"Whatever is up your alley," John Crichton said to John Crichton as he stared up a scantily lit quiet neighborhood alley ending at the back side of a strip joint, "it's not up that one. Why don't you go back home before you get lost?" Then he admitted out loud, "Hey good question."
'No dren', Chiana thought from the shadows of a nearby row of ferns in which she was lurking while stalking John. Impressed by his own powers of reasoning, her quarry turned and began walking back to the penthouse where he was living at present with Jack and occasionally the self-invited friend Doug. Out of curiosity, Chiana took a detour and peeked into the strip club at the end of the alley. That didn't take much time. Although her expectations were very low, the place was even more banal and boring than she'd thought possible.
Hugging the shadows, shrubberies and fence lines, Chiana easily relocated and then passed the rambling John Crichton. A hop, skip and jump later, the lithe Chiana approached John's rented Mustang resting in its parking space. When John had "needed air" at the cabin, he often drove aimlessly around in his GTO. Chiana reckoned that John would more than likely take a drive around in this transport, instead of settling in the penthouse.
Feeling very good about her own powers of reasoning as well as her skills, Chiana stopped a few feet from the Mustang and smirked. Since her encounter with John on the news racks, his keys and key fob for his vehicle had transferred from his pants to hanging from a tiny back pocket of her shorts with the aid of deft tan painted gray fingers. Those fingers now reached back, slid along a trim bare buttock and way down to where the keys had helped to weight the back of the shorts, plucked the keys and fob from the pocket, flipped them around into her palm and pressed the button on the fob that she had observed John using to unlock the vehicle. The lights blinked and it unlocked. "Too easy," Chiana cooed to herself.
On her way into the back seat, she scuttled the keys and fob onto the pavement near the driver side door. Once inside she sank onto a seat and wondered if she should surprise John or try hiding. On the back seat beside her, Chiana felt a garment and immediately remembered what it was. Jack had left one of his swank looking brown leather jackets on the back seat, saying it was there in case she was out with John and needed it to keep warm. Very strange and unfamiliar to Chiana, having someone worrying about her maybe possibly sometime becoming cold and then trusting her with an expensive jacket. Thinking of the thoughtfulness, trust and selfish generosity behind the gesture made her want to cry for some reason she couldn't name. Jack was also expecting she would be riding around with John, having fun going places and doing things together. Thinking of how that idea compared to reality made her want to cry and shred the jacket in anger and frustration. She gripped the jacket in her hands, growled and dove down to lay on the floor in an awkward position squeezed between the front and back seats with her rear up in the air because of the drive train hump. She growled her emotions with her face buried in the jacket.
A few moments later the tide of emotion ebbed and she decided to try continuing to shadow John. Throwing the jacket over herself and hiding in the back seat wasn't likely to work though. Experience sneaking around, hiding or smuggling things taught Chiana that ways weren't always obvious and with a little motivation she was back up off the floor and exploring the interior. Obvious to her was the possibility a space existed behind or below the back seats. Moments later she had discovered the back of the seats could be pulled forward and access gained to the trunk. A few moments after that discovery Chiana was squeezed back into the trunk with the back of the seat replaced and giggling at her luck in the mischief of tricking John.
"Huh there they are," John's voice soon broke the relative silence of the city night. Tinkling keys followed as he picked them up from beside the Mustang and thought exactly what Chiana expected: "Dang I must've dropped 'em."
Although Chiana had accidentally brought Jack's jacket back into the trunk with her and didn't have time yet to put it back, John didn't seem to see or notice. She was soon glad that she had it with her since the jacket helped to insulate her from the cold and jostling around as John drove a little fast and rough. He turned on the radio, giving her an earful of it and fortunately for him, drowning out some of the things she had to say about her trip in his trunk.
In order to comply with a mandate of power savings in IASA facilities, arbitrarily set at twenty percent, more than a few hallways and rooms were poorly lit or unlit whether anyone was using the space or not. John wasn't surprised to discover his offices were dark but he was surprised to find that the switches were gone. He sighed in the dark as he looked out the windows to the skyscrapers of downtown Sydney blazing like beacons far in the distance.
Since the downtown lights didn't help him find the phone to call about having his office lights turned back on and since the office was cold and lonely, John returned to the front desk. As usual the attendant was Katelyn Maitland, a stout woman in both size and demeanor. Charm wasn't something that impressed her and little else would either. But he smiled anyway as he approached one side of the rectangular reception area and rested an arm on the counter. "Hey-O Katelyn-Maitlan'," he rhymed and asked, "Who do I talk to about gettin' some lights on in my cubicle of this spread?"
