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"Morning, Tom!" Julie's perky voice cut through Tom like a dull knife.
"Mornin'," he grunted back. How can she be so happy in the morning anyhow? he thought.
"Yeah. Did someone make coffee yet?"
"Of course, this is a government lab. Federal regs practically require that the first person in make at least two pots of really bad coffee. Matt made it when he got in."
This was a good thing. Matt hung around in jazz clubs and coffee houses. He had a thing for strong coffee. Tom needed some this morning. He hadn't slept well for several nights in a row. Luckily, he was off tomorrow. If he made through today he'd have a three-day weekend to catch up.
"Bleagh!" said Tom. "This is coffee? What the hell did you make this with, Matt? Paint thinner?"
"Actually, it's supposed to taste like that," said Matt. "It's a new German blend I picked up. I lightened it up a little for all you weaklings though."
'A few cups of this will get anyone through the day,' thought Tom, 'maybe even me.'
"Man, you look terrible," said Matt, "New girlfriend keeping up nights?"
"Bwah-ha-ha. You're a laugh a minute. I just couldn't sleep."
Tom sat down at his desk and booted the computer. He sipped more coffee and waited for the LAN to start. More coffee. He could keep both eyes open now. He opened his electronic mail. There was a message from Ron. "Crap! I have to get that report out before I leave tonight! Matt, where's all of our stuff on microservos?"
"Right here. I've already started writing that report on power consumption. Get over here and help me with it. Ron wants it by tomorrow and you won't be here."
"We still don't know what he needs it for, or why so quickly. We've been working on these for eight months and all of the sudden it's important."
"'Ours is not to reason why....' It's a black project. That's what Ron works on. You don't need to know, so you don't get to know."
"OK. One report on power consumption versus strength for parallel microservo groups coming up," said Tom.
A few hours later, Tom and Matt broke for lunch. The report was written. They'd just proofread it after lunch and send it to the boss to read before giving it to Ron.
"Man, you still look ragged out," said Matt, "did you go out drinking last night?"
"Nah, nobody wanted to go out and play. Good thing, way I feel today. I haven't been able to sleep all week." 'The dreams keep waking me up,' thought Tom, 'but that's not the type of thing you talk about in the cafeteria.'
"This finished?" asked Ralph.
"Yep, hot off the laser printer," said Matt.
"Good, I'll read it and send it back to you. Tom, get out of here. You look like crap."
"Thanks. I feel better than I look."
"Go home. I don't want you sitting around infecting everyone with whatever disease you have. Get some rest, come in early on Monday."
"OK. I don't have anything else to do anyway."
Tom got his jacket and helmet and left. He suited up and got on the motorcycle. The ride home was always good for his mood, if usually too short. 'Heck, I'll get home in time to watch cartoons.' He started the bike and rode off, singing the theme to "Pinky and the Brain."
"Pinky, Pinky and the Brain, brain, brain...." Tom pulled up to his apartment building. He climbed the stairs and entered the apartment. He took off the helmet and jacket. He flopped onto the couch and grabbed the remote. Animaniacs was just starting. This was his new favorite cartoon. 'It's not as good as Looney Tunes, but at least it's not edited for my consumption.'
He woke up to the ringing. 'It's not in my head.' He reached for the phone. "Hello."
"Hi. It's me. What are you doing?"
"Hi, Jenny. I'm sleeping on the couch and watching cartoons."
"Exciting. Let's go get something to eat. I don't feel like cooking, so I'll let you buy me dinner."
"Wow, how nice of you. Come on over and we'll go out."
Twenty minutes later, Jenny's Mustang pulled up outside Tom's apartment as he bounded down the stairs. He jumped in the passenger side and leaned over for a kiss. Jenny met him halfway.
A few seconds later, they parted. "Ick. Trim that beard soon. Kissing you is getting to be like kissing a hairbrush."
"I'm going to grow it so I look like that Alexi guy, the soccer player, except with brown hair instead of red."
"Great. I'll be looking forward to that. How was your day?" asked Jenny.
"I'll tell you over dinner. Chinese food? We'll get takeout and come back here."
"I feel more Italian tonight. That OK?"
"Yeah, that's good. To Pasquali's!" Jenny backed up and they drove off to their favorite Italian restaurant.
Tom spoke between mouthfuls of salad. "Anyhow, I didn't sleep much last night so I was tired all day. After we finished the report, Ralph sent me home early."
"You look fine now."
"I finally got some sleep. You know, I sleep better when you stay over."
"I'm sure you do. I don't snore, unlike some people." The entrees arrived just in time to save Tom from further embarrassment.
On the way home, Jenny pulled into a liquor store. "Let's get some wine."
"Oh, twist my arm." 'Damn, she's pretty. I am the luckiest guy in the universe.' They got out of the car. Tom walked around and caught hold of her hand. He pulled her to him and kissed her.
They broke apart, eventually. "Whew! What was that for?" she asked.
"Because you're so durn purty, ma'am." The fake southern accent never failed to get a laugh.
It worked again this time. She had the most beautiful laugh, the most beautiful everything. They went in the store.
They were sitting on the couch, sipping wine and making out. It was almost eleven-thirty. "Can I spend the night?"
"Of course," replied Tom. They went into his bedroom and curled up in each other's arms.
Half an hour later, Jenny felt Tom move. He wasn't sleeping well at all. He had turned over and kicked off all the covers. She reached out and pulled him next to her, pulling the blankets over both of them. He snuggled up to her for a second and made a satisfied growling noise.
"Aarouuuuu!" Tom sat up and howled. It scared Jenny, a lot. She pressed up against the wall. He jumped out of bed. He was standing only partially upright, knees bent, up on the balls of his feet. He looked around and dashed out of the bedroom. She looked out the door in time to see him leave the apartment. She put on some clothes and followed him.
She found him sitting in the nearby park. He stared up into the full moon, motionless. "Tommy, you OK?" she whispered. She slowly walked towards him. She reached out and touched his shoulder.
"What the...? Where am I? Jenny, what's going on?"
She wrapped her arms around him. "It's OK, you're fine. You just wandered out here. I'm here, you're fine."
"I don't know what's going on. First the dreams wake me up, now I'm sleepwalking. I'm going crazy!" He sagged into her arms and let her walk him home.
NEXT ISSUE: Nightmares
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