Tyrone arrived first. "Don't tell Phyllis I took lunch early," he said. He pulled a paper-wrapped package from his belt-bag.
Nelda barely heard him, snatching an offered sandwich. It was slightly warm, but that could be from cooking or from Tyrone's body heat. She devoured it like a ravenous hamster, her cheeks bulging with food.
"I hope you like grilled cheese," Tyrone added. "I don't think anyone will notice I went early. I don't think anyone notices me very much. Especially not Phyllis."
[The fate of worlds is in my hands, but I'm stuck in a soap opera.]
Nelda managed to swallow her mouthful. "I guess you're not her type." She continued to inhale the sandwich.
"I'm not saying that I… I mean. Is it that obvious?"
"I know she's not interested. It not, I know ita a bullshot thing men say, but I did find out she's a lesbian. Which is not to say that if she was not a lesbian, she would be interested in me anyway. But she is. I mean, isn't."
Nelda nodded vaguely.
"It was the HR guy who told me," Tyrone rambled. "He said how she ticked two diversity boxes at once, which is kinda a shitty thing for an HR person to say anyway, even without outing her. Oh shit, and maybe I shouldn't be telling you, but then it's not something... hell. I never feel like I know what to do."
Nelda swallowed the last crumbs and immediately started to hiccup.
"Yeah – hic – well, adulting is hard – hic. You're doing – hic – good."
[That sounded dumb.]
Tyrone actually seemed pleased with her platitudes. "My decision now is whether it would be better for me to stay here or go to…"
"The – hic – people there call it M – hic -- irth, Mirth."
"Go to Mirth. You'd have to admit it sounds like fun." He grinned.
Nelda made a 'so-so' gesture with her hand.
"If I stay here I can use the technology I developed to an effective level. But it is almost certain that the prof and I will be on turn controlled by greater forces. Forces that will almost inevitably be—"
"Hic – Evil."
Tyrone frowned. "I don't know about evil. They are simply controlled by priorities and expediencies that are not necessarily… moral. It's not that they are evil."
"It's also not that they're – hic – not evil."
"And given how you describe Mirth. If I go there most of what I know, the technologies that I have built my life around do not and effectively cannot exist there."
Nelda shrugged. For all she knew, a city of cyber-minotaurs lived in a spaceship orbiting Mirth. But if this all came from Angry Brenda's brain… well, she wasn't a fan of contemporary or sci-fi. [Or me.]
"Oh," Tyrone pulled a can of coke from his bag.
Nelda grabbed that in a way that was probably also not polite, but he didn't seem to notice.
Tyrone continued, "So it comes down to the Oppenheimer question. He decided it was okay to make the hydrogen bomb basically because if he didn't, others would still do so. But I don't know if it is egotistical to say, but I don't think anyone else. At least not for a very long time, probably generations. I am melding" – he squished his hands together –"hard physics with what Prof calls new age bullshit, but it is really a kind of holistic meta-science that encompassed grey knowledge that the mainstream has disenfranchised since the early modern era, if not before… what do you think?"
[I am not used to people caring about what I think. But I don't really understand what he is asking.] "You're doing your best to make a good decision," she said. "That's really all there is to do."
"I'm so glad that…"
They were interrupted by the arrival of Jen, caring a 'Forever 21' bag.
"Thanks?" Nelda hadn't intended that to sound like a question. She opened the bag and was relieved to find a plain pair of black leggings and an oversized sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was white and had a candy floss covered unicorn on the front of it.
Jen shrugged. "It was on sale."
[Is the universe trying to send me a message here?]
"Jen likes horses," Tyrone supplied. He then blushed when she glared at him. He started to gulp.
[It seems like every other woman gives him dry mouth but me. I'll try not to take that personally.]
In the bottom of the bag was a neon yellow baseball cap and some tissue paper, wrapped around two small blue stones.
Nelda caught Jen's eyes. "If you stay behind, I will pay you back whatever this cost," she said.
Manny arrived next. "Master key!" he said with glee as he crawled in awkwardly to join them. His forehead was flushed, and sweat ran down his face, He seemed somewhat out of shape for an urban explorer.
"Master key?" Nelda asked.
Manny replied. "I tried it on one of the other secure rooms in the opposite wing to where they are keeping weepy.
"What!" Nelda shrieked. She had been really trying not to obsesses about how SmithGuild was doing. She found herself immediately sympathy-crying.
"Wow," said Jen. "Have some sensitivity; that's her bae."
"And I've brought a key to break him out with. I can't do anything right with you guys for fuck's sake."
Tyrone butted in, "That doesn't mean you can put him down."
Nelda struggled to get her emotions under control. As the other three bickered.
"…It's not a put-down; it's a description. He is crying like a little pussy."
"…That is a put-down and a sexist one too…."
"Hey, if you don't want the key—"
Nelda took a deep breath. "Guys, guys, it's okay. I'm a tad overwhelmed what with the multiverse-hopping and all. Manny, we'd be screwed without that key, thank you. And I appreciate people thinking about my feeling. I really need to be thinking about yourselves right now. Once we get Smith… Smith out it will make the most sense to go right to the Porter. If he'll take you through, you can go. If it is anything to do with me, that's going to happen as soon as possible. So you need to be ready to decide."
Phyllis arrived to a room silence but for the poise of water pipes the return of Nelda's hiccups.
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