An Offer You Can't Refuse, pt. 2: The Meeting

(pre- In Bloom. Joint post with Winters)

"How long they gon' keep us waitin'? Feels like it's been weeks." Sy paced back and forth the waiting room of the She'Ying office, while Pyria watched her. She had entertained herself for a while with inspecting the intricate flowers blooming on the windowsill, and the meticulously sculpted vines along the wall, but her patience was beginning to wear thin to the extent that her slum-speak was creeping back into her voice, which was unlike her in the presence of Pyria.

The reception had thus far been nice enough. The entrance hall was roomy and contained both large amounts of glass as well as fragrant flowers and plants Sy had never seen before. Pyria had addressed the receptionist, a gorgeous, immaculately dressed and coiffed Asian woman of Sy's age with gleaming purple irises and identical color lips. She spoke in a soft, almost hushed tone of reverence as if they were in a library rather than an office. As they conversed to confirm the appointment, Sy looked around. The hall was high enough to see into several floors, several of the rooms a bustle of black suits and lilac tube skirts. She surmised the laboratories to be further down, where the walls were not quite so transparent. It was a wondrous place, both appearing as opulent as the Spire yet in a vastly different manner. Several employees passed her on their way to the stairs or the elevators, two men glancing back at her and exchanging a look. Although Sy cleaned up nicely in the Spire provided outfit, she realized she did not look at all like she belonged there, and it made her feel very self-aware.

But after Pyria had taken her to the waiting room with the instruction to sit tight until her contact could pick them up, her awkwardness had gradually transformed to annoyance, and with it, her slum-taught bluntness began to return. There's only so much time a new location can continue to impress. "I get if they don' feel like I deserve timely courtesy, but makin' you wait this long don' feel right t'me, know'm'sayin'. I mean, you the damn Den Mother!" she said as she turned to Pyria. She blushed a little as she met the Den Mother's gaze and muttered: "Sorry. Slum got my tongue."

Pyria couldn’t help but chuckle. “It’s a different world here Sy and Takeshi is a busy man. I’m sure he is just being held up.” She said still positive as ever. The two pups with them sat lazily in their chair mindlessly flipping through complimentary digital magazines.

“I’m with Sy this is my waking nightmare.” One pup said dryly.

“I second that nightmare.” The other responded.

“Both of you are being dramatic.” Pyria accused the two pups. “What can I say other than welcome to corporate Oracle. 90% waiting around 10% getting things actually done.” Pyia said with a sigh. “Do you want a drink or anything?” She asked Sy. They were after all in the VIP of waiting rooms.

“I’ll just grab some water from the cooler, Pyria, thank-” Before Sy could finish her sentence, the door opened and a slim man in a pitch black suit entered, flanked by two imposing associates in sunglasses. The guards side-stepped as soon as they entered, framing the doorway as they scanned the room. The slim man marched right on in. He was of indeterminate Asian descent. His hair was a sharply lined buzzcut, his face shrewd, the skin immaculate to the point where he seemed photoshopped in real life. His age could be anywhere between 30 and 80. He turned to Pyria and performed a slight bow from the hips, his arms stiff by his sides. “Pyria, always a pleasure to have you here.” His voice was soft and calm, sonorous yet slightly too rehearsed for Sy’s liking. She could not tell whether he was secretly being glib or whether his default demeanor was so smooth it seemed almost unnatural. Either way, he did not seem as immediately trustworthy to her as Pyria had, but she’d give him the benefit of the doubt. He was the Den Mother’s friend, after all.

“You cut your hair! When did you start looking so professional!” Pyria said trying not to laugh once the proper decorum was done.

Takeshi huffed running his finger through his short hair. “Don’t get me started! We had a … lad accident not too long ago …”

“And what BURN off your hair?!’ Pyria interjected.

“Of course not! What's with you a fire! Someone accidentally spat gum in my hair so I made a personal choice to cut it.” He said jilted. The situation clearly still raw to the poor man. “Now if you are done criticizing my poor hair …” He ticking his head to Sy.

“Oh … right. This is Syiandra Brooks the young girl I told you about.” Pyria waved to the girl.

Takeshi gave her a crisp bow. “It’s nice to meet you Syiandra, Pyria speak highly of you.” He said in that practiced formal tone. “Why don’t we go down to the labs, well have privacy down there.” He offered the pair.

Sy breathed an inner sigh of relief. At least the man was still human, and knew such emotions as embarrassment. “Thank you, sir,” she said, returning his bow. “A little privacy sounds good. I know that’s the one thing I haven’t had much of in the Spire.” She followed the two of them down the corridor, glancing around at the many reflective surfaces and unknown plant life.

