Pretoria Qualified: Best of a Kind.
Johannes van der Sandt slowly made his way down the hallway, high in the towering PQ headquarters in the African metropolis of Pretoria. His wheelchair, a robust but inexpensive contraption, stood a stark contrast to the man sitting in it—a frail old centenarian that was also one of the most obscenely wealthy multi-trillionaires on planet Earth. He'd bought his wheelchair used, eager to get a deal on the device that allowed him to still navigate his company's offices and personally manage its corporate affairs, in spite of his advanced state. His head shaved was shaved bald, and he was dressed in a fine black suit with an orange tie, the corporate colour of his company. He was not the only one in the hallway. Travelling in either direction, his various younger underlings gave him a polite and respectful wave or nod or smile as they passed him, eager to seem personable to the elder statesman of their employer. Johannes was known to have something of a temper, and there were rumours of him twisting the law to have employees that gave him impertinent looks terminated without pay. Some of the more conspiracy minded even said that anyone who crossed Mr. Van der Sandt was liable to be taken from their homes in the night, dragged off to a test chamber to be experimented on by PQ's genetic engineering department. They were probably just silly rumours, but they gave an accurate depiction of the atmosphere with which the old man carried himself: solemn and retributive were the Van der Sandt family's patriarchs.
A wall of glass flanked the wheelchair-bound CEO to his right, giving him a look out over the bustling downtown urban centre his company had helped to create. It was for the PQ that this skyline of towering skyscrapers was even still called 'Pretoria'. Decades ago, when Mr. Van der Sandt was only in his 30's and merely the company's heir apparent, the PQ's lobbying efforts had been the reason the city had avoided a politically influenced name change; it would not do for Pretoria
Qualified to be based out of a city called 'Tshwane'. Since then, PQ had remained the lifeblood of Pretoria's economy, serving as the city's largest employer and the largest business presence by several orders of magnitude. The city government—and, eventually, the national government—became irrelevant, their duties to the city replaced by a private corporation that simply had more money to work with to solve the city's ills than City Hall could ever hope to have. Of course, the Van der Sandt family's efforts at outreach had not been charitable: it made managing a company so much easier when you enforced your own regulations and wrote your own laws.
At the far end of the hallway was Johannes' destination. Two guards, armed with latest small arms that PQ's corporate friends at SIMA had to offer, opened the heavy metal door for their chief executive before he had even come within twenty feet of the meeting room. They closed it after him just as quickly, staring daggers at any employees milling about the hall that had lingered their eyes on it too long. Pretoria Qualified was a closed corporation, and meetings of its management were equally closed, even to the most high ranking of non-family employees.
"Hello, Father." a young man's voice carried over the length of the room.
Johannes smiled, the first time his expression had changed from a persistent scowl since he made the descent from the top floor down to the meeting hall. The man addressing him was his grandson, not his son, but he'd taken up calling him 'father' ever since his real father had died.
The grandson checked his watch, an inexpensive thing that did not look like it belonged on a trillionaire's wrist. "Just on time, as always. One of these days the elevator will stall for a moment and you'll be a minute behind."
Mr. Van der Sandt nodded, sighing contentedly to himself as to wheeled over to the opposite end of the table from his grandson. The younger Van der Sandt had left the spot nearest the door open to his grandfather, as a courtesy. The boy had always been polite and respectful that way. "You will never live to see that happen, my boy!" the elder man replied. Curiously to any observers, of which there were curiously none, all other seats at the table were conspicuously empty: only Markus and Johannes seemed to be in attendance.
Markus smiled along. He enjoyed his grandfather's company, sincerely. He felt little remorse that his biological father had died; he'd always been a dispassionate man. This way, he not only was closer to succeeding as heir to the Van der Sandt fortune, but he also had better company to enjoy along the way. Regardless, it was time to get to business.
"I've been looking over the LAS file," Markus van der Sandt began, "and things seem to be proceeding along the lines of our second projection, unfortunately. They seem to have moved in defense of the actions we'd planned in P1. P2 is still an option, but you already know my thoughts on that."
"Yes, I know. You're a softie, Markus." Johannes had by now fixed his wheelchair in position at the table's head.
"Soft is the wiser course of action here. P3 is our best bet to—".
"I don't make bets, son." Johannes interjected. "Our best 'option'
"Right," Markus conceded, "our best option, then, to achieve the goals you've sought out, is P3. Collaborating will be billions less costly than trying to muscle them out at this point. With P1 and P2 there was always the option something would be lost. Can you at least admit that much?"
"Hmph. P1 and P2 have their risks, I will concede that. So does your plan, Markus. In its case, there's the risk they will withhold something from us, and the risk they will say 'no'."
"There's no obvious impetus for them to be unreasonable, since we haven't moved on P1 or P2 yet. They have much to gain from collaboration with us as well. I'm confident they would hear me out."
Johannes raised a brow. "Hear you
out? Our business with them regards me personally."
"And that is precisely why it shouldn't be you in Austin. It will create the appearance of desperation, for reasons that are obvious to us both. If it's me, we will appear serious, but not supplicant. It is not enough for us to have our best foot forward on this file: it needs to be the foot that isn't in need of a shoe."
There was silence in the room. For perhaps twenty seconds, Johannes silently deliberated on his grandson's remarks. This was an important thing to him, and not a matter he felt entirely comfortable delegating to an inferior. Yet, if he entrusted anyone with the matter, it would be Markus.
"Very well," came the eventual reply, in a solemn tone and as quiet as Markus could be expected to hear. He quickly added, "I hope that you will succeed."
"'Hope'?" Markus said, moving the LAS file underneath a stack of papers and sliding over a new set of documents—the rest of today's business—to his grandfather's end of the table. "Van der Sandts do not hope. You expect
me to succeed."
Johannes found his smile again.
"That's my boy."