He closed the door behind her and the noise from outside was cut in half. The room was warm but comfortable. It was a warmly lit room and across from the entrance sat a window with the blinds open, revealing neon signs and rain. Directly to her right was an even larger window that looked out over the dance floor. Next to this window sat a black leather couch and two chair on either side of a glass coffee table. Above the couch was a painting of a radiant setting sun.
“It’s nice to meet you, Lena. I’m Jael.” He had a deep, friendly voice. “Can I get you something to drink?” He walked over to a minibar on the far wall and scooped a few cubes of ice into two tumblers.
He poured an amber liquid from a tall bottle into one glass and placed the second glass into a receptacle that filled it with water and handed her the glass.
“So, what do you think?” Jael looked out the window overlooking the club below.
“Pretty impressive.” She didn’t know how else to respond. “How long have you had it?”
“I mean Zarmina,” he said proudly. “How’s it suiting you? He motioned to the couch and chairs. “Please.”
She sat in a chair.
“Twenty years on a ship. I can’t imagine. Welcome, though.”
“Thanks,” she said with a slight smile.
“Did you realize this is an all-synth club?”
Lena was caught off guard.
“No. Did I miss a sign?”
He flashed a smile, still standing at the window. “No no, humans are always welcome, but I only hire synths. Did you see the dancers? I made those.” He took a drink.
“I suppose they don’t take tips?”
“Bingo.” He turned from the window and faced her. “Less overhead. No time-off. People spend more money on drinks. I win twice.” He smiled again.
“So, Lena,” he paused for a moment, then resumed. “Do you feel you’ve been properly introduced to the culture?”
“Not as much as I should. We’ve all been kind of busy this week. This is actually my first chance out since I moved in.”
“But you know that that humans and synths have their differences. And it’s not just here. Vogt had another incident last week a day before you landed. Surely, you’ve noticed the tensions around town?
“I try to stay out of it.” She sipped her water. It was cold.
“I won’t ask you to take sides, but these Verus people are causing chaos. I talked to a few other owners in the area and we all want some protection from the violence. As a synth-business, I’m worried about what some radical might come in and do.”
He let this hang for a moment before continuing.
“I have nothing against people who want to stay human. However, Verus has a problem with synths. So, I have a plan to protect myself.”
“You have a plan?” Lena was starting understand why she was here but she was almost afraid to ask. Jael turned and sat across from her on the couch. He placed his drink on the table and leaned back, extending an arm along the top of the couch.
“Nothing illegal. Nothing drastic.”
Lena’s mind was racing with possibilities. What did he want with her exactly?
“Ok, so what do you have in mind?”
Jael’s smile widened as he leaned forward.
“Members of Verus are wanted for a number of missing persons. You are aware of this. The only bodies found have a symbol carved in their backs. I suppose sacrificing synths is a ritual to them?”
“Who knows?” she answered quietly. Lena recounted the grisly broadcast she had seen. The bodies laid in a line with that symbol carved into their backs. It was she imagined an occult group might do.
“I’m afraid this behavior will gain momentum. We need to be preemptive. We’re going to take the moral high-ground here. I need you to remember that.”
The newscast played in her head. Verus was dangerous but how dangerous could they be to someone like her? She was human.
“Why are you asking me?” she asked.