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Location: Vinlan Corp HQ

There’s a saying in the cut-throat corporate world that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

The boardroom table in question was surrounded with the decision-makers of Vinlan Corp. But one conspicuously empty seat beckoned.

“This better be important,” Minister Amare, Head of Media and Entertainment, puffed his chest out. He was slightly annoyed that he had been called out of his other engagement: a primetime television interview. “This meeting was called on very short notice, Mallika.”

“We need to vote,” Minister Mallika said solemnly, folding her hands. Her face was serious and determined.

The rest of the ministers were confused. “On what, exactly?” Minister Rita asked, puzzled.

“Our plan,” Minister Mallika said, pausing for effect, “Should not go ahead anymore. Conditions have changed. It’s simply too risky.”

Minister Viktor, Head Financial Comptroller, was all ears at the mention of pulling the plug on an on-going project. “I need you to elaborate, and it better be good.”

Minister Amare slammed down on the table with both hands, standing up. Frustration seeped through his voice as he shouted, “So we should just give up all the work we’ve already put in?” He wanted a good show, public opinion be damned. In his mind, any publicity was good publicity, and the country could do with a new narrative, new drama, new controversy.

“Our plans didn’t take into account their new-found supernatural abilities. We will be caught flat-footed if we rush ahead with the plan,” Minister Mallika cautioned. “We should adapt to new circumstances.”

Minister Amare was not convinced at all. “That changes nothing,” he scoffed.

“We are only shifting targets, not end-goals. All that we already know remains relevant, but we have to sharpen the trajectory,” Minister Mallika shot back.

They were at an impasse. Nobody seemed convinced by the new proposal.

The tension in the room had grown heated with this exchange. A soft voice spoke up from the end of the table. It was Minister Miles, the Head of Logistics that had replaced Minister Rogen after the latter had vanished after the encounter with Suez five years ago. He had been shadowing Minister Rogen as his understudy and deputy up till then.

“Does this bickering get us anywhere?” Minister Miles said. “We can’t vote without Minister Glover anyway.”

“Where is he?” Minister Rita asked. Minister Glover was the Head of Development. Lately, he had developed a penchant for conservation and in particular, exotic animals.

“He must be with his pets somewhere,” Minister Amare smirked.

“He is on the ship,” Minister Miles shrugged casually. “Mentioned something about obtaining glory.”

The whole cabinet turned to stare at the bomb Minister Miles’s revelation had just dropped on them. “He’s what?! Why weren’t we informed of this decision?” A Minister on board The Challenger would jeopardise the entire mission. For months, he had been pushing for a plan to eliminate the fighters covertly in an assassination mission on board the ship—which ultimately did not pass the boardroom vote. They just knew that Minister Glover would do something dumb.

“I did him a favour,” Minister Miles said smugly, then added sarcastically, “As a friend.”

Ministers conferred with one another in whispers. Rogen wouldn’t have done that, was on the lips of a few. He would’ve told us.

“Look, even without Minister Glover, we meet decorum and can go ahead with the vote. Let’s not waste time,” Minister Amare suggested, trying to get the discussion going. He was eager to return to the television studio to continue his spot.

“I don’t always agree with Mallika. But if our original plan goes awry, the tide of public opinion might shift,” Minister Luke quipped, finally speaking up.

“But if we wait too long, who knows what they will be able to do,” Minister Amare raised.

“Minister Amare might be right,” Minister Viktor mused.

Minister Mallika proposed, “We need to look at them as individuals, not as a group. Each individual’s strengths and their powers.”

“And how will you obtain this data?” Minister Viktor perked up.

“Leave that to me,” Minister Mallika said smoothly. “I have someone on the job.”

The discussion continued for a while further. Finally, Minister Luke raised his placard. “It seems to me like we have all the alternatives on the table,” Minister Luke called for the motion to begin the vote.

The votes were tabulated. Minister Mallika won by a single vote. She had tried to convince everyone that her plan would lead to greater chances of success in the long run. But ultimately, it was the presence of Minister Glover on the ship that swung the decision. He was a loose cannon, and with him going ahead with his own assassination attempts, they had to move with caution or risk a public relations fiasco.

The original plan to meddle in the fighters’ chances of survival in God’s Tournament would be switched up.

***

As the meeting came to an end, the ministers slowly filed out, with Minister Amare leading the charge to return to his interview filming. Eventually, it was just Minister Viktor and Minister Mallika. Viktor sidled up to her.

Minister Viktor had a nagging thought after it had been revealed that Minister Glover was on the ship. “What do you think of Miles?”

Minister Mallika responded diplomatically. “He’s way too clean. I don’t trust him. But you know how this works. Sooner or later, there’s going to be dirt on him. They all do.”

Minister Viktor smiled. “I guess that’s part of your job. Keep an eye on him. I want to know if he’s aligned with us,” he said, “You know, the old guard.”

Minister Mallika scoffed. “I have a feeling he’s up to something. We need to be ready for the possibility that he could ruin everything for us. Leave it to me.”

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A note from PlayingGamesOfDespair

We've made some changes regarding the story and  the names of the characters to make them more culturally accurate to the world we have built so far. We apologise for the inconvenience.


About the author

PlayingGamesOfDespair

Bio: YA fantasy book series created by Kabir Singh & Judy Goh
Sypnosis: Tournament of the century, ordained by God. Who will prevail?

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