Scene 3

Corporate Headquarters Metropolis (CHM), February 8, 2084. 8:12 a.m.

 

Jules can hardly concentrate on the traffic, she is so excited. An appointment with Semper Wombat, the CEO of Aethon Blue Incorporated! Semper Wombat is god. He rules the world. He lives and works in a mile-high pyramid built over the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, at the center of the world’s capital city. The pyramid, shaped like the pyramids at Giza, is white marble and glass. The tip of the pyramid shines translucent gold, and a giant human eye watches over the city and the world from this pyramid atop the pyramid. Through a holographic effect or magic, the eye is always watching each subject of the empire as she or he commutes through the city. It is not a frozen image, it is a huge human eye that blinks; its pupil dilates and contracts. Nor is it a flat image; it is three-dimensional. The pyramid atop the pyramid is Semper Wombat’s office.

Jules steers her Audi sedan onto the expressway that heads straight for the pyramid. She whizzes by the city, and she gets a good view from the elevated highway. Palace after palace, lavish garden after lavish garden, luxurious, ornate apartment buildings, office buildings, high rises, giant plazas with huge statues, entertainment districts. All the trappings of the capital of an empire, but bigger and more grand than it was ever done before. A mishmash of architectural styles and periods, making the city a microcosm for human cultures of today and yesterday.

Jules has only been working for OmniFantasy for about six months. She is a talent scout. She knows Zander, her boss, likes her. Jules has an intensity about her, a drive that none of the other scouts have. Landing good talent is her mission, and she takes it as seriously as a special forces soldier takes his. She was in the army before she got the job at Aethon Blue Incorporated’s virtual reality entertainment subsidiary. She was one of the army’s first female special forces soldiers. The zest with which she hunted down terrorists in that job, she has taken over to her new job. Which makes her much more than a talent scout. More like a 007 of the entertainment world.

So far, she has only landed three artists. But they are promising, and she has far exceeded her quota. But she would never have dreamed of being called to the ABI CEO’s office. She would never have even dreamed of being called to her department manager’s office, or the division director’s office. She is too shocked to be nervous. It’s like you’re told all of a sudden that you’re dead, and you’re about to meet an angel.

− What does he want to talk to me about? she wonders. If he wants a scout to hunt down an artist, why wouldn’t he ask for one of the department’s veterans? Don Findland for example, who landed Xanu, the global superstar of cyberfantasies, the creator of the Earth’s Children fantasy, the Nirvana fantasy, the Dionysian Chronicles fantasy, the Kitchen Sink Sisters fantasy, and the Pirates of the Pacific fantasy? Don has been at it for over 20 years. And the others look up to him like a father.

The expressway veers off in front of the pyramid, but Jules takes the exit ramp that rises and enters the pyramid hundreds of meters in the air. She pulls up to the landing dock. A valet opens the door.

− Here to see the CEO, she says, handing him the key to the car. Jules Manley.

− This way, please, Ms. Manley.

The valet passes the key to another valet, who gets into the car and drives it off. Jules follows the first valet as he heads for the lobby. Jules is dressed in tight black jeans, an open black leather motorcycle jacket, a black turtleneck, and black patent leather stiletto heel boots. Her pert breasts fill out the turtleneck nicely. Since she works in the entertainment world, she has more leeway in terms of dress than many other ABI employees. She does not have to wear a color-coded jumpsuit or corporate business attire to work.

The valet leads Jules into a giant lobby, which they cross to a bank of elevators. He walks to the far left corner. The only elevator with no buttons or label. A laser scans the valet’s hair and Jules’s black pageboy-cut hair.

− Ms. Manley for Mr. Wombat, the valet says. The elevator door opens.

− Thank you. Jules gets on the elevator, and the valet heads back for the main doors. The elevator closes and Jules has to tighten her leg muscles as the elevator accelerates powerfully to what must be close to 100 kilometers per hour.  The elevator comes to a stop and opens.

A corporate office. A woman in a pink jumpsuit greets her.

− Good morning, Ms. Manley. Mr. Wombat is ready to receive you. This way, please.

They wind their way through a maze of cubicles until they reach a cramped circular stairway up.

