Aeota by Paul Di Filippo

Sneak Peek Extract:

5.

Judge Dread

       The opalescent murk outside my windshield had gotten pretty bad by the time I hit the outskirts of the city where AEOTA had its corporate HQ, and I was grateful I didn’t have to head any further north.  Just breathing this stuff was becoming problematical.

       Past an elementary school, a mall, a junkyard, a milk-bottling plant—

       find aeota yesterday everywhere.

       The building that housed AEOTA bore discreet signage in a modest font attesting to the company’s humble presence.  An elegant single-story block of offices, more viridian-tinted glass than steel, was dwarfed by a tall windowless monolithic manufactory wing longer than a couple of football fields, all utilitarian coppery metal.

       I took a visitor’s parking space and entered a pleasant atrium.  A receptionist ensconced as eye-candy behind a circular desk might have wandered in off the pages of Vanity Fair.

       “I’d like to see Mr. Thaumas, please.”

       “You’re expected?”

       “No.  But if you tell him I want to talk about Holger Holtzclaw and Eurybia Enterprises, he might get all puppy-dog eager.”

       Three minutes later, I had a temporary badge and a guide—a young intern who looked as if he could shave the down from his cheeks with a lettuce leaf—and was heading toward what I hoped were, if not some definitive answers, at least some further milestones along this crazy road.  I felt a little as if I were Nick Fury walking through the dangerous corridors of AIM, but since I didn’t see any guys in yellow bee-keeper suits, I tried to shrug off the feeling.  Besides, I wasn’t right for the role of Nick:  I looked awful with an eye-patch.

       The wooden door bore the title of CEO and my man’s full name:  Thomas T. Thaumas.

       I don’t know who I expected to see behind that door.  The Devil, Gordon Gekko, Hannibal Lecter, Dr. Evil.  But whatever menacing figure my imagination might have supplied, it wasn’t that of Judge Hardy.

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