The incandescence of the holographic sculpture fluttered against the old robotic test pilot’s eyelids for several minutes before the man awoke. Abidel Zion rested in bed for a few more minutes as he hazily watched the holographic tree rotate on its plastic (surely seraphim metamaterial) dias on his nightstand.
It has been a gift by Charlie and his wife, one of the few art pieces that spoke to him in a way that resonated with his sense of agency. It was a dynamically generated representation of the GDP of the Diamond Corporation in all its subsidiaries and companies as branches and leaves. Under a thin veneer so surface soil an elaborate root system represented a concourpia of death, from lives lost using the company’s signature Seraphim robots vehicles, to deaths due to illness from poor work conditions, to the incarceration of dissidents to the regime of company stakeholders.
It was a really well thought out sophistically implemented piece by the artist Jaboi Watts. Depending on the man’s dreams the night before, Abe switched between believing it to be a memento mori or an armor fati.
He rubbed his eyes and scratched the sandy blonde stubble of a beard on his chin with the back of his hand. The old pilot sat up and started on the morning ritual the forgotten sect of Aryth-Canto tane monks had taught him in the final days of Rhea’s life. He muttered twelve things he was thankful for. He made it a habit to spout at least one thing before the tree had made a full rotation, which had made the recitation become more of a ritual to him then what the monks had initially prescribed.
“Milton. My son.” Abe muttered.
He thought for a second. What were some of the names? The Renieric sisters had raised him at the orphanage until he became a ward of the state of Tasnica, yet for the life of him it took him effort to recall anything beyond their sour faces.
“Sister …. The fat one… Sister Thatcher.”
“Old Suse Jones.” he spoke, thinking of Diamond company founder. He recalled the look of sheer joy the tawny faced man held when he first landed after the inaugural launch of the sera-t prototype.
“Tasnican Sauerkraut with chopped sausages…”
He was hungry. He stood up and left the bedroom from the lavatory, which as he pushed open a set of double doors appears more like a day spa then a standard restroom. He walked over to a reflective wall which mirrored his body but also presented detailed metrics on his physiology. His morning breakfast was already being adjusted by the in-house chef.
A fountain bubbled a stream that flowed down a closet sized terrarium that the nature-loving Zion derobed and showered in. He tilted his head back and took a deep breath, his lungs expanding in that odd gut sinking way that centrifugal gravity tended to cause.
Understanding the man’s body language, the rain stopped and a warm breeze blew across his body, drying his as he walked into the wardrobe room. Two robots stood recessed and plugged in to the wall on either side of the closet, each in sleep mode.
“Sorry for the long nap fellas, but I got this.” he muttered as he adjusted the tie he had placed on one of the machines. He tilted a fedora to the side of the robot’s head.
He dressed himself methodically in his iconic blue suit, walking back into the bathroom to review his appearced on the metrics wall.
“This’ll do,” he mouthed to the mirror.
Zion walked out from the bedroom to a common room, existing through a large bulky corridor or several vacuum sealable vault doors. As he entered the room a monitor switched from a landscape of a Tasnican national park to one of Diamond’s new networks. Another wall being to process through a myriad of correspondences from across the trans-dimensional trade empire. After a few moments an orange colored icon appeared on one the screen, indicating that there was 2% discrepancy in the subconscious ai versus predictions from the more primitive machine learning algorithms in what his automated responses would be.
The chef entered the common room and quietly placed a full Tasnican breakfast of assorted fruits and some artisanal brotchen. Zion smiled at the man who nodded and exited the room. Tomorrow I need to be thankful for Chef Jeremy, Zion thought as the smell of the food fileld his nostrils. He sat down at a common table.
He took a zip of coffee and bit into the brotchen. The sliced tomatoes were sweet, probably from Charlie’s garden. He looked at the orange message at the wall and sighed.”
“Message wall, Give me the three most critical. “
A soft feminine voice spoke from what seemed to be the center of the table. From the voices that were chosen for him, it had vaguely resembled the voice of his old coworker Doris. “From two hours ago. Hey Abe! This is Merico from the produce division in Highfort Gardens. Where do we stand on the supply contracts? Was told to defer to you before adjusting for seasonal hires. Thanks! Response conflict, SAI response ’All good. You do you.’ versus automated response, ‘We should be alright to proceed’.”
“Huh,” buttered Zion, rubbing his stubble. “I think its a ‘you do you’ kind of day, you know?”
“Conflict corrected. Next in que. Hello, Mister Zion. I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but this is a matter of life and death. You see my daughter–”
“Give me the DC.”
“SAI response ‘Don’t worry. We will get through this. Please contact… versus automated response, “It’s going to be ok. The Diamond Company offers a comprehensive…”
“Oh no. Yeah. Definitely, ‘We will get through this.’”
“Warning, predicted new correspondence to surge by 12% if response contained a collective ‘we’.”
Zion ran his hand across his forehead. He took another mouthful of brotchen as he leaned back in a chair. He let out a heavy sigh.
“Ok fella, let’s skip the theatrics. What’s the optimized response that won’t cause a recession someplace?”
“%CORRESPONDENT%, you can get through this, The Diamond Company offers a comprehensive…”
He picked up his fork and plucked a melon ball from a bowl and bit off a piece.
“Yah ok. Next.”
“Conflict corrected. Next is que. THIS IS THE INFINITE WRATH. WE ARE INFORMING THAT WE HAVE TAKE YOUR SON MILTON—”
“Eyes on Milton”
The wall screen switched to a large view of his son, still asleep in bed with metrics readouts on his vitals. The boy did not seem to be disturbed.
Zion wiped his lips after taking another sip of coffee. A floating robot entered the room and began to bus the table and put back his chair as the man stood.
“There is a 34 minute gap in your itinerary before your next conference call,” the wall voice spoke to him.”
“Oh. Well you know what? Let’s go bug Captain Harvey.”
Admiral Huiarnvi “Harvey” Khwaja, formerly of the Grand Army, decorated Malakim fighter under Hannibal De’Zamma, former direct subordinate to the reanimated Torstensson Lenart of the White Cell, noted deserter in objection to the Ultima bombings of Dragon III, stood on the command deck of the Diamond flagship Lycidas in a tropical print dress shirt, rocking his trademark aviator glasses and sipping a mimosa.
These days he was Captain Harvey.
“Oh, morning Abe. Mimosa?”
“Morning Harvey! I can never tell if you wear those glasses to look cool or to hide a hangover,” the Diamond CEO spoke. The captain shrugged.
“Little bit of column A, little bit of column B. Got another day before we’re colony side, so you know.”
Zion continued to smile but didn’t acknowledge the response. If this had been a military gig, he would have censored himself, but the continual morning presence of the Diamond CEO had reassured any anxiety over his eccentricities. As captain, he had operated as a defacto admiral to the constant flow of trade ships that had become the backbone to the Diamond commercial empire. His career had gone full circle, as his youth was spending as seraphim escort to such trade ships in the early days of Diamond, only to be headhunted for service by the grand Army for the Malakim, an elite unit of robotic spacecraft fighters, then to return to Diamond after the CEO had made any hiccups from his desertion disappear.
Havery turned to look at the theater-wide display that appeared on the far side of the command deck. Similar to Zion’s bathroom wall, it displayed a visual of the ship with a streaming roll of diagnostics and alerts.
Presently, the Lycidas was the largest commercial spaceship in operation, if not the largest spaceship left operational. It was a craft that mimicked the culture of the Diamond corporation, what had begun as a personal craft for the CEO to travel across its transdimensional empire of industry, ballooned into a fortress of consumerism elevated by the personality cult of Zion. As like the wharehouses around the Diamond Bulding in Tasncaport transformed into a retreat for employees of Diamond, the Lycidas operated as one part traveling office, one part holiday ship. It was most likely the only vessel in existence that held both military grade robotic battle machines and multiple karaoke bars. The largest conference hall converted into a dance club when there was a lull in between scheduling.
“Oh, I see we have some VIPs to the deck?” quizzed Zion as he pointed to the massive monitor wall. Next to the command deck a message indicated that a hull door had been locked as a safety measure. Zion had deduced months ago that the cause of the locked doors was due to the CEO being in proximity of ‘guests’ to the ship.
