Brackish covered his response well, immediately becoming all smiles once more and assuring her that he had seen ‘Lemlak’ but that he unfortunately was not authorised to talk about their other ‘guests’ with her very much, but that he had learned that ‘Lemlak’ was Gyden’s father, and was that true? Because it was very exciting if it was true, and did their species travel through space in family groups?
Predericon allowed the doctor to re-establish his fictitious rapport, explaining that they were an academic team of sorts and that Gyden’s and Lelhmak’s familial relationship had been a coincidence, and had not affected their research, their assignation to the team, or their interaction to any noteworthy degree.
But it must have been clear that her enthusiasm for talk had abruptly waned despite the long period she had spent without anyone to really talk to. Brackish, in turn, obviously realised that he’d revealed something he shouldn’t, because he wound up the conversation shortly afterwards.
“I will […] to see you again soon,” he said vaguely. “Very busy, very […], never a […],” he smiled at her half-heartedly and made his exit.
The isolation, exercises and feedings resumed. Predericon used the toilet, and received more meals at unnecessarily short intervals. She would receive a small meal consisting mostly of grains and bread; then there would be a four-hour gap; then a meal consisting of a stew or some kind of large, greasy sandwich with vegetables on the side; then a six-hour gap; a meal of meat and vegetables and fruit or other sweet confection; then another a six-hour gap; a small assortment of sugary biscuits or more fruit; an eight-hour gap; and then back to the first meal-type in the cycle. It was almost immediately obvious that this added up to a twenty-four hour diurnal cycle, which they’d already established on approach and which coincided, fantastically coincidentally, with the smaller divisions within the standard Firstmade calendar. But this, too, raised questions and possibilities she could not think of any way to pursue, let alone answer.
Predericon got the impression that the little meal breaking up the six- and the eight-hour breaks was something the humans had just thrown in there because they felt they couldn’t leave her without nutrition for twelve hours, and that this consequently must be the period the humans spent sleeping. This, then, would be the twelve hours this part of the planet was in darkness as it revolved on its axis. And so, reasonably confidently, she divided day and night outside the facility. She wasn’t sure what good the knowledge did her, but it kept her mind occupied. And that was very welcome.
She didn’t mind the excess meals, although after a couple of cycles she began to feel rather bloated and her leavings in the toilet began growing more frequent and more obviously undigested. She hoped this was neither offending nor worrying her captors unduly … but since she now well and truly considered them captors, and was beginning to suspect that they were also murderers, she couldn’t bring herself to care much.
A routine also began to emerge between Lagos and Brackish and the janitor, who she eventually induced to reveal was named John – a common enough name, from what they’d heard in the broadcasts, for this region of the planet. Lagos and Brackish appeared most regularly in the theoretical daylight hours when she received her regular meals, and John made his rounds during the long probably-night-time periods when it seemed as though soldier and doctor alike were asleep. Of course, there were variations on this and Predericon could see that the facility’s commander Ansel Munroe was making some effort to ensure that she didn’t come to predict the movements of her jailers too effortlessly. But you couldn’t have discipline and unpredictability at the same time, generally speaking. Good security more than made up for repetitiveness.
And they definitely had good security, even though she was fairly sure by the fourth ‘day’ that she could have picked up Lagos and thrown him at his fellow soldiers and then just walked out of her cell. Or, for that matter, torn her bed-table-chair from its bolts and thrown it through the mirror. The whole setup was very fragile. Still, she persisted in her peaceful approach, hoping to get more information from Brackish about Gyden and Lelhmak.
When she finally did make meaningful contact, however, it was not through the doctor with his false smiles and his fluttering pulse. It was with the silent, shuffling janitor, John.
It was one of the ‘night’ shifts that she had come to think of as lulltime and had even adjusted her own cycles, somewhat, to facilitate. John showed up, wheeled his little cart into the doorway, then carried her tray of just-fix-her-something mid-lull food across to the bed. She was standing fairly close, not having retreated fully to the far end of the cell, because she’d established that as long as she was reasonably separated from door and human, there would be no real insistence that she stick to the wall.
“Message under plate, don’t let glass see,” John murmured without looking up, then turned and shuffled back to the doorway and his trolley. He vanished, and the door closed again, before Predericon could do more than open her mouth.
She got control of herself quickly, but was unable to suppress a tingle of excitement and confusion and fascination as she crossed idly to her unnecessary mid-lull meal. She wasn’t just surprised at the fact that the non- or semi-military member of the facility’s cleaning staff had initiated contact. In fact, that in itself shouldn’t have surprised her at all – a civilian, if that’s what John was, was more likely to defy protocol than a soldier no matter how friendly Lagos had proven to be. Nor was she surprised at the barely-audible way the human had spoken, breathing the words out under the watchers’ sensor ability, even more quietly than Lagos had and in clear cognisance of her auditory capabilities.
It had been disjointed, and it had been quite rusty, but the human had definitely just spoken Xidh.