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Dr Archeville

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Eric had to take a moment to organize his thoughts after Dr. Archeville's revelation. An organic metal? Living metal. My god... the applications of such technology. Artificial limbs that grow with the amputee, weapons that heal themselves over time... I need to see this.

"You mean to tell me that we've someone stumbled upon finding a living metal? That's quite a bit to take in. But I don't think I could dare ever call myself a scientist again if I let an opportunity like this slip by. I need to know more."

Eric walks over to his desk, flips open a semi-hidden panel (it was obscured by a few papers) and bunches in a code. From the ceiling a flat screen monitor about the size of a television drops down. All along the left side are various categories of materials: metals, alkalies, acids, bases, lab equipment, etc. Eric explains "This is how we requisition materials. Selecting any of the categories will bring you to a list of all the materials under that category we have under that category and our current stock of said material. Select the amount we need and it will be delivered here forth with. As I'm the director, I get priority. So doctor, ready to get down to work?" That spark of excitement return's to Eric's eyes as he utters the last sentence.

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That's not what we said.

True, but it's got his attention, his interest... and now we can use that to our advantage!

"Dat is not exactly vhat I said, Herr Micheals. You und your men haff not yet stumbled upon a living metal, but rather something very close to it. A good analogy vould be..." the scientist stroked his chin as he thought, "if de molecular structure of Living Metals -- like de Impervium of ASTRO Labs -- is akin to a complex DNA strand, vhat you haff here is akin to a simpler RNA strand. Zhe strands keep tangling up mit demselves, but vhat ve need is to get dem to tangle mit each other into longer, more stable polymerizations. That vay, it can store information -- such as a "memory" of its own configuration -- und assimilate materials from de environment to repair itself vhen damaged."

"Unfortunately," he continued as he withdrew his electromagnetic screwdriver from the sample, causing the hologram of the molecular structures to disappear, "since Darts does not do much vork in biological sciences, I doubt you haff all de catalysts und reagents ve vould need in stock, or vould even be able to make dem mit vhat you do haff. But I am sure you can procure de necessary compounds. Now, let's see... I believe ve should start mit some alkyl- and aryl-magnesium halides, for de Grignard reactions; ve'll also need some tetrahydrofuran as a solvent. A sealed chamber filled with an inert nitrogen or argon atmosphere vould be useful, too."

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Eric shrugs at his misunderstanding "Dr. Archeville, I'm not sure if you know of it, but there is an expression that I've heard quite often in my line of work. "Close only counts with horse-shoes and hand grenades." Absently adjusting his gloves with a bit of a mad grin Eric continues "I've made enough hand grenades in my life that close is quite exciting. Now getting back to the matter at hand, the hydrogen, magnesium and nitrogen are no problem, we have those in abundance as their reactive nature is often put to use in our... endeavors. We don't have them in the form we will most likely need them, but as you say, they can be synthesized in short order."

"Now as for the sealed camber..." Eric depresses a button on the monitor and a mechanical whir can be heard towards the back of the room as a table rises out of the floor. There is a plexi-glass container about 2 ft deep and high, 4 feet wide, with glove inserts for manipulation inside the tank. "Because we never know what we'll be working on, we can't afford to have all of our equipment on the floor taking up floor space. I've also ordered the compounds and they should be here in a few minutes."

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The pair worked for some time, during which each learned a bit more about the other. And not just the assorted scientific and technical insights Eric gleaned from Archeville's work, or the business tips Viktor picked up from Micheals: there was, at least from Archeville's perspective, the beginning's of a bond, the sort that can only develop between two people so enamored with science, technology, and the future of humanity.

This has been quite nice!

Eh, I'd rather be working on a weapon.

"Vell," he said after the latest test results came back, "vhat you haff here is still a long vay from being a true 'living metal,' but it is closer than it vas before. Ve vere able to increase de temperature tolerances, und add a degree of shape-memory. All told, I'd say dis is good progress."

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Some time later when Eric was asked of his experience personally working along side Dr. Archeville, Eric would say that it was a life changing experience, and while he worked he thought of how much respect he had for the man, and how he would like to model himself after Dr. Archeville. That was of course a lie. Firstly because Dr. Archeville worked at such a furious pace with such precise skill that Eric had all he could do to keep up with him. Secondly, any time Eric had a free moment for his own thoughts, they were invariably him geeking out at the fact that Dr. Archeville was standing right next to him, using his tools, to work on his project. And all the while, that mad grin never became less than a shadow playing on Eric's face.

