Susan looked over the table to the man who sat across from her. Two cups of coffee were placed on the table-top between them, packets of sugar and milk next to the cups. The man, Haru Matsumato, stared back. He was not very tall, middle aged. Greying hair adorned the top of his broad face. He wore a crumpled, light-grey business suit. A pen was stuck in the breast pocket of his off-white shirt, the black tie had been loosened. He held his hands below the table-top and leaned forward.
'It is a great honor to finally meet you, Carlton-sama.' His English had a thick accent, with a lisp. He bowed his head slightly, seemingly oblivious to the hatred Susan felt for this man.
'You have a lot of nerve to seek me out here, of all places. You are aware you're at the center of my power, aren't you?'
Haru smiled at her and bowed his head again. `Yes, lady Carlton, I am perfectly aware of our surroundings. I would like for you to regard my presence here as a gesture of good will. I have come to pay you my respect.'
Susan felt anger and hatred surge through her body. She felt as if she was giving off waves of heat. But she couldn't afford to make a scene here: all around them, diplomats were mingling, accompanied by their interpreters. Business as usual at the UN headquarters. Susan quickly composed herself and averted her eyes. She shifted in her seat uneasily. 'How did you get in, anyway?'
Haru smiled again, perhaps he sensed that he had forced her into a defensive posture. 'I know that you have little love for me, that is why I came to see you. I had to... manipulate certain things to be able to get in.' He showed her a chipcard.
With a shock, Susan realised it: the security systems were all managed by computers. Put your chipcard in a reader, and the doors would open if you had access to the section of the complex that laid beyond. Computers were Haru's Power: he could manipulate them at will. He would not have any trouble at all to gain access to any room in the whole UN complex.
Haru was a God, and computers were his Power. He had power over anything computer-controlled. He had given this chipcard to the security guards, concentrated briefly on the machine reading the card. He had changed the intricate web of currents ever so slightly and the machine had beeped its approval.
Haru Matsumato, the God of Computers, was the opponent of Susan Carlton, the Goddess of Diplomacy and Social Gatherings. He was the Hades to her Demeter, the Ares to her Athene.
Susan tried to hide her shock. She regarded the chipcard with horror. 'Would you threaten me in my own palace?'
'I am sorry you hold me capable of such an act. I have come to offer you an alliance: our interests complement each other.' Haru tried to smile, but his smile faded as he saw the look in Susan's eyes.
'Complement!?' Susan howled. Several heads turned in their direction at the sudden explosion of sound. Susan blushed and sat down again.
'Yes, complement. I have... stimulated the recent growth of chat and instant messaging software, enabling people to gather virtually, to exchange ideas in an open manner. Don't you think you and me would make a great combination?'
This time, Susan held her voice in check. 'I'd rather die than cooperate with you and your bunch of shady henchmen!' She stood up and picked up her handbag. 'This conversation is over. If you are prudent, you will be gone by the time I come back.'
Haru got to his feet with a miserable expression on his face. As Susan dissapeared amongst the crowd of diplomats, he bowed to her back. Perhaps out of habit.
Susan flicked her mobile phone open and used the speed-dial to make a call. The call was connected instantaneous, for she was calling Robert Heart. Robert was the God of Communication and this phone had been a gift from him. Susan didn't know how it worked, but each time she called someone, they almost always picked up their phone immediately. Often, they would say they were thinking of her and had been considering calling her.
'It's me,' rasped a hoarse voice.
'Hello Robert, it's Susan. Haru has shown up here. He's making thinly veiled threats, it seems this time we have to go head-to-head. Can you contact the others and call in a meeting?'
'Of course I can. What time? Eight o'clock, usual place?'
'Sounds good to me. Will be seeing you then.' Without breaking her stride, Susan closed the mobile phone shut, ending the conversation.
She was worried: Haru's clique was powerful. He had gathered a rag-tag band of Gods around him: impressionable losers who didn't know how to handle their powers and the great responsibility that came with them. Some didn't even know they were Gods until Haru had opened their eyes to their unique talents. Haru had trained them and honed their skills. Now, they formed a mighty group that had manipulated world events in the past and showed no signs of slowing down. Haru's merry band included such Gods as Lightning and Soil, but also Roads and Agriculture. They were a strange group who called themselves 'Haru's pantheon'. They seemed to be determined to dominate every aspect of daily life.
Susan had a 'pantheon' of her own as well. Besides Communication, the Gods of Fire, Education and Mining had aligned themselves to her cause. Susan's pantheon was dedicated to 'maximising human happiness', as they called it. Democracy, peace and open dialogues were the things they tried to stimulate. Rather than manipulating the world via their portfolios, they wanted the humans to change from within, because such changes were better in the long run.
The two pantheons had been on opposing ends of certain issues before, but it had never escalated into open warfare. Now Haru had, apparently, decided to do away with subtlety. Open hostilities between the two groups would result in lots of chaos and bloodshed (not all of it necessarily amongst the Gods: normal humans could get trapped in the crossfire) and would destroy everything Susan's group had worked on for so long. She just could not let that happen!
Questions I seek answer to:
- Info-dump: clear enough? Too dense, or just right?
- Do the characters 'live'? Are their motivations clear and believable?
- Are the reasons for the conflict between Haru and Susan clear?
- Other comments?