I was shocked, my whole body jerked in revulsion. What was this thing that hovered above me?
"I assure you," she said sweetly "you look as revulting to me as I do to you."
I tried to sit up, but the weight of my body was so very great that I could not even lift my head.
"Steady," she continued, "let's not rip a muscle overexerting. Diot or someone will help you up in just a minute."
"Where am I?" I asked again.
"You are with the EARA. You were just unpacked."
"What are you going to do to me?"
"Well, we will do some training, indoctrination, acclimation as I just said. We also will outfit you for your new career depending on how well you take to the training. That's our main job in human procurement. But of course, we are just one group in a much larger organization. Take for example, this single station. We have a large semi-autonomous program management team here. There are about twenty-five full time assistants and associates whose whole occupation is to monitor commuication between various operatives. We also have an information coordinator and a Ninian Press Liason. These are all part of our Protocol and Internal Affairs Departments. We also have several actual operative divisions. Don't ask me to explain all their various tasks. Truthfully their affairs are no real concern of ours. We have a small hospital contingent, a fair sized mechanical technician lab, an armament recuperation officer, and an information coordinator. With all the incomings and outgoings of officers and operatives we also employ..."
I suddenly realized that she was going to keep talking unless I took action immediately. "I don't care, damn it! Just let me up!"
"As I said, we will let you up in a moment. I suggest just relaxing and being patient. You are a great deal overdue. This has put us into an unpleasant situation, and I can't tell you how much typework this is going to cause. We have to relist you and check on current assignments. The position we had you down for has already been filled, hasn't it Diot."
"Just send me back!"
"No, I don't think so. It would be a tremendous nuisance. The only options right now are to dump you or train you." She stepped away, "Diot, will you see to it that it is put back into the system? I have a few other affairs to take care of." She shuffled out of sight. I turned my head and looked at the far more attractive creature operating a console a few feet away.
Relatively more attractive. She was tall and thin and the head on her long neck drooped like a wilted flower. She had a wild mass of yellow-orange hair that seemed to stick straight up like a candleflame. Her elfen face was a little less than pretty and a little more than plain. Her tight fitting uniform revealed a rather asexual body with very little feminity. I noticed that it was the same kind of unifrom Bud had appeared in with a few small changes. The satin stripe down the leg and sleeve was white with a red square at shoulder and hip.
"What was that thing?"
"What was that thing?" I repeated, my voice becoming more desperately shrill and ragged.
"You mean Pamille?"
"Yes. Whatever. What was she?"
"She is a Ninian, Mr. MacLeinn. Please don't worry about the typework. It's really not that bad. Pamille just doesn't understand how the system works. She always thinks things she doesn't know about are so complicated. There, you're back in the system." She looked over at me giving me a reassuring smile. The anxiety on my face must have been quite obvious. "Try to relax, I'm checking your insulin response and a couple more medical checks and I'll help you up and you can get something to eat and drink."
I looked around the room. There were many more tables like the one I assumed I was on. Most were empty but several had bodies on them. Unmoving bodies. There was spotlight above each of the corpses, just like the one that had blinded me. "Why can't I move?" I asked. "I'm not dead am I?"
An enormous teeth baring smile split her face. Then she emitted a spontaneous barklike laugh and then snorted through her nose. "Oh... the gravity is always a little higher in the basement. No Mr. MacLeinn you're not dead, but for all anyone really cares you might as well be dead." She paused looking at what I took to be a computer console. Her expression became more serious and reflective. "And probably, soon enough you will."