Stargazers

Rhea, Olympus

Rhea, seat of the Olympian Republic, the greatest economic and military power in the known universe, is nothing but traffic jams and skyscrapers. Towers of steel and glass shine sunrise to sunset, burning like torches to light the way of humanity. Standing among the tallest is Haze Towers and, at the very top floor, is Eril Haze, drink in hand, staring out at the city.

He is wearing his dark blue business jacket open, sleeves unbuttoned, with his tie half-done. His hair, platinum blond in color, is stylishly messed, and he smiles out at the city that not his father, but his father's father and his father's father's father and everyone before them built. Eril is a professional heir, a man of legacy, and it is these lofty heights which he must always reach for.

And despite that, he still smiles, and always smiles, because his life is good, and because he has too much work to do to ever let a frown weigh him down. Darker days had passed, and he weathered those, and with the weapons his company builds, he expects that he will weather the darker days to come. At least, he means to.

For now, he has the privilege of watching the sun coast across the sky from his window and watching the clouds gather like fog around his tower. He can see ships, arriving and departing, flaming tails following as they pass through the atmosphere. Below, far below, he can't see the people, but he knows that they are there, clogging the bridges and the streets as they always do. He rubs his chin and vaguely wonders how long it has been since he left the tower, but he can't place the date.

Elkiel Lucre watches from the corner, blending into the shadows. He is well-dressed in a dark suit, tie tightly cinched, hair smoothed back and parted on the left. His jacket has a telling bulge of a pistol. His hands are folded politely in front of him.

Eril finishes his drink and grimaces and goes to rinse his glass and pour a water. His day isn't over, but he needed at least something to get him through it. As he approaches the sink his office door opens with a sigh and his secretary enters.

Meira Rune, daughter of the illustrious Rune family, famed for their drug stores which have spread across the galaxy. Six years ago, she approached Eril for an internship and never left. Sometimes, she mentions how her family misses her, and always Eril offers to let her go, but she insists on staying. She says she is happy where she is.

She is well-dressed, wearing a blue jacket with a matching skirt. She wears short heels which accentuate her naturally long legs and, as a result, towers over Eril as she approaches him. Her lips are painted a soft pink which nearly matches their natural color. She gives him a smile and hands him a folder once he dries his hands.

"Morning."

"Noon," she says. "You really should get out more." She goes to his desk and takes a seat before it. Eril follows her over, looking through the paperwork as he goes. The Olympic military is requesting modifications to their newest models. Most of them are simple repairs. Only a few really catch his eye or his imagination.

"How are you today, Kiel?"

Elkiel gives Meira a stiff smile. "I'm doing well, ma'am. You?"

Meira stretches her arms over head. "Ready for supper." She looks at Eril, who has now seated himself across from her, behind his desk. "Will you have time this evening for drinks?"

Eril looks up from the paperwork long enough to laugh.

"Of course." Meira leans forward and frowns. She stares at his desk, where a holographic grid glows in one corner. Obsidian figures are spaced across one side, on darker panels. Holographic figures are set on the other side on lighter panels. She stands enough to lean over it and laughs to herself. "I still can't believe you have this."

"What," Eril says, turning a page and making notes as he goes. "Not a fan of games of strategy?"

"I'm not against them as a rule, it just seems like such a cliche for someone like you have be playing chess," she says, and she stands straight, hands on her hips. "And if you have time to play this game, then why can't you ever join me for lunch?"

Eril smiles and sits back in his seat. "Winning doesn't take as much time as you might think. Meals with you, however, always have a way of turning into something else. You know what the tabloids say."

"They still say it." Meira shakes her head. "And who do you keep playing? Is it some mysterious rival? Is it Rose?"

Eril laughs, pulls the folder closer and goes back to work. "No. I don't think it's Rose on the other end, though it very well could be. You're right that they are mysterious, but that is part of the charm."

"Have you ever thought about tracing them?"

"No." Eril shrugs. "Even if I did, I'm sure that they would have protection against such things. They're too clever for something so simple to work."

"And do you really win so often?"

"Not as often as I pretend."

"Maybe they're not clever." Meira giggles to herself, picking up a piece and runs her fingers along the cold stone of it. There are sensors on the bottom to pick up its movement. She returns it to place and watches a single piece move across the board, a knight, dancing always at an angle. Eril sighs and removes a pawn from the field. "Maybe you're just not very good. How long have you been playing?"

"This game? A few weeks. We make moves when we can and have a lot of time to think in between."

"They must be nearly as busy as you are."

"Must be," Eril says, staring at the chess board. He sighs and returns to the paperwork.

"No rest for the wicked, huh?"

He laughs. "Something like that."

"If you have so little time, why not quit playing?"

"And admit defeat? Never!"

"That's the sort of behavior that will someday sink this company."

"Not with these numbers." Eril stands, fastening the cuffs of his jacket and adjusting it on his shoulders. "Where would you like to eat, Meira?"

"We're going out?"

Eril nods and goes to the mirror to mess his hair. After, he adjusts his tie and fastens his jacket, buttoning it slowly and carefully as he moves to the door. Meira follows him close, with Elkiel trailing after her.

She looks over her shoulder. "Kiel, what sounds good to you?"

"Anything."

"That's not a type of food, you know," she says.

Ahead, Eril opens the door for them and follows them into the elevator. He sets it for the ground floor and adjusts his jacket again, checking himself in the reflection on the elevator's doors. "I suppose we can go to Lotus."

"Ugh. That food makes me so sleepy, and everything there is so expensive."

"It's worth the money spent on it, I think."

Meira rolls her eyes and, at the ground floor, follows him to the front. His car is already pulled around, and Elkiel holds the door for the two of them before joining them in the back.