Southtown Syndicate - House Advantage

Description: Geese Howard arrives to survey the reconstruction of the Capital 7, overseen by the newly promoted Li Xiao Wen. They discuss their philanthropy and the betterment of Metro City, of course.

The Capital 7 does not look like a place ready to open. Crews have been busy--legitimate crews, that is, construction crews--revamping the place. It is a hive of activity, and Li has been very busy with the directing of the plans.

Currently he's in the office area, the first place that was redone, with blueprints spread out over the large conference table, when one of his men sticks his head in. "Sir. Mr. Howard is here." To that, Li looks up, and nods.

"Thank you, Jon. Make sure we have refreshments, and bring him in, without delay." This is, after all, ultimately Geese's venture... even if it was Li's idea. He can't just expect the man to front the money and not take an interest in it. Dressed in a natty, but somber suit, Li fusses a bit, making sure he's wearing it perfectly, before straightening and looking at the doors, waiting for them to open.

The Capital 7 is a venture that Geese is, or was, familiar with. The stream of funding it provided led to the treacherous Elle's little private security army, and even if he seldom dealt directly with the unpredictable mercenary, Howard makes it his business... to be very aware. It's part of why the shadowy Syndicate overseer takes a personal hand, usually quite quietly, in many of the operation's individual initiatives.

Particularly when they involve an operative only recently charged, or trusted, with this level of income and potential exposure. Li Xiao Wen, well... Geese appreciates men of ambition and capacity. Often, they accumulate for themselves, and his organization, a tremendous amount of money and power. Other times, they hang themselves on their own hubris. Either way is pretty enjoyable to watch, and the channels by which Li achieves his funding, well; tracking it back to Geese Howard is one step shy of impossible.

Geese's own suit is fine Italian work tailored precisely to his imposing stature, a product largely born of the man's fitness and intense focus more than his overall size. ... or perhaps simply his reputation. "Tearing the place up. Wise." It's observed when the suited 'businessman' advances on Li's desk, and starts to thumb through the blueprints. There are legends of Geese's hospitality to his lieutenants; the posh meetings, the ornate gifts, the privileges of working with the Syndicate, and the most dapper of dons, so long as Big isn't there to contest the title. Here, however, he's direct, straight to business, even in the compliment. God -knows- what Blackjack has hidden in this place. Wouldn't do to leave any of that unknown for later. "What's next?"

"Crews are going through and checking for... traps. Or anything else." Li's brow wrinkles. "The dregs of the former owners were -actually making drugs- in the basement. No sense of operational security at all. I doubt that Belmounte would've let that happen while she was in charge."

Quietly, the man Jon comes in, with a couple of snifters, an ice bucket, and some very fine cognac--he pours two, on the rocks, and Li nods his appreciation, though he barely sips his. Perhaps he doesn't like to drink all that much.

"Once we're done sweeping--it shouldn't be more than a day or so--we'll start the actual renovations. We want this to be a place people come to spend their money, after all." His lips quirk upwards, in a non-innocent way.

"However they want to spend that money, of course. We're going to excavate the Purgatory level, re-do it entirely. Our clientele... won't always be satisfied with just -watching-... and they can see a fight anywhere. Ours will be... unique." Turning, he takes a smaller blueprint off the table behind him, and spreads it out atop the other.

"Not just audience participation, of course. We'll have other things to work with..."

The whole 'ancient ninja witch' vibe may not be right up Xiao's alley, clearly. Quite the history to the lowest levels of the casino, almost tangible in the air in parts. Renovating the affair could only help the 'flow', right? Not that they're doing it for magnanimous purposes, "Audience participation, hmm? Find an insurance company that will play ball, yet?" Howard doesn't seem to consider that a big obstacle, "... or a system for quieting the.. dissatisfied?" He has to smirk slightly, at that.

The documentation of the actual affair is glanced at, traced, but more in a cursory fashion than that of a man with a passionate interest in that element of the operation. It just pays to make sure whoever -is- paying attention has a head on their shoulders. That his lieutenant has it organized and in-hand. So far, he seems satisfied. "I strongly suggest you keep the 7 free of hard drugs and Glow, yes. That's Federal task-force territory, and until blowback on the Metro operations is fully redirected, you'll want to fly low." Not a bad rule in general; one reason Geese is still (re)alive.

