perkins and rogers were standing on a narrow balcony overlooking a large bullpen area where dozens of workers sat at desks arranged in neatly spaced rows.
if it had been an odd numbered year, the workers would not be at desks but gathered around big tables, and the tables would be filled with baskets of healthy snacks and play-do and lego pieces, and the workers themselves would be wearing loose, brightly colored clothing and encouraged to laugh and shout.
but it was an even numbered year so they were sitting silently each alone at the neatly lined up desks and wearing their uniform of short sleeved white shirts and navy blue bow ties.
“i don’t think anything ever is outmoded or completely disappears,” perkins warmed to his theme. “but always remains bubbling under the ground, as it were.”
rogers refrained from rolling his eyes. “all right. so say our little friends on the floor are bubbling over with despair or whatever, what of it?”
perkins tossed his little device into the air and caught it. “why, they might rise up and destroy us.”
rogers laughed. “i don’t think so. “
“you never know,” perkins countered, with a half-hearted frown.
“well, why don’t you try your little toy and see what results you get. how does it work?”
“you just point it at a person and click the button and the screen has a color spectrum from violet to red. violet is no despair, red is total despair. got it?”
“want me to try it on you?”
“go for it.”
perkins clicked the thing at rogers. the screen lit up a shade of purple, not quite violet.
“not bad,” said perkins. “not much despair there.”
“life is good,” rogers agreed.
“let’s try it on some of the people down there.”
perkins began clicking at random across the floor below.
“wow, look at these readings, orange, red , orange, red, more red - there is some serious despair down there. looks like trouble in the lowlands tonight.”
“if you say so. are you sure you are doing it right? maybe you are going too fast.”
“are you questioning my pointing and clicking skills?”
“i would never do that.”
perkins looked down at his device. “i think i’ll go down and try this out at closer range. want to come with me?”
“not really. i have to get ready for a meeting with whistler.”
“all right. see you later.”
a spiral staircase led down to the main floor and perkins shuffled down it.
the first desk he came to was occupied by a young woman named simmons.
“hey simmons,” perkins greeted her. “take a look at this.”