Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The view outside is breathtaking, one that many would pay to see. The lights of Xīn Xiānggǎng spread as far as the eye can see, both into the distance and up into the skies above: islands of light connected by the coruscating ribbons and kaleidoscopic fireflies of the ways and vehicles that link them.
Inside a room the size of a tennis court, the spectacle outside is ignored. Holoscreens bigger than luxury coupes are arrayed in a semicircle two deep and three high about a king-size chaise-longue.
Sprawled on that gigantic piece of furniture, looking like a child in an adult’s seat, Alois Jean Danube IV plays his fingers across the trio of holographic keyboards before him like some crazed organist at a recital.
“To complete the spaceport within eight hours will require 180,000,000N$.”
The fingers stop moving. Alois looks up and to the left, into the main focus of his AIPA.
“How much to do it in eleven?”
“Do it in eleven. Divert unused resources to the reception dome.”
“Reception dome completion now expected in nine and one-half hours.”
He smiles: “Confirm colony ship arrival.”
The silence stretches for four minutes. Alois sits motionless.
“ETA for ECS Margaret Hamilton is sixteen hours twelve minutes.”
Alois nods.
“Subcontract residential builds on Tescona to tier one and two players. Ensure they receive a completion date that is one Terran month before the reception period completes.”
He’s made the mistake of trusting lower league members before. Now he always has a top-tier player stage a one-year ‘city life’ sim on any new build. They regard it as a recognition of their abilities and never let the slightest thing slip by. Fatalities due to infrastructure failure in colonies SIMbuilt by his company have dropped to 0.04% since he instigated the procedure.
“Next greenfield site?”
“Pethtornay. We have a NeoGenesis Explorer 4.0 in orbit. It has just confirmed that all initial assessments were correct. The planet is ideal. SIMbuild 1.1 will be sufficient.”
Alois sits up.
“We are Danube Planetary Development. ‘Sufficient’ is for other companies. Institute a SIMbuild 2.0 frame with luxury pack 12.”
“That will offer more accommodation than a single consignment can deliver.”
“Then notify both ECS Katherine Johnson and ECS JoAnn Morgan. Have them confirm our projection of their ETA being seven months.”
“Done. Reply will take nine minutes, give or take.”
“Give or take?”
“I have updated my interaction routines. I selected ‘give or take’ as a suitable conversational substitute for ‘deviance of less than eight percent’.”
“Valid, and I like it. Next item: order me a six-course meal with a Szechuan bias, but with wines from California. While I wait for that, give me a roster of the next ten brownfield sites. It’s been a while since we ran a competition for entry to the top tier. As the petty cash could do with a top-up, a premium entry contest with the usual paid viewer packages should get us a new recruit, pay for their induction, and fill the coffers.”
“Very well, Alois. Meal ETA is twenty-two minutes.”
“Wine ETA?”
“That request I was able to predict. Double decanted, chilled, and here in three minutes or less.”