Part K, in a continuing story from A to Z [link to the beginning]
It was all Zoey could do to stay awake during the morning session with Ferraro, going over his backlog of correspondence. He hadn’t made further mention of her somewhat deficient filing skills and she sure wasn’t going to bring it up. He’d simply asked her to recite the various items that needed his attention.
She didn’t know whether all business matters were this boring, or just his. How did people sit in an office all day and not go stark staring mad?
She’d made a list of notes for letters he wanted her to type up — on a computer that was not connected to the internet — print out for his signature, and mail. Yes, mail. He wanted her to send physical hard copies through the mail. If she didn’t know better, she’d think he was the world’s most technophobic Luddite. A real throwback to simpler, and infinitely more irritating, times.
But she did know better.
Even so, the sooner she could get out of there and move on to more interesting pursuits, the better.
Of course, there was the small matter of a certain angry-at-the-world orphaned teenager she’d impulsively decided to take on. What had she been thinking?
“Ms. Prescott.” From his tone, she suspected he’d said her name more than once.
“This is for you.” He reached over and set an object on the desk in front of her. It looked like a phone. And it didn’t. Oh, now this was interesting.
She picked it up to examine it. Slim and sleek and very lightweight, definitely a communication device of some kind. She pushed the button on the side and the screen instantly lit up in a pale blue glow. It was blank. No icons, no apps, no keyboard or status bars. She poked at it, swiped left and right, nothing happened. She’d never seen anything like it. She looked up to see him watching her closely, as if judging her reaction.
“Thank you, Anton. I don’t what it is or how it works, but it’s a lovely colour.”
For one brief moment, it almost looked like he was fighting a smile. “It’s completely voice activated. For your purposes, it’s just a phone.”
“I thought phone signals couldn’t transmit out here.”
He grew very still, his expression unreadable. “Where did you hear that?”
Oh, hell. She couldn’t believe she’d said that, and in those terms. It wasn’t common knowledge. It was, in fact, something only a few select industry insiders would know. Sure, other technology could block signals. His technology did it selectively, accurately. And no one could figure out how.
She shrugged and did her best to look mildly irritated. “Someone at the employment agency mentioned network coverage here was pretty spotty. My phone doesn’t connect, so I guess they were right.” He didn’t exactly look convinced, but it was hard to tell with him.
She held up the device. “So I just talk to it and it works?”
He appeared to relax a bit. “It’s programmed to your fingerprint. Place either index finger on the screen and say, ‘Call Mr. Ferraro.'”
How the hell had he programmed it with her fingerprint? She put her finger on the screen and said, “Call Anton.”
He scowled at her continued familiarity, but apparently the phone didn’t care. She heard his phone ringing in his jacket pocket. He reached for it, did something so the ringing stopped.
“The numbers for Benton and Mrs. Darby and Samantha are also programmed,” he said. “I’ll give Samantha her device once we’re done here.”
“Fancy,” she said. “What else does it do? Can I order a pizza? Use it to call the space station?”
“If you had their code, yes,” he said softly.
Damn, she’d been kidding about that.
He continued, “For now, it will only work to call the numbers I’ve programmed. Just remember to touch the screen to activate before speaking.”
Zoey nodded absently, examining the device while trying not to look like that’s what she was doing. There was a simple on/off switch, but no other buttons. Just a phone, my ass. This was the mysterious prototype they’d heard rumours about. It had to be. Everyone thought it was still in the design phase, a long way from production.
“There’s a clip on the back, as well as a retractable strap if you want to secure it around your arm or leg.”
She found the cleverly concealed clip, then grasped a small inset tab she’d previously overlooked and pulled out a flexible strap. She was having a tough time reining in her excitement and keeping an expression of awe off her face, given what she’d heard this thing could do.
“I expect you to keep it with you at all times, Ms. Prescott,” he said, his voice stern now. “For your safety. Please don’t lose it.”
He’d just handed her the most closely guarded piece of advanced technology in the world. She knew of people who would literally kill to get their hands on this thing. And he thought she might accidentally lose it?
She smiled as if she were humouring him, as if she weren’t aware of what she held in her hand, like it was no big deal whatsoever, and said, “I’ll do my best to keep an eye on it, Anton.”
As she excused herself to wash up for lunch, Zoey was filled with impatience, knowing she’d have to wait until later to examine the device more closely. Maybe she could even figure out how to unlock a few of its more allegedly interesting features.
Don’t lose it. She shook her head. Fat chance of that happening.
Although, she did wonder how it was that she seemed to be acquiring things she was expected to keep track of. First it was the sea glass necklace, then the chunk of white quartz, now this communications device. She had a feeling Sam was about to be included in that don’t-lose-it category as well.
Zoey had always been a minimalist when it came to possessions. She hadn’t had much of a choice, given the way she’d grown up, but she was comfortable with the independence it represented. And now suddenly she was turning into Keeper of All The Things. She wasn’t sure she liked it.
K is for Keeper