Noah rubbed a hand over his eyes. He was tired, eyes burning from his sleepless night, but he hadn’t imagined what he’d just seen, had he? He opened his eyes again. The ball was floating in the air in front of him.
He ran a hand through the air above it, below it, around it, searching for the hidden wires. Could it be held up by an air current, a fan with enough force to keep a light ball elevated? Not if he couldn’t feel a draft. Maybe it had an engine in it, a tiny, soundless jet-propelled engine, working like a helicopter. Without blades. But drones floated in the air, right?
Of course, that was it. “You guys are working on drone technology here?” he asked the woman who’d led him into the room.
She gave him a look. The look said something along the lines of, “Are you blind?” but her verbal response was a much more delicate, “Something like that.”
He eyed the ball again. Floating, it was definitely floating. And he couldn’t hear a thing.
“He really doesn’t believe in anything, does he?”
“He’s logical, that’s not a crime.”
“He watched the wrong kind of television shows. He needed some science fiction.”
Well, he couldn’t hear a thing except his usual repertoire of hallucinatory voices. Those were chatting away, full-force, so loud that he barely heard the woman who was really present saying, “You’d be expected to patrol the labs during the night. Our scientists often work late, sometimes through the night, although they’re not expected to. But inspiration doesn’t always arrive during normal business hours. You’d need to learn the names and faces of the people who work here, obviously. I realize some security jobs don’t require that, but we can’t rely on ID cards and thumbprints.”
“I’ve got a pretty good memory,” Noah said, still staring at the ball. He’d seen drones. They usually had propellers of some sort. If it was solar-powered… no, that made no sense. Some kind of anti-gravity? Magnets?
Grace opened the door across the room from the ball. “Looking good, Dr. Winkler.”
“Thank you,” the small woman in the next room said. Sounding apologetic, she added, “We’re still not managing much in terms of weight yet, and the energy expenditure makes no economic sense. I can’t say that this will ever be practical in terms of—“
Grace interrupted her. “No worries, I’m just showing a new employee around.”
New employee? How had Noah jumped from being a prospective employee for a few weeks while he waited for his contact to get back to being hired? He still wasn’t even sure this was a good idea.
“Oh, of course.” The woman peeked around Grace and shot Noah a quick smile. “Welcome to the company. You’re going to love it here.”
“Thanks.” He dunked his head in an awkward nod.
“We’ll leave you to it,” Grace said cheerily. She led the way back to the hallway, still walking briskly.
Noah let his eyes drop to her legs. She had excellent legs, although it might be the shoes. They were the kind of spiky heels that looked impossible to walk in, several inches high, so that she had to be walking on her toes, really. They were probably incredibly uncomfortable, but she walked in them as if it were easy.
Grace opened the door to another room. “This is the security station.” The room held a wall of monitors, showing scenes inside and outside of the facility. As he watched the scenes shifted.
The guard at the desk swiveled in his chair, turning away from the monitors and then jumping to his feet. “Good morning, ma’am.”
“Hi, Jensen.” Grace nodded in Noah’s direction. “Noah Blake, Jensen McGuire. Noah’s going to be working night shift, Jensen, after a couple of days of training.”
“Good to meet you.” Jensen was young, clean-cut and muscular. His eyes raked over Noah in a comprehensive sweep that left Noah regretting not having stopped to shave and clean up a little before coming to General Directions. But then Jensen shot him a friendly smile and said, “You’re going to love it here.”
“So I hear,” Noah responded dryly.
Grace shot him a grin over her shoulder. “I pay them to say that.”
His eyebrows raised and he blinked. “What?”
“Not big bucks or anything,” she added hastily. “Just a gift certificate for the local spa. Who doesn’t like a massage or a manicure, right? And the extra business is good for the spa.”
Jensen guffawed. “The look on your face.”
“I don’t ask them to lie,” Grace elaborated. “But when I give a tour, it’s usually for a scientist I’m trying to recruit. Tassamara is a little remote and General Directions doesn’t have the academic credibility some of them want. We pay well, but I like to make a good impression, so if an employee says something positive during the tour…” She lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “Gift certificate.”
“So someone else already said you were going to love it here?” Jensen shook his head. “I’ll have to come up with a new line. But it is a great place to work. We get gift certificates.” He laughed.
“And terrific employee benefits. Good health insurance, the usual vacation time, a 401K, contributions to continuing education… although that last.” Grace tipped her hand back-and-forth in an equivocating gesture. “We haven’t had too many employees take us up on that. We hire a lot of PhDs and they’re not actually all that interested in more school. Plus, it’s a long drive to the nearest university. We’ve got a couple people doing online programs, though.”
“Cafeteria’s good,” Jensen contributed. “And the people are friendly. Well…”
Grace put a hand on her hip. “Spicer, again?”
“Let’s put it this way: some of the scientists live in their own worlds,” Jensen replied. “They’re not nuts about being pulled out of them.”
Noah wondered what the scientist had done, because clearly even the thought of him—or her—annoyed Grace.
“Do I need to talk to him?” Grace asked, pursing her lips.
“Nah, nah, not at all.” Jensen put up his hand in a quick stop gesture. “It’s fine, I didn’t mean anything at all.” He grinned at Noah. “The boss is terrific. Very supportive.”
Grace chuckled. “Well done, Jensen. It’ll be a good gift certificate.”
Stupid scene, definitely not getting used, but words are words!