"It's Johnny boy the Astro-nut," Katelyn verbally shoved back, "Doin' your part to help the planet?"
"The answer to that would take a while," John said.
"You can start spinning your tale. I'll get back to you," Katelyn said and returned to her computer.
"I'll be spinning cobwebs before you do," John quipped. "But that's all right. I can go for a peaceful retirement."
Katelyn squinted a look at him that he'd seldom seen outside of a Scarran, but John weathered it with a polite smile. Apparently that earned him some cred since Katelyn answered, "You'll have to see Adjunct Cary Haway in room 775 Epstein Wing to file an exception."
"For a few hours tonight?" John asked but from her expression it was clear that she could not care less. "Adjunct Cary Haway? Right-o," John said and left.
The Epstein Wing had presented John with so many barely lit or unlit rooms and hallways that it began to feel like she'd pulled a joke over on him. When it began to feel like a setup for some very bad news he reversed course and bailed out. A kind of lingering trauma perhaps, maybe from some of the strange interrogations he'd been treated to in recent times or more likely rooted in his happy days on the love boat Moya. Either way he decided that he really didn't need to burn any midnight oil at the office and would just go home and face the insomnia.
Before leaving he had to clear his mind as to whether or not Katelyn Maitland had been in some nefarious plot, was pulling his leg or was guilty of being a victim of his own groundless paranoid suspicions. Deciding that required some deep contemplation over a cup of coffee in the break room. As expected the break room was lit well enough that anyone could find their money to feed the vending machines, all of which were still running. Trying to make the vending machine accept some used paper money and burning his mouth with the lousy coffee product were comfortable rituals that made everything seem normal again and himself feel safe. Without thinking about it, he started back to his office.
Leaving the break room with his coffee sent him back into a dimly lit maze. Somewhere along the line back to his office, John turned a corner and collided into someone else. John's coffee and that someone's papers went flying around. "Ack!"
"Oh my gawd," a young, light female voice said.
"Whoa hey, sorry Missy, I didn't see-" John started an apology and stopped to try and remember who it was that he was barely able to see. To him, she appeared to be a cross between a Barbie doll, Annie the actress, his gal Bob and a business woman in her brown business dress suit. Very cute face, with over-sized pale blue eyes, under-sized nose, great tan and makeup, long straight blond hair and perfect teeth so white she could've seen her way in the dark by smiling. He also noticed she was so skinny he wondered how far she would have been knocked down the hallway if she hadn't been knocked into the wall. Familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on exactly who it was.
"That's okay! Um," the young woman swept her long straight blond hair back behind her ear on one side and told him, "John, I didn't know you worked late?"
"No no not normally," John said while trying to wipe off one of her papers and hold what was left of his coffee in the paper cup with the other hand, "just sheer desperation. I'm sorry but don't I know you?"
For a moment she looked horrified and crestfallen but she busied herself recovering her papers and John thought her look might have been about the mess they'd just made of her paperwork.
"Um Bridget?" she said or seemed to ask during their paperwork recovery, "I worked with Douglas Knox on um your team?"
"My gosh you're right," John did his best to appear apologetic about his lapse. Now that she reminded him, he recognized her as a former IASA team member whom he had rarely seen, since she usually only worked under Doug in some specialty that he couldn't remember at the moment.
A live tan blond doll with a popularity among the men to go with it, Bridget was a natural blond, fairly tall but extremely thin, very well tanned with nice makeup, graceful with a charming awkwardness and had a knockout smile to out-dazzle any cheerleader. Although there were a few women working at IASA who Doug described as "hotties" and at least a few of those were tan blond dolls, there were a whole lot more men than women. Bridget must have had been approached for dates more often than Morocco.
Bridget's hire to the IASA at such a tender age was extraordinary. Because of her youth and appearance, Bridget was nick named 'the starving student', which he thought she took graciously and seemed amused with herself. Her ambitiousness was obvious and any attention seemed to be a perk to her. John also remembered now that she had left IASA and that Doug had told him that Bridget recently approached him in the IASA parking lot with a card from Styx Enterprises, a suspiciously named entity John and friends had under their own suspicions. Somehow he really wasn't making a connection between a shady operation and Bridget, who seemed as nice and charming as she was cute.
"You worked with DK," John recalled to her. "I don't know why I didn't recognize you right away. Maybe if I could see worth a darn. What's with the brown out around here."
