The elevator came to a stop after what seemed like an eternity but was actually only thirty minutes of flight- Megan checked to be sure- and she stepped out of it.
She looked up and all her breath ceased in her throat once again. God, how does one even think to create something like this? she wondered at the sight of the most incredible space she had ever seen.
As it turned out, Astrodomo’s giant dome was a six-floor glass mansion on the inside, but it was unlike any type Megan had knowledge of before.
Thing is, while the building did have six floors, they actually only extended from the wall to stop a quarter-way across its almost stadium size length in a semicircle that held what looked like three sitting rooms, three receiving rooms, bedrooms too numerous to count, a giant study connected to four smaller studies, an in-house office, and other rooms that she couldn’t identify their purpose.
All the floors led to curved, hardwood-panel staircases at the edges. Well, all of them except for the last floor which housed the in-house office and was only accessible by a private elevator. Probably Ricardo’s way of ensuring that his secret things remained secret, Megan thought and shook her head at the irony that her job that night specifically required that she ensured the opposite.
But the six floors, curved stairs, and private elevator aside, what Megan found to be the true intrigue of Astrodomo de DiSanto was actually what occupied the remaining three fourths of its area.
Thing is, Ricardo DiSanto had decided to do something with the space that she figured no other rich man in the world would do: nothing. The space contained no discernable feature of any kind, or ornament, or anything really that would point to what he designated it as. It was almost as if he wanted it to just exist there and nothing else.
That night though- the sun had fully set by the time Megan reached the dome- the space was the heart of the party.
The building’s dome ceiling opened directly to the sky to provide a full view of the stars from the floor. Presumably to appreciate this effect, a giant disco ball was hung in the centre of the ceiling, bathing the entire area in changing multicolured light as it rotated in sync with four other rotating bulbs at the corners of the room to create some ethereal light show of sort.
At the far edge of the room, just beside the right curved stairs, a DJ booth stood on a makeshift elevation. The DJ- a man in his mid-thirties with an Afro- strung out Latin pop mix on loudspeakers that resonated through the floor and glass walls with such a strong effect that Megan found herself wondering more than once as she looked if they wouldn’t be finding themselves plunging to the ground before the night was done.
Anyway, far from the dome but still in its direct view, she saw the Christ the Redeemer statue shining with its lights to add an almost a divine feel to the height they were at above the ground. She actually extrapolated that that feel was why Ricardo DiSanto had chosen to have his residence far above the ground and in the way it was.
Thing is, on a different night without a party, the lights from the statue would be directly reflected in the space; and perhaps even its shadow too. The space is a temple, she figured out finally, a somewhat dedication from an acclaimed god to another.
However, Megan didn’t allow herself to dwell too much on the sights and returned her attention to the mission at hand. Work, not watch, Megan, is the mission of Rio, she reminded herself.
Looking around to be sure she wasn’t watched, she suddenly whispered, “Swarms activate.”
Immediately, her earrings, a lotus-shaped diamond piece, turned a shade of purple and the petals on them dislodged to fly in different directions around the house. The diamond on the right earring opened up and a small black metal extended itself out to place itself in her ear just as an AI voice announced, “Connection established.”
“I’m in position,” she said. “Everyone else in place?”
“I’m in position,” Jay’s voice came first.
“Reading you loud and clear, Megan,” Adolf’s was next.
But Kei’s voice didn’t follow after like Megan had expected.
She waited for some seconds but still nothing. “Kei, are you position?” she called. No response. “Kei, do you copy?”
“I’m here, Meg,” her voice suddenly came on, “no need to shout. Jeez!”
Megan could feel the teenager practically roll her eyes at her over the comms device and she rolled hers right back. “The swarms are in place,” she carried on anyway. “Adolf, are their feeds good?”
“All good here,” he replied.
“And the tracker’s in place too. Kei, can you read my position?”
“I can see where you are.” Another eye roll feel and a return eye roll.
“Alright, it’s time to get to work.” Megan took a glance around the party for a good place to begin her search, but what she saw put her to a stop.
Thing is, although the atmosphere was especially funky, not all the attendees looked immersed in it. That’s strange, she thought when she went on to realize that some of them didn’t even appear to understand the first thing about what was happening around them.
Not everyone’s here for the party, it dawned on her; and on closer inspection, she discovered that the party wasn’t just a party in fact.
Thing is, while it looked everything like a party at first glance, there was actually a certain order in its setting that Megan deduced shouldn’t be in a party of that calibre.
For starters, the far end of the room where the DJ was stationed was where the fun was the most, which wasn’t strange itself except that it was also where the party servers were restricted. The other parts of the room used completely different servers; and not just them but the services rendered, the mode of rendition, choice of attendee outfits, even their demeanours were different. It was almost like they were in another place entirely.
And they are, she realized when she saw business cards from different blue-chip companies around the world being passed between the people at the other end of the room close to the elevators alongside what looked like prototypes of the various products they were known for; and the people close to the glass walls occupied revolving leather chairs and glass tables that would otherwise have belonged in conference halls for what looked like serious business discussions and even contract signage.
Ricardo DiSanto isn’t hosting an open party, she deduced, he's hosting a promotion fair, conference meeting, and intense rager all rolled into one. The party was a cover-up for businessmen and corporations who wanted their affairs top secret; and she suspected none of theirs was the biggest secret affair of the night.
Thing is, Megan hadn’t caught a glimpse of Ricardo himself in the gathering since she arrived, or even heard any reference to him from the partygoers for that matter. Now, why would he allow such a gathering in his residence if he wasn’t going to be a part of it? she wondered.
Because he had something much more important to partake in, the answer returned immediately.
Megan looked to the top floor and realized that the guards around the in-house office were more than anywhere else in the building. In fact, they numbered three times the guards in any other part of the house. Whatever Mr. DiSanto’s intent on covering up, that’s where it is, she surmised.
Quickly, she devised a plan that might be able to gain her access to the information in the office. "Adolf, I need you to create an interference on the guards’ comms,” she said, “and also order the swarms to concentrate their survey on the sixth floor in stealth mode.”
A few clicks later, he replied, “Done.”
Almost immediately, Megan saw the guards put their hands to their earbuds as if disturbed. They were soon distracted and she made her move.
The private elevator turned out to be out of the option when she saw it. It was password-protected, and even from where she stood, she could see that it was being monitored by more than five guards in the room, and probably more in the building’s control room, wherever it was.
Well, to the next best thing, she decided to use the stairs instead.
Megan, in order to ensure her cover- especially after she suspected that some of people in the party would have started noticing that she hadn't engaged herself in any of the activities as of yet- chose the right stairs next to the DJ’s booth. It was dark and the partygoers there were already too wasted to notice her movement .
Megan climbed the stairs but just as she reached the first floor above the stage, she came to an abrupt stop at the sight of a man seemly waiting for her at the top of the stairs. “You don't belong here, do you?” he said just as the light lit his face and her heart dropped to be the pit of her stomach.
As it turned out, the man on the floor wasn’t just anybody at the party but the main man himself. Ricardo DiSanto.