Chapter 1A by Tobias Nixon
Davis Lockyer’s 3 bedroom apartment, 7:02:09 Rosebay by the water
Davis Lockyer left the realm of dreams. He was a daywalker once more and an emperor no more. He woke gradually, rolling groggily out of his fart sack to hit the smoothly ground.
The alarm clock started buzzing five seconds later, and died just as quickly from a well aimed shoe travelling at close to the speed of sound. His morning routine started... now. One thousand bicycle crunches, then fifty chin-ups from the bar hanging above the bedroom door.
Bam! The Suns up, bright rays burn through the wide open glass, his eyes light up and shift focus. Pushups... always until his arms are burnt and the pain has turned to the numbness that signals the onset of lactic acid induced muscular failure.
Protein, carbs, water; the holy mantra of millions of gym junkies. His body was toned and proportioned. Sculptured so that the limbs and torso were hard and thin like a boxer, with the same amount of body fat.
Lean and quick as his brain processes 3 different channels. Financial news, overnight, overseas aggregated market data and proposals already flowing through from the centralised trading platform that the company ran.
The days trades, the daily grind. He runs. It’s what he does, to unwind and to think. To and from work every day. 10 km in 38 minutes. It wouldn’t get him to the Olympics, but then he didn’t run for others, he ran for himself. Each day to start the grind with a map he built on the way to work.
His mental map for how to get to X. Where X was a giant gold pyramid with Davis sitting on top. Of course being a prodigious runner also helped to burn the long lunch on the way home.
Long lunches were as much a part of business as data analysis and board room brawls. You needed clients with fat bankrolls if you wanted to build the world’s greatest private equity firm.
Muscles bulged while he adjusted to the strain of the final uphill climb on the way to work.
“Whenever your mind imagines a challenge, the world has another, greater one in store for you Davis. Always remember mate, your work is never done until it’s started...” his uncle Cub’s words.
The words of bear, from the mouth of his brother cub.
“Life was never simple, until it got complicated. Then, when the shit really started, the men stood up and the boys walked away.”
This time the words of cub, but in the voice of bear.
A simpler world, containing people he would never see again, that he wanted so desperately to speak to one last time. Life truly was a one way road, with most people waiting till they were at the end of the street before realising it was too late. But pain, pain was a tangible asset. His to induce and control.
He was near work. Time to put memories of childhood back in his mind box. He remembered what happened when he let emotions get in the way of professional ambition.
Reverie replaced with hunger. Success is the motivating character in the drive to conquer fear. But for Davis failure was the one word he just didn’t understand. Nothing in this life could not be conquered. He knew how to step it up whether by concentration, determination or longer hours at work.
This credo wasn’t universally shared. Most of his work buddies just tried to get through their nine to five workloads. Even so most ended up pulling ten to twelve hour days just to do that.
This was a young man’s game. A game that chewed up and spat out ninety nine for everyone it let slip through.
“If you start with nothing, what you feel is no less real, so when you are finally, truly nothing you will realise there is still so much more.”
Bear and cub standing in the faintest of shadows their voices in unison and barely a ripple...
His office was a shared cubicle space. Spiralling out from a central lift well. The entire floor of Level 8, 42 Martin Place represented the culmination of eighty years of Techred, Coutil and Banks’ business acumen.
The space above each cubicle dripped with hanging monitors and huge flat panel TVs displaying detailed rate and equity charts and streams of datasets. The odd spare panel beamed the fox sports feed with replays of NRL and AFL games.
Stock tickers ran the numbers in an endless flow. Clean unadorned charts that zigzagged in response to the ever changing sentiment of that most elusive of personalities, Mr Market.
His desk was more or less a microcosm of this high tech den. The four flat panel monitors and quad core i9 64bit workstation were the tools of his trade. But the twenty thousand dollar custom leather back chair was probably his most substantial, but necessary luxury, he gently reminded himself.
Davis ran the key equities team, which had a wide ranging brief to gain exposure domestically as well as in key Asian markets. The teams research assistant Ronnie came over with his morning macchiato.
