"Why did you just smack the back of your neck?"
"Something bit me."
"Well.... can I smack you too?"
"You're going to smack me anyway, aren't you?"
He followed the glowing lines on the floor, moving swiftly since he already knew the path to take. Randall Connors had walked this hallway a thousand times; he could find his boss' office in the dark. Not that it was ever dark here. No. Quite the opposite. This deep in, the building was kept so bright, everyone had to wear protective goggles with polarization lenses or eventually go blind. Everyone, that is, but his employer.
The door slide open as he approached it. That meant he was expected.
"Come in and report."
Randall slipped into the room and let the door slide closed behind him. The chamber was a huge hemisphere with the real office in its center. Randall had never been in that private room. Only his boss and Lady Requiem even had passcodes to get into it. It was possible he could have cracked the security code and bypassed the room's locks...
...but then, it was also possible he would have been terminated for doing so. And around here, termination was meant in the strongest sense of the word.
"Sir," he said quietly, looking up to where his employer was suspended above the ground. His boss, Teravolt, was in the Ambiance Cage again. Over the last year of Randall's service to TeraDynamics, he had seen his boss spend an increasing amount of time in that massive iridium-platinum sphere. It worried him, especially since he knew the Cage's purpose.
The Ambiance Cage was essentially a huge capacitor array, built to draw electrical energy from whatever was placed inside it and store it or channel it to the rest of Teradyne's twenty block wide facility as needed. The complex burned energy as fast as it could but even so, there were times when even the Ambiance Cage operated at near-capacity. That's why the lights here were so bright; they were a sign of how close the Cage was to being full.
"I said report."
Randall nodded and looked away. When Teravolt was in the Cage, he glowed like a captive nova; it was painful to stare at him for very long. "I'm sorry, sir. Forgive the delay. I just wanted you to know that your drone has returned with the sample you requested."
"Is it being analyzed?"
Randall nodded quickly. "Of course, sir. The genetic strain is very complex and it has a number of anomalies. I project it will be another seven hours before we have any readable results."
"Then why are you here?"
Randall shifted, wondering if he had intruded at a bad time. If Lady Requiem had been here recently, there was no telling what mood his employer might be in right now. "Again, pardon me, sir. I was just wondering if perhaps we should be concerned with ramifications should anyone from Fortress 500 find out about this experiment."
The Ambiance Cage flared along its banded pylons, a sure sign of Teravolt's irritation. "Why should that be a problem?"
"Well sir," Randall said as disarmingly as he could, "I was led to believe we had agreed to let him deal with the rogue situation. If he discovers that you are involved directly..."
"He won't find out." The thunder in Teravolt's voice made the entire outer office tremble, nearly driving Randal to his knees.
"Of course, sir. Very good sir!" He was wincing now, hoping his ears weren't bleeding again. "I just thought..."
"Do you honestly think I pay you to think?"
With a half-sigh and a sardonic smile, Randall looked up at the glowing star that was his boss. "Is there any way I can answer that without it becoming a paradox, sir?"
There was a long pause, followed by a sound of static above him. It took him some time but Randall was able to make out the faint sound of laughter in the crackling ions overhead. His boss did not laugh often; there wasn't much precedent for recognizing the noise.
"Fair enough. I suppose I do pay you to think. But do not concern yourself with Fortress. He is my... problem. Just get me the data on that blood sample and then send the results to toxicology." The Ambiance Cage began to dim, showing a marked relaxation in Teravolt high above. So relaxed, in fact, that Randall could actually see a faint outline of the man inside the corona of radiant lightning surrounding him inside the Cage.
"Of course, sir. I do regret to inform you that we cannot get a second sample."
"Oh? Why is that?"
Randall sighed, hoping this news would not upset Teravolt again. "The fly drone we sent was almost melted upon return. Its outer surface temperature was nearly 650 degrees. By the time we managed to harvest the boiling blood from its internal reservoir, the unit was completely ruined."
"I see. Interesting."
Randall waited, apprehensive, but there was no marked increase in his boss' agitation or the Cage's radiance. "Anything else then, sir?"
"No, no. Dismissed. Come back when you have test results and a poison capable of killing the target."
He was all too happy to leave. This was actually a great job but there were times when Randall really wished he was still with Arachnos.
At least there, villains did not pretend to be anything else...