Dr. Mueller had never read Catcher in the Rye, though he vaguely knew of the controversial history of the book. The book's themes of teenage angst and a lack of depth in society weren't really things he was interested in. He knew he'd have to read the book at some point, at least to understand it, even if his interest wasn't captured by it. However, what had captured his interest was a certain copy of Catcher in the Rye that had presented anomalous properties in the past few weeks.
Intelligence gathered by surface observational teams confirmed that anyone who came in contact with the book had an uncontrollable urge to kill John Lennon and all of his family. The urge, thankfully, left 48 hours after being separated from the book, but it provided a few issues with transporting it back to L-14 for containment. Namely, the book could not be moved, neither by human nor machine, without the person or even the person controlling the machine coming under the influence of it. Sure, the Foundation could probably figure out a way around this limitation in the field. There were quite a few people who had unconventional ways around cognito-hazards.
But those methods and people came with their own issues and, often, unexpected expenses. On top of that, Abraham wanted an excuse to get out into the field for an adventure! If the Foundation had an innocuous researcher with a supposed immunity to mind-altering anomalies, why not use him? So, Dr. Mueller had been selected to retrieve the book alongside ACF-833, Laine Cantrille. The reason why Miss Cantrille had been assigned to this mission was quite simple, Dr. Mueller had requested her.
Abraham had spent a lot of time reading about the anomalies and anomalous humans at L-14, and far too much time recording verbally ACF-1003's sad life. He wanted to experience a nice interaction with an L-14 ano-human. Laine seemed to be the perfect subject for this. Of course, as Dr. Mueller stepped out onto the helipad to meet Miss Cantrille, he wanted to make sure he wouldn't ask anything of her that would make her comfortable. He wasn't out here to pry into her personal life, after all, he would need to pry into her personal life to better understand her.
Smiling, he extended a hand to see if she would shake it as the helicopter began spinning up its rotors. "Hello Miss Cantrille, may I call you Laine? I am Dr. Mueller, you may call me Abraham if you like."
ACF Internal Messaging Client
All identifications removed for security purposes, Class-E clearance or higher required.
A > I think we need to look a little closer at 833 at some point. I know - she's quiet, she doesn't cause problems, she's one of the least likely anomalies to breach, but I'm concerned we've been mistaking that for thinking we understand her, and I don't think we do. From a Foundation standpoint, that's concerning.
B > All attempts to assign a researcher after [REDACTED] have been... abortive, let's say.
C > A disaster.
B > But a quiet disaster!
C > Still, a disaster. Nothing sticks. We get reports of researchers feeling vaguely uncomfortable about the subject and then, nothing.
B > They get distracted and focus on other things, because 833's not all that interesting.
A > Which is exactly the sort of thing that I'm talking about, yes.
B > I don't know, that might just be researchers.
A > It might be. But do we know for a fact that it isn't?
C > So what are you suggesting, here?
A > I think we go at it a little more obliquely. We don't assign a researcher. We just put her in some slightly different situations and we observe.
B > Different situations?
A > Outside L-14.
C > She'll hate that
B > She'll hate- yeah. That.
A > I'm aware. Tell me why.
B > I dunno. She's just pretty attached to it.
C > Very attached to it.
A > How literal are we being here?
A > image sent Description: ACF-833 in L-14 corridor, one hand in contact with corridor wall.
B > That's, uh- huh. I don't know. She does that occasionally.
C > No. She does that frequently. Usually when she's upset about something or thinking things over or... figuring herself out. I don't know how to put it.
B > Anchoring herself, lol.
A > In L-14
C > Can't say for sure. Maybe.
A > She's still averse to touching people?
C > As far as I know, yes. Why?
A > image sent Description: Date: 2015, ACF-833 sitting next to [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] is working on paperwork, ACF-833 has one hand in contact with [REDACTED]'s arm. Similarity to positioning of previous photo is notable.
B > Okay... huh. I don't know, maybe that was an exception. She was pretty attached to [REDACTED]
B > Oh. [EXPLETIVE].
A > It might not be significant, but I do think we need to try to understand this one a little better.
C > So what's the plan?
A > Dr. Mueller is doing a little retrieval, something that should be very low key. Let's send 833 along "for security purposes" and do a little observation and see where that leads us. He won't know the whole story.
