The Frontier: Chapter 5
Orbatron City glowed, synthetic mountain ranges swirling off into the darkness. Nisha Chanambam pulled at her autocoat, wrapping it around her black dress underneath. She took a drag off a cigarette and passed it to Regan Callahan, who leaned over the railing in her tuxedo, looking as boyish as ever.
“The view up here is even better than at my place,” Regan said, gazing down at the city.
“It’s not bad,” Nisha said after exhaling.
“I wish we could ride a zip-line from here to there,” Regan said, pointing at her home at the top of the Ellington Tower. “That would be a blast.”
Nisha twisted her head around, scanning each of the entrances onto the observation deck.
“You okay? You seem a little out of it,” Regan said.
“I don’t know. Everything’s moving so fast.”
“You’ll only be gone for eight months. That’s not that long. I’m sure it’ll be incredible. I wish I could go.”
“I wish you could too. But I know. You’ve got a company to run. I totally understand. I just wish you could come.”
“But you’ll have Dalia with you. She’s fun.”
“Yeah, a little too fun. That’s gonna be interesting, stuck on a spaceship with her. By the way, where’d she go?”
“She was too busy rubbing up on some geezers by the bar when I went to get her.”
“Looking for a new sugar daddy only days before we leave. That sounds about right.” Nisha drew in a long breath and then exhaled loudly. “My stomach is twisting in knots.”
“Here, hit this again and chill out.”
Nisha grabbed the cigarette.
“Here you are,” Nisha heard someone walking up say.
“Vesteria? Hey, yeah, I’m here,” Nisha called out.
“Yes, I just said that. Hell of a view, huh?”
“Nisha, I want you to meet Jones Davenport. He’s your producer.”
“Yes, of course. Nice to meet you,” Nisha said shaking his hand. He had dark skin and turquoise eyes, his hair black and thick. He had the body of a man yet the face of a boy.
“So you finally decided to join the good guys, huh?” Jones asked.
“Well, I got kicked off the other team, so I guess I’m on yours now.”
“I like your enthusiasm. So have you done much documentary work before?”
“Not a lick. But I’m a fast learner.”
“I hope so,” he said. “We’re doing a little meet and greet with the crew on Tuesday. We’ll all just get a drink and get to know one another before we leave.”
“Okay. My schedule is a little tight, but I’m sure I can squeeze an hour or so in there. You know, I wasn’t really expecting this to all happen out of nowhere so I have to get my affairs in order before we go.”
“Don’t worry,” Vesteria said, “if you can’t manage it, it’s alright. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other when you’re floating around in space. I’m warning you. Space travel is way more boring than you’d expect.”
“Yeah, I’ve done a little space traveling.”
“So listen,” Vesteria said. “Be sure to spend more time schmoozing, alright? Don’t hide up here all night. And if your movie star girlfriend shows up, don’t hesitate to introduce her and parade her around. Many of my investors own studios.”
“Oh, one more thing,” Vesteria said, “Monday, before the prep meeting, you need to stop by our lawyer’s office and sign some things. We’re finalizing your release before you go. So, you’re all mine now. Enjoy the party.”
“It was nice to meet you. Looking forward to a successful journey,” Jones said, bowing his head down.
“Likewise,” Nisha said. After Vesteria and Jones walked off, Nisha looked down to see the cigarette had burned out.
“So you’re totally out from OMNN now?” Regan asked.
“Yeah, I still can’t fly a desk for three years, but I’ve got no obligation other than that. And I’m making more money with FNC than I was before. So that’s good.”
“That’s great. Just think of this whole experience as getting a raise. Quit worrying about it and go schmooze. I probably need to check on Dalia anyway and make sure she isn’t giving someone a hand job in the middle of the ballroom.”
Nisha and Regan left the observation deck of the Flatiron Convention Center, which sat upon the mountain range to Orbatron City’s north. They stood on an escalator that curved down a spiral to the ballroom below. As soon as Nisha stepped off the escalator, she gazed across the crowded room, spotting Eirian Cole right away. Eirian wore a white dress that conformed tightly to her torso and then puffed out into a bell with ornate stitching around her legs. Nisha retracted her autocoat, revealing her plain black dress.