When the last test results came back, Eric hung back in bated breath as Dr. Archeville read them over. When Archeville gave his opinion, a small trace of sadness and disappointment crossed Eric's eyes. It wasn't because there hasn't been progress, but rather it was because there was progress. Eric was conflicted, every second Dr. Archeville was here meant lots of dollar signs for Darts, but at the same time, it was a second sooner until Eric had to part with his role model.

With a small sigh Eric said "Thank you doctor, for everything." he added with a small smile. You could tell he wasn't just referring to the work done on the metal.

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I mean it, this has really been nice! We always stay so cooped up in our laboratory and workshops, we run the risk of becoming too distant from the very people we're trying to help!

Yeah, yeah, whatever. You see this guy's expression? Hear his tone? I think there's something he's not telling us.

"Oh, I should be thanking you, Herr Micheals!," he said, grinning like a madman. "You haff given me somethink I neglect far too frequently: a chance to connect to another person. I send so much time in mein labs, in mein vorkshops, alone, I tend to lose touch mit humanity, mit de reason I do all dis! Keeping up mit newsfeeds only gets me so much, dere is still de... de... vell, I suppose you could say de social und even emotional connections to de world, vhich must not be neglected."

"Plus," he paused to look around, acting pseudo-conspiratorially, "if ve can get this working right," he noded towards the samples and reports on the semi-living metal, "it could settle a bet I'd made with Dr. MacLeod at ASTRO Labs."

He continued on, obviously quite excited, "In fact, I-". Archeville suddenly slapped both hands over his mouth, "sorry, sorry, I am getting ahead of meinself. Mustn't jump to step 5 vhile still vorking on step 3."

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A car pulls up outside of the Dart, Inc. building- a sleek black limousine with oddly thick windows that rides low on its stiff suspension. A solid-looking man steps out of the driver's seat, then goes to the back, where he rolls out an elegant mahogany wheelchair. He then opens the passenger's side door and helps a frail-looking but extremely well-dressed young Japanese man out of his seat and into the chair. The big man takes a long look around, nods as if satisfied, and wheels the chair up a long ramp next to the stairs and through the main entrance. The chair's occupant glances at the magazines in the waiting room and flushes to see his own face on the cover of the top of the stack. Being a public figure is still new enough to him that he's still shaking his head in wonder as he's wheeled to the receptionist's desk.

The young man gives her a glowing smile, voice and manner all politeness.

"Hello. My name is Benjiro Fujisama. I wonder if I could have a moment of Mr. Micheals' time?"

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The receptionist eyes instinctively begin looking over Eric's schedule as Benjiro gives his name. "Benjiro... Benjiro... Benjiro... Benji--!" The receptionist's head snaps up, with her eyes wide. She leans every so slightly to the right, and her eyes flick to the magazine rack, and then back to man sitting right in front of her, whose face is plastered across the magazines. "Ummm..." she stammers for a moment before regaining her composure "...Mr. Micheals is in a rather important meeting right now, but they should be finishing up. Let me give him a call shall I?" She reaches for the phone on he desk and dials a number, while it's ringing she says to Benjiro "He hates when I call him in the lab." to avoid dead air.

Elsewhere down in the labs, Eric's phone rings. "Ah sorry about this Doctor. I have to take this, they wouldn't call me unless it was important; they know how much I hate being interrupted. Excuse me." Eric walks a few feet from Dr. Archeville and answers the phone:

"Yes, Sam, what is it?"

"You've got a new gues waiting for you at the front desk."

"Why exactly couldn't they wait a few more minutes until I finished with Dr. Archeville?"

"Sir, your guest is Benjiro Fujisama."

"..."

"Sir?"

Eric walks back over to where Dr. Archeville is standing, and looks him straight in the eye before continuing the conversation.

"So Samantha, are you telling me that Benjiro Fujisama, the billionaire battlesuit visionary is upstairs in the main lobby right now, and is requesting to meet with me right now?"

"That's the gist of it sir."

"Do you think Mr. Fujisama would mind if our newest consultant sat in on the meeting?"

"No I don't believe he would. Conference room A then sir?"

"That would be wonderful Samantha."