“The winners of the Space Race we sponsored are on board. They’re having brunch in the Senior officer’s cafeteria.”
“Oh nice! You know, maybe I can do a little meet and greet? I always like meeting new people.”
Harvey’s stance grew ridgid. “Yeah, not happening guy. At least not through me.”
“Oh that’s a bummer.”
“Tell you what though, I’ll talk to security to see if we can do a vehicle escort in one of the cart. I’d feel more comfortable if you were behind a shield of translucent plastic. We’ll keep it brief and you can smile and wave.”
Zion stared at the wall. The room had a soft hum from the machines as the morning crew were finishing their night-long shift and not talkative.
“Ok. I would like that.” Zion spoke softly at last. Harvey finished off his Mimosa.
The promenade ran through the center of the Lycidas and was the central hub for most of the activity on board the vessel. At its center was a botanical garden that was surrounded by a very large circular roadway that branched off in a Y shape pattern. The command deck was at the end of one branch, hall rooms, spas, and theatres lined the sides of the others for several stories.
A man dressed in a skin tight grey shock trooper uniform, similar to what he once wore as a pilot himself. It had reminded him of the uniforms Clay Renolds had begun to wear in the months before the White Cell conflict. Another guard with a large rifle sat next to him in the cart, staring at a time device in his hand. It had a countdown of seconds. The CEO was flanked by one other guard, as two others flanked him on both sides, handing from the outside as they held handles mounted to the sides for such a purpose. The cart itself was bulk and more armored then the normal transport vehicles of the ship, although the top and sides were covered in a transparent seraphim plastic. He had heard his guard refer to this one in the past as the ‘Abe mobile’.
Abe had worked security once. It was in his teenage years, as a night door man patrolling the grounds of the Diamond offices. It was then in those late nights that he befriended old Jones, busing overseering the engeerring team personally and trying to perfect his mechanical apprations of the rival Gate companies’ quality intelligence and performance. The who shared a love of futurist technology and visions for the betterment of society.
“Hey, heard someone call you Buick? That’s a cool name. Where are you from Buick?”
The guard’s timer flashed red and the man motioned the drive to proceed. A second timer began and countered down to a new event. As they drove down the promenade, the flow of bodies turned to greet them and followed them in their wake, like currents of humanity taking notice of their capitalist god-king.
Zion smiled and waved. He looked over the Buick’s counter, noticed it was only seconds from completion, and darted his eyes to look for the telltale signs of a handler. He had learned to spot out the light blue blazer that mimicked his trademark uniform. He noticed a young woman in a knee high skirt and blazer at the crossroad. Most of his driveby meetings were at the crossroad, it was where they had nests for the most snipers.
“Oh look!” he heard the handler cheerfully exclaim as his cart came to crawl. Zion’s grin widened as he looked at the space race winners. For a moment as he looked on their faces a spark of sincerity spread across his grin. These were adventurers. These were not the neatly trimmed, clean and beautiful faced people that surrounded him on the ship. Zion saw their wrinkles and scars on their wonderful faces and wanted to know the story behind each and every one of them.
“Hi there! Are you the Space Race Winners? I was watching the whole thing, and wow what a show you guys put on! I loved it!”
“Oh they are Abe! I was taking them to see the command deck!”
“I was just there! Heading to a meeting now though!” exclaimed the old mecha pilot. He did not pick up on the woman’s false excitement and met it with his own childish enthusiasm.
“So I wanted to ask–”
Buick motioned the driver as another countdown timer came to completion. Zion’s lips pressed thin mid sentence. He held back a small sigh and put back on a smile.
“Oh, I guess we’re moving again. Take care and thank you!!”
A guard gently pressed his hand to the man’s side, motioning him to sit back down. Zion gave out an exaggerated wave as he sat. His shoulders sank slightly as they continued down the promenade, making a quick turn into a faux storefront that hid an isolated corridor.
The lights in the corridor were bright and the walls were bare and sterile. He knew he had about seven minutes until his next meeting.
“Ya ever think about the future Buick?” asked Zion. The guard in the grey uniform looked down at his timer, speechless.