Time To Repair

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Chapter 9

Northampton England, Wednesday August 6th 2262

17:06:08 hours

The afternoon lesson with SRK 9-13 had gone as well as the morning one. He’d had another ten great children that had been a delight to teach.

Simon had taken them to the Health and Hospital floor of the building. It was divided into numerous sections from different time periods. Each had its own hospital ward, pharmacy and operating theatre; the relevant ones also had an accident and emergency department.

All sections were staffed by museum employees whose job it was to re-enact different hospital roles wearing the appropriate uniforms for that particular period.

Simon and the children had watched a barbaric, but enjoyable re-enactment from the late 19th century.

The dramatisation had started with a poor guy being rushed in by two friends who half carried, half dragged him in. He was screaming in pain with a lower leg fracture that was gushing very realistic blood all over the place; he and his friends were covered in it.

A selection of staff playing various doctors and nurses had dropped everything to attend with an antiquated hospital trolley. They wheeled him straight into a rudimentary looking theatre.

The guy’s leg, it was decided, couldn’t be saved. It was to be amputated below the knee. In those days anaesthetic was unheard of. The poor sod had been pinned down to the wooden table; while the amputation had taken place with various surgical instruments from that period. One of these had been a rather crude-looking bow saw, that by today’s standards you wouldn’t even use in the garden.

At some point the member of staff playing the casualty had been switched for a holographic version. Simon had guessed a swap would be made; they were hardly going to cut off a colleague’s leg in the interests of light entertainment and education. The switch between the two had been seamless though.

He and the children had then moved on to the hospital ward, at this point several days in the dramatisation had elapsed.

The guy had been lucky to survive the trauma of the surgery; sadly he had been struck down by the bacterial infection Sepsis. The visible symptoms were acute inflammation throughout the body, high fever and vomiting. The multiple organ failure had then finally led to his death. Over thirty percent of all amputations ended this way back then.

All the staff involved carried out the performance with incredible realism. The children hadn’t seemed too fazed by the performance; they were however pleased when the dead patient came back to life to answer their questions and talk about the gruesome performance.

Simon was now in his office, sat in his leatherette chair. He had pushed it back and put his feet up on the corner of his data-desk. He faced the solar windows and was enjoying the view as much as the herbal tea from the drinks dispenser.

All his work for the day was done. He had sent SRK 6-1 their home study work, and prepared three different lessons for the following day.

He’d selected songs from the late twentieth century; one of his particular favourite periods in music. Several tracks had already played. As The Farm’s ‘All Together Now’ finished, the unmistakable guitar opening from The Police’s ‘Roxanne’ filled the office.

“Pause music!” Simon almost shouted. “Increase volume by 10% and restart the track.”

‘Roxanne’ started again. Simon put down his tea, closed his eyes and reclined in his chair; resting his head on the back of it. As the vocals started he joined in. He’d never been able to quite get the same pitch as the lead singer; or hold the notes quite as long during the chorus; but he didn’t care. He simply adored this song. It had been far too long since he had last heard it. The song was seventy one seconds in when…

“Stop music!” was commanded by a female voice.

It took Simon a further ten seconds of singing along to realise the music had stopped.

“…Roxanne, put on a red light Roxanne, put on a red light Roxanne, put on a red light…” There was no solitary drumming leading back into that classic guitar rift that he loved and usually came after the first chorus - he didn’t continue.

He lay there for a second with his eyes closed. He opened his left eye and took in the sight of the short black woman standing just beyond his feet staring at him with a look of utter bewilderment on her face. His heart raced as he opened the other eye. In a state of embarrassed panic he swung the chair round swiftly and dropped his feet to the floor. The reclining chair sprang upright in an instant; lurching him forward. He flayed his arms around like a demented banshee trying to prevent himself flying out of it. His right hand knocked the remaining herbal tea all over the data-desk. Sensing the liquid; it transformed itself in an instant from the plasma state it had been in to the faux walnut before any damage could be done.