She marched across the room, exchanging pleasantries with corporate sponsors as they approached, all the while concentrating on Eirian, who chatted up a circle of people around her.
“And here’s the guest of honor herself,” Eirian said as soon as Nisha breached the circle. “Hey, sweetie.”
“You look amazing. I love that dress,” Nisha replied.
“Thanks. I raced over here as soon as I stepped off the plane. Traffic is terrible tonight.”
“It’s fine. You made it.”
“If you’ll excuse me,” Eirian said to everyone else. She and Nisha scampered off holding each other’s hips.
“I’m so glad to see you,” Nisha said. “Let’s get out of here and go catch up.”
“Nisha,” Eirian said as they scuttled toward the bar, ”I just got here. This whole thing is for you, right? We’ll have plenty of time to catch up tonight. Let’s party. Let me get you a drink.”
Eirian ordered them each a sunkiss.
“So I thought about our conversation last night,” Eirian said, handing Nisha a drink, “and I’ve made a decision.”
Nisha’s stomach somersaulted.
“I’ve decided that I’m coming with you.”
Nisha barely stopped herself from shrieking.
“Really? That’s amazing. This is gonna be so fun,” Nisha said, squeezing Eirian.
“Now listen, I probably can’t go for the whole eight months. At some point, I have to come back and promote this movie I just shot. But it’ll be in development for a while.”
“This is the best news I’ve had in a long time. You have no idea how happy this makes me. We’re gonna have so much fun.”
“Yes, but please, sweetie, let’s keep this our little secret for now. I don’t want people to know and follow us around and make a big deal of it. I want to slip off the planet without anyone wise to it. “
“No problem. I won’t tell a soul,” Nisha said with a grin wrapped across her face. She took a long gulp of her drink.
“Nisha,” Dalia shouted from across the room. She was on her way to the bar in a red sequin cocktail dress with Regan following behind. “I met a bunch of the crew over there. A couple of those guys are pretty hot. Looking forward to being locked up on a ship with them. And there’s a couple chicks that I bet you’ll dig. Oh, hi, Eirian,” Dalia said, walking up clumsily, her bleached blonde hair pulled into a ponytail.
“Hello,” Eirian said to Dalia. “Regan,” she said nodding her head.
Regan nodded back.
“So I guess you’re not coming with us, huh?” Dalia said to Eirian. “It’s okay, I’ll take good care of our girl.” Dalia wrapped her arm around Nisha. Eirian’s face remained expressionless.
“Ms. Eirian Cole,” said Vesteria as she joined the huddle, “I was just informed that you finally arrived. Vesteria Tzeng,” she said extending her hand. “I’m Nisha’s new boss.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Eirian said, shaking hands and bowing.
“I’m a huge fan. I love 25th Century historical movies, and Sol is the best one I’ve ever seen. You were stunning in it.”
“Thank you so much.”
“I was just telling Nisha that I’m good friends with a lot of studio execs, and if you ever want to sit down and talk shop, I’d love to.”
“Thanks for the invitation, but tonight we have other business to celebrate,” Eirian said, putting her arm around Nisha.
“Indeed. Let me grab another drink real quick, and I’m doing a toast in a few minutes. Again, a pleasure meeting all of you,” Vesteria said, walking off.
“Diu, I need a drink, too. Be right back,” Dalia said, stumbling off to the bar. Regan smiled at Nisha as she followed Dalia.
“She’s coming with us?” Eirian said with a tone of disappointment after Dalia walked off.
“I didn’t know if you would come. I didn’t want to go alone. But, this’ll be good. Hopefully you two can get along when you’re forced to. You’ll probably be best friends by the end.”
“I’ll probably have to throw her off the ship.”
“Stop it,” Nisha said, smiling, cuddling up next to Eirian.
The two of them spent the rest of the night together, bouncing around the party, riding back to Eirian’s suite in a limousine, laying together in bed holding each other listening to music. In Eirian’s arms, Nisha felt safe from any danger. All of the stress and anxiety and uncertainty and emotions of the week melted away. Finally, it would be just the two of them flying across the galaxy together. Nisha, wrapped around Eirian’s sleeping body, held that thought in her head until she passed out.