Bitter 76

Dr Reedy wasn’t happy. Britta could tell from the tightness in her shoulder and her butt as she walked. She had been all easy going and relaxed when they’d arrived, now she was just as polite, but everything had a hesitation to it. Like everything she did was her second choice.

Britta preferred her like this. She had suspected these people weren’t to be trusted ever since she got that phone call. It was all too nicey-nicey.

She looked over at Dad who was constantly looking around and inspecting ordinary things like door handles and fire alarms as though he’d never seen them before. They were all very high tech and weird, but he was still being a bit too impressed.

When he worked for APE, it had been somewhere closer to the city. This seemed to be some kind of special facility. The kind that looked innocent enough until James Bond snuck in and found the biological weapons.

She kept an eye out for suspicious men in white lab coats.

Dr Reedy led them to a large room with gym equipment. There were lots of cables and tubes everywhere, and a beeping machine. Britta detected an extra stiffness in Dr Reedy as they walked through to a far door without stopping.

There was a bearded man in a chequered shirt, like he was a lumberjack, waiting for them. He sprang up and warmly shook Dad’s hand. They appeared to know each other.

“This is Ben,” said Dad. “He’s a good man.”

“Okay.” Britta had no idea why Dad was being so perky all of a sudden.

“Hi. I’m the one you texted. I read your report, very interesting. I love a good mystery.” He waggled his eyebrows. “I’ll just be asking you a few questions, nothing personal.” He chuckled and then grinned at Dad, who also chuckled. It was very odd. “Now, can I get you a drink? We have a machine with just about every form of soda known to man.” More chuckling.

“I’ll set things up and come back for you later,” said Dr Reedy. She turned and left, leaving a sweet scent of expensive perfume Britta hadn’t noticed before.

The questions went from health and diet to what seemed like marketing. How many hours a day did she watch TV. How long did she spend on the internet? Which of these sites was she aware of, had visited, was a member of. There were a lot of questions, but at least she didn’t have to read or write anything. Ben asked everything off a tablet and inputted the answers.

She was honest, and a lot of them weren’t even applicable to her. Sites she’d never heard of or had only visited maybe once. She wasn’t sure why Ben wanted to know where she streamed music from or downloaded games, but she didn’t mind telling him. They were all the usual place or none at all. She wondered if they had a way of looking up her history and purchases.

After an hour and two cans of Diet Lilt, Ben swiped his tablet closed and stood up. “I’ll just be a second. More Lilt?”

Britta shook her head. “Can I use the bathroom?”

The toilets were even more space age than the rest of the building. It was like sitting in a rocket about to be launched. When she headed back to the room, she saw Dad through the glass walls talking to Dr Reedy. She couldn’t hear them, but they looked like they were arguing, very politely.

She walked in and they stopped, the way adults do when a kid entered.

“Ah, there you are.” Dr Reedy moved her mouth into the shape of a smile. Britta nearly burst out laughing, it was so fake.

“Were the questions okay?” asked Britta.

“Yes, yes, all fine. Now, everything’s ready, but are you sure you won’t reconsider taking the full medical?”

“I’m sure,” said Britta.

“Good.” She clearly didn’t mean it. “Just sign this. You’ll have to sign it too,” she said to Dad.

It absolved APE of any liability and was a bit scary in the list of things that could possibly go wrong, but she’d already used the pod and one more go wouldn’t give her cancer. She hoped. They both signed and gave it back.

“Good,” Dr Reedy said again. “I’ll just hand this in at the office and we can proceed. One more minute.”

Once she left, Dad gave Britta a weak smile.

“These people,” said Britta, “they’re acting a bit… suspicious.”

“Suspicious? How do you mean?”

“Like they’re hiding something.” She also felt like Dad was hiding something, but she didn’t say that.

“You know, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, Britta. If I thought there was anything dodgy here, I would never...”

“No, it’s fine. It’s just a bit odd… like, when Dr Reedy rang me, I never even gave her my phone number.”

“Didn’t you text Ben first? He would have gotten your number then, probably passed it on.”

“Oh. Yes, I forgot about that.” Was she being paranoid over nothing?

Dr Reedy returned, holding the door open and looking normal, not sinister at all. “Shall we?”

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