Out of Stasis
rating: +15+x

Chapter II.III

"Here's where all the previous critter profiles are kept. We have them stored in the computer, but we print out everything as well, just to make sure we can survive a system crash. Also, it goes without saying that some things require specific forms of information storage."

Old Al showed me around Tim's office. I wasn't sure why, exactly. I hadn't asked him to do it. I knew where most things were, and why they were. I was alright with the distraction, though.

"A lot of records, honestly, ahaheh. You're going to be getting a lot of mail, and one of the main things about this job is how many people are going to be coming in to talk to you. You'll want to decide your office hours as soon as possible."

Someone else might have been offended with all this hand-holding. I'm not sure why I didn't. But I was content to let him keep rattling on.

"This is the mailbox," he pointed out. Maybe he was trying to make sure that his relationship with the head of the Shelter was exactly the same. Needed that consistency, the reliability that everything will be as it was. Or maybe I was reading into it too much.

"Oh, we moved his computer out, but a flashdrive in this top drawer here has all of his files. That would include stuff you're already in possession of, like the spreadsheets for budgeting — that stuff flies over my head but you'll get it. You'll also get access to all the phone numbers of companies we're in contact with. People we buy in bulk or get special orders from."

"I did special orders before."

"You did? Oh, alright. Then you don't have to be enlightened on that process."

"I actually know most of this stuff already."

Old Al scratched his head. He was the only person I had ever known who actually scratched their head when they were thinking. "Right, that's why you were chosen, eh?"

"Mhmm."

"Right. Then the biggest change, really, is going to be that you have a full complement of staff that can pick up any of your many responsibilities if there's too much on your plate. Typically, Tim would go to myself, Laura, Anders, Robin, or you. Though I guess he really offloaded onto you, didn't he? Ahaheh, probably knew you could handle it."

"I'm that type of person."

"Which is why I want to hammer in the point that you're not alone. Feel free to ask for help."

"I will."

"You're also going to be the voice of the company. In fact, that's the biggest change," he revised his previous statement, "you're going to be in direct contact with the Supervisors. You can apply for more money, or advice, sometimes technology. Captain Esau is our direct line of contact. We have other ways if we want to go around her, but that won't happen often. She's very reliable and it's part of her job description. She can take letters. Emails will be forwarded to those people we can't directly contact. The only wrinkle is if you want to complain about her, which understandably might feel strange to filter through her. So far, though, Tim has had no complaints. Or… nevermind. She's very good at what she does."

I nodded.

"Actually, your relationship with her is probably the most important to develop. Her and the Castaways are about the only people here you can't just tell to do things. Maybe we should go meet her —"

"I need to move into this office first, Al."

"Oh," he took a breath, "right."

"It's alright Al. I'm aware of what I have to do."

"Right."

"But thank you for walking me through things."

He nodded. There was a pause. "Do you want help bringing boxes from your old office and unpacking them here?"

I smiled. "That was what I was expecting you to be here for."

"Ahaheh, got it."




I took a walk through the Shelter's man-made clearing. I had never had a name for the area that the headquarters was designed to "hug", so I thought I might as well use my new position to give it a label. I was thinking something like the Clearing, just to be simple, but something about calling it the Crater appealed to me. Something about how it gently curved downward, and another something about the implication of an impact that the Shelter was built around.

I walked along the dirt road that wound through the enclosures. It felt a bit strange that the Castaways "barracks" were disconnected from the main WWS building, but it did help to make them feel separate, which might have been the idea. I thought of "barracks" with quotation marks because I hated that they leaned into the soldier aesthetic. The last thing I wanted was for the Shelter to have some military connotation to its name.

But there it was. Right where the Crater started to give way to the surrounding forest, the brown building tucked itself in. The aesthetic of the Shelter was soft greens and rounded corners. The "barracks", however, were a rusty brown and held strong to the Supervisors' love of sharp corners.

I opened the front door with the plaque: β4. The Greek designation always made me think of a fraternity. Well, it was a fraternity when Captain Schut was in charge, but he decided to self-destruct his career and leave an opening for Esau, so it might be more of a sorority now. In any case, the lobby was just as sparse as they wanted. There was a door at the back that led to the actual barracks, a locked door to the right that had the armory (another term I very much disliked, when it was mostly tranquilizers, nets, and non-violent traps), and the door to the left was Captain Esau's personal office. That, of course, was where I headed.

I almost open the door without knocking, but remember my manners.

"Come in," I hear her alto purr.

