Captain Frank Rimmer, the youngest captain in the Space Corps, was still waiting.
It was especially galling when told by the stern secretary that the CEO of the Jupiter Mining Corporation was too busy to see him, especially when he'd been summoned. Especially when he could still hear the theme music for Androids through the wall.
An Officer and Gentleman, summoned by a Civilian. That thought made him bristle underneath his neatly pressed and tailored uniform.
Unfortunately, this civilian he couldn't ignore. Especially since Jupiter had been buying up pretty much every space-bound business in the last few years, only having a vague notion of the concept of 'monopoly laws'. Right now, if you were Space Corp, you either had a military job – which was less likely thanks to downsizing, or Jupiter Mining.
Finally, the stentorian secretary stood, and motioned for Frank to enter.
Opening the doors, he took a bracing breath and started the march across the massive floor to the massive desk overlooking the massive window which encompassed the gargantuan view overlooking Jupiter's north pole.
When he'd reached the desk, the chair that was worth at least two year's of Franks wages slowly turned.
"Frankie! How are you?"
Frank clenched his teeth, and nodded greetings to the youngest CEO in Jupiter Mining's history; Arnold J. Rimmer.
On reflection, he should have seen it coming.
From the start, there was something about the youngest that got under his skin. Little clingy, whiny, needy Arnie. John and Howard felt the same way, and memories of how they had fun with the little smeghead who kept on following them like a particularly pathetic puppy warmed his heart even to this day.
Then it changed, Arnold not following them around anymore. The relief of not having to be publicly associated with him outweighed any immediate suspicions about this sudden change of habits.
Frank found out later, much later, that some social-worker-in-training had been assigned to little Arnie's school, and caught Porky Roebuck throwing him into the school septic tank. Of course that meant Arnie was put in front of the caring, nurturing queue.
Frank had gotten his hands on the confidential video tapes of the interview session, smiling at the dull, nasal, whining tones of Bonehead whinging about not only was school life wasn't a bed of roses, but how mummy and daddy were too cruel, his brothers were too nasty, boo bloody hoo. The teacher going over the test results, saying something about 'a subconscious block' developed concerning astronavigation. Frank had scoffed, as if one semester on beginners psychology qualified her to make that kind of statement.
Then that trainee, that arty farty liberal arts degree grant appointee had said it. The sentence, when throwing out a bunch of alternate careers that that little smeghead might be able to make a go at.
... Even The Space Corp Have To Obey The Executives ...
Little Arnie had looked up into the camera at that exact instant. Frank had the privilege of observing that concept, the genesis of that idea taking root and spreading.
On reflection, Frank should have taken notice of the subtle but inevitable hints of this new mindset. The selling of his prized Risk set. No longer whining whenever he, Frank and John had some fun with him, but silently glowering at them throughout, and after, spending night after night studying and working, barely speaking to his family unless absolutely necessary. And instead of getting a part time job, Arnie made his own part time job; a freelance graphics designer specialising in calligraphy – wedding invitations, that sort of guff. Pretty successful as well.
That social worker might have been onto something, because Arnie might not be able to remember a single astronavigation fact or figure, but the boy who was once in danger of repeating a year was suddenly advanced a few levels. A scholarship, scholarships. The complete arse in social situations suddenly coming alive, wooing and charming people, important business people.
And not only had Arnie graduated business school years early, but he had accumulated the money from his little business, and successfully created and sold Triumph! the strategy board game for ten and over; the little twerp was a millionaire before he was handed his diploma.
The Why behind this meteoric advance soon manifested when this Honours Business Student refused several lucrative job offers in order to take a job in the marketing department of the Jupiter Mining Corporation.
And just like Mummy always said, 'up the ziggurat, lickety-split'. Although, from the rumours he'd heard, Frank pictured this particular ziggurat being the piled bodies of Arnie's rivals in a mountain of three-piece suits, his brother hauling himself up with a pair of long daggers methodically wedged deep between the third and fourth vertebrae, then digging a new handhold for himself, like a spider up a drainpipe who'd learned there was an all-you-could-eat-blowfly-buffet on the very top.
Sweeping aside rivals with the anal retentive's skill for finding flaws and the drive of an utter bastard, little Bonehead Arnie was now CEO of the solar system's largest corporation.
Arnie stood, his hideously expensive Titan worsted bespoke three-piece looking plain compared to Captain Frank's new uniform, and extended a hand, that insufferable grin on his face. "Glad you could make it."
Frank took the hand, knowing Arnie didn't deserve a salute. "Hello Arnie."
Arnold dropped back into his chair, steepling his hands. "I heard about the promotion, congratulations! Glad you can finally qualify for the ten per cent discount at the commissionary."
Frank tried to look nonchalant, and thought he pulled it off. "What can I say? It's all a matter of passing a few astronavigation exams."
