Need to Know
The mildest of sounds may stir an avalanche. The softest sigh.
J. Ramsey Hollencraft
By: T.G. Browning
1: Softest Sigh
Kevin McKinley dutifully put away the soldering iron, pulled the last floppy disk from the drive then cleared up the workbench. He’d managed to save most of the information on the damaged hard drive but it had taken a hell of a long time. He just hoped it was worth the effort. Considering it had been done as a favor and would cost the associate professor no cash, Kevin knew it had been cost effective, but in time… maybe not. It all depended upon what data he’d saved. He wasn’t sure he’d managed to get everything that had been important.
Still, the favor would serve him well. People remembered favors like this and Kevin figured it would come in handy somewhere along the line. Besides, it had been a challenge, which is the big reason he’d taken on the job. They had required a new circuit board (which he’d had to cobble together) and worse, had been an RLE drive which put a layer of coding between the information written and what was actually on the drive. Kev had learned quite a bit about RLE drives in the bargain.
He checked his wrist watch, saw it was three-thirty and suddenly felt fully as tired as he should have felt. It hadn’t seemed like that long. Taking one last look around, he snapped off the light and stretched as he opened the lab door, before stepping out into the cream colored basement and turning to lock the door.
He thought he heard the sound of another door closing behind him and cocked his head. That was weird. This particular lab was just a few feet to the right of the intersection with the physics wing, where the basement made a ‘T’ with the underground tunnel that ran to an underground parking lot. Kev turned and looked.
A man about thirty-five or forty was in the process of locking a door, though Kevin couldn’t see the door from where he stood. As he watched, the man put his keys away and turned toward Kevin and stopped after a short half-step, surprised to see him. “What… oh. Excuse me.” The man looked apologetic. “Didn’t see you there. Didn’t expect to run into anybody this late.”
Kevin nodded. The face was vaguely familiar but he was damned if he could place it. He knew he’d seen the guy around before. The man had an easy-to-remember, strong face, with deep-set eyes and a cheerful, almost cheeky look, over a sardonic mouth. The left half of the lips curled up slightly more than the right. “Same here. Just got done pulling some stuff off of a hard drive.”
“Hard drive—oh, computer. Really? Wish to Christ I had the extra money for a good one.” The man took a couple of steps, watched while Kevin turned to head to the underground lot and fell in step with him. “Not that I need one that much. I don’t really need one in my work.”
Kevin glanced at him sidelong. “What do you do?”
“Oh, a bit of this and that. Mostly office work these days. I guess you’d say I’m an auditor of sorts. Keep track of equipment and personnel. That sort of thing. Recruiter sometimes.”
“For the physics department?”
“Among others.” The man stopped. “I guess we’ve never been introduced, have we? I’m Chris Marlow.” He extended a hand.
Kevin took it and was distinctly surprised at the feel. The man’s hand was heavily callused and the knuckles seemed to be enlarged and slightly out-of-place, as if from some injury. “Kevin …”
1 2 3 4 5