I push open the door and am face to face with her ginger buzzcut once again. Ingrid had probably the greatest overlap between animal handling and paperwork out of anyone except Al. She was on the field capturing any and all critters we needed to take in and evaluate, but she also handled reports of every outing, reviews for every person under her watch each month, plenty of back and forth between the Shelter and the Supervisors, and certainly some things that I wasn't cleared to know about. My eyes were drawn to her pen, which told me that she was writing out a budget for the Castaways' equipment that was needing replacement. I did at least appreciate that there were people in this organization that did some of the financial work for me, which made me merely an editor. I swiftly reminded myself that she wasn't a member of this organization.

"Oh hello, Ms. Wilson. What brings you here?"

I sat before she could tell me to take a seat. "First official day on the job, I'm ironing out my new relationships within the system. You represent the Supervisors."

"Day to day, yes."

There was a pause. Once Esau looked up from her paper and made eye contact, I continued.

"Any progress on the albatross?"

"We've named it Founder, because it's trying to worm its way into the history of the town. But no. Working theory is that the same mechanism that places it in our memories is allowing it some reads into our thoughts. Maybe it takes the fake experiences but does real learning from them, giving it an edge on getting away from us. That would also make it particularly intelligent, but we handle one thing at a time. Would you like a glass of water?"

"I'm alright, thank you. What's the process?"

"We are, as always, mostly reactionary. Gary gets a call, patches it through to us. Gary hooks in other available people, who usually are on duty for getting visual while we gear up. They contact us through the walkie-talkies."

"Right. And what do you do when you find the thing?"

"That's variable."

"Give me the most standard response possible."

"Well if it's a mundane critter the Castaways probably wouldn't have gotten involved in the first place. We'd tranquilize the thing as a first call, which works nine times out of ten, and then try to bring it back and stick it in one of the provisional enclosures. Don't you know this already?"

"At what point do you decide whether or not it goes to the Supervisors."

"Soon after capture."

"How do you determine whether it's Safe, Euclid, or Keter?"

"I'm not the final say on that, but the layman's criteria can be defined by the Locked Box Test. If you leave it in a Locked Box, what happens?"

"I've heard that before."

"Right. Then under that definition, the vast majority of anything living are Euclid."

"Do I have the power to veto your decision?"

"Excuse me?"

I let the silence hang.

"Well," Ingrid began again, "if you've read the Boring Agreement…" She waited a second to probe for a response, but got none. "…then no, you can't. You can enter negotiations if it means so much to you, but the Supervisors hold power over what remains within your care and what doesn't."

"Right," Faeowynn responded. That was the perspective she wanted confirmation for. "Thank you, Captain Esau. That clears something up for me."

"Of course." Her voice carried a curious uncertainty.

I decided not to answer it, and instead flashed a polite smile, stood, and walked out the door. She could make of that interaction whatever she wanted.




Dear Wilson's Wildlife Solutions,
For the better part of two months, we have been in a kind of stasis. The loss of our greatest wilderness pioneer has left us reeling and frozen. Many basic functions of this organization have been halted, but everyone already knows this.
Things will not ever return to how they were before. I know, because I can not be the same type of force that my dad was. No one can ever replace Tim Wilson. I am not here, taking his position, because I have the same charisma as he had. I am here to do a job and my approach will be different. Even now, I send an email, whereas he might have taken the time to hold an event.
But we can not dwell too long on what was before. The goals of the Shelter have not changed. We are here to bring the community of Boring together; to protect our local ecosystems; to give animals a chance to recover, or a home if they can not be released; on rare occasions, to keep our town and its farms safe. I hope that you can all accept change as it comes, and accept me for where I am now. I am just as surprised to be here as you are to see me here.
Attached to this email is a list of all activities that were put on hold in July. I've made a rough schedule for when they should be completed, and by whom. Enclosures are going to be redesigned, plus new ones built for our ever expanding roster of woodland friends. We will be hiring, so frequent volunteers are expected to be offered full-time positions. The website is getting an overhaul. We will return with our first fundraiser in November. By the New Year, I expect everything to be up and running at its most efficient. I hope you will all enjoy embarking on this journey with me.
Blessed to have you here with me,
Faeowynn Wilson

The email reached every employee and every volunteer from the past year. No, I wasn't like Tim. Tim wandered and met with people. I was going to do everything from this office. I'd always been liked that. I liked having my hub of control. Even with the very limited functionality of them back in the 90's, young me loved the ability to message everyone from their room. Socialization without having to move. Set down roots, influence from there. It was very comfortable.

I didn't expect this job. I didn't particularly want this job. But I had this job. I'd spent my entire life making sure not to half-ass anything, and I wasn't expecting this to be any different. I took a deep breath. I was going to have to work around the Castaways.

I had never liked the Supervisors. To be clear — and I said this to myself, and in my head, I felt no anger, no emotion swelled, no hitch in my breath, no skip of a heartbeat — I blamed them for Tim's death.

I didn't feel a particular need to elaborate on why. I just knew it.

They wouldn't be the death of me.




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