Read the First Chapter

One

Good Morning …

4:52 am CDT

“Good morning, I am Marie, your new Doorkeeper.”

“What? You said, new Doorkeeper! Where’s Phillip?”

“He now occupies a ‘hole of completion.’”

“Oh no! Dead…? What happened? Do you know anything more?”

“No, ma’am, not at this time.”

“I’m sorry … I was … surprised. Of course, you just arrived. Please tell me, if you learn anything else.

“Certainly. It is permitted.”

“I apologize. I’m not making your first day easy. Are you on probation?”

“Yes, it is standard procedure.”

“My apology to your supervisor. I’m ‘Ava’ leaving for work: Counseling Sector, Building 2, Office 18, returning at 7:00 pm. Is this your first position?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I wish you well. And welcome to Wichita.”

“Thank you, Ava. My record indicates your name is spelled E-v-a.”

“Your data is correct. My name is Eva. But when I posted here the ‘Counseling Sector’ already had an Eva, so I became Ava. Oh, since this is your first day you don’t have access to history. My husband, I mean mate, will not need door services today. He is in Philadelphia for a conference and will not return until Friday afternoon or Saturday.”

“Thank you, Ava. Your door is now activated.”

“Thanks, Marie. By the way, are you mated?”

“No, I am unmated.”

“Any prospects?”

“I’ve had 20 mate screening sessions, and am waiting to qualify for others.”

“All 20? Any pre-confirmation encounters?”

“Yes, six with no follow-ups.”

“No sparks?”

“None for me.”

“How old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

“Again I apologize, I’m not just nosey—I primarily counsel young women with mating issues. Perhaps we could talk? In a few days; you are busy, and I’m late.”

“Thank you, Ava. I look forward to an appointment once my schedule is known. Your door is reactivated.”

“Thanks again. Pleasant day.”

“May your day bring insight to those you counsel.”

The latch clicks as Ava pushes the front door open and walks to the waiting transportation pod. A more metallic clank follows as the lock engages, securing Ava’s home from intrusion.

Marie thinks this’s exhilarating; my first door, on my first day. After four years of study, I finally work with real doors. It feels natural. More sleep would help. That will come.

The camera directed toward me is active. Momentarily Supervisor will critique me. In the meantime, I’ll glance at my new surroundings.

The console is in the bend of an “L-shaped” living/dining space. The entry is opposite. Dining to my left. Love the large oak table in the dining area. Did my predecessor entertain often?

There’s the hallway I took to the shower passing the kitchen and my bedroom; I’ll see them eventually.

Yuk, that tan sectional sofa is awful. Central Services only had time to change the bed to my specifications. All other furniture was Phillip’s. Now I may keep or replace any of it.

coverimage 

Through the speaker, Supervisor says, “Very professionally handled. You responded to her concerns; revealed appropriately with nothing out of bounds; were not rushed or impatient. You gave ample opportunities for the door to end the conversation; were friendly, efficient and laid a foundation for a future developing relationship.

“Remember, you are trying to establish long-term relationships with your doors. To be effective, you must balance your authority with their need for service. I give you a 9.5 out of 10 for this encounter. The only ding on the exchange is a small thing: it is unnecessary to inform counselors about a permitted request regarding your predecessor. They are well aware of the parameters of information sharing.”

“But … I did not know her work until later. No ‘second screen’ data appeared until I entered her destination.” A brief silence follows while Marie’s overseer scrolls through the transcript.

“You are correct. I changed your score to 10, my mistake. Thank you for speaking up. I would be embarrassed if this encounter were audited—which may well happen due to the length and the variety of subjects covered in a first ‘opening.’”

Audit? Will they learn about my unsuccessful mate screening sessions? Sharing with Ava, a counselor, is not threatening. But unknown auditors could judge my relational skills unfairly, for something having no impact on my ability.

“Supervisor … if a review occurs … will I be informed?”

“No, dear—I mean Marie. The purpose of such a process is to assure the quality of my work, not yours. Put your mind at ease; names are always removed from transcripts—we refer to it as ‘scrubbing the audit.’ There will be many reviews during your career. The only times they remain intact are when you are up for a promotion or transfer. Naturally, you will be aware of those beforehand.”

