That was new information. “I didn’t know he was married.”
Stephanie glanced over toward the lines of cubicles and back to me. “Office rumor says that she’s in California most of the time and I happen to have met her on one of her visits here, so I can confirm that. For the record, her name’s April and I kind of like her.
“Funny how Sandy can do the awkward geeky guy thing at the same time he does the executive screwing the secretary thing. I never thought it was impossible, but I wasn’t looking for an example.”
“I know I wasn’t.” As I spoke, movement caught my eye and I turned to notice a taller guy standing up from his cubicle.
A few inches over six feet with light brown skin, dark hair, stubble on his cheeks, and a goatee, he wore a t-shirt and jeans. His t-shirt said, “No, I won’t fix your computer,” in white type on a black shirt.
As he came around the nearest line of cubicles, he asked Stephanie, “Is this the new guy?”
“Yes,” Stephanie waved him over. “Nick, this is Victor, our sysadmin and helpdesk guy.”
To say that Victor towered over me would have been an exaggeration but he had a good five inches on me so it felt like towering.
As he shook my hand, Victor said, “What Stephanie didn’t tell you is that I’m also in charge of deciphering the alien languages that appear in your head when you touch some of the devices as well as any writing you see.”
Stephanie nodded, adding a touch of an eye roll. “He’s the lead on the linguistics team and does some programming. We’re working on a program that will translate the major languages we’ve encountered.”
I looked him over. “That’s a bunch of different things to be involved in.”
He gave a wide smile. “My undergrad was in computer science. My doctorate and masters were in linguistics. I worked my way through school doing helpdesk and later system administration and since it’s a small company, that’s part of what I do here.”
I hoped he didn’t do it alone. The computer security this place needed had to be a huge hassle. “How did it happen that you got hired here?”
He snorted. “Since you’ve got your security clearance now, I can tell you. Like at least half the company, I took a test that tested for more than expected. My prof called in the government and the next thing I knew I got an offer here.”
Half the company? I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
Victor laughed. “The expression on your face, kid… You too?”
“Yeah.” Admitting it seemed safer than denying it and if I wanted to fit in, maybe I’d have wanted to lie even if I’d been hired normally.
Stephanie nodded. “Me too. I’m working on a masters in neurolinguistics and the same thing happened.”
Considering that Stephanie specialized in creating images that hacked the brain, that fit.
Victor looked from me over to Stephanie. “I guess we’d better take him over to the labs and show him around.”
“That’s what we were told to do. Let’s get it done.” Stephanie glanced at the wooden door and Emmy and Sandy had disappeared into. “Besides, I’m going to feel better if we’re not here when they come out.”
With that, they led me out the same door that Stephanie brought me out when my implant started acting up. This time, instead of leading me into the grass between the buildings, we walked across the sidewalk from the side door out to the side door of the laboratory building.
After the retinal scanner finished and we’d scanned our cards, the door opened, depositing us into what was for all practical purposes an airlock. I didn’t have a better word for whatever a door opening into a tiny room that had a door on the other end would be called.
When we finally stepped into the main room, though, I felt like I knew exactly where we were.
When the Hrrnna, a race of evil, alien ponies, hired mercenaries to find Abominator artifacts and potentially push the Xiniti into destroying the planet, most of the Heroes’ League found ourselves protecting a scientific lab that was studying Abominator artifacts.
Except for being several times the size, this lab reminded me of that one. Computers and desks were scattered around the big, concrete-floored room. Enclosures the size of small rooms dotted the inside of the main room. Machines stood near the enclosures and the desks.
I recognized some of the equipment—ultrasounds, an MRI, an X-ray, electron microscopes.
“The idea,” Stephanie told us, “is that they don’t have to ship anything out for analysis.”
Ahead of us stood the birthing machine, a platform with larger than human-sized tubes. Across the room stood a streamlined cylinder that might have been a spaceship—a small shuttle, maybe. The implant needed me to get closer to identify it.
Just to my right, a pockmarked ceramic sphere two feet in diameter sat on top of a table. Grayish-blue, it sat on a black plastic mat.
“We’re still trying to figure out what that thing was,” Stephanie began.
Victor laughed. “An alien soccer ball?”
My implant identified it as a thousand-year-old ansible, a device that allowed faster than light communication.
I didn’t have time to wonder if it still worked because it began to hum as my implant informed me, “Incoming communications.”