complicated pockets and harness. She had not troubled to put on her boots, so her bare feet poked out somewhat incongruously from the heavy, stained folds.

“Here I am,” he said, feeling the occasion demanded some comment. For some reason, this seemed to amuse her greatly.

“Here you are! But who’re you, and what are we supposed to do with you?”

It was only a token protest at this stage, though, as she ushered him through the door into a little apartment behind. As prescribed, the first thing he did on the threshold was to stop and quickly pan around the room, recording its contents.
Misreading, again, his reactions, the girl pushed him half-playfully from behind: “Go on in. She won’t bite!”

She was referring, he inferred, to the presence of another young woman in the room in front of him. This one was wearing a blue terry-cloth dressing-gown, and was far more feminine in appearance than the spiky young uniform behind him. She had long black hair, which she had evidently just been washing, for she was dabbing at it with a rather ratty-looking towel, and looked distinctly put out to see him.

“Excuse … intrusion.” He managed to come up with the second word eventually, although it was a struggle to remember it. They had warned him of the possibility of some such partial aphasia in the secondary speech areas, but he had not since then had his abilities so tested as in this particular encounter.

As he walked into the room, he found himself regarding the new young woman with immense interest and curiosity. She too had her feet bare, and he concluded that there were no irregularities in the steel floor to damage them. Her toenails, he was interested to observe, were painted purple, though the finger nails were regulation length.

“My God, where did they find you!” the new young woman (he found himself mentally classifying them as long-hair and short-hair) exclaimed incredulously.

Short-hair had now come in, closing the door behind her, and stood observing the scene with malicious pleasure.

“Julie, I’d like to present to you our guest, Mister Orders Given, from Outside. His hobbies are ringing bells, running up stairs to impress people who couldn’t give a fuck, and hanging around in doorways …”

He waited a little to see if there was any more, but her fund of invention seemed to have dried up, and said: “Lieutenant.”

No comments: