“Thank you, Mr. Harris. Your appointment with Mr. Grimrok is on schedule. Please enter through the security door and proceed to the reception desk in order to obtain your visitor’s pass. Enjoy your visit to Grimrok Corporation and have a nice day.”

With a loud click the heavy dark-glass door swung open.

Zak stepped into a whirlwind of commotion. The cavernous lobby was amazingly crowded and he couldn’t help but wonder about the number of employees who actually worked at Grimrok. What had appeared as aimless ghostly wanderings when seen through the smoky glass from the entrance was now transformed into the daily routine of corporate hustle. The marble, glass and brass motif of the outer building was continued inside. Black marble walls enclosed the lobby, relieved by rich brass trim and dark mirrored windows that allowed light in without providing a view out. Because of the gloom of the day, the overhead lights supplemented the filtered light from the windows with bright white illumination, creating dynamic reflections of the beehive activity coursing over the highly polished charcoal marble floor. On the far side of the room three hallways led into the heart of the building separated by swinging polished brass and glass doors. Zak found both the building and the atmosphere to be overdone and pretentious.

But after all, this was corporate society, where three-piece suits and extravagant expense accounts ruled the day. In this place it was Zak - with his worn corduroy sports jacket, black T-shirt, jeans and running shoes - who was the odd man out. He was not one to be intimidated easily, however, and it would take more than a room full of suits to do it. Particularly when nearly all of these people scurrying around the lavish hall weren’t even alive!

It wasn’t so much the way they looked that told Zak they weren’t living beings; SHIAM were designed to look as Human as...well, Humans. But Zak was not quite completely Human himself. His senses worked beyond normal Human senses, giving him a distinct edge. He verified that all the security personnel were SHIAM as he made his way toward the information counter in the middle of the lobby. He really didn’t need his special senses to assess the company’s personnel though. Grimrok Corporation actually boasted the fact that the entire staff, with the exception of a handful of regular personnel and top management, was all SHIAM.

Simulated Human Intelligence Anatomic Module...that’s what the acronym actually stood for. In layman’s terms, android. The SHIAM were only one of Grimrok’s latest technological successes, although no doubt the most controversial. Tobias Grimrok had made his wealth providing for the military, primarily in weapons and combat support equipment. Zak figured the SHIAM had originally been slated for the military as well, but the United World Federation put a damper on that plan. At least for the time being. They had added android technology to their world-wide prohibited weapons list. It was probably only a temporary setback for Grimrok, though. The world governing body had never gained the complete backing of the various nations of the globe and so its power was definitely finite. It was only a matter of time before one country or another would choose to ignore the ban on designated weapon types. When that happened, all bets would be off.

In the meantime the SHIAM androids were classified as domestic products by Grimrok. Not that the ordinary consumer could ever afford one of these high priced units. Those SHIAM units that had been sold to date had been purchased primarily by wealthy corporations looking to replace what they considered as an overpaid work force. This fact had done nothing to make the SHIAM any more endearing to the general public. And besides taking jobs away from people in an ever-shrinking work force, the fact that these machines so perfectly emulated living, breathing Humans was just down right spooky.

“I have an appointment with Tobias Grimrok,” Zak said to the SHIAM security guard at the desk.

It looked as Human as they came, early twenties, dark hair and probably handsome from a female’s point of view. The name tag on its blue uniform shirt read Jonas. Giving these androids Human names seemed just plain wrong to Zak. The SHIAM unit seemed distracted, a blank expression on its face as it gazed off into space. Zak waited for a response, but none came. The unit stood frozen behind the desk, a blank expression on its synthetic face. There was no indication that the thing was switched off or otherwise not working. Zak’s impatience picked at his temper.

“Hey, circuit head! Anybody home?”

“There’s no need to be rude, Mr. Harris.”

The voice came from over Zak’s right shoulder...a husky feminine voice. He turned in anticipation, but anticipation turned to disappointment. Instead of a female, a female version of the SHIAM was looking back at him.