A grey-blue tint graces the early-morning sky as you step outside, the unusually cool temperature mandating a jacket, which you’re now glad you brought.

 

A beautiful black Lincoln town car pulls up in front of the Core complex at seven-thirty on the dot, conservatively embellished with tinted glass and sterling silver rims. Edgar opens the back door for you, smiling beneath his greying mustache and you reluctantly step inside. The interior is extremely spacious and, as you feared, made of all leather that smells brand new.

 

In the cup holder next to your seat is a cup of coffee, along with a note.

 

Looking forward to working with you

 

The sight of it makes your nerves flare instantly, your eyes gluing themselves to the words. You can quite literally feel anxiety building up in you like blocks.

 

There’s no name or initial, but you can only assume it’s from him.

 

Any desire to consume the aromatic blend becomes obsolete, its delicious smell not strong enough to mask that of the seats. Which is a shame, but you guess it’s for the best. Caffeine will only make your current jitters worse.

    

Your mind races as you drive away from the complex, and the further you go, the more restless you become.

 

Fortunately, or unfortunately—you’re not sure—the journey is rather short and, soon, Edgar’s getting out of the car again to open the door for you.

 

The second you step out of it, your eyes damn near pop out of your face.

 

Like a physical force, the sight of it hits you like gravity itself.

 

Mouth ajar, you find yourself completely stunned by the gargantuan construction in front of you.

 

Zanergy HQ.

 

It’s one of those structures that seems to stretch on forever in either direction, both up and across. Strangely, the entire building only has a few windows scattered about it despite its overwhelming size, sporadically breaking up the sophisticated but impervious black surface that covers its external, expansive breadth.

          

You almost don’t go inside, simply because it’s so imposing. When you do, however, you’re immediately greeted by the most detailed, extensive, advanced security checkpoint in existence. By the time you’re on the other side of it, you’re practically stripped naked, needing to spend another ten minutes getting all your stuff back together, like you’re dressing up for work all over again. Further down to your left is a large receptionist booth. A slender, feminine figure stands behind it with their back to you. As you walk up to check in, the figure turns around and you meet the anticipative, almost raven-black eyes of a man.

 

Holy crap.

 

You could have sworn he was a woman from afar. He’s striking. Unconventionally so.

 

“Can I help you?” he says, his shadowy gaze inquiring.

 

“Uh, yes,” you nod, your hand reaching into your jacket for the card Sam gave you. “I’m the transfer from Earth Capital. I’ve been assigned to the Z to A project?” The last part comes out as more of a question as you hand it to him. You hate sounding so unsure but you don’t have much more insight on the matter than he probably does.

 

He inspects it meticulously before running it through some sort of scanner. A beep immediately follows, coupled with a bright green light, confirming you’re in the right place, after all. He hands you back the card, his expression stoic and unchanging. He’d be a serious contender in a poker face competition.

 

“Please have a seat,” he gestures to a sitting area a few feet away. “Mr. Zane’s secretary will be with you shortly.” He then goes back to doing whatever he was before you came up to him.

 

It’s like he’s a drone…but there’s something quite intriguing about him. You can’t help but feel he accessorizes this physical environment perfectly; like he’s part of the interior design theme, purchased along with all the upholstery and furnishings.

 

You move to take a seat in one of many chaises—until you realize they’re composed of pelt and leather. You almost hurl, picturing dead, mutilated animals as you regard their repurposed remains.

 

Everything inside you screams, anger and disgust intertwining in your knotting stomach as you try to block out horrific images of death and suffering for nothing other than the simple, lofty goal of human vanity.

 

A startling wave of nausea grabs you by the throat, rendering you lightheaded. Despite it, you stand while you wait, unable to stop the sickening feeling from spreading throughout your gut, compounding the already-present anxiety in it.

 

***

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THIS MAKES ME FEEL...
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