Silence filled the lab as another test ended. The brief respite from the hours filled with the high-pitched whine of overworked power converters was a relief. Weeks of testing resulted in little progress in containing the massive energy output of Aldric’s dimensional collapses. The three of them counted it a victory that they could shunt off the excess power without killing anyone. Evan pulled his earplugs and set them on the table. “Well that gave us an extra twenty minutes, but the failure was no less catastrophic. I suppose the only bright side is the emergency ejection was more muted. We might not even get a call from the defense department,” he said as he leaned back in his chair and rubbed his tired eyes.
As if on cue, the communicator rang. Margaret grabbed the handset and put it to her ear, “Dark Side Experimental, Doctor Vo speaking. How may I help you?” Her voice was sugary sweet, not at all her usual hard, dispassionate tone. “Oh, Minister Hannlin, how very nice to hear from you. What? Oh yes, that was us again.” The short breaks between sentences made Evan laugh. She barely gave the Lunar Defense Minister a chance to speak before responding. “It’s nothing to worry about, just a standard bleed of excess energy. No, sir, there is absolutely no danger to the grid. It was part of our corporate power grid for just this reason. We have plenty of power here, Minister Hannlin, there is no need to send an emergency crew. Yes, I’ll make sure to let Mister Dewitt know that he should call you. Goodbye, sir.”
Evan managed to hold in the laugh until the screen blanked out. “Oh God,” he said, “how can you do that with such a straight face? I would be cracking up halfway through the call.”
“Lots of practice, Evan.” Margaret slowly rotated her neck around until it gave a series of satisfying pops. “I hate doing it. The Defense Ministry, and everyone else for that matter, should leave us alone so we can do our work and make their lives better.” Doctor Vo picked up her coffee, stared at the cup of hours cold beverage, and frowned.
Evan tapped his chin with a pen while looking at his monitor and considered her words. “Perhaps you’re right but a cloud of gas being ejected into space before it’s blasted with excess energy does create an image that worries people. Whether we’re in control or not, it looks catastrophic.” He tapped the screen with the back of the pen and asked, “how closely were you monitoring the collapse on this test?”
“I wasn’t, not directly anyway,” she answered. “I focused on the new converter coils and the containment field. I figured the computers could handle everything else.”
Evan turned and looked at her and said, “there is an anomaly in the readings. There was some sort of surge during the collapse.” He turned back to the screen and pointed at a string of numbers.
Margaret looked over Evan’s shoulder as she said, “Anomalies are not so unusual. That’s why the conversion keeps failing.”
“No, the anomaly happened during the collapse, not afterward,” Evan said. “See here? These little peaks are happening while the dimensional collapse is in progress.”
“Could it be an error in the monitoring equipment?” Margaret asked.
“It’s possible, but I don’t think so,” Evan said. “We’re going to have to run a full diagnostic on the equipment and recheck the old tests to see if the anomalies are present.”
“I think that is a good idea. Do you want any help?” She asked as she straightened her lab coat and made sure the buttons were secure. She only worried about her appearance when she expected to see Aldric, but he was away from the lab that day, so Evan wondered why she was fussing.
“It would speed up the process some. I’ll have the equipment tested and calibrated by one of the techs while I review the data. I could certainly use your help with that.” He and Margaret had worked together on numerous projects since he joined Aldric’s team, but this latest venture had them spending considerably more time together and he found that he enjoyed her company.
Margaret looked at Evan for a moment, then smiled and said, “Let me check in with Aldric and I’ll be back to help.” She left the lab and Evan watched her until the door slid closed behind her. His thoughts turned to the possibilities but shook his head and looked back at the screen.
“It’s a nice thought, but not much chance of happening really,” he said as he began marking data points on the screen, so he had a point of reference to work from. “It’s better to leave that line of thought alone. It will only lead to trouble.”
* * *
A small camera, hidden amongst the banks of computers and sensors in the lab recorded the idol words of the second most senior scientist of Dark Side Experimental and transmitted the video to a secret location in the company’s data stream Aldric liked to keep tabs on the people who worked on his projects and was happy not letting any of them know about it. People did not work well if they knew they were monitored, and neither did they speak so freely.
When Aldric reviewed the morning’s footage he stopped on the exchange between Margaret and Evan and replayed it three or four times before pausing the video. He stared at the self-satisfied look on Evan’s face and seethed. How dare that nerdy little shit even think about Margaret that way. Everyone knew she was his mistress and therefore hands off.
Aldric clicked the link to his security team and the duty officer answered immediately. Aldric opened his mouth to speak but closed it almost as fast. He wanted to fire Evan, leave him unemployed on the moon, but he stopped himself. The duty officer was smart enough to know not to speak as Evan considered his options. Aldric took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I want additional security added to Evan Murray’s profile. Focus on the personal life and off-hours communications.”
“Yes, sir,” the man said before Aldric closed the connection.
Whether or not Evan had the balls to move on his desire was irrelevant as far as Aldric was concerned. That the consideration entered his mind was problematic, so Aldric would know everything Evan was up to even in his own time. Firing the man was not an option given how integral he was to the Void project, but Aldric might just have to toss him out an airlock when it was finished.
Aldric pulled the video feed up and watched the exchange a couple more times before closing it and looking out the window of his hotel room. Change was coming, and when it arrived Evan Murray would be on the receiving end of much of it.