Monopoly

--= Jita 4-4 =--

"Keep buying" Stanton commanded. He was scanning hundreds of market reports via his neural interface.

"Sir, the price continues to drop. Our shareholders are very anxious." Rudy, his executive assistant, retorted. 

"You heard me. Keep buying." Stanton reiterated.

"Yes sir." Rudy exited the executive suite while punching in buy orders on his holopad. 

As Rudy walked through the door another man nearly bumped into him on his way out. The man was sharply dressed in a black suit and had the prototypical adornment of expensive jewelry common amongst business executives in Jita 4-4.

The man looked upset as he entered the suite. He spouted angry words at Stanton, "You've got to be fucking kidding me! You want to sell another round of bonds? Our credit rating was just downgraded AGAIN this morning! A Minmatar slave could get better interest rates than us!"

Stanton recognized the underhanded comment as an attempt to insult him. He was of Minmatar origin. Having been born into dire poverty, Stanton had used his quick wits and brilliant entrepreneurial mind to build a successful business on his home planet. He had sold the company to a private equity firm and used the proceeds to pay for a one way space voyage to Jita 4-4, the place he knew he could strike it rich.

Upon his arrival in Jita nearly five years ago, Stanton had immediately set to work cooking up the biggest deal of his entire life. At the time, he wasn't wealthy (at least in Jita terms), but he had enough isk to live a luxurious lifestyle for a few months. During that time, he spent his nights at the most expensive clubs getting to know the high rollers, figuring out where the money was, and building connections. 

It was during this time that his entrepreneurial vision came to him. He worked with an attorney and formed "Konicek Capital" an interstellar import/export company. He spent the last of his isk having the company logo crafted and buying a few expensive suits to boost his image. He pitched his company to the highest rollers he knew, and managed to raise 7.2 billion isk at a 10 billion isk valuation. This gave him 28% ownership of the company he now commanded as CEO. 

On top of that, part of the deal was Stanton's funded transformation into a capsuleer. He argued, with the neural interface afforded to capsuleers, he would have a considerable advantage in overseeing the company's operations. His investors had agreed, and with that Stanton had joined the immortal. It was a somewhat perplexing move to many outsiders. Capsuleer technology was designed to give pilots the ability to command spacecraft, but Stanton hated space travel. In fact, since his arrival in Jita 4-4, Stanton had never left. He was comfortable with life in the station and felt that space travel was something the "proletariat" should do.

Over the last five years Stanton had grown the company at an incredible rate. He imported and sold Amarrian wheat, antibiotics, medicine, holoreels, tritanium, battleships, cruisers, blueprints... just about anything he could flip at a profit. The company's station hangar was constantly bustling as inventory was loaded off and on to freighters. In fact, over the last five years the company had never suffered a quarterly loss. Its estimated assets were in excess of two hundred billion isk.

However, in the previous three months, Stanton had nearly bankrupted the company (as far as his shareholders were concerned). The inventory of the company's typical trade goods had run dry two weeks ago. The company hadn't completed a single sell order since that time. Instead, the company had done nothing but build an inventory of confidential wares. Stanton had emptied the company accounts, loaded the corporation with debt, and continued to buy more and more goods that he refused to disclose, even to his investors.

"Are you fucking listening to me you asshole?!?" the man in the black suit snapped.

Stanton turned to face the man. "I'm listening," he replied coolly.

Stanton was a good looking, clean cut, and stylish (but not flashy) individual. He slid his glasses off his face, and placed them on the table before continuing. He gestured towards the chair in front of his desk, "take a seat Walter. Would you like a drink? I'm excited to open this bottle of Gallentean wine. It's private label and I've been saving it for a fine occasion with good company." He smiled calmly as he sat down.

Walter, the man in the black suit, turned red with anger at the lackadaisical attitude Stanton exhibited. "God fucking dammit you son of a bitch." He shook his head. "We all trusted you... You showed so much potential... a young upstart from the slums. So brilliant, and here you are..." He sighed, "Do you even know what our stock is doing?"

"Last time I checked it was trading at 3.62 isk. A great deal if you ask me. An absolute steal." Stanton replied.

