Chapter 338 The President 2
Aldrich looked Emrys over.
Emrys was an elderly man with age whitened hair, long enough to reach down to his neck and a thick, bristly moustache and beard that still retained some flecks of youthful black.
His attire was formal, suited up without any combat preparation.
Yet, in spite of that, Emrys did not feel weak. He was a large man standing exactly at two meters with a broad-shouldered, muscled build that belied his age.
What was most striking about Emrys were his eyes. They were pitch black with bright white dots for pupils.
Aldrich briefly looked around, scanning for threats. The Dominion was running on auto-pilot. Aside from some minor helper drones, the entire place was empty.
As if to confirm Aldrich's thoughts, Emrys spoke. "The Dominion has no personnel on it other than me. I apologize for bringing Lightspeed and Valkyrie. But they are, as you noted, insurance."
'This human…is strange,' said Volantis. 'My sight strains when it gazes upon him. Argh-!'
Volantis's third eye involuntarily opened up on Aldrich's forehead, gazing at Emrys for a brief second before closing. 'My apologies, Armored. The eye reacted on its own.'
"Ah, so that is where Supermind's eye went." Emrys nodded, his hands calmly clasped behind his back. He did not seem surprised at all.
"You're Irregular," said Aldrich. The All-Seeing Eye had opened and recognized Emrys as not being of this world.
"A broad term. Too broad for my tastes. But yes, that is true," said Emrys.
"What are you, then? An alien?"
"This is why I considered that eye far too broad. It identifies only things that are extraterrestrial, but has no ideas of its origins," said Emrys. He shook his head. "I am no alien. I am very human. But alien energies have charged my eyes, and because of that, you identify me as Irregular."
"…I see," said Aldrich. He wondered exactly how Emrys's eyes had changed from alien energies, or what these alien energies even exactly were, but that would meander too far off from the point. "What do you want from me?"
"Straight to the point. That will make things quick," said Emrys. "I am not against you, Thanatos. No, it is quite the opposite. I simply wish to enter into a partnership with you."
"You? Or the AA? As far as I'm aware, most of the AA's operations are conducted under the authority of the CEO. The title of president is more ceremonial, passed down from your family line rather than anything else," said Aldrich.
The Du Lac family were founders and presidents of the AA, but notably, other than the first Du Lac, all the successors had ended up living lives of seclusion, never taking helm of the AA.
That meant that by all rights, Emrys should not have had too much power, but at the same time, contextual clues hinted against it.
It was Emrys, not the CEO, that showed up at the Judicata.
And Emrys had a Halo carrier under his control. A ceremonial title could not ever manage that.
"You already know I have more influence than meets the eye," said Emrys, reading through Aldrich's question to fish for more information.
With that, Aldrich recognized that Emrys was a good talker. And impressive at hiding his emotions. His face was impossible to read, better than Solomon Solar or Z.
"Doesn't mean I know everything there is to you," said Aldrich.
"And neither I for you. Let us keep it that way. Putting all our cards on the table to begin with is too extreme, no?"
"Then what cards are you putting down?"
"I want you to help the Panopticon recover from the Irregular hacking it suffered at the Judicata," said Emrys. "My eyes are capable of reading energy signatures at a fine-tuned level. Due to that, I know that you have some form of protection against the Irregular hacking in Haven. Give the Panopticon a sample of that, and it can replicate the defenses."
"Asking for that much to begin with? Are you sure you aren't putting all your cards down already?"
"I have more to play," was Emrys's cool answer, and because of his inscrutable face, it was impossible to tell whether Emrys was bluffing or not. "And I can choose not to play, either. It is up to you."
"That's quite a lot to ask for. The Panopticon's defense should be its own responsibility, no?" It sounded like Emrys was asking for much, and he was, but the request was not as one-sided as it seemed.
Aldrich stood against the Stranger, and if the Stranger could, whenever it had its possession capabilities up, take over high end Panopticon tech, it would be a massive pain in the ass to deal with if it could just pad itself with armies of class 2 and 1 robots and drones.
Not to mention the potential havoc it could wreak by taking over Panopticon space stations.
Valera's worry at an orbital strike became much more of a likelihood unless Aldrich provided the Panopticon a way to defend itself. And there was the cost in life, too.
The Panopticon still maintained most of the world's agriculture and infrastructure. Right now, cities were getting by on emergency reserves and limited supply transport. Sooner or later, that had to end.
"Rest assured, the Panopticon is not defenseless. It is not a stranger to Irregular power sources. In time, it will adapt," said Emrys. "But I acknowledge it may suffer an additional attack or two before that adaptation occurs.
I am simply giving you a chance to expedite that process."
And, Aldrich noted, if the Panopticon adapted on its own, Emrys nor the Panopticon owed anything to Aldrich anymore. He did not know whether this was a bluff either.
For all this time, he had operated under the principle that Alter tech was helpless against magic, but the more he found out about the world, the more he doubted that.
With the existence of Irregulars, alien technologies hidden away, and who knows how many more variables, it was entirely possible that the Panopticon could, in fact, fend off against demonic possession.
At which point Aldrich lost his leverage.
"And what are you offering me?" said Aldrich.
"I was part of Supermind's efforts in finding Vanguard's successor. He believed the heir to be humanity's new hope," said Emrys. "If Supermind gave you his eye, he no doubt believed that it would be within your self interest to find the heir as well.
I am willing to extend my assistance in tracking down the heir."
"And if we find said heir? Will you take them in? To be the new savior of mankind?" said Aldrich.
If that was the case, then there was no real benefit for Aldrich. To humanity, yes, as Vanguard's heir would surely be someone that could defend man, especially against the entity.
But Aldrich reaped no direct benefit simply finding the heir.
"No. That is too one-sided of a deal. You can have the heir," said Emrys. "Turn them into one of your soldiers, if you so wish."