smiled back. “That is about to change. I can give the Society something far more valuable than distance. I can remove the 26th Fleet from the Outback.” 

Gendrick's eyes widened. “Impossible. How?” 

Dedris reached to the table at his side and picked up a data slate. He handed it to Gendrick, and then refilled his glass. He watched Gendrick's face for long seconds afterwards. Eyes already wide, the man’s face turned to shock. “You can’t.”

“I can. And I will.”

“The others will not allow it! It will mean war for the entire Serin Vale.”

Gendrick stood up, and immediately straightened his coat. Again, Dedris merely shift his weight so he was more comfortable in his chair. “Do as you will,” he said, nodding once curtly.

“I assure you,” the other hissed, “I shall.”