Simon grabbed the chair’s padded arm with his left hand and the corner of the data-desk with his right and finally steadied himself after what seemed like a millennium. His reddened cheeks clearly emphasised his embarrassment.

“I take it you are Simon Kingsley,” The Jamaican woman stated, still frowning with incomprehension.

Simon shot out of his seat to greet her; he had an uncomfortable sensation in his gut, he knew deep down who she was.

“Err… yes, that’s me,” he confirmed sheepishly. He put out his hand to take hers; to be able to greet her in the correct manner by kissing it. She ignored the gesture. This made him even more uncomfortable.

“If you hadn’t been listening to that vulgar composition at such a high volume you may well have picked up on the alert on your data-desk that I was waiting on the other side of your door.” She walked round to the dry side of the data-desk and perched herself on the corner of it like she owned it.

“Fortunately in my position I can override all my staff’s security and access whatever, whenever, I wish.”

Simon stood there speechless for a moment…“You must be… Anna?” he questioned, following the long awkward pause.

“Correct,” she confirmed in a stern unfriendly fashion. “I’m Anna Chillipoc; I am responsible for everybody on this wing. Today I have spent most of my time introducing myself to my team; you are one of the last.”

Simon remembered his manners all of a sudden. He moved round the data-desk and stood in front of her. “Can I get you a drink from the dispenser?” he asked, with as much charisma as he could muster following such a bad start to their first encounter.

“A lime tea,” she replied, with about as much warmth as if she was confirming the time for a tiresome stranger.

“I will just clear up this mess first,” he said, indicating the spilt tea that had pooled in several puddles on his data-desk. He went to his trouser pocket to pull out his spare tissue.

Damn! He had given it to Gillian this morning. He flushed again; surely she must feel the heat from his beetroot red cheeks.

“I will just pop out to the communal area and get something,” he announced. She rolled her eyes but said nothing. Simon walked swiftly towards the door, as it opened he increased his pace and rushed over to the nearest coffee table. The communal area was virtually deserted compared to earlier. He yanked several large white tissues from the decorative box on it, closed his eyes briefly, took a deep breath and headed back to his office.

Anna was now in his chair behind his data-desk. She watched him curiously as he mopped up the tea with the tissues. He was aware of her observing him and felt really uncomfortable as he chased one of the larger puddles round with the tissues. Why was it when you spilt any kind of fluid there was always ten times the capacity of the vessel to clean up? He walked over to the drinks dispenser and dropped the sodden tissues into the bin below it.

“Lime tea for Anna Chillipoc,” he commanded. The machine gave its usual low hum as it prepared the drink. Hopefully it would be made to her own specifications; which should be stored on the database by now.

The drink appeared in the recess as the door slid up. He took yet another deep breath as he turned round and took it to her.

“There you are Anna,” he said placing it before her. “Do you prefer Anna or Ms Chillipoc?” he added, unsure of how to address her. She no doubt had her own views on it.

“I don’t mind either when it’s between staff,” she said bluntly. “In front of the public though it will always be Ms Chillipoc.”

This was something he would have to remember, he thought. “How’s your day been?” He enquired politely.

She stood up, picked up the lime tea and walked over to the solar windows where she looked out over the city. She kept her back to Simon. She wore a starched tailored grey suit with a cashmere pashmina over her jacket that hinted at her ethnic origins with its vibrant orange colour and pattern.

She looked quite small, Simon thought as she stood there surrounded by a wall of solar glass.

“It was going fine until around 1300 hours when someone on my wing, defied the buildings security measures, got into my office and hacked into my data-desk.”

“Oh no!” Simon exclaimed. “How is that possible?” he asked with genuine concern.

Anna turned round to face him “Allegedly it’s not!” the irritation and anger evident in her demeanour and tone. She continued. “I have spent the last two and a half hours with the head of security trying to work out how this could have happened.” She paced up and down in front of the solar windows. “I am still totally clueless as to how this occurred and why someone would want to do it anyway; the file only relates to my staff and their timetable. The whole saga has cost valuable hours today; I’m still at least two hours behind my schedule to meet everyone.”

