Markoff first heard about the event at the mall right after he’d had lunch with the Japanese. He was driving back to his office, worrying about the design for Space Port City and the engineering that it would take to link it to The Forbidden City, The Taj Mahal, and the Bavarian Village with a monorail system that the investors had just introduced. The foreigners were getting more daring and elaborate in what they wanted to do with their properties causing him all sorts of headaches.
True, the money was nice but here lately he’d gotten the feeling that his work was nothing more than a test kitchen for projects that they were doing back home. The realization had come when footage of a minor asteroid hit on the coast of Japan showed what he was sure to be construction in progress that followed the exact designs of the Taj Mahal. The image that he saw displayed out on his huge television screen appeared to follow the exact dimensions of the design that he owned.
The builder hadn’t confronted the Asians about this yet. He didn’t have enough proof. Still, if he didn’t need the work he would have long ago broken ties with them.
When the news of the explosion had come on his trucks radio, the builder had been thrilled. Almost as soon as they’d bought it, the Japanese had dumped the mall off onto the hands of a holding company in Houston. Any work that needed to be done on the structure would go through local channels. It would be the perfect opportunity for him to break ties with them.
To make things even better, Markoff had secretly been planning grand ideas for the mall for years now and this catastrophe seemed like the perfect occasion to put them forward. From the way that they were talking, a good portion of the structure had been destroyed. An over eager traffic reporter described what he was seeing below.
“I can see bodies being wheeled out in droves.” He rattled in a choppy staccato that was driven by the pulse of his craft’s rotor. “Areas of the structure are still burning. Unattended cars are exploding randomly in the parking garage. There are people being tended to inside that are visible through a gaping hole in the roof. Every inch of the ground beneath me is a scene of horror.”
Despite the builder’s efforts at drawing business away from the massive shopping center with his own smaller establishments the place had kept drawing crowds steadily. He’d given the community authentic looking replica’s of ruins to shop in, massive mountains for them to slide down, places to explore and find bargains at but through it all the mall remained. If he couldn’t put the place out of business then at least he could get a piece of the action by patching up this terrible devastation.
Reaching down he switched off the radio and picked up his cell phone, placing a call to his office. Jans Petersmith answered almost immediately.
“Jans.” Markoff said. “I need you to pull the files on the mall.”
“Which one boss?” The man asked. As the builder’s chief architect, they’d worked together for years but still Petersmith couldn’t read his mind.
“The big mall.”
“Good God almighty. What’s the deal with exploding shopping malls around here?”
“I don’t know.” Markoff said. “Meteors I guess.” Then pausing a little he added. “Honestly, I don’t care. Whatever it is we’ve had those plans sitting around for a few years now. I say it’s high time that we dust them off and see what we can offer.”
“Will do.” Petersmith shot back. “Give me a sec to find them.”
Of course, it was still too early to make bids on repairs but even so, the builder wanted to prepare a presentation. The place had a good design but Markoff had long found it too stifling to feel comfortable in. There was no central theme linking its marbled floors and white walls to the very shops that filled it. It needed a more natural aesthetic.
He could hear the man muttering to himself. “I think we have six drafts.” The architect said. “There’s the Roman Coliseum, the Aztec temple, a couple of different variations on little Tokyo.”
“I don’t want Tokyo.” Markoff spat. “I don’t want anything Japanese.”
“Those guys bothering you?” The architect snickered.
“I’m just tired of thinking about them.” The builder admitted. “I think that I want to look at those that we drew up a couple of years ago to make it look like a rain forest.”
“Got it.” He said before hanging up.
In Markoff’s mind, the mall would make a great jungle. There were unused corners that could hold waterfalls and pre-fabricated trees. You could stretch plastic vines across the ceiling to make it look like you were walking underneath a canopy of tropical fauna. There was padded flooring that resembled bark and leaves which could be used. You could turn the inside out. It could be a climate controlled Garden of Eden.
He was about to turn the radio back on to hear more about the damage when his phone rang. Looking down, he saw that it was from his wife.
“Hello?” He said.
“I want to be a nurse.” Myrah replied.
“Did you hear about the mall?” He asked excitedly.
“I’m at the mall.” She answered.
Markoff could hear sirens behind her voice. “Are you okay?” He blurted. Instantly he felt guilty over his eagerness to benefit from the disaster.
“I’m fine.” She said. “I think that Clara’s in shock and there’s probably a lot of people here who won’t make. I really need to go to school and get more training before I could say stuff like that for sure. That’s why I want to be a nurse. I’m doing excellent.”
“What happened?” He asked. He imagined the injured. People with blood dripping from their scalps. Burn victims.
“A meteor I guess.” His wife replied. “It doesn’t matter. The thing is that I’ve been helping people out for the past two hours and I want to be a nurse. I’m good at it and I like it. I’ve been saving lives.”
Markoff shook his head. “You need to get out of there.” He barked. “I don’t want you getting exposed to some kind of weird space radiation.”
“Did you hear me?” His wife asked. “I want to be a nurse.”
“That’s fine.” The builder acknowledged. “For now, you need to get out of the mall. I don’t want you getting hurt. Stay there. I’m coming by to pick you up.”
There was a pause at the other end of the line. “Don’t you have anything to say?” She asked sounding annoyed and put off.
Markoff thought about it for a moment. “Nope.” He answered.
Myrah sighed. “I’m going to be a nurse.” She replied again. “I’ve been helping people all day long. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Isn’t that cool?”
“I think that’s awesome.”
“Well maybe you could be a little more encouraging.”
Making a wide U-turn at a light he swung the truck around. “We’ll talk about it tonight.” He replied. Easing onto the interstate the builder headed in the direction of a thick trail of smoke that rose above the horizon.