The businessman walked down the hall.
Much could be said about the businessman. His stature and hair were quite short. The hair was dark, while his skin was not, though it was not completely pale either. His nose was small and round, while is eyes were neither. His teeth were perfect, which was essentially unavoidable. His face was pleasant and unblemished. He looked young, which did not necessarily mean he was. In fact, he had recently celebrated his thirty-fifth birthday. His clothes were uninteresting. Black trousers and jacket over a white shirt. Business default with no extra expense taken. He looked unimportant.
This businessman was in reality one of the most influential and powerful people alive. Whether he was in the top fifty or the top five depended on who was judging. He was known for bringing great wealth and influence back to his family, and great prestige to his name. That name was known to the majority of people alive: Lume Oji, the Ghost Broker.
Much less could be said about the hall through which he walked. Little could be said about any walkway. It was functional, straight, well lit, and allowed people to walk comfortably in ones and twos in both directions. Its walls were studded with utility hatches, security cameras, and doorways to manufactories and office space. All were approximately the same. There was no decoration, because no one cared what a hallway looked like. There were certainly no stores, as no one would even consider leaving their residence to shop, let alone carry their goods back to their home.
There were other, less important people walking the halls. Their footsteps were hardly audible over the soft purr of the ventilation system, and did not echo off the sound-absorbant walls. Most were typical businesspeople in default business clothes. A few were decked out in something more fancy in a misguided attempt to impress a superior. A minority wore the default outfits of tradespeople, all with the same style but fabricated to fit their owners.
One was not walking at all. Rather, she glid along on heel-skates, rushing past the businessman in an eye-searing display of clashing bright colours. He watched her with a frown until she vanished around a corner into a side hall. He shook his head. It didn't take a supercomputer to guess what he was thinking. She was just another young punk who thought spending money standing out in the real world would achieve something. She would regret the wasted income soon enough, when she realised that what really mattered was not part of this world at all.
The Ghost Broker soon reached his destination, which was a comfortable five minute walk from his modest living quarters. Very few people were extravagent or foolish enough to seek anything more than modest living quarters. Five minutes was close enough not to be tedious, while far enough to give a commuter time to think and prepare for their day. This day did not seem to be different to any other day, but the Ghost Broker had grown to be ready to capitalise on surprises whenever they cropped up. He was well aware that surprises could strike at any time.
"Good morning mister Oji," said the young woman behind the artificial marble reception desk. Her presence was no surprise. She was Leannie Oji-Welles, a somewhat more junior member of the Oji family and a distant cousin of Lume Oji. This qualified her for a comfortable mid-level job. Her pleasant demeanour and extensive training qualified her to mind the door to such an important facility. If a rival family attempted to sneak any spies in via a direct route, she should be able to spot them and stop them.
"Good morning yourself. Finished today's crossword yet?"
Leannie chuckled. "Can you believe that I've been sitting here for four hours and still haven't completed it?"
His fingernails loudly tapped against the top of the desk. "No, I really can't, Leannie. What's today's longest word?"
"Ah, the bone disease."
"You may proceed," she said, suddenly completely businesslike.
A snap of plastic, the mechanical click of a button, and the buzz of an electromagnetic lock signalled the unlocking of the door behind her and to her right. It slid open almost silently on well-lubricated rollers. The Ghost Broker stepped through without a further word. His footsteps alone filled the short hallway. His office was the third on the right. Its door was opened automatically. His identity had been confirmed by a human, so the intense automated scans of his face and body structure were deemed sufficient to allow further passage.
The office was almost entirely standard. It was a standard, cream-coloured plastic square with cool light panels in the ceiling. The walls were soundproof, EM-sealed and blastproof. The far wall held a standard food fabricator. A door on the right-hand wall led to a standard ensuite bathroom facilty. A set of standard monitor glasses hung waiting on a charging hook on the opposite wall. A second hook was currently empty, as was a standard coat hanger. The only personal item in the room was a custom-built reclining faux-leather chair. It was here that the much-acclaimed saviour of the name Oji spent most of his working hours.
Before settling into his chair, he first unzipped his jacket and withdrew a flat black package. This he placed on the empty hook, and his jacket on the hanger. After slipping the monitor glasses on, he was ready to begin his work. "Connect me to Kanda," he ordered.
"Morning, boss," an older woman said momentarily. "We're about a minute away from starting to interview the latest hires." She spoke quickly but clearly, for maximum efficiency.
"Glad to hear it, Kanda. Any interesting prospects?"
"A few with cognitive scores on the high end, but most look quite fragile. Overall I'm expecting a lot of duds, but some might surprise us in a good way."
"Pity, but it is what it is. I trust you'll do your best with them, however they turn out. But please try to retain as many as possible. You know how high demand is."
"Thanks, boss. I'll let you know if we get any bright sparks, or if there's any troublesome cases who need special attention," she said, with the practiced ease of someone who'd been saying the same thing daily for years.
"See to it. End call." He gave himself a few seconds break, then placed the next call. "Connect me to Clemton."
"Heyy boss, you'll be wanting the utilisation figures then?"
He sighed heavily.
"Right boss, here's the chart. As per usual it's broken down by price range. Yesterday's overall average is down almost two percent based on typical seasonal volume and weekly cycles, adjusted up by annual growth, but revenue is actually down further due to greater dropoff in the top end..."
He sighed again. "This is fallout from 2-0729-1593 fracturing, isn't it?"
"Yeah boss, that was some nasty business. What are we going to do about that?"
"I've called a strategy meeting for later this morning. But to be honest it all hinges on the intake teams recruiting some superior replacements."
"Riight, right. My money's on Kanda's team pulling in some good finds."
"All our money is on that, literally. But even that won't be a quick fix. How are the trends for the lowest brackets looking?"
"It's all in the chart, see? Impacted a little, but if you look at page two you'll see that the raw new subscriber numbers are actually up."
"Message me as soon as that changes. And run an affiliation analysis on the dips. I'd like to see which families are holding or responding most strongly."
"Er, boss, you know we can't store family affiliation of our subscribers."
His hands drummed impatiently against the arms of the recliner. "Of course I know that, Clemton. Have the report to me by a quarter to ten."