GWYNETH BACON-SHONE (M.ARCH I, ’19)
Alex cocked his head up and slowly scanned the room. The dim, 237th floor lab was silent but for the rhythmic titter tattering of keypads. He was surrounded by a sea of shiny jet black hair, which, in the shadowy room, reflected the bright lights of LED computer screens. The sharp shoulder caps of their on-trend grey blazers formed lines down both sides of him, emphasising the steadiness of the men’s torsos as their fingers typed away seemingly independent to the rest of their bodies. Despite all the global wars and technological advancements, it was still deemed most efficient to array workers in uniform rows in large, low ceiling rooms. Now that jobs were dictated by height, workplaces needed only be scaled to their respective worker height.
Suddenly the room began to pulse pink, then the lights came on completely and the long boxy room shone a neon fuschia haze. Lunch time.
Leon turned to Alex and gave him a fiendish grin. “Mmm, excellent.” Standing up, Leon wiggled his brushstroke eyebrows at his colleague, and began to stride out of the quickly emptying room. Awoken from his daze, Alex hurriedly grabbed his raincape. He cringed as he clipped it on. Compared to the frosted, translucent capes of the other company men, his was not nearly as stylish. He had arrived to Seoul-yo just a few days ago and his Amrazilian outfits were weeks out of style compared to the high fashion of the Chinese city.
The two men joined the packed group of chatty lunch goers in the circular glass lobby.
“What were you thinking?” Aiken shouted over the crowd, motioning to Leon.
“Something old school.” Leon grinned, refusing to raise his voice.
“Huh?” Aiken struggled to look back at the two men as the crowd pushed relentlessly towards to the edge of the lobby. Floop, floop, floop. One by one, they all hopped into the hover tubes and disappeared down the suction rabbit holes that dotted the lobby periphery. They emerged unscathed at the ground floor.
“God I don’t know how you guys manage at Wall Street,” Leon huffed, glancing at Alex as they walked outside. “That you have to press a button to get to a floor is sooo early 2000s.”
“That’s how those people spread that SARs virus those days,” Aiken chimed in.
“I dont know,” Alex replied, tightening his lips to a smile “they just—”
Suddenly the road ahead of them widened as a surveillance car whizzed past. The old stationary roads at Armazilia were also behind the times. Emergency vehicles were always howling away as they sought to push through traffic. Here, the roads simply expanded to let them pass.
“Dim sum?” Leon offered as the men gathered onto the uphill escalator.
“Yeah, Alex hasn’t seen the real deal.” Aiken winked and gave Alex a friendly nudge.
They crossed the narrow streets between escalators, the leftover infrastructure that made up Old Town. The men teetered around the uneven asphalt streets. “They kept these for antique charm,” Aiken explained. “People used to coat the roads with this stuff,” he snorted. Alex winced.
After a maze of dark alleys and crooked streets, they turned onto an opening. Across the road men of all heights were packed together, raised arms waving frantically in hopes of flagging down some service. After a bit of pushing and shoving, the three men squeezed to the front of the crowd. Beyond the rapid fire of exchange happening at the counter, there sat a hushed kitchen. The three-walled room was wrapped in large beige tiles, the caulking between them soiled with age. Flip-flops clapped on the floor as the three attendants hastily filled orders. The back wall was lined with rows of Aqua Air Drums, rotating like rotisserie chickens on a spit. The drums were filled with the Aeroponic Anti-Gravity Mist that allowed fresh seafood to swim about without needing those giant fish tanks restaurants had in the 2020s. Along the left wall, a series of machines were printing pancakes, bobbing flaming woks and dicing food into Dim Sum’s characteristic bite-sized portions. The technology was dated: three attendants were still needed to facilitate and link the machines.
“Three duck rice balls and three hot milks!” Leon called out. He turned back at Alex as an attendant rushed to scribble down the order. “See? Old school here!”
“You guys drink milk?” Alex looked at his friends, a little bewildered.
“Oh yeah! Doctors have decided that’s good for you now. Ideally full fat.”