Bitter 354

A strange event seemed to be taking place on President Wu’s face. It took a moment for Britta to realise what it was. He was smiling.

“Very good,” he said. He began glowing.

It was so bright, Britta had to remove the glasses. Under the floodlights he looked normal. The glasses gave her access to a lot of information, but it was more or less useless when she had no idea what any of it meant.

That didn’t stop her being impressed. She imagined they made it possible to know exactly what other people were feeling, although she didn’t really know if that was what they did. But it was bound to be something like that. Understanding someone’s state of mind, even their intentions, better than they did. It would be both incredibly useful (especially in a business setting), and also infuriating. How would you deny an accusation when the other person had data to back it up?

The men beside President Wu began talking. Much louder and more worked up than before. They seemed upset.

Britta put the glasses back on, and they immediately stopped talking. Apparently they didn’t wish her to know what they were so mad about.

President Wu, who had dimmed back to his original brightness, didn’t react to their objections, whatever they had been. He was looking at Britta. Was he taking readings with his glasses? He could be analysing her motivations on a molecular level, for all she knew. She really should have asked for some instructions in their use, or a manual. Although it would probably have been in Chinese.

“We will see to it that you meet with N-28,” said President Wu. “I think it is a good idea. I should have suggested it myself. Doctor, please make the arrangements.”

The translator repeated his words, for the benefit of those without space technology from the future.

“I am happy that we are able to come to an accommodation,” he continued. “I must leave now for another appointment, but I will leave this young man as my representative.” He indicated the translator. “He is completely trustworthy, and will act as your personal liaison with my office. You will have access to me through him. He will be available to you day and night.”

The translator repeated the words, which sounded strange since he was referring to himself in the speech.

“Excuse me,” said Dad. Everyone turned to look at him like they didn’t know he had been there until that moment. “I want you to know I support my daughter in whatever decision she makes here, but I would ask, if you don’t mind, if the person you leave behind wasn’t this person.” He gave the translator an apologetic look. “ Sorry, nothing personal.”

“What is wrong with him?” asked President Wu.

It was awkward hearing it again from the translator.

“Nothing, really, it’s just that I would rather my daughter’s liaison was… female.”

There was a moment of silence as everyone processed the request.

“Dad,” said Britta, “it doesn’t matter if—”

“Yes, yes, I know, it’s a terrible thing to ask. I would just rather be cautious about something like this.”

“Cautious about what?” said Britta, feeling annoyed. It was unlike Dad to be so blatantly sexist. He had always told her and her sister that being a woman was in no way inferior or different to being a man when it came to doing what you wanted. And yet, here he was treating her like a maiden who needed protecting from the hairy brutes of the world. Frankly, it was embarrassing.

“Look, sweetheart—”

“Nothing’s going to happen. It’s a business relationship. Mum?”

She turned towards Mum, who had her arms folded as she chewed on her bottom lip. It was what she did when she was going to say something she knew wasn’t going to be well received. Did she actually agree with Dad?

“It shall be as you wish,” said President Wu. He pointed at one of the women behind him. She was probably the most beautiful of them, and they were all gorgeous. Great, all she needed in her life, last year’s winner of Miss World.

Britta felt exasperated at how she had gone from deal-maker to ignored child.

“Do not be angry with your father,” said President Wu. “A man who is not fiercely protective of his daughter is not much of a man. You should be proud to have him as your parent.  As proud as he is to have you as his daughter.”

One of the other women stepped forward. As she did so, the colours around the President began changing. They all began shifting towards purple.

“I will remain here.” She spoke in English with an almost upper class accent.

“That won’t be necessary,” said President Wu. The numbers around him fluctuated wildly. The men around them took off their glasses.

Britta felt obliged to take off hers, too.

“There is a time for a father to be protective, of his daughter,” said the woman. “And a time to let her use what you have taught her.”

President Wu thought about it. Then nodded.

“I leave you in my own daughter’s capable hands. She will ensure this matter proceeds smoothly. Now I must leave. It has been a pleasure meeting you.” He turned and walked back to the plane without waiting for a reply.

The woman who had given Britta her glasses stepped forward and politely indicated she wanted them back. Britta reluctantly handed them over.

Everyone climbed back on board the jet. Britta turned to get in the car, but no one was moving, they were looking at the plane. When she looked back, the jet took off. Vertically, rising into the sky while making no sound.

“You should have asked for the plane,” said Dad.

In a few seconds the plane stopped rising and shot forward. It was gone in an instant.

Britta lowered her gaze to the President’s daughter, who was also incredibly good-looking, although not as tall and hip-swishy as the other one. She was about to say hello to her, but the woman walked straight past her, right up to the driver, and slapped him across the face.

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