The doors gently closed behind them in tightness, with Reil’s briefcase almost going between them if it were not for Tristan, who grabbed it in the last moment of salvation. The tck-tck followed by, with nothing more but an amused look of full understanding. There was a fountain in the middle, while a waterfall fell from above at one of the corners-distant, and continued down somewhere-unseen. Vines and leaves populated crossings in the air, a world within a sleeping giant…
So many platforms and bridges of style that were in great harmony with the tree itself. There were even small trees grown inside the hollowness, while light poured through lamps hidden in the wood. At least there was no rain, at least the humidity was in sync with normality. Reil’s shoulder was touched by Tristan, who pointed at an interesting mechanism close to the entrance they had come from.
It was an obscured machine with a stylish look, as its metal was made invisible by coating of appropriate imagery of animals and plants, while this transparent tubing was going directly into the wood with a yellowish liquid. Who knew how deep it went and how it worked but it looked compressed, as the hole didn’t seem to have the ability of mistakes as to be letting anything out.
“Nutrients?” Tristan asked lowly, but Reil couldn’t give him a straight answer. It was a possibility but shouldn’t that have been done at the roots and not the middle of the living tree? Or maybe because they had severed its center and major arteries, therefore, it was needed for life to be sustained.
Maybe that’s why half of it had ceased living. But instead of hypothesizing, Reil just gave a shrug of his shoulders and threw it off as unimportant, while his legs transported him to the reception where their destiny awaited.
The desk was equipped with a lot of monitors and there was no lack of staff. It felt a bit too tall as he was looking up to the employees. There was a choice to be made: the older and visibly annoyed receptionist or the younger one with the glasses which looked more like an accessory.
Odd thing was the older woman was typing on a mechanical keyboard, something one would see in classic movies or at the museum.
“You’d like that changed to tomorrow?” the young receptionist said, but it wasn’t to anyone around her as she was wearing an earpiece that glowed red, and Reil examined his fingers in patience. Yea, they seemed pristine.
He could’ve tried with the other free receptionists, but he didn’t want to seem desperate or out of time, despite time itself running by with a disliked gait of mockery.
“Mr Kavolski won’t be available at the specified, how about we appoint it 2 hours after your desirable time?”
Tristan came by Reil and propped the umbrella against the desk, gesturing with his hand as to ask what was going on, to which Reil widened his eyes and pointed with his face at the receptionist. The reaction was one of a scoff and an an intensive stare at the young lady who didn’t even give him a reaction.
“I understand the inconvenience but it’s not possible otherwise, everything is scheduled already, sir.”
“I guess we’re not that important, Tris. They don’t want our money here,” Reil poked smugly enough so the receptionist would hear him, which he was sure she did as her body ceased motion for a split moment, but her eyes remained on the interactive display below her rapidly tapping fingers.
“No kidding, can’t even get a welcome here.”
“No, you can’t come at that time, I already told you the only possible hour for tomorrow,” the receptionist rebuked with hints of anger, and at last her eyes caught both Reil and Tristan’s, to which she received nothing but a malicious grin. But then her head moved down again and she acted as if they weren’t there.
“Ma—” Reil tried to say but was interjected by the older receptionist nearby whose mouth had further morphed into a scowl.
“Ey, gentlemen. Welcome to the main headquarters of Amazonia Straits. How may we help you?” the old receptionist asked, but somehow Reil was more interested in the golden rings at the base of her neck. How had she managed to put them there? Dazed, it wasn’t him who spoke first.
“I understand, sir, bu—”
“Hello, we have a meeting with the… Director? We’re supposed to be there in…” Tristan trailed off as he peeked at his watch without any hints of discomfort, “in five minutes. Would you point us towards their office?” Tristan invoiced, while Reil just smirked in pride, not without giving off annoying glances at the woman who was still ignoring them, still busy with the uncooperative person on the line.
The old receptionist remained motionless with squinted eyes, but then she edged to the side and typed away. Even with her age, she was keeping herself fairly well, with stylishness of her old-fashioned appearance of an old woolen coat. But Reil wanted to do something else, his nerves were itching in dare, thus he just couldn’t hold himself. He looked at the young receptionist and read her name tag, Amanda Marston.
“Say, Amanda,” he emphasized coyly on her name and even noticed partial mortification from Tristan, “I deem myself as a good multitasker as well.”
“Tristan Primale and Reil Perfiol, founders of RowdyDays?” the old receptionist asked, to which Tristan confirmed verbally and Reil just gave a lazy thumbs up without breaking contact with the lady before him.
“The only way, sir, is if you come today then. At the specified time.”
