I turn the corner and look to see Jan first. I need to see if anything seems out of place to her, she would be the one to know. News about a meeting like this would travel very fast and she knows who would know what. Not at her desk. With this kind of event, she is already making the rounds. I am sure she will bullet back with details soon. I just need to keep my head, slow down, and not get too emotional. It is at times like these when mistakes are made.
I must act normal; normal for me, that is. How would I react if I were not hiding a secret? I sit down and I realize if they are watching me, every move I make will be looked at very closely. Call Jack. I would call Jack and get his take on what he thought about this meeting.
“This is Jack, and I am terribly busy, so please state the nature of this call,” Jack says, acting as if he were not looking at who was calling him.
“While I understand the terrible part, I don’t recall you ever being that busy, Jack,” I reply in typical one-upmanship.
“Ouch, that would hurt if it wasn’t so true,” confesses Jack through a chuckle.
“So, was that different or what? What do you think is going on now, Walt?”
Before Jack can continue, I cut him off. Can’t have this go further than I want on a phone line that could be tapped.
“Hey, probably just seeing if the boys in Space Ops are earning their pay, I would guess.” While Jack goes on to a “better be close to retirement joke” I have heard from him before, I am thinking of how I can get Jack alone and away from here.
“Got it, funny Jack, real funny, almost as funny as the first few times you told it. Seriously though, who knows, maybe we should look at this as something important. What kind of project could these guys be looking at us for? I mean, how could they have us work together with the Space Ops group?” I ask, trying to sound sincere.
“I wouldn’t worry, Walt. All of us are producing very good results. We can handle whatever they throw at us,” Jack says finally, with some seriousness.
I realize this is going to be hard to do without leaving any suspicion, so I need to lighten this up.
“You’re probably right, Jack, we have been doing well and besides, you’re the weak link, anyway. You know the old joke about the two guys who see a hungry bear in the woods, right?”
“I know, I know,” Jacks interrupts with a chuckle. “When the one guy says, ‘we’re screwed, we will never outrun this bear!’ The other guy says, ‘I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.’ Not very nice, Walt, not very nice at all,” Jack says, trying to sound hurt by this. “Hey, what do you say we get the others and grab a couple of drinks after work?” Jack throws out.
Perfect, I think to myself. Now just make sure we don’t commit to where.
“Why not? Let’s talk on the way out. I’ve got to go; see you later, Jack.” I hang up quickly and pause the line so he can’t cut back in. I need to see if Jan has got anything.
“Hey, Jan, are you there?” I call out as I open the door, but there is no response. I figured she would be back by now. May be more to this than I thought. I need to check the orb for signs someone was here while I was gone, but it might look too suspicious.
I will write my notes from the meeting and run my latest numbers from the front orb that hides the real one. It will take some time, but if we do meet with the Space Ops people, it needs to look as legitimate as possible.
Having two experiment orbs going on is typical, but usually the one in front is the longest running. In fact, it is more than usual for the longest running experiment to be in front. It is regular procedure. It has fooled everyone so far, but no one has ever really looked that closely.
Before I know it, it is time to go. It is amazing how quickly time flies when I am absorbed in data analysis. Even though the frontal orb is not the real experiment, it is actually showing promise as solid work. I could actually pull this off if I wanted; hide this for years to come.
I could take this to even more unheard levels of life form development. I know, however, in my heart, in the end, it will be exposed and taken away.
Something is wrong; I realize Jan never came in to see me this afternoon. I open my door and her desk is vacant. I look and her station is shut down, and her sweater and scarf are gone. This is not normal and now I am beginning to get nervous. Jan would never leave without checking out with me, never.
As I get ready to leave, I decide go by the front desk of our floor and ask them if they have seen her.
“Have you seen Jan? Did you by chance see her leave?” I ask the security receptionist.
“No, but I just got here a half an hour ago, so she must have left early, Dr. Smithton,” she replies disinterestedly.
As I delay walking away, she sits up straighter and asks, “Is there a problem, Dr. Smithton?”
“No, she must have called in and I just didn’t hear her. Good night,” I finish and turn towards the elevator.
I am walking slower than I typically would, as I am not sure what to do. If they are watching me, going back to my office might give away my concern. I have to blow this off as no big deal. I realize I have forgotten Jack and drinks. I pick up the phone at the elevator lobby and ring in to him.
After a few rings, Jack picks up the phone. “Jack here,” Jack says, giving his typical reply. “Hey, Jack I’m ready to head out. Are you ready to go?” I say, as peppy and positively as I can.
“Sorry, Walt, I left a message on Jan’s console. The wife gave the big veto on drinks. Wants me all to herself tonight, I think.”
“No problem, I buried myself in it this afternoon and I never saw Jan leave.”
“Really? That’s not typical of Jan, is it?”
Even Jack knows this is not normal for Jan, but I have to continue to blow it off for now.
“Well, she probably saw me and called in and I didn’t hear her. Oh well, see you tomorrow Jack,” I say, trying to sound nonchalant.
As I walk out, I realize I am very tired. It is best just to go home, get a bite, and some sleep. If they are truly looking at me, I will need to be at my best tomorrow. Even then, my best may not be enough.