“It's the latest model, built from a blend of eridium and--”
Jack dug through the paper bag. Grease stains coated it, and the fresh pretzels were gone. He leaned back in his chair and looked over at... He couldn 't remember his name. Sean? Jean? Numbskull fit, what with the way he gaped at his pad. Jack snapped his fingers and pointed at the bag.
“Sir?” The oil slick of a salesman stared at him. The moment their eyes met, Snakeoil looked away. So he wasn't a complete idiot, Jack mused.
“You're doing a great job of telling me jack.” He grinned at the pun. Numbskull plucked the bag free and scuttled away. “Yeah, yeah, your models are fancy. That's great. It's why you're here. But you've gotta have something better, buddy! Do I have to teach you how to sell cars?”
Snakeoil gaped like Numbskull. Jack wondered if they were trading notes behind his back. “It's... uh.”
Jack buried a hand in his hair as he shook his head. “Buddy. Buddy, please. You're killin' me here. Is the car sexy?”
Snakeoil hesitated. How much trouble would he be in if he spaced another company's refuse? “It's quite popular on Dionysus as a luxury vehicle--”
“They think Dahl guns are great,” he said, voice sharp. “Sorta lacking faith here. Give me some pictures.” He looked over to where Numbskull should have been. An empty spot greeted him, and he almost laughed. The idiot was getting the pretzels himself.
The pictures were garbage. Not on the level of Snakeoil, but the angles were wrong. “It looks like a cube with wheels.” Numbskull hurried in, a bag of pretzels in hand. Jack took them without looking. They were hot, salty, and probably terrible for him. He loved them.
“It's a unique design made for economical tastes.” Snakeoil looked frightened at his own words.
Jack chewed thoughtfully. They were getting better at making pretzels. “Does this look like a bastion of economical tastes?” Snakeoil stared. “Look, show me something flashy, something with pizzazz, something that my grandmother wouldn't drive. Not this...” He waved his pretzel bag at the glowing hologram. “...Frigging hell, it looks like a dumpster.”
Snakeoil turned bright red. The hologram flickered through several types of cars. If he was kind, Jack could have called them 'variations on a theme'. “Wow,” he said, “more garbage. Is this seriously Phaeton's best? I could go down to R&D and get something better.”
“It wouldn't be Phaeton-made,” Snakeoil blustered.
Jack took another bite of pretzel. “Maybe that'd be for the best.” He waved to Numbskull. “Give,” he said. Numbskull almost threw the pad at him in his hurry. Jack made note of that and glared down at the screen.
RHYSIE & OUR FIRST ANNIVERSARY
- maybe an island
- does he like islands
- someone find out if he likes islands
- don't give him a town he'll end up dead
- fancy dinner
- don't let him dress himself, those ties are embarrassing
- no I don't care if they're in fashion
- things have gone downhill since I left
Numbskull had made two annotations to it.
Doesn't like islands. Is afraid of being stranded on one.
Jack snorted. Rhys might risk that on normal islands, but any island he'd let the kid stay on would be more wired than a space station. Jack tapped out another note. Find him an island on Aquator. Don't make it rustic-- he'll break into hives if it's tiki.
“Sir?” Snakeoil shifted uneasily at the front. Jack ignored him. He flicked to the next document. Rhys' vitals were there-- age, height, planetary origin-- and he frowned, thinking. “There's the Imperion model--”
Jack scrolled down to the interests section. “Get out,” he said.
Jack looked up. “Send him out the hatch, Sean.” The PA stared. “Hey! Sean. Wake up. Take the trash out.”
Snakeoil sprinted to the elevator. Numbskull lumbered after him after a moment, but was too slow. Jack laughed as the PA slapped at the elevator call button, Snakeoil long gone. “Christ, cupcake, you're not pretty enough for this.” He pushed out from the desk. “Upfront.” Numbskull lumbered back. “I've got an idea.”
All of Jack's ideas were bad ideas. This was an accepted fact of life for Rhys: no matter how brilliant, cunning, or creative, they were bad. If he was in an introspective mood, they were bad for Pandora, Promethea, and random bystanders. If he was selfish, it usually meant an interrupted night in and embarrassment.
