I recognized them. I didn’t know their names, but I’d seen them at the party the company threw at the old hotel by Lake Michigan.
Neither of them went by the company’s informal dress standard—jeans and a t-shirt, but their success in looking a cut above the rest of us worked better on the woman than the man.
Only a few inches shorter than I was, the woman had light skin, blond hair and wore a green suit jacket with a black turtleneck and pants. It struck me as a goth turned business professional look. I guessed she might be in her early thirties.
I pegged the man as being in his early forties. A couple inches shorter than the woman, he had curly black hair, tan skin, and either hadn’t shaved or grew facial hair at an alarming rate.
A look over his clothes made me think he was either trying too hard to look important or not hard enough. He wore blue jeans with a gray suit coat and a black t-shirt showing a yellow smiley face with a spot of blood on it.
I liked the t-shirt, but I wasn’t sure I’d wear it in a work setting.
Seeing me stand up, the woman smiled without missing a beat and said, “I’m sorry we interrupted you. Aren’t you the new intern? You’re Nick, right?”
If you’d asked me half a second before what her name was, I wouldn’t have known it, but my implant recognized both of them. Zola Rood worked in the marketing department doing graphic design. The man was Art Marin who’d moved out of lab work one month ago and now designed reports for the business office.
I wasn’t sure when the implant started paying attention to those details, but it was. I knew without asking that it hadn’t come out of the Xiniti’s data on Earth. In the next instant, I knew that the information came from emails I’d skimmed but hadn’t read.
Not letting myself get bogged down in implant data overload, I told her, “You’re right. I’m Nick and you’re Zola and,” I nodded toward him, “you’re Art. Stephanie introduced me to you both when you walked through the lab on my first day.”
Zola smiled. “That’s impressive. I didn’t expect you’d remember us at all. When I was working in the labs, I didn’t remember any of the suits that came through.”
Not sure what the situation demanded, I decided I’d keep the conversation going. “I didn’t know you’d worked in the labs.”
That got a laugh out of her. “Oh yes. I was trained in medical illustration but I’ve worked in graphic design as well since getting out of school. They hired me into the lab because they had an artifact that had biological effects and wanted to animate the findings. Except they’d roped me into other projects by then and I stayed in the labs for a while. I only got out a few months ago. Now I’m doing graphic design and some animation again.”
I paused, unsure of where I wanted to go with this. With the die glowing red on my desk, she had to be the woman who broke into Hardwick Industries last night and the guy might be the guy who had been with her.
What was I supposed to be doing at this point? Make a connection so I’d have an excuse to talk to them later? Get them to give me some clue as to why they’d done it?
I didn’t even know what questions to ask and I couldn’t afford to get too worked up about that. My girlfriend, Haley, had the same powers they did and could read people’s anxiety from their smell alone. Maybe they didn’t understand how to use their powers as well as she did, but maybe they did. Either way, they could tear me apart if they wanted to.
I answered her, “That’s a pretty crazy career path.” Then I caught Art’s eye and said, “I like your shirt.”
If nothing else that was honest.
He looked down. “Watchmen blew me away the first time I read it. I don’t know why I wore this shirt today, though—probably because it was at the top of the pile.”
Zola shook her head. “We should get to our meeting. Nice to meet you, Nick.”
Then she stared at me. “What’s glowing red on your desk?”
I reached down and picked up the die and showed it to them. It glowed brighter in my hand. “It’s a novelty twenty-sided die. It glows for some people and not others. I’m still trying to figure out why.”
Art stepped into the cubicle on the other side of mine and held out his hand. “That’s cool. Can I take a look?”
Zola stepped in along with him. After an instant of not being sure if I should, I let it fall into his hand.
It went from being bright red to barely glowing at all.
Art snorted. “Well, I guess I shouldn’t buy one. Here.”
He passed it over to Zola and the die brightened, but not as much as when I’d been holding it.
Zola rolled it across her palm a few times and then passed it back to me. Though already bright, it glowed brighter in my hand.
“Nice,” Zola stepped out of the cubicle. “Come on, Art.”
With a wave in my direction, they left and I watched them go, hoping I’d bugged the room they chose to talk in.