Two Weeks Later
Bubbles were roiling and popping in the depths of Marcus’ stomach like forgotten stew on a stove. Sly’s reckless driving did nothing to help. The two of them were headed for Marcus’ first day at Nelson Trading and the young Spyros was desperately trying to distract himself with the thin trees running past his eyes. He tried not to think. His thoughts kept swirling around all the pressure that came with trying to make sure he made the family proud. While being a Valedictorian was great and all, being at the top of his class only added pressure onto each future step Marcus would make. Then there was the fact that he was stepping into the professional world as a Spyros outside of the Lion’s Club. He would be expected to give Lion’s Club results and that made Marcus feel like there were an actual weight on his back. Most important was Uncle Cato. His uncle’s expectations were the worse because he had none beyond Marcus doing the best he could. That just made Marcus put pressure on himself to succeed and make his uncle look better to the other branches of the family. Thinking about everyone who will be watching and judging him, Marcus felt a wave of sensation roll through his stomach. He was about to throw up. Luckily, just when Marcus’s stomach began to spasm, the deep green hills around his home disappeared in sudden blackness and that somehow prevented the reaction.
Artificial light replaced the sun and walls replaced the landscape. They’d finally entered the tunnel that connected the Purple Hills district and Damokles. The tunnel opened to a one way road that merged with the federal highway connecting Damokles and the entire country. The speed limit was unenforced on the highway and with Sly’s heavy foot, the two of them made excellent time to the city, much to Marcus’s chagrin. Almost no time passed before the buildings and parks running past his eyes became nicer, nearly opulent. As if they were attached to their surroundings, the people on the streets transformed to match the buildings around them and Marcus knew he’d entered Damokles proper.
The tourist traps collectively known as the One Thousand Skyscrapers of Damokles were usually a welcome sight for Marcus. Growing up, he loved seeing beautiful buildings ascend into the sky next to bizarre buildings. Back then, there really were one thousand towering buildings all throughout the city. He loved driving between them and seeing the parks and plazas between them. When his uncle had business in the city, he would take Marcus with him and Sly almost never left Cato’s side. The three of them would tour the city, laughing when Marcus would point to yet another building with a design new to his eyes. Marcus sent a prayer to the Everlasting to go back to those days because today he only saw concrete, glass and failure. The car started slowing down and the hollow feeling in Marcus’s stomach intensified.
The building Sylvester stopped the car in front of had a design that was popular nearly five decades ago. The entire outer surface of the building was seamless, dangerously reflecting all sunlight, airplanes be damned. When he stopped the car, Sylvester got out and walked around to open the back door. Marcus paused for a second before he slowly got out of the car, forcing himself to move and just managing to dominate his nervousness. He stood for a second adjusting his blue suit and white tie but something told him to look up. He froze at what he saw. Everyone was staring at him. The passing people didn’t stop and gawk, which was nice, but there were more than a few collisions between people too busy staring at his eyes. Standing there on the street, Marcus realized he was fighting a growing lump in his throat. He felt like he was a freshman again. When Marcus looked over at Sly, he was stunned.
Sly was a short heavily muscled man with long red hair he kept in a single braid down his back. He’d been Cato’s manservant for as long as Marcus had known he had an uncle. He was a stoic and rigid man. He never shouted, yelled, or even raised his voice. The man didn’t even smile unless there was a life or death situation or Cato asked. Standing there outside the Nelson Trading building, Sly stood in front of Marcus with only the second smile the young Spyros had ever seen on his face. The first being the drop off when Sly and Cato were dropping him off at the University. Marcus shivered at that smile.
“Cheer up, sir. You will do just fine,” Sly said. His cheeks were twitching under the strain of having to hold back his lips and expose his teeth in what he thought a smile looked like. “I have seen the stuff you studied. This will be nothing for you.”
Marcus mumbled something that neither of them could understand, but his feet became parts of the concrete sidewalk as he stared up at the mirror-like exterior of the building.
“Do not want to be late on your first day now, sir,” Sly said, his usual mask of indifference back in place once more. “Sends the wrong message and you do not want to disappoint the family do you, sir?”
“No,” Marcus said with a heavy sigh. “I suppose one of the boys will pick me up after I’m done?”
“Yes,” Sly answered.
