Mister Mayfair heard the polite cough of Julianna Dawes, the latest administrative assistant to be granted a position working for his division of BristleCorp’s Pando Project. He looked up from his desk and saw the orange-skinned human holding up a document.
“A message for you, Mister Mayfair. It wasn’t marked as urgent, but I took the liberty of treating it as such.”
Mayfair held up a finger and quickly finished scanning the document he was working on. He noted the pertinent corrections onto the context-sensitive interface of his desk and turned to face Dawes.
“Good timing. I have a few minutes here. What’s the issue?”
“You’re familiar with the Dyson Empire’s attacks within the system?”
“It’s hard not to be. Brilliant light show. Our building should be safe from most incidental damages likely to occur in a battle of this sort.”
“Emperor Dyson’s Herald has sent a list of demands to the rulers of Veskid,” said Dawes, handing the document to Mayfair. “It seems that we were included on that list?”
“Oh?” said Mayfair, taking the document and reading it. “That doesn’t make sense. We’re not the only… oh.”
Mayfair read the document, a single piece of paper with text filling only two-thirds of its available space. It had been years since Mayfair had misread something on a document of this nature, but he read it three times just to be certain.
“This can’t be accurate. Surely any reasonable person would know that we can’t do this.”
“Harold Zamona seems to believe that we can.”
“Well, let him know that he’s wrong,” said Mayfair, pushing the document away and onto his desk, where its contents were quickly scanned, registered, and filed away. “Even if we ignored the incredible cost and the unimaginable impact on local economy, we simply don’t have the authority.”
“I know, sir,” said Dawes.
Mayfair drummed the top of his desk.
“Right. Here’s what we do: nothing. We don’t respond, we don’t acknowledge, and we don’t activate. In two hours, remand all employees with a Rho classification or higher to a protective facility unless they have proper clearance to ignore you for this kind of order and choose to ignore you, they should know what they’re doing. Include yourself in this list if you wish, or just take the rest of the day off if you’d prefer. In the event of my death, I have a pre-written letter of recommendation on file for you.”
“Thank you, sir, though it’s hard to imagine working anywhere other than BristleCorp.”
“Good, we might have some career vacancies in the near future. I’m going to call some of my counterparts and let them know what’s happening.”
“Good luck, sir.”
Dawes nodded, turned, and walked for the door of the office while Mayfair reached under his desk. The helmet resembled an old fashioned sky divers helmet, though the interface was decidedly modern. Mayfair lowered the headgear onto his head until it obscured his eyes.
“Conference Call,” he said. “Urgency Level Two.”
Much earlier, on another world…
Zack’s room was as tiny as the rooms in the hotel came, which was still more spacious than the kinds of places he liked working. He shuffled through the documents in for the next DMA assignment, a case involving two sects of different religious groups that had monasteries close enough to each other that one was blaming the other for a series of unfortunate ‘accidents’ that had been increasing in number, one including a death. He kept an older style clock on the nightstand near his bed, one that would tick and remind him of the passing time, since he knew that he had to make it to the space port in order to get through security.
He slid the final documents that would help the case into the green folder, and pushed the folder itself into his new briefcase, a parting gift from Azar. He’d withdrawn his support of Azar’s anonymous case from the Desperate Measures Agency at Azar’s request, marking the case as “complete”, a generic enough description that was accurate enough without giving anything away. Azar would continue paying him personally and had even offered to pay what he’d been paying the Agency, meaning that Zack would be getting a raise now that the DMA wouldn’t be taking its percentage off the top.
Zack turned his attention to the second folder, the red folder. Despite the color of the dyes, Zack noted that the folders had actually been made from abacá when he purchased them, making them genuine manila folders, an extra expense he was willing to spring for. The red folder involved notes from his case with Azar, including some predictive strategies for reacting to likely eventualities while he was gone. He checked it to make sure that everything was in order, sighed, and closed it. Taking a pen, he wrote the word “Eclipse” on the top of the folder so that he could refer to the plans by shorthand in the future without giving away too much of the contents of the documents.
He donned his coat and his hat, grabbed the briefcase and the red folder, and left. He’d decided it would be best to part ways without drawing much attention to it, so he had said his goodbyes to Azar and Harold the previous night. This didn’t stop him from passing Azar’s door on the way to the elevators, though, and as he moved in front of the door he carefully slid the red folder beneath it.
His business concluded, he walked to the elevator. The early hour meant he hadn’t seen a soul since leaving his room, and the bellhop carrying the suitcase inside the elevator was almost startling. He recovered quickly and tipped his hat to the bellhop as he entered the elevator, and the bellhop gave a friendly salute in return.
“Going down?” asked Zack.
“No, but we can head down first. We’ve got an early arrival, but I don’t think they’ll be finished checking in for a few minutes yet, so I’ve got the time.”
“Thanks, pal,” said Zack as the doors closed. He pushed the down button and felt the shift in inertia as it began to descend. “Thanks for the attention to detail while I’ve been here, by the by. This company’s a real tight ship.”
“We aim to please. I take it you’re leaving then?”
“Yeah,” said Zack. “I’ve got a plane to catch.”
“Not a ship?”
“No, I’m leaving the spaceport by plane. They have some small charter ones if you’re just going elsewhere on the world.”
“You sure you want to do that?” asked the Bellhop. “I’ve heard that outside the parts that are dedicated to tourism this world can be a little rough.”
Zack grinned as the elevator stopped and the doors slid open.
“What can I say?” he said, stepping into the lobby. “Duty calls.”