A Time of Troubles V
Disclaimer: see previous chapters.
“Tadah, behold, I own!” Connor Temple said proudly, as he emerged happy into the corridors of the ARC, for a change. “I cracked the code, I defeated the menace, I-“
“Make him shut up, please!” Abby Maitland, on the other hand, seemed even more upset than before. “It was bad enough when he was ranting and raving at his computer, but now that he is tooting his own horn, it’s even worse!”
“I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling that way, Abby,” Connor stopped self-congratulating long enough to turn and face his (supposed) girlfriend, “but, look, when you were reading out loud ‘Les Miserables’ to our pets last night, I kept quiet and didn’t object, now didn’t I?”
There was a pause as everyone else present thought this over. “I didn’t know that you liked French authors, Abby?” Sarah Page said quietly as Abby was briefly stunned into silence.
“I don’t – I was just trying to annoy Connor enough to make him snap out of this, you know?” Abby said, a bit sheepishly. “And I don’t think that it worked, either.”
“Of course it didn’t,” Connor said with more force than the amount that he usually used. “It was manly staff, man vs. machine.”
“Oh, come on, you just had some problems with your password, nothing else!” Abby said firmly.
“I had problems with my entire account, and all because Mrs. Page – and yes, I mean your stepmother, you two,” Connor glared at the Page twins, “had sent to us, thinking that she was send-ing to just you, Abby, a rather shall e-mail with a rather large attachment.”
“What attachment?” Abby said with a sinking voice.
“The one picturing you as Miss Strawberry. Got to admit, white and red looks good on you-“
Abby emitted a screech and fled.
There was another pause as Connor thought this over.
“I think you need to apologize,” Danny Quinn, who had been listening to Connor’s confrontation with Abby, spoke up at last.
“Don’t worry about me and Abby,” Connor replied to the older man in an unusually serious tone of voice. I know what I have to do.” Abruptly, he closed his laptop shut and left.
“Well, that was interesting,” captain Becker spoke to no one in particular. “And speaking of interesting things, have anyone seen Mr. Lester today?”
There was no answer to this enquiry either.* * *
James Lester was sitting in a cafe, eating shortcake with some sort of an Italian soda drink of all things and generally relaxing under the building’s air conditioner. Sure, the ARC building had its own air conditioning system, but it also had something else that was a good deal worse – the ARC staff.
Make no mistake, Lester was fiercely protective of his underlings as a rule, but lately they were getting on his nerves a lot. Maybe it was just the crazy weather, maybe – the lack of time anomalies, but for the first time since taking charge of the ARC Lester decided to take a morning off and just have some personal times – and he was not the only one, either.
“What is it with the blue color lately?” he glared at Christine Johnson, who was sitting across from him, glaring right back. “I can understand why Maya Page wears it – in her position she can wear whatever she wants; that one of her protégés that she pushed onto me wears it is also understandable – she is unimportant enough to wear whatever she wants and she is built well enough to pull it off, but what’s with you?”
Christine Johnson thought about it and rubbed her nose, though not necessarily in this fashion. “Are you saying that I cannot pull it off?” she asked her fellow civil servant after thinking it over.
Now it was Lester’s turn to hesitate. “This is unlike you,” he admitted finally.
“This isn’t your typical behavior either.”
“No, but lately my organization wasn’t behaving typically either, and now that Maya Page has gotten involved, due to some sort of a Triassic tortoise that got left behind, it’s even worse,” Lester shrugged. “What’s your story?”
Christine Johnson thought it over. “None,” she said simply. “It’s just that I’ve got some vacation days saved over, so I got to use them or lose them, that is all.”
The two civil servants continued to look at each other, but now their glares were more mutually uncomfortable than downright hostile. Finally, Christine Johnson broke the silence by saying:
And the uncomfortable silence continued.* * *
“Abby, I’m sorry.”
Abby looked up at her (supposed) boyfriend’s face. “Connor, this is the women’s washroom!”
“I know. But you’re not doing anything private – um, that’s not what I meant-“
“Connor, why you are here, and I don’t mean just in a literal meaning!” Abby snapped.
“Oh, I wanted to apologize,” Connor truthfully said. “I honestly don’t know what I did do wrong – frankly I do think that you looked great, but apparently you disagree, so I’m sorry for making you cry-“
“Don’t,” Abby said with a sudden fierceness. “It’s my fault, see.”
“Look, I don’t know if you talked to Nicola about this or not, but this wasn’t exactly my idea of how to make cash,” Abby said carefully. “Apparently I was good at it, but that just made things worse – I probably am overthinking this entire situation, but no, this wasn’t what I wanted from my life-“
“And it’s not. I mean look at us, Abby, does it look like a life of a calendar model or whoever?”
Abby blinked. “Point. I really have overthought this whole situation, and should probably apologize to Nicola for shunning her-“
“Excuse me,” Lorraine spoke up from the entrance into the washroom, “but some of us really want to go here for the official business-“
“Sorry,” Connor began, when the loud call of the time anomaly alarm interrupted him. It looked as if things were changing, after all...TBC