“Well go ahead and send him for me around noon as well,” Marcus said looking at his watch. “I think I may want to leave for a bit.”
“Very well, I will make the arrangements as soon as I return to the estate,” Sly said with a bow of his head. “Your uncle has made reservations at Leo’s to celebrate your first day of work. I will be here to pick you up when your day is over.”
Marcus began to ask another question, but Sly cut him off.
“You are going to be late, sir.”
Marcus sighed as the unnecessary question died on his lips. Taking his briefcase from the manservant, Marcus swelled his chest as he entered Nelson headquarters. His lungs seemed unable to close and his diaphragm was empty by the time the glass doors closed behind him. The lobby of the Nelson Trading headquarters was a wide open and clean rectangle covered in white tile with one way mirrors that opened up to the street. An elevator bank rested in the back of the lobby behind a turnstile with crowds of multicolored suits milling in the area. The turnstile made the kiosk in front of the turnstile obsolete, but there was still a bored looking guard manning the booth.
“Hello there!” Marcus said as he approached the kiosk.
The guard jumped out of his stupor and found the source of his disturbance.
“Eh? You lost or something, guy?” The guard asked with bleary eyes.
“Yes, well today is my first day and-”
“It’s unlocked. Have a nice day,” the guard said before taking a sip of coffee and leaning back as his eyes unfocused once more. Before his eyes closed, his eyebrows furrowed and he refocused on Marcus’s golden eyes.
Marcus had another question, but he suddenly no longer felt like talking to the man. The group of men and women in the elevator bank all had cell phones in one hand with their briefcases in their other hand, everyone anxiously checking their watches. Bright fluorescent lights on the ceiling made the area bright and Marcus saw three golden elevators twinkling on the far wall. There weren’t any crowds around those three elevators, but Marcus chose to wait on the fringes of the group. He didn’t know what those elevators were for and he was determined to keep every toe in line on his first day.
Everyone was busy on their phones. Talking, texting, sending emails, checking calendars, calmly going about what business they could before the day began. Very few took note of the newcomer and even fewer examined him long enough to see his eyes. The anonymity felt nice and Marcus resolved that this was a positive sign he would take to build a good day. Waiting to get on the elevator, Marcus knew he was going to-
An eruption of savagery consumed the crowds as though the bells of the elevator began a tournament of prize fights. Spots in the elevators were the championship belts and apparently very few people had the clout or skill to get into the elevators unscathed. Everyone else was left to fend for themselves and that turned the white tiled elevator bank into the back room of a dive bar. Marcus was taught to defend himself at a young age, but he couldn’t move. At that moment, the suddenness of the attack made the pot of nerves boiling in his stomach transform into incredibly dense cement. People on the fringes looked down at their wrists, panic developing on their faces. Those panic-stricken faces made Marcus look down at his watch.
His jaw nearly unhinged when he saw 7:55am.
A sudden rush of whispers from the lobby ended all the fighting instantaneously even as the precious elevators continued to open. The suddenly re-civilized people turned and faced the lobby at the same time, wiping away the sweat with ready napkins and rearranging their hair as best they could with what they had. Marcus turned and saw that all motion had stopped in the lobby as well. The only movement came from a small group of people making their way through the lobby. Even the sleepy guard perked up and managed to pick up the phone like someone was actually calling. When they were a bit closer, Marcus recognized the man leading the group.
Wearing a crème suit with a white shirt and tie, Ser Nathan had a pleasant smile on his face as he walked through the lobby. He wore the same jewelry as the night of the graduation party, his diamond studded gold tooth flashing as the CEO smiled and nodded to the people he passed. When Ser Nathan and his group passed the turnstile, the group of preening men and women stopped adjusting themselves. Instead they all began trying to get noticed by the enigmatic CEO without being obvious about their intentions. Ser Nathan passed Marcus, but then he stopped after two steps. His apparent hesitation made the people around Marcus begin fidgeting.
“Marcus, my boy. What’re you doing?” Ser Nathan asked with a smile as he walked towards the young Spyros extending his hand.
When Ser Nathan came to a stop in front of Marcus, the surrounding men and women stood like a barrier as though they could steal the CEO’s attention with stubbornness. Ser Nathan frowned and broke eye contact with Marcus for a second as he looked down at the people in front of him. One of Ser Nathan’s people cleared their throat and the barrier melted away in front of Marcus.
