Out There

an extract from the Chapter, Friggen Puddles:

Charon looks around to see some blank faces. He stands up for emphasis. “It was an emergency and we all worked our butts off… Anyway, other than the mound, the soil and substrate were soaked, but apparently undisturbed. Other than the mound soil being crystallized. Now…” He sits down. “If anybody can add something more reasonable, I, for one, would be overjoyed to hear it.”
Wilber White shakes his head, hard, under very wrinkled brows.
Shawna lets out the first part of a retort, “Oh pl…” But she peters out in the middle of her exclamation.
Billy Cleghorn looks around. “I got a bad feelin’ about this. Charon, I take it you’ve gone through a formal problem solving process?”
Charon nods, pointing to the screen which now shows a scrolling ladder-logic chain.
Silence, then quiet discussions with neighbours.
Dragonslayer clears his throat. “Hhamm. As this is the first time any of us Directors have seen this, I propose we slink off into our respective burrows to think about it… There being no objections I will adjourn the meeting. A wiki has been set up with all the evidence. I’m sure Charon would appreciate some cogent commentary. Yes?” He looks to Charon then around the room.
Marta rises slowly from her chair. With a confused frown, she turns as Billy draws up behind her. He reflexively avoids bumping into her.
Awkwardly, “Sorry, Marta. I guess we’re all distracted…”
Marta half-nods, “Um.”
Billy is about to say something else then notices Marta’s blank look. He moves around her, catching Shawna’s eye from across the desk. With a reflexive roll of his eyes he sends Shawna a smile-nod then heads for the now open door. On his way out he looks back to see Marta dropping into a chair, still out of it. Billy shrugs.
Marta is increasingly slipping into an amorphous inner world borne of over-activated synapses. Her mental world is becoming insusceptible to her senses. She is high.
On his way down the hall, Billy taps a note to Sked. He is one of the mentors to the crew that schedules peoples’ communal activities.
Billy Cleghorn: It would be prudent to take Marta off active Security duties for the next 24 hours
A low ding sounds a second later. He sees a thumbs-up on his Pad. Billy mumbles, “Huh. Must’ve integrated Carrot into Sked’s decisions… Have to consider the consequences.”
Behind him, Jasmine Ramawikrama has been silently gliding a step away. “Carrot?”
Billy contritely looks over his shoulder. “Hello lovely lady. You were listening to my random rambles?”
Jasmine steps up beside him as they stride down the long white hallway.
“Carrot?” She looks up at Billy with her assertive brown eyes.
His shoulders sag slightly as he continues along the hall. “Ok. The announcement to the Execs is coming real soon, so allow me to enlighten you, my dear.” He takes her arm in his, then, leaning over slightly, Billy quietly tells her about Carrot.

Back in the meeting room, Marta is alone. She has slumped onto her arms at the table, appearing to be asleep in her chair.
Her inner world melds cloudy colours across a landscape of animated sounds
Poking up jauntily into pastel hills and falling into sticky dells
All around she hears the whooshing sizzle and pops of cheeky smells
Legs caught in the stickiness of dells, she ripples to a field of bubbling mounds
Hard hands hold her.
Flying a flitter for fanciful flight.
Securely sheltered by a chic checkered sheet.
She, herself and everybody in creation opens their eyes
Their multitude of hands fling away the sheet of squares which flutter in all directions

Gentler hands soothe her brows with cool cloths.

The overwhelming waterfall of sound falls away.
Marta struggles to wake up in her bed. Her two First Responders sit patiently on either side.
Having trouble forcing her eyes to focus, Marta rubs them. Her arms move clumsily.
Choi rubs Marta’s arm. “Coming back to us?”
With a concerned look, Wanlee shakes her head at Marta. “You had us worried, Marta. Do you know how long you’ve been out?”
Choi nods. “Its been half a day since the Directors meeting.”
“Huh? What… what meeting?”

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