Come in, put your feet up and set awhile….
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Stream Date: April 11, 2017
Stream Time: 12:30 (-ish) pm EST
Sarah Joan’s Town
So this was the vaunted town of Harmony, Sarah Joan thought, letting a sneer touch her lips. What a perfect monument to mediocrity and failure.
She and her advanced crew—a woman named Amanda Tully who knew a thing or two about architecture, Rafe Griswold, who claimed to be a retired contractor and Simon Something-or-other, a plumber—stood at the end of a street that had never been given a name; a fat cul-du-sac that was meant to be ringed with lumpen McMansions. The grasses here were waist high, topped with new seed clusters that bobbed in the gentle breeze, all of it a new, blazing green. The air was thick with the scent of pollen and verdant sap. It made the roof of her mouth itch, but she opened her lungs to it anyway, because it felt like life. It wasn’t the inside of a church or a bus. It reminded her of the old revivals, when they couldn’t even afford a tent. This whole island could be her church.
The grass was triumphant, having won victory after victory every Spring over the past decade and a half, whereas the defeated concrete and asphalt had almost disappeared entirely, broken by plant life, worn away by rain and subsumed by the dirt. The street itself was still intact, more or less, though the tarmac was disintegrating into loose gravel as the years ate away the tar. The sidewalks were wide, with soft curbs and ample drainage. She could imagine the families that were meant to live here: poster children and idealized nuclear families walking dogs and riding bicycles to the sounds of laughter. Barbeques and sprinklers; sun-bathing and lawn darts. It sounded nice, maybe not for her and the family, but she could see the appeal.
The real desolation began just past the sidewalks, into the plots where the houses were to have been built. This was as far as the construction had come before the bottom of Reverend Grant’s scheme had fallen out. Six foundations poured into the earth around this circle. The ground had been torn up, pitted and flattened, and all of the tools they’d used were still here, including a massive backhoe that was more rust than metal now, more modern art than machine. Shovels and picks lay hidden in the grasses like punji spears, two-by-fours were still laid out in squares, jagged with nails and black with mold. A wheel barrow seemed to have melted beneath bags of concrete that had burst open and formed gray stalactites down the sides.
Gingerly, she walked off the remains of the sidewalk and toward the first foundation where her crew were discussing plans. She’d worn boots, knowing this inspection would mean walking over rough ground, but the best she’d had were a pair of red patent leather cowboy rompers that had too much heel and too little sole. She felt every stone, slipped in every patch of mud and winced every time a nail scraped against the leather and threatened to impale her foot.
Baseball on Mars
Grace entered the first elevator going up to West Tower. She had the car all to herself. Abrams tower had so many elevators, she doubted there was any need to share, ever. Abrams was the planet’s richest and most successful transportation mogul, after all. It wouldn’t look good if people had to wait for an elevator in his own lobby. As much as the man’s bombastic personality and wandering hands disgusted her, she had to admit that he was good at what he did, or at least he was good at looking like he was good at what he did. She didn’t know enough about the inner workings of his business empire to say if he was actually good at what he did, but she might soon know more than she ever wanted to. The right to the executive suite was swift and silent, and she took the time to steady her breathing and remind herself that this was just an interview. She wasn’t selling her soul to the Devil. She was just here to have a look around hell and see if it suited her.
When the car doors opened three hundred and fourteen floors later, the intensity of hte light that blasted her retinas nearly knocked her off her feet. She squinted as she stepped off the elevator into a large empty space, surrounded on all sides by floor to ceiling windows from which a carpet of pale pink clouds unrolled to the horizon. Even the marble floor tiles were pink, giving the impression the she was standing amongst the clouds. Natural sunlight flooded the room from a vaulted glass ceiling, that revealed what was invisible to everyone below: the clear afternoon sky, criss-crossed with the contrails of thousands of Abrams Industries transport ships. Only when she stepped closer to the center of room and, in her peripheral vision, saw her own reflection, a dozen clones of herself inching forward, did she realize that the suite was bounded on two sides by mirrored walls that reflected and multiplied the effect of the floor-to-ceiling windows. What had looked like a panorama was, in fact it, just a small fraction of the sky. Still, the effect was breathtaking. She had never been this high up before while still remaining connected to the ground. Abrams Tower was fifty stories taller than the highest high rise, which put it well above the upper limits of the cumulous iron dust clouds that hung permanently over Ambit’s downtown core. The dust was created by the dozens of iron processing plants, located across the canal in West Ambit’s deep gravity port, where six hundred ships per day arrived from [the iron planet] and unloaded their life-giving cargo. Drifting with the wind but never completely dissipated, the clouds gave Midtown and its characteristic pink glow.
