Chapter 10 - Finding Carl
Book 1 - The Cloud
It had been nearly two months since Lena had started working with the robotic engineers. She had helped Kim finish the IntelliBots’ coding and was now helping with Simon’s nanite-swarms. The swarm that they had just finished had multiple applications for use in radiation shielding.
“I need to get this sample up to L.O.S. They can test the effects in vacuum. It would be a far more elegant solution to space radiation than they have now and would save a boatload of time in the construction efforts,” Simon explained.
“There’s a transport shuttle arriving tomorrow. I can take the sample to Beatrix,” Lena offered, rubbing her eyes. “I need a break anyway.”
“That would be awesome,” Simon smiled brightly, sealing up a metal cylinder with a label that was addressed to his counterpart up on L.O.S.
Lena took the tube and made her way around the lab to see if anyone else had something that needed to be sent. By the time she had made a full circuit of the large room, she had a grav-cart loaded with various projects that were ready for testing.
As she waited for the lift, she wondered if Carl would really be finished with his project in time. She only got to see him when he came to eat lunch with her a couple of times a week since the day she had stormed into Director Wiess’s office demanding to see him. That had been three weeks ago.
“I’m sorry but Carl is in seclusion,” Amelia explained.
“The shut-in ended two days ago!” Lena had protested. “I want to see him now!”
“Ms. Fitzpatrick, the project he is working on is highly sensitive.”
“I don’t care!” she said, cutting Amelia off. “I have been asking to speak with him for several days and it is not like him to just disappear like this. I want to speak with Director Weiss.”
“That is not necessary. Once the project is completed…”
Lena shoved past the woman and her polite refusals and stormed into the director’s office.
“Wait, you can’t go…”
“I want to see Carl, right now!”
The office went quiet as two sets of eyes turned to focus on her.
“Ms. Fitzgerald, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” Director Weiss said with a tight smile.
“I apologize for interrupting sir, but I insist on speaking with Carl. I have not been allowed to see or speak with him since the day after we got here,” Lena said, a bit more respectively.
“Madam Wilson, this is Lena Fitzgerald one of the two student astronomers who discovered the Cloud,” Director Weiss said calmly as he stood and walked out from behind his desk. “If you will excuse me for a moment?”
“Of, course Frank,” the woman said with a nod.
Director Weiss had then ushered her out of the office past the Amelia who she could have sworn was smirking behind her TechGlasses.
When they were all three outside of the office with the door closed, Director Weiss had turned to Lena.
“What is the issue, Ms. Fitzpatrick?”
“Amelia asked Carl to join her the day after we got here and since then, I have not seen or spoken to him. I just want to know that he is okay.”
“Amelia, give Carl the day off.”
“Frank, the project is too…”
Direct Weiss held up a hand to halt her. “If you can’t trust him to keep confidence, you should not have chosen him to help you with it.”
“You’re right of course,” Amelia acquiesced but Lena saw the anger flash in her eyes before the woman turned to walk away.
“Ms. Fitzgerald, I assure you that everyone is quite safe here and I ask that you do not barge into my office again.”
“Sorry,” Lena said. “I did not intend to interrupt your meeting. It’s just not like him.”
“I understand,” Director Weiss said gently. “You are welcome to have a seat just outside of my office while you wait for him.”
Amelia had eventually, and grudgingly, brought Carl to her. Lena had spent the entire day with him, showing him around the robotics lab as Kim had done for her. He had displayed interest in all of the projects they had been working on, but an especial interest was shown in the IntelliBots that Kim had been working on. He had asked many questions regarding these and their capabilities.
She and Carl had eaten lunch in the courtyard gardens with Kim, Sabrina, and Simon. Their conversation during lunch was, again, dominated by their research in nanites and IntelliBots.
However, he never told her what he was working on and that was fine with her. She had just missed her friend and wanted to talk to him.
When Kim, Sabrina, and Simon were done with their lunch, they excused themselves to return to the lab and left Lena and Carl alone at the picnic table.
“Would you be interested in joining me when I go home to see the family?” Lena asked after their companions went back to the lab.
“When are you heading home?”
“A little over a month.”
Carl thought for a moment.
“Sure. I don’t see why not. I will have to run it by Amelia first and I would like to go see Ma and Pa before we leave but yeah. I would like to see Beverly and Brian again,” Carl said.
Lena ruffled at that. Not about Carl wanting to see his parents but that he had to check with Amelia. She did not know why it bothered her so much. She knew, by the exchange between Director Wiess and Amelia, that whatever Amelia and Carl were working on was important, but she did not like that he had not been allowed to even leave the lab where he had been working. More, the looks she had received from Amelia, each time she had asked after Carl, had been... possessive.
That’s ridiculous, Lena thought to herself.
“I want to spend some time with Jennifer and Julie while we are there. Maybe take them up to the observatory you were at.” Lena said aloud.
“What about Jordan?” Carl asked.
Lena’s expression fell.
“Jordan did not pass the physical. Aunt Beverly, Uncle Brian, and Jordan will not be going,” Lena choked out, tears beginning to fill her eyes.
“Oh my god!” Carl said, putting an arm around her shoulders.
“They found out last week. My aunt and uncle don’t want to leave him here, all by himself so they decided to stay too,” Lena explained as she tried to hold back the flood of emotions running through her.
“I’m sorry, Lena. I didn’t know.”
“How could you have? I haven’t even heard from you in over a month,” she said, a bit more forcefully than she had intended.
Carl stiffened at that.
“Has it really been that long? The project that I have been working on has been super intense. I guess I lost track of time. I really am sorry. I will make sure that I get the time off. Just let me know when you plan of leaving, okay?”
“Okay,” Lena said, wiping away the tears she hadn’t let fall. “I seem to keep tearing up around you, Carl.”
“I have that effect on women,” Carl joked.
“That is NOT a good effect to have,” she laughed, getting to her feet, and collected the remnants of her lunch. “I guess I need to return you to your cage.”
“Lena,” Carl said, taking her by the arm. “I can’t wait until I can share what I am working on with you. It’s going to be amazing.”
Carl stood up, taking both of her hands in his and forcing Lena to look up at him.
“And I really am sorry that I wasn’t there for you when you found out about your family. Why don’t we have lunch again tomorrow?”
“Okay,” Lena whispered.
The lift door slid open, and Lena stepped in, grav-cart first. She selected the floor where Beatrix’s office was located, and the lift began to descend.
Two floors down, the lift came to a halt and the doors slid open to allow entrance to new occupants. The new arrivals were Amelia and Carl. Lena smiled broadly at Carl, but something was off.
Amelia’s expression, normally imperturbable, was creased with worry and not a little anxiety. Carl, too, seemed to be worried more than she had ever seen him.
“What’s wrong?” Lena mouthed as the lift doors slid shut.
He just shook his head, as if to say, “Not right now.”
They rode together in silence as Amelia’s hands moved quickly and erratically in front of her sleek tech glasses until the lift stopped on the floor Lena needed.
Lena pushed the cart out of the lift and turned around to say something to Carl, but he was whispering quietly to Amelia, the doors sliding close.