For a slight break from the Shades of Gray tale, a brief intro to a science fiction story that's been clattering around in my head for some time.
He was beautiful.
Alverta had seen every kind of creature pass through those doors, into the foyer of the best office on the top floor of the tallest scraper in Pan Angeles. Females and males from across the galaxy sought the services of the Hart Finder Agency, for the simple reason that Bex Hart was the best there was at what she did. If she took you on as a client, results were guaranteed. The walls of the luxurious lobby were covered with holovid images of only a handful of her more challenging matches, but they were enough to tell the tale of her skill. A sun-scorched New Byian grinning alongside a waterbreathing Sargassan floating in her tank. A foot-tall Faerielander, tiny and sweet, perched on the massive green shoulder of an enormous Gargan. There was no more accomplished cross-cultural matchmaker in all of known space, no one with her unblemished record of success. She had never once failed with a client.
As the longtime executive secretary at Hart Finder, Alverta had seen them all come through, desperate for the perfect mate. Not all of them became clients, as Hart Finder had standards to uphold, prospect screening protocols, minimum standards. Criminals, perverts, the clinically insane, or the simply bored were swiftly weeded out. Of the thousands who did become clients, many were handsome or pretty. Alverta’s long experience had taught her that good looks alone did not guarantee luck in love, and at times even became an obstacle.
But this human male was more than attractive. He was stunning. Tall, slender, exuding charisma and charm, his features were chiseled and flawless. He was, literally, an Adonis, one of the human genetic elites selected for beauty, bred to quality like canines had once been. Adonises were rare, usually lacking in mental power what they possessed in attractiveness, and the majority of them became models in holovids or playthings for bored wealthwives. Alverta had known this man was coming, had seen his application and set up the appointment with Bex, and had thought she was ready for the cascade of pheromones that accompanied him through the doors.
She had been wrong.
“Good morning, Miss.” Even his voice was honey on silk. He smiled, each tooth a work of art assembled into a gallery of perfection in his mouth. Alverta coughed once, and sensed a rising heat in her cheeks. She was glad of her pitch-black skin, and even more glad that she was old enough to be the man’s mother.
“Excuse me,” she said, gathering herself. “Mr. Gable?” He nodded. Alverta pressed a button on her desk with a long, dark finger. “Ms. Hart, your appointment is here.”
There was a long silence, in which Alverta could feel the Adonis looking at her. She had only seen a few in person before, and there had certainly never been one in the Hart Finder office. She had to assume that usually they had little trouble getting what they sought, or lacked enough awareness to be unhappy with what they had. Clients of Bex Hart were frequently driven by a fundamental dissatisfaction in their lives, and Adonises always seemed deeply satisfied, almost sickeningly so.
The wide double doors to the inner office burst outward, revealing Rebekah Hart. The doors had been specially designed and built to provide for her massive girth, and even so it was a snug fit. Nearly seven feet tall and almost the same girth, Bex Hart was large, ponderously fat, and yet somehow projected a sort of majestic dignity rather than revulsion. A pyramid of impeccable platinum curls framed her massive head, a vivid red-and-orange dress draped across the acreage of her frame, and gaudy jewels flashed from her fingers and throat.
“Welcome,” she said, her voice strong and pleasant, her fleshy lips parting into a huge smile. Bex Hart did nothing small. Her wide eyes, purple today, inhaled the specimen standing in casual perfection in her lobby. “Please, come in. Thank you, Alverta.” She ushered the Adonis into her inner office, closing the massive doors behind them soundlessly and waving him to a plush chair upholstered in garish plum. In only a few steps, nimble for her gargantuan size, Bex was at the sidebar, pouring an amber liquid into a liter-sized china cup.
“I would offer you a drink, Mr. Gable, but I know how particular you Adonii tend to be about what you put into your bodies.”
“Not at all, Miss Hart. And please, call me Eight.” His voice, like the rest of him, was perfect. Bex had to chuckle to herself. She was too old and too jaded to react much to his flawless masculinity, but that didn’t mean she was completely unaware of it. Even the way he sat was utterly manly, one arm over the back of his seat, legs crossed in careless art.
“So, Eight, is it? I didn’t know they had bred so many Gables.”
“There are eleven of us, actually.” He seemed not the least bit put out by the candid discussion of his genetically supervised conception. And why should he? Bex had never met an unhappy Adonis. At least, until now. Easing her flesh onto the massive, steel-reinforced settee behind her desk, Bex took a long, dainty sip of fire brandy. Loud and garish she might be, but she was always a lady. She placed the cup on her desk and sighed, leaning forward.
“So, Mr. Eight Gable. I’ve read your file, of course, but I always like to hear from my prospective clients in their own words. Alverta has, of course, screened you for ability to pay, criminal background, psych flaws, all the usual inquiries. Everything checks out. So, please tell me, what brings you to Hart Finder?” Gable smiled, a troubled smile and yet still it dazzled.
“I suppose I’m like everyone else, Miss Hart. I’m looking for my perfect match.” He paused, and there was a long silence. Bex hated silence, so she nodded vigorously, setting her jowls shaking.
“That is what we do!”
“Well then, you see the problem.”
Bex scowled. She had never met a less than deliriously happy Adonis before, and she had certainly never encountered one who seemed to have more than one layer. Some chromosome must have sneaked through, survived the process long enough to produce some intellect where normally none would be found. Still, she found it irksome to seem slow to an Adonis. Rather than answer and appear ignorant, she waited. She didn’t have to wait long.
“They don’t genetically engineer perfect women.”