There was a gentleman sitting in the Reception area of Data Analytics Marketetic Normalisations, his face carefully neutral while he read through a brochure describing the more public aspects of the purchase of a small island off the East Coast of America for the construction of a health-state on behalf of ADHD, the American Drivers for Healthcare Distribution. He looked up briefly as a woman stalked past him, curious for a moment if giantesses were employed here, but then looked away again. The woman, Jeronica, was simply wearing high-heels that must give her the most fantastic calf-muscles in the history of competitive body-building and appeared to add thirteen inches to her height. That would explain, he mused momentarily, why the ceiling appeared to be so much higher in some places than others. A short while later another man, much shorter, squatter, and smelling of patchouli oil paused for a moment opposite him, but he seemed interested only in checking the pile of newspapers and magazines for something he didn’t find. He left again, and the gentleman carefully adjusted his position so as not to have to notice the slightly oily handprint that had been left on the back of the Claes Olson chair.
At one-seventeen exactly the receptionist, a young woman with white contact lenses that made her appear blind, a beehive hairdo that would have made Amy Winehouse bite through her microphone with jealousy, and a necklace around her neck that must have cost her two years’ salary pressed a buzzer.
“Dimitrion will see you now,” she said, her voice as modulated as Siri’s. “In his office.”
The gentleman considered that information extraneous, but stood up anyway and carefully walked down a corridor different to the one the Receptionist was indicating. He’d been here before.
Dimitrion was sat on a wooden platform suspended from the ceiling of his office by thin black chains. The platform was directly over his desk, and the chairs that would normally be arranged around it were instead pushed back so that people sitting in them could clearly see Dimitrion on the platform. Even so, he was slightly discomfitted when the gentleman came in from the door on the other side of his office.
“I believe you were invited to take the main corridor,” he said, a little waspishly. He had a goatee that went wispy after the first three inches, and he looked a little like a goat. His hair was dark and curly, and occasionally the drunk-and-suicidal would ruffle it, looking for horns.
“I felt like saving myself a little time,” said the gentleman, his words quiet and clear. “You’ve kept me waiting exactly as many minutes after our appointed time as I arrived early for it.”
“We agreed a time,” said Dimitrion. He was cross-legged, and he rested his elbows on his knees and then his chin on his prayer-folded hands.
“And you were not asked to see me any earlier,” said the gentleman. “You were simply expected to let me sit in your reception area, drink your coffee, and read your brochures. How can you be annoyed about that?”
Dimitrion had no problems being annoyed about the sun rising every morning and him still not having found a way to monetise this, but he decided that at this stage he’d made his point and could afford to be generous. “How was the coffee? We have the interns make it. Typically it takes them three months to learn how.”
“How very wasteful,” said the gentleman. “Even assuming that they pay you for the privilege of working here and pay you bonuses for all the political and sociological information they encounter that’s still wasteful. What else do you do with them? Turn them into prosciutto for Christmas?”
“I hear that Margoyle uses them for pedicures,” said Dimitrion. The concept of intern prosciutto had been floated at a company meeting a couple of years ago but he didn’t wish to go into any detail about it. “However, you are here to talk about desalination, not pedicures or Christmas hams. Perhaps we should attend to business?”
“Resalination,” said the gentleman placidly. Dimitrion frowned.
“Re-salination?” he said. “That can’t be right.”
“Oh yes it can,” said the gentleman. “As you are aware, I represent what me might choose to call a cartel, but only here and in the confines of these walls and the numerous listening devices your colleagues have installed –“ he paused, looking at Dimitrion’s upraised hand.
“There are no bugs that I don’t know about,” said Dimitrion. “If you look on my desk you’ll see what appears to be a desktop calculator. That’s feeding the various bugs that I haven’t accidentally destroyed or blocked with an appropriate conversation between myself and the Global Head of Ancient Samoan Tributes. The Receptionist knows you’re here, but she’s a professional.”
The gentleman nodded as though not quite believing. “Be that as it may,” he said. “The people that I represent recognise that water must flow to be useful, and that water is often useful because of its dissolutive properties. We wish to compete in a meaningful manner with the resort and tourist opportunities that the Dead Sea represents, and as such we wish to re-salinate a large inland lake where there is a significant tourism project already underway.”
“Lake Saras,” said Dimitrion. He produced a clicker from his pocket and used it to first lower the lights and then to turn on a projector screen that showed a geographical map of the region. “Also a major supplier of freshwater to about three-hundred villages and towns in a two-hundred-and-fifty mile radius.”
“Whose populaces have little interest in politics,” said the gentleman smoothly. Dimitrion understood this to mean that the populace considered that the gentleman and his friends had inappropriate ideas about politics and the means to ends. “But freshwater can be obtained in other ways, such as desalination plants and aqueductage.”
“Expensive options,” said Dimitrion.
“But affordable if the tourism industry at Lake Saras can be increased.”
There was a moment’s silence, and then Dimtrion smiled and offered his hand. “I’m absolutely certain we can do business,” he said.