Dimitrius was sitting in a wrought iron chair in front of a small cantina which itself was situated in the middle of a sparse grouping of featureless buildings. Technically a mining colony long past its prime, the surrounding sand-colored, single story dwellings provided little respite from a mild and ceaseless wind. The perpetual hot breeze caused dust to constantly shift, glazing a barely visible street with ever-changing patterns of graininess. In the empty distance, an orange setting sun hung low in the haze of a seemingly infinite desert.
He suddenly looked up from his mobiglass and saw Meepowski casually sitting down in the available chair across the small table from him.
Meepowski’s warm smile silently conveyed an overt sense of sentimentality and he said "It's good to see you Dimitrius. It's been what, at least fifteen years? I can't believe how young you look, it’s as if you haven’t aged a day. Is that possible?”
If the stare Dimitrius leveled at Meepowski could cut through flesh, it would have. But he remained unresponsive in a guarded silence; he hadn't realized anyone was approaching and the street had been empty a moment before.
"As for me, however." Meepowski said while gesturing at his own face with his hands. "...Nature". He smiled wryly.
His lips barely moved, but Dimitrius replied softly, "How did you find me?"
Adjusting himself into a more comfortable position, Meepowski said, "You've spent all of this time within the Empire's dominion. It's not that hard to track an individual within our jurisdiction, not for me."
"I suppose that's a perk of your position now, isn't it?". Said Dimitrius.
Meepowski said "Quid Pro Quo"
Dimitrius slowly repeated the statement with a slightly sardonic tone, "Quid Pro Quo."
Meepowski continued, "You should know, you started the relationship all those years ago."
Dimitirus responded as if he had been waiting to hear that statement, "But it wasn't supposed to be about control or power, Meepowski, and you knew that back then."
Meepowski’s smile had faded and was replaced with an expression of mild amusement. "You made the first offer and they accepted the arrangement because of your efforts. Your lies. You represented all of us. Don't you remember?" He said.
Dimitrius said "I sacrificed my future for what was supposed to be a greater good, not so you alone could benefit."
Meepowski said, "It was your decision to enter their program, the entire sting was your idea. God it's good to see you again."
Dimitrius began raising his voice but caught himself and exclaimed, "You're blaming me for the fallout? Are you serious?! I spent seven years in that experiment for what turned out to be nothing and by the time I got out I was already a wanted man, all of the plans we made were abandoned, and everybody was dead. Now here you are trampling on top of their memory for your own personal gain and for what purpose?”
Meepowski calmly replied "I didn't kill them. And if you recall we were going to change the world. That's what you said wasn’t it."
With rising indignation, Dimitrius said, “Cat, Mac, Glum, Trinarius, Kronia, all of them! They’re all dead because of your actions Meepowski, we trusted you! I should finish you where you sit at this very moment.”
Meepowski said, "Yes I expected you might try to kill me if I showed up alone in person, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take to see you face to face again.” He sighed before he continued, “Before you end my existence, indulge me a few more moments of your time.”
“I’m not doing anything for you.” Dimitrius stated as a matter-of-fact, while on the verge of giving in to a growing murderous impulse.
Meepowski patiently replied, “Then just answer a question for me. What is the center of all evil in our way of life, on all worlds, in all cases?”
Dimitrius just stared in response and he knew he was somehow being manipulated. His hands yearned for their rightful place around Meepowskis throat.
Meepowski chuckled and said, “I know I am dead the moment I try to leave, at this point I don’t think a dozen armed soldiers could stop you if they tried. But offer a potentially doomed man his last wish. Answer the question please, what is the center of all evil.”
Dimitrius paused as the mental images of his lost comrades paraded in front of his mind. He said, "Money, credits, currency, whatever you want to call it, I taught you that."
Meepowski leaned forward in anticipation and said "Exactly, evil causes have lots of it and noble causes do not. Politicians are bought and sold like recycled mass at an anonymous market on any frontier planet. Problems multiply, pollution increases, regular people die and the powerful prevail, do you know why that is?"
Dimitrius felt the temperature in his veins begin to rise again.
Meepowski exclaimed "Because the most powerful characteristic of money is to allow morally bankrupt and powerful people to continue doing bad things at the expense of those who don't have it.
Dimitrius said, "Get to the point."
Meepowski retorted "I'll pose a scenario instead. Suppose a rumor gets out that a local credit union has found itself in a volatile financial situation, what do you think happens then?"
Dimitrius "I don't want to play games with you, Meepowski."
Meepowski "Please answer the question, Dimitrius."
Dimitrius exhaled heavily, noticeably irritated by the charade, but he complied, "Businesses and people start to withdraw their money."
Meepowsk said, "And as a result that bank becomes insolvent. Because of deliberately manufactured fear and propaganda regardless of any actual truth."
Irritated, Dimitrius said, "So the influence you possess can cause a small financial institute to fail. Is that what you want me to realize? So what?"
Meepowski smiled and replied with a smug look on his face. "I've already done that many times, and you may have heard of a few of them."
He said, “Think bigger.”
At that moment a cloud of dust blew across the table momentarily interrupting the cadence of their conversation. Dimitrius slightly turned his head to the side to avoid the temporary blindness, but Meepowski seemed unphased.
After a few seconds Dimitrius said, "How much bigger, like stock markets?"
Meepowski immediately said, "Yes"
Meepowski replied with a slight tone of authority in his voice, "...yes."
Dimitrius pushed further "Entire planets?"
Meepowski grinned, "I now own fifty eight percent of the Empire's politicians and thereby control all of its authority despite what the public is shown on their terminals. I have unlimited access to control the economic nervous system through the entire dominion. There is no research, development or emergent technology that escapes my sovereignty. I might be able to crash the entire union to zero if I wanted to, think of it Dimitrius, no more corruption, no more debt, no more ownership, no more poor people, everyone would have a fair chance. It's what we always wanted."
Dimitrius said, "You're insane. You knew exactly what you were doing along the way, don't forget those men died for us and you willingly let them walk into their own deaths while you built this delusional wall of power and deniability around yourself.
Meepowski said, "It's not that simple I-"
Dimtrius angrily shot back, "Those are facts, god dammit, you were supposed to live your life honorably while I was in there!"
Meepowski said "We were too blinded by our own ideals to fully understand the power that came into our possession through the experiment. Don't be naïve, we were too young to comprehend the forces we were brushing up against."
Dimitrius began losing his restraint, "And now what, you've grown up?"
Meepowski chuckled, "No Dimitrius... I woke up."
Dimitrius had reached his boiling point upon hearing those words and lost what little control he had been maintaining over his fury.
He let out a cry of rage and lunged forward reaching for Meepowskis exposed neck, the sudden force of his movement violently collided with the iron table and sent it crashing into a building across the street.
But instead of the expected feel of collapsing flesh and a responding crunch of broken bones, his hands passed directly through Meepowski’s form as if he were made of vapor. Taking a step backward in momentary confusion, Dimitrius stood motionless and glared despite the fire pulsing through his veins.
The image of Meepowski said, "You got your wish, I’m finished here.” As a sinister smile grew across his rapidly fading face, “But I guess that’s the most satisfying part for me.”
A final, ethereal taunt faintly issued forth from the absence of space he had occupied an instant before, “Because I wasn’t really here at all. ...be seeing you, old friend.”