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Hot damn!

Aw, man, now I've gotta watch you on two fronts!

"Oh, dis is vunderbar indeed!" he said, his mad grin returning and eyes fairly sparkling. "I vas actually planning to try and see him sometime in the near future, see if I could chat mit him about powered armor."

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"Please- if he's busy, I can..."

Benjiro trails off as his protest comes too late: when the secretary comments on her boss' dislike of being bothered in the lab, he nods with an apologetic smile.

"Well, then. How do I get to Conference Room A?"

The pale man's bodyguard doesn't need to be told to take his time getting to the conference room so as not to appear to have been kept waiting. Benjiro arrives at the door just as Mr. Michaels and Dr. Archeville do so, and he rises out of his wheelchair delightedly if a trifle unsteadily to greet them. The sight of such a young and bright-eyed man having difficulty rising to his feet causes a moment of queasy awkwardness, but one that is quickly banished by his amicable manner and surprisingly strong handshake.

"Hello, Mr. Michaels! I'd hoped that I wouldn't be pulling you out of anything too important-"

A glance at Dr. Archeville, a flash of recognition-

"-but it looks as if my hopes are going to be disappointed on that front. The famous Dr. Archeville! I must confess, I have not read as much of your work as I would have liked, but I was fascinated by your series of papers on the applications of electromagnetic metamaterials with negative refractive indices. It's wonderful to meet you here."

The solid man behind Benjiro pushes the wheelchair aside, opens the door to Conference Room A, and ushers everyone inside.

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Eric returns Benjiro's handshake with one of his own. When the topic shifts to Dr. Archeville's presence, Eric jokingly replies "Yes I seem to be attracting more and more of these famous scientists today, I must make a note to wear this colonge more often." As the discussion shifts to the accomplishments of the people present, Eric is quick to pipe up "And have followed your career as well Mr. Fujisama; with what I admit is a bit of jealousy. I have had more than a cursorary glance at several of your battlesuits, and I must say that I am impressed."

As they move into the conference room, Eric non chalantly removes one of the chairs from the table to accomidate Bejiro.

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Yes! Bow to your superior, cripple!

Whoah, hey now! He-

Bah! I'm smarter than both of them combined, if not moreso! We should be running things, with them as my assistants! Let's hurry up and get out of here so we can figure out how to do hostile takeovers.

"Oh, dose old papers?" he replies to Benjiro in a rather offhand manner. "I haff since moved on to some far more cutting-edge vork, mit gravitic superlenses. Using gravity itself to focus und redirect light und other electromagnetic energies. Should completely revolutionize de communications industry, at de very least. Dere are, of course, some snags impeding mein research -- my vork vould go much faster if I had a quasar or singularity to study -- but I am sure I vill find a vay around it."

"A way around it"? What could that possibly mean?

"I do confess, dough, I haff been following de vorks of your company mit some interest," he continued as he moved around the table, pausing at the head where Eric would be sitting for a moment, then moving on to a chair across from Benjiro. "Your company seems to be doing some groundbreaking vork of its own, und I'm sure you are quite proud of all dat your company has done"

Benjiro & Micheals almost got the sense that those last bits were meant as a backhanded compliment: the work of Benjiro's company, not of Bejiro himself, and that Benjiro's just taking credit for it all.

Damnit, now look what you did!

We should do more! They need us more than we need them!

That's not how it works, you fool!

Archeville sat across from Benjiro, raised a hand to his left temple and massaged it a bit, "Er, I apologize, I believe I misspoke -- English may be a Germanic language, but it is still quite different from German. Vhat I meant to say vas... dat you und your company haff done great dings, und I am eager to see vhat else you do. De powered armors you make especially interest me, particularly de non-military applications, such as for firefighting und rescue operations. Dough... wait a moment..." The super-scientist sprang up, "your company und Herr Micheal's companies do a good deal of similar vork, for similar people. Given de recent economic crises, you vouldn't be here to talk about some manner of merger, vould you? If so, I may need to formalize mein contract mit Herr Micheals sooner rather than later!" He punctuated the last with a chuckle.

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Benjiro takes the seat he is offered, listening to Dr. Archeville with intense interest.

"I don't understand- wouldn't any sort of gravitic lens remain limited by the permittivity of free space? A gravitic lens is probably the best possible kind in the traditional sense, but I don't see how it'd be capable of the sort of subwavelength imaging that you can accomplish when you avoid the diffraction limit. And what about..."

