“Go ahead.” Dean Westley gently pressed his son Benjamin’s shoulder blade with the palm of his hand, encouraging him towards a cheery blonde woman with a microchip gun in hand.
“Why do I have to go first?” Benjamin mumbled over his shoulder.
Ben flushed red and stepped towards the young woman bearing a warm, understanding smile.
The woman reached out with her free hand. “Arm, please.” Ben offered her his left arm.
“Right arm,” Dean whispered loudly as he peered over Ben’s shoulder. Ben could feel Dean’s breath on his neck.
“Actually, it doesn’t matter,” the woman said as if she was sharing delightful secret. “Our chip readers are incredibly long range. No holding your arm up and waiting for a beep. You’re from Earth, right?”
The woman held the microchip gun against Ben’s left wrist and fired the trigger. The mechanism clicked softly and Ben felt a pinch so faint it could hardly be classified as pain.
“Born and raised,” Ben’s mother Alicia said.
Ben rolled his eyes. The woman winked at him and directed him to move forward, towards an intimidating set of reflective, white double doors, the words “New Citizens” in bold black letters above it.
“Thank you, Ben. Dean?”
Dean stepped forward and offered his right arm to the woman.
“Well,” the woman continued while she worked. “I think you’ll really enjoy it here. Some of the other space stations have started to catch up with our technology, but still, there’s nowhere like Tenacity Prime. Alicia?”
“I haven’t shut up about it since I was here two months ago,” Dean joined Ben at the white door. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like beyond the Visitor’s Deck.”
The woman smile widened.
“Welcome to Tenacity,” she said as she inserted a microchip into the last Westley in line, Ben’s older sister, Molly.
The white doors opened, revealing a large atrium flooded with natural light, or, some imitation of natural light. It was bustling with activity, people walking in and out of countless storefronts. Pleasant aromas floated by in waves
A handsome young man in a striking blue suit stepped forward and greeted the family.
“I’m Henry, your onboarding specialist. Throw any questions or requests my way. I’m sure you’re tired, should I show you to your new home first?”
Mr. and Mrs. Wesley nodded emphatically. Henry chuckled and beckoned the family to follow him.
“It’s much more peaceful in Tenacity proper, we’ll be out of this crowd soon,” Henry said over his shoulder, raising his voice a little so the Westleys could hear him.
He led them away from the crowded atrium and down a narrow hallway lined with doors on one side and windows on the other. Ben looked out the windows and marveled at the realism of the busy city streets. He felt as though if he tapped on the glass, the people walking by would stop and look.
“It’s a live feed. Downtown Denver, today,” Henry said. Ben looked up to see their guide looking back at him and smiling.
Dean, Alicia, and Molly stopped to admire the view.
They continued down the hallway and came to a set of heavy doors, guarded by two large, imposing men in black military uniforms behind a desk. Henry greeted them they nodded in return, maintaining their somber expressions.
One of the officers tapped a couple of times on a screen, and the doors slid open.
“They look so badass,” Ben whispered to his sister as they continued on.
Molly giggled. “Don’t let dad hear you say that. Have you told him about your classes yet?”
“No, and I’m not going to.”
“He’s going to find out.”
“You’ll be in La Forge, as you know,” Henry said as they boarded a sleek indoor tram.
“Yes!” Dean said. “I’ve been wanting to ask, is that La Forge as in…Geordie?”
Henry laughed and nodded. “Zachary Belafonte loved Star Trek. He tried to reference it as much as he could without driving the other co-founders crazy.”
The tram doors opened. They followed Henry down another deserted hallway, and came to a series of elevator doors. They entered one and Henry said ‘La Forge’.
“K27 – La Forge” appeared on a screen on the wall next to the door, and the elevator went on its way.
“What’s the K27 for?” Alicia asked.
“We call them unit codes,” Henry said. “The names of areas do change from time to time, in remodels, for example, so the codes come in handy.”
After a five minute ride Westleys arrived in La Forge. Henry led them past a frosted glass door.
“That’s the common area, it’s open twenty-four hours. Great place to meet your neighbors. All the amenities will be detailed in your welcome video, I won’t overwhelm you with too much information now.”
Henry led them down a vast and regal hallway. Each door was set back into the wall by a layered archway. Some families had decorated with things like plants, a welcome mat, or a plaque bearing their last name.
A short man with a mop of wavy salt and pepper hair flew out of one of the doors. The only decoration in his entryway was a marble bust of Zachary Belafonte and bronze engraved plaque that read, “Our only hope is an elite task force with unlimited resources.”
The man nearly ran into Henry. He huffed, mumbled something that vaguely resembled an apology and briefly glanced at the Westleys. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Dean.
Dean smiled and held out his hand to the man.
“Robert! Good to see you again,” he said.
Robert took Dean’s hand with both of his and shook vigorously.
