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 grey-blue tint graces the early-morning sky as I step outside, the unusually cool temperature mandating a jacket, which I’m now glad I 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 me, smiling beneath his greying mustache and I reluctantly step inside. The interior is extremely spacious and, as I feared, made of all leather that smells brand new.


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


Looking forward to working with you.


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


There’s no name or initial, but I 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 I guess it’s for the best. Caffeine will only make my current jitters worse.


My mind races as we drive away from the complex, and the further we go, the more restless I become.


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


The second I step out of it, my eyes damn near pop out of my face.


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


Mouth ajar, I find myself completely stunned by the gargantuan construction in front of me.


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.


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


Holy crap.


I 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,” I nod, my hand reaching into my jacket for the card Sam gave me. “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 I hand it to him. I hate sounding so unsure but I 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 I’m in the right place, after all. He hands me 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 I came up to him.


It’s like he’s a drone…but there’s something quite intriguing about him. I 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.


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


Everything inside me screams, anger and disgust intertwining in my knotting stomach as I 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 me by the throat, rendering me lightheaded. Despite it, I stand while I wait, unable to stop the sickening feeling from spreading throughout my gut, compounding the already-present anxiety in it.




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