Unwanted Assistance

A science fiction story in Alpha Station by Gary Bloom

Characters: Derek Maguin

It couldn't be serious, could it? Who sends a message like this? If they were serious, at the very least, there should have been a video conference. More likely, they should have held a meeting.

"Dr. Mandro," Derek Maguin said from her office door, "may I?"

"What?" She looked up. "Oh yes, and it's Adi, remember?"

"My mistake." The Alpha Station Minister stepped over to the desk and sat down. "How are you dealing with this?"

"Did you read the message they sent?"

"No," Derek responded, calmly. She was angry, and he understood. He'd let her snap go. "They sent me a different message but I gathered you'd be upset."

"Dr Mandro," She read, "we have decided that your research is critical to the Jovian Free League and its continued success. With that in mind, we've assigned you an assistant. Expect her to arrive in one day's time. Make good use of her."

She stopped and looked at Maguin angrily. The Minister looked sympathetic, but not apologetic. There was little he could do.

"It's just signed by the council members. Did you tell them I needed help?"

"What?" Derek couldn't help laughing. "I know you're new here, but why would I bother doing something like that? I don't make a habit of upsetting my people. Like it or not, you belong to me now."

She arched an eyebrow as he felt the warmth creeping up his neck.

"I'm thinking that didn't come out right," She answered, stifling a smile, "but I appreciate the sentiment. I don't intend to be the property of any man," she winked, "but I'll take any protection that being under your wing, Minister."

"Right, well," he sighed, "at this point I don't know what I can do."

* * * * *

Akio Oakes stepped off the ship and put her feet on the docking bay deck. She had expected Mandro to meet her upon arrival. What Akio couldn't understand, is how unwelcome she was. There was a guard waiting for her, however. Uniform crisp, face stern, he stepped quickly to intercept her.

"Akio Oakes, right?"

"Uh, yes," she smiled sweetly. "And you are?"

"Here to take you to doctor Mandro's lab," he answered gruffly.

"She must be really busy not to come see me herself."

"No," he shook his head, "I think she just really doesn't want you here. Adi is really protective of her research. She couldn't possibly want someone else involve in her work. Especially if that someone isn't on her level."

He started walking. She rushed to catch up, worried about her luggage. More so, she was worried about the comment made. Akio had been specially assigned by the Council themselves. How could Dr. Mandro have any issue with that?

"Please, please, sir, can you tell me what's going on? I don't understand why I'm being treated this way."

"Funny you say that," he responded, without turning around. "Many of us have taken a liking to the good doctor, now that she's been around for a bit. None of us understand why she's being treated this way either. Keep up or find your own way."

* * * * *

Akio stood quietly in the lab, waiting to be recognized. Mandro had given the soldier leave to open the door and deposit her new assistant. Beyond that, she gave no indication that the young woman had even arrived. Fighting the urge to lash out, Adi simply continued working. Through sideways glances and glances off shined surfaces, the scientist kept tabs on her new charge. Finally, she could hold her tongue no more.

"What do you even know about my research?"

"Uh, what?" Oakes was so startled, after such a lengthy silent treatment, she spluttered for words. "What about your research?"

"Exactly!" Adi was livid. "You know nothing about my research! What did you read? Did the council give you the vanilla reporting that I provided them? Had you even noticed that it was utterly devoid of scientific technique, results or extrapolations of any kind?"

"Well," Akio said softly, "it was fairly banal, yes. Still, the concepts themselves seemed to be purely genius."

"Of course they were genius. I'm a genius!" Mandro stomped her way around the work station to stand before her new assistant. "Look at me!"

Adi was a good five inches taller than the other woman. They looked to be about the same age, Oakes possibly a year her junior. The younger woman hadn't accomplished a quarter of Mandro's exploits. And, yet, here she stood, in the same lab.

"You expect to be placed on the same level as me, I take it."

"Oh no!" At this, the younger woman was quite passionate. "I honestly do find you to be brilliant, Dr. Mandro! Fifty of us applied for the opportunity to work with you. I'm surprised that they didn't tell you that. The council picked me because I was the most dedicated to giving myself over to you entirely, learning everything that you could teach me, and assisting you in any way possible. I'm here to help, not replace or spy on you!"

"Hmm." Adi brought a finger to her pursed lips. Raising an eyebrow, she finally said, "go to that terminal there and start reading from the beginning. Don't talk to me again until you've read all of my notes, from the beginning. It'll take a few days, so you can say good morning and good night. That's it. Go. Go on, go, get to work. We don't have all day."