“But, Amanda, I found out one thing,” Reil quickly added when the last word got out of her mouth, a very visible twitch in her lip showing off her pristine teeth.
“Usually it doesn’t pass like this, but… she’s put a note…” The old receptionist tapped on the desk a few times in uncertainty. “She doesn’t like stragglers. Take the elevator to the last floor,” she said and pointed to the other side behind the fountain. ”Office is at the end of the corridor.” Her smile was perfect closure to an automated work ethic.
“Thank you, ma’am,” Tristan returned with a polite tone and grabbed the umbrella, but Reil wasn’t peeling his stare away. She just had to acknowledge him.
“It’s almost impossible to do so when more than one person is talking to you, hon,” Reil added with a lowering, bumpy tone that could’ve been compared with one of demeanor. The brown eyes of the young receptionist finally shot in line with Reil’s in the form of heinous incandescence. There, that was what he was waiting for, so he chuckled with a wink.
“I already told you, sir!” she almost shouted, her deathly glare snapping off from Reil and to her screen where she interacted irrationally and clenched her fist.
“I’m no— maybe the phone’s too close to your ears, sir…” she angrily continued the song of struggle, but then Reil noticed Tristan’s disappointment as he was knocking his fingers on his watch and pointing at the window-obscured elevator behind the bubbling fountain of marble and blue.
“Ta-ta, Aman-da,” Reil drew with closing attempts of catching her snakish-eyes, but he lost sight of her soon as he carried himself to the elevator. The fountain had well-crafted embeds in the forms of different fishes that were all unique in their own way. He even saw an octopus somewhere amidst the elements of artistic expression. Hell, there were actual fish swimming about inside!
The elevator then came to his eyes with ornaments of thorny roses that were chiseled as to give the design depth and beauty. Expensive stuff. The elevator had already been called as he could see from the dividing glass above, the box of transport moving quickly down, tho no wires could be seen, just the black railing behind which nothing was within.
Reil came by Tristan’s side and touched the frame where the display console for the elevator was. The wood was so slick and gentle, had they done all this everywhere around the confines of this breathing ancient? Amazing…
The elevator voiced arrival in a dingish fashion and the thick door-wooden opened inwards. Inside were a few office workers who didn’t instantly leave, so Reil didn’t gander waiting and just stepped in, receiving odd looks as if he had done something wrong.
They all left shortly after, not giving either of them another glance. A sort of amusement spread around him to how he’d broken expectations and would cause chaos around those who’d exist in their ivory towers, yet his face was impassive.
Tristan got in and used the interactive screen, where he chose the last floor on the digital pixels. But then the door just closed, yet no motion took place. Reil took that moment to sigh and smooth his hair and lapels.
“You didn’t have to be a jerk about it, R,” Tristan said and looked over his shoulder with small amounts of sorrow, while the lens above the digital console opened like an eye-alive, surely to capture who had asked for access to that level, an interesting way of security and tracking indeed.
“Clearance required for further access the administrative floor,” came an automated response that got Tristan to put the card next to the glassy sensor after a bit of visible pondering.
“Neither did they,” Reil returned and crossed his arms before him, while facing the door and giving his back to the eye, to which Tristan leaned against the plastic frame of the silverfish elevator-motionless.
And then air escaped from the sides and a plastic barrier came to be in front the wooden doors, which lacked attachment to the elevator itself.
“You’re such an ass sometimes… Amanda sure will remember you,” Tristan laughed out at last and put a hand in front his face.
“I hope she does, she tried her best not to!” Reil said and finally dropped his guard as he sidestepped closer to his friend and looked at the console beside. “When is this goi—” but before he could continue, movement spurred instantly and the climb commenced.
The speed was unnerving and his stomach dropped to tingles in the acceleration. Transparency gave new sight to the view below that was thinning out, turning ant-ish with offices and openness on the other side.
“My legs are meltingggg,” Reil vibrated aloud as the tingles in his stomach tickled all inside, while they passed platform after platform and people after people, until the view turned into a constant wall of oak. The numbers were counting up at the digital red above, where the plastic doors would slide in and out. “You feeeeel it?”
“Yea… it kinda m-m-makes me want to t-t-take a leak, R…” Tristan confessed with a voice of vibration in par, while his hands were between his legs and his knees were slightly lowered. Reil’s eyes perked down and a genuine laugh rang around.
The movement lowered and the elevator actually rotated, with the transparent barrier giving view of doors, which had tints of red wood.
They opened gracefully and gave view to a wide corridor that went only forward, with walls made of glass. The contents inside those rooms were hidden by white blinds, except one room that had a large table in the middle with seats all around. But it was empty. Looked like a conference room.
