Breed Book 3, Part 30

Mikaela hated the way her heels clacked on the linoleum; it made her feel like she was being followed. Then she heard a step out of synch with her own, and spun on her heels. Occasionally her dupes liked to sneak up on her, so she half-expected to be confronted with one of them, smiling wryly at her paranoia. But this was a guard, wearing a blue shirt and a stun gun on his belt.

“Oh,” she said, gasping breathily. “It’s my first day,” she said. “And I think I got lost.”

The guard tongued a wad of gum into his cheek, like it was chewing tobacco, swallowed and said, “Well, might be able to help you get where you’re going, if you tell me where you’re supposed to be.”

“Um,” she said, taking a moment to parse him, “I think I was supposed to find room 329. I had what were probably serviceable directions, only I got turned around when I went to the bathroom. Think I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.”

“Like Bugs Bunny,” he said, with a partial smile under a sparse moustache. “This hallway won’t get you to 329; you’d need to go back the way you came to get there, then take a left at the T. Only there’s a problem, because this hallway is restricted access. Anyone who comes down here needs special privileges- the kind they don’t give out on somebody’s first day. Which means I’ll have to notify your supervisor.”

“Please,” she said, “please don’t.”

“Why not?” he asked, anger rising in his voice. “Way I see it, at this point, you get in trouble with your boss, or I get in trouble with mine.”

“Because it’s my first day. It’s real easy, on a first day, if you get the wrong attention, for it to become your last day. And if anybody asked me, I’d tell them you put the fear of god into me, right after helping me find where I was supposed to go. I don’t think you’d get into any trouble over that.”

“Hmm,” he said, squinting at her and pursing his lips. “You don’t seem a bad sort,” he said, “and sometimes good folks just need an honest break.” He pulled the wad of gum out of his cheek and bit aggressively into out. “Come on. I’ll walk you down to the labs.”

“The lab?” Mikaela asked. “Sure enough. The entire third floor is all laboratory spaces. They’ve got climatology labs, metrology labs, a sonics lab… if there’s an energy going into or coming out of a piece of technology, or a circumstance for equipment to work in, they’ve got a method to simulate and test. I don’t think I’m familiar with 329, but it’ll be in the cluster of labs on the third floor.”

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