Wednesday, March 18, 2015

20: Two Points


Entry 020: Where Felix works at a solution and Kla takes what she wants.


                Felix lay on his cot that night in the dark room. Everything was still and silent, even the air systems completely quiet as they worked. He had found it unsettling those first few nights after living for so long in the clinking, whirring quarters of living ships, and even now that feeling hadn't gone away. But he did have a distraction now.
                He continued tightening the last screw with the edge of a piece of scrap metal by hand, a task made that much harder by the complete lack of light in the tiny room. He had thought of forgoing the casing entirely for the sake of time and efficiency, but then realized the impracticality of it.
                "If I'm going to pull this off, it's gotta be done right," he told himself grimly, face set in the dark. "No exposed circuitry. No weak spots. You blow this one shot," he told himself, "and there won't be any others."
                The screw wouldn't tighten any further and Felix slipped the metal piece he'd palmed a few days ago between his belt buckle and the top of his pants where his guards weren't likely to find it. He rolled onto his back and stared up at the unseen ceiling, feeling the edges of his contraption to reassure himself he hadn't forgotten anything important during the moments he'd stolen for its construction.
                He wasn't worried about any prying eyes inside this room. They'd been there at first, but after a week or so of dismantling any he saw, and ferreting out any he couldn't with a down and dirty detector he could have fashioned in his crib, the security measures had disappeared and the morning pat-downs had started. They'd found his detector right away but hadn't taken it. Another message from Kla no doubt.
                Keep your little toys. It doesn't make a difference to me.
                Felix's throat tightened as the panic that always appeared when they locked him in here threatened to overtake him. The darkness spun around his head, making him feel sick. He fought it back, fumbling the small, boxy, machine around in his hands until he felt the miniscule screen facing him.
                "Right," his breath was too loud in the dark, "here goes nothing."
                He thumbed the contraption on and a muted glow filled the screen, turning it from black to electronic gray. Nothing else happened, but Felix wasn't concerned. It was a blank slate, awaiting basic programming.
                Felix set to work, turning the machine around when the letters appeared upside down. He  knew exactly what he wanted his machine to do first and foremost, and the commands were simple enough for a mind like his to remember, but it still took time to lay in the framework for his little contraption.
                As soon as he closed the code, the blinking underscore line jumped down two lines, silently asking for a designation to identify with the command he'd just created.
                Felix frowned at it. "'Scan' seems too obvious. If Kla finds it and takes it, I don't want her to just turn it on and read it like some teenage diary."
                He snorted as he carefully found and pressed the right buttons before finding the 'accept' that would imprint the command into the small processing unit.
                Y= mx + b
                "The formula for plotting a line with two points. That'll make 'em think."
                Felix grinned to himself by the muted light of the screen, but it quickly turned into a grim line.
                "Two points plot a line..." he thought then took a deep breath. "Well, here goes nothin'."
                He highlighted the line equation, pointed his contraption in the general direction of his hand, and pushed a button. There was a spark, the brief smell of overheating circuitry, and then with a high pitched whirr, a line of gray-blue light speared out of the box and slowly crawled over Felix's hand, stopping at the wrist before crawling back up just as slowly. He watched as tiny sparks of yellow-hued light – like seeing static in a dark room – appeared suspended an inch or so from his skin.
                The light disappeared and the two by two screen flickered and fizzed as the contraption crunched through all of Felix's programmed calculations. It took so long that Felix started to worry that the little machine would crash entirely, but it kept on computing, until finally – just when it was on the point of overheating-
                Data accepted. Save Data Y or N
                Felix clicked over until the Y was underscored by the blinking marker and accepted the changes he'd made. Then, mindful of the minuscule battery reserves, he powered down his contraption and slipped it in the loose heel of his beat up sneaker for safe keeping. He slipped one hand behind his head and put the other on his chest, trying to keep still so he could sleep.
                "That's one."