The light was coming from the ends of branches that came from the walls. They looked real, even if Reil didn’t trust himself to believe such nonsense.
The floor had artistic forms of plants and even people in primal postures, while furniture was lacked totally around the place, people also. It was in a way getting his heartbeat to increase even more from uncertainty with combination of the stress of what was to happen and how the director might accept them.
“One minute…” Tristan muttered as they increased their pace, an uneven corner getting close. Just as they rounded it, Reil noticed a big guard standing close to the wall, yet the person had no uniform, just simple clothes and a surly face.
But those gray eyes, they spoke of vigilance. It made Reil to wave from concern as they passed by the intimidating person whose ears were just too deformed from obvious old injuries.
A view of glass came with another corner, where light was pouring through. Reil’s curiosity wanted to peek out and see below, but time was against both him and Tristan, who was now lightly running in front with his umbrella swaying left and right.
Reil hoped that it wasn’t from fear of the guard behind them, who at least wasn’t tailing them, as no commotion could be heard or felt.
There was a relatively smaller door that marked the end of the corridor, well smaller in comparison to the rest of the establishment where everything was huge. This was made to accommodate a person who wasn’t neither too tall, nor too wide, nor too small.
That gave Reil more courage as they zeroed in on the gorgeous door that had these protruding roots that were making it uneven and perfectionless, yet incredible due to the carried idea that this was created by hand, time and ampleness of dedication. Machines craved and sought perfection. A person’s mind sought beauty and creativity that had given life itself to those old lifeless objects of metal and circuits of memory. Those minds could see more than the absolute tool of frost.
The door frame looked solid and there were no cracks around the barrier of entrance. Nothing could be heard from inside, thus giving a deafening silence that was disturbed by the humming of lights around the modern corridors.
There was a resonance of a sneeze, which surely was the guard showing humanity after all. Reil hoped that he had inhaled a giant moth for the stink-eye they’d received.
On the side of the door frame there was a tag that read Zoey Carliona, Director of Straits, to which Reil took note, as names were very important in the beginning of relationships, even if they were to be only business related. Seeing that it was going to be a woman, some of the pressure around his gut was released, but he didn’t let it fully retract as his guard was to be always up no matter whom was to be faced.
He knew appearance could deceive, he knew prejudice could smother blind… Prejudice was a festering disease that was the worst of them all, the core to all restrictions and failures, the catalyst of chaos.
Reil noticed Tristan looking at him, while pointing at something that was part of the wall. It looked like a small console that loomed out of reach of both men. It got Reil to step closer to Tristan and scrutinize the surface of the smooth bark for anything that would indicate functionality. His hand touched the soothing surface and gave way to a glide.
The device above beeped, which gave Reil goosebumps in alarm as he feared that he wasn’t supposed to do this, while his hand shot to his chest in defense and attempt to hide the deed-done.
The surface that was touched suddenly changed color and form, but it wasn’t actually true, it was an illusion, a projection that came from that same small device above. A long frame adjusted to the height of the two men, a frame with rounded edges and a very lucrative design that spoke volumes of the expertise of those who had engineered it.
The Purpose of Your Visit?
Reil’s hand wondered what to choose, as Business did sound right, and yet they weren’t officially logged, from what he had extracted down at the reception. Tho who would’ve cared, unless it mattered so?
Suddenly Tristan pushed his hand onto the projected hologram, which got Reil’s own to shoot and grab his friend’s wrist. But the action had been done and the colors before them changed.
The menu remained still but now the simplicity of the clever design turned into a video, which’s sights were somewhat familiar. It was a camera slowly moving through what appeared to be Amazonia. The bay could be seen with all the bridges, trees and vines, which the flying camera was slowly and perfectly capturing. The choice wasn’t yet put forth.
“I say Business, generalizes all of our motives,” Reil began while still holding Tristan’s wrist who got the idea and lowered his hand.
“But isn’t our appointment considered a consultation of offers? What if they don’t let us in if we’re wrong?” Tristan asked.
“When in doubt…” Reil opined absentmindedly and moved his finger into the button of illusion Arbitrary, getting a quick reaction from Tristan who snatched Reil’s hand away from the handy console, but it was too late as the option was marked and blackness overtook the patch of wall.
“Why did you just do th—?! It cou—” but Tristan’s words faltered as the blackness took colors and shapes of a certain memorable place, with a certain memorable person. Reil couldn’t hold himself from grinning into exult, and Tristan took a step away in remorseful realization, yet the scorn in his eye couldn’t visibly leave at what he was surely thinking over within his crafty but honest head.
