You can go back to A here.
It wasn’t a great book, something pulpy about Nazis and cryogenics, but it was better than staring at the wall.
The flaw with that idea became apparent the fourth time Brody started rearranging the food. He’d adjusted everything, and unpacked and repacked the kitchen. He’d paced the entire apartment, and taken a shower, and finished whatever he was trying to draw about the guy he’d seen on the street.
They still had an hour until lunch.
“You don’t spend a lot of time doing stakeouts, do you?”
Brody froze, about to head back into the kitchen, and dropped into a chair across from her. “Am I driving you nuts?”
Libby put her finger between the pages of her book. “Are you driving yourself insane?”
He smiled, shrugging. “A little. It’s not that I want to be somewhere else, or…it’s not…”
“It’s not that I’m boring?” Libby offered.
He nodded. “I just feel a little like I’m climbing the walls.”
She sat her book down. “Do they have a deck of cards or something?”
“In the kitchen. I’m not much for solitaire.”
Libby rolled her eyes. “I wasn’t going to tell you to play solitaire, I know a variation on go fish that’ll kill a couple of hours.”
Brody hauled himself out of the chair and into the kitchen. She heard a couple of shifting noises, and then he was back with the cards. He handed her the deck and sat down across from her. “How complicated is this game?”
“I’m sure you’ll pick it up fine. Basically, you make pairs or books, and they score differently.” She shuffled the cards, smiling when they slid perfectly, like they’d done hours and hours of this. She dealt, and put the draw cards in the middle of the table. “You go first.”
Brody looked at his cards, and sighed. “Do you have any two’s?”
“Go fish.” Libby sat down a pair of eights. “Threes?”
“Fish.” Brody sighed. “If I ask what happened in Karadeniz are you going to deflect? Fives?”
Libby wrinkled her nose. “Fish. I don’t know, if I ask about what you actually did in the military are you?”
He took his card. “Well, I mean clearance is a thing. It’s easier to just not answer than it is to pick through.”
She watched him for a second, the way his shoulders were loose. He wasn’t upset, or avoiding. “Jacks?”
He cursed softly and handed over a pair of jacks.
“Well, it’s not a security discussion, but it’s basically the same thing.” She shrugged slightly. “It wasn’t…it sounds much more exciting than it was, mostly. We got out pretty quickly once things went bad.”
Brody frowned. “I never worked that corner, I don’t really know what it was. Twos?”
“Still fish.” Libby sighed. “It was a mess? I mean whatever legitimate complaints people had, before the whole Summer Revolution, it turned into a bloody gang war pretty fast.” She looked at her cards, a pile of singles. “Eight?”
“Fish.” He put down his own pair then, while she drew her card. “Is that why Matt panics?”
“He panicked before, but it maybe got a little more advanced after that.” Libby wrinkled her nose. “Our corporate numbers aren’t bad, but there’s a reason they make us sit de-escalation training. There’s a certain amount of it that winds up poking at people even if you don’t mean to.”
“Do you have any queens?” Brody asked.
“Nope. Go fish.”
“So how did you wind up doing survey? I saw your file, you graduated Counselling, not even Civil Service. Sevens?”
Libby handed over her one seven. “The same way you wound up doing an interview for search and rescue. One of my professors had a friend who was looking for survey workers, and there are a lot of shared skills. They paid better than counselling did, pay better than counselling does.”
Brody blinked at her. “Do you get paid extra for the tough ones?”
Libby shook her head. “No, you get a completion bonus if it finishes on time, double if you manage not to burn through your entire budget.”
“What happens if it’s like Karadeniz, and you have to evacuate?”
“First of all,” Libby sighed. “Fives?”
She pulled her card, slotting it in with the others.
“First of all?”
“That’s super rare. I’ve done…lots of long term jobs and that’s the only one I’ve ever had end messy.” She shrugged. “And if you aim for your bonuses you’ll skew your survey and that’s pretty unforgivable. I don’t aim to finish on time for my bonus, most of the time there’s some thing that’s supposed to happen after we finish, a vote or a redistricting, or whatever. If the survey run is late, that’ll be late too, and that starts to impact people’s lives.”
Brody put down another set of his cards, smiling. “Does Matt worry you’re going to jump ship on him and go back to counselling?”
“No, at this point I’ve been doing this long enough I’d have to retrain to do that.” Libby huffed. “And I don’t know that I’ll do it like this forever, the floating with the wind is starting to get a little old.”
“Yeah.” Brody nodded. “I’m definitely ready to try to put down roots. Some days I feel like I’ve been living out of a duffel for twenty years.”
A knock fell on the door. “Captain Halliday? Inspector Hussein sent some things…” the younger officer called through. Libby didn’t remember his name, he’d been in the tunnel with them and rotated on at breakfast.
Brody sat his cards down. “No cheating,” he teased.
“You’re hilarious,” Libby answered. “Do we need to tell her there are only two of us and there’s a limit to what we can eat?”
He chuckled, and opened the door. “Well—”
Libby jumped to her feet, watching as Brody crumbled before the door, clutching his side with a quiet huff. The office stood inside the door, and seemed to be deciding if he needed to shoot Brody again. Libby moved, and the gun pointed at her.
There was a noise in the hallway, and the officer turned to look, and Libby took her chance.
The look of surprise on his face, when the heavy ceramic lamp off the side table crashed over his head, was almost as satisfying as the sound of his gun hitting the floor. Libby kicked it away as he crumpled to the floor, too.