Together, Imogen and Lilly head to the comptroller’s office, in the hopes of picking up whatever forms they need before they track down Durian. They leave the bustling hangar behind and step over the door lintel to enter the upside-down corridor. There have been some modifications made to the platform to adapt it to its new orientation, including temporary flooring to make the former ceiling smoother, but much more could stand to be done. Fortunately, a lot of the signage has been turned around. Imogen locates a directory that has been updated with strange names for the different floors, since numbers might cause confusion. The comptroller’s office is in Sector 2, Hallway 3 but on Floor Gray.
Lilly, meanwhile, has been eying the gear on all the marines bustling about. They pass the entrance to a hangar for tanks, Goliaths, and other vehicles that will be transported to the surface by dropship. Lilly admires the super-sweet mech-walkers, a bit sad at the thought of how they are currently being phased out of production.When she notices the symbol of the mercenary company who owns them, though, she cannot suppress an ingrained sense of revulsion. Ugh, UED. Can’t be trusted, she thinks automatically. Spartan Company is composed of soldiers who bailed on the UED, but they are still fascists who invaded the sector.
The door to the comptroller’s office has actually been fixed, unlike many others they have passed. There is nothing to step over when going in, and in fact a lintel has been installed at the top so that the door can be of standard height. There is a sign on it that says By Appointment Only, but Imogen ignores that and knocks anyway. Lilly stands silently next to her; the only sound she makes is the cracking of her neck. Imogen tucks some loose strands of hair back into her braid, neatening up in preparation for meeting this important person.
A slender young man opens the door. He has brown skin with neatly trimmed black hair and wears a crisp uniform. “Ah, yes, do you have an appointment?” he asks softly.
“I’d like to make one,” Imogen answers.
“Do you have an appointment requisition form?” he asks in the same encouraging tone.
Imogen lets out a sigh and struggles to keep her voice polite. “Where can I get one?”
“The quartermaster normally has a good supply of forms. That’s a good place to look.”
“The quartermaster’s not currently at his station,” Imogen explains, happy to throw Quinn under the bus.
The young man frowns. “Normally you have to go to the quartermaster for the requisition, but if he is not at his station, yes, you can step inside here and we can give you that form.” Imogen thanks him and proceeds into the waiting room. At the back is another door with an “In Session” sign on it, and two people occupy the uncomfortable chairs. One is an officer in a ridiculous amount of regalia, enough to give Matt Horner a run for the money. The other is a poor schlub in a grimy jumpsuit, filling out a form on a clipboard.
The comptroller’s assistant provides Imogen with the appointment requisition form from a filing cabinet. “What other forms are in there?” Lilly asks. If they can just get one specifically for Special Missions, maybe they will not need to schedule this meeting.
The attendant looks shocked at the question. “What do you mean? Everything we need to run the Dominion has to run through this office. Your water requisition, your rations, your ammunition. Your promotion, your demotion. Your enlistment, your discharge. Your—”
“Anything about PR missions?” Lilly cuts into the list, hoping they can get a leg up on the paperwork.
His passion is replaced by apologies. “I’m really sorry. We do have those, but they can only be released with special approval unless you are of sufficient rank or part of UNN. There are lots of rules about that. I’m sure you understand.”
Lilly was at one time a colonel, but that was in a different military than this one. She is not sure what rank she reached in the Dominion. She fishes out her ID to check, but the only thing noted there is her fictitious honorable discharge. She lets the matter drop.
“Oh, but I have my orders from UNN,” Imogen says.
The young man studies Imogen for a moment, unsure of what to make of her lack of military bearing. Then he flips through the orders she hands to him. “Ah, this says you are on contract with UNN, but you yourself are not an employee of it. And that you’re really part of the Imperial Work Visa Program.” He looks back up at her. “Well, that makes more sense.”
He hands back her papers. Then, growing a little more animated, he ventures, “Do you mind if I ask? What is the filing system like on Umoja?”
“The files are in the computers. We never deal with them personally. These paper forms you have, we don’t do that. Too many trees die for it.”
“You can just plant more trees, right? Aren’t you killing electrons instead?” Imogen wrinkles her brow at that. “That’s a shame, though. I love the smell of filing.” He breathes in deeply. “Mmm! It’s invigorating.”
“But think of how many more files you could have if they were all in computers instead of drawers,” Imogen suggests, trying to ingratiate herself with this functionary.
His eyes light up. “You could store more files.” Glancing over at his cabinet, he says, “You know, why not both? You store them in the computer and you just print off a new copy whenever you need. Whenever you want!”
“You could also have so many more lines on the forms,” Imogen presses. “If you just show me one of the PR forms, I could tell you how it compares with what the computerized Umojan form looks like.”
He starts to reach for the file but catches himself. With a nervous chuckle, he apologizes. “Sorry, you’re not actually part of UNN.” He pulls his hand back and closes the drawer, then reaches down to the one below it. “That’s a really good idea, though. I have an innovation form, if you want to fill one out to suggest that formally. I would love to have that.”
“Sure, I’ll take one of those,” Imogen agrees, defeated. She accepts it, figuring it might provide fodder for later forgeries.