“You’re on my deck, eh, Dean?! Good to see you. Ah, and you brought your family, I see.” Robert flashed a reluctant smile at Alicia, Ben, and Molly as Dean introduced him.
Robert was an engineer, who had been on the committee that selected Dean to come to Tenacity to work as an architect. The others nodded along politely as Dean and Robert droned on about work, except for Ben, whose attention was directed towards the end of the hall. Two statuesque people, a man and a woman, appeared around the corner. Even at a distance, they had a commanding presence. Henry noticed Ben’s distraction and turned to see what he was looking at.
“Oh, my,” Henry said quietly as he set his shoulders back and pulled at his already perfect suit jacket. Robert glared at him for interrupting he and Dean’s discussion, but Henry didn’t see him.
“The Belafontes are here to meet you.”
“Ah, well then,” Robert said. “I’ll let you go. I’m on my way to a meeting anyway.” He started to leave, but stopped and turned back.
“I haven’t seen Christine in so long, I’ll say a quick hello.”
Robert joined Henry and the Westleys as they continued down the hallway. The Belafontes waited for them to approach, smiling warmly.
“Welcome to your new home,” The man said as he motioned to the door beside him. He held out his hand to Dean.
“I’m Ezrah, Ezrah Belafonte, and this is my wife, Christine.”
Ben had never seen two more attractive people in person. Christine’s tightly coiled hair nearly hung down to her waist and her dark skin was absolutely flawless. When Ezrah shook his hand, Ben got so lost in his olive green eyes he almost forgot to speak.
Dean fidgeted and chuckled nervously at Ben’s awkward greeting. “He’s a little shy,” he said.
Ben glared at his father and looked down at the ground.
Ezrah laughed. “We have a teenager too. Fifteen. How old are you, Benjamin?”
“Perfect, you’ll see her around. Her name is Ebony.”
Robert stepped forward and took Christine’s hands in his.
“Christine, it’s such a pleasure to see you, it’s been too long,” he said.
Ezrah’s diplomatic smile faded slightly and he ran a hand along the side of his styled caramel blonde hair.
“You should eat a meal or two in the dining hall instead of ordering in all the time, Rob. You’d see me there,” Christine said. She gave Robert’s hands a squeeze, then pulled away.
“No time, no time.” Robert began to back down the hallway. “In fact, I’m due at a meeting now. Nice to see you, Ezrah. Good luck, Dean, and congratulations!”
Ezrah shot his wife a bemused look which she returned with a smirk, and they directed their attention back to the Westleys.
“We’ll let you rest, you have to be exhausted,” Christine said. “Let Henry know anything you need, he’s amazing.”
The Belafontes said their goodbyes, and Henry led the Westleys into their new home.
Their luggage sat waiting for them in the living room. Henry led them on a quick tour through the three bedroom, two and a half bath apartment. It was sparkling clean and spacious, if incredibly bare and devoid of character.
“As you can see, you have basic furnishings,” Henry said. “Everything you see can be changed or replaced, take a look through the catalog if you’re interested. You’ll find that on your phone, or your home screen,” Henry walked over to a large monitor on the wall and tapped it. “Here, I’ll pull up the food app for you and leave you to rest. To contact me, open Tenacity Citizen and select onboarding. Voice commands are always an option as well. Just say ‘mainframe’, and then whatever you want, like ‘send my onboarding specialist a message’.”
The family thanked Henry and he left. Alicia ordered pizza on the home screen.
“I’m not impressed yet,” Molly said as she sat on the couch. “We have all this stuff on Earth.”
“We’ve been here an hour, Molly,” Dean said, “Anyway, Tenacity isn’t known for entertainment technology. Tenacians save lives, change the universe.”
“Maybe once I save up enough money I’ll move to a party station,” Molly said, twisting her silky brown hair absentmindedly.
Dean frowned and rolled his eyes.
“If I can even get a job here,” Molly continued. “Apparently you have to be some kind of genius to do anything, even work in retail.”
“That’s not true,” Dean said.
“They won’t even consider my application. I have awards for my work with kids, but I’m not even good enough to babysit here?”
“That’s education, though,” Dean said. “You’ll just have to enter a less competitive field. Besides, you don’t actually have to work at all.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ll just sit in this glorified tin box all day while you hobnob with arrogant jerks like that Robert guy. I mean, what kind of brown noser has a bust of Zachary Belafonte outside his front door?”
Dean clenched his jaw.
Alicia rolled her eyes and followed Dean out of the room.
“Get the door when the pizza comes,” she called back at Ben and Molly.
Ben sat down on the couch next to Molly. She had found Henry’s social media profile and was browsing through his photos.
“He’s married. Typical.”
“You’re lucky.” Molly set her phone down and turned towards Ben. “You don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do here like me and Mom. You just have to go to school.”
“I have plenty to worry about.”“I have plenty to worry about.”