They went through a pair of opaque doors, the walls around it appearing like sandblasted glass. Vague white shapes moved about behind it. The doors lead to a narrow corridor lined with a grid of lights. Sy recognized a number of scanning modules, and what she expected to be UV disinfectant. She had a feeling she could learn a ton just peeking into the software, but there were other things to discuss right now. She might still get the chance later.

Another set of doors, then another. They walked past rooms where scientists sat behind databanks, studied images and holograms of cellular and molecular structures of plants, interns measured off fluids with pipets. She didn’t seem to have enough eyes to look around. There was so much to see it felt like everything flashed by before she had properly seen it.

Takeshi continued to walk heading to a large elevator at the end of the room scanning his id card. The doors opened with a pleasant ding and motioned for them all to walk in.

“This is the regular lab … we’ll be heading down to R&D. Or in Takeshi speak …” Pyria started.

“... The fun place in this boring box of a building.” The Asian scientist finished.

“He claims it for safety and protecting the prototypes.” Pyria quipped.

“It isn’t?” Takeshi said innocently.

The elevator moved down so quickly it made Sy’s ears pop before opening up to what would best be described as an underground warehouse. People in lab coats milled about working in clumps on all kinds of concepts. Some were big taking large chunks of space, and another tiny little doodads on long tables stuffed with wires and metal bits.

Drones flew in designated flight path overhead delivering tools and parts. Much of the space was open but the place, in short, was a tinkerers wonderland with working with cutting edge tech and dabbling in the theoretical. This was a place where science was pushed.

“I would show you around but that would be a week-long endeavor … we have multiple projects going on … this way my office is over here.” He said guiding them along a designated route line colored blue.

“Oh hey Tak ..” One scientist started he jogged up to him.

“I got a meeting .. catch me after!” Takeshi said shooing the scientist away.

“Can I borro-” The nameless white coat started again.

“No, you can’t borrow Pyria.” He stated flatly.

The wave of disappointment was evident.

“Sorry … it’s kind of crazy down here. I find my people work best as far away from the corporate board room as possible. So far as long as we keep producing new and innovative tech they're content to stay away from my happy place.” Takeshi explained to Sy as they approached his office.

“Makes sense,” Sy agreed absently. She’d never seen so much tech in one place, so she had a hard time focusing on the conversation while she still had the chance to look around. As she took in the laboratories, she made eye contact a few times, but the scientists seemed hasty to look elsewhere. Was it fear? Were they just too busy? Were they simply shy? It was impossible to tell, but it did not set her at ease as they crossed the doorstep to Takeshi’s office.

She was still stealing glances behind her when Takeshi closed the door and gestured to the chairs around the oval glass table.

“Please, sit,” he said, and Sy nodded. Time to get her head back in the game and the reason they were here. She was still not entirely sure what that reason was, so after all three of them had taken their seats, the first question escaping her mouth was: “Why am I here? What’s all this about?”

“Well, firstly because it seems to be policy to not let anyone not a Neo or Alpha step into the Spire. That's one. Mostly you’re here because it’s my understanding you had some seriously dangerous tech in you they made the Spire think you were a Neo right?” Takeshi said taking a seat.

Sy nodded and displayed her palm. The nanites had left little more than some thin scarring criss-crossing her palm, with a bigger dimple in the soft flesh beneath her thumb. “I programmed an embedded wetware tool with advanced decryption and some visualization features. Called it Heimdall. I could directly target and read any open connection on the Grid, sheltered behind an obfuscation network exploiting a common security vulnerability. ‘Course, that wasn’t enough to fool the Spire. Nor that terrorist fuck on the telly. ‘Scuse my language.”

She glanced at Pyria, who smiled encouragingly and nodded for her to go on. “Seems I may have stumbled on some energy sig that’s similar to the bio sig of a Neo. ‘Cause of that, I triggered a trap the New Way’d laid for a Neo. I guess that ain’t the important part t’you, though.” She closed her hand and drew it up to her chest. “It got damaged or sabotaged or somethin’ and went haywire. Nearly popped the top off every Neo in the Spire. So I had to… disable it. Pretty permanently, I think. Most of the tech is still in here and working, but the main feed’s fucked, and fixing that would mean it starts doin’ its feedback loop song an’ dance again. So it’s dead, but Pyria said you’d be interested. An’ that’s my side of the story. So what’s yours?”

“Well as you know I am Takeshi She-Ying and I am the head of the Research and Development. I was asked to help see if I can help you repair Heimdall … as far under the radar as I can.” Takeshi explained.