“Mmm tanks Ronnie, gotta say mate ya looking unbelievable. How much weight have you lost?”
“Hai! Achtung Davis”
“Why are you about to spill coffee all over that Chart pack?”
“Mmm I love it when you try and talk German to me, by the way Friday drinks, ja?”
“Will you bring me jugs of Hahn premium all night, balanced between you, ah Jugs?”
“Nein that would seem unlikely...”
“Ok! It’s a hard skill to master... I’ll give you until the end of the month. By the way where’tcha get this macchiato it’s delicious, just like you”
“Cafe lab on my way from Wynyard they do it well, do they?”
Ronnie smiles in a genuine and intriguing way. She cocks her head looks away then just as she looks back she raises her eyes, making them big and engaging. At this point most male, and some female visitors were putty in her hands.
Gorgeous and highly intelligent research assistants imported from Germany were only one of the many fringe benefits of working for TCB. As companies went TCB tended to take employee satisfaction, and therefore retention, very seriously.
At thirty two he was already middle aged by the standards of his industry. No touch of grey, Davis loved what he did, and you never needed to stress if you didn’t lose too often he reflected.
“There is only the one true path, hold to the centre” – Bear.
The meeting was with a shadowy Lebanese biker. The guy called himself, Bill “Firehead” Kaboul. He preferred “Firehead”. He wanted access to the firms enhanced rates, and, with the kind of flows this guy had promised, Davis’s job was to do anything possible to make that happen.
Davis decided casual and charming was probably the best lead. He was leaning back in his chair, right leg laying loosely across his left, left hand twirling a gold plated pen expertly between his fingers five or six times a second. Overall it was a carefully crafted image of casual anticipation. Davis was smiling a big white toothed grin as Bill entered the room.
“Please to meet you Mr Kaboul. On behalf of my firm TCB I’d like to say how excited we are to be working with your company.”
“Listen...”, FireHead pauses leaning menacingly across the table, slamming his closed right fist like a boulder against the expensive teak table,
“Cut the BS matey. I’m a Black Skull. We don’t represent the kind of business you normally deal with.”
Davis waited several seconds, letting the raw tension of the moment drain away.
“I appreciate that, how can we help?”
“Your firm is looking to expand its operations into Asia with at least three billion dollars in new funding, but in today’s market you’ll never get that kind of wholesale funding and maintain your current profit margins... you’d have to increase TCB’s already impressive returns by another four to five points, which of course everybody knows is impossible.”
“You seem well informed of our current operational strategy Bill, for a biker...”
“Don’t be fooled sonny there are lots of kinds of bikers, the Skulls are an international organisation these days and we aren’t really good at trusting outsiders with our accounting. It’s funny never thought riding a hog would get me into tax law, haw haw haw”
“Impressive, but in all honesty we need alot of money to get the next phase of expansion right, were you looking for a couple of points stake? Our firm also has some other excellent existing funds under management”
“No! You misunderstand, the Skulls will wire you the entire amount you seek.”
Davis outwardly didn’t change, he remained calm, but inside his head a storm was brewing.
“The entire sum? Ok, Not to be rude, but what exactly do you want in return Bill? Why not spread the Skulls money out, minimise their risk for a small cut in profit, I can show you how to get a better than market return on that kind of sum.”
FireHead looked at him deadpan, then let out an enormous belly laugh,
“I think that if I wanted to minimise risks I would not be in the business I am... Davis.”
Davis returned a deadpan expression,
“hmmm, ok, so you’re looking for high yield returns, which is what my firm specialises in. The problem you have though is your going to be investing a large amount of capital. That kind of amount comes with liquidity problems, problems that again our firm is well positioned to assist you with.”
“For such assistance we will require a fee of eight percent.”
Davis turned to face the much older bikie. His old leather vest reeked of sweat and oil. His girth was so large it rested on the armchair’s arm rests. His hair was rough and blown from thousands of kilometres riding bare back in the hard Aussie sun, wind ripping through him as he rode his ancient Harley machine.