“Thank you, Supervisor, I was unaware of such procedures.”

“It’s not included in standard instruction because audits rarely come up.” With a sigh, she adds, “Marie, I violated protocol when mentioning possible scrutiny—it served to increase your anxiety unnecessarily. A protocol error on my part, but you need not report it; I’m self-reporting.”

“I had no thought of reporting. I’m grateful for the information.” A glance at her “third screen” soon reveals:

 

Self-Error-Report Supervisor 2718

Date: 08-16-2094

Time: between midnight and noon

Incident: I inappropriately referenced a possible audit to a ‘first day.’

 

The report details the infraction and what she did to “put the first day’s mind at ease.”

No mention of why I might be uneasy. Surely she understands. So despite the mantra of “truthfulness at all times” one can omit some facts so long as those reported are accurate? I must check this hypothesis.

“Well, Marie, you are doing fine. There are three other ‘newbies’ to supervise. You are about to receive two more door requests. A word of caution, you won’t be able to spend as long with each encounter as your first, or you will fall seriously behind. If you should fall behind, or have questions, one of us can help. Pleasant openings to you, Marie.”

“Thank you, Supervisor, you are kind.”

As she disconnects, two lights, appear on the console panel. How did she know? Touching the first button she says, “Good morning, I’m Marie your new Doorkeeper.” The screen at her right shows names, daily routines and other details of occupants. This one gives data for six “flat-mates,” a term used for university students, whether mated or single.

“Hello, Marie. I’m Frank. James, Ann, Lucy, Ruth, as well as Frank, are ready to leave for campus. We’ll all return after the library closes at 10:00 pm.” Marie confirms the times in the daily routines, so the system will notify her if anyone falls more than 30 minutes out of routine.

“James, Ann, Lucy, Ruth, as well as Frank, your door is activated. Be inspired by a day of learning and challenges.” Click as the door opens, and the exiting begins. One of the women chuckles, “She’s a sharp one.” Marie smiles knowing they caught her humor.

“A moment please,” comes a female voice, “Welcome to the sector. I’m Ruth, and I’ll be returning at 5:00 pm, leaving again about 6:45 for an evening session, and back again after 10:00.” The additional data is adeptly entered in Ruth’s daily routine. Marie is excellent at what she does and confident in her ability; finishing first in her class having logged more than 10,000 practice openings with less than one-half of one percent error. However, these are not simulations, but real people with real needs.

“Thank you, Ruth, I’m looking forward to my time here. Your changes are noted. Is Brenda also leaving with you?” Unknowingly, Marie demonstrates what classifies her among the highest functioning Keepers; she notices what is missing, in this case, information about the sixth flat-mate.

Another male voice responds to the question, “No, she will leave later this morning for a semester in France.” One of the women says, “We all hate her.” The tone of voice indicating envy or jest, not genuine animosity. Doorkeepers are trained to pick up on clues of hostility, depression, or dissatisfaction—in fact, any emotion foreshadowing a potential problem.

“Thank you, James, I’ll wait for her request.” The last comment a reminder: no one speaks for another.

“Sorry, I did not identify myself. We’re used to the other guy turning on the visual. Yes, I’m James, thanks, Marie.”

No time to wonder why Phillip activated cameras in response to routine door requests—not standard procedure—another mental note for later. The next button beckons.

The next three and one-half hours passed quickly. Sector 86 is a twenty-block area from Grand to Lemon and First to Fifth. Fully occupied there could be 618 people. About 15% retired—needing only emergency service from the Doorkeeper. Another 20 homes are vacant, being prepared for new occupants. There are always a few on vacation, or temporarily out of the area.

Sector 86 serves over 480 people on a regular basis. That makes for a busy “morning rush,” especially when residents are surprised by your predecessor’s sudden departure. Sometime between 4:40 and 8:10 am Marie manages to get everyone off to work, school, or appointments on time with routines noted, corrected or confirmed. So the well-oiled machine of an interdependent society moves into high gear for another day. Today Sector 86 of that machine has a new mainspring: her name is Marie.