C > Understood. And I assume this discussion is going to be classified?
A > Until we have a better idea what's going on, this discussion is going to be very classified.
Laine had very strong reservations about this particular assignment. She was an L-14 security agent, not part of a surface team. She had not been outside the Foundation in fourteen years. She was not good with people. She belonged at L-14.
Fortunately, this assignment was temporary. If it were not temporary, there would have been additional concerns. It was possible that these concerns would be those of other Foundation members, at that point.
She belonged at L-14.
She was assisting outside of it. Still, she did not like it. This was not Dr. Mueller's fault, and the Foundation undoubtedly had its reasons for this assignment, even if they were not immediately clear to her. They did not need to be, because she was an anomaly.
Perhaps that was one of the reasons for the assignment. Laine was not certain what her interaction with the anomalous novel was going to be, but it was at least potentially beneficial. She had read a copy of the non-anomalous version, and had not understood it at all. This was standard. Laine did not like works of fiction.
Dr. Mueller offered a greeting, which was standard.
"It's Agent Cantrille. Laine is acceptable." She did not prefer Miss. She had been Miss Cantrille for some time, but now she had a different role. These things were important. The extended hand she did not reach for. "I do not like physical contact. Thank you."
Abraham withdrew the hand unperturbed, attempting to communicate with his body language that he was not bothered that she did not shake his hand. Smiling, he nodded and climbed into the helicopter. She was curt, respectful, and perhaps not too interested in talking. That was entirely acceptable, Abraham did not want to push her out of her comfort zone he would need to push her gently out of her comfort zone.
Reaching out after climbing in, he offered a hand out to assist Laine in entering the helicopter. However, he would understand after their conversation if she refused the assistance. Stepping away from the entrance and buckling into his chair, Mueller couldn't help but smile. He had only ridden in a helicopter a few times, so it still felt like a fairly new experience. He always liked new experiences.
Putting on a headset, as was necessary for communication in the helicopter, Abraham waited until Laine donned one as well before speaking, "I hope you do not mind Laine, I read your file. I would like to inquire a bit about your anomalous properties. Would you do me the honor of entertaining my slow, old-man research questions?" Abraham laughed at his own self-depreciation, though he knew he was starting to get up there in years. He'd have to start slowing down soon he'd have to start speeding up soon! He wouldn't want to miss out on anything!
And Laine! Laine was fascinating! Specifically her ability. Abraham had read up on her recovery as well as her general file but found information on her anomalous properties to be lacking. Of course, Abraham would most certainly not bring up anything related to Laine's acquisition by the Foundation. No need to dredge up bad memories. His own acquisition had been something of a rough start as well, with a lot of injections and a lot of probing questions. A memory better forgotten a memory seared into his cells.
Laine had been on a helicopter precisely one time prior to this one. She had been very small, by Foundation standards. It had been when she arrived at the Foundation, and was therefore not a negative association. She did not require help boarding, and was certain to check her safety belts when sitting down. Security was important.
The headset allowed for communication while quieting the noise of the helicopter. Laine liked the quiet. Communication was also necessary for optimal results. "I do not mind, Dr. Mueller. I read all the files I have access to." Educating oneself about the anomalies and personnel at the Foundation was important for efficacy. She had noticed that some personnel read the files and tried to act as if they had not. This was strange. If the files were not meant to be read, people would not have access to them.
"You are not my researcher, Dr. Mueller. However, you are a researcher and a member of the Foundation. I will listen to your questions and choose whether or not to answer them. The pace of the questions does not matter so long as it does not interfere with the goals of the Foundation." They were both on an assignment, and as the assignment was important to the Foundation, it must come first. The flight time was non-negotiable, however, and so questions were permissible for its duration.
"If you require an answer that is not given at this time, you may request it through Agent Cotta or Dr. Redd - or Jupiter, as I understand you work for him. I have also read your file. Does this offend you?"
Abraham smiled while Laine spoke, listening through his headset to her words and the way that she formed them. Her sentences were almost all simply statements of fact, even her questions seemed like strangely phrased factual statements. The more she spoke, and the more her words were recorded in the cells of Dr. Mueller's mind, the more she became like a puzzle that needed solving.
