(Shvehona City College Career Fair, Shvehona City, Dimiya)
As one of the industrial centers of Dimiya, Shvehona City had a lot of people, even in a world where automation could do a lot. A lot of people meant a lot of kids, and those kids eventually grew up and needed to look for jobs. As it so happened, I needed to hire a bunch of people because of the losses and expansions Black Star was facing, so I did something I really wasn’t used to, and put on an actual suit with a tie and everything. All nicely tailored, of course, so that it made me look like a professional businessman. Or a Man in Black, but most people here wouldn’t get that reference, so that was fine.
Shvehona City College was not the most prestigious school on the planet, but it had a lot of smart kids that couldn’t afford better schools, and were hoping for some kind of education to improve their chances at getting good jobs. Even better, the College opened their annual Career Fair to the public, so anyone who was looking to make a change could come in, see who was hiring, and fill out applications.
The Black Star Company had actually paid for four adjoining tables, with a very nicely done banner with the corporate logo stretching over them. The in-house art department did good work with it. The leader of the art department was actually a widow, who lost her husband at Nuevo Edo when the Artemis took a nasty hit. After my speech at the club, she sought me out (along with pretty much everyone in attendance, but we’d planned on that so it was quickly organized with numbers being called) and said that she was an artist before Jagloth. She showed me some of her work, and I had her get in touch with the HR people to start up an art department. She was actually at a similar job fair at the art college in Thelorious, just like one of our best eggheads was holding an interview event at one of the better known research institutes on the planet. Both of those were also open to the public.
The four tables were separated by the roles Black Star took on. We had the ‘military’ table, with a representative each from the Black Star Navy and the Black Star Marines, the ‘shipping’ table, with Captain Chaebella of the Articuno, one of the Raven-class freighters I employed, the ‘production’ table, with Nondrin taking a break from the yards, lured by the prospect of getting fresh hands, and finally the ‘not sure’ table, where Raven and I were sitting (and also going through applications and interviews of people sent to us by the other tables). Suffice to say, we had a lot of people interested in what jobs we had available. We were, after all, the hot new company that was going out and doing crazy things. When we had reached out to Shvehona City College to arrange our attendance, they were happy to have us. When we made clear what kind of presence we were going to have, they were thrilled, since this would bring visibility to their college from across the planet.
Most people fit into the first three tables. Dimiya was a big planet, but public transport was fairly cheap, and we’d publicly announced where we were going to be, so most of the ‘science’ and ‘creative’ types had gone to those interviews, although we did have some of them come here, if only because they weren’t sure about us, and were looking at the other groups hiring as well. Some really couldn’t afford the transit fees. That was fine with me. The poor people who were getting a hand up were the ones more likely to be loyal to a company that didn’t treat them like dirt, or a cog in the machine.
I had Raven with me, of course, and Cali and Jaynie were providing discrete protection nearby, officially listed as ‘helpers’ who were arranging the gift bags we had put together for those who put in an application. Also with me was Liviana Armata, the former pop star who had been brutalized in the Empire for her stance on slavery, now acting as my assistant. She’d been making good strides lately, and while she wasn’t ready to become a pop star again, her counselor said that it would be a good move to have her out in public without the Stepford protocols on. She was more reserved than she had been as a pop idol, and with how she wore her hair now, one would be hard pressed to recognize her, even if we were on Earth.
Titles: Hacker, Programmer, Criminal
I broke myself out of my reverie as another candidate stepped up. Looking the kid over, he was a fairly typical Knelfi, though he was definitely on the scrawny side, but he at least was good at pretending to have confidence. This could be interesting. Raven popped a notice up in my HUD. Oh, so this kid not only had a record, but he tried to hack himself an interview with a fake name? Looking at Raven’s notes, he was actually a decent hacker, though he needed more training to be at the level of some of the people on the Black Star teams. “Hello, I’m Mirikon Mollen, owner of the Black Star Company. Are you interested in working for Black Star, Mr. Elasatra?”
Using his real name brought the kid up short, and pretty much shattered his confidence. He started looking for either cops closing in, or a way to make an exit. Well, that wasn’t going to be any fun. So I hit him with Influence, and said, “Take a seat, Mr. Elasatra. You tried to hack your way into a meeting with me, so now you’ve got one. You didn’t really think a company like Black Star would be without technical support, now did you? Or do you prefer being called Wrayth_Override?”
The kid sat heavily in the chair, surprised that he did so. Now he was looking even more scared, and I could tell he was about to get up. Another bolt of Influence made him sit still, for the moment. “If you move from that seat before I tell you to, Mr. Elasatra, you will be in jail before the day is out, I promise you. Now, what name do you prefer, and why did you use a fake name to get into this event?”
Realizing that he was caught, and not getting out of this on anything but my terms, the kid deflated slightly, and said, “Wrayth. Only the cops call me Mr. Elasatra.”
“Excellent. Now we’re getting somewhere. So, Wrayth, why did you arrange this meeting? I assume you had some purpose?” He started to speak, but I broke him off. “Oh, and my assistants here both have the best in lie-detection software up and running already, and we already have a nice baseline for you, but if I have reason to believe you’re lying, then this will cease to be a ‘pleasant chat’ about a potential job offer, and will move into ‘interrogation’. Do you understand this mild threat, or should I be more explicit in the future?”
