Ierod called to Check, and the two together, lifted my head and trunk and placed me into a sitting position.
"Feeling great?" Check said, gruffly. I was silent. "You got great scores. Great things ahead for you. Its quantifiable!"
I turned to face Ierod. He was smiling. Then I looked at Pamille. She seemed less strange to me. She seemed, not grotesque and freakish, but normal and almost natural. Her expression, before an expressionless mask, now clearly bore the signs of a nervous guilt. The weight that had been such a burden, though sensible, was not unbearable any longer. My stomach, which had been twisted in knots, now seemed steady.
"Tired too, no doubt." Ierod added. " Training isn't rest." I was tired. "And, it's not really over anyway. It will take a few shifts and sleep will help out."
I was tired, but I was also determined not to show any weakness anymore. These people who had seized control of my life, must be resisted if I was to preserve it.
When Ierod, stepped over to Check and pulled him aside as if to say something in private. I swung my legs over the side of the table. I dropped down and walked over to them as assertively as I could. Confidence was welling up within me from some unknown source.
"Can we go back to the canteen?"
Ieroed and Check looked at me in some surprise.
"Sure, hold on. Pamille needs to discharge you. Would you please?"
"Already done." She said.
Ierod's eyes lit up. "Fantastic! Come on. Let's go!" He gestured for Check to follow him, but the troll shook his head.
"I have to put together a team. Pamille and I need to look at the current allocations and whose overloaded. Shortage of people. Everyone is lazy. No one wants to work anymore. Especially those n-gen goons. Rotten, squeamish, miserable lot."
"We'll continue our discussion later. Come with me... Peter right?" I nodded. "You probably remember the way. " I followed him out the door steadily, this time paying more attention.
"How long was it?"
"You mean how much time did it take?"
"I don't know. Maybe a little over a half shift. I don't follow timers. I just run around and when I get tired I find some hole to lie down in and sleep until I wake up and start running around again. You're probably a little confused by all this. But you've had plenty of sleep, plenty of rest. You'll find you don't need so much. Well except to let those chips finish doing whatever they do up there.
"You'll find that the problem really is staying clean and hydrated. Everything is always so dry, and the n-gen don't like the way you'll smell when you get dirty. Nin-folk don't care really. They hate us whatever we smell like. All except the 'intellectual' disenfranchised type like Pamille. But even she doesn't really like us.
"Your suit and the food will take care of a good part of the smell. If you feel the need to defecate or urinate, find a hole like one of those," he pointed to a narrow door, hardly larger than a locker. It was marked by a red circle. "It shouldn't happen too often. But perhaps this is all coming to you. I don't what they teach you in training now. It used to be that the Nin-folk left most of the training to other humans, but now, they like to control it. They aren't squeamish so they probably implant all sorts of things, all sorts of hidden motivations." He said the last two words with thick irony.
"Where am I?"
"In what sense."
"What am I doing here?"
"Don't get philosophical. By the way, I don't like the name 'Peter,' It's too... abrupt. Two syllables, but too hard. I don't like the sound of long e's myself. They pierce my eardrums, like a shriek. I like quiet things more. So, I'm going to call you something else. Your surname was something Irish or Scottish, right? McLane?"
"Not a lot of Irish or Scotch up here surprisingly enough. Or if there are they all long since forgot about it. They don't usually like native English speakers you see." We passed through the doors of the canteen. "I hate this place." He said. "But get yourself something to drink. Go ahead and get something to eat too while your at it." I did as he told and he went and sat down at a bench. The canteen was almost entirely empty. I provisioned myself and returned. "But you'll be different I bet." He said enigmatically, "You won't be like these other things."
"What does that mean."
"I don't like things too clean." He said. "Not meaning I like things dirty, but I think you have to throw the dice every now and then. They like rules, that's what being a Nin-folk is all about. Making lots and lots of rules. They want everything to fit in its own particular hole and stay in the hole. That's why they don't like native English speakers. And that's why Bud and I recruit them. You have messy thoughts, I can tell. You have dark, dirty, nasty, rotten, thoughts." The seriousness of his tone frightened me. "Which is why we are going to get along. You and me and Check and Bud. We are going to shake things up and make it a little less predictable."
"What am I supposed to be doing?"
"Oh.. you'll figure it out. You're a smart kid Macko, and it will come to you soon enough."