Abraham loved puzzles.
Relaxing in the helicopter seat as much as he could, he waited as the vehicle gently lifted off the helipad and began flying. It was a civilian news-styled helicopter, the kind most people wouldn't look too closely at flying over areas that typically didn't see a lot of helicopter movement. As they moved, Abraham decided to test Laine's statement that the pace of the questions did not matter. But first, he would answer her question for him. "No, it does not offend me at all! This is the nature of the work that we do; everything said and done must be recorded. If something is not worth recording, then it is not worth saying."
His words sounded strange coming out of his mouth they were his genuine opinions. He felt that explaining how his mind worked, even if in such a little capacity, might bring him closer to understanding Laine. Leaning forward in the chair, the questions began, "I know you are able to hold or anchor items in place, so I will begin with the limits of your strength. How many items can you anchor at a time? What is the upper limit of size for anchoring? What is the lower limit? Can you anchor specific parts of specific items and not others? For example, can you anchor the cab of this helicopter, but leave the rotors spinning? Would we still move? Can you anchor living things? What is the extent of the living things you can anchor if you can anchor them?"
Abraham paused for a moment, then breathed. He had spoken so fast he had begun turning a new shade of color. Smiling, he waited and made time to catch his breath.
Dr. Mueller had very many questions. He did not wait for answers. These questions were also particularly research focused. They reminded her of-
It was better not to think about that right now. Laine was not at L-14, and extra security was therefore required. For a little while she did not say anything at all, but eventually she chose to answer.
"One. The upper and lower limits depend on the definition of one, but I do not know what they are. I can anchor specific parts of a specific item as long as I can define them as one." She had held the upper portion of a centrifuge for Dr. Kallie in the past while allowing her to manipulate the lower parts, but it was one upper portion.
"I cannot anchor the cab of the helicopter but not the rotors, as this would put Foundation personnel in greater danger than they are already, and I cannot do that." If the helicopter were on the ground or did not contain Foundation personnel, the answer would be different, but that was not what he had asked. There was an additional set of questions regarding living creatures, but Laine was not going to answer that set, for security purposes.
Abraham crossed his fingers over themselves while Laine spoke. He took in everything that she said and, pointedly, everything that she neglected to answer. A refusal to answer was just as powerful as a direct response sometimes. Of course, he wouldn't want to push her too far he'd definitively need to use his authority to push her. It'd need to be tactically utilized, though, just throwing it at her would be too much.
Additionally, it seemed as though she was putting limitations on herself that were, in a word, unnecessary. Such as seeing herself as 'unable' to do something because Foundation personnel might be put in danger, which was strange. The way she stated it, it sounded to Abraham as though she had the ability to do certain things, such as the exact scenario that Abraham posed, but it seemed she didn't believe she had the ability because of the way she thought of herself and her abilities-? His mind was running so quickly that his eyes seemed to rapidly dart from side to side.
Reaching up, he tapped the back of his head to calm himself down. He had all the time in the world to ask questions, there was no reason to think in run-on sentences. Still smiling gently, Abraham finally spoke again, "That's all quite fascinating! Now, I have a few more, ah, personal questions to ask if you don't mind. I am a class-D researcher, so please do not feel as though I am unqualified for certain content in reference to the Foundation. We both work for the same person, so to speak!"
Realizing his fingers had begun to twitch nearly uncontrollably, Abraham laughed and sat on his hands. Why were they doing that? Was that normal time to ask questions of Laine! His voice chipper, he continued, "When you anchor things, do you process the tactile sensation of the items you're anchoring? In a sense, if you were to hold something furry with your anomaly, would it feel furry?"
"I do not require research at this time." Dr. Mueller was a researcher, but he was not her researcher. Laine was not interested in being researched. She had answered questions because it was polite, but now things were different. It was not a matter of qualification in the way he meant it: there was only one qualification that mattered, and Dr. Mueller did not fulfill it.
He was not Alex.
Alex was not here, and L-14 was not here either. This was unpleasant. Laine withdrew, sitting back in her seat and folding her hands in her lap, very still. Very quiet, for a moment. It was not practical to remain silent. Communication was important for mission success.
"Research inquiries may be filed through L-14 management." L-14 management was responsible for authorizing research on anomalies under their care. As any research was currently unauthorized, it was not necessary.
