His perfectly shaped eyebrow raised. “The Destroyer? Are you sure we aren’t
talkin’ about something else, cupcake?”
A startled snort left her lips before she could help it. “Not everything is about sex, Mr. Handsome boss man sir.” She said seriously. As she spoke, she raised the burst rifle in question and carefully loaded it. “Listen to this. The Destroyer has been designed by yours truly to be as easy to handle as a rifle can be. For beginners, of course. Low recoil, high accuracy, easy to reload… All while packing the punch that the Hyperion brand is known for.” She looked up at him, having to stand on her tiptoes to be on his level physically. She pressed the gun into his hands. “Try it out.”
“Before I do a single thing. Please stop calling me such a long name, Miss Aalia executive gun making lady.” Jack reminded her. He got into the position to fire the gun, pointing the barrel at the dummy psycho targets that she had set up. He turned to look at her knowingly. “Ya see how annoying that is? Waaaaay too formal. We’ve known each other too long for that, pumpkin. Handsome will work just fine.” He teased, winking at her. Then, without warning, he fired the gun and landed a perfect headshot on the dummy. He continued firing until the clip was empty. Aalia didn’t flinch. “Secondly, this gun is friggin’ awesome. Seriously, it’s some of your best rifle work. This is going to be standard issue?”
Aalia practically beamed at his praise. Jack had a way of fanning the fire that was her confidence in her gun making abilities. “Thanks, Jack. Yeah, it’s gonna be standard issue. More assault rifles will be really good for Hyperion fire power, especially for those constructors you have in Opportunity. They have way too few weapons to defend such an incredible city.”
Jack nodded in agreement, eyes locked on the gun as he looked it over. His ears perked in interest when she mentioned Opportunity. His utopia on Pandora was his pride and joy, and any praise it received was strongly encouraged by the CEO. “I think we could manage giving them all these rifles. You sure you don’t want to work for advertising, cupcake? You’d be really good at it.”
Aalia snickered and shook her head. “I know I would be good at it, but I love guns too much.” Then, as an afterthought, “there’s a spot for those mods that my team are working on, as well.”
“Which mod was that again? I know we had a meeting about it, I just don’t recall.”
“I understand, of course the CEO of our humble establishment couldn’t remember such a little ol’ thing.” She teased, walking over to grab the research data. “The guns that have elemental damage, so electricity, fire, corrosive, slag… Shit… Uh… the other… uhh...” she made a frantic hand movement, struggling to recall.
“Explosive.” Jack supplied, proud he remembered.
“Right, explosive. Those guns are super awesome. And I, along with my other engineers, have discovered a way to mod any old gun, Hyperion made, of course, into an elemental gun with an addition to the barrel.” She explained, almost forgetting that he was there in her excitement. She paced over to her desk, holding up the piece of metal she’d been working on. When she spoke about her guns, her eyes lit up, similar to a child in a candy shop. “We have been working on having a rotatable barrel, and what shot in the barrel you are firing dictates what type of elemental damage the bullet will cause.”
Jack watched her get excited, feeling second hand pride from how happy she was with her invention. “That’s friggin awesome, kitten. Really. Let me know as soon as there is a working prototype, I would love to test it out for ya.”
She put the prototype down and looked down to the stack of paperwork. She waved him over to look. “Can you sign off on this, while you’re here? Using the elements in the metal gun, especially electricity and fire, is dangerous. I want to head to the prison and grab some test subje- I mean volunteers from down there to make sure the guns won’t hurt my team.” Aalia looked up finally. “In exchange for a slightly reduced sentence, if that’s okay with you, Handsome.”
Jack chuckled, striding over to sign the paperwork without reading, trusting her wholeheartedly. “Me? Against injury of prisoners by my favorite mad scientist? If I ever say no to providing you with the fun stuff like that, I want you to shoot me in the face.” He paused. He placed his hand on her shoulder, leaning down to look her in the eye. “Seriously, because if I say no, I am either possessed or someone killed me and took my place.”
