Kira was nervous, but after double-checking that she had the right address, she opened the door and went in. It was an ordinary enough reception room, sleek white desks and furniture, a clock on the wall, small but without enough clutter to feel cramped. Behind the desk was a blonde woman with big brown eyes working at a computer. Her gaze found Kira, and Kira stared back. Were her eyes brown? Or more greenish? Kira couldn't tell. She blinked, and realized she'd been staring.
"Sorry," she said, "hi, I'm Kira."
"Hi Kira, my name's Raisa, it's great to meet you."
Raisa's gold hair fell around her face in loose curls. She was wearing a white top with a black skirt that hugged her legs tight together. But Kira was focused on what she was wearing on her neck. It was a white plastic collar that Kira knew she would soon own an identical copy of. There was a faint line where it joined at her throat, and beside that a glowing prick of yellow light.
"You're the new hire, right Kira?"
"Yeah! Yeah I'm supposed to start today. Right?"
"Of course, yes! It's great to have you, welcome to Angel."
Kira heard the click of Raisa's heels on the hard shiny floors as she stood up. Her effortlessly clean-cut professional look made Kira self-conscious about her own appearance.
Kira was wearing a dark red tight-fitting sweater and a black skirt, with a thin gold chain around her neck and small silver earrings. Her black hair was up, and she had had to get up early to get it this tidy. Raisa looked as if she could just get out of bed with perfect curls. But Kira reminded herself that probably wasn't true.
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Raisa, "Someone should have told you, you're actually not allowed to wear outside jewelry. I'm sorry, that's our fault. I can hold your necklace and earrings here for the day and give them back when you leave, if that's alright with you?"
"Oh!" Kira felt her cheeks flush as she unclasped her necklace and took out her earrings one by one, placing them in Raisa's hand. "I didn't realize. Yes, that's fine, of course. Thanks."
"It's no problem Kira," Raisa gave her a smile like the sun and Kira smiled back automatically. "Now come on, let's get you fitted for your halo."
Raisa opened the fogged glass door beside her desk into a narrow hallway, and gestured for Kira to follow her. As the door shut behind them, Kira noticed her soon-to-be coworker tap the smooth white plastic collar she wore -- her halo -- and the little light next to her throat changed from white to a soft, soothing pink.
"What was that?" Kira asked, immediately regretting it when she heard how rude the question sounded coming out of her mouth.
"Just letting my halo know it doesn't need to be in public-facing mode anymore. Don't worry, you'll learn all the settings in no time, but basically when you're here or back at your own place, you can put your halo in home mode. Now, you understand the reasons we have all our employees haloed, correct?
"Oh yes, definitely."
Raisa laughed as she approached another door. A light on the door's keypad turned pink to match Raisa's collar, and it opened for her.
"It's okay, Kira, you're allowed to have questions."
"Well I guess I did wonder, I mean, is it really that important to wear it outside of work?"
Raisa smiled at Kira again.
"Oh good, an easy question. I usually expect people to ask about the rumors that it's a mind-control collar."
This time it was Kira who laughed.
"I admit I have heard those, yeah. But don't worry, I know you're not trying to brainwash me or anything. Just... I don't know, isn't a little..."
"Creepy?" Finished Raisa. "That's what I thought when I got mine."
"Yeah, I guess that's more or less what I'm wondering."
They had entered what looked like the examination room at an eye doctor, still white, but dimly lit, with a chair in the middle and drawers lining the walls.
"That's totally normal, Kira, don't worry. The halos are what make Angel different from any other group like us. But your halo can't do its job until it gets to know you. That means monitoring, even outside of work hours. That halo isn't mind control, but it does interact with your mind, and your body. It's precisely tuned to your internal chemistry."
"That part is true though? You can... hear it? In your mind?"
"Yes Kira, that part is true."
Raisa took a white ribbon out of one of the drawers and gestured towards the chair.
"Think of it like your own smart AI personal assistant, without any clumsy interface stopping you from using it to its fullest potential."
Raisa walked around the chair behind Kira, her shoes clicking in rhythm on the floor as she went. Kira gulped in a little air when she felt Raisa touching her neck, then she felt the white ribbon being wrapped around her throat. Raisa pulled it tight, but gently, without choking. Kira heard her make a mark on the ribbon with a pen, then the comforting tightness was gone.
"Alright, perfect! I'll send your measurements to Supply & Fabrication and it'll be ready in ten minutes!"
"That's it? That was easy."
"Welcome to Angel, Kira. I think you'll be really happy here."