Laine observed, instead. Dr. Mueller's fingers moved frequently. "You are very mobile. Is this standard behavior, or does it represent a deviation?"
Ah, he pushed too hard. Abraham felt a little bit of shame at Laine's response. He had known about her previous researcher and a little about their relationship, it was not uncommon. Synergy theory had taken the Foundation by storm in recent times and a simple glance back could see the results of unconscious attempts at it even before it had a name. Of course, when either the researcher or anomaly that synergized together perished... Well, there were detractors to the synergy theory.
Abraham was not trying to research Laine at this time, but he knew how his questions might come off as such. Nodding in response to her words, he attempted to explain himself, "Ah, I apologize, I was not attempting to research you. I, well, my curiosity gets the better of me. Do understand that all questions I ask are of the nature of getting to know you better as a person. But if you'd prefer, I will ask no more." He pulled his hands out from under him, the twitching finally stopping.
Everything in his mind screamed to know more and demanded everything at once, but this was normal for him. Abraham always had a curious mind since shortly before joining the Foundation since he was a little kid. Looking at his hands after Laine asked him about his 'very mobile' behavior, Abraham answered, "A deviation? Well, in the interest in us getting to know each other, I can answer that. Though I should say I do not require research at this time either, Miss Cantrille." Abraham laughed, he thought the joke was funny, "No, sometimes my body has a mind of its own- but it doesn't, that would be silly."
At that, Abraham tried to relax as he looked out the side of the helicopter at the scenery passing by below. He would not ask any more of Laine for their trip if she did not wish it. He would need to respect her he would need to respect her he would need to respect her he would need.
Laine nodded slightly at Dr. Mueller's explanation of not research. She could understand, because she was also very curious. This was acceptable.
"I apologize also." Apologies were important. Laine delayed slightly, then added: "I am finding conversation more difficult than usual without my support system. I will try not to be bothered by further inquiries." She turned her head a little bit, over her shoulder. L-14 was there. It was not visible, but she did not need to see it. She knew exactly where it was. It was where she belonged.
She was not there. This was challenging. Laine needed to focus on something else. She let herself consider Dr. Mueller's last statement in more detail.
"A body having a mind of its own is generally considered standard, though it is arguable that the standard is that a mind has a body of its own. I believe the Foundation becomes concerned when a body has more minds or no minds or minds of someone or something else. These are generally considered security risks."
Her eyes stayed where they were, not leaving the place where L-14 was. "Are you a security risk, Dr. Mueller? If so, I would appreciate your telling me."
Laine responded to Abraham, even apologized! That surprised him but Abraham didn't let it show on his face. It was not necessarily surprising that Laine had apologized to him, rather, Abraham was just not used to ano-humans apologizing at all. Most just outright refused to talk to him, so this was an improvement upon improvement. He smiled and nodded as a response to her noting an attempt to not be bothered by his questions, though he knew he still needed to not push too hard.
Abraham laughed at her question, then shook his head, "Oh no, I am not a security risk. Though I agree with you that too many or too few minds is a security risk, it can also be an excellent research opportunity! There are so many anomalies who have powers beyond belief, powers that boggle the mind. Of course, humanity is not ready to see these things, but think of the day when we can finally improve lives..."
Realizing he was revealing a little bit about himself, Abraham decided to clarify, "I am of a faction of researchers who believe that, eventually, the world should know about what we do here. Ah, within reason and at the council's discretion, of course. But we could make the world a better place, would you agree?" Tapping his elbow, Abraham realized he hadn't really stopped fidgeting since getting on the helicopter. He really should try and control himself he really should ask Laine what she thought about anomalies.
"What do you think, Miss Cantrille? Do you think the world may one day be ready for what we have behind our walls?"
"I like the walls." The walls were important for keeping things in place. They were used for building things, like locations. Walls were important. Locations were important. Security was important.
"The Foundation is making the world a better place by keeping anomalies removed from it, Dr. Mueller. That is what the Foundation is for. If that changes, then there will be no Foundation. There might be something that the Foundation has become, but it won't be the same." It would be different. Different was not always bad, but Laine did not like change. She liked the Foundation the way it was. She would not like it as well if it were not the same.
