In the first look at Uncomfortable Truths, we spent some time with Sven. In this section we find Nadine on Earth as well, searching for Sven.
It was still cold as she crossed streets, and when she finally reached the one she wanted, she just stood outside of it. It was a huge white building, reminding her strongly of the historic structure in Old America they called the White House. Much like Jasper’s office, it was designed to intimidate. There was a speaker box on the gate and she finally got up the nerve to ring in. The whole visit was more and more alien and she felt like the poor little girl that she had been on Mars when her father was still around.
“Michaels’ residence,” the box buzzed.
“Yes, I’m here to see Sven Michaels.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
Inwardly, Nadine sighed. Appointments everywhere. It was ridiculous that the man who lay in bed beside her for a month was this inaccessible. The whole experience made her feel worthless and irritable. “No, I do not have an appointment. Please tell him that Nadine is here.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Cloutier, but I am not able to disturb Mr. Sven unless you have an appointment. Please make one for a future date.”
Nadine just sighed and started walking away. She was at the end of the block before she stopped short. She hadn’t told the voice in the box her last name. She looked back at the house. They knew about her. They knew not to admit her. She mentally kicked herself as she walked back to the station. Of course they were blocking her. As she sat on the shuttle, she started to think about the silence. Maybe it wasn’t planned. A shiver slid down her backbone as she thought back to his last words on Mars, about how they were going to be together soon. Then she thought about his brother and the boxed voice. Were they blocking her? The thought made her feel ill inside. She had never considered that Sven hadn’t made the decision not to stay in contact. Nadine glanced out the window and suddenly stood to rush off the shuttle at the last minute. They were at the university station. She remembered him talking about how he was unhappy with being a mechanic, how he didn’t want to be involved in the mining business. Then she crossed into the campus and her heart fell. It was huge. Much larger than the medical school she had attended and larger than any of the hospitals on Earth that she had worked in. Finally, by the middle of the afternoon, she found her way to the administration building. There were line-ups to the kiosks there but she stood in front of the staff listing. She couldn’t search for individual students. Sighing deeply, Nadine left and walked as far as the lobby before collapsing on the end of a bench. Two other girls were occupying the other end of it but she ignored them. It was beginning to feel impossible to track Sven down. It was a few minutes before the conversation next to her sunk in.
“Yeah, but I didn’t want to write the thing on the weekend. I mean, there was this awesome party and Peter was going to be there. I had to go. The exam was stupid anyway.”
“I know! Don’t they understand that we have lives?”
“Did you go on Thursday?”
“No, I slept in I think.”
“His TA was there.”
The second girl’s voice changed in intensity. “Was he teaching?”
“He was. That deep voice. He’s beautiful.”
“I know! So serious though. I heard the best rumour. He’s actually one of ‘the Michaels’ as in the mine on Mars!”
Nadine sat up suddenly and turned to the young girl next to her.
“Sorry to interrupt, but did you say Mr. Michaels, the TA?”
The girl looked her up and down and her nose wrinkled. “What’s it to you?”
“What does he look like?” Nadine demanded.
The girl shook her head and the pair started to stand up but Nadine reached up and grabbed her arm. It was the detachment she had felt in the shuttle two years before. Violence when necessary.
“Look, don’t fuck with me, okay?” she said quickly and quietly. Both girls froze. “What does he look like?”
The girl who wasn’t being held suddenly started talking. “He’s in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, tall, broad shoulders, blond hair, blue eyes.”
Nadine suddenly relaxed and the tension dropped slightly. “Thank you. Last thing, where do I find him?”
“Political Science usually,” she said quickly. Nadine let the girl go and they both hurried off down the hall, shooting looks back at her. She waited until they were out of sight before shoving her coat into her bag and tying up her hair. No doubt they’d be looking for security by now. She quickly hurried from building to building until she found a map and traced her way back to the political science area. There was one bored security guard at the front but she melted into the crowds and made her way through the halls. She wished she’d asked where in the department to find him but eventually she found her way into a classroom. She took a seat in the back and waited. Finally a guy sat beside her.
“Hey, is this the class that Michaels TA’s?” she asked casually.
“Yeah, and never a worse bastard will you get for your papers. The guy is unmovable.”
“So I heard. Tall blond guy?”
She nodded and settled back to wait, impatiently. The security guard came in and looked around briefly but Nadine kept her eyes averted and he left again. Finally a middle-aged professor walked into the room. He shuffled paper at the podium. The classroom was shaped with the desks and chairs sloping down to the stage. Behind his podium were an open door and a desk in front. He looked behind him and then Nadine caught her breath. Sven walked in the door and sat himself at the desk. The professor started to talk but she ignored him completely. She spent the rest of the class staring at Sven. He was just as lean as when he had left Mars two years ago and that was enough to worry her even if he hadn’t looked rumpled. At one point he rubbed his eyes in a familiar stressed motion and she caught her breath. Finally class came to an end and she started down the stairs. She was fighting against the tide of people trying to get out of the lecture theatre but she didn’t take her eyes off him. He gathered up papers slowly and left through the back door. The professor followed him out before she reached the stage. As if she was supposed to be there, Nadine pushed through the same door and found herself in a deserted hall. There was the sound of footsteps from the right so she turned and followed them as fast as possible.