The signboard next to the door displays "Leopold Hermein" and "is out of the office". As he approaches the door recognizes him, signals its acceptance with a gentle tapping sound, pulling the bolt back. But the sign doesn't change; it knows that he doesn't like to be disturbed. A wistful smile quirks the corners of his mouth; this door knows him very well indeed. Better than most people. He can't suppress a little chuckle at that last thought.
The lab lights have already switched on, blinds have angled to block the direct sun that he finds distracting. The lab knows him, too. His bag goes in the desk chair that he never sits on, his red notebook and pencil on the table, him on the stool in front of his main display. Last night's results are already there, and. . . disappointing. Not bad, no, but not nearly what's needed.
He rubs his face with both hands, lets out a long breath. All right, time to try the new alignment, see if it's any better. The simulations say no, but he's learned that they can't really be trusted.
The new entry goes on a fresh page of the notebook.
April 1, 75:
Minimal improvement on last nightly run. Best sample +0.2, mean +0.038.
Align 37-37-38 and 37-37-40 unstable.
Align 36-38-41 for tonight,
He looks up, peering through the front of a glass-door storage case at the end of the bench. Damn. Only enough raw polymer for one sample tonight.
Making new polymer batch for tomorrow.
Will do half with +5% catalyst.
Eleven hours later, he closes the notebook, wiping a spot of gooey polymer off the page with his sleeve. The new samples are locked into the oven, there are two carboys of raw material for tomorrow, neatly labeled. For some reason his display is offline, but it doesn't matter, today's results aren't worth uploading anyway, and everything else is already there. He doesn't even have a reason to keep this notebook, just some link with the past. He likes the feeling of his pencil on the page, that's enough.
A tone sounds, seemingly in the air about a foot from his right ear. He speaks - the first word he's said since waking up - "Hello?"
"Hey, Leo. Done for the day?"
"Oh, hi Chris. Yeah, pretty much. Just gonna to lock up and get out of here."
"Awesome. How about coming down for pizza? The network is all weirded out here, so we decided it should be pizza night."
His brow furrows for a moment. More network problems? That's really weird. But he shrugs; not his problem. "Sure, sounds great. I'm pretty hungry."
"Oh, don't tell me you skipped lunch? And probably breakfast too, right?"
He smiles. "Yeah, well. Anyway pizza sounds good. I'll be there in about twenty minutes, okay?"
"All right, see ya! (tick)"
Another tone, and silence. There was a weird little crackle at the end, there. Almost like a real, old fashioned phone being hung up. Oh well, maybe some new gimmick that Chris has installed. Always one for the gadgets.
He gathers the notebook, pencil, bag. Looks at the clock - just about seven. Good time for dinner. The door taps, he pulls it open, and just as he looks around the lab one more time, all the lights flash, and go out. . .
Some other time, much later:
[06/23 11:40pm] <NBLUE> Petty Officer Stanlygirl sits in the square with a couple of sticks, some of her homemade paper, a pot of glue and a large ball of string.She shuffles through the paper seeking just the right shade/color/pattern.
[06/23 11:45pm] <NBLUE> Petty Officer Stanlygirl chooses gold, for his heart. Stan pulls a piece of cloth from her backpack. A red dog's bandanna, printed with white bones. She wipes her eyes on it, then tears it into wide strips.
[06/23 11:57pm] <NBLUE> Petty Officer Stanlygirl thinks of the talks she'd had with Hermein as she assembles the kite, his kindness, his enjoyment of life, his sorrow over his divorce, his worry over an injured puppy, his joy in Heidi. . .
[06/24 12:01am] <NBLUE> Petty Officer Stanlygirl adds all these thoughts and feelings to the kite. She heads for the dwellings, for the hills where the mansions are situated, taking the completed kite with her. She picks up her pace, testing.
[06/24 12:03am] <NBLUE> Petty Officer Stanlygirl launches the kite as she reaches the crest of a hill. It dips, then catches the wind and begins to rise. She pays out more string, playing it then letting it soar.
[06/24 12:06am] <NBLUE> Petty Officer Stanlygirl snaps the string with her mind and lets the kite fly free, along with all that she put into it, the good, the bad, the joy and sorrow, all that was her relationship with Hermein, all that he shared
[06/24 12:11am] <NBLUE> Petty Officer Stanlygirl says, "Be free, my friend, be free. Don't let our sorrow hold you, be free."