“Why do you say it was someone on your wing?” Simon asked.

He stepped away from the data-desk and walked toward her, stopping half way.

She stopped pacing and turned to face him. “That is about the only thing we do know for definite. It could only have been down to someone under me. Only someone from this wing could have got onto this wing or smuggled someone in.”

“I see,” Simon thought aloud, he pondered for a moment. “Only staff from this wing and the one opposite can gain admittance to the floor. The traversoll won’t allow an unauthorised voice command; even other museum staff can’t get here without consent from an authorised person on this floor.”

“Very good,” said Anna with a sarcastic sigh. “Out of a one hundred and twelve staff on the two wings and the seven visitors to the floor we have narrowed down the list of possible perpetrators to twenty-two.”

“That’s a fair drop,” Simon said a little surprised. He thought back to where he was around 1300 hours; just to make sure he wasn’t on the ‘hit list’. He was in Marseille of course, on his way to his mum’s place.

“Quite,” she replied. “For now we haven’t included the fifty-six staff or four visitors of the other wing, there are no thumb signature records of any of them trying to access my wing; we can come back to those later on if we need to. The head of security will also be checking the traversoll and teleporter logs for the day.”

“That leaves us with fifty-six staff and three visitors on our wing,” Simon added, noting she referred to the wing as hers.

“Correct,” Anna replied as she walked past him and back to his data-desk. She put her drink down on it and perched herself on the corner again. He turned to face her as she continued. “All the visitors had teleported out of the building at the time of the offence; as had thirty-four of my staff… it won’t be long before we find out which of the remaining twenty-two are responsible. The head of security is keen to find out how someone got through my locked door, activated my data-desk and tried to open the staff file without leaving a trace of who they were or how they achieved it.”

Simon thought for a moment. “So… how do you know someone managed it if there was no trace of them doing it?”

“This morning when I arrived I customised a few standard security settings on my data-desk. Whoever got into the system wouldn’t have known that. If I hadn’t done this then they wouldn’t have triggered a security breach alert and we would have been none the wiser.”

“A good job you did then,” Simon concurred.

“Indeed,” she picked up her untouched tea again. Halfway to her lips she lowered the drink and added. “I’ve advised security that they send out an urgent alert to everyone in the building suggesting they customise their security settings.”

Simon watched her holding her lime tea; was she ever going to take her first sip? “A wise precaution,” he agreed. “I will be in early again tomorrow morning; I will definitely make it my first priority.”

Anna once again slipped off the corner of the data-desk. She walked over to the sofa and sat on the arm of it still holding her tea. “I read your report on the child in your fist group; a sorry story.”

Simon dropped into his chair behind the data-desk, before she could commandeer it again.

Her wandering about his office was starting to irritate him a little.

“Yes,” he agreed again. “Such a sweet little thing; her little face melts your heart.”

“Hmmm,” Anna mused. “She looks quite pretty on her file photogram,” she added, not sounding that sincere. “You did the right thing filing the report; not everyone I’ve met today would have.”

Was she praising him? Simon thought, surely not.

“It was the only thing to do,” he said. “These things can’t be allowed to happen; you’ve read just what sort of parenting she is getting. Gillian needs putting into the care of a loving family.”

“These things aren’t for us to decide,” Anna replied bluntly. “I have forwarded a new report of my own to the Government Child Welfare Department highlighting yours and Valery’s concerns and findings; I expect you will be hearing from them at some point.”

“I will offer my full help and cooperation whenever it is needed,” Simon announced proudly. This was making up for their somewhat awkward ‘first contact.’ He felt himself relax slightly.

Anna placed her cup down on the glass coffee table. “Do you have a jacket Mr Kingsley?”

What, Simon thought, instantly back on edge again. “Err… yes I have several jackets.”