Geese lifts his glass and toasts silently to his host, sipping lightly and briefly as he paces the office, taking measure of the views and luxury that will soon replace the dust and cluttered debris and materials. "Even the perfectly legitimate aspects of your business plan are a tremendous potential revenue stream... and hub for intelligence and political dealing." Not even touching on the benefits of the underground circuit and discretionary clientele that Xiao brings to the fore.

Li shakes his head, emphatically. "No hard drugs, no Glow. They want to hire a call girl up to their room, that's fine. I'll even supply them, discreetly--I can get girls who are good, who are clean, and who know to keep their mouths shut. They want exotic alcohols... as long as they're willing to pay. They want to get high? They can go into the slums for that."

"Oh, no. No insurance. That'll be one of the draws, you see. The clientele who are... invited down to that level will have to understand.. we won't make them sign waivers, of course, we don't want a paper trail, but they'll understand that arrangements will be made." He glances at the plans, nods. "We'll charge them more the closer they want to be. The closest will be able to... get involved... if they wish... to a greater extent. The fighters we bring in... well. They'll understand, too. Though I don't want to make deathmatches a... regular thing."

He sips his drink and smirks at Geese through it, ironically. "Bodies are -such- a pain to hide. Of course, we'll keep records of everything. For informational purposes." After all, plenty of high rollers will have plenty of connections here and there. And it will be invite-only--very, -very- exclusive.

"They certainly can." It's an acknowledgement of the slums of Metro that could be taken... a half-dozen appropriate and accurate ways, really. Geese doesn't seem inclined to expound on his personal perspective, though. Being able to get what one needs, though? That's just part and parcel of being an officer in the organization that Li finds himself part of. Even at their weakest, with Geese incapacitated, incommunicado, and Southtown seized... the Syndicate's reach, its resources, remained something few would have wanted to test.

"I doubt it will be any more difficult to coordinate than the deathTRAP matches." Howard observes with a dark little chuckle. "The lack of oversight and security will be a draw for the kind of people you are thinking about, yes." Geese pretty much -has- to concede that point. It's possible he was even thinking about it when he initially asked. "I doubt I have to tell you to keep the record-keeping compartmentalized." After all, someone else can always take the fall if 'illegal fight club turns deadly' becomes a headline, that way.

Geese pauses, considering the plans and possibilities, before offering two succinct nods. "Excellent." He doesn't steeple his fingers, this time. "I've stepped into the Pit myself, several times." During his most recent bout of introspective and reclusive training and reorganization. "An -added- layer of unpredictability will be quite the intriguing challenge."

It's a mild rebuke, and one that didn't really need saying, but Li Xiao Wen is not about to argue the point. Reminders are useful. "Of course. We'll have plenty of protection... through blackmail, of course, amongst many other means. Of course, our... team members... will be allowed in the Pit any time they like..." And they might have a few advantages, though the more obvious fixing will be verboten in most circumstances. People won't come to a game if they -know- it's rigged.

"It should be quite exciting. Once we're done with the upper-level renovations we'll open for public business... I expect we'll have a gala event, perhaps invite some famous fighters to have some charity matches... a small loss of capital to engender goodwill. To make the people love us. It will take us some time to finalize the plans for the Pit, regardless... but there's no reason we can't continue work on that while the public facilities are running."

Glancing to a stack of dossiers, he lifts it up and flips through it, then sets that on the conference table. "Some possible recruits for the Pit," he says, gesturing at the dossiers. "Men known for rough and tumble fighting... some who no one will miss, and some who are known to want that danger. A good mix."

"Of course." It's good to be part of the club, at times like this. Geese created the club partially for just that reason, after all! Access. Knowledge. Privilege seized through power and foresight. "Don't misunderstand me, though. A dishonest game is a risk for the public, but also completely dampens the challenge." There are places for a fight to go one way, or another. Statements or political maneuvers to be made; but not when stepping into a sweat and blood underground ring to test one's mettle. Geese might not even mind someone trying to out and out kill him. ... though those responsible might not like the reprisals that would follow.

"I'll have someone from our marketing and investment divisions contact you, work out details for the gala... and ensure a long list of interested and prominent figures to draw money and exposure." Not to mention getting a list of businessmen and elected officials on the record supporting a Syndicate venture. Again. "It worked rather well when we rebuilt Metro City, after all." Luckily, Rolento didn't actually -nuke- the place. He picks up the stack of fighter dossiers, thumbing absently through them, eyeballing styles and highlights, alongside faces he might know.

