by Johnathan Lewis

“And then he said, ‘no one expects the-‘”

However the rest of the story was going to go died completely as Elliot Draigon stared at the young Eulutian male. It wasn’t that Elliot wasn’t smiling, he was, with a grin that seemed to pull his upper lip up towards his nose and showed off his perfect teeth. It was more the way he was smiling. Partially a smirk, partially the smile a piranha gives just before lunging forward.

“Let me guess. You have an adviser, somewhere, who you’ve paid a large sum of money to, that suggested that you at some point during the interview lighten the mood by telling a joke from what my public personal history says is my favourite film. Allow me to let you in on a secret,” his smile didn’t change as he leaned forward, the young Eulutian reflexively pulling back. “I hated that series of films. It was listed as a favourite because a subsidiary of mine produced that pile of trash and one of my marketing geniuses thought it would sell better if I was listed personally as a fan. He was right.

“What you have succeeded in doing, young man,” Elliot Draigon stood up and paced around the seated man. “Is show that you honestly don’t understand what this company, and myself, are about. You haven’t mentioned the bionic arm that I created.” He flexed his arm slightly, which still showed metal bones and joints, even to this day. “You didn’t mention that it and the subsequent invention of the Cranial Implant put my company, Open Technology, on top. And me on top of it.” He continued circling, the young man straining his neck and spinning his head around trying to keep up. “You didn’t mention the loss of my arm and the drive that inspired in me, and the fact that I am well-known for expecting that drive in those around me. You didn’t mention, well, anything that showed me you understood how my company, how my world works.”
“Sir I-”
“Get.” The smile didn’t leave his face or even break. “Out.”

Elliot Draigon dropped into his chair after watching the Eulutian scramble out of the room. Looking down at his artificial hand, he flexed the fingers again and wondered why he’d even allowed the interview to happen. “Catalina?”

“Yes sir?” The image of his attractive personal assistant appeared thanks to the cranial implant interfaced with his brain and optic nerves at the top of his skull. He admired her very human, very curvy, image for a moment.

“Drop a note to HR to expect a call.”
“You did it again, sir?”
“How ever did you guess?” The grin reappeared on his face, and some dark part of him was happy to see her smile back with her perfect teeth. “Be a dear and cancel anymore squid or bug interviews for the rest of the day?”
“That does free you up for the rest of the day entirely, sir. Should I reschedule some of tomorrows meetings for today in their place?”
“We had that many, huh?” He scratched his chin. “No, I think I’ll focus on my own projects for a bit. Lock the door and drop the security blanket, would you?”
“Of course, sir.” Her image faded away before his eyes. He took only a moment and brought up the private file he had on the Kurmaja. “If old Hayden knew I had this…”

A week of interviews later and his mood had neither improved or lessened. Catalina walked along beside him, the sharp sound of her heels on the polished marble floors filling the hallway, a hallmark of their passage together that he quite enjoyed, as her shoes were like the shake of a rattlesnake’s tail to his presence. His smile didn’t leave his face as they walked, it rarely did even on the worst days.

Today was not one of those days.

“Sir, we need to make a decision on who to put as our head of special projects R&D.”

This only resulted in him rolling his eyes, something Catalina did not have to look up to know had happened. She practically heard it anyway – like two granite balls rolling across a chalk board.

Her sigh and tut was his signal to say something. “If you have someone in mind, Catalina, I know quite well that you’ll simply say it and-”

When you run the head of one of most powerful companies in the Consortium, what happened next was so usual, so typical, that Draigon had to remind himself that yes, you did have to break stride.

It was an assassination attempt after all. Some respect should be shown.

These two were good, they worked as a pair, bursting through opposite windows of the hallway, transparasteel glass shattering like its melted sand predecessor. He made a mental note to have their boots looked at to see how they’d done it, even though it was likely pointless – it was probably Moritasgas materials technology. After the boots were stripped from their corpses, of course.

“Elliot Draigon!” The pair halted in front of him, weapons drawn as Catalina dutifully stepped out of the way. They both knew this type. Some speech needed to be said, and indeed it began, some tirade about how he’d ruined this or that. Someone had tried to hire them, but they’d refused the pay to get the augments necessary and-

“Excuse me a moment. I know this is all terribly important to you.” He flashed a winning smile at them, to let them know he did indeed understand and had been listening.

Not that he had, but it was good practice.

“But you mentioned augmentations. I’ll assume they were based off of something my company created?”
“Well, we-”
“Oh don’t bother.” His grin darkened ever so slightly. “Catalina, dear, if you’d be so kind?”

Her eyes flicked high right, activating an emergency command on her implant and suddenly the two would-be assassins were on the floor screaming.

“Ah yes, one of the old prototypes. Had this nasty flaw of the power supply superheating when exposed to a certain frequency. We really should have issued a recall for them.”
“But… Mor-”
“You have to understand, I respect what you to do,” he continued, with that smile again, “I am sure you trained for years in order to be as good as you are… Excuse me, were… but, well… You see I have to make a decision today about who to hire to lead my head of some of my more secret projects and… You’re interrupting that. Catalina? Indulge yourself.”

“With…” Catalina’s free arm suddenly seemed to pop apart, a weapon like a miniaturized STRIKE sliding forward from where her forearm once was. “Pleasure.”

One shot would have been enough, two shots would have been overkill. But, Draigon mused, he had told her to have fun. He carefully wiped away a single drop of blood that had gotten on his suit with a white cloth he kept in his breast pocket specifically for such occurrences. “Well, Catalina, your suggestion on who we should hire?”
“I believe,” she couldn’t resist coldly blowing across the top of the barrel before sealing her arm back up, “that we should promote internally.”