“Well, I would appreciate it if you would wear one when you come to work in future.” She stared at him for a second, he felt like a naughty little boy being reprimanded by his mother for not having washed the mud from his knees before slipping into his pyjamas.

“I’ve already spoken to a number of staff today on the sloppiness of their dress; it’s something I just won’t stand for.”

Sloppy! Simon wanted to scream out. Had she not noticed the shine on his shoes and the brand new red tartan tie that was a present from mum for his first day?

The evil, snotty, little dwarf! “Okay, I will make sure I wear one in future,” he said, hoping he had concealed his anger.

“Today you just had children to meet, so not too much of an issue,” she continued. “Though I always think it wise to set a good example to them; especially children like Gillian, they need good standards and values to aspire to more than others.”

Simon was speechless. He couldn’t get a word out; probably just as well. He nodded.

Anna picked up her drink yet and headed over to the solar windows, again.

She turned round and faced him. “My wing has been chosen to host museum open evenings starting next Monday. They are going to run initially seven nights a week for six months. If we are lucky they may be extended; subject to a review following the first six month period,” she shifted her weight from her left foot to her right. “There will be a different theme and tour every week. I have selected fourteen staff that I consider are the most experienced and suitable for the job. You are one of those fourteen.”

Simon’s anger drained from him in an instant. She certainly knew how to set you off on an emotional roller-coaster; to coin a very old-fashioned expression.

“Err… th..thank you,” he said stumbling over his words a little. He felt honoured; his mum would be delighted when he spoke to her later.

“The fourteen of you will have to work one evening every other week; so not too much of a sacrifice,” she checked her dat-com strap. “I have you down for every other Wednesday.”

Simon felt the edge of the honour wane a little. Wednesday was his ‘lad’s night out’ with Larry and Spencer. It was a tradition they had kept for many years; only illness had prevented them from meeting up in the past.

“Is there a problem with that?” Anna asked indignantly.

Jeez! Had she seen his disappointment? Had his face given away his predicament? Simon sat up straight in his chair. “Of course not Anna; I am delighted that you have given me this opportunity, it means a lot to me...”

“Why do I sense a but coming then?” Anna snapped, stopping him mid sentence. She moved in closer, stopping right beside Mavis.

“Err… no buts Anna, it’s just Wednesday isn’t the best night of the week for me; in fact it’s the only night of the week I have something planned every week,” he half-laughed nervously. “I will gladly swap with anyone for their night; I’m even happy to do a weekend evening.”

Anna stared at him for a few seconds, increasing the tension tenfold. “Oh, will you now?”

She paced back to the solar windows and then returned to stand beside Mavis, her feet inches away from the ceramic pot.

“I will not have staff swapping their evening shifts whenever it suits them; if everyone just chooses when they want to work my roster will become useless. I won’t have chaos brought to my order.”

“Ann…” Simon started.

“If you are not committed enough to sacrifice one evening a fortnight for you career,” she snapped “Then it looks like I made the wrong choice in you. I don’t often make mistakes in judgement; sadly I have today.”

Simon shot out of his chair. “Anna believe me; you haven’t!”

Her face was expressionless. “What can possibly be more important than furthering your career?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Simon replied respectfully. “I will make other arrangements on those Wednesdays that I am here; thank you once again for this opportunity.”

Anna didn’t reply. She took her first swig of the lime tea that she had carted all over the office.

“Oh! Vile!” she announced screwing up her face in disgust. She poured the remaining tea into Mavis’s pot.

Simon looked on in horror. His beloved Mavis!

“Mr Kingsley, in your new position here you will have to learn to make sacrifices, you have to accept that you have extra responsibilities, from time to time you are going to have to miss some social events. I am going to keep you on the evening’s roster for now; don’t make me regret it.

With that she strutted to the door, dropping her empty cup into the bin on the way. As the door opened she turned to face him.

“What you got away with in Bristol, you certainly won’t here.”

Without waiting for a reply she left the office, the door closed silently behind her.

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