“She-Ying, as you know, is one of the contenders for being the lead in biotechnology. Here in the mad laboratory, we deal with everything cutting edge to the hypothetical. This going ones here are highly secure which I believe is one of the reasons Pryia approached me. So whatever we do to help you stays in these walls.” He explained.

“The tech you created has so many applications that can benefit everyone in Oracle. I personally have an interest in how you made it work and hopefully … with your help create a new functioning prototype. Of course, this can’t be done without you.” Takeshi stressed. “We can provide the security, the tools, a team and funding we just need you.” Take paused for a bit.

“There is though ONE catch we cannot avoid.” He added slowly. “Given the nature of what we would be doing … we would have to send regular reports to the OCON board.” Tak said slowly.

Sy stared at him intensely. For a few moments she did not speak, nor made any move regarding his offer. Then she leaned back and sighed. “Look, I’mma gon’ be frank. I have, for good or ill, been puttin’ my trust into th’Spire. They been good t’me, an’ I stopped questionin’ their motives. This ain’t a city fo’ altruists, know’m’sayin’, but I like to think there musta been some mutual benefit fo’ them, too. But I trust the corps less than I can throw ‘em, fo’ which I have reason. So lemme tell ya how I interpret yo’ generous offer.”

She stood up slowly and began pacing back and forth as she spoke. "Y'all got a ton o'projects around here. . Bet what I learned with Heimdall is of value to one o’them and y’already got somethin’ planned that y’all need my help with. Gettin’ that project off the ground will prob’ly be of major value, or you wouldn’ take a chance on some slum rat the cat dragged in.” She gestured to Pyria. “You two go way back so you trust her judgment. In short, I could be a catch to y’all, if I live up to it. Offerin’ to fix Heimdall is just sweetenin’ the pot fo’ me. From what Pyria told y’all, you know how impo’tant that project was t’me, and y’all reckoned that’s what’d pull me over the bump of being indebted to OCON.”

She stopped pacing and leaned on the table’s edge. “Well, you’re right. I reckon if anyone got the resources to fix my baby on up, it’d be a cuttin’ edge Corp lab. An’ if I’m sellin’ my soul to the devil gettin’ there, well, I’m from the Slums. Not like anyone there got much soul left t’begin with.” She straightened herself and looked at Takeshi intensely. “I jus’ want all cards t’be on the table. I may be naive, but I ain’t buyin’ that y’all are makin’ me an offer outta altruism. Nah, I may be useful to y’all, but that’s it, an’ I make no illusions that if things get hairy fo’ whatever reason, y’all’d dump me like a lunch gone bad.”

She ran a hand through her hair. “Sorry fo’ ramblin’. Reckon yo’ time’s expensive. Point bein’, fo’ all my hostility, I do think we can help each other. I’ll put on OCON’s leash an’ help you with any project y’can use me fo’. In turn, y’all gon’ help me get Heimdall back up an’ runnin’. Tit for tat, both in parallel, so you know I ain’t gonna run out on ya soon as Heimdall’s back up, an’ I know y’ain’t gonna shit me out into the Wastelands soon as my use runs out.” She locked eyes with him again. “That sound fair to you?”

Pyria cleared her throat before Take could say anything. “She wants citizenship … don’t wince I know you can make that happen. Comp her a place, somewhere nice so she has options on where she can live. Put her on the payroll with a title. She has all the cards we all know it. Your just here to court her ... “ Pyria said leaning back in her chair. “ … she’ll make you look good. I know it, she knows it.”

“That sounds like a start,” Sy nodded. “We do this tit fo’ tat and we all come out lookin’ prettier. No backstabbin’, no shady deals, an’ we gon’ get along fine. Deal?”

“Both of you drive a hard bargain don’t you.” Take said leaning back with a smile.

“It helps knowing your department can afford it.” Pyria said smugly. Like hell she was going to let Sy get the short end of the stick. “I also don’t feel it would be right if she started work before she has citizenship.”

“Well you kind of painting me in a corner here.” He sighed.

“I am.” Pyria said bluntly.

“I guess I don’t have a choice.”

“Not if you want Sy and her brain working for you and your companies department.” Pyria said in an even tone.

“So I guess then we have a deal. Are you going to need a place for tonight or will you be staying at the Spire?” Take asked standing up and holding out his hand to Sy. “I can get an employment contract drawn up in a couple of days.”

“The Spire will do,” Sy said, taking the man’s hand and shaking it. “They been taking more than good care of me.” She smiled warmly at Pyria. “Don’t think I can ever thank ‘em enough for it. Thanks for bein’ straight with me, Mr. She-Ying. Here’s to a healthy cooperation.”

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