"What's taking so long?".
Dr. Varsha Singh exhaled as she set down her iPhone, attempting to balance the thousand-dollar glimmering stainless steel and glass slab on the narrow armrest next to her. She teetered at the very edge of the seat, as if she were afraid of its squeaking cheap leather somehow tainting her pale ocean-colored Hawaiian shirt and beige miniskirt. Her tropical patterned blouse from Valentino, actually - she had decried several people today who had complimented her "Hawaiian shirt" as fashion illiterati.
"And they call this a lounge? Truly this Imperio Mexicano is pathetic. They don't even have an attendant for champagne," Dr. Singh continued her carping.
A suited man turned from the spaceport's windows and view of sandy Mexicano coastline, shoes ruffling against cheap carpet. All spaceports throughout the galaxy looked the same, he noticed, barring a few small cultural accoutrements on top. Hands behind his back, he leaned in her direction.
"I would be more than happy to provide you with anything you need, Dr. Singh," he declared, the shape of his mouth indicating anything but.
"Ah, yes, what was your name again? Doctor..." Dr. Singh trailed off, not even looking up as she gesticulated with one hand.
"...Dr. Sheu, your honor," he finished for her, his teeth gritted.
Dr. Singh glanced at him, adjusting her glasses and wiping away a lock of her long black hair from her view. She had wanted to take a break from all of the stress of serving as the homeworld's junior Legislator before the upcoming vote, after expending so much energy on lobbying her colleagues in the Trattorian Legislature. But Speaker Fonténe had insisted that she bring along a subject matter aide, just in case. She had cared so little for the decision that she had left it to her chief of staff, who randomly picked somebody she didn't even know worked for her economic policy staff. Now he stood as a reminder, along with the PDF documents on her phone, that there were some aspects of her job from which she could never run away - no matter how far of a backworld world she retired to.
And now she realized the awful timing of her vacation.
No, she never made such mistakes. After all, she would have been on Trattoria several hours ago if only things had gone to plan. Instead, here she sat watching through the spaceport window as a bare-chested, oil-stained Mexicano mechanik sat cross-legged on the tarmac and chomped on a burrito next to the half-disassembled innards of one of her private shuttle's engines. The bumbling imbecile had earlier dropped a wrench on some of the gold plating, scratching it - she would make sure to file for compensation from the spaceport later.
"What is that Gödel-damned dolt doing instead of fixing my shuttle?" Dr. Singh expressed. Her tone and volume remained calm but her emphasis on the swear betrayed her frustration. "And can't he put on a shirt, for decency's sake?"
"Looks like a union break to me," Dr. Sheu replied. "At least we're lucky they caught the engine issue before we took off."
"I'm not!" Dr. Singh retorted, banging an armrest for punctuation. "If I miss this vote on the financial deregulation bill, it might as well be life or death. I'm the lead co-sponsor! I would never live it down. Maybe death would be preferable in that case."
"I didn't decide this time was a good time to take a last-minute vacation," Dr. Sheu noted.
"If you were under as much as pressure as I am, maybe you would think differently," she asserted. "In any case, that's water under the bridge. Why don't you go out there and tell that imbecile to get back to work?".
"Like I said, looks like a union break. Not much we can do."
Dr. Singh picked up her phone, stood up, and looked down at him - Dr. Sheu noticed that with her heels, she actually stood taller than him.
"I am the junior Legislator for the capital district of the most teknologically advanced nation in all the known galaxies. And you're telling me that I can't override this stupid union of uneducated addlepates in this backwater so-called country?".
Dr. Singh glared at her aide.
"You must not care about your job very much."
"Look, I want to get out of here as much as you do. But if you want to make this go faster, then pretty much the only way I can think of is your going out there and fixing the engine yourself. Or you could buy a commercial ticket, I guess."
Dr. Singh crossed her arms and looked away with a hmph. "As if I would ever degrade myself to such an extent, to perform manual labor or travel with backwater uneducated commoners."
Dr. Sheu pointed to the mechanik outside, who had packed away his lunch and once again buried his head and a wrench into the inner workings of the shuttle engine.
"If he's so unintelligent and uneducated, then why can't you just go do it yourself?".
He found it harder to discern on her caramel skin, but Dr. Sheu felt sure that he had made Dr. Singh blush.
"My Ph.D. was on dynamic stochastic differential systems, this sort of demeaning physical instrumentality is beneath me," Dr. Singh declared. "What did you specialize in, anyway?".
"Economics," Dr. Sheu replied.
"See, that's not even a real science!"
"Coming from a former Goldman Sucks investment banker, you really have the high ground on this one."
Dr. Singh pretended to ignore him. "In any case - if we cannot speed up our departure, perhaps we could delay the vote for later and buy us some more time. Let me call Speaker Fonténe - he might chastise me, but I'm sure he'll do this for me."
She brought the shining iPhone up, inclining it down so the speakers faced her. "Hey Siri, call Dr. Fonténe."
"I'm sorry, the number you have called is not in service."
"Excuse me?" she replied to the AI assistant. "Hey Siri, try again."
"I'm sorry, the number you have called is not in service."
"What the entropy?" Dr. Singh thought to herself. "This never happens, Trattoria has the most reliable network in the galaxy. Misaka Analytics will have to answer for this when I return."
Dr. Sheu gestured towards her from the doorway, frowning. "Come over here, there's something you'll want to see."
She had tuned out the din of the crowd outside in the terminal, but she had to admit it had become louder. Walking over, she peeked her head out and, over the growing crowd of panicked travelers, glanced at the television screens mounted in a circle in the center of the terminal.
"...reports that planets Wash-a-ton DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle have been destroyed..."
"Wir haben den kontakt zu den planeten Bavaria, Trion, Neo-Prussia und Germania verloren. Herr Direktor Alec wird vermisst..."
"Robo-Lenin погиб, вместе с остальными Politburo и Moskau..."
"...Admirał Dudek pociesza naród w związku z utratą Nowa Warzsawa..."
"La tragedia ha colpito Venezia e la Sicilia..."
"...en memoria de nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Emeriadad..."
"...mantošanas krīze pēc Assyrian ķeizvaldnieku nāves pēc planētas Austere iznīcināšanas..."
"...New London confirmed destroyed, and contact lost with planets Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Belfast..."
"...confirmed and unconfirmed reports of almost 100 major worlds across the galaxy destroyed, with initial casualty estimates on the order of a trillion minifigs..."
Dr. Singh fell to her knees.
She turned to Dr. Sheu. "What happened to Trattoria?".
"Tell me what you know, what happened?!" she repeated.
The phone in her hand began to ring, a cheery jingle she had once heard from an advertisement. She had forgotten to silence the damn thing. Putting it to her ear, she began. "Hello?".
"Hello. This is Dr. Sakura Shiina, Stratego of the Sector III fleet."
"Where's the Chief Stratego? What the hell is going on? Is this a prank - "
"Legislator Singh - no, technically President Singh. We have much to discuss."
To be continued...