He trails off for a moment, evidently stuck- then chuckles and looks up.

"In a roundabout way, this is exactly why I am here. You see, I am no real research scientist, although I dabble. I'm just a good engineer with a knack for adapting and refining others' work into usable products. Mr. Michaels- you, on the other hand, seem to have a capacity for genuine innovation in your corner. What you don't have is a good knowledge of how to play the game of military budget appropriations. I've done my homework, examined things closely...in the last three military contracts that Dart was in direct competition with Ares, you've offered a superior product each time. Each time, however, you lost out to us due to flaws in your presentation and execution. Each of us has expertise the other needs.

In short, I'd like to buy Dart from you- lock, stock, and barrel. I walked in prepared to pay a premium of one and a half times over market value- but your immanent partnership with the famed Dr. Archeville increases your value in my eyes immensely, and I think I'm prepared to offer two and a half times market in light of it. You'd keep almost everything- the name, the facilities, the logo, the research staff, and certainly the leadership position. Dart would function as a largely independent subsidiary, pursuing its own projects just as you've been doing. We'd take over the marketing and distribution end of the business, and that would involve some job cuts- but, in the end, it would be difficult to distinguish a typical work day for you before the transaction and one after it.

I know that it's highly unusual for this kind of offer to be made personally- but, in the end, the decision would be made by you and me, and I find that this method keeps such irritations as legalese, market speculation and the dizzying volatility that attends it, and my-bureaucracy-is-bigger-than-your-bureaucracy gamesmanship to a minimum.

You don't have to give me a final answer right away, but I'd certainly appreciate hearing your gut reaction to the offer."

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When Benjiro is complementing Eric and Darts, he grins slightly and nods respectably, but when he says that he would buy Darts, and Eric knows he has the money to do so, all expression drains from Eric's face, giving it a midly disturbing mask like appearance; someone shouldn't be able to mask their emotions so quickly after something like this is announced. The mask isn't because he isn't feeling any emotion, but because he is feeling too many emotions. He's surprised and stunned that anyone would make an offer so plainly, he's excited because he stands to earn a thousand times his weight in gold, he's sad for the few trusted employees that would lose their jobs, he's angry because this is his company and someone is just trying to swoop in and take it, and this list goes on and on.

After a rather pregnant pause, Eric clasps his hands in front of him and peers at Benjiro, like he's sizing him up. When Eric speaks, it's in a slow and deliberate, if not mildly monotone voice "You've placed me in a very precarious position Mr. Fujisama. For every part of me that welcomes your proposition with open arms, there is another that, to be quite frank, wants to cause you bodily harm." Eric lets that statement hang in the air for a moment to make sure all present caught it, understood it and processed it. More importantly, he wanted Mr Fujisama to know that he wasn't joking around, he was dead serious.

"Now, that being said, after I've had a moment to consider I'm leaning towards the former instead of the latter." Eric relaxes a little and lets some emotion start peeking through his mask "I can not and will not give my final answer to you this day, I simply won't speak for the whole company about this issue; it's not a decision one man should make. Now, in your pitch, you mentioned that Darts would essentialyl be an independent subsidairy. Let me make this point perfectly clear, the one thing we value more than anything else at Darts is our freedom. We work on what projects we want, when we want and how we want. If I feel that even one iota of our freedom will be impinged by this deal, then I will not let it go through."

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Archeville begins to reply to Benjiro's questions regarding the gravitic superlensing he'd been working on, but stopped once Benjiro switched to speaking pure business.

Damn, cripple's got a pair of brass ones.

Will you stop calling him that? He has a name!

Yeah: 'Subordinate'. Still, I wonder how Micheal will respond?

Well, as much as it pains you, you'll need to be patient a bit to see.

And patient he was, frozen in the pause between Beniro's offer and Eric's response. A response which elicited a raised eyebrow.

Wow, I was not expecting so violent a response.

Really? You must not be paying attention, then. The guy runs a weapons factory, he's bound to have a temper somewhere in there. Probably one on a long fuse, that explodes spectacularly. I wonder just how long that fuse is....?

Ohhhh no! Eric's got more than enough to worry about with this buy-out, he doesn't need anything else.

