The routine re-established itself, and it soon became apparent – if it hadn’t been already – that they were not going to let Predericon speak with Gyden. Not in the foreseeable future … and, if she was being honest with herself, she had to admit that there was no really rational reason for her captors to allow the two prisoners to talk.
This left John the janitor as her only real point of contact, and doing so took place at a frustratingly slow two or three information exchanges – one-way exchanges – each night shift. Predericon toyed with the idea of making occasional messes that the janitor might be sent in to clean up, allowing them to speak slightly more frequently, but decided it was too risky. Speaking at all, in fact, was simply too difficult. Fortunately John was able to fit a surprising amount of information on the bottom of a paper plate.
Gyden, on another hand, had apparently been thinking along slightly different lines.
“Your friend told me I am sharp as Stankley,” John breathed the next time he was dropping off food. “Said you know what that means.”
His spoken Xidh was better than his written, but that was a fairly normal phenomenon. Even so, he had an unusual and stilted turn of phrase. Predericon took several seconds deciphering his cryptic remark, before realising what was happening and berating her own slowness. Gyden had provided a simple code to prove that it was really her at the other end of the line.
“Tell Gyden,” she whispered back as John pushed the tray gingerly across the bed and she reached out to take it, “that this food makes me miss the Bookwyrm’s armpits. Thank you,” she added in louder English.
“I am fairly sure I am translating that wrong,” John murmured after checking the toilet and frowning mightily – probably not about the toilet – for a few moments.
Predericon grinned. Unlike Lagos and Doctor Brackish, John didn’t seem to be alarmed at the sight of Molran teeth – or in Predericon’s case, half-set thereof. Combined with his apparent fatalistic lack of interest in her very presence right from the start, it made her increasingly certain that she and Gyden were somehow not his first Molren.
Of course, it was also possible that his performance was just that – designed specifically to keep the presumably ever-present watchers behind the mirror convinced that he was not in communication with her at all. It was just as possible, although a little more difficult to believe, that his entire act was a double-blind intended to fool the Molren into thinking exactly what Predericon was thinking … but she had already decided not to worry herself unnecessarily about that. It seemed there was little she could do but assume John was on the level. If he was a psychological experiment, he was an anomalously complex one considering the rest of the facility’s operations. And if that was the case, she would simply give the humans their baffling dues. She was not doing anything, she thought, they could not expect her to do under the circumstances.
Nevertheless, Predericon opted to be cautious after their first verbal exchange, since even if the humans’ sensors couldn’t pick up their voices, sooner or later her or John’s body language or facial movements would give away that they were talking surreptitiously during John’s visits. It was safer for him to murmur under his breath for her ears, than it was for her to attempt to whisper in Xidh, since he was incapable of picking up words at the volume she was. And so, after establishing John’s credentials as securely as seemed possible under the circumstances, and with due acknowledgement that the whole thing could be a setup, she gathered the following information from the bottoms of her plates:
Lelhmak had been pronounced dead at the crash site, having experienced some catastrophic impacts with debris and the ground. He had been taken to a lab somewhere in the facility, and autopsied. John had been required to clean up after the dissection, and had not enjoyed doing so.
Gyden had suffered a few minor injuries during the crash, but had been conscious and mobile at the scene. She had been shot “a bit” by the soldiers on arrival because of her aforementioned mobility, but these injuries had also been minor (this confirmed Predericon’s assumptions about the humans’ projectile weapons).
The humans did not believe their cover story about a research trip gone wrong, and believed the Speed’s Virtues (Survival) was an escape pod from a larger ship that was still somewhere in the system (this, Predericon thought, was actually an entirely reasonable and intelligent assumption).
John was a very low-ranking member of the military but due to his long-term employment and custodial status, was given a certain amount of free rein throughout “Area 51”. He did not, however, have any visibility on higher-level operations or decision-making, so had no real idea what his superiors planned to do next.
The commanding officer of Area 51, Ansel Munroe, was a good man. He answered to a higher-level political figure, however, who was neither military nor civilian, but somehow both. John did not know who this was but he was trying to find out, because he suspected something serious was going to happen – and sooner rather than later.
Predericon digested this information, right along with her midnight snacks and the plates they were delivered on.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while picking up Toop from daycare.