But his eyes. His eyes were precise diamonds that cut straight through Davis. Here was a man that was equally at home at an outback pub brawl, or in one of the cities corporate boardroom brawls.
His eyes contained a simple message, don’t fuck with me, or I will fuck you and everyone you know. Not a boast, just a promise. Old school.
Both parties stared at each other for long minutes, Davis could feel the tension, but this was not the moment to break it.
As if by some strange miracle Davis looked over to the left out the massive glazed windows towards the opera house. The sun blazed through, and something else. A strange glint as if from metal. It was metal. A huge metal object, hurtling through space incredibly fast.
Blades whirling at impossible angles. Huge counter rotating blades that scythed through the air towards his window. Davis, even if he knew what he was looking at, which he did not, had no way to process the rapid sequence of events that was currently unfolding.
“Get down mate, nowwwww!” growled Firehead in a guttural snarl.
Davis felt a dull thud, and the rough shoulder of Firehead crashing into his back. Firehead had moved round the table and was in the process of crash tackling the both of them towards the door and the floor in no particular order.
Somewhere extremely close by, Davis felt rather than heard the sound of a massive explosion. The sound was exquisite torture to the ear. A harpy’s shriek, red hot steel had reached melting point, causing any remaining fuel to explode.
Twisted metal tearing through metal and glass. Jet fuel burning.
A twisted wreckage of what looked like the front of a helicopter coming towards the two of them with impossible speed. Even with Firehead’s tackle they were metres short as the shrieking steel, should, have flattened them like pancakes. In effect it should be cutting them to pieces and then barbequing the leftovers to a blackened charcoaled crisp right about now.
Instead his body was shaking violently. The axis of the room wobbled alarmingly, seeming to reset the horizontal to the vertical. For a moment he sensed rather than saw a ripple effect spread out from the far wall.
The room itself took on a dream like feel. Walls no longer had hard edges.
Firehead was missing, and so was the source of the explosion. There was simply no end to the vibrations that savagely broke through every layer of his being in waves of pain. Then came the fire.
An elemental being of light and energy seemed to engulf the room,
“Nothing escapes, everything burns!” it shrieked at Davis.
It turned its huge dragon like head towards him. Massive overlong arms reached out. Each finger tip was a short lance of fiery molten lava. It wanted to shove those lances through him. It wanted to rip his soul apart. He could hardly move.
This new realm had another dreamlike quality. It was all but impossible to control. His feet felt like they were buried in molasses. Another ripple ran down the far wall.
The timing was just as well. He suddenly felt a burst of energy in the dream and moved rapidly back from the hulking fire daemon that was stalking him across the room. Then the room wobbled again, and cub was there dancing in wisps of smoke.
“Bear says you must hurry young nephew, we will try to hold this thing back, but it is beyond us to do so for very long”, said cub in an ethereal voice.
It echoed from beyond reality. Like ripples across a lake.
Davis cracked a wicked smile wishing he had the power necessary to speak back to Cub, but it was all he could do just to move his legs. The true dreaming had begun. The fire thing cracked its left maw, dripping hot molten droplets to the ground. It was preparing to crush them, battle must be joined.
Its right arm was raised high, as it approached. The slow speed of its advance mirrored the arrogance that raced across the black daemon eyes. Cub was still dancing in the smoke. Davis looked closer and realised he was dancing above a corroboree fire.
Around him the smoke seemed trapped, billowing up his sides but never straying more than a few inches from him. It rose to a point like a burning gas flame. A point that challenged the eyes to follow. Trapped within a cave that was not a cave, in a dream that was no longer a dream. Was the room a cube or a sphere?
The eons of mutual animosity that these two types of creatures shared was impossible to quantify. The nature of their battle however was not.
The other arm was like a skewer. While one of the defenders went low and bashed the legs of the daemon, its arm drove through his two buddies, finishing them with hot jets of molten lava.
He suspected it would not be an easy choice. The bats of the creatures were keeping the daemon at bay but were making little headway towards killing it. Suddenly one of them shrieked what sounded like a command at Davis’s uncle Cub.