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Daniel Frisano - Technical translator
"Unrelenting quest for perfection"

  The following is an excerpt from my novella, "Impermanence".

- - - - -

On an early-winter morning, Baxti-LY parked her new two-wheeler in her allotted space, as she did every working day, and removed her heavy jacket. While placing it in the cloakroom compartment near the exit of the office car park, she caught sight of her friend and colleague Hawiya-MT - who lived nearby - arriving on foot as she often did.

"Hi, Hawiya," said Baxti. "Hey, you have new eyes!" she added, surprised.

"Yes, I've indulged this little whim," replied her friend with a chuckle.

"This isn't like you at all: you're always so serious!" teased Baxti, as they made their way towards their respective offices. GraviDyn produced very popular vehicles: fast-moving and noiseless, these were capable of reducing energy consumption to a minimum by exploiting miniscule gravitational differences caused by the imperfect homogeneity of the mass of the Earth. Hawiya worked in the sales department, managing clients in the entire north-western area, while Baxti, in the science division, studied the possible interference of vehicles in the planet's gravitational field. The two were on different levels of the company's org chart: in theory, "unequal" relations were discouraged by the Government, but a blind eye was turned on small-to-medium firms such as GraviDyn, knowing that opportunities for friendship were limited.

"Yesterday was Periodic Cranium Maintenance day so, while I was at it, I had my eyes changed," said Hawiya. "I was fed up with black. My former pair would have done for at least another fifteen solar cycles, but I saw these hazel ones and decided to try them. I can keep them for ten days; if I don't like them, I can turn them in and get my old ones back. For the moment I think they look kind of weird, but I might get used to them in the next few days."

"Oh yes, I remember you mentioning this. Funny though, another girl was missing in your department, so they asked one of ours to replace her. It doesn't happen much, they're usually pretty good at staff leave planning," replied Baxti.

"Yeah, it hardly ever happens. I wonder who she was, and what her reason was for not being there," said Hawiya. "My absence was no news, it's all down in the register. These things are done by rotation, so there's never more than one person away per department in twenty days. Anyway, I don't think GraviDyn will go bust for so little!"

The two were walking towards the entrance, along with other colleagues. Once they reached the main hall, their roads would split - Hawiya would head for the second floor, with the other sales people, and Baxti for the science lab on the third floor.

"You could have reminded me, though: I had to sit in the staff canteen with that drip, what's-her-name, the new admin girl," said Baxti reproachfully. "As soon as she saw me on my own, she sat down and buttonholed me. When she starts, there's no stopping her! She's like a vulture closing in on its prey: there's just no escape. Two girls from production had just left the table, so she caught me defenceless. She started ranting about all the timesheets she has to deal with, or whatever, and went on and on till my food kind of congealed half-way down, and I had stomach-ache all afternoon. Warn me next time, will you?"

"Since when am I supposed to tell you everything I do? The staff leave planner is there in full view: you knew perfectly well that I'd be away!" replied Hawiya, her voice betraying a trace of unintentional irritation. They'd just entered the hall and Hawiya's words resounded among the tall walls, making heads turn.

"Ooh, we are touchy today!" retorted Baxti, startled by such an outburst from her friend, whose countenance, usually so reserved, seemed almost to counterbalance her own more ebullient personality.

"Sorry Baxti, I didn't mean to raise my voice," Hawiya reassured her. "I didn't sleep well and I'm a little edgy. I couldn't put my book down last night, so I sat up reading until the small hours."

"You were reading until late at night? With your new eyes? You do realize that you shouldn't strain them for the first two or three days, don't you?" scolded Baxti. "I bet it was one of those ancient history books you're so keen on lately!"

"Right," replied Hawiya with a smile. "You see? I don't need to tell you anything, you know me so well! Yes, my eyes did sting a little this morning, but not for long. And I'm still in time to get my old ones back!"

"I don't know... hazel eyes suit you, I think you should keep these," suggested Baxti, turning to climb the stairs to the lab. "But don't treat them so roughly! See you later in the canteen, if you're there!"

"Yes, I'll try not to leave you alone with that blabbermouth again! See you later!"

* * *

In her office, Hawiya checked out on the colleague who'd been absent the day before: she worked in order processing, and apparently was out of the office again. If she didn't get there at the last moment, the inevitable backlog would have to be distributed evenly between her teammates, and they could all forget about their lunch break. Poor Baxti risked being submerged again by the torrential verbosity of the new colleague from admin.

Unplanned leaves were rare, though they did occur occasionally, when someone was moved to a different department, for instance, or found a job elsewhere, and her replacement wasn't ready yet - HR certainly wasn't the company's most efficient department. Such events were uncommon but not impossible; and they did, after all, introduce a little variety in the day-to-day routine.

But enough of this nonsense: it was time to get down to yesterday's reports from sales reps, and take a strip off those who weren't pulling their weight; plan on-the-spot visits; review the draft of the new catalogue; in short, her usual office duties. As it happened, their colleague didn't turn up, so Hawiya had to work through her lunch hour, entering orders - and leaving Baxti to her fate.

By the end of the day her new eyes were sore again, and she was tired. She skipped her scheduled workout at the gym, indulged in a light dinner a little earlier than usual and went straight to bed to catch up on lost sleep, neglecting her history books for once.