Carlos: D plus 32h : 14m : 58s and counting

g | no warnings apply



He hesitated for a moment outside Diana's quarters. Each door had their participant number on it and a white board that they could use to somewhat personalize it. Under the '007', Diana had written her name in beautiful, blue cursive script, then drawn a purple flower in the top right corner.

Carlos had only written his name in bold letters, then underlined it. Akane had written her name in red, in both English and what he presumed was Japanese. Junpei put his name in English only; it looked like he had written something else below it but then erased it. Mira had a heart next to her name, but he wasn't sure if she had put it there or if Eric had come along and drawn it later. Eric's name was in block letters, and it looked like he had written Q's name on his board as well. Phi's board had a circle with a line through it, which confused him until Diana told him it was the Greek letter 'phi'. Sigma's board had been blank, but it now read 'grumpy old man', and it didn't take a genius to figure out who had put that there.

The door was cracked, so he knocked on the doorjamb.

"Come in!"

In stark contrast to his own quarters, hers looked lived-in already. She had a framed picture on the small bedside table; it looked like her and her parents at her graduation. She was sitting at the small desk typing into her laptop, her elbows resting on a red throw pillow. She had already changed into grey flannel pajamas that were so big she was practically swimming in them. When she saw him and turned away from the computer, hugging the pillow to her stomach, he could see it had a large 'D' embroidered on it. They had been allowed to bring their own bedding, so her mattress was covered with dark green sheets and an ... odd orange stuffed ... thing ... that looked like a giant tick.

"Uh ... what is that?"

She followed his gaze and laughed. "Oh, it's a bed bug. There's a company that makes plush microbes. I have the black death and mad cow sitting on my bed at ... back in San Francisco."

"Cute," he said, although not very convincingly. He pointed back at her door with his thumb. "Do I need to worry about you being a secret agent?"

"Huh?"

"Seriously? 007? James Bond? Well, I mean, the last three were Jane Bond, but I can't believe you haven't heard of it."

"Oh, that! No, I would be a horrible secret agent."

Her laugh reminded him of Maria. She used to giggle just like that, with her hand over her mouth, and he hadn't heard it in ten years.

"Look, uh ... I'm not sure if you've started your daily report yet, but -"

"I can't completely omit the incident with Sigma from my report," she said, almost apologetically. "I don't feel right lying like that."

He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. He had been given a long list of situations that warranted emergency actions and an immediate call to Dcom headquarters. A participant having a mental breakdown was number three, right after death/illness of a participant and fire or other structural damage that endangered the participants. The administrators wouldn't get their reports until the cohabitation was over, but if they read them and decided that there had been an incident that necessitated emergency action and he had failed to implement it, they could withhold his payment.

Diana was under a similar stipulation, but only insofar as it related to medical conditions. He couldn't blame her for not wanting to lie, but Eric and Junpei had already questioned his judgement, and even he was beginning to wonder if he was letting his need for the money override the need to keep everyone safe. The actual cohabitation was only about twelve hours in, and apparently just sitting through orientation yesterday had been enough to drive Sigma crazy.

"That being said, I don't really think it's necessary to put all the details in there."

"What do you mean?"

She bit her lip and glanced at her computer. "I didn't mention that he had to be physically restrained. I had to reference the damage to the infirmary, but I left out the ... um, crowbar that I'm still not sure how he got his hands on, and I ... I pretty much made it sound like it was a panic attack and said I intended to keep an eye on him."

He could tell from the look on her face that she felt guilty not putting the absolute truth in her report. Maybe she needed the money as badly as he did. But for whatever reason, he was grateful. Her story minimized the event enough to the point that he felt he could rationalize not calling Dcom staff.

"Sounds about right to me," he said.

He turned to go, but before he was out the door, he heard her say, "For what it's worth, I think you made the right choice. I don't think he's dangerous."

That surprised him. Eric had openly theorized that the guy was secretly a serial killer who had conned his way into the experiment to murder them all. Carlos doubted that was the case, but Mira seemed wary of Sigma and Junpei had been giving him a wide berth. Although, admittedly, Junpei wasn't really interacting much with anyone. Sigma was clearly friendly with Akane and Phi, and Q was blissfully ignorant of most of what was going on, but Carlos had anticipated Diana would be just as frightened of Sigma as Eric was. The guy was taller and more muscular than any of them, and stronger than any of his buddies back at the station. Diana reminded him of a delicate porcelain doll.

"Can I ask why? I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some concerns about him."

She put her hand over her heart and for a moment, she seemed very far away. "I just ... have a feeling."

He was disappointed; she was a woman of science, and he was hoping she had some logical, rational reason, based on psychology or medicine.

"Well, I'll let you get back to work. Good night, Diana."

Her eyes focused back on him and she smiled. "Good night, Carlos."

He heard voices coming from the Home Unit. It sounded like someone was trying to teach Eric how to play darts and it wasn't going very well. Even though it wasn't curfew, he went to his room and closed the door behind him. He hadn't personalized his room at all. The bed was covered in the same plain white sheets that had been there when he first arrived, and it was the same for the desk, with the lamp, notebook, and pens. Only he and Diana were provided laptops, but his still sat in the drawer.

He dug around in his bag and pulled out a picture of him and Maria, taken on her last birthday. She wasn't able to eat the cake he baked for her, but he made it anyway, like he did every year. Ten years had taken a toll on her body, and every time he reapplied for her disability benefits, he had to answer more and more questions about if it was worth spending taxpayer money on someone who might never wake up.

He hoped Diana was right.

(fin.)