Aix-Chapelle’s black leather shoes click-clacked against the stainless steel floor as he marched down the hallway of AC Human Resources. His fine arms and spindly legs, cinched by a tailored gray suit, made him look like an anthropomorphous daddy longlegs. Flatscreens lined the walls on either side of him and automatically lit up with images of downtown Arcadia as he approached. He glanced from one screen to the next, his chin high and his shoulders back.
The permanent space habitat Arcadia would be celebrating its one hundred and third anniversary in a couple of weeks. It had begun as little more than a water extraction station in orbit around Jupiter’s moon Europa, but was now one of the most important space colonies in the Jovian system. Skyscrapers towered over every street under an artificial sky littered with holographic projections of clouds. Business moguls from all over the system flocked there to attend congresses, negotiate the fate of the off-Earth water industry, and sign multi-million statis deals.
Aix-Chapelle liked to think his agency played a vital role in business management: redistributing—and occasionally thinning—the crowd. He reached the door at the end of the hall and stopped, his hand hovering above the doorknob. Chamberlain, the piggish CEO of StarCorp, had been waiting for him for ten minutes. Just the right amount of time.
With a wry smile on his lips and a curl in his red hair, Aix-Chapelle burst into the meeting room. “Excuse me. I hope I haven’t kept you waiting too long.”
Chamberlain nodded from between the cushions of his armchair, blue smoke curling over his head. “Don’t worry about it. What do you have for me?”
Aix-Chapelle dropped into his seat, a green and gold recliner, and took a cigar from the box that lay open on the table in front of them.
“Ah! Today I brought you a fine specimen.” He sniffed the cigar and broke off its self-combusting tip. “An employee from Crimson Quarters.” He pushed a button on the recliner’s armrest and the sixty-inch screen embedded in the wall lit up.
“Welcome, Chamberlain,” the screen said. Its voice was cool and calm, like the babble of running water. “It is always a pleasure to see you. Greetings, Aix. What may I do for you?”
“Greetings. Please show us the specimen.”
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Genre – Science Fiction/Fantasy
Rating – Adult