Arnold's face froze, for an instant. A brief sense of victory.
Which disappeared when someone emerged from behind the back of the chair. It was obvious that she'd been kneeling behind it, and considering Arnie had been facing her ...
His former fiancée, dapping at her lips, looked slightly sheepish, as well she should. "Ah ..."
Arnold looked up at her. "Honey! Why don't you let me have a quiet chinwag with my big brother here?"
Frank watched the woman who'd inexplicably – back then - left him days before the wedding quickly walk out of the office.
Arnold swung his feet up on the massive ultramahogany desk. "I can see what you saw in her. Poise ... looks ... charm ..." His grin ratcheted up a notch. "... redefines the phrase 'nymphomaniac pervert' ..."
Frank reached out, and grabbed his younger brother by the shoulder. "I don't know what ..."
Arnie looked at the hand wrinkling his suit then up at the Officer touching him. "Frankie?"
"Ever been in charge of the Phobos school shuttle run with a hold full of ADHD teenage offenders?"
With great effort and reluctance, Frank released his grip from his younger brother, who seemed cheerfully oblivious to his brother's reddening features.
"How's Mum getting along?"
"Mother'll talk to you as soon as the neighbours talk to her."
"So a reprieve from encountering the bitch queen from hell then?"
"Coming from the man who sent the pictures."
"That is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. I merely received three hundred and thirty-eight photographs high resolution photographs of Mum in compromising situations with Uncle Frank. And Mr. Roebuck. And seven other men. I merely wanted to state to the anonymous blackmailer who obviously wanted me to sweat over the fact those photographs existed before making his seedy demands for money that Arnold J. Rimmer does not negotiate with grubby little scum. It was purely by accident that I hit 'Send to all Contacts (Family and Friends) instead of 'Return Call' on my new mobile holophone."
"Mother was named in at least five divorce actions."
"And two public health inquiries."
"Father wasn't too happy."
"I expect he wasn't. How is the old fella, anyway?"
"As well as a man hooked up to more machinery than the midlands can expect to be."
Arnold beamed. "Only the best for dear old Dad. Money is no object when it comes to family."
"Peculiar that. I talked to the head nurse, and he said that while you went out of your way to provide life support and chemicals to keep Father alive and conscious ... you haven't shelled out a single dollarpound in painkillers."
Arnold waved a hand abstractly. "Dad's a fighter! He doesn't need any namby-pamby things like morphine and other rubbish ... salt of the earth ... powerful ... determined ..."
"He blinked out 'KILL ME' in Morse code."
"Is there a reason you've called me here, my ship disembarks ..."
"Oh! Your first command! Right, I was thinking ... here I was, having all these stock options, and this being your first command and all, and I should get you an appropriate pressie. So ... there's two hundred thousand shares of Jupiter Mining with your name on them."
Frank blinked. "Bloody hell."
Arnold gave a wan smile. "The stock certificate's on your way to your ship, notified your purser so he'll take care of it. And of course, don't want John and Howard to feel left out; there's equal amounts in their hands right now."
If Frank's estimate of Jupiter Mining's share price was accurate, right now, he and the Rimmer Brothers, the Three Musketeers, were all instant millionaires.
Arnie dramatically looked around, then leaned in. "Wanted to give them to you now while they were still cheap."
"Not getting you, Arnie."
"Shouldn't be telling you this, but ..." Arnie slid a document towards Frank.
Ye Gods. A press release, due to be released in an hour.
Cuts, massive cuts in pay in the Space Corp. Health, bonuses, equipment, anything that wasn't downright eliminated was pared right down to the bone.
"Make the shares worth quite a bit, eh?"
Frank looked up, the realisation hitting him just as he looked into Arnie's eyes.
The Space Corp, the proud, the accomplished, the thousands of people he would depend on to keep his ship running, to keep operations smooth and functioning.
The ship full of people who knew not only he was the brother of the man who'd suddenly slashed their wages just before a three year mission, but by having stock certificates sent direct to the ship's purser, would know not only he was now rich, but would be even richer with the news of the pay cuts hitting the news. Fellow captains, officers, the admiralty – even the skutters would be looking for blood.
If he lived, Captain Frank Rimmer suspected he would be wishing he didn't. And soon, John and Howard would share similar sentiments.
Two mountain sized shadows emerged behind him. Frank turned to see two men in ill-fitting suits and no necks.
"I've just realised how long I've kept you, Frankie, wouldn't want you to miss your disembarkation for any reason. Jim and Ted here are going to take you to my personal shuttle and have you flown direct to the docks."
The two monoliths heaved up the suddenly terrified youngest Captain to his feet, as their boss consulted his mobile holophone.
"Arnie, is that shuttle job still ..."
"Frankie ... Frankie ...don't worry ..." As he was dragged away, Frank heard the nine little words.
"... don't worry m'laddo; I'm always thinking of the family ..."