Three

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As Scarlett sat in the passenger seat of her sister's roamer, she made sure she had everything packed into her flasher bag. It was her first day at Hub Publishing. She would be a fool to turn up unprepared.

Kat paid no notice of Scarlett's fidgeting. Her tight brown coils were frizzed with moisture and were barely held in place by a decorative metal clip fastened at the back of her head. She sat in the driver's seat, hands gripping the wheel tightly as she peered over the rim like some kind of amateur spy. Across a busy road sat an enormous building with a large oval sign that read Hub Publishing in sweeping letters. Roamers whizzed past Kat's door, honking occasionally at her idling. It was the busiest time of the morning, the time when people went to work in droves and drank themselves awake with coffee and tea.

Inhaling deeply, Kat repeated her sentiments for the eighth time that morning. "I don't trust this."

Scarlett slid the strap of her flasher bag over her shoulder. Convinced she had everything she needed for her first day of work, she finally turned her attention to her sister. Beyond Kat's less-than-stealthy scrutiny laid a statue chiseled out of marble. The subject: a blindfolded young woman, half-naked and revealing a pert breast and erect nipple, held a globe up to the sky as if in offering. The building behind it was nearly as old as the statue and had been used for many things over its long lifespan. Originally, the fading beige building was a temple. Over time it was adapted to whatever the city needed. Once it had been a museum, then a music hall, but now it was one of the most reputable small publishing houses in all of Naiaca.

Scarlett liked knowing her place of work had a history. Things that withstood time held a special place within her heart.

Trying once more to placate Kat, Scarlett said, "Relax. Hub Publishing is one of the best."

"They just hired you after one interview?" Kat asked for the umpteenth time, sounding just as incredulous as she had when Scarlett first told her the news. "No respectable company does that. No, no. I don't trust this at all. Let me take you home."

"Kat–"

Kat started the roamer.

Quick as a flash of lightning, Scarlett propped the door open and exited the roamer to the sound of her sister's indignant displeasure.

"It's a legitimate job," Scarlett assured.

Kat's grip tightened around the steering wheel. She glared out the window at the publishing house. "I'll wait right here in case this is all some ruse."

"It's not a–"

"You don't know that!" exclaimed Kat. Already a highly-strung woman, birthing two children had only made her more overprotective.

Scarlett sighed. "I'm going inside, you deranged woman. Have a lovely day at work."

Before Scarlett could shut the door, Kat yelled, "I'll be here for twenty minutes! Do you hear? Twenty min–!"

..................................................

Elektra Penzier, head editor of Hub Publishing, led Scarlett to a small desk shoved between gray-green metal filing cabinets and a squashed kitchenette area. Her skirt was tight and to her knees, her blouse white and billowy, and her feet balanced on high heels. She produced a distinct clicking noise as she walked past desks that were piled with cups of coffee and papers scribbled with notes. A pen filled with red ink was always in her hand.

"That's Aleander," said Elektra, waving her pen at a man with curly black hair and a hefty build.

Scarlett turned to look as if instructed to. Aleander had his face pressed so close to the page he was writing on that the tip of his nose skimmed the ink. He seemed to neither hear nor see what was going on around him. His only focus was writing down the thoughts pouring from his head.

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