Aalia felt a laugh slip again, leaning against her work bench and looking back up at him pleasantly. Her mind seemed to be briefly elsewhere. “I’ll be sure to remember that.”
Jack sighed and started walking towards the door to her workshop. “I gotta go now, unfortunately. Have a meeting with accounting. The most boring place on all of Helios.”
“Don’t scare them too bad.” She smiled.
As Jack opened his mouth to reply, a beep was heard on the other side of the door, followed by someone trying to open it. A curse, another beep, and the door was open, revealing a rather exhausted and irritated Rhys. “Jack… You’re meeting… with accounting…”
“Yeah, yeah, cool your jets, sweet cheeks. I was just leaving.” Jack said with a wave of his hand. “Those nerds can handle Handsome friggin Jack being a bit late to their meeting. They wouldn’t say anything if I just didn’t show up anyways.” He nodded to Aalia. “They’re freaking doormats over there.”
“Well I for one could handle Handsome Jack being late, and I am definitely not a doormat. And if I am, I am one of the ones that say Piss Off or Attack Cat on Duty. You know,” She insisted against the two blank stares she received. “The fun ones.”
Rhys seemed amused by her comment. “Calling a doormat fun. That’s… uh, new?” He said carefully, not trying to hide his shy smile. “You should get your door fixed. I have an engineer come down. That delay in registering badges must be so obnoxious.”
“Thank you, Sir Rhys, my beautiful knight in shining armor, but I love watching you struggle like that.” She practically purred at him. “It’s precious.”
Jack rolled his eyes and walked out the door without warning. “Time to go! Say goodbye to your buddy, Rhysie.” Despite his words, he grabbed Rhys’ arm to drag him along. Rhys choked out his goodbyes before being yanked from the room.
“Okay, so can you brief me on this meeting please? What are these guys gonna start rattling at me, and is it something I am going to care about?”
Jack lasted the entire meeting without murdering a single incompetent employee, which counted as a win in Rhys’s book. That’s not to say that Jack didn’t threaten it, in more creative ways each time, ranging from a bullet to the skull, being fed to skags, and the worst of them being deserted on Pandora. This specific threat was reserved for the finance director of the accounting department.
“Come on, kiddo. You’re trying to tell me that James, the man who is directly in charge of keeping track of the funding for his department,” then adding, as an aside, “Ya know, the god damned accounting department, isn’t a fucking accountant? Who put him in that position? Does he know what money is?” His voice became strident, increasing in frequency as his rage overwhelmed him. “Because he’s either a friggin idiot or he’s cheating me outta dough, and I’m not sure which pisses me off more.”
Rhys sighed, agreeing with Jack. Typically, he tried to give each employee the benefit of the doubt, trying to save as many lives from “The Wrath of Jack™” as possible, but this guy was making it very hard to justify. “Well, I mean I’m thinking he’s just an idiot, besides, you did just have him demoted to an intern. He probably just brown nosed to the right guy, got put into a position he’s not qualified for…”
Jack snorted, looking over at his assistant fondly. “Interesting… That sounds kinda familiar, pumpkin.”
Rhys gasped, insulted. He defended himself with no malice.“Fuck you Jack, I am super competent. Even if I wasn’t qualified, which I am, you’re the one who I brown nosed to get this job.”
He thought for a moment.“Well, my mistake then, I guess.”
The pair continued down the hallway, Jack not paying any mind to the workers who were actively avoiding his gaze. Rhys was relieved that the CEO’s mind was elsewhere. In situations where Jack was not in as… okay of a mood as he was now, he could be unpredictably angry and lash out at anyone in the general vicinity. After hiring Rhys as his personal assistant, Jack’s rage was more controlled, somewhat, as he had someone he could rant at and who rationalized Jack’s murderous tendencies. Although, it was typically more of Jack being furious and threatening people, followed by Rhys selecting his words carefully to try and maybe defuse his rage.
