The room grew crowded. Zedd looked up at the clock. It was 3:02. The lights suddenly dimmed. Everyone began finding seats. At the head of the room, directly in front of the display, a man appeared out of thin air.
Rian’s hologram could only be identified as such by the light his body gently emitted. He wore dark, casual clothes to match his stubbled beard and short, black hair. He seemed very tall (possibly a scaled hologram), and he was of a light athletic build.
“Hello, and welcome to the Magna Racing League Team Forum!” he said cheerfully. A few applauded at this, but Zedd’s mind was elsewhere. Any other person would have introduced themselves to a crowd, but Rian needed none. He was a celebrity in his own right.
“As you all know, we have an extensive benefit program for teams who have transferred their operators.” Zedd sat uneasy in his seat. “Not only will team winnings increase by up to 30%, but teams will have access to up to two backup copies of operator cells within a season, should a cell be destroyed during an MRL event.” A new slide appeared behind him. It displayed a bar graph to compare human operator teams against teams who used synthetic cell operators. “Cell-operated teams may also purchase and sell stock within the league at a higher rate than those who have the liability of human operators. Our 401(k) plan…”
Zedd began to lose his concentration. There was so much riding on tomorrow’s race. He had some major expenses to cover and needed at least third place if he wanted them paid off in time. It was no secret that their finances had dwindled. However, the team didn’t know how disastrous placing anything below fifth in tomorrow’s race would be. He examined the other team managers seated at the conference table. They stared at Rian in awe.
“Fenix’s synthetic cells have enabled us to nearly eradicate all forms of cancer and disease. People may now live as long, and as young, as they please. Each year, we aim to upgrade our cell models to allow more physical enhancements, longevity, durability, and interchangeable parts.” Rian continued, “As MRL team members, you have special access to many of Fenix’s products. Those of you that have already transferred to one of Fenix’s synthetic cells are offered a free upgrade to Fenix’s new line of cells upon your arrival to Zarmina.”
Everyone in the room looked at each other smiling. Fenix certainly knew how to take care of its teams. Zedd was still getting used to his new cell, but he appreciated knowing he had a backup in case he got injured somehow on Zarmina. Lena certainly wouldn’t accept it. She was stalwart in her stance of remaining human. Her idea of becoming team operator did not sit well with Zedd. He knew the liabilities.
“Now, I told some of you that I would have a special surprise for continuing your careers in the MRL. It’s my honor to present to you Fenix’s latest accomplishment: LSP-88.” Before the conference table, another holographic image of a man appeared.
He looked tall. His full hair was cut short, and dark- nearly black. He was slender due to his height, appearing about 40kg from his build. He had a round friendly face. The image rotated.
“This is your new Local Synthetic Partner, or LSP-88. He knows how to operate a magnacycle and has a basic understanding of parts. You’ll be able to manually teach him your personal methods of crafting. Those methods remain locked with your LSP, accessible only by his visual recognition of you and your team members.”
The holographic image zoomed in on the LSP’s head.
“Each of you will receive your own LSP-88 once you reach your Zarminian destinations. You will be pleased to know they are a great help moving furniture.” This drew a few laughs from the table. Rian went on to describe and explain the features of LSP, and how it would help quicken repairs, keep team costs low, and boost morale over all.
“You should receive your Operator’s Manual for LSP in the Welcome Packet here when you leave the meeting.”
“Think she’ll go for it?” Erich asked with a quizzical smile.
Zedd didn’t know what to say.
“I’ll have to see.” He struggled through the words.
“Good luck,” Erich laughed.
“I don’t want to bring in an outside driver.” Zedd had pride himself with the thought of a team entirely of “extraterrestrials”. “But if it comes to it,” he continued, “I could start looking for a backup once we get set up in Rhod…just in case.” He would review every option before denying Lena the chance to operate Vela. She’d worked toward that role since she joined his team. He changed the subject.
At 4 o’clock, the meeting finally ended. Rian took some time for questions at the end, but most were addressed in the Welcome Packet he sent out to all team managers. Rian wished them good luck before vanishing just as he appeared.
Erich leaned over to Zedd.
“Alright mate. See you tomorrow. Don’t think I’ll go easy on ya.” He patted Zedd on the back as he got up from his chair. Zedd said nothing.