There was something seemingly sterile, almost hospital-like about the Bachman & Clench offices that did little to make Calypso feel welcome when she stepped out of the elevator. Artless white walls were illuminated by bright fluorescent lights that buzzed, and not a single head turned as she stepped by the sea of cubicles that stretched from wall to wall. No windows gave any betrayal of sunlight, of if the outside world even existed, of if there was anything beyond this room, and perhaps that was the point. The only noise was the occasional cough, or a stifled yawn, but most of the employees seemed to be busy at work while they stared into space, a mass-produced visor cutting them off from the rest of the world so that they could focus on whatever their task on hand was.
Perhaps, underneath their visor, they were working on a lovely beach, or casually chatting with their coworkers about last night’s game while punching in a few strings of data, or secretly viewing pornography, but Calypso saw nothing more than a bunch of mouth-breathing drones, a hundred or so blips in a network designed to increase profits by a few fractions of a percentage. If this was the price to pay to be rubbed down by cabana boys, perhaps Calypso would reconsider her fantasy after all. She imagined that part of the reason there were no windows in this room was fear that an employee might realize how pointless their existence was and jump out of it. Just being here made Calypso feel uneasy. She quickened her pace as she made her way to the corner office, what was meant to be a light rap-a-tap on the door coming out as a heavy bang-bang. She was so ready to get out of this corporate void.
She thought she heard a come in. Even if she didn’t, she had already opened the door and made her way in, being extra certain to seal the door shut behind her. It was a corner office, although that was only a guess, because instead of windows there were screens that showed aerial views of rolling green landscapes and rushing rivers. A pleasantly sweet aroma filled the air, something like cinnamon apple, and the office was immaculately designed with abstract art, a mahogany desk, and a leather couch. It was a stark contrast between the drab place Calypso had just walked through. Seated behind the desk was a slight woman in an expensive looking pantsuit, her heels kicked up on the desk with one hand behind her head while the other swiped at air. Her hair could hardly be called that; it was more a sculpture made out of obsidian, styled into spiral and molded to fit her head perfectly. Not a single strand was out of place and when the exec moved the hair didn’t even wobble. Unless Calypso was in the wrong room, then this woman went by the moniker Sloan, or at least she did on Capri.
After a few seconds of waiting, Calypso realized that the woman hadn’t even noticed her.
“Excuse me, I—”
“Shit!” yelled the exec as she jumped out of her chair. Sloan was so loud that even Calypso had jumped a little, thinking that perhaps she had gone to the wrong office. “Finally you’re here! You are the delivery girl, right? I mean, look at you, obviously you’re the delivery girl, hah!”
“Sorry for being late,” said Calypso, taking a glance at her phone. She was a few minutes early, still. A look of annoyance came and went before she peered back up at the suit. “Do you have the package?”
“Do I have it?” Sloan sounded almost offended. “Do I have it? Why would I have it?” Calypso looked at her phone again, confirming that the request had been to pick up a package from the sender. Sloan continued, “You’re going to get it for me. Isn’t that what you do?”
“Of course, ma’am, I must’ve misread the description. Where is the pickup?” asked Calypso, ready to be away from this woman as soon as possible. Something about the change in the job stank like a setup.
“Ghajotia,” said Sloan, a cruel smile betraying her lips.
“Sorry, but I can’t do the impossible,” said Calypso with a laugh. “Ghajotia is locked down. I’m a courier, not a cyborg ninja. Unfortunately, it seems we both wasted each other’s time. I know the way out.”
Calypso’s hand was on the door when Sloan spoke, “Maybe we could work something out, Callie.”
Calypso froze for a moment, and then turned back towards Sloan. Sloan had a look of satisfaction on her face as she sat down, beckoning Calypso to join her.
“It’s Callie Graham,” said Sloan.
“I think you have me mistaken for someone else,” said Calypso, still standing.
“I think you have me mistaken for an idiot,” said Sloan. “You are Callie Graham, age 23, Bandi residence. A month ago you delivered a package that blew up a skin shop. You work at the Black Hole bar on the border of Bandi and Ghajotia, you’re currently single, and your only family is your mother who lives in Ghajotia. And I can assure you, Ms. Graham, that the reason your mother isn’t responding to your calls is not because she is dead, for the time being at least. A meatbag like you has certainly heard of the hunts, have you not?”
“I have, but my mother is aug—”
“I suggest you shut the hell up and sit the fuck down.”
Calypso shutted the hell up and sat the fuck down.
“You pissed off a lot of powerful people when you blew up that clinic for the Neanderthals, Ms. Graham. A lot of powerful people. That clinic was owned by my company and was frequented by some very dangerous friends of mine, and just about all of them want you dead now.” Sloan paused, letting that thought sink in.
“It was an accident,” said Calypso through gritted teeth. “If I had known what was in the package, I wouldn’t have delivered it.”
“It was negligence brought upon by greed. How many of your little Capri packages do you think ending up hurting others? Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. But I’m not here to lecture you about morality. Besides, you should be more worried about your mortality,” said Sloan, smiling at her own cleverness. “They see you as the cause of a great loss, but I see you as an opportunity. An investment.”
“Most people would just call it blackmail,” said Calypso, her fingers clawing at the chair. “But I’m listening.”
“I am offering you protection, for both you and your mother, from the Shepherd and the more radical of the sheep in his flock,” said Sloan. “I suggest you accept it, or the friends of mine might have to forcefully extract the augmentations from your mother before dropping her off in Awakened territory.”
“It’s pretty clear that I have no other option here, but you could at least give me the catch before I sign away my soul.”
“The catch is we now own you, at least until you make us enough money to make up for the loss caused by you blowing up one of our clinics. Trust me, it’s a fairly hefty sum, and a gutter rat like you is more likely to catch a bullet before she ever sees that much money, but it’s the only chance you got.” Sloan slid open a drawer on the other side of the desk. “Alternatively, I could settle things for you right now.”
“Well,” Calypso tried to smile to hide her fear, “looks like I’ll be getting a job out of this interview after all. Consider me a proper lackey, then.”
“Delightful. I knew you would do the smart thing,” said Sloan, closing the drawer. “Let’s shake on it to make it official.”
Sloan barely reached over her side of the desk, forcing Calypso to stand up to shake the other woman’s hand. The moment her tentative hand touched Sloan’s she realized her apprehension to touch the other woman was justified as Sloan’s hand clasped around Calypso’s wrist with a crushing grip. Sloan slammed Calypso’s hand onto the desk and twisted, forcing Calypso to her knees as she yelped in pain. Calypso caught Sloan’s left hand part as a blade emerged and she looked away, a louder scream erupting from her throat as she felt the knife tear through her right pinky finger. Blood spurted across the desk as Sloan let go of Calypso, who quickly put pressure on her right hand as she bit down on her tongue to distract herself from the pain. Calypso felt a hand wrap around her ponytail as she was pulled up to her feet and onto the desk so that her ear was inches away from Sloan’s mouth.
“Consider that your apology. Welcome to the Consortium,” said Sloan, her voice seething with anger. “If you ever try to fuck us over, you’ll wish that the Awakened had gotten to you instead. Now get the fuck out of my office. I’ll contact you when you’re in Ghajotia.”