Xavier Parisian surveyed the party scene with pride. The room was alive with bright colors, strobing lights, exotic dancers, loud music, and as many men and women in his employment as could fit in the room.
Today they celebrated a worthy cause: the twentieth anniversary of the Peres Corporation's rise to dominance and preeminence in Corporate America. Once it had been the Byblos Grand Campus, now it was the thriving corporate municipality Paristown, and no one was prouder of that fact than Xavier. He could swear his employee population was now twice what it had been in Nevada, and that every one of them considered it an honor to work for such a prestigious company—except a few of the corporate holdovers from that little company in St. Louis, the little do-gooders who were willing to remove here to Reno, Nevada in the certainty of constant employment (if not potential promotion) rather than the uncertainty of the little business complex in St. Louis that had been abandoned for so long. Speaking of Integra holdovers… Xavier frowned; this was a corporate event, why shouldn’t Daniel Princeton, whom Xavier had made Executive Director of Corporate Affairs, attend? Mr. Parisian shrugged.
"Party pooper," he sniggered drunkenly.
Xavier caught sight of a trimly-dressed waiter with a platter full of martinis and cocktails and waved him over. Grabbing a martini for himself, he waved the waiter off toward the party, "Go 'round 'gain!" he roared. "Let everybody have as much as they want! This will be a party to end all parties! PERES IS KING!"
A few who heard the last declaration cheered rowdily. Water splashed over the floor as drunk partygoers stumbled into the hot tubs installed right in the floor expressly for this party, and instead of water, the fountain at the center flowed with punch. People danced if they wanted to, made out if they chose, and from one end of the Great Ballroom to the other it was just every person doing exactly what he or she wanted to do.
Xavier sat on the elevated platform, sprawled across his chair as the effects of the half-dozen or so martinis and the number of cocktails he had consumed over the last few hours permeated his system. He ogled the exotic dancers, thinking of the one woman he esteemed above all others in the company. Xavier opened the wrist-comm unit he wore and pressed the buzzer to summon Venus.
She did not respond. Xavier scowled; she was his personal assistant! She should always come when he summoned her! So what if he had given her permission to throw a party of her own for the other assistants and escorts of the Peres Corporation! Even they should know that no one ignores a wrist-comm summons! Particularly not one that came from the son of the great Conrad Parisian, himself! Xavier looked around at the partygoers, suddenly peeved at the fact that though he had invited them with the purpose of allowing them to do as they pleased, not one of them acknowledged him. Xavier felt that he was not getting the attention he deserved. He summoned his Directors and Chief Executives from various points around the room. Xavier noted that they all came immediately; he would show that little minx who was in charge of her!
Xavier leaned forward and smiled at the knot of men (and a few women who still clung to them).
"Are you all enjoying yourselves?" he asked mildly.
The men—some younger, a few older—cheered in response.
Xavier nodded, preparing to enact his plan. "Next to me, you all are the most prestigious men of the company," he explained, "so it took a lot of thinking, but I finally came up with a reward for you men that far exceeds anything here." he emphasized the word "men," and stared hard at the ladies until one by one they slipped away. Xavier waved his directors and executives closer.
"You have heard of my assistant Venus?" he asked.
"We have heard of her, sir," Terrance Miel, Chief of Correspondence, replied, "but she is exclusively your own, and we have never seen her."
Xavier coached them on, seeing a hungry glint in a few men's eyes. "What have you heard?"
The compliments poured out of the liquor-loosened lips.
"That she is the most beautiful woman on earth."
"That she is capable of doing anything you want her to."
"I heard her hair looks like it's made of spun gold."
"I hear she has the most expensive wardrobe in the world, and she wears it as per your request.”
"They say when she laughs it sounds like twittering birds."
"They say she pleases you more than anything else in the world."
Xavier nodded, "That she does!" he agreed, "And just to prove my appreciation for all your hard work, here's what's going to happen: I am about to summon Venus to that platform over there." He pointed across the room to the stage where a band now performed live music for the party. "The house lights will go down and she'll have spotlights on her as she makes her entrance, but after the house lights come back up, she'll be at the back of the stage...and that's when you can take her."
The men gasped.
"Have Venus, sir?" someone queried tremulously.
Xavier waved his hand, "Have her, dance with her, hit on her, talk to her, boss her around, whatever you like; just for tonight, boys, Venus is all yours."
The men cheered as they left Xavier's side. The Executive Director smiled; of course he knew the men would brag about Venus to their friends, who would either suck up to Xavier looking for a similar favor, or try to take Venus without asking first. Either way, the woman who thought she could exert her will over his was about to get dominated by almost every male in the corporation.
Xavier snapped his fingers. A redheaded woman—a seasoned assistant, and typically the one in charge of all the personal assistants, though she never aspired to the level of desirability she coached in others—approached his chair.
"Send Venus out to me," he ordered, "Let her come out on stage over there," he pointed to the particular platform, "And see to it that she is wearing that new outfit I just bought her."
