Obsidian Command

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The Collective

Posted on 18 Mar 2024 @ 5:23am by Brek - Timeless Treasures Art Gallery

Mission: M4 - Falling Out
Location: Timeless Treasures Art Gallery - Brek's Office
Timeline: MD 4 - Day 9
1334 words - 2.7 OF Standard Post Measure

Instead of joining a barter extravaganza as he had first intended, Brek had remained confined within his office. There, for a meagre 20% commission, he had spent not less than 3600 seconds (that’s a lot!) to gather the who, what, how and where of the scam artists and genuine fake friends who had ripped Bajeem off. Now, it was a blatant fact that the Romulan artist’s cleverness was not too vibrant. Yet he had at least expected those friends of his to be real. Real as in, he might pay them a visit in a few minutes to give them a piece or two of advice. But heck, no. Those friends had the consistency of a Romulan’s promise. Bajeem had ‘met’ them on a social network and they didn’t live on the Station. They existed in the ether, neither here nor there.

Thankfully their ego was inflated enough that they had names, aliases, most certainly. Here is what he had gathered so far:

The scam originated on Spectra, a newly launched virtual labyrinth. Brek scoffed – a supposed haven for artists to mingle, socialize, and exchange ideas? More like a breeding ground for trouble, in his opinion. Why on earth would an artist expose their fresh concepts to other painters, sculptors, or writers? A skeptical three-minute survey of the network confirmed his suspicions. Most artists seemed content to wallow in self-doubt and lament their volatile temperaments. Dreary stuff indeed.

The scam was called The Copyright Collective. It offered artists the opportunity to register their work on newly discovered planets, securing their intellectual property rights across the galaxy. ‘Nice’ to know that such a scheme existed, essentially by-passing the services that an art agent like himself might offer... What sort of a genius does it take to realise that those planets were uninhibited? In addition, this collective was so confident that it didn’t even bother covering its flaws: Unrealistic guarantees, unregistered company name, poorly written promotion material. The whole operation reeked of desperation. Only the most naive artist would be lured by such a transparent scheme.

This said, his own people loved to use this method: go for customers who, although they are down on their luck and not particularly focused, still have the impertinence to be greedy.

The cast of this embarrassing show were:
Tirn Jex - aka the Brainwave. A rogue female Trill. Self-proclaimed genius, of course.

Tharn (the Grift King). A charismatic Andorian, the perfect foil to Jex's enigmatic demeanour. With his booming laugh and disarming smile (seen everywhere on their adverts) he could seemingly befriend anyone, from struggling artists to high-ranking Breen commanders.

Bragging is an art too.

The situation looked bleak, but a glimmer of hope emerged – The Copyright Collective was hiring. Not only could he infiltrate their ranks, there was a greater opportunity: to manipulate them from within.

Once inside, Brek would play his hand. He'd encourage Jex and Tharn to expand their ambitions, making himself indispensable as they scaled their operation. He'd exploit the rivalry that no doubt existed between those two ‘masterminds’ to his advantage. And finally, the ultimate coup de grâce – the destruction of their entire collective.

First thing first: the recruitment process. No need to adopt a stage name and create a fake past. His checkered professional past provided all the necessary credibility. He'd play the part of a disillusioned Ferengi yearning for more profits.

His qualifications? An insatiable hunger for latinum, coupled with a talent that transcended mere memorization. Brek could not only internalize scripts and sales pitches, but elevate them. He could spin them into irresistible, mesmerizing propositions, weaving in his own inventive manipulative tactics. The Collective, he asserted on the application form, was stagnating. If they desired to propel their ingenious organization to the next level, he was the answer they sought.

The wait stretched longer than anticipated - two interminable hours. Finally, the Collective contacted him. An avatar materialized on his screen: a young humanoid woman cloaked in secrecy. A black mask obscured her eyes, and a crimson hood concealed most of her hair. Three pendants adorned with tiny stars hung around her neck, their significance lost against the stark black backdrop.

The voice, incongruously sweet and childlike, grated on Brek's nerves. It questioned his motives, inquiring why a Ferengi with presumably a plethora of business ventures would be interested in their ‘puny, and entirely legal’ operation.

“It is not puny, it has merit, which is why your collective piqued my interest. I’m in the art business, you see.” He explained, matter-of-factly. “But let’s not waste time pretending we are looking for honest work here. I saw your promotional material, and I'm well aware you relieved a client of mine of a significant sum. Congratulations on a job well done! With a dash of additional expertise, perhaps we can achieve even greater results together.”

“We know who you are. It doesn’t mean we can trust you.”

“You can trust me to increase my profits, and that of your Collective.” Brek countered, leaning back in his chair with a smug expression. “Your idea is, frankly, brilliant. I feel sorry I never thought of it myself. Artists, you see, they focus on their art, and little else. They, and their relatives, can be so easily manipulated.”

A hint of amusement colored the avatar's voice. "And yet, you choose to work with them?"

“I do. And look where I am. Stuck on a Starbase, where good opportunities are rather lacking. Sure, I can play at being a good citizen for a while. It doesn’t mean I’m happy. It doesn’t mean either that I don’t want more. Much much more.”

The voice chuckled, mocking him. “So, you feel like you deserve a bigger slice of the pie. Isn’t it the same for all of us? Got any debts hanging over your head? Is this why you contacted us?”

Brek narrowed his eyes. “I’m owed quite a lot of money, if it’s what you are asking, and my memory is excellent. It won’t let me forget the slightest little slip of latinum that ought to be in my ample pockets. What about you, are you feeling undercompensated in your little collective?”

"We lack for nothing," the voice replied smoothly. "It is you, Mr. Ferengi, who's begging for a favour."

“If it’s what you like to call it, I’ll play your game. This favour will be immensely rewarding, for all of us, if you take me on board.”

“Our operation isn’t a smash-and-grab affair, Ferengi”, the voice cautioned. “It requires finesse, discernation and long-term thinking. Do you think you can handle something outside the box?”

“I have lived outside the box for a long time. I don’t think you can teach me any tricks. On the other hand, I may teach you a thing or two, if you care to listen.”

The voice remained silent for a moment. "You seem to hold yourself in high regard," it finally said. "Overconfidence can be a liability."

Brek’s smug expression faltered. He leaned forward, his voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. "So can a lack of ambition. Are you content with your mediocre profits, or are you open to something more?"

"You draw conclusions quickly, Ferengi. This is not a good sign. Our organization doesn't need restructuring. Still, we will consider your offer.”

“Excellent! Do so before the end of the week, though, I’m rather restless. If a business opportunity takes forever to bring rewards, I move on to the next project. Time is a precious resource and I don’t like to squander it. Have a good day.”

He terminated the transmission with a flourish and poured himself a generous serving of dark rum. As he swirled the amber liquid in his glass, he couldn't help but mutter, "Will they take the bait? Sadly, as some hewmon once said: the future is as cloudy as yesterday's laundry...”


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