Science! is a longstanding setting of mad science; Jess, below, is from Quick Thinking, (and, of course, A Break?). Cara is from almost all the Science stories except that one… But her first appearance was here. The two interns were unnamed in A Break? but this is the same vacation and same interns.
“You know these woods really well.” The shorter intern – Callum O’Neill – had been following Jess around since she had wandered down from the cabin loft bedroom sometime past sunrise but before noon. The other one – Lilian Win – had stayed back on the porch overlooking the gorge, taking photo after photo on her phone. She seemed to have calmed down, however, so Jess wasn’t going to complain.
“Yeah, I spend a lot of time out here. Not as much as I’d like – I’ve been threatening to retire and buy a cabin here for years. Not that place,” she added. The place they were staying in was actually owned by the Facility. “Maybe I’d even build one. I’ve seen videos,” she added with a smirk. She knew the interns thought that security watched youtube and browsed social media all day.
“You know, I bet that the bio-modification department could grow you one. I’m not all that good with trees, but if you worked with basic espalier – a weave – and then just convinced the trees to grow faster. I mean, the trick is to get them to grow faster without being too unstable to serve as walls. And then what to do with the branches, or you’d have a house that was growing out of all four corners. Might be a cool look, like a tree-house, but…”
“But it wouldn’t have the same feel as bringing in logs and stripping them myself, notching them and setting them into place. There’s something to doing something yourself.” Jess made sure she was smiling at the kid. He was enthusiastic. That was good. Cara thought these kids had real potential. “I tell you what, next year, I’ll do some prep work first and I can show you. We’ll make something small, like a shed, something we can do in a few days.”
He was staring at her with wide eyes. “Next year?”
“I mean, unless you don’t want to come out again? I know you kids aren’t really woodsy sorts.”
Callum snorted. “I was a Boy Scout until I was twelve. Then I got involved in space camp and science camp and there wasn’t any time for scouts. I just meant – I meant it sounded like management had to call in a big favor to get Lil and I out here on this visit, so I didn’t think you’d want to repeat it?”
“You’re good kids. And I think – I’ve always thought – that the Facility makes the interns spend too long cooped up in the lab. It’s good to get out and breathe once in a while, you know?”
“Yeah, but we don’t get vacation time…” Callum bit his lip.
“You do get hazard pay and recoup time.” Cara had helped push that through. Jess had suggested it. She didn’t really like interns, per se, but she didn’t like finding them having nervous breakdowns in the hidden back stairwells, either. “Now, while obviously we don’t want one of the senior staff to end up in trouble again… It does happen.” Jess forced herself to push aside all the callousness the security team usually had towards the senior scientists and think about how Callum and Lil might see them. “They are working on very intense projects, and sometimes there are mistakes. But if we’re lucky and nobody has a mistake in the next year -” Statistically, there’d be at least 6, but maybe they wouldn’t be where Callum or Lil were working. “-I’ll lean on management. Say I need you for a project or something. Being head of Security has a few perks.”
Callum paused, clearly trying to figure her out. “You know… a lot of people think interns are… sort of disposable interchangeable parts? And Uh. I think some people think of security the same way. And I wasn’t, I wasn’t really good about security people either, until – well. That lady that pulled us out of the lab. She nearly lost her arm. She was in reconstructive surgery longer than any of us. She – she could’ve died. And she pulled us out anyway.”
“Aleeza,” Jess murmured. She’d put through the hazard pay bonus and the above and beyond bonus, and she’d brought the woman comfortable clothes to wear through the long, often painful reconstruction process. “Aleeza Knapp. She’s a veteran of the force here. Been here 12 years.”
“Miz Knapp,” he repeated. “And I didn’t even know that much. Neither of us did. But – but so I’ve been thinking, I don’t know exactly what, but, but that there’s… a lot of not people in the Facility? And I want, well, I think people like Miz Knapp deserve an extra vacation more than me?”
Jess laughed. She didn’t mean to, but she did, a nice belly laugh that went on until she noticed that the kid was looking at her in absolute confusion. “Oh, oh, kid, that’s really sweet, but if you want to do something for Aleeza – she hates the woods, by the way – bring her some chocolate, darkest you can find. Kid, security gets paid really well. Really, really well. And unlike you guys, we get vacation time. Aleeza will be fine. I’ll be fine. And you and Lillian – well, I plan on making sure you’re fine, too.”
She patted his shoulder. “So next year. Next year, I figure we plan for four days, maybe five. We can build a little shed, and if we time it right, I can show you the best place to catch salmon. Trust me, it is an amazing sight.”
“And those mushrooms?” He had already perked up. “The ones that only grow a couple times a year?”
“And the mushrooms. We might have to come back twice, but I think I can work it out. Three times, if we want to do ramps, too…”
Cara was going to laugh at her for a week, but that was a price Jess could more than live with paying.
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