Yeah, yeah. Hrm... wonder which one we should side with?

What? How is that even a question? We side with Eric, we made him our offer first. Besides, he looks like he could use a friend.

Yeah, but Benjiro's got faaar greater resources, in terms of both materiel and access. And the cripple'd be easier to knock off if things became problematic.

"I am," Archeville began, facing Benjiro, "flattered dat mein presence increases de value of Darts, Inc. in your eyes, Herr Benjiro. Und because of dat, I vould request to have access to any und all legal documents -- as minimal, as you say, dey vould be -- vhich you exchange mit Herr Micheals. If I am so valuable, I vould like at least to, if not haff a say in matters, at least be fully aware of dem so dat I may make mein own informed decisions."

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Hmmm. Definitely more than just some stuffed shirt or academian, this one.

There is a pause before Benjiro's response- a pause that tells Eric that he was fully understood, and that the response he receives is consciously polite rather than obliviously so.

"...I'm pleased to see that you're so passionate about your work and your people, Mr. Michaels. Provided that you continue managing your company half as well as you have been, there should be no need for interference in Dart's affairs- though you will need to keep us thoroughly appraised of your ongoing projects, so as to prevent us from wasting our time by pursuing identical research paths."

Were he not in negotiations with Archeville, I would have told him that he'd have to cancel a project from time to time to that same end. Still, some inefficiencies are an acceptable price for innovation.

"Let me know when you've finished formalizing your arrangement with Dr. Archeville- I'll have my legal team draw up a standard contract and go through the necessary regulatory filings for a merger. Are there any other concerns you'd like to see addressed?

As for being notified of the details of our arrangement, Dr. Archeville- I have no objection to it, which means that the decision lies with Mr. Michaels."

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"Don't worry Dr. Archeville, you'll be kept in the loop, as will all of Darts' employees. I do not intend to spring this on our employees after the papers have been signed. Mr. Fujisama, I will bring your offer to the attention of the board presently. I only wish to confirm the idea that Darts continue to be able to put out its own products at our leasure, instead of our products be going out under your marketing team's whims."

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I'll give 'im this: he's smooth.

They both are.

"How 'presently' vould dat be, Herr Micheals?," Archeville asked. "Depending on vhen de meeting is, I may not be able to attend, due to some prior arrangements. Assuming, of course, dat I vould be privy to such a meeting. As I mentioned to you earlier," he turned to Benjiro, "and as I'm sure you might guess," he then turned so that he faced both as best he could, "I am not as familiar as I should like to be mit de procedures und protocols of de corporate vorld."

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"I was going to enform everyone immediately after our meeting with Mr. Fujisama adjourns, I see no need to wait for an issue such as this. When I said everyone, I meant it. Every scientist, every researcher, every receptionist, every guard, everyone, will be informed at the same time. The procedures for a merger are pretty straight forward, if not a little tedious. Regardless, if there is a merger, it won't take place for at least 30 days, we need to give the State at least that long to ensure that a merger such as ours doesn't break any of the anti-trust laws or statutes. If you have any particular questions Dr. Archeville, I'll try and field as many of them as I can, but as it is not my specialty, I will probably have to deferr you to our legal team."

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Benjiro blinks, looking somewhat nonplussed.

"I would have preferred that you kept it somewhat less public than that- after all, the reason I came here in person was to avoid unnecessary publicity. Nevertheless, there are merits to your way of doing things...and as I said earlier, you will run Dart as you will run Dart, without interference. Keep doing so as capably as you've done in the past, and we'll both come out of this happier and richer men.

You'll probably be wanting to wrap things up with Dr. Archeville as quickly as possible- so unless you have any other concerns...?"

The young man pushes his chair out as if to stand, waiting for a response from Eric.

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"I'm aware of that Mr. Fujisama. I will instruct them to keep this matter to themselves, but I can't keep them out of the loop, it's just not my style. But there aren't any real pressing matters at this point. So, I thank you for your time and for your commitment to your company to make this offer in person. Eric stands and offers his hand "If the deal goes through then I look forward to a fruitful partnership; if however, the deal does not go through, then I look forward to the challenge that your company represents."

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This should be quite interesting.

Indeed so.

And we could make it so much more interesting....

No. No, we will not.

