Justin opened his arms and Honor ran into them. “Missed you too, HoHo,” he said hugging her. He smiled at Nichelle halfway across baggage claim.
Later, Honor was asleep in her room in his apartment. He and Nichelle sat at his kitchen table.
“I’m glad you brought her,” he said.
“Sorry you’re stuck here instead of the Ritz.”
“She’s hard to say ‘no’ to.”
He retrieved two glasses and a bottle from a cabinet. He poured and said, “We should get tipsy and make bad decisions.”
“No we shouldn’t,” she said but took a long swallow anyway.
Sammy watched the data flow across his primary screen. His other three showed more information in charts, graphs and diagrams. He prefered raw data. He read it like other people read poetry, teasing out rhythm and meaning.
“Heard you got called into the principal’s office,” said Chira, suddenly behind him.
Not taking his attention from his screen, Sammy said, “Mr. Phillips just wanted to know how I was getting on.”
“How are you getting on?”
Sammy turned to Chira. They smiled warmly at him. “I’m okay,” he said genuinely.
“Good,” Chira said. “Let’s get lunch. Omar’s waiting.”
Honor Galvonsen crossed her arms and set her jaw. She looked to Nichelle like the spitting image of her father, aside from her dark skin and unruly hair.
“You’re not going to see Dad without me.”
“I am not going to see your father,” said Nichelle. “I am interviewing your father’s new boss.”
“But Dad is going to be there.”
Nichelle took a calming breath. “Honor, honey, this is work.”
“This is bullshit.”
Nichelle exhaled and prayed for the strength to survive her daughter’s teenage years. “You are staying with Gram just like always. End of discussion.”
“Look, I just need to talk to Peter. He will want to see me,” Justin half pleaded, clutching a massive roll of plans.
“Mr. Zavod,” enunciated Leo, Zavod’s personal secretary, “does not receive unannounced appointments.”
“I’ll wait,” said Justin. He flopped down in a stylish but uncomfortable chair in the threshold of Zavod’s office.
Justin waited for over an hour until Peter Zavod poked his head out his massive office doors. Whatever he meant to say to Leo was forgotten upon seeing Justin.
Justin said, “Sir, we need to stop construction.”
“You’re being lied to.”
Zavod said, “Come in.”
It was born four and a half billion years ago. It coalesced from dust and particles, reaching the size of a mountain. It settled into a regular, safe orbit with the aid of Jupiter. It remained in that orbit for billions of years, until an accident of interplanetary physics sent a cousin careening toward Earth. The dinosaur killer’s passing tugged it out of its own orbit and into a similar one. It did not crash into the devastated planet, however. Rather it became a far raging satellite of which the creatures living on Earth would take no notice for eons.
Omar appeared in the corner of Sammy’s screen. “What’s up?”
Sammy said, “Sorry to bother you again, but I’m still getting that latency problem.”
Omar tried to mask his impatience but Sammy read it plainly. “Okay. No problem. Let me take another look.”
“Ok. Thanks. It’s really minor but I don’t want to-”
“Be the one who loses a half trillion dollar platinum mine in orbit? Yeah, I get it, man.”
“Thanks,” said Sammy but Omar was already logged off. He started to go back to work when a calendar notification popped up.
APPOINTMENT ADDED: HARRISON PHILLIPS IN 30 MINUTES.
“We need a new angle,” said Bernard.
Nichelle blinked at the News Editor. “You think ‘tech entrepreneur mines asteroid in Earth orbit’ is played out?”
“No. Not exactly. But it’s SciFriday news since the court case ended.”
“Bernie, come on. Everything Phillips does is news. And he’s doing this.”
Bernard frowned. “I don’t think so. It’s too slow. Too brainy. People don’t care.”
Nichelle thought for a beat then said, “There’s always the partnership breakup thing. What about Zavod?”
Bernard raised an eyebrow. “True, but that guy is a hermit.”
“I have a source close to him.”
Justin was staring at a field report, comparing it to construction plans, when Stacey leaned in.
Her eyes wide. “Holy shit,” she said. “Zavod’s here.”
“Okay. Relax. He’s just the owner,” said Justin.
“He’s the third richest guy in America!”
A few minutes later Peter Zavod stood in Justin’s office. He did not look how Justin imagined a billionaire would.
“I like to meet the new supers whenever they come in,” he was saying.
“Manager,” corrected Justin.
“I’m your construction manager. I have about a half dozen supers working for me.”
Peter Zavod smiled. “I think I like you.”
“Telemetry” said Sammy to Chira.
Chira was spikey haired with a cute smile and a rabbit tattoo just below the elbow. They and Omar, a striking Lebanese guy about Sammy’s age, had plopped down at his table and started asking “new guy” questions.
“Cool,” said Chira. “I’m orbital mechanics. Omar is Battlelands.”
Omar smiled. “IT,” he said. “Not my fault I keep things running smoothly and can spend half the day fragging motherfuckers.”
Sammy smiled back uncertainly. The pause just started to grow uncomfortable when Harrison Phillips’ amplified voice filled the cafeteria: “Battle stations, everyone: the Tug is a go!”
Nichelle smiled warmly. “Harrison Phillips, thank you for being with us today.”
He smiled back and she felt herself shiver under his gaze. “Thank you very much for having me, Nichelle.”
Nichelle shifted in her seat. “Let’s get right down to it,” she said, composing herself. “Last week your company, Platinum Galactic, won the right to mine the asteroid–”
“Actually,” he interrupted, “we won the right to bring the asteroid into orbit. Mining rights were never in question.”
“Right,” she said coolly. “What does this mean for–”
“That the space age has finally really begun, with PG at the forefront.”