“N-no, no need for that. I understand. Lie detecters, mental psy, and who knows what else. Got it. So, I came for the bounty.”
“Oh? It can’t be a physical bounty, since while I’m sure you could do some damage in the digital realm, you are not exactly the right build for a bounty hunter. So it would be one of the digital bounties, then. Tell me more.”
“Well, the black networks, there’s sites only hackers know about, right? Once your ships came back from the planet that’s all chicks, some bounties went up on your company, and you personally, looking for dirt.”
“Ah, so it was someone who did not like our performance at Nuevo Edo. Interesting. I assume that you checked into who was offering these bounties, yes? To make sure you weren’t being led into a trap?”
“Natch. But they were good, had a cutout that would have fooled most people that led to one of the Senators for Dimiya. He was one of the ones who was hawkish about fighting the Impies again, but the new Empress doesn’t want war, and he wanted the new planet you found added to the Confederation.”
Raven brought up four possibilities for sitting Senators from Dimiya that fit the profile, based on their public remarks. Looks like I was stuck in some political garbage. Wonderful! Fortunately, if they were taking this to the dark net, then I didn’t have to play fair, either. Nodding to Wrayth, I said, “Continue. What exactly were you hoping to get?”
“Well, there were three bounties. One wanted your tech stuff, natch, since you’ve got some of the best toys out there. Your ships beet off a shit ton of X’thari, and they’re like bogeymen of Known Space, right? Second was looking for your financials, so they could see if there was anything they could use there. Third was looking for blackmail on you or the people working for you.”
“And why did you come here? It isn’t like I would be so foolish as to keep any of that on me in a public place.”
“Well, the servers have been bashing hackers since they went online. No clue how you do it, but you got some drek-hot software. Anyways, I knew I couldn’t get in the normal way, so I figured maybe it was easier if I was already in the system, legit.”
I leaned back in my chair, and said, “Ah, well that explains things. Very interesting indeed. Now, Wayth, that brings us to the question of what we are going to do with you.”
The kid started looking defensive again. “Hey, woah, I told you everything I know! And I didn’t actually hack you, so there’s no reason to go doing anything to me, you know. I just walk out, we pretend this never happened, and I don’t come near you again, yeah?”
I ignored him, and looked over to Raven. “Thoughts?”
“Including ‘Wrayth’, there have been four hundred and thirty-seven hackers who have attempted to infiltrate Black Star systems since the bounties went live. Fifty-six of those attempts included illicit access to Black Star properties to attempt physical access to closed systems. Of the digital attempts, only three can be traced to the top 40% of known hacker aliases on Dimiya. Those three have been traced to known associates of a certain member of the Confederation Senate. All other top names, including military and intelligence ones, have apparently learned from the lessons we taught them last time. No attempts have been made from hackers associated with organized crime.”
Wrayth’s eyes went wide. “You have all that info, right there, without needing to go look it up?”
Raven looked at Wrayth, and smiled a smile that would freeze one to the marrow. “Oh no, I collated the data starting from when you mentioned the bounties, and then spent extra time cross-checking to ensure other avenues were missed.”
Wrayth was pale already, like most ‘information specialists’ but his face went white as the implications of what he heard hit him, and he realized that he was nowhere near the league of the woman in front of him. Fortunately, he knew when to shut his mouth, it seemed, because he didn’t say anything else.
I looked over to my other assistant. “Liviana, do we have any openings for a… technology and information specialist position in Black Star?”
Liviana didn’t even flinch when I called her by name. It had taken her a long time, but I was glad to see she was coming out of her shell. I made a note to have some music of different backgrounds sent to her, if the counselor agreed. Perhaps instead of pop she could do some blues, or cabaret style songs? That would be more low-key and less ‘peppy’ than a pop idol would be.
“Yes, Master. The Black Star Navy has openings on all new ships, as well as several of the ones that were damaged. The Black Star Marines and the tactical teams both could use hackers for field work during hostile engagements. From the other side, additional security for the Dimiya and Nuevo Edo locations could include another in-house digital security specialist.”
I nodded, and then turned to look at Wrayth. “Now, you have two options. Option one, you get up, leave, and never so much as dream of working against Black Star or anyone we’re working with. You get no bounty, you get no job, but you will have us paying very close attention to you, should we need to bring you in for a ‘discussion’ if you do something we don’t like. Do you understand option one?” I waited for him to nod his head, and continued. “Option two, you forget about this bounty business, come to work for Black Star in a paying position, but you will be monitored and given ‘incentives’ to prevent temptation on betraying the company or its employees. You will work at the site we designate for you, and this will include moving from your mother’s basement in Essrion to someplace more secure. You will be an employee, not a prisoner, but until you prove you can be trusted, you will not be trusted further than I can throw you. Betraying the company will result in your enslavement, or worse. Do you understand option two?”
“Excellent. Now, what are you going to choose, Mr. Elasatra?”
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Be sure to read my published works!
Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37
Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial
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Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y
City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1
Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBPF6HR
The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T