Julian ran down the stairs, an info-slate tucked beneath his arm. They were behind schedule, and Julian’s watch beeped incessantly. The wind rumbled against the skyscraper as he hurried from the stairwell, pausing for a moment to straighten his tie and smooth down his hair.
You look like a possum, his girlfriend would say. Who wears a flesh-colored tie?
Julian left the stairwell with a silly grin on his face; he remembered her curled up on the couch, asleep. That same smile was on his face when Julian extended his hand to the young man waiting in the lobby. “Dominic Singh?”
“Thank you for this opportunity."
“I’m Julian Sutten. I’m going to do a quick identity check to make sure you are who say you are, and then we’ll head to the interview. Sound good?”
Dominic gave a jerky nod and straightened his papers as Julian scanned his retinas.
Every college guidance counselor in America knew that the surest way to get a job at Void Inc. was to intern for the summer. Void Inc. held interviews in March at their headquarters in New Chicago, and any student could interview as long as they registered in time, passed the security, and showed up on March 18th.
Julian Sutten had suggested the intern program four years ago, and he conducted the interviews. Innovation engineers and the vice president were known to show up as well, at the very least, to watch the media circus.
Two interns would be accepted. One hundred fifty dollars an hour, any department.
At the end of the summer, the interns would each receive a frank letter of recommendation — if signed by the Vice President, consider it an unspoken offer of employment to to one of the most exclusive companies in the world.
So, the potential interns lined up around the block in suits and ironed shirts so that you could smell the starch a mile away, and media vans filled every parking space. With the noise and the crowds, if a visitor didn’t know better, they’d assume a parade was about to happen.
Julian and Dominic walked through Void Inc’s spacious lobby, approaching two twenty door metal doors. The media called these doors the Sacred Portal because no reporter ever passed through them.
Julian called them the Gates of Mordor.
The doors swung open upon detecting Julian’s palm, and he held the gigantic door for Dominic. The young man crossed the threshold, and his jaw dropped open.
“Keep walking,” said Julian.
They entered a cathedral of a hallway built from obsidian glass, tendrils of gold in the walls reflected on the mahogany floors. Paintings by the New Masters hung on invisible thread dangling from the ceiling. Multicolored holographic mists, drifting rainbows shimmered against the black glass. Dominic froze, trapped in the nebula, an awesome riot of the imagination and money.
He stumbled, then ran to keep up with Julian.
Julian stopped by one of the paintings, the black glass folding back on itself. “Here we are, Dominic.”
Inside, Rohan Malik, an olfactory specialist, and Ingrid Huntz, a spacy super programmer, waited to start the interview. They all shook hands, did quick introductions, and took a seat to watch Dominic present why he should work at Void Inc. As he spoke, they would interrupt him.
Void Inc. developed humanoid android for all purposes. Cleaning. Sex. Things people didn’t want to do. They specialized in androids, but everyone knew with android development came a host of discoveries; some even Julian found boring (data processing, computation) and others were fascinating, bizarre: memories, sensation, and “proper” android behavior. Interns brought ideas on anything from mail dictation to calculation speed.
(Julian’s former company had deliberately made androids to look like octopus aliens. So, they’d never have to worry about android speaking patterns or programming a suitable submissive behavior.)
Dominic leaned against the wall in front of them in his austere gray suit. He flicked his papers for a moment then placed them on the table. He took a shuddering breath.
Julian was beginning to believe he knew every nervous tick in existence.
“My project proposal won’t make Void Inc.’s androids more efficient,” said Dominic. “But I believe people are always looking for whimsy in their lives.” Julian watched Dominic fiddled with the buttons on his jacket, buttoned all the way up his neck. He had never seen a twenty-something with less whimsy in his entire life.
“I developed the basic outline for a program that takes the images stored in android’s memory bank and crafts them into dreams. If you press a button, while the android is in sleep mode, you can view the dreams.”
Ingrid gave a breathy sigh. “I love ze idea. Love it.”
Malik shifted, glancing at Julian. Julian thought Malik was hard to read; the olfactory expert had rejected five candidates on the basis of their smell alone. “I stopped listening when they had walked in the door,” he had told them matter-of-factly.
“How do we view the android’s dreams?”
“We can install a button projector at the top of the skull,” answered Dominic, nervous, “between the motor hard drive and the GX box.”
“I love zis idea, Julian. Ve’ve never done dreams before.”
Dominic’s nervousness started to melt away under Ingrid’s enthusiasm. “Androids are in your home, around you all the time, and this could allow for fascinating self-reflection, to see your world through a new lens. I think people are always looking for new ways to view their lives.”