9.7

The moment Calvin entered the house he sat down against the wall and covered his head with his arms, refusing to move. Elizabeth attempted to coax him into moving again and Sarah joined her but all they got from him was a distressed noise. Sam joined them finally and frowned down at the man.

“What happened?” He stood back a bit from them as they hovered over their guest.

“He got inside and shut down again. Mr. Sutro, are you okay?” Elizabeth had knelt down at eye level with him but he still wasn’t responding.

“Just inside? Like the moment he stepped inside the door?”

“Yes, Sam. That’s why he’s just inside the door. Maybe we should get him some water or-” Sarah stopped talking as Sam suddenly shut the lights off.

“Sam what the hell?” Elizabeth shouted at him.

“Give him a second.” Sam swatted Sarah’s hand away as she tried to turn the lights back on.

“Sam turn the lights back on, the poor man’s already stressed enough.” She turned back to Calvin, barely able to see him from the natural light in the room. He’d relaxed in the dark and taken his arms off his head.

“We live in quirky old house filled to the brim with technology. Of course it would overwhelm the first technopath it’s ever met trying to talk.” He turned the lights back on and Calvin got to his feet again, picking up the robot he’d dropped. It whirred indignantly.

“Oh my, I really didn’t think about that… Well the other wing should be a bit quieter since it’s all updated and minimal electronics.” Sarah took over guiding the man and Elizabeth hung back to talk to her brother.

“How’d you know that was the problem, really?”

“I’ve talked to technopaths before, it’s a common problem apparently.”

“When have you been talking to technopaths? And where was I?”

“You were here and I was nowhere a lady should be. Besides, technopaths are trouble. Good people mostly but I wouldn’t let them work on my ship or fix my house. Makes things weird.”

“Yes but-”

“Just go with them and get him settled in.” Sam waved her off and she glowered at him before running to catch up with the others.

***

Jessie snuck through the door into the hospitality wing and ducked into a closet. She wasn’t normally allowed in this part of the house, especially when they had guests. The last few days had been frustrating. Every time she tried to visit Mr. Calvin someone shooed her away and gave her something to do. Sarah had dragged her along to pick flowers for the main hallway and Elizabeth had her sorting components into bins for hours. Misa gave her a book to read instead and she’d found a sunny corner to be grumpy in until dinner.

This time she was in the clear. Sarah was busy preserving food for the upcoming winter and Elizabeth was trying to figure out why the lights on the third floor were acting up. The others were too absorbed in their own tasks to notice her slip away and Misa and Granny were at a meeting in the city. She peered into the hallway to make sure nobody was there and scrambled down the hall, glancing in each open doorway as she passed. He wasn’t in any of the rooms down that hallway. She frowned, glancing out the window at the end of the hall. There were probably thirty rooms over three floors in this part of the house, someone might notice her if she just checked each one. She sniffed the air but could only smell disinfectant in this area.

The other hallway on this floor smelled of disinfectant as well, and she hurried up the stairs to the second floor. There was a smell besides disinfectant on this floor. Flowers, from outside. She followed the smell, which led her to a room on the far end. The door was closed and she hesitated. Every other door was open so this had to be the right room.  She put her hand on the door handle and tried to will herself to open it. This wasn’t supposed to be the hard part. He was just here to get better, Misa told her that. She pushed down and shut her eyes, pushing the door open.

Something hit her foot and she opened her eyes. The little robot had bumped into her foot. It beeped at her and headed back towards the bed. Mr. Calvin was sitting on the bed, staring out the window. The flowers she had smelled sat on the bedside table in a vase.

She picked up the robot and set it beside him on the bed, then looked up at him. He didn’t seem to notice she was there. The robot beeped and struggled across the bed a foot or so before stopping again.

“Hi, Mr. Calvin. I wanted to say hi and see if you’re feeling better but everyone keeps stopping me but I managed to get here today so… hi.” She couldn’t see any reaction on his face so she picked up one of his hands and put it on her head, “My hair grew out again so it’s almost as long as it was before. Aunt Sarah said you did a good job fixing it though.”

She looked down at the little robot, which sat patiently at his feet. If she stayed too much longer someone would catch her and she’d be in trouble.

“I hope you’re feeling better, I know you were really sad after what happened. Even if stuff happens that’s bad I think I’d rather have you feel better than not.” She looked up again as he moved his hand off her head. He was still staring out the window. “When you’re feeling better I bet you’d like Elizabeth’s lab. There’s all sorts of neat stuff down there. She’s building my birthday present but she won’t tell me what it is.”

“This house really likes you.” It was so soft she wasn’t sure she’d heard it.

“Mr. Calvin?” She watched his face intently but nothing changed. “I should go before they find me here… I’ll visit again when I can.” Jessie lingered a few moments longer, watching him sit there in silence, before hurrying downstairs and back to the main house.

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