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   Chapter 8 No.8

A Girl Named Sandy By Paul Kater Characters: 14419

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:04


Forms and numbers

"This is slightly unusual, Doctor Carmichael. New students should not enter the curriculum halfway through a year, as you know." Edna Montgommery, the secretary Paul was talking to, shook her head as she rummaged through the mass of papers on her desk. Somewhere beneath all that paperwork were a mouse and a keyboard, but Mrs. Montgommery was old-fashioned and left the new-fangled attributes of her position to the ladies who were more inclined to damage their nails on keyboards. "And this girl, in what way do you know her, you said?"

"She is the daughter of a friend, " Paul patiently explained for the third time. "She is very intelligent and her parents hope that when she is over here, she will learn more about the field she is interested in than what's possible in the United States."

"Including manners, I assume." Mrs. Montgommery clearly had not much confidence in the way that American parents brought up their children. "That alone would be a good reason to bring the child here." Paul carefully did not respond to that. "She will need a space in the dormitory of course, with the juniors."

"No, she won't. Her parents asked me to look after her."

Mrs. Montgommery frowned as she looked up at Paul. "You." The amount of disapproval and lack of trust in his parenting capabilities that she conveyed in that one word should be up for a prize.

"Yes. I." Paul was determined not to let this game take longer than necessary.

"I see." Mrs. Montgommery did not see, but she collected an impressive amount of forms, slipped those in an envelope and handed them to the researcher. "I expect all these filled out, and do pay proper attention to the requirements for foreign students on the third appendix. Doctor Carmichael."

He knew he had been dismissed, but he had the papers. Finally.

Back at his desk he found a cold cup of tea and a note from Don that he was off to the telescope to pick up new data they had collected from the strange occurrence that still was coming closer. Paul fetched some fresh tea and then paged through the paperwork. "You just hate me, Mrs. Montgommery, " he muttered. Most of the forms required the same information, and it all had to be done by hand. He was certain most of it was also available digitally. Oh well.

Some of the forms needed to be dealt with by Sandy and her parents. He scanned those into digital files and sent them off by e-mail, and spent the morning dealing with work and the forms as far as he could get through them.

"P.E. How nice. You are here." Don came in, carrying a portable hard-disk. "You won't believe this; the thing is still coming this way. It's on a steady speed as well, a decent eighteen parsecs per day."

Paul looked up from the form he was writing on. Eighteen parsecs? That was approximately the distance that light would travel in forty years. "Any course deviations? Does it still show changes in structure?"

"The wobble? Yes, that's still there." Don plugged the hard-disk into the simulator's interface and started downloading the data. "And so far the course seems steady too. Roughly towards us. Although, on that distance it is hard to tell where it will end up. Might just miss us by several billion miles, which would be too bad."

"But safe, " Paul grinned. "I agree though, it would be sad if we did not get to study that anomaly. What's the distance now?"

"About twenty-nine thousand light years."

The door opened, and Professor Sams entered the laboratory. "Gentlemen..."

"Professor, good morning."

The bald man took position in front of their desks. "I have read your reports about the strange phenomenon that was detected towards the Tarantula Nebula, and discussed the matter with leading authorities concerning public relations. We have decided that it is best for now to keep this discovery to ourselves."

Don scratched his head. "And why's that, sir? There is hardly any problem, considering that it's so far away."

Professor Sams explained that was exactly the reason. "If the strange phenomenon disintegrates far before it reaches our vicinity, then there is no news. As soon as amateurs can detect it, we shall inform the public. That will be all, gentlemen." Without another word, the professor left them.

"And again we are sworn to secrecy wi

send you their love, they just texted me. Do you want to drink or eat something before we leave?"

Sandy peeled herself off him and shook her head. "No. But I need a bathroom. They kept pouring soda into me on the plane." They found the toilet, and an hour later they were in the train to Bristol, occupying a whole compartment by themselves and her luggage. At first Sandy managed to talk a bit, but after a mere fifteen minutes her eyelids gave up the battle and she fell asleep, leaning into Paul. As she threatened to slump forward, he put an arm around her, to keep her on the seat.

After a few hours Sandy woke up again. "Oh god, I fell asleep, " she said. She was however not in a hurry to get away from Paul's arm that still held her. "Thank you for taking care of me, " she added as she looked up at him.

"You're welcome. Your family did that for me, remember?" Paul lifted his arm over her head as she rubbed her eyes.

"How long did I sleep?"

"A few hours. We'll be in Bristol in another hour or so, so just sit back and enjoy the scenery." Paul grinned as he said that.

Sandy looked out the window. Rain was pounding against it. "Crap, " she remarked. "My rain coat is in one of my suitcases. And I don't remember which one."

"Well, it is a good thing then, that we still have an hour. Let's open them up one by one, we'll find it."

Hardly surprising, the rain had stopped when the train approached Bristol's main railway station. Sandy was glued to the window as the houses rolled by. "That is so neat! Everything's so small. And so old! Oh, look there!" She pointed at a dozen things at once, making Paul laugh with her vibrant enthusiasm. Her tiredness had disappeared all of a sudden.

The train came to a halt, they dragged the two suitcases onto the platform, and Sandy flung her backpack over her shoulders. "Where's your car?"

"I don't own a car. We'll walk down the platform and find a taxi."

The look on her face was priceless. "You don't have a car? You do everything by taxi? Man, you must be rich."

Paul laughed as he took hold of the suitcases. "No, I have a bus pass and a bicycle. Parking in most of Bristol is impossible or it costs a fortune. Come on, it looks like rain soon."

They left the station and sauntered to the taxi stand, when Sandy grabbed Paul's arm, making him drop the suitcase he was carrying. "Oops."

"Oh my god, Paul!"

"What's the matter, Sandy?" He noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

"Everyone drives on the wrong side of the road!" She pointed. "I'm gonna get killed here, the first time I go out alone!"

"Not when I'm with you, " Paul said dryly.

"Oh. Okay."

"Come, the taxis are not much further." He picked up the suitcase and they walked on.

It was only in the taxi when she said: "Wait a minute. When you're with me, I'm not going out alone!"

Paul laughed.

***

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