So when he got a message to visit Jack's office, he eyed it like he would a snake. Coworkers whispered, as though he couldn't hear them, and he could already see where the gossip was going. Handsome Jack, CEO of Hyperion, was doing a booty call-- a booty call delivered by his PA, no less. Rhys wanted to blame the PA. There were anonymous gofers he could have sent. But Jack was making a statement, and when he made statements, he wanted everyone to hear. Rhys refused to give a show. He glanced at the note, slipped it into his pocket, and walked out of his office with his head held high and only a mildly terrible blush on his face.
See, he couldn't say for certain it wasn't a booty call. It'd happened before. Jack had even let someone walk in on them. Most people had been scared of Rhys for a solid week after that. Even Yvette eyed him, a little less willing to mooch and tease. Nobody wanted to be the one to see how far Jack would go. Was it a fling, a friends with benefits thing, or a for-real-oh-my-God-what-are-they-thinking relationship?
It was depressing that Rhys couldn't answer that. But part of him didn't want to-- he knew quite well Jack was a bit... off about his previous relationships. Rhys didn't have an Underdome to blow up. He had a decent shared apartment, an expensive motorcycle, and family on Eden 6. Labelling what they had meant baggage and expectations and potential explosions.
Frankly, Rhys had had his fill with his Pandoran explorations.
Jack waited at his desk, his fingers steepled. His eyes were bright behind the mask. A datapad sat in front of him. “Pumpkin!”
Jack didn't move to greet him, and Rhys figured it wasn't a booty call. Which was good because he had a meeting in thirty. “Uh. Nice to see you?”
Jack waved a hand and stabbed a finger at the datapad. “I got you something.”
“That's almost a threat, coming from you,” Rhys said and took a seat across from the man. He scooped up the datapad and blinked. A lush island paradise surrounded by pale blue water and white sand glinted on the screen. “Oh.” There were pools on the island. Why you would need a pool on an island--
Sharks. There were probably thousands of sharks in the ocean. It probably got hit by tsunamis and storms constantly. He imagined being left with no power, no boat, and no food--
“Princess. Stop thinking.” Rhys stopped thinking. Jack leaned back in his seat. “Look, it's going to be great. Aquator's got fantastic weather, you're going to have the latest Hyperion everything, and you'll get to spend a weekend in tropical paradise with me.” Jack spread his arms wide. “And! And flip to the next page.”
Rhys did and swore.
It was a fucking space station. Black metal warped into the shape of an R, it swivelled in place, tall dark windows reflecting space and Helios. It orbited Helios, and when he touched the screen, the face vanished, revealing the inside. It was rough-- he could feel the artist still editing the design in their mind, and he hoped it wasn't Jack's mind he was feeling-- but he could spot food courts and gardens and apartments and was that a fucking movie theatre.
“I figure you nerds could use a space upgrade.” Jack spun in his chair and leaned over the desk. “Now, you're not going anywhere, but I figure you can help keep an eye on the code-monkeys for me. Remotely. Maybe have a shuttle there once in a while. We'll call you... an operations manager. Of space station Rhys. We lose a bit of the Greek theme, but, y'know, I figure it can't hurt to diversify. Give you losers something to aspire to.”
It was tacky. It was a declaration that would earn more than whispers. He had, technically, now fucked his way to the top. How fast would his achievements vanish when people found out that Handsome Jack's squeeze now ran a space station? Pretty fast. Even Yvette and Vaughn would laugh, though Vaughn would apologize after and Yvette would pat him on the shoulder and mooch food anyway. But there were space locks, demotions, and bringing Jack's attention to the assholes for that. He sucked in a sharp breath.
Jack rapped his knuckles against the desk. “Cupcake. You're not already on the space station, and I'm waiting.”
He wanted to ask why. But that opened a can of worms he didn't want to touch, especially if his dates were right. So he let loose a grin and forced himself not to think of gossip. “I feel like I owe you at least a blowjob after this.”
Jack's eyes glinted. “Well, you've got twenty minutes until your meeting, princess.”