The man looked disgusted, "We were trading at 153.26 three months ago you son of a bitch. I nearly put everything into this company and you've driven it off a cliff. We are in the red over one hundred and twenty five billion, and here you are... calm as hell selling another thirty billion isk worth of bonds."

Stanton was un-fazed. He popped the cork of the Gallentean wine, poured a glass and slid it across the desk. "Take a sip Walter. It's phenomenal."

The wall of the executive suite was stained red with wine as Walter slapped the glass as hard as he could. Shattered crystal flew in all directions from the point of impact. A few drops splattered on Stanton's suit. 

Walter stood up and leaned over the desk at Stanton, "What the fuck is wrong with you?!?" He screamed so loud that a few globules of spit landed on Stanton's face.

Stanton's stoic expression remained unchanged as he calmly pulled a handkerchief from his suit's breast pocket. He wiped off his face, dabbed some spots on his suit where the wine had landed, and polished his glasses for a few seconds before calmly placing them on his face. "I'm sorry you feel that way Walter." He paused, "I'll see you at the press conference this afternoon."

Walter looked frustrated, but simply shook his head and stormed out of the suite. Stanton waited calmly as he exited and the door slid closed behind him. Stanton scanned the news on the large screen. The headlines about his company were all negative.

"Saddled with debt and craving more. Has Stanton Reade lost his mind?"

"Q4 profits non-existent for Konicek Capital. The ship is sinking fast."

"What's he buying? Where is the money going? Konicek Capital's Stanton Reade has gone off the deep end."

Stanton turned off the screen. He changed suits, touched up his hair, and checked himself over once more in the mirror before getting on the elevator.

A few moments passed before the elevator reached the press room. The door loomed in front of him. Stanton took a deep breath, and paused a moment to gather himself. He engaged the door's control mechanism and it slid open.

An angry crowd of investors and employees was waiting for him in the conference room. The crowd bood and hissed upon his arrival. Camera drones buzzed all around him as they recorded the entire event from every possible angle.

Stanton smiled calmly at the crowd, pausing a few moments to let the angry commotion die down before he began his address.

Despite the anger and resentment in the room, Stanton pressed on with the magnanimous air he always had. "Good afternoon. Thank you for making it here today. I know you all have busy schedules." He smiled before continuing. "I've been reading the headlines, as I'm sure you have too. The reports are all pretty negative about the future of our company. But I couldn't be more enthusiastic."

This only enraged the crowd even more. They started to yell a colorful variety of obscenities. Stanton paused again for a few moments, letting the commotion die down.

He continued on once it was quiet again, "I assure you, with absolute confidence, if you stay with the company as investors you will be rewarded."

Stanton took a deep breath. "However, I understand our recent moves have many of you uneasy. As such, I am using a significant portion of the proceeds from our most recent bond sale to fund the largest stock buyback program in the history of our company. Our shares are currently trading at 3.47 isk, and we are offering to buy the shares back at 7.00 isk per share. That will give our original  investors their money back with a small return." 

He paused before continuing, "the terms of the buyback program are valid for the next hour. After which time, all stock repurchased by the company will be wiped and holders of retained stock will have their ownership interest increased." He paused. "I felt this was the fairest thing to do for everyone who felt uneasy about the direction our company is heading." 

The crowd was silenced. They didn't know how to react.

Stanton smiled as he exited the stage. He strolled confidently into the elevator. The doors closed behind him and there was silence as the elevator began climbing back to his executive suite. 

On his way up, Stanton scanned reports from his neural interface. Investors were unloading their shares at an incredible pace. They were hurrying as fast as they could to "get off the sinking ship" (as they put it). He smiled knowing his ownership interest was increasing every second.

Stanton waited patiently in his suite as the hour of the stock buyback program ticked by. The last few orders finished just seconds before the time elapsed. When it was finished nearly 93% of all outstanding stock, not including his own, had been repurchased by the company. 

Rudy entered the executive suite shortly after the hour elapsed. "Sir, our legal team has finalized the corporate resolution." He looked nervous in Stanton's presence.

Stanton smiled to reassure him. "Thank you Rudy. Please continue."