− That way, please, Ms. Manley. Mr. Wombat will receive you alone. Jules walks up the stairs and comes out in a vast pyramid-shaped chamber with a hardwood floor and dusky glass walls. At the far end, a man sits at a conference table, alone. Jules strides toward him. The man’s arms are folded over his chest, his legs are crossed on the table, and he is looking out over the city. Jules reaches him and throws herself on the floor, on her face.

− Please, Jules. Get up. Wombat rises as Jules reassembles herself, and he shakes her hand.

− Pleased to meet you, Mr. Wombat. Jules resists the urge to curtsey.

He is a fiftyish man with male pattern baldness, cold steel blue eyes, a hawk nose, and a strong chin. He looks very sleek and efficient, but also calm and benevolent. He is wearing a flannel shirt, tight jeans, cowboy boots, and a bolo tie.

− Have a seat. Wombat points to a circle of couches.

Jules sits down in a couch and crosses her legs. Wombat sits across from her, legs wide. A woman in a pink jumpsuit brings them coffee and leaves.

− How are you liking it at OmniFantasy, Jules?

− I like it. I like the work. Finding a good artist is like discovering a jewel.

− A diamond in the rough, huh?

− Not always so rough. I have a feeling the artists teach us more than we train them.

Wombat smiles.

− You’ve been doing good work, Jules. Zander speaks highly of you.

− Thank you, Mr. Wombat.

− Please, call me Semper.

− Yes, sir.

− Semper.

− Yes, Semper.

− So, what do you think of all this? His eyes strafe over his office, the pyramid, and the entire city.

− Pork barrel spending.

Semper laughs.

− It is a little gaudy, isn’t it? Sometimes I like to get away from it all. I head into the mountains to fish. I don’t even take my guard with me. Just sit there on the lake and let my mind wander. Nature is my cathedral.

Jules studies him.

− What do you do for fun, Jules?

− No time, Semper.

− Come on. What do you do after work?

− I work. I google artists from home.

− You need to take time, Jules. You’re going to burn out. Besides, a beautiful young woman like you, you want to socialize, network.

− My network is me. I don’t trust anybody.

− Yes. Well. It’s one of the reasons I called you here. You’re security-conscious.  I’ve got a mission for you, Jules. Sensitive and difficult. You will have to proceed with utmost discretion. There is an artist in Efficiency City, Productivity Sector, I want you to hunt down. She is a counterculture artist, and she will resist every attempt to bring her in. She has broadcast fantasies by hacking into the network. Pirate broadcasts. We’ve been able to arrest many of her audience, but have had no luck snagging her. She is very savvy, down-low, and quick. I’m not interested in putting her away. Her vision is so unique and powerful that I’ve decided she would be a great member of our team. It’s going to take a lot of work just finding her. Infiltrating her gang will be even harder. Winning her trust, next to impossible. And getting her to sign a contract with OmniFantasy, unthinkable at this point. This is your mission, should you choose to accept it.

− I accept.

− Good. Julian will brief you on the intelligence details.

− What makes her so special, Semper?

Semper muses for a moment.

− She hates ABI and all it stands for. She hates the system. That doesn’t make her original. But she is so charismatic, she has the potential to rile people up against us. She’s got the touch. I want someone like that on my side. Her art is original, powerful, and subtle. And she engages the participants in such a way that they become active members of their stories, their fantasies. The fantasy creator and moderators no longer lead the bull by the ring in his nose. She sets the bull free.

− Sounds interesting. Could become a major new franchise.

− That’s what I’m hoping. It’s going to take time, Jules. You’re going to have an unlimited expense account and a free hand in getting the job done. Don’t let this one slip away. She’s just too good.

− May I ask you something, Semper? Why me?

− Because you’re young. You’re fresh, like Aria. And you’re your own woman, like her. You’re the only scout who has a chance of getting through to her.

Wombat rises, and Jules does the same. They shake hands.

− Good luck. You’ll report directly to me.

− Thank you for the opportunity, Semper.

Jules walks toward the circular stairway. She looks back at him as she descends. Wombat is standing at the glass wall, looking toward the horizon.

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2 Responses to “Scene 3”

  1. wow…you are very good…i like how you write, and i’m glad you stopped by my blog and left a note, so that i could follow you back here!
    (you asked about the skeleton pic…ALL the skeleton graphics are images i have found online….anyone can use! ONLY the photography images are mine. so please…feel free…but i appreciate you’re asking!)

    i WILL be back…to read on…

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