The lab was abuzz with activity when Jon and Mikaela arrived. Sam was setting up the machines, no larger than a couple cubes while Gene set up the robotic arms. Several more cubes were set up to the side, in line for the configuration.
Sam’s tone had lightened from the earlier interchange. “Hey, Boss, did you give Jon the two-dollar tour?” followed by a chuckle. “You know, there’s always magic behind the curtain!”
Gene just shook his head and tended to connecting the robotic arm to its base. “You’re a nut, Sam.”
Mikaela just shook her head as she pulled out three chips required for the setup. She checked their integrity and slipped each one into the cubes. Slowly they pulsed. She looked at Jon. “The installs are automated with these chips. We’ll have to train the basic movements here, then make final adjustments on the floor.”
She handed Jon another set of chips similar to the three she had so he could start on the next set, then looked at her watch. She sharply exhaled and uttered, “Where is Scott?” She looked at the door and tapped her hand against the table. He’s always late. Why would tonight be different?
She turned back to the machines she was installing and saw they were finished. She popped out the chips and moved them a table by the robot, then came back. “Let’s build them all this evening, then train them tomorrow. We have 14 sets to get through. I hoped it would just be an hour, but looks like it might be a little longer if Scott’s a no-show.”
Jon looked over at Mikaela. He knew the look on her face, a mix of disappointment and displeasure. He’d seen it long ago. He knew this is why she was always so hands on with the work; she had a hard time trusting others to just show up.
15 minutes later, the door flew open and Scott, breathless, came in. “Sorry I’m late…”
Mikaela held up her hand, holding up three chips. “No excuses. Here are the chips, get to work.”
Scott stammered and his face turned a little red. “Sure thing, Boss.” A smell of tobacco followed behind him. He snatched the chips and took three more machines to start the install.
Gene piped up. “Well, Mikaela, I have the test robot set up. Want to come check it out?”
Mikaela walked over and Gene showed her all the connection points. “I also bolted it down temporarily, you know… should anything happen.”
Mikaela smiled with pleasure. Gene always delivers and thinks ahead. “Thanks Gene, great work. Why don’t you get out of here for the night?”
It was only the second genuine smile Jon had seen from her since they arrived at the lab. Jon wrapped up the next machine and looked up. “Looks like we have about three to go — one for each of us.”
Mikaela looked over. “No way, that’s great!” She looked at her watch and realized it had just reached 18:00. Her smile grew. “We’re basically on track.”
Sam pulled on Mikaela’s arm. “The machines are all here. Do you still need me?” He was almost timid suddenly talking to Mikaela. Jon couldn’t make heads or tails out of the interchange. Mikaela however didn’t seem surprised.
She knowingly blinked her eyes and looked at the door. “Get out of here. See you in the morning.”
Sam thanked her and quietly slipped out.
Scott and Jon finished up their final machines and Mikaela wrapped up hers shortly afterward. Jon could see exhaustion in Mikaela’s face and spoke up. “Ready to shut it down for the night, Mike?”
Mikaela looked up for a moment. “I’ll just be a few more minutes. I have some final things to wrap up. You two go ahead and head out.”
Scott bolted to the door, ready to leave. “Bye!” he shouted as the lab door shut behind him.
Jon pulled up a chair and took a seat next to Mikaela. “Mike, you haven’t changed.” He placed his hand on her device, and she looked up. “You need to stop. Dinner – let’s grab a bite and catch up.”
Mikaela forced a grin and pocketed her device. She shrugged, took a deep breath, then responded with hesitation, “Okay.”