"Oh, most matches will be as even as the crowd will allow. And the arena. They will be... impartial," he says. He doesn't want it to be campy, but there are certain 'styles' of arena that he is envisioning. They'll be made to happen, of course. Everything will be. That's the point of throwing in with the Syndicate. To be able to do things that were beyond his scope, beyond his means. He may eventually split from the Syndicate... or attempt to topple Geese. He's sure Geese understands this. For now... they are allied.

He has other things running--drugs, guns, prostitution--but they are in other parts of the city, separated and divorced from his work on the Capital 7. He won't be running those ventures through here--it's too much of a risk in too many ways. "We're on schedule--we should be ready for the grand re-opening within three weeks to a month from today. My crews know what to do, and they're being paid handsomely to do it... and it's all legitimate, as far as they know." Most of the men are not really 'known' fighters, not 'name'... but there's several boxers, the most promising a former middleweight who, like Bison, left in disgrace, and amongst them, a mostly unknown quantity who had been tearing up the underground fight scene in Chicago and Sunshine City.

"I'm excited to see what you make of this, indeed." Howard confirms, cordially. Most of the captains who have worked under Geese over the years have had dreams of taking over their own operation, or of toppling Geese Howard. Threats from within, threats from without.. Howard survives both through much the same mix of skill and savvy. Connected enough to find another way, or to -remain- the key player that allows so many in his organization to operate beyond their means in the first place. Understanding the capricious nature of his enterprise is part of what has led the cagey overlord to keep himself indispensible to his 'allies'; even unique, among the world's shadowy underworld kingpins.

Sure, there is blood on his hands, and artifacts of the natural and unnatural worlds that he knows more intimately than any wise mortal might. Contrary to some, however - Geese does not reach for power blindly, nor seize what he cannot control, or does not yet understand. The long and short of it is that even remarkable and accomplished crimelords like Mr. Big and Duke continue to turn to Geese to secure their powerbase; that his more overtly megalomaniacal contemporaries would wage war on an entire city just to disrupt his remarkable influence.

It's dramatically telling when one connects it to the fact that Howard is still here, still here - and arguably stronger and more focused than ever before. "Three weeks, good. Get my office a list of anything else you need, aside from a long list of VIPs to adore and engage your charitable operation." All legitimate, indeed. As far as Geese knows, too! Having been forced back into the shadows has left Howards with a bunker mentality, many of his endeavors left to capable proxies, all but untraceable as he lays the groundwork to 'correct' his tarnished personal brand. "If you need anothing more.. immediate..." Pressing matters do have a tendency to kick their way into his life, after all. "There are capable people already at Duke's disposal." ... to say nothing of Howard's own, whatever his motives in amplifying the Syndicate's physical strength and presence in Metro proper.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Howard." Li sounds entirely serious, and he is. "It'll be an exciting time, certainly." They haven't discussed a split of the profits, but for now, he'll let his accountant handle that, in talks with Howard's accountant... it's not a business he wants to involve himself in right now; he has to concentrate on the rebuilding, the rebranding...

...and the Pit. "I doubt we'll need anything out of our projections, but, if we do... I will contact Duke." No need to go back to Geese for something as simple as additional knee-breakers, though they may not be needed. Hmm... except. Yes, except. That is something he may have to ask Duke to take care of.

"I almost hope that Belmounte comes back around, someday. To see what we've done with the resources she squandered..." The Chinese man actually has a great deal of respect for Elle, because she was able to forge what was, essentially, a dysfunctional family unit into a reasonable fighting force... but he'll still show her the hell up any way he can. And beat her down, if she comes back.

It will be some time, if ever, before Li Xiao Wen is expected to put money directly into Geese's hands. No, the concern of each Syndicate cell is the chain of command. To pass respect and income in its appropriate portions upwards. In this case, that leaves Duke. While there are a handful of people worldwide who do directly hand Mr. Howard an envelope... the actual operational structure of the Syndicate is such that it maintains operations without his hand in the day to day, that little was shaken up for the cells outside of Southtown by his absence. ... outside of opportunistic bosses and groups that still have to be dealt with, of course.

