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Author Topic: Gorgon Shell - Part I  (Read 192 times)
Nephtys
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Gorgon Shell - Part I
« on: February 21, 2008, 01:45:48 PM »

Here's the first part of a somewhat longer short story, consisting of five parts altogether. C&C appreciated as usual and don't be afraid to be ruthless on this one. It's my final uni-year project so I need this to be as good as I possibly can make it.

*********

Part I

The coffee had to be freshly ground and steaming hot. Also, Thomson insisted that Rose brought it in just as he entered his office, rather than having it wait on his desk already. Besides, he thought, Rose had such a fine arse. It was Thomson’s daily morning delight to have a little peek at his personal assistant’s skirt as she bent forward to set the cup down.

“Thank you, Rose,” he said, stroking his beard. Greying though it was, he still considered its well-groomed thickness his pride and joy. “Now remind me, what’s on my plate again for today?”

****

“Shit,” Tamara breathed. So typical of her, not have enough money on her for the entire hovcab ride. And yet, this was neither the time nor the place for moaning, so Tammy resumed her trot with a gasp. Where she had stopped to catch her breath, her watch hadn’t.

Mortified to be late, she click-clacked along the crowded sidewalk as quickly as her high heels allowed. With a string of muttered apologies, Tamara side-stepped whoever got in her way, or just gave them an impatient elbow nudge if she couldn’t find a hole to slip through.

She briefly glanced at her watch again, and then gauged her surroundings. Monoliths of glass and steel increasingly populated the landscape and the people she was pushing through were suits for the most part. As far as she knew, she had to be really close.

****

Thomson was on his second cup of coffee and busy ploughing through the two piles of paperwork on his desk. They were parallel; professional résumés of applicants established by Eric McAvon, his head of research to the left; complemented by whatever additional information ERGOSYNTH’s Internal Integrity section could compile on the candidates to the right.

McAvon had come up with some impressive progress on ERGOSYNTH’s forerunner project, so when he’d given Thomson a list of candidates to choose and hire one from and help push the project over the hill, Thomson had really been unable to refuse. And so he picked up the next couple of résumés.

****

Two corners later, Tammy gave a little cry of relief. She caught one or two odd looks from the corner of her eye, but right now she didn’t care. Before her rose the huge, rotating holomorph, that alternatively flashed the company’s name, ERGOSYNTH, and its logo.
Tammy fished a handkerchief out of her purse to dab the sweat off her brow, smoothed her clothes down and took a deep breath. As she stepped into the shadow of the corporate colossus the glass doors automatically opened and as soon as she was over the threshold, barely audible commercial catch phrases whispered ERGOSYNTH into her ears from just about anywhere. Hidden speakers, Tammy thought, how creepy.

****

Thomson weighed the next pair in his hands for a moment. Both were marked, the one in McAvon’s scrawled handwriting, the other with a grim red Internal Integrity stamp. Weird. This applicant seemed to be McAvon’s favourite, and Thomson could see why. Way above average grades, excellent reference from her university tutor… Thomson wondered what Integrity could have dug up.

****

Tammy walked up to the front desk and was slightly put off by the receptionist. Seen from a distance, something seemed to be not quite right about her; her skin, her posture, too unflawed, wrong. Tammy stepped closer and the cold stare did nothing to lift the uncanny spell, but then the synth spoke: “Welcome to ERGOSYNTH,” it said in a carefully modulated voice, “where the intellect of today meets the synth of tomorrow.”

With a smirk Tammy contemplated how human the artificial body’s voice sounded. Unemotional and a bit tinny for sure, but still; the progress in this field was almost scary – and entirely fascinating.

“How may I be of service?” Tammy shook off her thoughts and placed her thumb on the small ID pad on the receptionist’s desk. “I have an appointment with Mr Thomson. I am here for the job interview.”

