Jeremiah was startled by the sudden appearance of Lane. “Lead Scientist Parker, I’m sorry to have jumped to conclusions but it is my duty to account for the arrival of all Assistants and she failed to notify me that she was within the lab. Further—”
“Seeing as how the matter was urgent, I did not allow her time to notify you. If anyone is at fault then it is my own and I would have you direct your displeasure towards me.”
“You misunderstand. I’m not displeased, I-I…” Jeremiah’s tongue stuttered until he turned from Lane and excused himself from her corner of the lab.
Cera swiveled towards Lane, “Thank you, but you lied to him.” Lane’s expression went sheepish as she reached for the coffee in her friend’s hand.
“First, you’re welcome and second I didn’t lie. You didn’t just arrive, you’ve been in the building for fifteen minutes getting dressed and you didn’t notify Jeremiah of your arrival because I sent you to get my liquid fuel, a.k.a. black coffee.” Lane gave a wink before sipping her order of brew. Her mouth twisted and her nose scrunched up as she realized that she actually hated the taste of coffee. “You like this stuff, how about you drink it.” Lane passed the warm cup back to Cera and returned to work.
Cera sipped on the coffee as she followed closely behind her. Though Cera was thankful for the shield of Lane, she couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy towards her beloved friend. Lane was energetic, personable, sociable, and while she emitted a friendly aura she was also capable of being an impenetrable wall of professionalism as seen with Jeremiah. Cera wanted to have just a portion of Lane’s strength, to be a little more like her friend and a little less of herself. Cera shook the thoughts out of her mind and instead focused on the tasks listed on her workboard.
She could see where her assignment had been altered, her preferred task of filing had been smudged out and replaced with cleaning duty. Cera gave a look towards Jeremiah who turned away from her with a satisfied smirk. Yeah, figured as much.
Cera stepped into her overalls, wrapped a scarf around her exposed neck, and grabbed the shovel propped by the door before heading into the refrigerated enclosure’s breezeway. She had the choice of two entryways, one she liked and the other she did not.
“Always go for the bad news first.” She opened the door to her least favorite enclosure and steeled her heart. The hinges of the door sounded the alarm and the animals inside erupted into snarls, cries, and aggressive growls. All around Cera could hear the panicked thrashings of foxes backing into the furthest corner of their individual cages, baring their teeth at the intruder. Cera’s heart sank a little further. She disliked this part of her job the most.
“Shh…” Cera tried to soothe the foxes, but she knew the only way to ease their anxiety and aggression was to do her job quickly and get out of their territory. She set to work shoveling the excrement out from under their raised cages, being sure to check that each one appeared relatively healthy while doing so. Thirty cages later, Cera was heading back into the breezeway. The whimpers and cries of the foxes became silent when the door sealed behind her.
She blinked away the tears and entered the next enclosure. Large beams of sunlight poured through the skylight and bounced off the snowy landscape. Cera squinted as her eyes adjusted to glistening white ground and stark white walls. Among the snowdrifts and man-made dens, little fox faces peeped up to see who had come to visit them today.
An arctic fox with amber starburst eyes was the first to approach Cera. “Hello, Simon.” When Simon heard his name, a name only one visitor ever used, he jumped up to greet Cera. Soon the rest of the foxes came out from hiding to play and run while Cera worked on cleaning their habitat.
When she had finished, she sat down in the snow to enjoy the playful yips of the foxes. Simon laid next to her and nudged her for attention. “Hint taken.” She rubbed between his ears and down his neck, “It’s amazing how you all came from the same stock as the one's next door.” Simon tilted his head as though he was trying to understand. “Personality really is genetic, isn’t it?” Simon yipped and then returned to his group to play.
Back inside, Cera was hanging up her overalls when she was startled by the sudden appearance of a shadow.
Cera just wanted to share her latest astrophotography with a small group of fellow night sky enthusiasts, but when her images go viral for exposing alien life she becomes the interest of both her government and the Judger of Worlds. Cera has spent her life hiding under the darkness of night skies and she absolutely does not like having the limelight shining on her. The light exposes too much and with it, she learns that the Galatic "Good Guys" maintain interstellar peace through the destruction of all advanced and aggressive civilizations. Earth will soon be advanced enough to join the rest of the universe, but are they peaceful enough to dodge the "Delete All" button of the Judger of Worlds? Probably not, but Cera might be able to convince the Judge to bend the rules. Well, maybe.