Archeville extends his hand to Benjiro, "Vell, Herr Benjiro -- er, should dat be Herr Fujisama? Naming conventions are so difficult to keep straight... anyvay, it has been a pleasure to meet you, und I look forward to speaking mit you again," he took a step closer to Benjiro, "but for de moment I believe Herr Micheals has some arrangements to make."

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Benjiro smiles blandly.

"I'm stateside often enough that my name's been mangled in far more creative ways. It is Mr.- or Herr- Fujisama. Good afternoon, gentlemen- it's been a pleasure meeting you both."

With that, he shakes the hands of both men as his stocky bodyguard rolls his wheelchair into the room from the corridor. He gives a final friendly nod to Dr. Archeville and Eric on his way out the door, makes a point of saying good-bye to the secretary on his way out, and wheels his way out to the parking lot.

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Eric says "Good bye." with a curt nod as Mr. Fujisama takes his leave. He let the silence from the departure of Mr. Fujisama linger for a moment. He then softly asked Dr. Archeville "Welcome to the world of business. So, what're your impressions?" Eric was asking not just about Mr. Fujisama's proposal, but of how the meeting as a whole went, including Eric's vieled threats and his way of doing business. Something in his voice led Dr. Archeville to believe that he was honestly looking for Dr. Archeville's opinion on the matter, and not merely testing him.

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My impression is that you are both fools and your respective resources would be far better managed by my hand!

And you'd drain them both by next quarter, since we still don't know as much about business and civics as we need to, we don't know how to properly handle all that.

Archeville paced down the length of the table and back up, hands clasped behind his back, looking back and forth between Micheals and where Benjiro had been seated. He then stopped, raised one hand to his chin, and stroked it thoughtfully.

"I zhink..." he began, then switched to the accent-less tone he'd revealed earlier that day, "that Benjiro is a very talented businessman, with connections and contacts that would compliment the ones Darts has developed quite nicely, and has, to be frank, a greater amount of resources, all of which is hard to ignore. And if what he says about giving you a largely free hand in things, it seems -- to me -- a quite tempting offer. But, this is your company, these are your people, so ultimately it is a choice you must make on your own."

Archeville got a bottle of water from a nearby table, then sat, in the same seat he'd been in earlier. "There are, however, two Achilles Heels in Ares Macrotech that I perceive, which you may not have considered. First is their 'spokesman,' Shinken. Whether it is one man in a suit, or a rotating roster of men in the suit, the fact remains that it's a very visible suit, a widely known public face. If the individual in that armor went on some sort of rampage, either due to some outside influence - mind control, possession, or someone knocks out the wearer and dons the suit himself -- or because the wearer just snapped one day, that could do a great deal harm to Ares' public image. As a corollary to this, if Shinken were to ally himself with other superheroes, and one of them snapped, Shinken's relationship could lead to a damaging backlash against Ares. This is one reason I came to you -- Darts does not have a 'mascot' like that, so those dangers aren't a factor."

"Second," he said between sips of water, "is Benjiro himself. I have studied not just the physiology of... " again he paused a moment, as if searching for the right word, "of Metahumans, but also their psychology. As I'm sure you know, there is a strong indication -- though I've yet to fully corroborate it -- that Benjiro lost both parents during a bank robbery attempt by Devil Ray; according to these same reports the nerve gas the villain used is the cause of his persistent neurological problems. He is quite determined, very strong-willed, and... well I would call him a genius at mechanical engineering, but I am in the room." He smirked and took another sip, then continued, "Point is, if he were to put his mind to it, there are many ways he could use his considerable resources to... well, I doubt he would make a custom suit of powered armor for himself and zip around beating supervillains up, doubt he would endanger himself like that... but I'm sure there are many more avenues he could pursue. Not that I'm saying that he has done so or is doing so, especially given his corporate schedule, but such actions are, given certain elements of the psychological profile I've assembled, a definite possibility. And, as I see it, a potential liability, should he be harboring some deep-seated resentment towards Devil Ray, which could lead him to opposition with the entire Crime League, or to super-villains as a whole, as his focus would be deeply split. On the other hand, it could also be a great boon, if your government ever decided to go through with one of the Metahuman Registration Acts that pops up in Congress every few years, and they look to Ares Macrotech for new technologies; he may have been studying Metahumans for some time, developing technologies to neutralize them, so he may have a leg up on you in that department."

Archeville took another long sip of water.

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