136 - balloon
n electric buzz brought Pierre's thoughts back into the present. He grumbled slightly at this, as daydreaming was a rather pleasant escape from the confined world surrounding him. Exhaling, he pressed the red intercom switch on his desk and inquired into the speaker, "Yes?"
"Hello, sir. It's Liza Belling here, from Block D," the voice on the other end of the intercom said. Of course, if there was to be one person to drop him back to reality, it would have to be crotchety old Mrs. Belling, Pierre thought. He ran his fingers through his gray hair, as if he were contemplating pulling it out, and then pressed the button back down.
"Yes, Mrs. Belling? I'm rather busy today, is it absolutely urgent?" A half-truth, though he truly was busy, at this very moment there was obviously nothing consuming his time.
"I'm afraid it is, Mr. Fondane. Please, if I could just have a moment of your time."
She would never let him off that easily, he knew. Without further response or hesitation, he pressed the other button on the intercom box, which caused his door to automatically unlock and slide open.
A woman in her sixties barged through the doorway. Pierre, of similar age, stood up, and shook her hand in a requisite greeting. Mrs. Belling expressed her thanks for being granted an audience with the Administrator, but Pierre felt she lacked authenticity. Her attitude implied that he owed this to her.
After both parties took their seats, Pierre intended to drive straight to the point. "So, what is this all about then?" he asked, knowing that he really did not want to hear her answer.
"I have a list of grievances"--of course she did--"about some of the activities that have been occurring on Blocks C and E, and I was hoping that you could help me in rectifying some of these issues."
Even knowing that Mrs. Belling's reason for coming would be of this nature, as it always was, Pierre still had to suppress his immediate feeling of anger. She was essentially having problems with her neighbors, and somehow this qualified as urgent to her. Yet he knew he had to be diplomatic about things. No reason to cause more discord in an already-troubled situation.
"I think that this falls outside of my jurisdiction as Administrator of this vessel. The Residential Dispute Council would be more of an appropriate venue to bring up your concerns."
Mrs. Belling scoffed at Pierre's suggestion. "Oh, please! The RDC meets but once a month, and they lack any real authority to get things done. that's why I'm coming to you. People listen to you."
Nevermind that, at the outset of this journey, there had been zero thought given to anything resembling a mechanism for resolving problems between passengers. The assumption had been that they were all like-minded individuals and that problems would be few and far between. Those issues that did crop up would be easy to resolve.
The assumption had largely held true, with the notable exception of this one particular Block Captain which currently graced Pierre's office with her presence. The RDC was created in an effort to keep her off his back, but the ploy had only worked for about a year and a half.
Pierre thought about how there were so many issues to deal with that were more pressing. The primary water cleanser was now operating at less than twenty percent efficiency, and he needed to consider the various options the engineers had brought forth. Ditto to the solar array misalignment, and the Zorian Blight that had been infecting some of the crops.
Three more years of this. He wasn't sure they would survive. Again, he exhaled.
"I see. So, what exactly are the problems you're having with Blocks C and E?"