Quentin sat at the table, his brow furrowed in concentration. The spectacles that he wore flashed intermittently which made it clear that he was watching something. Beside him, engrossed in his interface sat Dario Hargreaves. He too was scrolling through multiple tabs, his eyes darting across each before moving onto the next. The duo had sat like this since they had entered the private function room. A few booths away, all of the former Paragon's sat quietly around James Sylvester. Any of the staff that passed would have felt the awkward atmosphere that hung ominously in the air. The building was owned by one of Abidden's sponsors, they specialised in courteous and confidential services. For that very reason, many celebrities frequented the place and not a single story of what happened within those walls ever leaked.
"How many times have you watched it?"
Dario asked as he leaned back against the plush seat. He dismissed the open tabs on his interface and casually rubbed the back of his neck.His eyes glanced over to Paragons before moving their attention back to Quentin. The two men had excused themselves from the other table shortly after their arrival with the simple explanation that they had work stuff to look into, and that everyone should enjoy themselves on Quentin's tab as they caught up with James.
"It's actually insane."
Quentin finally spoke as he too leaned back into the seat. His right hand pulled the spectacles from his face and he blinked repeatedly so his eyes would acclimatise to the light.
"In a good way or a bad way?"
Instead of answering, Quentin frowned and slid the spectacles across the table to Dario. Bringing his hands to his face, he rubbed at his eyes wearily as he looked over at the rest of the group. He idly wondered what they were talking about, but reasoned that it was none of his business. Sighing audibly, the CEO glanced at Dario who had picked up the spectacles. Locke had managed to source the footage from the semi-finals, where James had single handedly won the fight. All thoughts that Quentin had about it being an epic battle went out the window after the first hour of footage. Instead of giving him answers, the video only gave him more questions. He needed to know what Dario thought of the situation. Thankfully the technology of the spectacles specifically sped things up, so Dario was watching the footage in hyper-speed.
A few moments later, Dario exhaled loudly as he pulled the machine from his eyes. He squinted and shook his head back and forth.
"Ugh, I hate this thing!"
Quentin looked at him with an expectant expression and Dario obliged.
"You're right, it's insane. The kid was absolutely terrible. I can't figure out how he managed to kill them all other than luck?"
Nodding his head, the CEO glanced back over to where James Sylvester was sitting. The footage didn't paint him as a Paragon, he didn't have any of the qualities that separated the players. None of Don's charisma, none of Helena's skill... there was nothing remotely remarkable about his playstyle which confused him to no end.
"Frederick fucked up at the start. He made a bad call, and James hung back. I'd say if we had the full audio logs, we'd see that they were arguing about the best plan of attack."
Dario began as he looked at the discarded spectacles. The images of the fight were still vivid in his mind.
"Everyone listened to Greaves, and moved out... into a trap. James hid and waited. It's like he just watched them."
"I've passed the footage to Locke to get her analysis of it, and see if she has any insights."
Quentin admitted as he ordered a pair of tonics using the command screen on their table. Moments after, an attractive young waitress approached with what appeared to be a genuine smile on her face. Without a single word spoken, she placed the two tonics down and departed. Dario immediately grasped the glass and downed it in one go, enjoying the soothing sensation that took care of his headache. Quentin followed suit and winced as the cool taste melted away his fatigue. He typically avoided medicinal substances that weren't prescribed, but watching the footage at hyper-speed tended to cause substantial mental fatigue.
"So, while you were watching that. I made a shortlist of people for this new division of yours."
"Our division, Dario. It's not just me in this, and there won't be anything if they don't all agree to it. I won't be playing the political game without them."
Dario pulled up the interface again, with the numerous tabs spreading across the table in full view for Quentin to see them.
"Here's where we are so far. We have design, product and lore masters secured. We still need a public relations, marketing, media person and a really good lawyer to keep us safe from the board."
Quentin's eyes widened as he looked at the names assembled. He found himself nodding as he saw certain names on the list, but surprised when he saw others.