Rudy continued. "You currently hold 423,000,000 shares, there are still approximately 79,500,000 shares trading on the public markets, and approximately 997,000,000 million shares are held in the treasury as a result of the buyback." He paused to let everything sink in. "This resolution deletes the 997,500,000 million shares held in the treasury. After signing this resolution you will effectively own 84.2% of the company."

Stanton grinned as he signed the resolution, "I love leveraged buyouts. I nearly tripled my ownership for a bargain. Can't beat it." He chuckled, "The folks who own the 79.5 million shares are going to be happy soon. They got a great deal. They may not know it yet, but they did." He looked at Rudy, "What are the shares trading at right now?"

Rudy replied, "They're at 6.50 even. They shot up to 7.21 when you announced the buyback, but the price is working its way down as the market excitement wears off."

Stanton nodded as he listened, "How much is left in our accounts at the moment?"

Rudy typed a few commands into his holopad to pull up the data. "Sir, after the buyback, we only have 10.6 billion isk on hand." He sighed, "We also have a 1.4 billion isk interest payment coming due tomorrow. The company will be bankrupt in twenty days."

Stanton paused a second before grinning. "Keep buying."

Rudy nodded, he looked worried, "How much sir?"

Stanton replied, "As much as you possibly can. All I need is two billion isk in our accounts at the end of the week."

"Understood sir." Rudy responded as he started making his way out of the suite.

"Thanks Rudy. Oh, and one other thing..." Stanton paused, "patch me through to the board of directors."

"Yes sir." Rudy entered a few commands into his holopad as he exited the room. A group of ten men in suits sitting around a long table showed up on Stanton's screen. Walter, the Chairman of the Board, sat at the head of the table.

"Good afternoon gentlemen!" Stanton smiled widely as he greeted the board.

Most of the board cast embarrassed glances down at the table. Walter, however, stared directly into Stanton's eyes. "I don't know what you're up to Stanton, or what you've been buying these past three months, but we've just about had it with your antics."

Stanton smiled, "Walter, my dear friend, I'm sorry we couldn't continue our fruitful relationship. My records indicate that you, and everyone else on the board, sold all of their shares. You got your money back at a 5% return. What's the problem?"

Walter replied, "We put so much trust in you Stanton. We really thought you were going to become something great, but... look at what you've done to the company."

Stanton's smile disappeared. "You trusted me?" He nodded to himself. "Well, you should have kept trusting me. You all just missed out on the biggest opportunity of your lives. I didn't force you to sell your shares, you just lost faith. I can't help that."

Stanton's smile returned to his face, "but that's not a problem anymore. You all got out scot-free, and I have a controlling interest in the company now." 

Stanton chuckled before issuing his proclamation. "Effective immediately the board is dissolved. You can all go about your merry little way!" Stanton disconnected from the channel. There was no one to answer to now. His company had just became a dictatorship, and he was the king.

Stanton looked at the time. Even though he felt great he knew he needed to work fast. The minutes were ticking away.

He pressed the intercom button "Please connect me with Adin Batova of Black Star freight. This is extremely urgent." 

Rudy replied, "Connecting you now sir."

Moments later, the cold calculating visage of Adin Batova, the CEO of Black Star freight was looking back at Stanton through the large screen in Stanton's office.

Stanton began immediately, "How are we looking Adin? What's the prognosis, are we still on schedule?"

Adin didn't waste time, "Absolutely Stanton. Everything is proceeding as planned. We've crunched the numbers and it's going to take thirty four freighters. They already started arriving in 4-4 this morning, one at a time, to avoid any suspicion. We are loading the freight at this moment. We should have everything loaded by 02:55. Ready for a departure of 03:00 to arrive in Nourvukaiken at 03:15."

"Excellent," Stanton replied, "I'll meet you in the hangar in the next 15 minutes. I'll be riding along in the bridge of the leading freighter."

Adin nodded his head, "Very good. We'll have a pod ready for you."

Stanton interrupted him, "No pod. I can't stand those things. I'll just go as a regular passenger."

Adin replied, "Stanton we'll do whatever you want, but if we get attacked..."