In the few months he’d been employed, his skill at making Jack calm down had increased greatly. This time, however, Rhys couldn’t really take the credit for how good of a mood his boss was in. Nothing made Jack happier than firing bullets at targets except for firing targets at idiots.
“You know,” Jack interrupted Rhys’s train of thought. “I think she was pretty much made for the position of department chair.” He nodded thoughtfully.
“Sorry, who?” Rhys asked.
Jack scoffed. “Come on, Rhysie. Keep up. Aalia, of course. Like she’s always been a good engineer, but like… Since her boss got air locked?” He got distracted. “I mean I did it, and it was friggin great, and he looked hilarious. Like, his eyes got all bulged out and he grabbed at his throat just before he died. You think that’s gonna save you? You’re literally in orbit around Helios…” He cut himself off and stopped walking, laughter making it too hard to continue.
“What does this have to do with Aalia as the department chair?”
After a minute, Jack wiped the tears from his eyes and kept walking. “Sorry, sorry. Yeah, I think killing that dude was not only the fun choice, but also the right one.”
Rhys couldn’t help but hold back a proud smile. Aalia and Rhys had been dating for a year or so now, so of course he thought that she deserved the title, along with the pay raise that it came with. He knew first hand how dedicated she was to her job, having helped her through many sleepless nights with coffee and persuasions to come to sleep. Some nights, she didn’t even make it back to their shared apartment, so enraptured by whatever work she was doing or whatever fun new way she could help Jack to murder people. Which was ironic, seeing as stopping Jack from murdering people was part of Rhys’s job description.
“Hey, Helios to Rhys.” Jack snapped his fingers in his face. “You in there, space cadet?” He questioned after Rhys took just past too long to answer.
“Yeah, yeah… sorry. My uhh… thoughts were… somewhere else.” Rhys smiled at his boss. “She does deserve that promotion. She takes her job seriously, she works hard, I lo-er, ah like her. And you like her…”
Jack nodded in agreement not noticing his slip up, exiting the elevator and leading the younger to his office. “Anyone who makes me good guns and lets me play with them is great in my book. And I mean my book.” he emphasized the word, plopping down in what he called his throne, but was really a fancy desk chair. “I have a book of these things. Well maybe not a book, more of a list.” He put a piece of yellow paper down on the table, which had a short list.
Handsome Jack’s Favourite People:
(No particular order maybe)
The list was a lot longer than Rhys had anticipated. “Man, you like Aalia more than you like me?”
“It does say in no particular order.” Jack said, not entirely denying the statement.
“It says in no particular order maybe.” Rhys sighed and walked back to his desk, which was positioned just before the door of the big room, perpendicular to Jack’s desk. “I suppose I can’t really blame you. I like her more too.”
Jack snorted out a laugh and booted up his computer, watching the PA walk back over to his desk. “Shuddup and get to work, cupcake. We have a big day tomorrow.”
Rhys sat and started his work, mumbling under his breath, “I know we do, I organize your schedule.”
“What was that, Rhysie? Didn’t hear you over there, at your much smaller desk in your lame corner. Wanna repeat that again, but louder this time? So the CEO of the most powerful company in the galaxy could hear whatever it is your mumbling about? Which is definitely something nice about me?” Jack rambled, sitting up more attentively in his chair.
Rhys chuckled nervously. “No, sir. Just talking to myself.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Some domestic nonsense and some Hugo Vasquez!
Rhys got to their relatively large, two bedroom apartment around 7 pm. Jack held him back late because they worked together to rearrange his schedule. He had to meet with the advertising department the following day. They had been harassing Rhys for weeks about this meeting which, in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t all that important.
Jack typically enjoyed these meetings, as it allowed him to talk at people about how great Hyperion is, discover how the world could learn about how great Hyperion is.Then they showed him pictures of himself posing with guns for the ads. It’s pretty much everything the CEO cared about; Guns, Hyperion, and himself.
Rhys walked into the living room, noticing that Aalia’s black, zip up hoodie wasn’t thrown haphazardly across the table as it was (rather annoyingly) every day she came home from work. “Hun? Are you home?” He tried, not anticipating a response.