****

Eric found it highly irregular to be called away from his work at this time in the day. Of course, Thomson was CEO, so why would he not call Eric to his office whenever he so wished, but still. Eric peeled his laboratory coat off, put it on his hanger and hung that on the clothes rack on the wall of the laboratory. Out of his jacket pocket he produced a comb, which he wet under the sink and combed his hair into place. Not that any hair had actually gotten out of place, but he found the orderly lines in his hair soothing.

When Eric got to Thomson’s office, he immediately realised that something bad had to have happened. His superior’s impressive bulk was stood in front of the obscenely huge window that looked out on the hovcraft traffic high above the city. His hands were planted on his hips, and his left fist held a file, crumpled in the middle. Eric addressed the broad shoulders and massive neck. “Nathan? You have called for me?”
“Why, Eric? I thought I could trust you. And of all possible candidates, you don’t choose the one with the most talent, but the one who clearly paid you off!”

Eric gasped. “What? I have no idea what you are talking about!”

****

The synth had pointed Tammy to the elevator and now she stood in the spacious cabin that was to bring her to the fifteenth floor. As the lift soared upwards, it recited more ERGOSYNTH propaganda: a brief résumé of the company. Tammy looked up at the blinking red floor indicator – 3, it read – and sighed. “Oh, shut up already.” To her surprise, the lift obeyed.

A few moments later the ride stopped and the lift welcomed her to Floor Fifteen. Was there a hint of reproach in its voice, Tammy wondered idly, with an amused smile on her lips? Tammy stepped through the opening doors and faced a woman, whose smart attire struck Tammy as unbelievably posh. She held her hand out to Tammy, who wondered what the woman would think of her own, far cheaper get-up. “You must be Tamara Simmons. I’m Rose, Mr Thomson’s personal assistant. This way please.”

****

“No idea what I’m talking about? Don’t give me that. Why do you prefer this one, huh, Eric?” He held up the file for Eric to see.
“I – ” Eric shook his head. He had no idea what his CEO wanted from him. “She seems smart as hell, and she has done individual research into synths. Independent research, Nathan! That’s why I prefer her. She could be our breakthrough.”
“Yeah,” Thomson sneered. “Some breakthrough. You shagged her, didn’t you? You’ve been to Oldtown and she fucked you into giving her that job.”
Silence spread through the room, like a dark cloud and then the intercom flashed up. Eric jumped at the sound, but Thomson bared his teeth in a grin, fierce white contrasted by his beard. “Ah,” he said, “right on time.”

****

Tamara let Rose lead her along a row of cubicles which presumably housed ERGOSYNTH’s worker bees. Tammy wondered whether she’d soon be one of them, obediently concentrating on her computer. The two women finally stood in what seemed to be Rose’s office. A large desk stood to the right and Tammy noticed that it was cluttered in hand-written post-its. How nostalgic, Tammy thought. Her desk at home looked exactly the same, if not worse, even though paper notes were quite obsolete and frowned upon. Still, Tammy preferred them to electronic notes and she was happy to see she wasn’t the only one.

Rose, meanwhile slipped behind the desk, moved a few bits of paper away to uncover an intercom and activated it. “Mr Thomson?”
“Ah, right on time.” The excellent quality of the intercom made quite a good job of conveying Thomson’s deep baritone and Tammy was curious to see what the man behind this booming voice would look like. Hopefully, she thought, he’s as nice as he sounds. She was really quite sick of the Jail Bait.
“Please cancel my meeting with Miss Simmons, Rose. She is not part of our policy. Just send her back to Oldtown, into that flesh palace

Tammy saw Rose’s friendly-polite personal assistant mask crumble and give way to the real Rose, who, at this moment was appalled: wide eyes staring, half-parted lips, words unable to squeeze through, and her right hand still hovering above the intercom button, forgotten in mid-air. Rose looked almost comical, Tammy thought, and if she wasn’t so shocked herself, she might’ve let slip a giggle. That damn Jail Bait.
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