It was Amanda, and she appeared to have had her mood improved from the initial entrance of her existence upon the interactive screen. It didn’t last long tho, as her eyes registered the two men on the other side. Reil knew she was more like looking at him, because when his grin became even worse, her own frown deepened.
He couldn’t hold himself and mocked, “’Manda! You can’t get enough of us. I know it’s infectious but you’ve got to be a tad more professional.”
The unacceptable squint of Tristan got Reil to feel embarrassed from his behavior. Nevertheless, her body language was the only leak of non-professionalism that Reil could get out.
“Your credentials and clearance are restricted from entering. You’re lacking any official appointment or documentation,” Amanda said impassively without even peeling an eye at them, while Reil’s eyes fell, since they were told there were no issues.
They could always just try to enter but he was sure that the door only opened with this so called clearance that the card’s magnetic information only had the capacity for.
He was about to start when his words were taken straight out his mouth like a known and easy to-read-book. “Your colleague with the neck rings prompted up the question, while you were busy, miss. She told us there wouldn’t be a conundrum in visiting the Director, despite the lack of an official appointment. There are no needs for ramifications, yes?” Tristan finished as he straightened his back even more, while a prideful head stood tall. It was actually a modest arousal of sight that made Reil to shift on his toes.
Amanda finally gave them her eyes that held surprise and agitation in the same spot, until she twitched her mouth and turned around with her chair towards someone else, following with the loud words, “Britney! Britney!” Reil nearly choked on a snort, as he could easily guess who Amanda was trying to get the attention of. It was never easy when you needed it most.
“Britney!!” The sound from above even cracked a bit from the loudness and high-pitched voice that got Reil’s heart to skip a bleep. Nothing new came to the visuals but Amanda did move away.
“Why are you yelling?” asked the familiar and disinterested voice of Britney. Reil indeed wanted to just endorse the peepshow, yet time was running out, and he tried to get the attention of Amanda… but to no avail. She was totally severed from the reality that was the two men’s problem, and now appeared very motivated to deal with another. He wasn’t going to skirt around the corner, so he felt provoked.
“Becau— ughh, the issue is that you let those two without any prior—“
“We can hear you…” Tristan grumbled and took a step to the screen, but Amanda didn’t react.
“— registration, you know you have to register them!” Amanda kept up, reaching for her digital earpiece. The speaker gave no further sound, a quality piece of equipment capable of removing background noise.
“They were going to be late, there was no time to give them that. The Director told me about such occurring and how to handle it. Inform her.”
“It’s a problem, you have to abide by the established protocols like everyone else. I can’t let two random strangers in without giving full record. Why are you making it always hard on me, Brit?!”
“It’s on your head, darling.” Amanda gawked on the visual device and then her face lost all expression, a reticent huskiness of bleak dust. Everything about her was normal and yet everything with her was so wrong…
“Sirs, you’re going to have to come back and provide the necessary paperwork,” she heartlessly articulated and just continued on her work as if their answer wasn’t wanted due to her request being the only way. Reil’s skin burned with the tension of many stars.
“We can provide it through he—” Tristan tried to lessen the tension, but Reil was disgruntled and his sly insults no longer came to tongue.
“How about we just stay here and wait for the Director to come out herself? Then we’ll tell her how you purposefully disabled us from meeting with her. I know it’s all being recorded, Amanda.” Reil gave a solid reminder to the scope of the situation while amplifying their importance for the meeting, a subtle threat. “Britney does appear to have no issues in cooperating on behalf our misconduct.”
The unreadable expression gave way to obvious panic that played in the adjustment of her glasses. She quickly tapped on her console and reached for the handsfree device.
“It’s about t— Yes. Director… I know bu— you have two visitors in front of your office who haven’t regi— Director, we have prot— I just need them to co—”
Silence devoured the world. There was nothing but tiny breaths of anticipation. Reil was enjoying himself too much as this idleness was visibly working madness on the young receptionist’s eyes.
“You’re such a doll, Amanda. To the bitter end.” No answer came and the visual of her trepidation vanished, replaced by the prompt of putting the card for verification. This was it.
Tristan reached for the outlined red area of the hologram with the plastic piece of multi-functionality, and the whole frame turned green with the new text Step In Front Of The Door. Instantly out of the adjacent wall on their side came two sensors in a spring-like fashion, sensors that pointed at the two men like rifles ready to end lives of decades. Reil’s uneasiness at this amount of security created doubts, yet his feet slid him to the designation.
Tristan came by him and they just idled, until hotness crawled on his back and the rest of his body. Nothing was visible but implications of unhealthy magnetic waves, or non-ionizing radiation, which spewed itself everywhere within Reil’s head.
It never hurt one to be too careful apparently, unless it was about those being examined.