||[Feb. 16th, 2004|04:09 pm]
The White Tower Room
posted here and in idiosyncratical|
She stood on top of the world beautiful, serene; just as he remembered her from his earliest days in church (had it been his first communion?). A pity, then he didn’t share in her serenity; though for all the world he would have loved very much to trample the little bastard much like the snake writhing beneath the Blessed Virgin’s right foot atop his dashboard.
“Delian Seleveley, right?” he said to the woman on the other end of his head set. Behind him, another driver honked in irritation. He was dully ignored. “Huh. Miranda, forgive me for being blunt but…am I actually supposed to know who this person is?”
“Well, Jerome, as you’re the intern coordinator for the entire fucking department, I sure hope so!” Dr. Miranda Stevens barked in reply. “And he’s not a person, he’s an Andelian. One of those damned –“ She sounded as if she needed a raise and a transfer to their Houston base immediately. Jerome could certainly sympathize, though the profanity was mildly troubling, particularly coming from Miranda. She must be under a great deal of stress, indeed. “Sorry, I’m – I’m just frustrated right now, Jerome. You know how tense things’ve been on base since brass allowed the Andelian exchange. And then to have this happen…I mean, how the hell are we gonna explain –“
“Okay, okay, fine,” he cut her off, feeling his own dander rise. “So I didn’t know who this Selvallay character was. My mistake, yes. But screaming won’t change anything now.” Another honk, punctuated by a few choice words about his sexual preference and its orientation towards his dog and his female parent. More peeved than before, Jerome slammed his foot on the gas and roared down the street. “Damned high school drivers, this isn’t the superway,” he growled to himself.
Huh? Oh, right. His cell phone conversation. “Sorry, Miranda. You were saying? About this Andelian, Selvally.”
“Seleveley,” Miranda corrected with a snap. “And as for the “about him” part, I’ve heard way too much about him today. Apparently, he’s been stealing security codes behind our backs for months. Or should I say your back?”
Jerome could feel the color draining from his knuckles as his car barely screeched to a stop at a red light. “And what,” he said with calm he didn’t feel, “does my back have to do with anything this kid has done?”
He could practically hear Miranda shrugging. “Well, Jerome, I don’t honestly know because, guess what? That’s your job.” And the phone clicked and went dead.
Jerome sighed and resisted the temptation to hurl the offending device from the car window, in lieu of being able to say anything but “yes, ma’am” to the offending woman when he reached the base. So, instead he turned his weary grey eyes to the serene woman on the dashboard and whispered, “Give me strength.”
She smiled back. Blissfully unaware of his condition?
Jerome Jensen wasn’t as young as he used to be. And as he thundered up the sterile tiled stairs on his way to the holding dock, he thanked the heart and lungs pounding away inside his heavyset body not to remind him of that fact. Unfortunately, they currently seemed to be in league with his wide hands and bulging body in a conspiracy to remind him that his fifty-first birthday was fast approaching and he really shouldn’t be running up stairs while shrugging into his lab coat anymore. Fortunately, for him, he didn’t have long to think about it. He’d only just reached the landing and already he could hear Miranda’s black heels clip-clopping to meet him.
“You’re late,” she greeted him, scowling as if a bee had just climbed up her nose.
“Sorry. There was traffic,” Had her voice been ice, Jerome felt his voice could have frozen her, nonetheless. “Now, what is this about security breaches and aliens?”
Miranda’s pencil-thin arms folded confrontationally over her maroon-sweatered narrow chest. “Basically, Jerome, you’re in so much shit you couldn’t dig out now with a dump truck.”
His tired grey eyes rolled at her impertinence. “Yes, well, and if that’s the most useful thing you have to say, Miranda, then I’m going to turn around, get back into my car and drive the fifteen miles home to help get Lucy ready for her piano recital this evening.” A glance at his watch. Two thirty already! Really, Miranda was a big girl. Couldn’t she handle this herself?
To Jerome’s surprise, he didn’t even need to ask her that. “Sorry,” she moved a stray lock of black hair from her mouth and said it again. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude, Jerome, but seriously. Your ass is going to be grass if you can’t explain what one of our technicians (on an interplanetary visa, I might add) was doing stealing level-7 security codes from our data base and patching them into the network at certain critical places.” Her hand was warm and familiar on his elbow as she steered him through the door and into another sterile hallway filled with clicking feet and white coated employees. “And if you can’t even remember said technician’s name…” her eyebrows knitted severely and she drew a finger across her jugular.
“Yes, point taken,” Jerome sighed. Some days he felt like Atlas. “But I’m telling you the truth, Miranda. Daytona Base has how many technicians and apprentices running around? Just because they fall under my department doesn’t mean I’ve seen them after the October Welcome dinner. Waits knows this.”
Miranda nodded severely. “Yep. Just like Waits also knows about your unpaid vacation time, Jerome.” Her painted lips pulled into a line as Jerome’s fell open in shock. “Yeah. Despite those thousands of technicians and interns, it’s a small base, Jerome. More people know than you think, too, and word travels fast.”
“Point taken,” Jerome said, giving up. “Tell me more. Who is this Seleveley, what security codes did he take, and most importantly why did he take them?”
Ahh, yes. That was the Dr. Jensen she was used to! He could practically see the confidence blush back into her cheeks. How it hurt her to tell the truth. “That’s just the problem. He won’t say, and he won’t give them back.”
“Oh, I bet Emperor Leryaan will just adore that,” Oddly enough, Jerome could muster no emotion stronger than irritation. “Did he damage the network?”
“Not permanently, and not as far as we can tell.”
“Thank God,” they seemed to be walking in the direction of his office. A good thing, too. Suddenly he felt the urge to drink an entire cooler of coffee. “So, Miranda, just who is this Andelian, anyway? Why is he here to begin with? I thought we had a quota on these people.” Things, aliens…whatever.