And he was right; there was no answer. Chances were, she was just working late. Sometimes, she’d end up at her lab all night. Then again, she hadn’t done that in a few months. Maybe she got kidnapped. Rhys’s anxiety thought without his input. He sat down to try and relax. Or worse, murdered. She has a really desirable job, after all, and this is Helios. People are murdered for their jobs all the time. “No,” Rhys assured himself aloud. “That isn’t possible. She is way too jumpy to be surprised, especially by someone with nasty intentions.” He took a deep breath, rubbed his face, and stood. “Besides, she’s almost shot me a few times for coming up behind her…” He made his way to the kitchen, anxiety mostly quelled.
It was Rhys’s turn to make dinner anyways, so while he was disappointed she wasn’t there to yap at him about gun stuff that he didn’t understand, dinner could at least be on time. She was so fucking smart with that sort of technology stuff. That wasn’t to say that Rhys was knowledgeable, but they had such differences in interests that it made talking about work specifics rather… confusing. Maybe less confusing and more like they were speaking two different languages.
He decided to make salads with proteins for both the vegetarian and the non vegetarian in the household. While both Rhys and Aalia hate cooking, they found that splurging on their proteins, seasonings, and fresh veggies made cooking a lot more fun. Although that didn’t stop the weekly fight of “I had a long day, babe, can you cook tonight?” The roles of the argument switch, as they both just really hated cooking.
As he started to grill and wash the vegetables, Rhys had the AI in their apartment play some music. “Alexa, can you play Aalia’s playlist please?” She was always in a good mood when she came home to hear her music, as opposed to whatever news station or super cool synth pop Rhys prefered to listen to.
By the time the salads were ready and the table was set, Rhys started to feel the anxiety creeping back. Where the hell is she? He put the bowls on the table and leaned against the counter, summoning his EchoEYE menu to send her a message. As he was contemplating how to not sound like a paranoid lunatic, the lock in the door clicked open, opening to reveal a disheveled and exhausted Aalia. As expected, she threw her heavy messenger bag on the ground next to their disorganized pile of shoes, pulled off her hoodie, threw it on the table, and collapsed, face first, into the sofa.
Rhys saw her typical entrance and walked over and sat on the arm of the sofa by her head. “Hey, hun. How was work?”
Aalia looked up at him, dark brown eyes meeting his. Her mood was brightened rather quickly by how attractive he was, rolling onto her back to look at him. She admired his face openly, loving the contrast between the blue of his EchoEYE with the rich brown of his natural eye colour. After a moment slightly too long of open admiration, she touched his cheek softly. “It was exhausting, but fun as always. I’m literally living the dream. I mean, look at my boyfriend. I don’t deserve you. You’re awfully pretty, you know that?”
Rhys blushed and leaned into her hand, chuckling. “You do tell me every day. So yes, I would say I do, by now. And I am the lucky one, you stupid fucking nerd.”
Aalia laughed loudly in surprise and admired him for another moment before sitting up. She cupped his cheek and leaned in to press a tender kiss on his forehead. “I love you.” She murmured, petting his hair back softly before standing and stretching.
Rhys watched her stretch and looked at the expanse of her back as she stretched. His lack of response caused Aalia to turn around, concern clear on her face at his lack of response. She then saw his expression and snickered, turning and sitting in his lap, leg on either side of his hips. “Like whatcha see, hot stuff?” She teased, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Rhys pressed a warm kiss to her lips, arms coming around her waist naturally, as if on autopilot. “Hell yeah, dude. Love what I see. Just like I love you.” He felt the material of her soft cotton shirt, then leaned his head forward to rest it against her collarbone. “Let’s tell everyone.”
“That we are in love? Sure, no problem. Let’s just ask Jack to put it in his next manic update.” She joked, massaging his shoulders gently. Jack, at least once every two days, sometimes twice a day, put out, what he called, an update. It was mostly him rambling about shit that pissed him off or made him really happy. “How was work for you?” She asked, finding his clinginess unusual, but not unwelcome.