***

                Kla swept into Lab C like she did everyday – with commanding strides and heels that showed off her legs – but today's smile was...off. Felix noticed right away but it still took him several moments to pin point why and by then she was standing so close behind him that he could feel her body  heat past the chilled air of the a/c vent he was sitting under.
                "Hello Felix," she murmured to him as she looped long fingers through his elbow. "Miss me?"
                Felix scowled and refused to look at her. "Like I miss the chicken pox," he told her, voice and body language surly. He knew this was just another of her games, but it was by far the most infuriating. Every time she ignored his bubble of personal space or tried to touch him, Tori's stricken face popped into his head, her brown eyes wide and hurt after she learned that Kla, of all people, had been in his old workroom instead of her. It made him angry and he shove the Moraloran away only to have her laugh at him as he realized he'd risen to the bait yet again.
                Felix held onto his patience with tenacious fingers. Today he would break that cycle. Today he would not snap or fling or stalk away and let her win. Instead he would ignore her and she would go away and think of some other way to rattle him, but this game would stop.
                "What do you want Kla? I'm busy," Felix grumbled as he pulled out one of the side drawers and fished around for a pencil and the A-shaped compass to help him record the angles accurately. She had yet to let go of his arm, making movement a bit difficult. If anything, he realized nervously, she was getting closer.
                Kla leaned her cheek against his shoulder, making Felix tense up and the hairs on the back of his neck rise. "I had this dream about you last night," she told him as if he hadn't spoken. "Do you want to hear it?"
                Felix grunted, the urge to shake her off growing stronger. "Given what I've seen of your conscious mind, I have no desire to meet your subconscious," he told her and then added, just to be clear, "so no. I really don't."
                Kla was actually rubbing her cheek against his shoulder now. "We were on this beach, you and I-”
                "Did you hear a word I just said?"
                "-and there was no one around for miles and miles-"
                Felix rolled his eyes. "Let me guess; so no one was around to hear my screams?"
                "Oh, I assure you," Kla's pitch lowered still, her voice becoming a throaty rasp, "I was the one screaming."
                Felix felt like spiders the size of bread plates had just skittered down his spine and he repressed a gag. He was by no means immune to beautiful women, but the idea of him and Kla...together revolted him like little had before.
                Unable to just stand there and take the abuse, Felix pried her free hand off the front of his shirt and none too-gently shook her other hand off his arm, nearly planting his elbow in her stomach at the same time.
                "Dang it," he thought to himself when she smoothly sidestepped his measly attack. Felix relaxed, expecting the mocking laugh and looking forward to the empty space when she finally walked away, victorious.
                Only this time she didn't leave. She didn't leave...and she didn't laugh.
                His back stiffened, mental defenses raising even higher as she began to change the rules of play. "Now what is she up to?"
                Kla settled against the desk next to him, adjusting her limbs so her off-white clothing stretched tight over certain places.
                Felix looked without meaning to and quickly turned his back on her, mentally cursing himself. "She better not have seen that," he told himself. "The last thing she needs is encouragement."
                But of course she had. She made a sound low in her throat and vaguely feline as she closed the space between them again. About the time she wrapped her arms around him from behind, Felix realized with horror that this was no longer a game.
                "Get off!" Felix managed to throw off her cloying grip, dragging her off when she refused to give him up easily. He could already feel the welts forming on his arms where her manicured nails had gotten him.
                He backed away, face angry. "What is with you?" he demanded, tired of not being able to tell what was true and what was just another manipulation. "Don't you know what it looks like when someone isn't into you? You've already taken everything important away from me so just-” He suddenly felt like a high school kid again and his face turned red at the uselessness of his own words. "-just leave me alone."
                Kla was hardly put off. "What's the matter Felix?" She took a calculated step forward, her smile nothing short of wicked nod. "Is it so strange a pretty girl like me would find you attractive?" She hugged herself like a shy schoolgirl afraid of rejection, but her eyes never left his face, ruining what Felix thought was already a very poor attempt at vulnerability.
                Felix shook his head in disgust, at himself as much as her. "Gah, you are so selfish!" His temper finally broke. "Selfish and vindictive and just- just-” The word 'mean' kept jumping to the tip of his tongue, but he already felt like too much of a kid as it was.
                Kla raised a versatile eye ridge and took another step towards him. "Selfish?" she supplied.
                "Yes," Felix told her with a scowl.  "And beautiful or not you are the last person I would ever even think of being with-Mmf!"
                He had no idea how Kla had taken anything he'd just said to mean 'lay one on me right now', but that's what she did. In two long strides, she had closed the distance between them, grabbed him by his front collar, and attached her mouth to his with all the force of a crash landing shuttle.
                For an awful moment Felix stood there, frozen. His mind couldn't comprehend what was happening to him and in hi stupefied state, Kla managed to get inside his mouth. She tasted like wild oranges, he realized. She tasted like wild oranges, smelled like spice, and Felix knew there was a very real chance he was going to be sick.
                His hands flailed uselessly behind her back before he finally found the brainpower to fight her off. As soon as she lost her grip he backed away, slamming his lower back into Redford's table in his hurry to get away. When she didn't come charging after him, Felix dragged his sleeve across his mouth, hoping it would take away the smell.
                "Eugh!" The sound was involuntary. "Wha-why-? Eugh!"
                He spit on the floor, not caring what she thought of him. He hoped she was insulted. He hoped his visceral reaction would keep her from trying anything like it again.
                But Kla only stared at him, eyes hungry, as she overtly licked her violet lips.
                "Worth it," she declared, looking him up and down before, calm as you please, turning around and leaving the room entirely.
                Along in the lab again, Felix glowered after her. The smell of that awful spice was still in his nose. He wiped his mouth again for good measure, seeing purple smears coming off on his sleeve where her lipstick clung to him. "Yeah," he muttered, "it had better been."
                He reached into his coat pocket and looked down without pulling his contraption out. In the overhead florescent lighting, the screen was harder to see, but he could still made out the words Data accepted. Save Data Y or N.
                Some of the tension left him as he saved the new data point. At least there was that. For the last few days he'd tried to think of something that would let him get close enough to Kla to scan her without her noticing. And then she'd jumped him so suddenly he'd almost forgotten to scan her at all. For a heart pounding moment, he'd been afraid he'd missed the perfect opportunity.
                He returned to his lab table, leaving Redford's a mess from when he'd slammed into it. As he righted the stool he'd knocked over in his earlier haste to put some space between him and Kla, he checked the little boxy machine again, shielding it from any prying eyes with his back and the desk in front of him. New words were printed on the small screen.
                Save complete. Run program? Y or N
                Felix underscored the N and clicked, shutting down his contraption with a flick of his thumb before straightening up with the stool. "And two points make a line," he told himself under his breath as he returned to his angle compass and notes.
                Now all he needed was the right time to trace it to its source.



< Entry 19                                                                                                                                           Entry 21 >

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