“May I help you?” The voice, softly soprano, but obviously computer generated, came from behind her.
Grace turned and saw a tiny speaker set into the wall. She looked around for a camera, but saw nothing that looked like one, which didn’t mean there wasn’t one. She smiled brightly and stepped closed to the speaker, talking directly into it.
“Grace Hudson. I have an appointment with Mr. Abrams.”
“Welcome, Doctor Hudson.” The computer voice said without missing a beat. “Mr. Abrams will be with you shortly.”
The speaker clicked off and was replaced with a silence so complete that Grace imagined she could hear the wind scouring the building below her with iron dust. She glanced around the sides of the elevator bank, but found no indication of a door. She didn’t want Abrams sneaking up on her from behind, and the elevator seemed the only way in or out of the suite, so she she walked to the windows and turned around to face the elevator. She did not have to wait long. A moment later, the elevator chimed and the doors opened.
Abrams strode out, adjusting the lapels of his suit jacket. His hair was smoothed back and tinted a deeper shade of purple than the last time she had seen him. His skin glowed a vibrant green, advertising a youth and vitality that could only be achieved through the magic of cosmetics. She wondered if the mural artist had actually used the same foundation makeup on the wall because the color match was exact. When Abrams lifted his gaze to find her staring at him, at look of surprised amusement crossed his face.
Abrams raised his eyebrows. “Don’t like the view?”
She stood frozen, unsure how to answer the question. It seemed like a test, probably the first of a series of them. She could be fawning, grovel, shine him on, and generally act like a desperate job applicant. Or she could be honest and retain her dignity. She decided on the latter. “There’s not all that much to see.”
Abrams smiled and a chuckled escaped his lips. “That’s exactly what I said to the architect.” He strode over to the windows and stood next to her, gesturing to the endless expanse of pink clouds. “Nothing but dust!”
Abrams tower had been built ten years ago, but his tone said he still hadn’t gotten over the disappointment.
“It’s very pretty dust,” she said.
Abrams shrugged. “Pretty or not, it’s necessary.”
She couldn’t argue with him there. Iron prices were a constant source of regulatory angst for the Senate, with the prices of all other goods and services rising and falling in relation to the commodity’s share prices. The depletion of [Iron Planet]’s mineral reserves was many years off, but would have to be confronted soon. Abrams Industries wasn’t the only supplier of iron to the colony, but they were the largest and with the ability to travel outside the galaxy to find other iron source, they could have a monopoly on the mineral. Abrams had built his empire on the very building blocks of life on this planet and now he wanted to have a hand in controlling the regulation of that commodity.
Abrams turned and beckoned to her with one hand, his small green fingers wheedling her to walk with him. “If you’ll step this way, Dr. Hudson, we can sit down discuss the future of interstellar travel.”
Grace followed him towards one of the mirrored walls, unsure of where he was taking her. Perhaps there was a secret door?
When they were within ten feet of the wall he held up his hand. “Stop right there.” He put a hand his pocket and withdrew a black key fob and depressed a button which set in motion a series of floor panels that slid back to allow a set of chairs, tables and various conference room furnishings to rise from the subfloor and click into place. The most impressive element of all was a gigantic fish tank, which rose to encircle them, replacing the wall of window with a ring of sea life seven feet high. A school of tiny silver fish, sardines, she thought they must be, canted past, reflecting the light in a flash of metallic brilliance. Purple-horned lobsters crawled along the bottom of the tank. Zebra striped jellyfish floated in the current while tiny sea horses darted back and forth, doing a steeple chase through their tendrils.
“Holy blowfish!” Grace exclaimed as a ray skated over the surface of the tank, casting a shadow over the white pebbles at the bottom of the tank where the heads of a dozen mackerel—yesterday’s lobster lunch, she assumed—had been left to decompose.