Lisa finished filling a bucket so she could wash the floor of the entrance hall. Brush sitting inside the bucket, both hands holding the handle, she pushed backwards against the kitchen door, backing into the dining room. As she did so, she heard Canergak’s voice. “I have, and I was very impressed with your experience, Professor Vartanian.”
“Why, thank you.”
Lisa finished turning around, and saw Canergak and the strange professor she’d met briefly a few days ago. He looked at her and said, “Ah, Ms. Lisa, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, sir.” She bobbed a curtsy, as well as she could with the heavy bucket. “Good evening, Professor. Good evening, sir.” She began edging toward the front entrance to the dining room, hoping to simply pass by and get on with her work. Canergak, though, pinned her with a glance. “We will discuss your transgressions in the near future, young lady.”
Lisa stopped in her tracks. “Sir?” She wasn’t sure what “transgressions” meant, but it didn’t sound good.
He ignored her question, saying to the other man, “Professor Vartanian, would you join me in the office?” He led the way out; Lisa, after a few seconds, followed. She set the bucket down as close to the office entrance as she dared, and got down on hands and knees, listening to their conversation as well as she could over the sound of the brush scrubbing against the floor tiles.
She heard Canergak: “She is reliable… suspicious of me… too curious…”
Was he talking about her?
“…applaud scientific curiosity… approach was unwise… revealed much about her.”
No, Lisa realized, it wasn’t her Canergak was talking about. Was it Dr. Maddox? She edged closer, still scrubbing.
“Was her curiosity indeed that of a scientific nature?” Professor Vartanian asked.
“All attempts to gain knowledge and understanding is scientific in nature.”
“I would beg to differ that some comes from superstition, but I’m not the one in charge here.”
“I do not mind my staff arguing with my opinion. It has been swayed in the past and will again in the future, I am certain.”
“Then I am happy to know I work under a man of logic and reason.”
Lisa frowned at that. It sounded as if Professor Vartanian and Canergak were birds of a feather–which, so far as she was concerned, was not a good thing.
“The rest of my staff, you may have noticed,” Canergak said, “are not men of logic or reason, except for Dr. Solsen.”
“I have yet to see much of their personalities, or hear much out of their mouths. In time.”
“In time,” Canergak agreed. There was a short pause, and then he said briskly, “I have come to a decision. I wish for you to handle the six permanently-residing specimens from now on.”
Lisa hissed silently as Professor Vartanian asked, “What is the state of those specimens?”
“The others are transients; there is some hope they could be corrected. Dr. Solsen and Dr. Maddox will handle them, but these six specimens are dangerous, and I wish them in another’s care now. They are monsters and murderers. I do not care what you do to them so long as you feel we learned something.”
“Ah, those,” the professor replied. “Beryl told me a little about them. I should like to study their files and what is on record of their histories as well, of course.”
“They shall be put at your disposal.” After the professor murmured his thanks, Canergak continued, “You will be able to start next Monday, when your office will be completed, as well as the new cells. The blocks above as they are are not satisfactory to my new vision.”
“Would it be an inconvenience for me to come in to study the files in here or in the break room in the meantime?”
“None at all; I appreciate your initiative.” Lisa thought she heard a note of complacency in Canergak’s voice. But his tone shifted quite a bit as he continued, “Now, to go settle this issue with the young woman.” She quickly picked up the bucket and moved away from the office entrance, turning her back on it as she knelt down, scrubbing away at the floor.
The back of her neck crawled as she felt Canergak’s gaze on her, but she did not react until he stood in front of her. She sat back on her heels and rose to her feet. “Sir.”
He looked at her. “Follow me.” As she did, Lisa thought back to when Canergak had first returned from his trip. She’d told him, truthfully, that there had been no fluctuations of the aetheric indicator, and he’d seem satisfied enough with that. Clearly, though, something had changed his mind toward her.
They stepped inside his office, and the door irised shut. She could never entirely suppress her feelings of apprehension when shut in here with Canergak even at the best of times. And now…
“Your transgressions,” he said rather coldly. “Can you guess what they are?”
“Trans-gressions?” Lisa asked tentatively.
Canergak sighed impatiently. “In other words, you did something wrong. I gave you permission to enter this room, but not to go into this grate.” He gestured to the pipe in the corner.
Lisa’s heart sank a little. So he had figured that out! Had the large metal Growler somehow told him? Or had she or Strifeclaw accidentally disturbed something? “I am sorry, sir, if I did wrong.” She meant to go on, but he interrupted her.
“That was the least of the transgressions.” He stalked over to the chest behind the bed, and opened it. The diamonds threw back shine from the lights in the room. “Do you know what you did wrong here?”
Lisa frowned in confusion. “No, sir.”
“You failed to take any of them.”
((To be continued…))
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