“The scanning parameters are ready to go, Ms. Crow. We’re just waiting on your final adjustments to the satellite.”
The earnest young woman, one of Empire Foundation’s brighter stars recently sent down from New York, attempted but didn’t quite achieve a state of casual non-hovering behind Taz. She wished her assistant would stop with the Ms. Crow business, but it seemed hardwired into damn it, what was her name? I can’t ask again, pretty sure I can’t call her “Smells like mimeograph ink and how the hell does someone smell like that in…uh…2017?” Hardwired into the scientist’s makeup. She probably can’t help it, means it as a sign of respect or something. The constant Ms. Crows were annoying, though. Agitating. Too close to something else.
Finishing a few more delicate adjustments, Taz brushed her hair out of the way and leaned back. The most intricate ones – the ones requiring some judicious use of the hedge thorn – had been completed late last night at Granger’s Own, out of sight of curious, ambitious scientists. Ground tests have all proved true so far, but hopefully, this will fine-tune the satellite’s ability to identify and track the “walking dead” of Hill Valley. Some are painfully obvious, and it appears that many of them understood, maybe in the back of their minds, that they weren’t really connected to the world of the living anymore. For others, though, this is going to be a nasty surprise.
At least now they won’t end up getting uploaded to heaven.exe anymore. That would’ve been Granger, or Virgil, or me, too. Christ. Who came up with this shit? Factory soul farming. Save the rainforest, buy organic, make sure the essence of your being isn’t being harvested and stripped for useful materials through a loophole created by an ancient pact between colonists and fae.
“Come to beautiful Hill Valley, South Carolina. You’ll put down roots before you know it.”
“What was that, Ms. Crow?”
“Nothing Mim…I mean, sorry, I’m really sorry. What’s your name again?”
“Tanya, Ms. Crow. Tanya Chance.” The young woman offered a smile and seemed to finally relax, for the first time since arriving with the latest batch of personnel. “I was briefed on some of your memory issues, Ms. Crow. It doesn’t offend me…actually, it reminds me a little of my late grandfather.”
“Before Alzheimer’s took him, he would tell me the best stories of his years as an office assistant downtown, working for the Times. Half the time he called me by my mother’s name, the other half by her sister’s.”
“Hmm. Did you keep anything of his?”
“It’s kind of foolish, but I always carry around some of his old paperwork with the handwritten notes he made on them, back when they used mimeographs to make copies…oh! Is that why you just called me Mim just now?”
Taz nodded and shrugged, a little half grin on her own face. “So, they told you about that, too?”
“Yeah. You know, I kind of like that. I’ve never had a nickname before. Didn’t spend a lot of time hanging out with classmates; too many scholarships to try for. It paid off, though, getting a chance like this with the Empire Foundation. He would’ve been so proud, My grandfather, I mean.”
It was getting really hard to not like this girl, dark brown eyes shining and her face taking on personality, as she stepped out of the “model scientist” role and let her unrestrained self come forward.
I hope she doesn’t want to become a Contingent agent.
“Ok, Mim then. I can remember that. And can you please just call me Taz? I can’t take much more of the Ms. Crow-ing. The satellite’s all set to go, so you can let Skaar, uh, Adr, no, uh Dr. Skaar’s connections at SpaceX to expect it there for tonight’s launch.”
This is going to help. I think. Is it a benefit to actually know? Will they start counting back the days to when they should’ve died, request a backdate for their obituaries? It’s not just for them, though. Other things are coming, and nobody but a few of us need to know about the other set of hardware and scanning parameters. Nasty things are coming, and it looks like some of them have already got eyes in the sky. Maybe this will even the playing field.
Or am I playing right into someone’s hands?
Why does this suddenly feel so familiar?
(“Excellent work Miss Crow!”)
“Taz, you’re going to hurt someone!”
“Um…Ms…I mean, Taz. Are you ok? You’re not hurting anyone. It’s just the two of us here right now.”
“Oh, sorry, Mim. My mind wandered there for a sec; it takes a while for me to get out of my tinkering zone, you know?”
“Oh, yes, of course! Well, no, not really. But if it’s anything like writing a thesis, then I’m right there with you.”
The young woman offered her hand to Taz, lips curving back in a warm smile. Bright teeth. Not those teeth, though. Taz shook her head, one quick jerk to clear the cobwebs and took it, hauling herself up from the laboratory floor.
It’s going to be ok. These are good preparations. Helping ones. Not like…whatever. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they keep my crew’s asses alive this month.
Maybe Mim would like to take a walk down to the artists’ enclave, grab some fair-trade artisanal coffee, get introduced around to folks. Maybe kick a hemp balloon around with the kids, meet a psychic or a mage or tree spirit or something. Might be nice to take an afternoon off to rela-
“Oh, Taz…endra? Ms. Taz? No, just Taz is fine, got it. Did you hear about the notice sent out from HQ about keeping an eye, or nose, out for strange molds? Apparently there’s some really disturbing stuff they’re finding associated with it.”
Mold. Huh. Nope, can’t say that I’ve come across any strange mold recen-oh. Oh.