Kaalkut. Chapter 9

17 October 2019. Xiamen, China

“So it has come to this.” Lin Duo puffed on his cigarette and stared at the ceiling. “19 billion dollars as his share and what do we get? We spend a lot of money from our own pockets, do all the heavy lifting and this is what we get. 5% equity for each one of us!”

Cui Li took a small sip of his whiskey and stared back. Unlike the majority of his own countrymen, he had no worries about his own personal safety from the men sitting around him. He waited for a moment before answering,” This is what Mr Xij asked me to tell you, sir. I am just an employee of the company and presently a messenger from him. Nothing more.”

“Don’t sell yourself short Li. You are the financial brain behind the company. Without your knowledge, links and expertise, this project would have never even started. Hell, if you were not involved, most of us would never have even invested in the company. “ Duo answered with a twisted smile.

“I am very grateful for the faith you put in me. But all of you know that my authority in the company is nothing compared to any of you present in this room. I take care of the finances, that’s it. Three of you here and Mr Xij control everything else.” Li replied in an even tone.

Duo exhaled some smoke in the general direction of Li and smiled. “That we do Li, but tell me how it helps us? My own personal investment was 140 million US Dollars. Guan here supplied 50 million and expertise that only 2 companies in entire China have. Ru invested 80 million and made sure that none of Xianji’s competitors could win any contract that we bid on. All of us took losses for four years with the understanding that we will have a nice little pot of gold at the end of it.”

Li nodded in a conciliatory manner but he felt a faint tinge of annoyance. Duo was already drunk and was repeating the same thing again and again. The short meeting which was supposed to last thirty minutes had dragged on for two hours with no end in sight. He had travelled in a plane for five hours just for this one meeting and would have to take another flight just after midnight.

“I’m sure you remember that I became a part of the company long after you four made the agreement. I can only tell you what Mr Xij asked me to. Why and how of this and most other decisions are not taken under my authority.”

“Right, right,” Guan exclaimed with an expression that hovered between a smile and a grimace. “So you mean to say that we should take it up with Mr Xij himself. You are just a glorified messenger. Is that right Li?”

Li wondered if he should say something but just looked at Ru and nodded, “That’s more or less the gist of it.”

Duo crushed his cigarette on the floor and glared at him, “ Then we should not keep you here Li. You’ve delivered your message. I suppose you have a flight to catch pretty soon.”

“That’s right Mr Duo, thank you. I’m leaving these documents here for your perusal. Please go through them and feel free to contact me at any time you wish. I’ll be more than happy to be of any assistance.” Li placed a closed envelope each in front of the other three people, bowed and walked out of the room.

Guan leafed through the papers given to him in silence while Duo lit up another cigarette. Ru gave a wry smile and said, “5 years, 100s of millions, hundreds of sleepless nights and this is what great Mr Xij has for it. Fifteen percent equity for three of us which we can’t even encash without his approval.” He smirked and poured himself another drink. 

“Five percent!” Duo exhaled angrily. His hands shook slightly which didn’t go unnoticed with Guan and Ru.

Guan spoke in a tired voice, “Nothing much interesting in the papers. It’s more or less the same as what Li said.”

Duo picked up his envelope and threw it against the wall. “So Xij can screw us after all these years and we are left with this! I don’t know about you two, but I’ll not take this lying down. Well, I do know about you two and neither of you is going to accept this.“ 

Ru took a deep swig of his drink, leaned back on the chair and stayed quiet. Duo glanced at him and then started reading the papers again. Both were familiar with the angry outbursts of  First Class Lieutenant General Duo which usually went on for hours if someone interrupted his angry rants. 

“Just because he is son of the Chairman doesn’t mean that he can screw us over. Each one of us puts more at stake every single day  than that jerk can imagine and I’ll be dead before he can get away with this bullshit.” He glared at the other two men waiting for a response. Guan put down the papers, looked back at Duo evenly but stayed quiet. Ru stayed as he was, seemingly asleep but very aware of the tension in the room. 

“Don’t you two have anything to say?” Duo thundered angrily.

Ru just spoke without moving, “We do have a lot to say General, but exactly what can we say about this issue without getting ourselves in hot water?” Xij is the only son of CCP Chairman. Words spoken by Li were not from Xij but his father, CCP’s all powerful Chairman and President of China for life.”  

“President of China for life! Was it only because of my support?” Duo spat angrily. “All three of us supported him for this. Both of you financed his “campaign” and the constitutional amendment. Do not put this on me.”

Ru looked at Duo straight in the eyes, “Cool down General. I am not blaming you. All three of us had no idea that he would betray us like this.

Guan spoke in his soft voice, “This is no time to discuss the history and who did what. There is not much we can do legally. Taking Xij to court will never work. The best we can do is to sell our shares as soon as possible and limit our losses. You may get a slot in CMC soon. Do you want to endanger that by doing anything rash?“

“When Chairman Wix is involved, there’s no such thing as legal or illegal,”  Ru commented.

Duo thundered, “Don’t give me this crap. He is a greedy old bastard just like the three of us. He’d have never reached where he is without my support and if he thinks that he can get away by screwing me over, then he has made the biggest mistake of his life.”

Ru sighed and asked, “I always thought that two of you were good friends. Can’t you talk to him and clear this up?”

Duo shook his head, “You do know that I was next in line for the post of CCP Chairman, right? Wix came to me before he got you two onboard and promised me this deal as compensation for my support for his lifetime Presidency amendment. It was me who suggested your names to him for this company. He knew from then what he was doing, how things would turn out and how he would treat us.

The work that Xianji did was not just for making us rich. Guan was brought in not for his 50 million but for his very specific expertise that PLA needed for spying. You were brought in even though you owned a competing company just to create an illusion of choice in the minds of our customers.” 

He glared at his almost finished cigarette and flicked it away. “Now do you see what Chairman Wix has done? He has sole control over one of the biggest telecommunications companies which also doubles up as the biggest mass surveillance network in the world. Not only does he have a few new billions in cash in his bank accounts but also the data of 100s of millions of people from all around the world and full control over the networks. If this is not unprecedented absolute power, then nothing else is. All this was supposed to be ours, not just his personal kingdom. If he thinks that he is going to be the dragon sitting on a mountain of treasure by himself, then I am going to be the dragon slayer of western fairy tales.

He paused to light another cigarette and continued, “Do you think that I’ll be happy with this puny payout after all this? Are you two happy with just this? This was not what was planned and I will make sure that Wix pays for his treachery.”

“How are we going to do that, General? After last year’s amendment, Wix is China. Anything you do against him will be viewed as treason against the state. Not to mention that Xianji is just one of our many interests closely intertwined with Chairman Wix. Each one of us has 100s of millions invested in dozens of other projects with him. If we do anything rash, we might lose everything just when things are getting streamlined” Guan interjected.

“Guan, you are a brilliant technocrat, but you still have a few things left to learn about politics, statecraft and the inevitable backstabbing required to survive in this murky world,” Duo answered with a smirk. “We don’t fight this war at all. Our “enemy” will fight it for  us.”

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