“I was waiting for an elevator, sir,” Marcus answered as he took the hand of the CEO.
Ser Nathan smirked and patted Marcus on the back as he pulled the young man forward out of the mass of upset people.
“Your secretary hasn’t called you yet?” he asked. “Has anyone even told you where your office is?”
Marcus reached into his pocket and pulled out a card with a few hastily written directions. “I have a card telling me where to go,” he said looking at the card. “I think it-”
“You have a card!” Ser Nathan said erupting in laughter. “Oh that is great! Just great. Come on. Follow me. You’re an executive, my boy. You don’t use these elevators.”
Marcus followed Ser Nathan and his group as they continued down the lobby to the three untouched elevators. Knowing what he would see if he looked around, Marcus kept his eyes on the white tiles in front of him as Ser Nathan herded him forward with an arm around his shoulders. When the group entered the elevator, Marcus chanced a glance at the last second before the doors closed. Peace still reigned in the elevator bank, but Marcus saw everyone was staring at him. Eyes the same color as these sacrosanct elevators stared out at them and it brought out looks of envy, wonder and hatred in varying combinations. Just like the people on the sidewalk. Just like everyone who took notice of his eyes.
The panels of the elevator’s interior were just as gold as the doors with curiously strong handles. Ser Nathan pressed two of the coin-shaped buttons and turned to Marcus as he put an arm around the younger man’s shoulders once more.
“What do you think of Nelson Trading so far, my boy?” Ser Nathan asked.
Marcus shrugged. “Well sir, all I’ve seen is the lobby so I believe it’d be unfair to judge now,” he said.
Ser Nathan laughed and the people in the elevator echoed his mirth. Marcus could tell their amusement was forced. He knew he wasn’t that funny.
“Unfair indeed, my boy,” Ser Nathan said as he gripped one of the bars when the elevator jumped into motion.
Marcus looked around and saw that everyone else latched onto bars as well, but he thought nothing of it. The box was slow at first, but it quickly picked up speed. The sudden shift made Marcus feel like his stomach was about to drop out of his ass. His effort to remain standing ended in abject failure when the elevator picked up speed twice, spilling him to the floor with the unexpected acceleration. Then in a snap, the box slowed, the change in momentum so sudden he almost came clear from the floor. Marcus tried to jump up as soon as the elevator was at a reasonable speed, but his limbs were jelly and he slipped to his knees.
Ser Nathan chuckled as he looked down at Marcus. “I should’ve told you, but it’s rare that a person rides the executive elevator on their first day,” he said clearly amused. “Everyone else hears the tales before their first week is out so you’ll have to forgive me. The temptation was just too much.”
Marcus got back to his feet dusting himself off. “No harm, no foul, I guess. At least that’s what my uncle always says,” he said, forcing down the sudden spike of anger in his stomach.
A prank was a prank, but Marcus was having a hard time calming the heavy thumping of his heart. The gesture to help him to his feet was such a small gesture that the lack of the gesture rubbed Marcus the wrong way. The laughing faces surrounding him didn’t do much to help his efforts in calming himself. Looking at the tittering faces around him, one thought floated through Marcus’s mind. What kind of shark tank had Dorian and his uncle thrown him into?
“Good old Cato...” Ser Nathan said trailing off for a few seconds before coming back into the present. “What’s your uncle up to these days? I never got the chance to ask him at the party.”
“To be honest, I’m not sure,” Marcus answered as he dusted himself off and readjusted his suit. “I’ve always assumed he just lived off old money.”
Ser Nathan scoffed. “Being members of the Spyros family, I’m sure what’s left of you Imperial Minoans have more than enough to live a thousand lifetimes without working a single job.”
Marcus forced a chuckle as he fought the inward cringe that would have turned his stomach inside out if he had anything in there. What did he have to mention that for?
“Well this is your stop,” Ser Nathan said as the elevator came to a halt and the doors opened. “Just go to the end of the hall. Old Byron is your supervisor and he’s always here early. He’ll get you all set up before our objectives meeting. Have a good day, Marcus.”
“You too, sir,” Marcus said stepping out of the elevator.