“Long. Jack was in a surprisingly good mood today, thanks to you.” Rhys didn’t look up at Aalia, feeling the events of today effectively exhausting him. “Before I came to your workshop, I was in a meeting with some people from Maliwan. Those jerks were all like, ‘Why did Jack send his secretary? What is he so busy doing?’ and I was like, ‘I’m not his secretary, and Jack is busy.’ This, of course, was a lie, because Jack just fucking hates Maliwan. I mean, I don’t blame him. But I couldn’t say that. Or worse, that he was downstairs playing with guns instead of attending a board meeting.” Rhys sighed, irritated.
The female listened to him rant, the sound slightly muffled from where his face was pressed into her shirt. She, of course, knew who all of the opposing companies to Hyperion were, but she could not give less of a shit about the politics surrounding working for the monopoly that she did. She loved working for Hyperion, the freedom it gave her, and how it literally saved her life.
“Maliwan makes pretty decent weapons.” She commented thoughtfully, not really having anything to add to the conversation. “But, their slag research was stolen pretty much word for word from our research team, so I can’t say I like the fuckers either.”
Rhys smiled and kissed her jaw softly, grateful she tried to understand what he was talking about. “I made dinner. Salad with tofu.”
She looked at him incredulously. “You’re eating the tofu?”
“Hell no. I am eating steak.”
Aalia messed up his slicked back, brown hair and giggled at the pout on his face and the chaos she made his hair into. “While I’m disappointed about the tofu, you’re cute as hell, making me dinner.” She climbed out of his lap and walked to the kitchen to grab their bowls with two water bottles under her arms.
By the time she returned, Rhys had moved from the arm of the sofa to the actual couch itself. It was pretty long, smooth black nylon with a matching ottoman. She pressed the bowl into his hands and sat beside him, close enough that their legs touched. She crossed her legs and took a sip of her water before continuing. “Wanna watch a movie and crash on the couch?”
Rhys made a pleased noise. “Thasouns amazin, hun.”
Aalia looked at him, face distorted in disgust. “Gross, close your mouth.”
He grinned and leaned over to kiss her, a piece of green lettuce on his lower lip. She bleched, scooting away from him. “Absolutely not, Rhys. Do not do this I will not forgive you.”
Rhys continued scooting closer, smacking his food. “Whus wron?”
Aalia screeched and put a strong foot against her boyfriends thin chest. “I am stronger than you, Rhys. If you do this, I will kick your ass.”
Finally, he acquiesced and swallowed, keeping the lesser distance between them. “Damn babe, you’re mean to me.”
She sat back up and refused to look at Rhys, pouting. “You’re gross. Shut up and put on a movie.” She scolded lightly, hiding her smile in her salad.
It took the pair less than an hour to be fast asleep, Aalia’s head buried in Rhys’s lap.
Rhys’s alarm went off around 8 am, only alerting him. Another perk of his EchoEYE was being able to successfully wake up in the morning and not bother anyone else, unlike with an alarm clock. With some maneuvering, Rhys squeezed out from underneath Aalia. He replaced his lap with an actual pillow, only eliciting a soft groan from the other. He stretched and covered her with a blanket, then turned to clean up the dishes that they had left out from the night before.
He carried their water bottles and bowls into the kitchen, really not wanting to wash them. He popped them in the dishwasher and left it, waiting until they filled the machine up more before running the load. He checked the clock and saw that he had more time this morning than he typically did. Rhys reached into the cabinets and grabbed bread, vegetarian lunch meat, mustard, and veggies to assemble a sandwich for Aalia.
Too often she came home after work complaining about how hungry she is and how she forgot to eat lunch. Whenever Rhys had the time, he liked to make her a lunch so that she couldn’t possibly forget to eat. She almost always forgot to grab the lunch from the fridge, but it’s the thought that counts.