Also, she was not good with people.
"I think you should ask if the things we have behind our walls are ready for the world."
Laine was telling Abraham something in the words she was not saying. Whether this was intentional or not, Abraham couldn't yet tell, but either way, it spoke to an emotional intelligence within the woman stronger than her phrasing would suggest. Abraham was not unsurprised by strange speech patterns, he had recorded all of 1003's files audibly, after all. However, emotional intelligence was something many researchers lacked, let alone anomalies.
So Abraham smiled knowingly and answered honestly, "No, not yet. But someday, maybe. Things change, metamorphosis, and transform into something new all the time. Even within human anatomy, they replace almost every cell in their bodies every ten years. But in ten years, you will still be Laine Cantrille, and I will always be Abraham Mueller." There was a certainty with which he said 'always' referring to himself, but Abraham didn't seem to notice the change in inflection and continued, "Change is normal for humans, and this is still a human world."
Then, looking out the window, Abraham noticed the massive warehouse placed seemingly in the middle of nowhere. "Ah! We're close! Look-" It was a truly massive building, with 'CICATRIX SERVICES' stamped in massive lettering on the side. It was some kind of large scale storage business, taking in any number of dry items and holding them definitively for clients. It made sense for it to be placed far away from prying eyes, less needed to be spent on security to keep out thieves.
"Will I?" Laine was not as certain as Dr. Mueller. She had changed before, after all. There had been the time before the Foundation. Laine didn't feel like she had been anyone in particular before that. The Foundation had been the beginning of what she was becoming. She had not always been as she was now, though. She had not always been a security agent. Once, she had thought she would be someone else entirely.
That was when Alex had been-
She must not think about her, not here. Not outside of L-14. She wasn't in L-14, and it was safer to think about her there. Out here, Laine didn't know what would happen. That was not comforting.
Dr. Mueller seemed confident that he would remain the same, however. That was curious. Laine was not certain what to make of it. She was not a researcher.
The landscape below changed, the presence of a warehouse noticeable below them. Laine looked at it briefly, but it was not L-14, and so it did not hold her interest for long.
"What would you like me to do, while we are there?"
Abraham watched Laine closely after her question, his eyes searching her as if he was trying to read her mind through her body language. He knew that was impossible he knew he should be able to do this, it would just take time. Humans were easy to read, they could be easy to read, humans like Dr. Mueller, humans...
Laine was thinking, then it seemed her thoughts shifted. As to what topic from what thought, Abraham could not tell, not yet. Hopefully though he'd be able to get her to open up a bit more before the end of the mission. Then, she asked a perfectly reasonable question, so Abraham felt compelled to give a perfectly reasonable answer.
"Ah, that's actually quite important. The anomaly we are retrieving creates an uncontrollable urge for anyone who comes in direct contact with it to stop everything they're doing and eliminate the family of deceased musician John Lennon. While the Foundation is quite certain that I will be immune to its effects due to my naturally high cognito-hazard resistance, there's still a possibility I may come under the anomaly's influence. Because of, well, my security clearance and a little bit of my own selfishness, if that happens I must be subdued."
Looking out to the warehouse as the helicopter approached the rooftop landing pad, Abraham remarked, "I'm- afraid of pain. I'd rather not be tased or tackled, Laine. Your ability and your training seemed uniquely well suited to holding me in place painlessly while the anomaly is removed from my possession. I hope you will not think less of me for this."
"I understand your request." This was a specific statement. Laine understood what he was asking her to do. She did not understand why this would cause Dr. Mueller concern regarding her opinion of him. People generally avoided pain, where possible. Laine thought that she would also avoid pain, if it were something that happened to her. Perhaps she already did.
There had once been an accident, after all, but she had not been hurt.
That was different, though. It was because she knew what her body was supposed to be like, and so of course it always was. Perhaps that was also a method of avoiding pain, albeit anomalous. That was, however, acceptable. Laine was an anomaly, and expected to be different.
"I am not generally authorized to use my ability on Foundation personnel. Would you like to request an exemption clause for this event?" Using her ability against Foundation personnel was not in the best interests of the Foundation, and Laine did not act against the Foundation's interests. There were, of course, special exceptions that could be made in specific situations. There was already an exception to allow her to use her abilities to preserve the lives of Foundation personnel in the event of a breach. Usually this would involve subduing anomalies directly, but some anomalies acted on personnel. This had been described as a gray area.
