Parvo was several hallways and two flights of stairs along before it really dawned on him that he was moving. Left foot, right foot, left foot, just like before in those good old days when he had a girlfriend who didn’t lie to him. Had there been clues? More to the point, had there been clues he might have detected despite his near-toxic level of testosterone? How could Kelly have done that to him? His mental turmoil sidetracked slightly as he went on to remember a few of the specific and more pleasant things she had done to him, and so he barely noticed the glares from the assorted scientists around him who were still picking up papers, carts, and other, slightly damaged scientists who had been knocked over during his previous passing. He smiled a grim, somewhat threatening apology at them and followed Buchanon through a magnificent archway and down the smoothest escalator he’d ever been on.
The tram looked like someone had successfully weaponized Disney. They stepped aboard into a gleamng interior and the tram instantly took off at a blinding speed with almost no noticeable inertia whatsoever, which annoyed Parvo for some reason. Try as he might he couldn’t see any evidence of current or historical puke anywhere, making this a very unique subway indeed in his experience. Glitzy place. Was Buchanon still talking? Dammit, he was.
“The Hill Institute was founded by Gene Hill to better the lives of all humanity, Vince,” Buchanon was saying. “Even you. In the last five years we’ve advanced cancer therapy generations past anyone else, found a cheap way to reinvigorate arid soil, and perfected that four-dollar roll of solarphane you use to power your house for a year. We’re good at what we do, and what we do is everything.”
“Are you good at getting to the point? Do you have people that can do that for you?”
Buchanon ignored him and turned to face the side of the tram, which irised open almost immediately. Parvo hadn’t even noticed they’d stopped. Through another, smaller archway (with a pressurized hatch. he noticed) they stepped into wonders.
Imagine a beehive populated by science fiction geeks. Now shake it, and you’ll get the idea of the constantly churning, brightly colored panorama that Parvo beheld. The room they were in, all glass and steel and glasteel (not to be confused with steeglass, which, outside of certain select artistic endeavors, had no redeeming factors whatsoever unless you had a pressing need for a car that shattered with a melodic tinkling sound) with a highly polished floor that actively resisted Parvo’s casual attempts to scuff it, was a central location from which white and silver hallways radiated outward. People in lab coats were purposefully moving in purposeful directions, many of them carrying clipboards or PDAs or handfuls of electronic equipment or, in one case, a 35-foot reticulated python. Doors opened here and there, revealing futuristic machines and complicated glass contraptions of bubbling chemicals and colorful smoke. Hums and beeps and mechanical linkages could be heard from all directions, strange smells competed for attention, lights and lasers and weapons flares lit up the vaulted ceiling. There was even a student up there, looking like a lost balloon, wearing some sort of jetpack that was currently grinding him relentlessly into the light fixtures. This was capital-S Science, happening at the speed of thought, expanding the known universe by measurable degrees (which were promptly measured, notated, collated, and filed). It was nearly impossible to see all this and not be awed at the capabilities of mankind.
Mostly Parvo was thinking how much he really, really wanted to break something,
He turned to see Buchanon waving to a young and very fit woman who was jogging slowly down the hallway toward them, carrying a clipboard. Her lab coat flapped open to reveal tight athletic clothing underneath. With the unerring reflexes and calculating mind of a true leader Parvo instantly forgot his own troubled personal life in order to check her out.
“This is Dr. Espinosa,” Buchanon told him. “Don’t touch him, doctor, the idiocy rubs off. So, what have you done for me today?”
Espinosa smiled and continued to jog in place while stretching her arms over her head and bending side to side in a completely fascinating motion. “The new… rejuvasnacks… are showing a… 35% increase over… the previous batch… Dr. Buchanan!” she said.
Parvo looked up from his careful examination of the seams in her jogging shorts. “The who with the what?”
“Rejuvasnacks,” Buchanon said. “Remember the food pills they always promised you we’d have someday in the future?”
“These aren’t them. They’re better. How long have you been awake, Sadie?”