A few minutes later and Rhys was out the door, swiping his badge to gain access to the Executive elevator. Technically, he was the only non-Executive with access, which always made Rhys feel important.
Immediately upon entering their shared office, Jack took Rhys by the arm and lead him out the door. The CEO pressed a cup of coffee into his hand and followed him out. “I wanted to have a meeting with advertising. The only time they were available was right now.”
Rhys took the coffee and took a grateful sip, relaxing as the warmth from Jack’s hand pressed against his shoulder and the warmth from the drink filled his body. “Thanks for the coffee, Jack.”
A large hand ruffled his hair, effectively messing it up. It paralleled Aalia from the night before, which caused Rhys to blush at the memory. “No problem-o, kiddo. Least I can do for springing a meeting on ya, especially with your least favorite department.”
Rhys groaned outwardly, his now slightly more caffeinated brain registering that Jack had said accounting. Surprise meetings weren’t typically unwelcome, but any time Rhys had to go to the accounting department he felt like ripping his hair out. His least favorite person on all of Helios, the scummiest asshole in the galaxy, Hugo Vasquez had just been promoted to Vice Chair of the Advertising department. This didn’t make him Rhys’s superior by any means, but that meant that his face was seen at more meetings, now.
“Why do you hate Wallethead anyways? I mean, he’s a total douche, but why the hatred? Most people who work here are douches, you included.” Jack said, breaking Rhys from his thoughts.
“Hey, fuck you. I’m not a douche.” Rhys was offended. He tried very hard to not be a douche, thank you very much.
“Pumpkin, you’re wearing skagskin shoes. That’s pretty douchey.”
Touche. Rhys continued. “Wallethead… You mean Vasquez?”
Jack nodded, then gestured for him to continue.
That's an interesting nickname. Where did that come from? A question for another time. “You don’t know why?” Rhys questioned. “I thought you knew everything about me. At least, that’s what you said when you hired me.”
“Not everything, Rhysie. I value your privacy, kinda. Now spill the beans about the whole situation. I love gossip.” Jack clapped his hands together and pressed the elevator button that would lead to their conference room.
“We used to date. Very briefly. He was an ass. Said I was only on Helios for my looks, said if we fucked he’d let me have a good job.” Rhys said simply with a shrug. “Now, I’m his boss, so seeing him gives complicated emotions.” Rhys leaned against the wall of the elevator, looking up at the CEO. “On the one hand, I have to see his ugly face. On the other hand, every time he sees me he’s reminded that I am his boss and always will be.”
Jack whistled and leaned against the wall beside Rhys. “You… are kind of an evil sonuvabitch, you know that?”
Rhys didn’t reply, leaving the silence as his answer.
Upon their arrival to the meeting room, Jack walked to the table and sat down, ignoring everyone clamoring to get into their seats and getting their presentations ready. Jack sat at the head of the table, as always, and the seat on his right was typically reserved for Rhys. Today, however, Vasquez was firmly planted and set up in Rhys’s seat.
Rhys approached Vasquez, trying to come up with something witty to say. Vasquez looked up at him, an unspoken challenge. Before either man could make a sound, Jack cleared his throat. “Hey uhh… Wallethead? You’re in one of two seats in this whole room that could be wrong.” Jack gave him a moment, then when Vasquez didn’t make a move to respond or move from his seat, he shot daggers in his direction. “My buddy Rhys here needs his chair. If you don’t sit up, I will plant like… one hundred bullets into that stupid skull of yours, kiddo.”
When Jack called Rhys kiddo, it held a light, playful tone, even when he was supposed to be angry. When it was directed at Vasquez, however, Jack’s voice was filled with so much venom that the temperature in the room seemed to drop. Vasquez stumbled from his seat and sat in the only available seat remaining, the one furthest from Jack.
Jack looked up at his assistant and smiled, patting the seat beside him. “Sit, pumpkin.” He said, before directing his attention to the rest of the room. No one moved. “Well? Don’t we have some presentations to get through?”