Stanton interrupted again, "If we get shot down I don't want to survive. It'll be over for me. But I have full faith that you will get us there safely."

"Absolutely, we will get everything there, including yourself, without a scratch." Adin replied confidently.

"Sounds great. I'll see you in ten minutes." Stanton replied, disconnecting the comm link.

Stanton moved into his quarters. He hastily changed clothing into a drab and unimpressive set of slacks, a t-shirt, and a hooded sweatshirt. He put on some dark sunglasses. Glancing in the mirror, he thought he looked ridiculous, but knew it was necessary to keep a low profile on his way to the station hangar. 

Before leaving his quarters, he took one final look through the window out at the station docking bay. It was late in the night and there were only a few ships entering and exiting the station. Very quiet. Just the way he wanted it.

--= Konicek Capital Station Hangar =--

Stanton strolled confidently into the station hangar. Even though the vast majority of his corporate stockpile had already been loaded on to the waiting freighters, what remained was still unimaginably awe inspiring to the eye. Pallets stacked several stories high stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction. Every single pallet was loaded full of missiles, rockets, depleted uranium shells, pulse laser crystals, bombs, torpedoes... pretty much every type of ammunition you could imagine. Massive machinery was zipping along picking up hundreds of pallets at a time and quickly transporting them to the gaping loading bays of the massive Charon freighters. Each freighter stretched more than a kilometer in length.

Adin met him at the entrance to the hangar. He shook Stanton's hand professionally before beginning his briefing. "Alright Stanton, the freight should all be loaded in the next twenty minutes. There are only three jumps between us and Nourvukaiken. It should be a very quick and easy trip."

Adin held up his holopad so Stanton could see the routing before continuing on, "As you requested, we are heavily defended. We have forty four Falcon-class force recon ships cloaked just outside the station. Each one has enough ECM to jam any potential adversary. We guarantee no one will lock up any of our freighters; whether they are trying to shoot or simply scan the cargo, we will deny any lock. Additionally, we have two scouts cloaked in every system along the way; one at the arriving stargate and the other at the departing stargate. Our routing has been reported clear for the last two hours. Very little activity tonight."

Adin looked up at Stanton, "Any questions?"

Stanton replied, "None. Thank you for your diligence."

"Alright then. If you'll just sign this final bill of lading we'll be ready to get moving." Adin directed.

Stanton entered a few commands into his holopad, "Done. Let's get going."

Adin nodded, "Follow me."

They were quickly approaching the leading Charon as Adin started speaking again, "Stanton, I make it a point to never mingle in the affairs of my clients, but I've never seen this much ammunition moved at one time. It's got me very curious. Do you mind filling me in?"

Stanton nodded, "At this point, there is no harm in disclosing anything." He pointed to the Caldari State emblem in the station hangar. "I've never been a fan of this Tibus Heth character. He seems like a lunatic to me. Neverthless, he's got his sights on the Black Rise. Nothing has kicked off yet, but I've got insider reports that something is going to happen in the next few hours."

Stanton pointed to the remaining pallets of ammunition being loaded on to the Freighters, "There is going to be a heavy demand for all of this in the coming weeks." He chuckled, "I've made absolutely certain that no one has as much of it as I do, and I'll be setting the price."

Adin grinned and nodded. "If you're right you'll be a very wealthy man. You'll prove all those pundits wrong."

Stanton paused before replying, "I'll celebrate when the last pallet is sold. Until then, I'll be hustling to close deals."

--= Bridge of the Lead Charon Freighter =--

This Charon was a hulking behemoth. Stanton had seen plenty of freighters in his career, but this was the first time he'd actually boarded one. The bridge was unbelievable. Hundreds of crew members were monitoring the ship's systems from their stations. The first officer approached Stanton and Adin, "Gentlemen, everything has been loaded. Capacitor is stable. Thrusters are online. We are ready to move."

Adin responded, "Outstanding. Is our routing clear?"

The first officer responded, "Yes sir, our scouts report no change in activity. Also, our recons are cloaked fifty kilometers off station. Inside jamming range if necessary."

Adin nodded, "Excellent. We've done enough waiting. Relay the order."

"Yes sir," the first officer replied and initiated communication with the rest of the convoy.