The unspoken affirmation of the value of Geese's time brings a pleased little smile momentarily to the blonde boss' features, though it fades a bit as Elle is brought back into the picture, shifting seamlessly to a thoughtful frown, "Belmounte's loyalties are... nothing if not fluid. I hesitate to refer to her as a liability, but... chaotically treacherous is being generous." It's not so much a warning, as a sharing of intel. He's made his life's work the manipulation and control of others through application of what they want and understanding who they are; with Elle, he clearly doesn't trust anything he might offer to secure the operative.

"I don't doubt you'll be capable of dealing with it if she does surface." Not that he's looking, per se. "So long as you remember not to believe a word she says, from one moment to the next." On the surface, it's an odd thing for Geese Howard to say. An odd thing for him to even -mind-. He's not the most honest individual, but it's not hard to realize that he has an organizational reputation for stability and a sort of honour amongst thieves. Forward-thinking, wise in at least his own estimations, and as stalwart for his allies and hirelings as he is implacable to his enemies. It leaves him little time for backstabbing and burning of bridges, in the end. He prefers other methods of survival, and control.

"She has excellent skills. I've no doubt she would be a formidable adversary, but as you say, she is... chaotic. That is a failing that she had to work hard to overcome. And it showed in the nature of the people she gathered to her."

Li leans against the back of a tall-backed chair, arms bent at the elbows, crossed at the forearms. "Trust is something hard-earned, and she would have to work very hard indeed to earn even a slight measure of trust. I usurped her place--literally, her very center of business. I cannot imagine that she would -ever- trust me except as far enough as to be able to attempt to put a dagger into my back. I would not want her anywhere near this organization... if she shows up, I would rather have Duke deal with her. It would be... simpler."

"Whether he would decide to use her or eliminate her. It would not be my concern," he says, with a dismissive shrug. "But she has been off the grid for quite some time. Surely she has to know that Blackjack is no more--torn to shreds. She has no power base, no support. She'll have to build that before she can even consider trying to take the Capital 7 back..."

There's a slightly dismissive, sighing breath. Then again, it's likely Geese's definition of excellent skill is rather elitist comparatively. "The drug pushers and crooks had already taken this place from her." Howard notes, rather pragmatically. "The organization all but evaporated, even before she disappeared from the circuits. It would take a great deal of misplaced blame and... poor judgement to bring the fight to the Syndicate over this outcome. If anything, the other possible outcome was raid and seizure once Mike Haggar got wind. Only a true idiot would go to war to reclaim something they had already lost from someone who did not target them to take it."

The Syndicate overlord pauses, smiles disarmingly, and notes in caustic and cool tones, "... which does not make you -wrong-. I have no intention of letting her into this operation again, as things stand." Which of the possible solutions he favours, well. Who's really surprised that he doesn't elucidate?

Li wouldn't say it out loud, either, except in the rarest of companies. He simply nods and starts cleaning up--reorganizing the dossiers, the blueprints, setting his snifter down on the tray that it came in. "Well. I think that pretty well concludes business for now, Mr. Howard. Thank you for taking the time to come down here and see what we're doing."

Li favors his leader with a smile. "I will provide further progress reports as we advance, but, as I said--we're on schedule for the public re-opening. I still have yet to evaluate the pit-fighters we'll be using... I intend to keep them here, as part of the private complex, and we'll be determining what facilities they need, soon. They'll be well-paid for their tours here, even more so to keep quiet." And, if they talk... they'll die.

But the kind of fighters he's picking, they'll know and understand that. He has no worries on that front. "We'll need a screening process for the contenders, too... when we have that set up, I'd like to trade information, so that we can spot potential... problems... early on."

Wait, isn't that his line? Geese smirks a little bit at Li's nonetheless accurate observation, nodding affirmation as icy eyes study his new lieutenant for a long moment. "Of course. I'll make sure the appropriate people are prepared to facilitate." And continue to pay attention to Li's reports and requests. "You might look abroad, if you haven't already, for more in-house pit champions." Geese considers, in one last piece of afterthought-inspired business. "A lot of developing nations have underground fight scenes more brutal than anything Stateside or in Japan. You don't need to pay someone extra to keep quiet if you're providing them with a 'better life'."

Food for thought. Howard relinquishes the last of the documents to Li's reorganization, setting aside his own scarcely touched drink and turning for the door. "I'm going to have a look around before I leave for our Singapore facility. We'll be in touch." It's as much a promise as it is a farewell, as Geese smoothly moves to depart.

Log created on 21:16:11 05/25/2012 by Geese, and last modified on 01:09:37 05/26/2012.