Noticing the CEO's reaction, Dario grinned.
"Yes, there are a few surprises in there... but they're legit. Dreyfus for example is quite the fan of Abidden."
"You're shitting me! Aliyah Dreyfus would come onboard for character design?!"
Dario's grin grew wider as he slid another open profile across the table to rest beside Aliyah's portrait.
"...with her partner in crime, working on level design. Jasmin Dreyfus has left me three messages today alone."
A wide smile appeared on Quentin's face. Aliyah and Jasmin Dreyfus were two of his biggest rivals a decade ago, and he knew deep down that if they had access to the resources he had and the funding, they would have blown Abidden out of the water with a revolutionary new game.
"Okay, okay... assuming you're not pulling my leg here. Why on earth would these two titans of industry come to work for us?"
"With us. They want a partnership, and they want to have creative influence on Helena's descent into darkness. Aliyah has concept art already created..."
Quentin gasped in shock.
"For all the Paragons..."
Dario finished as he slid across at least half a dozen new pieces of artwork.
"Shadow General, Ghost Blade, Dread Pirate... Disciple of Darkness? This is incredible! When did all this happen? What do we need to give them to get them on our side?"
Quentin fell in love with the artwork in front of him. It blew away all of his expectations and would provide an incredible upgrade to their existing designs in the game.
"We can iron out all of those details later. Her wife hasn't been slouching either, Jasmin has created an entirely new island that is dedicated to training up a new Villain class. It has bandit raids, city sieges and some pretty interesting lore choices!"
After a few more moments of awe, Quentin sat back and took a breath. He looked at Dario's excited expression and couldn't help but mirror the happiness.
"Spill it, what happened?"
Dario tilted his head slightly as he moved one last piece across the table.
"They were creating a Villain's game for the last few years, to rival that of Abidden. They openly stated that they wanted to bring on the former Paragons to the game and had approached me to be their engine designer. They wanted me to bring the most important piece though..."
Quentin's smile faded as the reality of the situation dawned on him. He was able to guess immediately what that important piece was.
"They want Locke."
Dario's barking laugh escaped before he could stop himself. The table of Paragon's and James looked over in surprise before going back to their own drinks.
"You're such a dumbass, Quentin. They wanted you! Well, not this current version of you. The energetic guy that built Abidden back in the day."
Quentin laughed ruefully. He hadn't quite expected that answer. Eager to change the subject away from this embarrassing topic, he recalled what Dario had opened the conversation with.
"Media guy, I have Kell. He's loyal and ruthless, he knows absolutely everything that happens across the business and has dossiers on everyone he's ever met."
Dario nodded in agreement.
"I've met him. He's terrifyingly charming."
"That's the one! As for legal... we might actually have an opportunity there."
Quentin hesitated as he shared a profile with Dario.
"Hell no. We're not paying for her! You only call her when there's no other choice, not as a first option."
Dario vehemently rejected the idea as he saw the name at the top of the profile.
Quentin was still frowning which Dario interpreted as contemplation.
"Quentin, you're a logical man. Yes, she never loses, but she would bankrupt the company in a month. Her fees are extortionate. Have you seen the corporations she's destroyed?"
Dario shuddered at the thought and moved his hand to swipe the profile away. Quentin's finger didn't budge and kept the screen in place.
"She's offered her firm's services for free."
The short engineer fell silent, his mouth agape.
Quentin nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, that's how I reacted."
Was all he could finally croak out.
"She wants to be a player."
Before Dario could wheeze out a response. A voice interrupted both of them at the same time.
Video Analysis Complete
"What were your impressions, Locke?"
Quentin asked the AI as he looked to Dario to make sure he was hearing the same thing. His CTO nodded in response.
Having reviewed the footage, my recommendation is to recruit James Sylvester to Abidden. Immediately.
Dario and Quentin designed Locke, they could pick up on emotions in her words when others wouldn't be able to.
Locke was impressed.
Both men looked at each other, before staring at the E-Classer.
Just what was so special about James Sylvester?