"I was so going to ask you," Bridget said, "how do you put up with this?"
"I was gonna ask you," John said. "You don't work here late then?"
"Oh no, no I don't actually, I don't work here anymore," she explained, sweeping her hair back on the other side, nodding in agreement with what she was saying and ignoring her paperwork for now, "I'm here to see about uh an acquisition? Making some arrangements, there are so many details."
"Enough to keep you working on it at two in the morning?" John asked.
"Sure?" Bridget answered, as if he were odd for thinking that odd. "I don't have to report to work until six and I'll only be another hour or two."
"So you work nights?" John supposed.
"No I work days," Bridget answered with another nod of agreement with herself. "I just take extra assignments if asked and I usually am."
"When do you sleep?" John asked.
"Ha as Doug could tell you, I usually don't sleep weekdays," Bridget replied as she nervously cleared her throat, adjusted her dress suit top and then bent down and picked up some device. "You can always ask him why. You two are still working together?"
"Uh huh," John said, recalling Doug having mentioned Bridget seemed to be up at any and all hours. Gesturing to the device she had picked up, he asked, "What's that?"
"My cell," Bridget held it up, both buttons at the front of a fashionably cut royal blue shirt under her open suit top popping open as she reached her arm up. "I hope it's not broken."
"Oh," John said as he bent down to pick up a few papers for her, "sorry about that again. Say, I'll test it. May I?"
She seemed hesitant but decided to risk it. John took it, stood and dialed in the front desk. "Hello? Hey it's Johnny. Get me that guy on the phone. Now." To Bridget he said, "I'll get some lights on."
"Where's the switch?" Bridget wondered.
"They seem to have removed them."
"But wouldn't that have caused more waste than-"
"Think green," John replied, "just so happens there are two kinds of green."
"Hahaha!" Bridget laughed and stood up with a smile that more or less dazzled John.
John tried not to stare too plainly and watched her from the corner of his eye as his call was directed. "Where are we by the way?" John asked her. "Can you see any sign?"
"Resources?" came an irritated man's voice through the cell phone.
"Oh hi, Mr. Haway? This is John Crichton," John answered.
Bridget meanwhile had produced a little flashlight from her hand purse and quickly read from a nearby sign, "C45 and D46."
John told him, "I'm at C45 and D46 and would like some light on here for about ten minutes, thanks," and hung up.
"I hope it isn't any trouble?" Bridget said or asked.
"No but it might not work too many times," John guessed and knelt down with her to continue the world's slowest paperwork recovery.
"So no I'm not working here anymore," Bridget said.
John ignored her invitation to ask her where she was working now in favor of asking something more useful to himself. "You're picking something up or buying something?"
"It's it's it's in negotiation," Bridget said, nodding again.
"It it it is?" John asked. "Weren't you in....advanced polymers?"
"Yes!" Bridget confirmed too happily. "Yes, yes I was, am, it's just that I'm more familiar with the client's needs so um," she answered in a self consciously more serious way.
"Sure sure," John was saying as the lights turned on.
"Oh thank goodness," Bridget said. "I'm done! I mean, I found my way there but on the way back," she admitted and nipped her lower lip. "I hate to admit it, um John, but I am totally lost."
"Totally?" John wondered. "Oh your cell," he remembered and handed her the cell phone. "You can call for directions," he kidded and winked. She snickered.
The lights weren't critical but John welcomed them. John tried not to wear a dumb grin, but it came out anyway. Bridget's big, pale blue eyes were shadowed and a little bloodshot but still pretty and her meticulously made up face looked even better under the brighter lights.
As Bridget was standing with her shirt open and one side held back behind a hand she placed gracefully on her hip, he was surprised to be seeing convincing evidence that she tanned nude. Bridget probably wasn't aware the shirt was open, or so he guessed from her oblivious behavior.
Surprising him even more was just how incredibly tiny her waist was, accented by a flashy gold link belt, which incidentally went beautifully with her tan skin above and gave him an idea what he might give Chi for a present. Bridget easily had the thinnest wafer of a figure he had ever seen a gal flaunting, 'Aliens from outer space named Chi excepted'. He fought a grin, reminded of the way Chi tended to be in recent cycles. Years, he mentally corrected himself.
"What I'd like is some coffee," Bridget was suggesting.
"That's what I thought," John said and gestured to his mostly empty paper cup.
