They met again the next ‘morning’ – 8am by Zara’s new wristwatch. She’d also located the clothing store, and dressed herself in an outfit labeled ’1960s retro’ – a red miniskirt and a bright, swirling, loose top which almost covered the teeny skirt.
“Wow!” Parlie said, circling her, “you didn’t waste any time, did you? Sure you need my help?”
Zara grabbed his arm, and thought a loud YES.
“Oh – kay, then, glad I asked!” Parlie said mournfully, and rubbed his arm. “Now – fun’s over girlie, we need to work!”
“Yay!” said Zara, and clapped.
Parlie laughed. “I’d love to see you this enthusiastic after a few shifts! Come on.”
They transited to the pipe room.
“Now you can actually use a little private room with a desk – might suit your retro mood – but for now, we’ll start on – Bloody Icicles!”
That last was due to another person who’d charged between them and knocked them both flying. Zara caught a glimpse of black, and a scowl, before the person had gotten past and vanished among the pipes.
“Who – or what – was that?” asked Zara, righting herself.
“That charming welcome party was Barry,” Parlie said, “He’s – a little antisocial, to put it mildly. He’s been horribly mistreated, unfairly dealt with, hates everybody, especially noobs… get the idea?”
Zara nodded. “How did he get in here, though?”
Parlie grimaced. “Bad screening process, I think,” he said, “But don’t tell Barry I said that. He’s sensitive!”
“He’ll get himself wiped one of these days,” Parlie said, “He’s already been put on limited duties – no contact with the outside world, not much fun – which is, of course, a sign that he really is being persecuted!” He rolled his eyes, and shrugged. “But he’s not your worry, OK? He hates noobs, but he usually just buzzes them when they’re taking up ‘his’ space. Harmless kook!”
“So…” Zara said, “work?”
“Good stuff!” Parlie said, “OK, this purple one is for user queries – they ask a question, and we find out the info and get it back to them. Put your hand on it, and request a query.”
Zara touched the pipe and thought, “Query?”
Text appeared in front of her:
Where can I find the best steak in Perth?
“Deep!” said Zara with a laugh.
“Focusing on professionalism,” said Parlie with mock severity, “Can you think of some queries to use to find out the information? ‘Best steak’ will likely just bring up advertising – what will get you some useful stuff?”
“Steak restaurant reviews, Perth?” Zara asked.
She put a hand on the yellow pipe and made the query.
“Holy crap, that’s a lot of information!” she said, as the results scrolled past her.
“Filtering?” asked Parlie, raising an eyebrow.
“Filtering?” she asked, and frowned. “Oh, hey – 4 stars and higher?”
Parlie nodded and grinned. “You’re a cluey one! Here, use the green – ask it to filter results for 4-star average ratings.”
She did so, and the list contracted to four restaurant names. She touched one, and the entry expanded to show actual review comments made.
“Nice!” she said, “Now – how do I deliver?”
“Red pipe,” Parlie directed, “Attach that query number – yep, that one! – to the results and move them to the pipe… that’s it! Brilliant girl! Do you know how long it takes most people to learn that sort of thing?”
Zara shrugged, “I used to do this sort of thing on the outside – it’s part of what attracted me here.”
“Oh, bananas,” said Parlie, “Barry’s on his way back – come on, let’s vamoose before he gets here!”
They blinked into the cafeteria just as Barry was about to hit again.
“Phew!” said Parlie, “The resident psycho seems to’ve taken a dislike to you, darlin!”