Emily’s shirt stuck to her back, with that uncomfortable feeling of sweat that had trickled down. Her pants felt like sausage casings as she stood in the gorgeous lobby, waiting for her room key. This vacation had been a long time coming, and getting here was a nightmare. Plane, bus, taxi. It had sounded easy, and technically, it wasn’t hard, but the heat and the foreignness had made every step seem dire, as if she couldn’t recover if one thing along the steps went wrong.
“Here is your key, madam,” the small woman behind the counter said and smiled. “The lifts are just to the left, over there,” she finished, pointing with her whole hand.
Grabbing her rolling suitcase, and readjusting the bag on her shoulder, she took the key and smiled in return. The lobby really was nice, with a huge bouquet just at the entrance. The space was vast and cool. Those were real flowers too. Gentle music played, the instrumental kind where the notes were indistinguishable, yet somehow lulling. There was a bar further along and then huge windows facing sheer, green lushness.
This trek didn’t feel worth it yet, but it would be—once she got these ankle high boots off. In her planning, they had seemed the best options to deal with both the cold and home and the warmth here, but her feet were sweltering.
The lift enclosed her in darkness for a moment, again with the soft music and the gold and dark mirrors around her. It was nice. The floor counter was lit up with green numbers, ticking over as she ascended. Everything was nice, which it should be. It wasn’t the cheapest option, but she wanted to relax in a bit of luxury. So the vacation was a little shorter than she would have planned otherwise, but she hoped it was worth it.
Plush carpet led her to her room and it was utterly silent down the long hall. Rearranging her bag, which she’d haphazardly shoved her coat into, she pressed the card to the plate and was met with the gratifying click that unlocked the door.
Sheer coolness met her as she walked in, the bag falling awkwardly from her shoulder, freeing her of the burden she’d hauled with her the entire way. She dropped everything and quickly took off her boots. Her body was still warm, but the coolness caressed her.
There was a large bed with crisp, white linen. A small sofa and a table, then a desk and more chairs on the balcony outside. Beyond it was the lush greenness she’d come for, but for right now she luxuriated in the cool of the room. As soon as she opened the door, that heat would come in, and she’d want that, but just not yet.
Sitting down on the bed, she leaned back and let the crisp sheets meet her. The room smelled nice, like clean sheets and a hint of … was that iris? It was so faint, but it was welcoming. She felt like the dirtiest thing in the room. Maybe she should have a shower now, so she could enjoy all this properly, with clean hair, clean body, and the soft vacation clothes she’d packed in her suitcase. She wanted to put everything about getting her behind her and start from now. But right this moment, she couldn’t get herself off the bed, where she could stretch out in every direction, and it was all hers.
Illness at the Office - Nirvana Series
Talian swivelled back and forth gently in her chair, thinking about how she wanted to direct the AI to analyse. “Gopher,” she said, “can you compare analyse the grain consumption last month in relation to the weather patterns.” She had no idea why they called the AI gopher. It was some kind of animal that had existed back on the original Earth, and someone had named this AI after it.
“Grain consumption has steadily declined throughout the month,” Gopher answered. “A slight negative correlation with increased precipitation, of negative eight point five.” It wasn’t nothing.
“Has it rained above normal levels?” she asked.
“For the average, it is five point three percent above normal.”
That wasn’t nothing either. So why did people eat less grain than normal? Was this just an anomaly, or should they adjust the import requirements? This report was due in two hours, and she needed to make a recommendation.
Across the room, she saw Haya at her desk, who was busy pulling together the other part of the report, focus more on meat products. She looked troubled, leaning over her desk, stroking the middle of her forehead in small circles.
“What’s the matter?” Talian asked and Haya grudgingly looked over.
“I just don’t feel well. It’s been coming on for a few days. Maybe I’ve caught a cold. Like, it hasn’t developed, but I’m not myself.”
“Maybe you should go home,” Talian suggested.
“I will after I finish this report,” Haya said and sat up straighter. “I’m going to have to answer if I don’t deliver it on time.”
Well, not really. The Department of Food and Agriculture wouldn’t hold it against her if she went home because she felt unwell, but Haya was a bit of a martyr. It was one of her more annoying qualities, actually. Always lamenting how much she had to do, she couldn’t spare a moment for most things.
“Did you know it’s rained five percent more than average?” Talian said and Haya looked over at her, unimpressed.
“There’s always variance,” Haya stated, suggesting Talian was wasting her time. See there, that was Haya’s most annoying quality. She couldn’t just say, ‘oh, that’s strange.’ With absolutely everything, she had to come back in some way stating you were wrong.
“I’m getting a coffee,” Talian said, luxuriating in the idea that she wasn’t madly rushing to finish her report. It was a little dig, but she couldn’t help herself. Ever since she’d started in this job, Haya had been competitive with her in tiny ways that no one else noticed.
Talian walked to the small kitchenette, which overlooked the lush gardens outside. The sun made the foliage bright, but in the shaded places, dew drops still clung on from the morning. No one would have noticed the increase precipitation if Gopher didn’t pull the info together. Well, the meteorological people probably noticed. They’d write reports about things like that.
Keller walked into the kitchen and leaned on the bench. “I need a coffee,” he said. He didn’t look his usual self either.
“Did you have a hard night last night?” Talian asked. He wasn’t usually one to act irresponsible on a worknight.
“No, do I look like it? I feel like it,” he replied.
“You don’t feel well?” Talian asked. Both him and Haya. “Something must be going around.”
“Geste isn’t here today. Or Larse. They both called in sick.”
Talian stopped what she was doing and stared at him. She wasn’t feeling sick. “That’s strange.”
“The milk tastes off. Have you noticed?” he said.
Talian shook her head. “I don’t drink milk.”
“Maybe it’s the milk making us all unwell.”
“I have too much to do.”
Seriously, how had he and Haya not gotten together, Talian thought tartly. Because Haya’s standards were too high.
For a moment, he looked unsteady on his feet, and Talian rushed to catch him in case he passed out. “You need to go home,” she said more forcefully.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said and smiled weakly. “I feel like shit.”