Bruni presses a button to clear the smoke. The two-way glass vibrates with the muffled hum of industrial suction. It quiets as a door slides open and a disheveled man shuffles into the chamber.
“I gotta say, I’m loving this. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but this has gotta be the freshest air in California.”
He looks around at the curved walls and domed ceiling with a goofy expression of relief.
“I hate the cheerful ones,” Maari mumbles.
“Optimists make the world go round,” Bruni replies with a swipe at the screen.
In the test chamber, a shelf rises from the floor displaying an array of masks.
Bruni speaks into the intercom. “Please choose the mask that best exemplifies: Safety. Elegance. Innovation.”
The man hesitates then selects a model.
“Another vote for SHIELD,” Maari registers it in the log.
“Please put it on and tell us how it makes you feel.”
Bruni taps a button. Smoke billows in. The man giggles nervously, the sound muffled by the mask.
“I like that it covers my whole face, I guess. And, uh, I can see, like, really well. Is it self-cleaning? ‘Cause, you know, fire season drops some wicked soot.”
“No questions, please. Go on.”
The man disappears behind a wall of smoke.
“Yeah, uh, it’s a little uncomfortable. This rubber stuff is kinda sticking to my skin.”
“The polymer again,” Maari taps out a note. “I think it’s reacting to the ash.”
“Um, hey. I’m not sure how well this thing is working,” the man coughs, “My eyes are stinging.”
“Mmmhmm,” replies Bruni, “How do you feel wearing it? Does it give you a sense of confidence?”
“I mean, I guess? You know, I think it’s letting in the smoke, man. I feel like I’m sucking on a tailpipe.”
The man rips off the mask.
“Hey! I can’t breathe in here. You gotta…” He falls to the floor flopping like a landed trout.
“They always take it off. Why do they take it off?” Maari shakes her head.
“That’s Design’s problem,” says Bruni tapping a button. Two masked interns enter and drag the subject away.
Maari sighs, “The old models were so ugly.”
“Yeah, but they worked,” Bruni smirks resetting the system to All Clear.