Stanton could hear the boosters of the massive freighter begin to fire. It seemed like several seconds elapsed before the billions of kilograms that made up the ship and its cargo began to lurch forward.

--= Outside of Jita 4-4 =--

Stanton watched anxiously from the perspective of the ship's camera drones as the last of the thirty four freighters exited the station. The entire procession stretched nearly one hundred kilometers in length as all of the freighters were lined up bow to stern. Aligning the entire convoy to the Ikuchi stargate took nearly five full minutes. Afterwards, the freighters slowly accelerated to warp.

Stanton was anxious to dock up in Nourvukaiken. He wasn't going to relax until everything had been safely delivered. With that said, he still took a few moments to reflect on the enormity of the situation. He had come from poverty; he started with nothing. Nevertheless, he now owned more than 84% of an interstellar import/export company, which effectively meant that he owned 84% of the billions of kilograms of materials that were now drifting, faster than the speed of light, through space. He was going to be a profiteer in one of the largest military campaigns in recent history.

The three jumps to Nourvukaiken went uneventfully. Before long the convoy had arrived at the Caldari Navy Assembly Plant at Nourvukaiken planet seven moon ten. The freighters had finished docking up and the billions of charges of ammunition were being unloaded in the docking bay.

Adin approached Stanton as he peered over the observation deck looking at rows upon rows of ammunition. Adin patted him on the back, "Well Stanton, everything has been delivered. We've received our payment and wish you the best of luck in your venture."

Stanton smiled back, "Thank you. You guys are cleared off whenever you're ready to go."

"Absolutely, we'll be on our way out of here in the next few hours. We'll be sure to leave one at a time to not bring too much attention. Thirty four freighters pouring out of a station like this can certainly raise some eyebrows." Adin replied.

Stanton nodded "Thank you." He headed into the captain's quarters assigned to him by the station manager.

--= Captain's Quarters in Nourvukaiken 7-10 =--

Stanton was busy setting up all the sell orders. He had crunched the numbers on everything before arriving and was double checking his invoices.

Rudy walked into the Captain's quarters. Stanton was relieved to see him. "Rudy, I'm glad you made it. I thought you might have got lost in all the movement."

Rudy nodded and didn't waste any time, "Sir, have you seen the latest reports? I think you'll be delighted." Rudy brought up the news on his holopad.

Stanton leaned back, smiling, as he read the headline: "CONCORD Sanctions the Emergency Militia War Powers Act."

Stanton grinned, "Excellent!" He stood up quickly, "Rudy, in the next few days this system is going to be heavily trafficked by capsuleer fleets. Tibus Heth wants the Black Rise and we're going to meet his needs with ammunition. No one has the stockpile we do. NO ONE."

Rudy smiled, "I'm glad your plans are coming to fruition."

Stanton nodded, "but first things first. Have you finalized the alliance?"

Rudy slid the holopad across the table, "Yes sir, you just need to sign the agreement." He paused a moment before continuing, "You are forming an alliance with the Catalan Mercenary Corporation. Per the agreement, you are the designated leader of the alliance."

Stanton nodded again, "Excellent. That's how it was supposed to be arranged." He electronically signed the alliance pact.

Stanton continued, "Next step. The declaration of war."

Rudy looked pleased with himself, "Yes sir, I've actually pre-drafted that for you. Here it is." He brought the declaration of war up on the holopad. "Alright sir, as you requested, your alliance will be declaring war on the twelve corporations you felt would be potential competitors in ammunition sales."

Stanton quickly signed the declaration of war, "Outstanding. We have a twenty four hour warm-up period. CONCORD will sanction the use of force after that time." He paused, "How much isk is left in the corporate accounts?"

Rudy paused while bringing up the information, "It looks like we have 6.8 billion isk on hand at the moment. If our cash flow stays consistent we will have just over two billion remaining by the end of the week. Just as you requested."

Stanton nodded, "Excellent, you can cancel all buy orders for ammunition in Jita once the declaration of war is accepted by CONCORD. Until then, outbid everyone."

"Yes sir, I'll see to it." Rudy responded "Anything else for the moment?"

