pandemo (pandemo) wrote,

Presentability (6/8/06 Word count: 2287) SOTFW-MF
November 5, 2000 17:33:00


When Macon and Ethan go back out on patrol, Leanna is plunged into a depression she just cannot seem to shake.  She does not regret holding Macon at arm's length sexually, but she does miss the easy camaraderie that has sprung up between the three of them.

How odd to have two MEN friends and NO women friends!  I've never lived anywhere where that has happened before.  True, here there seem to be couples, or single men, generally in clumps or groups, not paired off, except to work, but not women, not as singles nor groups.  All outdoor work is done in pairs.  Nobody sets a foot outside that I've seen without a buddy.  That's more strictly enforced than a church camp's swimming buddy rule.

When the walls start to creep in on her, she decides she'll go exploring inside to get some exercise.  Taking a stenographer's style notebook along, she carefully draws her corridor, every intersection she passes, every direction she turns.  In three hours, she has made it to the front foyer without once using a passageway she has ever seen before.  She is as exhilarated as if she were an intrepid spelunker exploring a dangerous and undocumented underground passageway.  Striding briskly to her corner, turning her face into the wall, she drops effortlessly into a yoga pose.  Studying her map, she memorizes the twists and turns, wondering where the passed corridors lead.  When her sweat has dried, she gracefully rises and goes back to her room to shower.

"Bruel, what in blazes IS she up to?  Look at her path!  How can she come so close?  What did you tell her?"

"Nothing.  I've not said more than 100 words to her.  She stalks out whenever I show up."

"What did you do to alienate her like that?  You were assigned to be her guardian, not to torment her!  The idea was to strike up an acquaintance, then build it into a relationship.  With your background, you should have been ideal."

"Well, everything I try seems to set her off.  She's always defensive and on edge.  I think she's antisocial."

Cleten breaks in self-consciously.  "Not to put too fine a point on it, Bruel, but at the Friday Frolics, she looked anything BUT antisocial with Mason and Ethan, and when they left, she carried on shyly, but with great aplomb, putting on a whale of an audience participation show.  Her lyrics were clever, the tune repetitive, and the material was fresh as far as I know.  How she could do that off the top of her head, I'm not sure, but it certainly belies the impression of her you're trying to build up."

Granton studies the two young men before him.  Turning away unperturbedly, he calmly begins some computer work.  Finally he speaks. "Well, she seems to have acquired a champion.  Bruel, you're relieved of guardianship.  You may leave."

"Probably insulted that she wasn't a perfect 10.  Normal women may just be beneath his dignity.  I'll bet he botched the job deliberately," Cleten summarizes as he watches the untroubled way Bruel saunters out.

Once Bruel is out of earshot, Granton continues, "I've pulled the tapes of her first meeting with him, and he couldn't have been more crass and blatantly sexual in his approach to her.  She had her claws out in self-preservation, it seems to me.  After hearing your description of her with Mason and Ethan, I feel Bruel is not able to be objective about her.  There's never been any love lost between he and Mason.  She seems to have paid for that in spades."  Clicking a few keys, he continues, "I'll see if I can take a peek at the Friday Frolics tape.  Did you notice which hallway she exited into?"

"Sure.  She stepped through A, right into Mason's arms.  He kissed her quite freely, and although she was not an enthusiastic participant, she did not shy away, either, from my viewpoint, anyway.  She seemed more embarrassed by his easy touching than upset by it.  She just may be a more private person, or maybe he's moving too fast for her.  Where's she from, anyway?"

Stepping to another computer terminal, Granton clicks a few more keys, triggering her bio.  "Iowa . Religious upbringing, even finished up at a denominational church college.  Second in her class in her field.  Worked on the college paper as both a writer and a photographer.  No samples of her work, however.  Pretty old-fashioned school.  No videotaping, no portfolio stuff at all.  Wow!  Would you believe Dick Johnson went there at the same time?  I wonder if she knew him?  Well, look at that!  They came from the same town."

"What's Dick doing now?  I haven't seen him around lately."

"He's heading up the collection project for the Northeastern Section."

"Not someone you'd like to rotate back home, then, huh?"

A nod affirms his good guess.

"Just how important is this lady's genetics?"

"We really don't know, other than THE OTHERS snatched her sister in a pretty public fashion when she toured Norway with an Iowa Honors group.  We know our arch-rival Ragnar got their dope into her sister, Despina, and were regenerating parts of her when she disappeared unexpectedly, supposedly into an Arabian desert.  Weird story.  The sister seems extremely suggestible at the very least.  They snitched her husband's supposedly dead body, but the claims are unsubstantiated by any hard evidence, and they also got both his children by another woman.  We ARE sure they're his children."

"Does Leanna have any clue what's really going on?"

"No, I authorized pick-up as a preventative measure after they got the remains of the husband in such an underhanded way.  Their searching mechanisms seem far more advanced than ours.  Somehow they seem to be able to trace something worldwide.  We are nowhere near that level of proficiency.  Cleten, how heavy is your load at present?  If she's going to go wandering at random, we need someone with some rapport with her, preferably legitimately."

"You mean, as in live with her?"

"I know that's asking a lot . Macon might be willing, but from what you're saying, she's just sort of being kind, not really involved."

