Interlude 1 – Sunset

8 hours ago

 

          Natalie Jensen stood in Aaron Trent’s office, right in front of the windows that overlooked downtown Nova City. The sun, dropping into the ocean on the other side of the city, splashed purple-amber light on her face. It felt good, to be here at Sunset, no one else had a better view of the city at this moment, so she took seconds to lay down on Trent’s desk the file folders she’d been holding and just wait there instead of doing what she usually did and getting immediately back to work. She’d spent her dinner break preparing these statements for him to sign, so he couldn’t begrudge her a few minutes just to rest.

          She was always surprised at how spare Trent’s office was. It was huge – it took up one quarter of the TrenTech building’s top floor—but there was nothing in it, really, not even a family photo on the desk, that represented the man her boss really was. It was all chrome and glass. All function. Awards on the wall, but no mementos.

          Not that she really knew who the man was, either. She’d been his assistant for five years. They’d had working lunches together, working dinners too, and she’d been to his house a couple of times, but always on errands, making deliveries, picking up packages that needed to be mailed. He told her that he trusted her, liked her, saw himself in her. But she had no idea what any of that meant.

          And she didn’t know where he was now. He’d had her clear his afternoon calendar so he could work on one of his “special projects”. It made her wonder if she could get away with going ahead and leaving without being dismissed to work on a special project of her own.

          Surely, Jenn would be finished with classes by now. Maybe they could have a nice dinner together … they could both take an evening off and just … just be together. They hadn’t been seeing each other long, but Jenn … Jenn was special. Special and secret.

          She hadn’t felt like this about anyone for a long time.

          But she had to snap out of it. She really couldn’t go until she found out if there was something else Mr. Trent needed from her. Her job didn’t have official hours, as such. She knew he would probably dismiss her, she just needed to have the confirmation.

          She dialed his cel phone number and was unsurprised when she heard the series of clicks that indicated the call was being routed along the building’s own communications network.  He was still here, somewhere.

          She heard the line opened, some strange noise in the background.

          “Mr. Trent?” She picked up the receiver so that she could hear better.

          “Natalie!” He’d never sounded so happy to say her name. If she didn’t know any better, she’d even guess that he was drunk. But she’d never seen him partake of so much as a sip of beer.

          “Mr. Trent … I was … where are you?”

          “I’m in sub-basement seven. And I have something that I think I’d like to show you.”

          Show her? Was he drunk? Was she about to be propositioned by her boss? “Do you want me to wait for you here, Mr. Trent?” She asked him.

          “Why don’t you come down.”

          “Down?”

          “Come on, Natalie. You know about the private elevator in my office.”

          “I’ve never been in that one before, sir,” She said. “When I asked about it you said to leave it alone.”

          “There’s a proper time for everything, Miss Jensen,” Trent said. The line cut off, but she heard a gentle hum coming from the corner of the room. Soon, one of the wood-paneled walls slid open, revealing the gleaming silver interior of an elevator car.

          This might be a bad idea, but he was her boss. Besides, she was curious. She could be the first person in the world to get a look at TrenTech’s newest innovation.

          Maybe he was going to unveil the 5G T-phone.

          She got into the elevator. The keypad had only one button. It made stops on no other floors. It was strange, but it didn’t really surprise her. After the doors closed, she felt almost no motion for the few seconds she knew herself to be descending down to sub basement seven.

          The doors opened again on a steel-grey chamber lit with white bright light. In the center was a circular theater, almost like a surgical facility. A ring of light cast down the white glow here, which gleamed from every surface but the matt-black form that stood in the center of it.

          “Mr. Trent!” Natalie called out. She walked toward this central theater slowly. From all around her she heard a soft thrumming, intercut by the clicking of her high heels on the polished concrete floor. Through the light, she couldn’t quite make out the great dark figure that rested there. Was this Trent? Surely not?

          Then it moved. Its shoulders straightened, and it revealed itself as a hulking metal man-thing. Rising up to its full height, it was half-again as tall as Natalie was herself. As it moved, it was lit from within, blue-white light pouring out through its joints, and through the holes of its vaguely man-shaped face. The mask gave the effect of a kabuki warrior.

          “Mr. Trent?” She asked again, looking around for any other sign of him.

          “Natalie,” the thing spoke. Its voice was amplified and modulated, but still recognizably that of Aaron Trent. “I wrestled great Hephaestus himself for this design, to make my vision come to life.”

          She stared at the thing as it moved, lifting its arms over its head, then taking one, impossibly graceful, step toward her. “What is this?”

          “We called down Gods,” he said, and something else inside the suit of armor came to life, the blue-white glow shifting along the spectrum to crimson and orange. “We’ve called down Gods to remake the world.”

          “Mr. Trent, you’re not making any …”

          “Bring anyone you love down here, to this place, which will become the under-palace of the seat of a new kingdom on a new Earth.”

          This was … there was no part of this that wasn’t crazy.

          “Take the gift I’m offering you, Natalie,” Trent said again. “Survive tonight.”

          His fingers flexed. One hand reached up to tap something on his opposite wrist, and the he was gone, leaving nothing but a clap of air behind him.   

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