Excerpt from Ruby Descent

The hotel lobby was an enormous space. It could easily hold up to a thousand people. And the entire thing was packed to the walls, guest service desks, the mezzanine and balconies, with a licentious mass of humanity, the likes of which he’d never imagined. Men and women, young and old, crammed together for the soiree of the century.

This wasn’t just a party for anyone. These were the elite, the most important guests of Everblue. The fans down on Earth also joined in the celebration, with live broadcasts in several major cities. It was a global media event, on a scale unlike any before. This was Everblue’s tenth anniversary. The only trusted source of water for all the family of Earth, so their company’s slogan went. And these were all of their closest friends, carousing in abandon and sweat, heels flying in time to the incessant rhythm of the music.

“Excuse me, sir. Pardon me, sir, madame. Coming through.” He had to force his way through endless clusters of merrymakers. Most of them were far too oblivious to step aside for him. The mad frenzy with which they flung themselves about, their shrill laughter, was very irritating. Walter wasn’t opposed to having a little fun on his time off, but this level of debauchery just seemed tasteless.

A live band dominated one side of the lobby. It was one that he recognized, a jazz ensemble that had quickly risen to fame on the coattails of one hit song. And now, it was the latest craze all over the Net.

The most extravagant and even shocking display was the three-story fountain and pool in the middle of the room. Shooting priceless water in all directions, a scantily clad woman in a mermaid’s tail was perched atop it. She flapped her glittering blue fins, her elaborate headdress of pearls and shells swaying, smiled and laughed, and splashed her audience from the jetted streams that cascaded down the rocks below. Within the pool itself, at least a half dozen rambunctious young women squealed and played like children. Their dresses were soaked, clinging to smooth, flashing skin, as they danced and cavorted about.

A fountain like that was a show of abundance and hope for the future, to the eyes of some. To Walter, it just seemed a waste. Many of the wealthy and upper-crust people in this room had probably never had to deal with thirst. Walter remembered the War, fighting with the resistance, having to steal water to survive. He knew well what it was like to go without. But thankfully, those days were long over. The world was headed in a much more positive direction.

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