24 - The Gallery

Alden would refine the next command, he did not want all the elevators congesting in one area, and possibly colliding.

This one happened to be 70917, as it read on the top lip, and again on the inside, though easily missed from afar as they were darkest grey on black.

He picked one of the openings in the wall at random. He squinted to make out the number, same grey on black. “Take me to er, 12310”, he said, wondering if there was a proper syntax for this. But, all went according to hastily constructed plan. The car moved across two, maybe three, possibly four axes smoothly to arrive him at the lip of the hole, now looking very much like a little apartment. It beeped happily. He thanked it, feeling a bit odd.

He stepped out and was greeted with ambient music, lovely tones he’d never heard together before, layered in a way that made him think he was missing bits as he concentrated on a certain melody.

There was a bed, of sorts, with some sort of tinted enclosure over the head, or the feet, who knew. Maybe it was a screen for bedtime movies. He liked that idea, though he’d lost the ability to sit through an entire movie somewhere along his path to success and stardom.

There was a workstation, he assumed due to the arms and horizontal bars protruding from it, and the obscure tools laying in their slots on it. There was a small humming box. Opening the box, it was cold, and empty. Possibly a refrigerator for snacks. Or for specimens in a state of research and dissection. Who knew.

Though on the small size, by his egregious standards, it was the most immaculate living arrangement Alden had ever seen. It was a state his home had never approached, even after his team of cleaners and maids had done their bravest, most enthusiastic work.

A lack of personal effects spoke to a thorough migration, or else an exceptionally minimalist lifestyle. There was no dust either, a vast difference from his factory floor, where his supposedly precise machines would get gummed up on the regular with the gliding gritt.

He tried to power on the workstation, first searching for a power button, then remembering his lesson from earlier, speaking to it, taking care to note it’s marked number. God knew what other machines lay dormant in the vacant space, he didn’t want to wake up anything more controversial.

The bars on the arms protruding from the station flickered, then booted up, with several screens coming together to make one large, curved screen.

The “screens” projected 3D images with depth into space that he could manipulate if he wished. The experience was similar to how one would interface with a rollscreen, if more magical, in that he didn’t really understand how it worked, or even what steps one would take to build it.

He didn’t understand what he was looking at inside the interface either, some sort of machine in a cutaway view. Touching a bit of the machine made a simulation run on the part, with dialogues foreign to him.

Unsatisfied, he left the interface alone, focusing on the rest of the hexagonal home hole. Like the workstation, he could guess at function, but there was no concrete information here. He hopped back in the vertical car, no more enlightened than before, except that these Alovians had some pretty cool displays.

The ring gallery was a gorgeous harmony of enigma and machine, a fugue in light grey. Creation and design spun slowly as holographic representation in many of the workstations. He poked around the research stations, turning things on and off, feeling lonely. The austere meeting hall jutted into the research floor, the contrast serving to highlight the precise, calculated, minimalist beauty of the two areas. He didn’t know it, but the forms were of mathematical patterned perfection capable of soothing the most ancient and wild parts of his mind. And yet, he still was a tiger in a cage of his own making. Soon, perhaps, to be stuffed like the unfortunate specimen in his office. He remembered it’s glassy stare. He shuddered.

The meeting table spoke of tremendous and monumental decisions. Alden was certain it vibrated with wisdom. Looking out past it, through the falls, the view from the hall was astounding. He was the first Old Jardinian since it’s the temple complex’s substantial modifications to see the city from this angle.

Of course, all of this beauty and design sensibility was lost on him. You can’t buy class they say, though he’d certainly tried. He was more concerned with the designs he’d seen floating around, and left the slab-like table with its invisible, haptic warning un-examined.

He began to panic as the realization came over him, he wouldn’t be able to make use of any of this technology, he just didn’t understand it as there were no helpful, patient instructions and tutorials. For the first time, he bemoaned his lack of actual engineering talent. He saw two paths in front of him, and he liked neither. They led directly into the dark, leering forest of insignificance.

The first path was thus; he didn’t tell anyone about his discovery here, and as support for his machines had stopped coming and he had stopped making money, he would be found out as a fraud. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had only a team of craftsmen building the panels, but his factory relied upon Industrialist logistical systems, security, and other technology to function. He’d built his castle on a mound of sand. Not to mention that he would likely be out of a buyer, even reclusive energy savant Hoggum Diffen was a Mark of Excellence recipient, and presumably he relied upon Alovian support too.

His second path was, tell everyone about the discovery, and be found out as a fraud immediately. It was no good to tell only the industrialists - they would need several entire generations of Jards to figure all of this out, and rebuild to the point they were now. A dark age.

The lack of control he had in the outcome petrified and panicked him both.

Oh boy. Now there was his legacy to think about, maybe he could avoid the coming fall somehow. He could dissolve the company and disappear, and let everyone else take the blame. He grinned wickedly, and the impassive grey walls watched as the last vestiges of his sanity drained away. The gravy train has runneth over, and come to full-stop he thought. I shall jump out in a blaze of glory.

His final performance, the cementing of his legacy, or at least it’s shielding from tarnish. He got back in the dangling car and after some confusion, managed to get it to deposit him back at the top platform. Eyes whirling with frenzied purpose, he left the atrium and went back up toward the cable car, filled with grave news about the future of his company.

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