Chapter 284 An Evolution in Each Category
When Vladimir finished speaking, everyone in the room had a more detailed understanding of the situation in Crimea.
"Why's he leading an investigation in the field when he's obviously ministerial material?" Putin asked the head of the FSB.
Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the FSB, was in the meeting room with the other ministers of the Russian government in order to debrief Vladimir after his mission. However, he'd never thought he would be put on the spot by being asked a question like that, nor had he expected Vladimir would turn out to be such an effective field agent compared to his previous record.
"He's still under investigation. There was a mess about an FSB agent being kidnapped from their home, and," he gestured toward Vladimir, "that agent is him. He maintains that he doesn't remember anything between the time he was kidnapped and when he woke up in the hospital."
"What's your finding in that investigation? I recall that incident happened quite a few months ago, so you should have some kind of result," Putin asked.
"Nothing substantial. We can't tell if he was captured and compromised, or if everything's just as he says. So we decided to put him in the field until we know for sure," answered Bortnikov.
"It seems like you've found nothing, then," Putin bluntly said. Then he added, "Bring him to the Kremlin starting next week."
Vladimir had just been promoted from a field agent in Ukraine directly to Putin's inner circle of advisors.
"But sir... there's still a chance that he's been compromised," Bortnikov said. He couldn't immediately agree to promoting the man, not when he knew there were still risks and that Vladimir would be beyond his reach after entering Putin's inner circle.
"Just do it. If we find something later, we can deal with it then," Putin said in a tone that brooked no arguments. 𝗯𝐞𝗱𝐧𝗼𝐯𝐞𝗹.𝗰𝗼𝗺
"Yes, sir," Bortnikov said. Putin had put down his foot and he would risk his directorship if he were to argue the point any further. And if he displeased his leader, he risked being quietly disappeared to some gulag in Siberia that nobody—not even him—knew about.
The debriefing continued as the ministers, military leaders, and intelligence analysts raised questions for Vladimir to answer.
Half an hour later, Vladimir was in a private meeting with Putin and Bornikov.
"I was quite impressed by the level of information you found and the way you presented it," Putin said as he maintained eye contact with Vladimir, who had yet to receive permission to sit.
"Thank you, sir," Vladimir replied neither arrogantly nor humbly.
"That's why I asked for you to be moved to the Kremlin. I have a perfect use for a detail-oriented person like you—are you up for it?" Putin offered. If Vladimir declined, he would just order him to do the job anyway; nobody he wanted could ever escape his grasp.
"Thank you for the opportunity, sir," Vladimir replied. He sounded like he was holding back his excitement.
"Good. Bortnikov will brief you on your new task, and who your new team will be. Make sure you don't disappoint me." Before waiting for a reply, Putin stood and walked out the door, leaving Vladimir behind for the head of the FSB to brief him on his task.
Bornikov wasted no time in introducing Vladimir's new task to him. It marked the beginning of the soon-to-be-ex spy's climb up the Russian government ladder.
Meanwhile, in Eden, the restructuring of Aron's companies was put into effect without any announcement being made to the public. The new companies were registered, the incorporation of the old companies was registered, and divisions were divested and picked up as the internal reshuffling took place. Everything was done in plain sight, but only for those who cared to look for it.
It wasn't until people noticed the changes on the companies' websites, or the new names on their utility and internet bills, that they realized what had happened. Just those subtle changes were enough to make them realize the companies were connected. They may not know exactly what the corporate structure was, or at least they wouldn't know without actively looking for it, but what was obvious was that Aron was among the leadership. That much was obvious—the new name on their internet bills was his own personal company, GAIA Technologies.
The intricate web of connections was only further deepened in their minds when Connect and Hephaestus released a joint press conference announcing that Felix was stepping down as CEO of Connect and taking up the position of president of Hephaestus Industries, Incorporated.
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The internet immediately exploded, with conspiracy theorists crowing the accuracy of their conjectures from the proverbial rooftops. The link between Connect, GAIA, and Hephaestus was now confirmed, which meant Helios had also been a part of it all along!
The resulting war of words caused the websites that tried guessing Aron's net worth to more than double the amount, from thirty to sixty-five billion, making him not only the youngest self-made billionaire, but also one of the richest people in the world.
But while all that speculation was taking place, neither Aron, Felix, nor Sarah cared enough to even make an announcement. And even if they did, they didn't have the time, as they were busy preparing for the product launch that would be happening soon. Currently, they were in a meeting in VR for full-scale demonstrations of the new tech that was slated for release.
But first, there was another pressing matter that needed to be addressed.
[The list is out, and here's the people who are highly likely to agree to our offer. They're in very desperate positions, so they'll agree even if they know what'll happen to them,] Nova said, materializing profiles of the people and the industries they specialized in. She organized the lists so each of the candidates were sorted into the newly founded companies.
They were all fairly unknown people, making them perfect candidates to join Aron's conglomerate. Not surprising in the least was that they all had families that were in very precarious positions as well. Some had wives that had left them, others were on the verge of divorce, and there were even a few with other difficulties, such as long-term, chronic illnesses or other disabilities. There was even one on the list that had an abusive spouse, but couldn't leave them out of fear for their life.
As Aron read the profiles, he couldn't help but feel bad for all of them. But that was all he felt for them: pity. The same could be said for his friends as they joined him in silently reading the profiles; all three of them had the ability to separate emotion from "proper" business.
"The candidates are all people with some level of knowledge in their field, and they're all desperate enough to agree to our offer. Their individual situations should make it easy enough to convince any of them," Aron said when he finished reading the profiles. He didn't know what to think about his slowly diminishing capacity for empathy; it just seemed normal to him, thanks to his recent developments.
"Emotions are one of humanity's weaknesses, but also our strongest motivation," he continued.
He had realized that his reaction to everything in front of him was different than what one would expect from a "normal" human and finally noticed the impact of his evolution. It was a truly mysterious thing, being able to separate emotion from action, and he would need to reflect on how and why it happened. His current hypothesis was that his emotions would be numbed if they were deemed harmful at any given time. But the question remained: who, or what, was the one that made that call?
His friends continued reading, but they were slightly more "normal" in their reactions to the situations of the profiled individuals. They were fundamentally different from Aron, who had the ability to completely separate his two halves. Felix and Sarah could only try their hardest to achieve that.
At least for now, anyway.