The Thursday of the Year

It’s November, and nothing good ever happens in November. Even the dead have come and gone, and the rest of the year sits outside your window like a dull grey shadow, waiting.

November is like the Thursday of the year, the day you can already feel the weekend, but you still have to get through a bit more.

The last months before the year ends always do terrible things to us. They definitely do to me, as they gave me some of the worst depressed weeks I’ve had in a while. It was the kind of depressive that makes you do crazy things like throwing all your cutlery and knives into the sink and all your shopping bags and dish rags on the floor and you have to fight not to break your dishes against the next wall. Why? No idea. But at that moment, the destructive force is all that’s keeping you alive. Needless to say, I had a bad week. And I could get on meds again but I can’t find the strength to go sit in a doctor’s office for five hours just to get a referral. I need all my energy to work and I really want to keep this job. In two months I’m eligible for vacation time. Maybe then.

I’m also thinking of shelving my whole master thesis thing and just getting a second job. I feel like financial security is going to be more important in the future than some fancy degree that’s not good for anything anyway. Also, the future scares me.

The most powerful nation in the world has just elected a man who has a trial for fraud this month, a trial for child sexual abuse next month, and about 50 other ones pending. Has said the worst things to come out of a human’s mouth since, well you know. And somehow this month has proven that you can be a lying, tax evading, racist, sexist asshole with no knowledge of politics or diplomacy, and you can still become president of the USA is you’re only white and rich enough. The turn to the right is almost completed in Europe, too. Science fiction was wrong, totalitarian governments are not our future. In the future, we choose our own destruction freely.

And you might say, if you’re not in the US, why doe sit matter to you? I dunno, why shouldn’t it? I’m on the same planet as those people. And now we here halfway across the globe have an election set for Dec 4, if it happens. And then what? Aye, and then what?

I feel like I’m living in the back story of a SF novel. “This was when it all changed”. Politicians rob you, corporations own you. I feel like I should learn how to hack and move to an underground sort of life, but I can barely get my virus scanner to work. I don’t have any skills for a hard world. I’m not smart enough. I wonder if this is remotely how people felt back in 1933, if anyone had a bad feeling about this. I’m wondering if anyone is seeing a pattern now. Makes you want to say, have fun, I’m out.

If the Canadian immigration website crashed, you know how bad it is. What about the people who didn’t vote for that guy? Why don’t they count for anything?

And it’s not the end of the world. That’s the terrible thing, it’s never the end of the world. It keeps right on keeping on, endlessly marching, and we’re just dragging along with no way out.

Julian Gough and the Almost Complete Absence of Irish Sci-Fi

Was at a reading of Julian Gough the other day, an author I had legit never heard of before. Well, more or less. I knew that he was an Irish author who looks like he’s hanging on to the hippie bandwagon by his last fingernail, and that he has a penchant for making silly faces and taking even sillier photos. But that was it. I kinda regret that now because this dude is hilarious! Might give his writing a chance now, even though a quick google search revealed his association with a band that had an extra silly name even by indie band name standards, and I judge people on their band names. Harshly. (I don’t really remember what it is now, come to think of it. Something silly, like Flambéed Agnostics or something.)

Anyway, Gough is an Irish writer, and if you’re a student of literature and you hear the words “Irish” and “writer” in one sentence, you groan in agony as you receive vivid and terrible flashbacks to the rightfully deceased James Joyce. Gough isn’t like ol’ Jimmy boy, thank his Catholic god.

So Gough goes on to talk, quite humorously and with a healthy dose  of sarcasm, about “authentic Irish writing” and his lack thereof, and how there are more people outside of Ireland identifying as Irish than there are inside of Ireland, a mini rant about the veneration of Peig Sayers in Ireland. Then he goes into all the bullshit standards and tropes that go into “authentic Irish writing”, the kind that actually gets published like by the New Yorker. It’s pretty much always the same, poverty and misery and exile and  alcoholism and an inability to speak English (looking at you Peig Sayers!). And funerals in the rain! Lots of those! No authentic Irish writing without a funeral in the rain! And perverted priests! And terrible Family Secrets (TM)! And towards the end he mentions the almost complete lack of Irish science fiction because Irish writing is much too focused on Ireland and history and introspection of, you guessed it, life in Ireland, and not enough on the rest of the planet, much less the rest of the universe.

