Vera kept the document to herself after that building on what Abebi had done to puzzle out more of the book. It was slow work. Vera knew Abebi could do it faster but her gut told her to leave Abebi out of it.

So she trudged on staying up way too late making slow progress sometimes only a word or two per day.

She began to dream about Barnitukku. Not dream *in* Barnitukku, that would have been great progress. She dreamed about puzzling over problematic translation and new words that seemed to bear no relation to anything she had found so far.

One day she sat on the subway platform in a daze from lack of sleep. She was one of only a few people waiting for the train. She assumed that was since it was so late in the day. She had overslept again.

Two men in dark suits chatted to each other about the difficulty of keeping distance while staying in view. It was an odd conversation. The oddest thing about it was that Vera realized the men were speaking Barnitukku snd she understood it.

She stood up with a jolt. “Hey!” she yelled like a crazy person at the men. They both stopped talking wide-eyed and began running toward the other side of the platform. She chased them up the stairs and back down again onto the other side of the tracks as an outbound train arrived. The two men ducked into a car, the doors closing just before Vera got their out of breath. The men didn’t look at her as the train sped away.

The inbound train arrived on the other side as Vera hunched over and panting watched people board, the doors close, and the train departed. She missed her train. She missed her opportunity to speak with people who knew this obscure language and she was late again.

Her job gave her the freedom to be late. The firm trusted its employees to do their best and manage their own time and projects. Which is why it was unusual for Ravesh to call her into his office to ask her what she was working on.

“Translation of something Mr. Dak gave me,” she said truthfully, though implying it was work-related.

Raves pursed his lips. “I see. Mr. Dak is no longer a client though and well, come on Vera. Why?”

“It’s just fascinating. I’m sorry. I know I’ve been— I mean I know I need to pick up a new client it’s just—“

“Vera you know the policy here. You are free to pick up projects and clients at your discretion. But at a certain point you have to pick one up. It’s been months.”

“Months?” she asked. Had it been? She began to figure.

Ravesh frowned and raised his eyebrows. “You don’t know?”

Vera shook her head. “Yes, of course. It’s— It’s been —“

Raves held up a hand. “I’m not here to force an explanation. That’s not how we work. But you need to pick a new client. There are five int he open queue right now. I recommend you look at Mr. Peña but of course, you’re free to pick whatever interests you. But pick one Vera. Please. Today.”

Vera nodded and apologized. “Of course Ravesh. Thank you for the nudge. I needed that.”

He finally smiled. “Don’t worry Vera. This is a normal spot we all find ourselves in sometimes. Someone did it for me once. Pushed me out of my funk. Happy to help.”

Vera left and dropped down into her chair in her office with a thunk and slammed open the queue for projects like a petulant child. In the enlightened managerial style of BHS what just happened was a chewing out. Nobody ever got told to pick a project. But she knew Ravesh was right. She had stretched the good will of the company too far.

There were only four clients in the queue now but Mr. Peña was one. She thought about skipping it just because Ravesh had recommended it but then that would be childish and the last thing she needed when she was under the spotlight was to act childish.

So she opened the project description.

It read, “Odd culture evaluation and population movement issues. needs major projection in socioeconomic and political spheres. Some rare translation.”

Well that was why Ravesh recommended it. It seems like it was up her ally and even might satisfy that translation bug she seemed to have gotten. She set up the appointment.

Durhese Peña was not a man. How that had been misunderstood in the project filing was a mystery for another day. BHS rarely got such fundamental facts wrong. Ms. Peña was instead a tall imposing woman with slate-grey hair a sharp pointed nose and a smile that could swallow a crocodile. She wore a smart Vera Wang suit and wielded her smartphone like scepter.

She opened her smile wide and shot out a large well-manicured hand. “Vera Barnituck, Durhese Peña, a pleasure.”

The hand did not have a vice grip as Vera had worried but did seem to swallow Vera’s hand in its own.

After the pleasantries were over and both had coffee, Vera closed the door to signal the confidentiality of the meeting and sat down. She addressed the mistake that would no doubt be on Ms. Peña’s documentation as well.

“I apologize for the clerical error on your forms, Ms. Peña.”

“Clerical error?”

“Yes,” Vera feigned a self-deprecatory laugh. “I’m afraid they put Mr. down.”

Durhese chortled. “Oh that’s fine. Old data I expect.”

“Oh!” vera said. “Very good.”

“don’t feel uncomfortable. I’ve only been MS. Peña for a year at this point. It’s understandable.”

Vera nodded. “Well what can we do for you here at BHS Ms. Peña? I see it’s a population matter?”

Ms. Peña began explaining it was a migration issue regarding a strictly controlled population in a geographically isolated area. Vera was already taking notes before she realized Ms. Peña was speaking Barnitukku. Vera stopped typing and looked up slack-jawed.

“Good,” said Durhese. “You at least recognize the language I think?”

Vera nodded and spoke in monotone. “Yes, I followed the problem. Migration. Restricted population. Geographic isolation.”

Durhese squinted and smiled. “Excellent! You’ve made faster progress than we expected. You really put the scare into our boys at the subway.” Durhese chucked.

“What is going on? Did Ravesh know?”

Durhese shook her head. “That’s one of our magic tricks what we did with Ravesh. It’s what we do. We know how to plan and influence from a distance.”

“So why are you contacting me directly?”

“Well at some points we do need to approach certain people in person. Like you. And we have to take many careful precautions, like Mr. Dak did. But in the end your office is one of the safest places to talk in the world. BHS is renowned for its confidentiality even among its own staff.”

That made sense to Vera. Once she closed that door all record-keeping was encrypted to vera’s key only and no monitoring existed.

“So what do you want with me?”

Durhese smiled. “We want your help. And we want to bring you home.”