by Jeff C. Carter
Facilities Admin Kelix Tremonti looked at the report on her desk and rubbed her temples. The nascent undersea vent beneath Port Xenia was mirrored in her rumbling stomach. She popped an antacid into her mouth and swallowed, dropping it into the scalding rift below.
Why hadn’t she taken the job at Zirconia? She thought for the millionth time. She ran through her mantra of self justification; Zirconia practically runs itself. An Admin can’t make a name for herself there. Port Xenia is a work in progress, a place where a Facilities Admin could build a career. She shook her head in disgust. If that seafloor vent erupted it would cut more than just her career short.
“Mr. Tolliver to see you,” her secretary announced through the intercom.
Tremonti dumped the report into a drawer and sat up straight. “Send him in.”
The door opened to reveal Mr. Tolliver, a tall, well built man with dark skin and a glowing smile. Everything about him seemed to shine, from the exquisite fabric of his luxury suit to the polished jewelry on his fingers.
“Mr. Tolliver, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said.
“Please, call me Anansi,” he purred.
“I hope your trip was a pleasant one. Is this your first visit to Port Xenia?”
“As a matter of fact it is, and I had no idea how charming it would be. Such potential!” he gushed.
Good, he wants to get straight to business, Tremonti thought. “We like to think so. I am eager to hear more about your group’s proposal.”
Mr. Tolliver beamed his winning smile and gestured towards the door. “Might we tour your great city while we talk?”
Tremonti stood and reached for her hard hat out of habit. She looked at Mr. Tolliver’s magnificent suit and hair and decided to leave the helmets behind. She led them in a circuitous route, avoiding the passageways with water stained walls, the dank chambers of stale air and the alcoves dotted with stubborn pale blossoms of mold.
“We believe that Port Xenia is well positioned for development. It is already the entertainment destination for nearby Trinity. Why isn’t it drawing in people from everywhere?” he asked. “After all, you can deliver an experience that Zirconia simply can’t.”
“What did you have in mind?” she asked.
They approached the cool undulating light of the first view port. “Port Xenia has the highest per capita angel sightings.”
Tremonti barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes. “That’s debatable. Your group…they’re not affiliated with the Blue Liberation Front, are they?” She steered Mr. Tolliver away from the view port so that he would not see the grey seeps of sewage that occasionally welled up on deep sea currents.
“Certainly not, but they make some good points, don’t they? The oceans belong to the angels. That’s what drives tourism. Imagine a system of tunnels running through the city where angels swam freely among the citizens. Think of the industry that would promote.”
A burning wave shot up to the back of Tremonti’s throat and she choked it down. Was this guy a crackpot? “That is certainly…ambitious. The engineering challenges would be tremendous. The amount of money...”
Mr. Tolliver cut her off. “We want to make Port Xenia the jewel of Eclectia, a place where people can have a true native experience in comfort and style. It will be an embassy for Avenir, a university for the wizards, and the only tourist destination in the Ceti system. We need someone who knows this city like the back of her hand, someone with vision and ambition. What do you say?”
They stood before the wide glass wall of the observation deck and bathed in the blue green light of the seemingly infinite expanse beyond. Glittering submarine traffic darted in all directions, a jumble of shining submersibles and bioluminescent creatures.
“We’d need to seriously reinforce the outer hull before we began restructuring anything inside.”
“I’m sure you know what’s best. Do we have a deal?” Mr. Tolliver smiled and extended a hand.
Maybe these wackos will be good for something before the money runs dry, she thought. She shook his hand and felt her stomach finally settle down. “It’s a deal. If you don’t mind waiting here for a moment, I’ll check on our shuttle for the tour outside.”
Mr. Tolliver nodded and waited until Tremonti was gone. He pulled a handset from his wrist that crackled briefly as it sent a short signal burst up to Avenir station. He dropped the winning smile from his face, discarding it like a garment no longer needed. The warbling tone in his ear announced that an encrypted channel was now open.