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July 5th, Tuesday, 3.45PM, 2016


4027 Tower St., Emerald City, WA, USA


Downtown on the Emerald City riverfront was like being in another world. Voices and faces from dozens of other countries filled the streets, the sharp sea breeze lent a salty tang to the smells of streetside vendors selling the cuisine from dozens more and the sleek, pristine skyscrapers rearing above bore the richest names on Earth in at least ten languages.


In particular was the soaring crystal-green Emerald Tower, the corporate center of world-famous MarsTech, one of the several new corporations in the super-technology industry and already a household name. The Tower was the hub for its own micro-universe, the eye of a financial, legal and technological hurricane, a block in each cardinal direction devoted to its needs and those of its sky-dwelling inhabitants.


Public involvement with superhumans was considered passé, a kind of cheating, so there was little surprise when Prof. Erasmus Bolt was contacted about one of his newest inventions and invited to a meeting with the head of MarsTech, the flamboyant and vibrant plutocract Maximilian Mars. Although he has made a name for himself as someone with the city's best interests at heart, nobody doubts that Mars is chiefly concerned with Number One.


For whatever reason, Erasmus had not yet entered the Tower. 


"Bolt!" A harsh, cold voice hissed from behind him, which turned out to hail from a very dour-looking man cloistered in a pitch-black limosuine, a rarity in downtown Emerald which prides itself on its mass-transit system.


The man glared out at Bolt, then up at the Emerald Tower "Come to see Mars, hn? When you're done, come see me. I'm Kessler, Arwin Kessler, KessKorp. Unlike Mars, I won't lie to you. My card." Thrusting his lean hand out with a well-produced rectangle of laminated plastic pinched between thumb and forefinger, Kessler waited with an air of impatience for Bolt to take it.

Edited by Ari
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"You won't lie to me? But isn't that what a liar would say?" asked Erasmus, draped in his normal attire of Absurdism both inside an out. It could be abrasive, but it was penetrating. 


Erasmus took the card for inspection, focusing his eyes, which could focus rather well indeed. 


"Mr Kessler. Mr Kessler Arwin Kesller KessKorp" he muttered, rolling the word around his lips and tongue. His jowls wobbled slightly as he contemplated the man. Erasmus Bolt was no fool. Quite the reverse. 


"I would be delighted to listen to you, Mr Kessler, lies or not. I do often find that lies can be just as illuminating as falsehoods. Which is why I am also delighted to see Mr Mars" he said. The inversions and subtleties of his statements were rather disorientating, just as he intended them to be. Erasmus Bolt was not a naturally charmer, but he had a certain way of talking that provoked response without being clearly provocative. An ambiguity, one might say. It got him into trouble, and every now and again, it got him out of it. 


"Ill be sure to keep in touch, My enigmatic friend" he bowed deeply to Mr Kessler, before making his way up to see Mr Mars. He hoped the lift could take him. He weighed a ton. Literally...

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In response to Bolt's point, Kessler had only snorted, rolled up the window and ordered the driver to depart, the black limo sweeping out into the narrow car lanes with an elegance belying its ungainly bulk.


Entering the Tower was quiet. Like entering a vast, corporate cathedral. The vast entry room, its high ceiling, towering windowed walls with stained-glass-like depictions of the various companies and contracting firms who had helped build the Emerald Tower, not to mention the austere, altar-like reception desk of curvéd green metal, helped with the effect. 


The receptionist, a trim blond man with lenseless glasses and a winning smile, gave Prof. Bolt his visitor's pass on a lanyard, a map and directions to the 40th floor office "the man from Mars" used for his more public private meetings. Very casually, the receptionist suggested that Bolt take the service elevator to "ensure an uninterrupted arrival for such an important guest!"


Rising rapidly in the green-glass-walled elevator, which ascended gracefully on the outside of the Tower, Erasmus had a perfect view of the layer upon layer of cubicle offices, laboratories, meeting rooms and the other boxes ideas and work happened. Almost all of them were full of busy people. A lot of the busy people looked remarkably relaxed, even a little happy to be there.


Very smoothly the elevator came to a halt, far above the bustling city below. A woman's voice said brightly "40th floor. Passage to floors 41-45 prohibited to non-employees. This week's motto is: Be somebody great today!"


The 40th floor was home to the local MarsTech bigwigs and to their indisputed overlord. Mars' office wasn't hard to find, even without a map. Room 4004 had 'Maximilian Mars' in brass letters on the door, and was at least twice the size of the other offices. 


Inside was all warm wood and warm lighting, a wall crammed with books on sciences from astrophysics to zoology backing a heavy English oak desk crammed with office paraphinalia, photos, a MarsTech Olympus Mons computer-monitor and Maximilian Mars' shoeless feet propped up on a forbidding stack of file binders. The man himself was slumped in his seat, mouth open and snoring gently, his coal-black suit jacket serving as an impromptu pillow.


A red holographic display was showing in black letters qraW 00.4.

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"*Ahem*" coughed Erasmus Bolt, as loudly as he could muster. He quite fancied snooping around the office, acting all James Bond, but frankly, he wasn't a spy, and until the most magnificent Mr Mars did something to really vex him, he would abide by reasonably civil decorum. 


That said, he wasn't averse to sweeping his microscopically focused gaze around the room examining its crooks, its crannies, and the holographic display. 


qraW 00.4? what does that mean? it didn't ring any bells with him. Maybe a code? or some internal company reference? it could be pretty much anything. 


Nice display, though. Maybe better in blue. 


He grunted again, and waited for the man to wake up...



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