“Your 3pm is here, Mr. Denton,” the old-fashioned intercom on his desk chirped, his secretary redundantly announcing information already available in his heads-up display. Standing at the tall windows which seemed to show the whole of the city, he let his guests wait. Denton tried to enjoy the little moments of respite before settling into business, taking in the little luxuries and pleasures of life before reducing everything down to numbers.

There wasn’t much in his office that was purely practical – all the works on his bookcases could be more easily called up and accessed through his computer than chosen from the shelf, his leather-bound agenda book far outpaced by his electronic scheduling assistant, and the harsh incandescent lamp couldn’t provide nearly as perfect the light of the mood-tailored LEDs hidden in the ceiling – as much as it was all part of a grand veneer, a shallow mask painted over the realities of his world, he appreciated the little touches. He had spent months designing and sourcing every item in the room, from the ash tray and umbrella holder to each volume on the walls.

It was unquestionably his office, distinct from other executives or managers his appointments had likely dealt with. Most importantly, his office would give those with a discerning eye everything they needed to know about the man even before introductions were exchanged – he was a meticulous individual, with no plans to move or be moved in the near future. He had build his empire, carved it to his liking out of the featureless granite of his employers, and was pleased with the progress he had made.

With barely a thought he mentally unlatched the door, swinging it open by means of invitation to his guests. Through his security cameras, housed on a different computer network than the parent company’s system, he had already measured them. Dressed appropriately professional, she in an crimson full-sleeved dress and he in a charcoal suit with hints of pinstripes, they gave no indication of their usual vocations. Good.

The door closed behind them, and they patiently waited for Denton to address them. Being able to wait was a hallmark of experience, which confirmed much of what he had read about the pair. They were the public face, in as private an industry as they were engaged, of the rest of their team, who undoubtedly were waiting nearby, ready to spring into action should the meeting turn sour. He wouldn’t have expected anything else – teamwork and loyalty were very important traits.

“50,000¥ each,” he finally spoke, turning his head slightly to address them over his shoulder. “20,000¥ up-front to cover expenses, with an added bonus if the target does not discover the operation.”

Denton wasn’t known to negotiate – he approached every meeting having calculated the variables, run the equations, and with his mind set on fair compensation. Either the money or other, less tangible, benefits were enough, or they weren’t. In five years of hiring Shadowrunners, he hadn’t ever been turned down.

“Balance due upon delivery,” the female visitor spoke, nodding, a statement of expectation rather than a question. He remained stoic – everyone was being professional and he knew he had again chosen well. The first face-to-face was always the tensest, as it carried the most risk for all involved, and so he was sure to carefully vet his prospects long before they ever heard his name.

“Do you have any questions?” he asked, not expecting a response. Receiving none, he nodded, mentally transferring the credits to a prearranged holding account. “Begin.”

The pair left without saying a word, having undoubtedly verified that the money had been received.

He let out a long, slow breath after the door closed and his security feeds showed them making their way to the street below, his stoic and stony facade dropping as he closed his eyes, quieting his pounding heartbeat.

The intercom chirped. “Your 3:10 is here.”

Time to get back to work.

Header picture by Adrian Martinez, a Los Angeles-based photographer who has a careful eye toward themes of cyberpunk and noir.