In the case of Dr. Mueller, this was not a problem. He was a class-D research member and capable of requesting an exemption for his own person. If he wished to request one for other personnel, it would need to be filed through location management or the security council.
Rules were very important.
"Also, how is the anomaly to be removed from your possession, in this event?"
Abraham crossed his fingers with Laine's initial statement, waiting for her to continue to speak. She appeared to have a tendency of thinking and speaking deliberately. Indeed, it seemed that every action she took was with deliberation and careful consideration. It was interesting to someone like Abraham who tended more toward his passions and whatever popped into his head. It was a childish sort of behavior, he knew, perhaps it would need correcting he didn't mind how he acted. After all, he was who he was and he would always be himself.
Then, Laine asked an entirely logical question and Abraham mentally kicked himself. "Ah, yes-" He started, hearing the words of Jupiter scolding him in his mind, "I do actually have authorization for you. I'm- well I'm supposed to be doing your debriefing now. I do apologize, I'm not used to these things. Well no- I'm not used to telling other people these things. Most people just assume I did the paperwork and, of course, I did. But those assumptions have put me out of practice for informing others..."
The helicopter began its initial circle to land as Laine added another question, more pertinent to their work. "Removal, I, uh, well I didn't think of that. I will leave it to the discretion of you and the other team members currently guarding the anomaly. I have faith you'll keep everyone safe, of course." Then, with a shudder, the helicopter landed on the roof.
Standing, Abraham removed his restraints and began to, slowly, disembark from the vehicle. His legs seemed shaky underneath him after the ride, adrenaline? He would need to control that. Instantly, his body relaxed and ceased to shake as the chemicals were processed and removed. Smiling, he remarked under his breath, "That's better." and continued off the helicopter. He would offer his hand out to Laine to help her down as well, though he would not be offended if she did not take it.
Then, a perfectly logical question came to him, "Ah, Miss Cantrille, do you have agoraphobia?"
"As long as the paperwork is properly filed, I will be able to act accordingly," Laine stated. Paperwork was very important. "Nonetheless, it has been shown that seventy-three percent of Foundation personnel are more comfortable with verbal confirmation. Verbal confirmation also serves as a safeguard and allows personnel to think carefully about the results of their decisions. Not everyone reads the paperwork properly." This was an unfortunate failing.
It was possible that the on-site team would have suggestions for proper anomaly removal, in the event that it was needed. Laine also thought that, as long as the situation with Dr. Mueller was static, there would be time to figure out a more optimal solution.
"It is theoretically possible that I would not be affected by the anomaly, either. However, I do not wish to test this." Certainly not without a researcher present. Dr. Mueller was a researcher, but he was not Laine's researcher, who-
-she must not think about.
"Also, I am very good at self-denial." This was spoken quietly, even for Laine. The helicopter landed on the pad, and Laine watched Dr. Mueller right himself properly, with some curiosity. Overcoming physical responses was a necessary part of being Foundation personnel in many cases, but most personnel were not quite so quick about it. Agent Richards was known to have a trauma response, but Laine did not have too much experience with him, because he also was known to have a butterfly. Laine preferred to avoid the butterflies. It was not an offense, it was merely that they had a causal relationship.
But he was not here, and Dr. Mueller's response reminded her more of herself, when she decided how things were going to be. Perhaps this meant that her response was not anomalous, as it had been suggested, or perhaps it meant something else. She was not going to be curious about it right now, because she had a job to do.
Laine hopped down from the helicopter unassisted, ACF armor conforming itself to her body as she hit the ground, which she had certainly always been wearing, because she was a security agent and this was security agent work, just like she would certainly be wearing the helmet if it were required. It was not, yet, and she did not like it, so it was elsewhere. This was anomalous, but had already been established as within Laine's capabilities in her paperwork.
Dr. Mueller's question made her pause, silent for a moment. "I have not considered this." This statement was not meant as an answer, but as an acknowledgement of the question and to allow additional time to think about it. She moved forward with Dr. Mueller, towards the mission objective, still thinking it over. Perhaps he would have thought she had forgotten the question or chosen not to answer, but after a while she did respond.
