The Crystal Dragon, Part Eight, by Edward King

#crystal dragon

Walking through the snow to Educational Building 2, Hammer had been expecting to find some kind of state college-administrative seating but found instead the yellowed modern of a Soviet-era lecture hall. Rows of seats divided by an aisle sloped down to a stage at the front of the room. A projector hung from the ceiling, pointing towards a screen.

The hall was quiet. A squat, bald man stood up on stage. He looked very nervous.

“Greetings,” he began. “I am Ron Dartle.” He cleared his throat. “In light of recent events,” he continued, “we thought it wise to remind our recruits of the history of the company in whose halls they are assembled. And so, in that spirit–and, in a happy coincidence, fulfilling several HR requirements we were truly behind on–I give you, the history of Oilberger!”

The projector above their heads sputtered into life.

“Founded in 1995 by Adam Hartman, a wealthy industrialist,” the bald man began.

Hammer noticed a pretty figure, listening intently. She had a defiant look in her eyes. She wore a black cardigan and her shoulders were slightly hunched.

A picture appeared on the projector of a handsome man shaking hands with George Bush, Sr.

“Hartman famously went through a meteoric rise after his service in the First Gulf War,“ the man on stage continued.

The girl in the black cardigan stood up.

“I’m sorry, but this is bullshit,” she said.
“Ramona, sit down,” said the decidedly more conventional-looking girl sitting next to her.

“No. I’m not going to listen to this shit any more. A dragon just appeared out of nowhere in the dorms, zapped one of our coworkers with a lazer, and disappeared. Are we just ignoring that?”

“I assure you, that incident will be taken care of post-haste,” said the man on stage, mopping his brow.

“Post-haste? Who says that? Are you a human being or some kind of PR machine?

“Ramona–sit down!” the other girl was hissing at her now.

“I will not sit down! –Not until we get some answers,” she said.

“I’m–I am giving you answers,” said the man on stage, “I’m simply not permitted to–”

“Quiet!” said a voice from the back of the hall.

The recruits turned around in their seats.

At the back of the hall stood a man with a handsome face and a full beard.

The man onstage, Dartle, began to sputter so much he looked like a pot bubbling over.

“Mr–Mr. Hartman!”

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