“Andersson Dexter. It’s been a while.”
Dex looked up at the sound of a familiar voice and his face broke into a smile. He jumped up from behind his desk and in a couple of long strides had rounded it and come face to face with his visitor. Virtual face to virtual face, of course, as this surprise visit was taking place in Dex’s office in Marionette City. Still, even if it was only a simulation, Dex was happy to see his old friend and mentor, Zahara Zhang.
“Zizou!” He opened his arms in a hug-or-handshake shape and waited for Zhang to choose one. She stepped into his embrace and gave Dex a quick squeeze. “What brings you over here?”
“Would you believe me if I said I just wanted to say hi?”
Dex’s former boss rarely gave away much on her face, and she didn’t now, but Dex knew she wasn’t really trying to fool him.
“Nope,” he said, sliding back into his overstuffed brown tweed chair and leaning back. He smiled as the chair squeaked slightly at his weight. His office space was an unusually robust simulation; enough to almost make him feel like it was real. He gestured at the visitor’s chair across the desk and Zhang sat. “So, what’s up, Cap?”
“I haven’t been your captain in a long while,” Zhang said.
“Old habits die hard,” Dex answered, “and while I’d be perfectly happy to shoot the shit with you all day, I don’t recall that exactly being your style.” He leaned forward, a hint of a frown creasing his avatar’s forehead. “Is everything okay?”
Zhang nodded, then shrugged. “I think so? It’s just… something particularly weird has happened. And I have to admit that the first person I think of when I think ‘particularly weird’ is you. So here I am.”
Dex could tell that Captain Zhang was going to tell her story in her own time, and her reluctance to just be out with it aroused his curiosity more than her vague explanations. He knew her well enough after working for her for years that pushing was pointless, so he opened up the lower right drawer of his desk and removed a half-empty bottle of whiskey and a pair of short glasses. It was a flavour-only formulation, neurostim not being Dex’s first choice for mood alteration. Besides, he was working.
He lifted the bottle in a silent question and Zhang nodded. Dex poured two rounds and passed one across the desk. Zhang took it and clinked her glass against the one in Dex’s hand. They each took a sip, then Zhang set her glass on the desk and reached into the inside left pocket of her suit coat.
She pulled out a folded sheaf of papers and passed them across the desk to Dex. She’d forwarded him the file on an encrypted private channel, but the program which generated the illusion of his office rendered all of Dex’s online activities into their analog counterparts. His avatar took the papers and Dex skimmed the contents.
“I’m no lawyer,” he said, “but if I understand this at all, you’ve just come into quite the inheritance. An entire disk block of rez space in the Cuba Quarter? That must be worth a fortune. Congratulations! And condolences,” he added after a short but awkward pause.
Zhang nodded, her lips set in a tight line. “Thanks, but condolences aren’t exactly required.” She pointed at the name listed on the documents. Irina Nightingale, Zhang’s late benefactor. “I have never heard of this person before in my life.”
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