"That? No loss!" Bridget said and threw her hand at it, "this er, stuff isn't drinkable. But I feel I owe you a fresh cup." When she opened her hand purse, she suddenly noticed she had a card and started to pull it out. "Oh I-"
"That's okay," John insisted. "Um. Are you asking me out?"
In a very meek little voice behind her frozen smile, Bridget said, "Awk-ward eheh."
"That's for sure," John agreed under his breath. "I know the coffee house near where I live at the moment is open 'round the clock. That way the coffee is never fresh." She laughed and covered her mouth. "If that isn't too awkward. But I have to tell you," John told her as they stood up, "I can't talk much about what I'm doing here."
"I totally understand," Bridget eagerly assured him then melted into barely contained laugher behind her hand, "besides it wouldn't take long anyway."
"So much for my image," John said and reminded her, "and what about your papers?"
"Ack!" Bridget said and hurried to finish picking them up.
John finished his cup of coffee while looking Bridget over from the side. Not that he was paying much attention. Instead, John was preoccupied trying to convince himself that Chi would surely understand why he was taking Bridget out or more correctly, letting her take him out.
Bridget stood with her recovered paperwork in her shaky hands and wiped her forehead, "Whew. Oh are-" she started to say but the lights went out again. "Oh."
"Dang," John said.
"Which way?" she asked, taking his forearm with her free hand.
"This way, it's longer," John kidded and was rewarded with a cute giggle. "Seriously I should grab my sunglasses from my office," he explained as they were rounding the corner to the hallway his team offices were on. "No I don't exactly need them but I got in the habit of carrying something with me everywhere I went and filled the habit with a sunglass case."
Dim lights flickered ahead and John came to a sudden stop. "Huh. Just wait here. I'll be right back," he told Bridget and cautiously approached his offices. Sure enough there seemed to be someone with a flashlight searching around in his offices. "What do you bet it ain't DK?" John barely whispered to himself. "Shouldn't have traded the gun for sunglasses."
Peering in, John could see some of the file cabinets along one wall had been rifled through and someone was kneeling on the floor and looking through some papers with a flashlight. That someone was a woman, maybe blond in heels and a leather jacket, but he no more had a glimpse of her than a letter opener embedded itself in the wall right beside him and John ducked out in a hurry.
Ducking back in, he hoped unexpectedly fast, John could only make out that somebody diving out through a window. Clearly a pro, between the knife throwing and ease of escape out the window. John returned to Bridget's big eyes and told her, "I think somebody burgled my bungalow." She started to flee but John grabbed her hand and assured her, "No no, not accusing you, I mean I literally just caught someone in there. They just split. It's okay. I think. Just stick with me."
"Mkay," she said in a tiny voice.
"My car's outside if you'd like to ride with me for some lousy coffee," John offered.
Bridget seemed to be instantly reassured and disarmed by the humor and agreed with a rich laugh, "Ha okay."
Big black eyes behind the rear window of John's rented Mustang blinked away their bleary fatigue and widened in surprise at seeing some woman sneaking out of some window of the wing John had entered. Something shady was going on but with hundreds or maybe thousands working at the big facility, did it concern John? 'There's a silly question', Chiana thought. In a microt Chiana was out of the Mustang and speeding across the parking lot as quick as possible while still using landscaping and other cars for cover where possible. Not toward where she had seen the woman but the direction that the woman seemed to be going.
A very large, squarish vehicle started and its lights turned on. The vehicle was near where the woman should have been and Chiana literally ran with the hunch to intersect with it near the end of a parking aisle. As it hurried past Chiana leaped from behind some shrub and clung onto the framework holding a large spare tire fixed onto the back of the vehicle. How far she was going to go on this vehicle wasn't certain but the question was settled when she remembered the security checkpoint and booth with its attendant that they were nearing. "Frell!" Chiana swore but dropped off the vehicle as it slowed approaching the checkpoint and scurried away. To her surprise, the vehicle went through without stopping.
To her further surprise, she turned around to see John returning to his car. More surprisingly, John was taking some young blond woman to the car with him. Chiana began to run for the car, glad if she could be a very unwelcome surprise at the moment. But it was obvious she was too late and she found cover instead. "F-fine, I'll find a-a busss transport or something," she told herself. She hid between some bushes, watching with her eyes and mouth wide open as John led the woman around to the passenger side, opened the door for her, waited for her to get in, closed the door for her and finally went around and got in himself. He started the car and started driving right out without any evident fooling around but that wasn't too reassuring.
Chiana stood from the bushes and wandered into the aisle, watching with tears welling in her eyes as John, some other female and her ride sped away into the night.