Pulling up the Friday Frolics tape, they watch the events unfold from the entry of the patrol members through her exit.  Granton is not laughing, but does have a wistful smile on his face.  "What a character!  Not original material, though.  My grandparents had an old 45 record with that song on one side and some pretty offbeat preaching on the other... the story of "Little Bo Peep" done as if an old time Bible-thumping preacher was using it as the text of a sermon.  When it came time for the congregation to sing, that was the song on some page in the hymnal that was on the backs of the seats.  A religious college sure might have that around.  Or, maybe not.  It might have hit too close to home.  Heresy."

"I'll try to check her out in person and see how the vibes flow.  At least I have two negative approaches to study to see if I can read her mind a bit."  From the distinct lack of enthusiasm in his tone of voice, Granton feels Cleten is really hoping to gain a reprieve from this implied assignment.

"If my instincts weren't all sounding alarm bells simultaneously, I wouldn't ask it of you, Cleten.  But I need someone on this that I can trust implicitly."

His head nods once in acceptance of his fate.  "Have we got a tissue sample to unravel the DNA sequence from?"

Wiggling a few more keys, Granton shakes his head.  "Probably wasn't authorized directly, so nobody thought about it."

"Well, if Dick pokes his head in here, let's pick his brain, at least."

"Just turn off the lights, and you'll never know her from a perfect 10.  Her speaking voice is lovely even if she can't sing that well.  Her laugh is contagious.  In the dark, that ought to be worth something.  Do a standard work-up if she'll let you close."

"Okay.  If you want it on the sly, I could wear an ear and you could talk me through the psychological questions."

"Put it on my ringer.  I'll keep stuff handy."

They depart to other tasks.

Every time Leanna leaves her room, she takes a different route, carefully filling in the missing crossroads from her first exploratory trip. This is like a game of 'Dungeons and Dragons' minus the perils. Whenever she thinks she has intersected with a corridor she's used before, she always turns for home and retraces that previous route to her door, so she is sure she has not made a mistake.  Following hours of walking and drinking water from the canteen she used to use while trail riding, the area to the north and east of her room is quite well filled in now.  She counts her strides between corridors, carefully notes water fountains and rest rooms, storerooms, any wall signs or signals, anything that is labeled, and canteens.  She is pretty sure she can easily use the route Macon brought her through when they returned from D corridor's canteen that first time.  She also can strike out on several more complicated versions of the same idea -- getting home unnoticed, or untraceably, she's not sure which.  She also designs a way of describing what type of corridor it is – truck sized, VW beetle sized, one lane, or two, and other equally whimsical descriptions to help remind her of what the area was like.

Soon she gets a regular art pad from supply by asking how to access it in the D corridor canteen.  A nice looking, clean shaved strawberry blond named Garm takes her over to the storage area, helping her place her order.  Once back at her room, she sets up her drawings in the art pad similarly to the design of an Iowa county’s Plot Map Book.  Having taken the north and eastern part to dead ends on every branch, she decides to place it in the upper right hand quadrant of the center page of the book, then redraws everything, even the number of paces the hallways are, on the last inside page at the back. Now, that will put north east where it belongs on a map.  Next, I’ll try some left turns and see how far west I can get.

Without her being conscious of it, her depression has lifted.

On the wall calendar in her room, Cleten notices that the days she's been in contact with others have the names and a place marked on it. She truly has not connected with anyone much on a personal level other than the two perimeter guards, he thinks as he memorizes her scribbles.  Turning, he notices the odd placement of her computer, and pulls it out to see that the ancient Apple has been hooked up to the network.  Hands trembling, he turns it on and keys in various codes that hook him to Granton at once.

"You won't believe this," he types.  "She's got her own computer hooked into our network.  Hardwired into it!"

Granton's words scroll across her blue background.  "Give me a minute to check…  That's odd.  There's no blip on our network to even show access.  It just marks hers as down.  She can't order anything with whatever she's using.  Do you know how to access the computer info on that machine?"

"Sure, boss.  This is my preferred platform, just a bit long in the tooth.  You want the numbers?"

"Right.  And look around a bit.  Can you create an id program for it so she can at least order her food?  How's she surviving?"

"I don't know . I'll pour over the records and see if I can figure it out.  I'm pretty sure I can create a code for a Mac, but I'll have to play with it a bit to get it onto her obsolete OS.  Maybe that will give me a reason to meet her.  I can come to 'fix' her computer, bawl her out a bit, then offer to install an id on hers after letting her convince me to let her keep using what she's familiar with, or whatever reason she gives...

“Well, unless you want anything else immediately, I'm leaving.  We know she’s sensitive from the way she acted with Bruel.  I don't know where she is right now, or when she'll show up.  I'd rather make a different first impression than what would be likely if she caught me in her room.  She installed a DEAD BOLT on her door."

"How'd you enter, then?"

"State secret.  I'll show you some time if you really want to know, but it is sort of a hands-on experience, not something you convey with words."

"You're on."

Carefully leaving no trace, Cleten backs out of her computer and shuts it down.  Glancing at his curly ringlets and huge blue eyes in her mirror to check his presentability, he opens the door behind him, then clicks the button on the dead bolt so it will lock itself automatically when he shuts the door. I’ll tell her I’m the technician here to service her computer.  We’ve noticed it is out, and her allotment hasn’t been drawn for the month. Backing into the corridor, he moves to a wall niche and settles in to wait . He pulls a paperback of "Guns of the Navarone" from his back pocket and does not have to feign much interest... he really gets drawn into the story.

Last updated 6/8/06 (Gary changed to Garm) 5/28/06 (clarified placing in the plot map; added a line to thoughts about map.) 11/27/04.

Word Count: 2287
Reading Level: 6.0
Tags: sotfw-mf

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