"I believe I share some traits with agoraphobia, but I do not think they are human traits. It is my belief that these are anomalous effects, and it is not reasonable to apply human psychology at this time."
Abraham took in Laine's suggestions, or were they statements? No, they were suggestions. Abraham took in Laine's suggestions about making sure to verbally confirm with personnel that the paperwork had been filled out to heart. It was good that the paperwork was in order, everything needed to be recorded, everything, but not everyone else thought like that.
It was strange that Laine had so similar a thought process to Abraham's own it was refreshing that Laine had so similar a thought process to the superior process of Abraham Mueller. Abraham perked up when Laine whispered something, but he didn't catch it. Rather than asking for her to repeat herself, he decided to let it lie. She deserved private thoughts. Sometimes, thoughts spoken aloud should still be considered private.
He felt no offense as Laine exited the helicopter unassisted, it was natural that she could accomplish things on her own. Abraham was also aware that Laine had a touch issue, but he was not aware of its extent. Was this part of the issue, even simple things? He would not touch her to find out, best these things came about naturally. Folding his hands behind his back, he began walking toward the stairwell to enter the warehouse while Laine spoke.
The pilot spoke in their ears as they walked, informing the pair that he would be waiting on the building for their return, but the helicopter would be turned off till their return. No sudden departures. Nodding to Laine, Abraham responded as they began to descend the stairwell, "That's fascinating, though I apologize if there is any stress caused by the next area. This building is reported to be very large on the inside, with many open spaces, but our mission objective is close. I hope there won't be too many issues."
And Abraham meant what he said, he could not have predicted that, upon reaching the bottom of the stairwell at the ground floor, the door to the warehouse's main floor would be non-existent. Pausing for a minute, Abraham looked down the stairwell to the basement, it extended far further down than it should. Looking up, he noticed the stairwell above had changed as well, extending far further up than it should.
"Ah," He started speaking, eerily calm, "Miss Cantrille, do you feel any different?"
"Open areas are not the issue," Laine stated, in the manner of a correction. "It is 'a sense of anxiety when being away from a designated safe location.'" This was one of the definitions of agoraphobia. The definition involving open spaces was statistically more common, but Laine had stated that she shared some traits, not all of them. "It is not that open spaces are uncomfortable, it is that anywhere that is not L-14 is uncomfortable."
The warehouse was not L-14. She did not like it. Laine attempted to focus on the mission, because that was what the Foundation required of her, and the Foundation would not have made this request if she were not capable. Capable did not mean comfortable. She followed Dr. Mueller down the stairs at a few paces distance, far enough that she would be able to react in the event that a reaction was needed. Laine was not certain what that reaction was going to be, because she was not yet certain what they would encounter.
It didn't take them long to reach the landing.
Dr. Mueller paused after a moment, looking up and down the long flight of stairs. The doorway to the warehouse wasn't there, even though they had gone down at least one flight of stairs. It was harder than it should have been to tell how many, given how they stretched upwards.
There were an unspecified number of stairs above them. They had walked down twenty-six. Twenty six was/not the number of stairs above them. Laine was very good with measurement. This implied that the number of stairs could not be measured.
Dr. Mueller's question was nonspecific, but Laine had worked with researchers before. She considered the permutations of the question and what answers might be helpful.
"There are as many stairs as there always have been, Dr. Mueller."
She hoped that he understood. People did not always understand when Laine told them something. Someone from L-14 would have instantly picked up on the phrasing, but they were not in L-14 and that made things more difficult.
Dr. Mueller paused after a moment, looking up at the brief flight of stairs leading to the warehouse doorway, not yet proceeding through it even though they had descended the flight of stairs. It seemed like it was harder than it should have been for him to go through, given how the door stretched before them.
There was one flight of stairs leading up, which they had walked down. It had twenty-six stairs. Laine was very good with measurement.
Dr. Mueller asked a nonspecific question, but Laine was used to working with researchers. She considered the variations of the question and what answers might be helpful.
"There are as many stairs as there always have been, Dr. Mueller."
She hoped that he would move on. People did not always understand when Laine told them something. In L-14, they would have gone through the doorway already, but they were not in L-14 and that made things more difficult.