Stanton replied quickly, "Yes, connect me to Benedict Cayne, the CEO of the Catalan Mercenary Corporation." 

"Connecting you now sir" Rudy replied.

A brief moment passed before Benedict appeared on screen. He was a tall dark haired man with a scar running across his face.

"Are your men ready?" Stanton asked.

"Absolutely sir. What are the orders?" Benedict replied.

Stanton brought up the Nourvukaiken system map and referenced it as he specified his defense requirements, "In less than 24 hours our war declaration will be sanctioned by CONCORD. The corporations we've dec'd may likely try to bring war supplies into Nourvukaiken. You must NOT let them enter the system. I want your men camping all gates in system around the clock. Engage any war targets on sight, shoot to kill. We will reimburse your corp one hundred million isk per day and fifty million isk per kill."

Benedict nodded, "Simple enough. That's not a problem. We'll be there in the next two hours. That system will be locked down. You have nothing to worry about."

"Outstanding," Stanton replied. "See you then."

Stanton disconnected the comm channel. He turned to Rudy, "Alright, do you have the messages drafted?"

Rudy nodded, "Yes sir, the message you'd like sent to the twelve enemy corporations is drafted. I've put it on your screen for review."

Stanton looked down at his holopad. He read the message to make certain everything was perfectly clear:

To whom it may concern,

This is Stanton Reade. I am the CEO of Konicek Capital and leader of the Konicek Group alliance. We have declared war on your corporation, and are sending this notification to clear up any confusion:

We have established a profitable trade operation in the Nourvukaiken star system. We will shoot any members of your corporation on sight if they arrive in system.

However, we will not engage or otherwise interfere, with your operations in any other system. You may continue your regular business operations without fear of violence so long as your operations do not take you to the Nourvukaiken star system.

We hope this clarifies the terms of the agreement.

Thank you

"Excellent Rudy. That says it perfectly." Stanton nodded, "you can send this message immediately."

Rudy nodded as he entered a few commands on his holopad, "Yes sir, I just sent it."

Stanton paused for what seemed like a full minute. He looked everything over on his holopad and then paused as he drummed his fingers on the desk. 

"It's done."

--= Two Months Later in Jita 4-4 =--

Stanton sipped the expensive Gallentean wine as he leaned back in his leather chair and peered at the ships entering and exiting Jita 4-4 from his executive suite.

The weeks in Nourvukaiken had passed beautifully. Thousands of militia ships had poured into the system upon the passing of the Emergency Militia War Powers act. The fighting in the region had reached a feverish pitch and the sales of weapons and ammunition filled the coffers of Konicek Capital with a seemingly insurmountable amount of isk. The company had managed to more than triple its assets while at the same time wipe itself clean of all outstanding debt. When it was all said and done, the company had amassed just shy of seven hundred billion isk.

As the last pallet of ammunition was placed in the cargo bay of its buyer, Stanton gracefully began closing his business operation in Nourvukaiken. He terminated the declaration of war on the corporations he had blockaded (none of which had attempted to break into the system) and disbanded the alliance with the Catalan Mercenary Corporation after paying for their services.

Adin Batova of Black Star freight had met Stanton in the Nourvukaiken 7-10 docking bay and safely transported him back to Jita 4-4 in a cloaked Force Recon cruiser. When Stanton arrived in Jita his contracted security personnel were pre-positioned to prevent any news journalists or rival corporate personnel from impeding his path as he walked, victoriously, through the station hangar and back to the heights of his executive suite.

As a result of the windfall profits, the stock price of Konicek Capital had soared to unprecedented levels. Stanton's net worth was now over six hundred billion isk. 

As he sat confidently in his executive suite he looked up at the holographic depiction of the Eve Cluster projected over his desk. He peered back and forth between a few regions. His lip curled as the gears inside his entrepreneurial mind began to turn. After a few moments, a massive grin began to manifest itself on his face.

"Rudy..." he said.

"Yes sir?" Rudy replied.

"How much is in the accounts?" Stanton asked.

"More than we can possibly ever use." Rudy replied.

"Excellent, because I've got a plan that's going to make us a lot of isk." Stanton grinned.