"The world's most expensive dress, sir?"
"Yes, that one."
The woman nodded and turned to carry out his command.
"Oh, Marcia?" Xavier called lazily after her.
Marcia stopped, "Yes sir?"
"Make sure she wears all of it. Right down to the intimates." He waved his hand, shooing her away, "Off you go!"
Xavier grabbed another cocktail and sprawled further in his seat. Soon, Venus would appear, and find her rebellious little self at the mercy of the men of Peres. Soon, she would be begging him to allow her to come to him; watch her squirm as he refused! Soon—
What was all that racket? Whose hand rested on his shoulder. Xavier blearily jerked awake.
Marcia stood respectfully by his side; why was she—Xavier remembered everything that had just transpired, and his eyes darted to the stage. Another band played on for the crowd.
Had he missed the whole thing? "Venus—" he slurred.
Marcia hung her head, "She regrets to inform you, sir, that she is otherwise engaged at this time and cannot come."
"WHAT?" Xavier exploded. "Impossible! Tell her I want her. Summon her!"
Marcia obediently activated her wrist-comm, which would send an electric signal to a similar device on Venus' wrist, alerting her to the urgency of the situation.
Very soon, Marcia received a text reply to the summons.
"WTD*?" Venus wrote, "Tell X 2 move his @$$ if he wants 2 C me." (*What The Dagon)
Marcia sighed; the high living had always suited Venus—once named Veronica—too well. Now it had come to this?
"Well?" Xavier's bloodshot eyes rolled toward the compliant, businesslike redhead.
"I'm sorry, sir," Marcia tried to smooth it over as genteelly as possible, "Venus invites you to come and see her, but she cannot come herself."
Xavier glowered and did not say a word for a very long time. Marcia fought the urge to fidget as she was forced to stand and watch the heavily inebriated man's anger increase. She stood, maintaining an air of professionalism as Xavier began to hyperventilate.
"She will not come," he heaved through clenched teeth. He aimed his fiery eyes at the redhead, "Do you know what this means?" He did not wait for an answer (and Marcia did not dare speak in the presence of the angry man) but spat angrily, "She refused me! She! Refused me!" Xavier pounded the arm of his chair. "Nobody refuses me!" he snarled, "Nobody!" He gave the summons for all directors present to join him in a private lounge. Xavier, even in his inebriated state, saw the whispering and glancing among the partiers closest to his throne, who had no doubt witnessed the whole thing. Let them talk!
Xavier surveyed the group of men sitting before him in the lounge. These were the people he trusted out of everyone in the whole company. They knew the company bylaws and policies.
"What is to be done with the assistant who refuses a direct order?" he demanded of them. "I called for Venus and she refused me!" His temper (and his liquor) got the better of him, and he ranted again, "Nobody refuses me! I am the Corporate King! Nobody refuses me!"
"I quite agree, sir," Thomas Hershing, whom the other executives sometimes referred to as Big Tom, folded his large hands over his ample belly. "Venus has not complied with your summons, as assistants are required to do, particularly at her level of social visibility!"
"Yes, indeed," Terrence agreed with Big Tom, "Who knows but the other assistants and escorts might feel like doing the same thing arbitrarily, and if nothing is done, what would stop them? Venus must be taught a lesson, to serve as an example for all the others."
Xavier giggled, "Yes, good! I like this!"
"Mr. Parisian, sir," a young man spoke up, raising his hand respectfully. This was Mohammed Khan, the Executive Director of Public Relations. He thought carefully as he answered, "It would be well for you to dismiss Venus here and now. Relinquish her to a low position, such as Warehousing, and in case any assistant feels emboldened by her foolish choice, give leave for any executive to do the same."
"I will!" Xavier cried, "I will do that right now!" He burst out of the door of the lounge and climbed back up to his throne on the elevated platform.
Instantly, as everyone saw him, all noise died. By now, everyone had heard of Venus' refusal, and—like the "reality soap opera" shows everyone loved to watch—there was not a person in that enormous ballroom who did not feel the strain to know what would happen. Xavier decided that a full-scale reveal was in order.
"Venus," he announced, "Is hereby stripped of her position as executive assistant! She is to be sent to Maintenance and Grounds-keeping where she will remain during the rest of her employment at Peres! Effective immediately!" Xavier saw various security guards nod and move to "fetch" the rebellious woman. The room was beginning to spin, but before Xavier could sit down, he saw Mohammed prompting him and remembered the other part of his announcement.
"Furthermore," he continued over the loudspeakers, "be it known that any escort or assistant who refuses her superior may receive the same treatment."
A collective gasp went up from the crowd, but the word of Xavier Parisian was as good as law on the Company Campus. There was some scattered applause, but the music returned and everybody remembered the purpose of their presence there.
Nobody glanced twice at the tall, slender, golden-haired beauty being dragged from the premises wearing nothing but a pair of coveralls embroidered with her name: