Tales from Site-91 - Part III.
rating: +2+x


April 7th, 2002

Working at the Foundation generally comes with a certain amount of secrecy, as is clear to everyone. It is not unusual that even people working for the Foundation are not familiar with everything. Some secrets are too important for everyone to know, some are extremely sensitive and others too dangerous. But that rarely stops bored researchers who want to know the truth…

Dr. Uriáš Ike has just passed through the corridor on the second floor of the Site. It was Sunday afternoon, and he was just returning to his modest office from lunch in the Site cafeteria. He'd been working in Site-91 for barely three quarters of a year, and as the head of special projects, whatever that meant. Virtually no one, except perhaps Director Slavík, had any idea what Dr. Ike actually did.

Whenever someone asked, he would reply with a friendly, "Sorry, but that's classified," or "I'd like to talk about it, but it's better if we leave it alone."

The only thing people knew was his involvement in several tests with various anomalies at the Site. His name appeared in many test records or documentation, usually only in a supervisory role. That might have been enough for someone like Dr. Strobl at the site labs. But Dr. Arlington's curiosity was getting the better of her. She was intrigued by the mysterious doctor and so one day she decided to watch what he was doing.

As a result, she discovered that Dr. Ike's schedule included an hour break every Sunday, during which he always went to the elevator in the main office building. He always called the elevator, got on and went somewhere, but even though the curious doctor tried every floor, she could never find it. For that one hour, it was almost as if Dr. Ike had disappeared off the face of the earth. And then he always got off the elevator as if nothing had happened.

She confided in her colleague, Dr. Erwick, just as Ike passed them. "He's just coming from lunch. Two more hours." Lisa Arlington was a brilliant young scientist, but sometimes she focused on a silly thing and clung to it like a tick to a dog's fur.

Or so Chris saw it. "Isn't that possible? Are you really still following him?" He couldn't help it because she'd been bugging him about it for weeks.

Lisa guessed correctly from his tone that Chris wasn't happy with that and decided to playfully nudge him. "Oh come on, I hope you wouldn't be jealous."

"I'm not jealous," he replied breathlessly, "but you should stop. You could get in trouble."

Dr. Arlington usually wore a shy and timid expression, which was why it was always such a surprise to Chris how much she dared to take risks without being afraid to take the initiative. A lot of men would sell their souls for a woman like that. It usually cost Chris the price of one lunch or dinner a week.

"Come on, I'm just curious." With those words, she put on a seductive expression to soften her friend. But he wasn't going to give in that easily. This wasn't an argument about the edibility of olives, or whether cats or dogs were worse.

Chris pondered that. Of course, he also wondered where Ike disappeared to each week, but he didn't like the way Lisa went about things. "You know what? If you promise me you'll quit, I'll do everything in my power to get it out of him."

Lisa was quite surprised by that. She wasn't used to that kind of fervor from Chris, and she kind of liked it. She nodded. "Very well then, Mr. Psychologist. I promise."

Erwick sighed. Lisa's temper was as fickle as the weather, but one thing could always be counted on with her. When she made a promise, she always kept it.

Then she grabbed him by the tie and pulled him a little closer to her so she could whisper in his ear. "But then what if I'm jealous that you're spending time with him?"

As if reading her mind, he allowed himself to be pulled into his office where he quickly removed his shirt and helped Lisa do the same. He suppressed thoughts of what he'd signed up for and for a moment thought of nothing but Lisa Arlington.

Dr. Ike adjusted the security card pinned to his shirt, waited for the elevator doors to open, and stepped out into the Site-91 corridor. He had completed his hour-long routine check of his special project and honestly couldn't wait to work on something else. The weight of the secret he'd hidden in the depths of his soul fell from his heart until he had to bring it up again next week. Now he had just walked past the offices of a few of his colleagues and nearly had a cardiac arrest when he nearly bumped into one of them around the first corner.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Ike blurted out hastily, but the other doctor was having none of it.

"Nothing happened." The young researcher gave him a friendly smile. Ike looked at his colleague's name tag, which read Dr. Christopher Erwick. He spoke again. "You're Dr. Ike, aren't you? You're fairly new here, if I'm not mistaken."

The two doctors occasionally passed each other in the hallways, but not enough to remember each other, or at least Erwick was betting on it. Besides, he had one more ace up his sleeve, not counting his natural charm. Ike hadn't expected the other doctor to want to see him. "Well, I've been here for a few months now, but yes. And I don't think we've been introduced." He held out his hand. "Dr. Uriáš Ike, Special Projects."

Erwick accepted his proffered hand. "Dr. Christopher Erwick, regional psychiatrist, humanoid wing." They shook hands and the two parted down the corridor.

"Tell me, Doctor, have you noticed any odd behavior from anyone at the Site lately?"

The question completely threw Chris off guard, but he didn't let it show. "Feel free to give me a hug. You'd have to be more specific about the oddities," he laughed lightly, "this is a Foundation Site. Strange things are the order of the day here. Have you heard of our regional game of tag?"

Ike frowned strangely, from which Erwick realized he hadn't heard. "Well, you know it's kind of a personal anomaly of ours here at the Site. It even has a designation in the database, but I can't remember the number right now. It's a weak memetic effect that slowly pushes a person to pass the 'baba' on to someone else."

Dr. Ike thought this was very unprofessional and his mind immediately began to consider the ways in which something like this could be dangerous. "It doesn't seem like something that HQ would approve of."

"It's tradition. This anomalous game has been around longer than anyone can remember. Besides, it's allowed under the pretense that it trains personnel to resist memetic influences. Personally, I find it a bit ridiculous, but at least it's good for breaking the ice."

Dr. Ike broke out of his reverie and paused. "What do you mean?" He found himself still howling at Erwick, but it was more out of habit than because he wanted to. "Um, sorry. What do you mean?"

"There's nothing to worry about. I don't have the tag. I'm just saying it's a good way to meet someone. I think she's circulating among the cafeteria staff right now. I'd be careful at lunch." He adjusted his card just as they reached the humanoid wing. "I'm afraid I'll have to say goodbye here. Anyway, it was nice to meet you. I guess I'll see you around."

Ike said his goodbyes as well and made his way to his office on the other side of the building. On the way, he thought about how strangely pleasant it was to have a conversation with someone at the Site. He'd been so caught up in his work lately that he hadn't given much thought to socializing, but Dr. Erwick was right. An anomalous game of tag sounded like a good way to start a conversation with someone.

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