And I am, of course, gone. Completely. ‘Cause you know… sci-fi and me is like, get the toast ’cause this my jam. A stroke of luck had it that Gough was through listing his twenty-three or twenty-six ironic commandments for writing* and we were already into the discussion when my brain started banging against the inside of my skull. I was having a hard time not to unleash my trademark roaring laughter during the reading (Yes, he’s that funny! We found a funny Irish guy who doesn’t write about funerals in the rain!), but at that point, it was all I could do not to choke as my thoughts boarded a bobby car and ran away with it, honking the horn all the way. Why is there no Irish sci-fi? I tried to imagine Irish sci-fi, and all I could come up with were parodies and stereotypes.

Imagine… Earth makes first contact with aliens. These aliens are green, like Irish shamrocks. The Irish befriend the aliens and they in turn help them to transport the entire island of Ireland to a distant planet so they can live in peace as far away from the English as possible. They do live there peacefully and still curse the English, until one day, a good three or four generations later, a young child asks “What’s an English?” and once that child grows up mounts an expedition to old Earth to uncover the secret of the English…

Imagine… Firefly, I hope you watch Firefly, if you don’t you need to watch Firefly… nine Irish people living on a space ship called the Millennium Tiger that’s shaped like a shamrock…

Imagine… what with the Irish habit of emigrating, space is just the next logical step. The Irish are the first to leave Earth once space travel goes mainstream. And they found a colony on Mars, where they can have funerals in the Martian rain, and terrible family secrets upon the De Valera space station that’s cruising about Nova Eire in geostationary orbit, while back on Earth the Scottish are calling dibs on the now deserted territory of the island…

Imagine… the Irish branch of the Catholic church boarding a gigantic vessel. Their five year mission: To find god among the stars and prove them pesky Protestants wrong for all eternity…

Imagine… a day of strolling, like Ulysses, through a gigantic futuristic city, monologuing as you go…

See? Doesn’t work. What makes a novel or a story Irish, even? Is it the style? Is it the funerals in the rain? Does it need to have Irish people in it? Does it need to be set in Ireland? And how does it work if you throw space in the mix? Or the future? Irish writers apparently can hardly handle the existence of the internet. Is it even possible to write authentic Irish sci-fi?

Lots of debate is going on about Authentic Irish Writing (TM), about 1.5% include Authentic Irish Writers (TM) because pretty much all of them are dead. Authentic Irish Writing (TM) is a specific type of Irish writing that usually contains Joyce and Yeats, and much less Wilde because 1) SINNER! Sinning sinner who sins!, 2) not enough about Ireland and family secrets and funerals in the rain. Gough, who like most Irish writers does not live in Ireland anymore, will in all likeliness not be counted among the elite of Authentic Irish Writers (TM) either, though what with the way Irish writers are usually only recognised post-mortem we’ll just have to wait this one out. Maybe he’ll even write us some sci-fi before that happens. Meanwhile I’ll amuse myself with trying to come up with Irish sci-fi myself. Kind of hard, that. I mean, we all just know that any Irish space endeavours would fail after a week due to lack of alcohol supplies, right?

And not to stereotype, but it’s all the English’s fault. No one knows how, but it’s like 600% certain.

*Which can be basically summed up as “Thou shalt not write boring shit we’ve all read before”, and I’m sure he’d agree with this paraphrasing.

Tuesday at a Space Port Bar

Okay, so three people walk into a bar and recognize the bartender. “Here, I know you!”, says one of them. “You’re this joke! I’m your biggest fan!” This Joke is humbled and mumbles something about how nice it is to meet fans and then regales the three people with stories from when This Joke waited tables at the Last Supper because that’s how old it is.

So I’m filling in the blank… but in a different way.

Tuesday night, according to the chronometer; no point in trying to determine night or day in the endless dark of space through which the Kennedy Space Port twirled around New California in geostationary orbit.

Kennedy Verhoeven, who had heard absolutely every joke concerning both her first name and her work place, was tending the bar, wearing a pair of hologram glasses that made her look like Harra Lawrence in Gone Days because when she had woken up for work that day she had found herself disenchanted with both her wardrobe and her face. Not that anyone would have thought she actually was Harra Lawrence, because acclaimed 4D movie stars wouldn’t be caught dead mixing drinks in a third rate space port bar. Kennedy was also not exactly ecstatic about the prospect of sharing the shift with Jessa, who was a nice enough girl and an okay waitress but who had the annoying habit of relating boring pieces of celebrity gossip every time she returned to the bar for orders, as if she had to bargain for her customer’s drinks offering Cynthia Zottegem’s pregnancy rumours in exchange.

The crowd was normal sized for a weekday, two or three early drunks, a couple Earth soldiers breaking curfew (which meant that at any minute now a higher-up from the army might come barging in to verbally cut them back down to size, and Kennedy had already readied her microcam to record it for her blog), a few business people, haggard-looking, waiting for their next flight to be ready for boarding, the rest station workers come in for after work drinks that somehow always got prolonged. There were a couple shady figures floating around or seated in the corners, but that was to be expected.

Three newcomers approached the bar, two guys and a girl, none of them could be even in their mid-twenties yet. So much for tips, she thought as she sauntered over.

“Well, that didn’t work,” she overheard one of the guys say. Then the other one piped up.

“Hey, Harra Lawrence! What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?”

“Say please, for once,” Kennedy shot back.

“Shut up, Drew, Christ, can’t take you anywhere,” the other guy said, evidently the older one of the two. “What’ll twenty credits buy us?”

“Andalusian beer,” Kennedy said and meant it.

“Andalusia on Earth or Andalusia the moon?”

“Moon.”

“Damn. Guess it’ll have to do. Two Andalusian beers, please.”

The young man named Drew meanwhile was busy harassing the girl they had come in with, who was busy checking something on her computer screen. “C’mon, Marnie, you can’t let us drink alone. What’ll you have? D’you have any money left?”, he added hopefully.

“Go away, Drew, busy,” the young woman said, typing something.

“This guy bothering you?”, Kennedy asked, one eyebrow raised.

“Yeah, since birth. His birth that is.” She slipped her computer inside her coat pocket and tapped the bar twice for the drinks menu to light up. “Art, Drew, you guys get a table or something, I’ll be a while.”

Kennedy brought their beers, received no tip, and watched them disappear to a table near the stairs. “What’ll it be?”, she asked the girl, idly giving the bar a quick sweep and wondering why the young brunette was hanging out with two idiots like that.

The girl, Marnie, looked around quickly, then back to the menu as if indecisive. “I got a hundred.” She slipped a credit chip out of her pocket.

“Coma’s not on the menu.”

“Is enlightenment?”

Kennedy started polishing a glass as if she wasn’t even talking to the other woman. “Maybe. What d’you want?”

“Know anyone in here interested in some merchandise? Tax-free, y’know.”

Kennedy glanced to the side. “Leather jacket at the other end of the bar.”

“What’s their drink? Can you send them one from me?”

Under the dish towel Kennedy rubbed her thumb and forefinger together in the international sign for ‘motivate me’.

“Christ. Twenty.”

“Seventy.”

“Fifty.”

“Done,” Kennedy said, pocketing the credit chips.

Kennedy knew the drinker with the leather jacket, came in here most nights, nursed her gin for an hour at least, tipped regularly if not exactly generously, but you didn’t work in a bar like this without picking up on some things. She put a fresh glass of gin in front of leather jacketed arms. “Greetings from the brunette,” she said briefly, cocking her head in Marnie’s direction.

Leather Jacket looked at the bartender, then at the girl at at far side of the bar, with a face so nondescript and common it might have been the result of hologram glasses because this level of average could just not be real. “I’m a married woman,” she said, sounding just the slightest bit sarcastic.

“Not that kinda drink,” Kennedy whispered before walking away to the shelves and pretending to be busy with the order screen. She could hear Marnie move over to Leather Jacket and some snippets of quiet conversation between the two business women. She decided that this had probably been the highlight of her shift and it wasn’t even halfway through.

Business was picking up at the bar. A shuttle arrived outside, bringing in a dozen or so passengers waiting for their connection flight, followed by a throng of late-shifters from the docks. Jessa barely managed to get a sentence in about Ron Fischer’s new hair cut which even holo glasses couldn’t fix.

Kennedy spent a good ten minutes trying to divine the order of an attaché to the Andalusian ambassador, but they managed, communicating mainly through the use of gesture, two arms on one side of the bar and five on the other. Jessa chimed in with news about Esla Chang and her plans to adopt all the poodles on Mars according to The Star, a newspaper which wasn’t what anyone with a functioning brain would call a reliable source and which Jessa read religiously.

The crowd thinned again with the next ship announcement. It left in its wake a the regular scattering of people. A small man in a suit was leaning against the bar on one elbow and started to snore; the army boys were still at their table and disappointingly no one came to rouse them and drag them back to their barracks ship; a woman with a briefcase and black tie was drinking like the world was going to end without showing any sign of the effects of alcohol.

“You sure you want another?”, Kennedy asked cautiously.

“Yeah, one for every idiot I had to meet today,” Black Tie said, sounding so sober it was scary.

“Riiight.” Kennedy delivered the drink and fled to the other end of the bar where Jessa nattered on about the many love affairs of New Punk idol Jimmy Phan. Kennedy nodded absently; that just wasn’t right, being sober after six whiskeys. Did this woman have the implant or something?

At this point, Marnie’s brothers came trudging back to the bar and joined the girl; Leather Jacket had apparently left. “… that’s how you do it, you idiots. I swear, if we didn’t share genetics…” Kennedy heard her say, with the tone of someone who knew all too well that they were the one who inherited the family’s supply of brains.

The chronometer chimed to let Kennedy and Jessa know to get their tails out of the place and clock out because the boss would rather get bitten by an Andalusian than pay overtime. Parvati, Jo, and Luke arrived on time to take over and after some polite small talk Kennedy was out on the halls, pursued by Jessa.

“What says we drive into town tomorrow?”, she twittered cheerfully. “Do a real girls’ day! Brunch and all.”

“Sure,” Kennedy said, knowing she would regret it, while planning out her next Confessions from the Space Port blog entry in her head. “Your sister coming, too?”

“I’ll message her. Y’know, you should really upload Yvette Coa on your glasses, she’d suit you.”

“Uh-huh.” Maybe a good way to spend some of her new hundred-and-fifty.

Long Live Evadne Pauley

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Mom says Mrs Pauley had always lived here. She says always like it’s an actual eternity, but the records say forty years. Mom also says I’m not supposed to dig around the Altersgate Community records, but it’s not my fault they don’t have decent ICE around them.

I’ve seen Mrs Pauley for as long as I can remember and she was always pretty annoying, bustling around at baking sales, harassing people to join the community crafting circle, babysitting pretty much every child in the neighbourhood, never being quiet in the library, because her hearing was going and she didn’t have the money for implants, and generally she was just there, so much I thought she didn’t have a home at first, and then I thought she didn’t want to go home because she was just never in there. She was there like the trees along main road, just sort of there like Henrik’s Waffles, you don’t notice until they’re not there anymore.

But I’ve only ever really met her twice, once when I was seven and she patted me on the head and called me a “strange little thing”, and three months ago when mom and dad dragged me along to give our condolences. I had only known Mr Pauley as the slightly grumpy old man smoking like it was the last of days every time you saw him. Mom told me to keep away from him. Because of the smoke, she always said, smoking’s bad. Apparently, he didn’t trust the new cancer meds and then it was too late. So he died. Kind of like grandpa, only Mr Pauley was cremated. I think he would have liked that, old Mr Pauley.

They’ve been standing there arguing for a good ten minutes now and it’s getting heated. Mom always says not to shout when I’m angry. You shout, you lose. Adults shout all the time. They’re probably going to shout all weekend long.

Mom and dad pass me on the steps and tell me to go inside, they’ll see what they can do. They always try to see what they can do, sometimes I think they need glasses. I hurry upstairs because I can get a better look from the hallway window anyway. I hear the front door lock automatically. Mom and dad do that sometimes because they’re afraid I’ll run off and do something stupid. That’s what they say, anyway. So I just watch. The landlord is red in the face, a face like beetroot. I snap a picture. His face is funny. The police officer is just sort of standing there, like he doesn’t want to drag a little old lady into his car, hovering by the sidewalk. Mrs Pauley is really kinda small, about as tall as I am now. Her hair is all grey, like she has no time to dye it like Mom. I see mom and dad getting nearer now. The police officer seems very relieved somehow. The landlord is going to explode.

I sleep in the living room today so Mrs Pauley can sleep in my room. I knew mom and dad would do this. I already took my computer and a spare blanket downstairs before they even came in. Mrs Pauley is in the kitchen sobbing into her tea. I hear mom shushing the teamaker because it’s asking if the tea is really that bad. Mom is trying to comfort Mrs Pauley. Dad is pacing, asking a million questions. What about her boys, he asks. Isn’t there anyone she can ask for help? Why is she not eligible for benefits anyway? She should at the very least be receiving a widow’s pension. There must be something wrong with the automatic system, he says. He’s going to call the bureau in the morning, he says.

Mrs Pauley doesn’t know. All addresses are in her computer and she doesn’t know how to use it, it has a password, her husband used to do all the computer stuff, and now she can’t get in her house anyway and it’s in there. A grown woman who can’t use a computer, I think, sighing. They teach us that since preschool. But Mrs Pauley really is old. Mom says when she was my age her computer only had about 8 GB RAM, and Mrs Pauley is even older.

I’m in the living room doing the maths exercises mom uploaded to my laptop before she went to make tea. Sometimes I wonder if mom thinks I’m stupid. Like the exercises somehow stop me from hearing. Like she doesn’t want me to hear. Like she thinks I don’t understand, but I’m not a child anymore, I’ve had my period last fall, I’m practically grown up. What I don’t understand is why no one does anything useful. Adults just don’t think right.

They all trudge to bed, finally. They don’t know I’m still up, and I don’t want them to. I throw the blankets off and reach for the laptop. Audio mute, going around the security protocols mom and dad had installed. They still run this child safety program on my laptop like I’m five, no access after 9 pm, no access to adult content websites, no this, no that. Any idiot can disable it, and I’m not half an idiot despite what Mr Hodgins, our computer science teacher, thinks. I just don’t want to let him know what I can do because he’ll go blabbing and then they won’t let me do anything.

Getting into the city records is so easy they should be sued. Mrs Pauley actually has a first name, it’s Evadne, and she had a lot of children, six of them, all boys. I don’t know how she could stand that. The youngest is twenty-four, twice as old as I am. I find him first because he moved last. Two of them are still in the city, the other four moved across the country. I can find four of them. That’s enough, I guess. They stopped all contact with their parents when they moved out. I’m guessing it was because of Mr Pauley. Mr Pauley wasn’t very nice, and not just because of the smoking. Not sure I can convince the boys to contact their mother again, but I’ll try anyway.

Four mails later, all with the picture of the semi-exploding landlord in front of Mrs Pauley’s house, I go to sleep. It’s up to the adults now. That’s what’s wrong with the world.

We’re having lunch with Mrs Pauley when the door announces we have unidentified visitors. Mom goes to see. Mrs Pauley hears their voices and rushes out. Dad follows. I give it a few seconds, stealing some of dad’s lasagne, then go to see.

It’s two of them, and both are hugging their mom. They came by magnetic rail as soon as they got the message. Mrs Pauley cries, people do that a lot when they’re happy, it’s really kind of confusing. Mom starts hugging me, because mom gets emotional like that. Dad is baffled, but that’s his usual state. How did they know, he asks, he was trying to find their numbers. One of them shrugs. This is the slightly-not-so-youngest, I think, he looks like late twenties. The youngest son looks at him, then at me. He looks almost exactly like Corey Nover in Lost in Time, all sparkly eyes and wild hair, just missing the spacesuit. He has three days worth of hair on his face and looks at dad and says, the community board e-mailed them. Then he looks at me again and winks. At least I think he winks. I blush. Why am I blushing? He was probably just blinking. I don’t think he knows, I hid the IP trace. It should have looked like the community board. My face is burning.

The adults go to the kitchen, the situation is under control, and I can probably have my room back tonight or tomorrow. I trail behind. They’re doing conversation now, dad is prepping more lasagne and mom does the usual so-what-do-you-do with Mrs Pauley’s sons. The Corey Nover clone looks at me for a split second before he says applied informatics. He winks, this time he definitely winks.

I excuse myself smoothly and run upstairs and hide in the bathroom. My face is red as beetroot. I can never leave this room again. Not even to see how these idiot grown-ups are going to sort out Mrs Pauley’s housing problem. I’ll just stay in here until my face goes back to normal, which is never, so I’ll just stay in here until I die.

Mom knocks and says to stop being rude and come downstairs again. I leave the bathroom but my face is still glowing like a traffic light. Mom asks what’s the matter with me like she doesn’t know.

I pass the rest of the day in silence, which mom comments on and I hate her for it. They boys are going to look for a hotel and come back in the morning to help Mrs Pauley with the bureaucracy stuff, they say. They thank my parents about a thousand times, and so does Mrs Pauley.

I sleep on the sofa again. When mom and dad finally leave, I switch on my computer. I’m sure I did a good job on the IP erasure. No way Mrs Pauley’s Corey Nover could have known. There’s one new mail in my inbox. Probably Kate from English class, she always asks me a million stupid things because she can’t get any assignments right. But it’s not Kate. It’s a mail telling me in detail where I went wrong and how to completely mask an e-mail. He covered the trace for me and won’t tell anyone I hacked myself into the community board but next time I’m on my own, he writes. I should consider computer science when I’m done with school, he writes. There’s no name, but I know it’s Informatics Corey Nover. I already hate him, thinking he’s so smart with his computer science degrees and his eyes twinkling like stars and his gorgeous hair.

I switch the computer off and hide under the blanket. I’ll just stay under here until I die.

It Builds Character, They Said, or A Study in Steel

Considering this year is only four months old, I can’t say I’ve had much chance to get to know anyone new, much less anyone interesting. I don’t have a new partner, certainly not a new child, and definitely not a friendly barista because a) I’m too broke for fancy ass lattes and b) everyone in this rotten city is rude as all hell and I don’t even want to know what happened there.

Sooo it looks like we have to do fiction. How about something with robots. Do you like robots? I like robots.

——-

The clock above the giant white double doors struck seven and exactly one second later Dr. Cassian entered the surgical ward. Jay had been expecting her, as he did every day. Today her black hair was tied back tightly and the automatic scanner on his utility belt indicated increased heart rate as she came towards him with long strides, her work computer tucked firmly under one arm, green medical scrubs crinkled around her boxy frame as if she had put them on in a hurry. “Morning, Jay,” she said, her tone trying for nonchalance and failing.

“Good morning, Dr. Cassian. You are stressed.”

Jay was not easily fooled, he was an excellent observer. She didn’t even know why she kept trying. The faked nonchalance made room for sarcasm. “Tell me something I don’t know. Full scan.”

Jay nodded obediently, tapping on the flat screen of his report card. “You are fit to work, however I must remind you of the importance of sleep.”

“Yeah, then I’ll remind you we’re understaffed.” She cocked her dark head to the side, indicating he should follow her. Dr. Cassian walked over to the medical dispenser machine, inserting her work ID and pressing buttons on the small screen at the side. “Anything from the night shift?”

“No unusual occurrences. Patient Vallius Sbornak in room 203 complained about pain in his new hip. He was given non-morphine based medication. He did not seem happy about that.”

Dr. Cassian sighed. She had had a feeling this patient would try to get high during his stay here, there was always at least one. She half listened to Jay rattling off details about her other patients, all of them doing very well, as she was becoming more and more annoyed with the medical dispenser; the machine kept refusing her order.

“Your schedule for today has been sent to your personal computer. Would you like to go over it?”

“Yeah, sure,” she said absently, still punching in numbers. Was there something wrong with her ID card? “Work, you stupid thing,” she murmured.

Jay watched her for a few polite seconds while continuing with his report, observing the features of her sun-tanned face growing ever crosser, the bone structure beneath suggesting Easter European ancestry. “You have already reached the tolerance limit for jumpstart this week, Dr. Cassian.”

“What? That’s not even possible!”, she exclaimed, her thin dark eyebrows raised so high they nearly vanished into her hairline.

“I can send the report to your computer,” Jay offered helpfully.

“No, thanks.” Dr. Cassian massaged the bridge of her long nose. “What about a boost shot?”

“Not with your family history of cardiac arrest.”

“Condensed caffeine?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Coffee? Is coffee still okay? Please tell me coffee is okay.”

“Coffee is perfectly fine.”

It was going to be a long day and it would feel even longer without enhancers, but coffee was better than nothing. “Great, in that case get me the biggest cup they have in the cafeteria and have them send it to my position, I’m going to do my rounds now. See you later, Jay.”

Jay opened another window on his report card and tapped in her order. “I suggest I write you down for a day off tomorrow.”

“Understaffed!”, she shouted over her shoulder.

“I have forwarded the suggestion to management. The average waiting time for a reply on a non-urgent issue is currently set at six hours.”

Sometimes she felt like yelling at him. How could he keep his manner so calm even as he was deciding things over her head? He was infuriating sometimes. Dr. Cassian took a deep breath. She shouldn’t take it out on him. He meant well. At least she assumed that he did. After all, that was what he was here for. It was probably for the best that he didn’t look human, or else she wouldn’t have been able to hold back. Yelling at humans was easy. Yelling at robotic hospital assistants was futile at best, and his svelte metal frame and rectangular digital eyes were a good reminder of this. It saved her energy and by god, she needed that energy today.

She booted her work computer and went over her schedule. Oh yes. It was going to be a very long day.

Jay meanwhile was greeting head nurse Royce, coming in uncharacteristically late. He made the mistake of commenting on it.

“Don’t you give me any of that, J3. Full scan,” Dr. Cassian heard her say before she rounded the corner.

——

Yeah, I’m really not one for description. Any thoughts?