Sanborn was perched on a brown leather couch inside Mercer’s office. Having just explained the reason for his visit and the uneasy travel from the United Lands, Mercer had fallen silent. Sanborn looked at Mercer as he gazed out of the window. Sanborn glanced out of the window too, just in case, but he saw nothing other than the Tokyo skyline. He looked back towards Mercer, wishing he would say something, but he continued to gaze nonchalantly at nothing but the air. After what seemed a long and extended while, possibly nearing but not quite equal to eternity, Mercer shook his head and smiled. Sanborn’s basal temperature was high and he could feel the condensations of sweat inside his arm pits seeping into his shirt. He was glad the weather had turned.
“Did you notice the ocean?” Mercer inquired still gazing beyond the window.
“I saw how little land is left.” Sanborn replied
“There are no beaches anymore, only cities and water.” Mercer finally turned his head towards Sanborn, “Do you know where the last beach on Earth was?”.
For a second Sanborn could not believe the question. He hesitated remembering where he was and that nobody made it through that door without rigorous security checks. He decided to answer truthfully.
“I...I...lived near it actually.” Sanborn stammered, thrown by uncanniness, “Levis Bay, below the town of Levis.”
“Why was it the last beach on Earth?”
“I’m not sure...God’s choosing I suppose.”
“Are you a religious man Mr Aylen?”
“No, not at all, something my father would say when he wished to express a circumstance beyond control.”
“I disagree with your father’s sentiment. I don’t believe anything is beyond control.”
“I believe circumstances become out of control in the face of the individual...”
“But united anything can be conquered...” Mercer interjected gesticulating his hands in front of him, his fingers meeting one another at the tips. “Alas, this is why you have sought me, the individual is not enough. It is the greatest shame that humanity grew to favour the individual.” Mercer paused and a short breath crept into his chest, “Sanborn, I’m going to speak from my deepest truth and I want you to tell me whether you agree.” Sanborn nodded his head and Mercer began, “The solipsistic nature of the mind is the individual’s greatest strength, he cannot let anyone inside, objectivity is void, he never has to doubt. When technology saturated the mainstream, suddenly there were so many choices, so many points of view. Taste is a peculiar thing, each has his own plate of sensory experiences that work for him and him alone. The individual seeks to define their plate of senses, find the boundaries, where does one’s taste begin and where does it end?”
Mercer arrived at a natural pause and when Sanborn did not make an inclination to speak he continued.
“Imagine everyone’s palette a circle within a global venn diagram, intersecting where commonality occurs. The more choices that arise the fuller with taste the circles become, with different preferences, the intersections become few and far in-between, common ground is next to impossible to find. Communities disintegrated when there was nothing to be shared. I want you to think about your existence with your wife, what are your friends like, do you see them often?..you look like the kind of man to host decadent dinner parties, enjoys a chat...but there’s no one to chat to is there.” Ignoring the provocation towards his home life Sanborn attempted to consolidate.
“You believe too many choices and the pursuit of ultimate individualism to be the reason why the sea’s continue to rise when surely there can be no ice left and why the martian colony is a smouldering wreck in the Schiaparelli crater?” Mercer stepped out of his chair and raised his eyes to the sky, the glow of the evening sun was beginning to turn the room red. He interlinked his hands behind his back and murmured,
“Red sky at night, Shepards delight.” He turned back to face Sanborn, “Even after all these years my childhood superstitions are rooted within me, the red sky is a good sign tonight. I find our situation rather unique,” he continued. “It has been many years since another arrived here on common ground. What you seek is in my interest too.”
“Mr Mercer, I don’t mean to sound...”
“Ssshh.” Mercer raised his index and middle finger authoritatively to his lips. Sanborn sunk back down into his seat his heart was beating faster now and he had to control his breathing to avoid rasping. Mercer walked to the wall opposite the large glass window, it had been brilliant white when Sanborn had arrived, with not a single mark or hanging obtruding its surface, however the red sky outside had plunged the wall towards the colour of blood, scarlet-arterial blood. Mercer placed his palm flat against its surface, at this point Sanborn was expecting the wall to crumble perhaps revealing a doorway, another room, a glass elevator or something other fantastically technological. But there was just a small click as a rectangular drawer about the size of Sanborn’s hand ejected itself from the wall. Mercer returned and set the box down on the table.
“I am impressed that you sought after me.” He added heavily, “I truly believe that we are doing the right thing.” He slid the box across the table indicating that Sanborn open it.
The box was solid black, heavier than he had anticipated. From the outside there was no indication the box would open, constructed from Vantablack it was too dark to behold. Saigon could feel hinge under his fingertips so he flipped the box 90 degrees and gently pushed it open. Nestled among the darkness, emptiness and nothingness that the box held was an orb. Made of reflective metal soldered intricately at a microscopic level to produce a near perfect spherical shape. Sanborn has seen these before, he was surprised he had expected something far more advanced.
“It looks just like any other drive.” Sanborn noted.
“And how will you be getting home Mr Aylen?”
“The AF will be looking for anything that isn’t just a drive.”
“It will definitely work?” Mercer nodded solemnly. Mercer reached over and took the orb from Sanborn’s hands and gentle placed it inside the box. Sanborn placed it inside his briefcase. Mercer tapped the vy-boxx on the table and a hologram of the time illuminated the air briefly before going away.
“I’m afraid that is all I have time for today Mr Aylen.” Mercer stood up and adjusted his blazer. Sanborn followed suit. “Lotte will show you back to the roof where your AF will be waiting.”
“What about payment?” Sanborn suddenly remembered.
“It is a gift Mr Ayeln. Thank you for your visit today it has been most fortunate.” He opened the door and Sanborn stepped across the threshold. “Until next time.” He shut the door and all of a sudden Sanborn was standing in a dreary corridor. A ditsy looking assistant who he assumed must be Lotte, but she did not introduce herself, whisked him away to the elevator.