The officer seated in the waiting area grows impatient and looks pointedly at his enormous ornate watch. The door to the comptroller’s office swings open and out steps Quartermaster Quinn. Imogen holds her new forms up to hide her face, hoping to avoid any unpleasantness in this small room. Lilly does nothing, figuring the worst he can do is just yell at them. For his part, Quinn is looking over his shoulder back at the comptroller, yelling, “No, you don’t understand. Some foreigner and some… some other person were causing all kinds of trouble. Not following proper procedures. What do you mean you can’t… Ugh!” He turns to the room at large, and his eyes settle on Lilly, though there is no recognition in them. “What would you do, soldier, if someone just came in and started berating you for just doing your job, just trying to keep this place running?” he asks, wound up.
That’s what all officers do, Lilly thinks. “Do my job?” she answers. “It doesn’t bother me so much.”
Her level response just riles him up more. “Ugh! If only I were so lucky to be resocialized and just not care about it,” he says, looking right at her. “But, whatever!”
“Who you calling resoc, resoc?” Lilly growls, throwing the insult back in his face as she looms over him.
“Chill out. Just chill out, okay?” Quinn stutters out at the nondescript tall woman glaring down at him. “I just mean you’ve got an even keel, and I would—okay, maybe you don’t have an even keel.” She continues staring at him, and he backs away towards the exit to the hall. “Jeez. What a day, man. I can’t win,” he mutters.
Imogen knows how closely her partner guards the secret of her resocialization. Seeing how upset Lilly has become, Imogen abandons her papery hiding place in order to diffuse the situation. She steps up to Quinn and says, “This has all been a misunderstanding.” She throws all her psionic strength behind her words in order to forcibly adjust his attitude.
“You know what,” Quinn says, deflating, “I’m just having a really rough day. This whole place is literally upside down.” He lets out a long sigh. “I’m going to file a leave form.” With that, he heads on his way.
Imogen feels an itch in her nose and smells iron. A trickle of blood leaks from one nostril, and she brings a kerchief up to dab at it. Once again, she has over-extended herself with psionic effort. Turning back from the departing quartermaster, she notices that the attendant is looking at her. A smile dances across his lips. It seems he too believes he has misunderstood something about what has happened in this room.
“Wow, you did such a good job with that,” he compliments Imogen. “That was some really, really, great work. Have you considered mediation as an enlistment path? You should really check it out. We should talk about it sometime. Are you, uh… Is your schedule free? You know, I might have overlooked you a bit at first. I didn’t fully understand you through your thick accent. But I’m really impressed with your work there, and you did have some really, really good ideas. I think we should really talk about those more. I could walk you through the innovation form,” he offers. Imogen does not respond immediately, trying to think how she can use this to get the forms she wants. “Tell you what, I have two tickets to the Officers’ Club. It’s probably a little better than the fare you’re normally getting.”
“You’re an officer?” Imogen asks, stepping up to his counter again.
“I have tickets to the Officers’ Club,” he repeats for clarification. “Why don’t you join me? We could talk about some of your bold new bureaucratic innovations. Oh, excuse me, I’m Vaughan, Assistant to the Comptroller.” Imogen introduces herself in return and encourages him to bring many sample forms with him, hoping that will include the PR one they need. Vaughan interprets this as her being playful. “Well, let’s start with the innovation form,” he suggests, “and see how serious things get.”
“I’ll go on this date if you can get me in to see her,” Imogen says quietly, tilting her head toward the comptroller’s open door.
“I’d really love to,” he replies, voice low, “but that would be against the rules. You’ve got to be on the calendar.” He raps the large sheet of paper in front of him for emphasis. The officer in elaborate regalia must be the captain written in fifteen minutes from now, and the grimy jumpsuit probably has the following appointment, listed as Maintenance. The current time is slated for the weekly meeting with the quartermaster, which has apparently ended early.
This whole time, the comptroller has been standing just inside her office with arms crossed, watching the events in the waiting room. She has pale white skin with a severe black bun and classic librarian horn-rimmed glasses. Turning now to her assistant, she asks, “Who is my next appointment?”
Imogen begins quickly scribbling on the appointment requisition form, trying to squeeze herself into this small gap on the schedule. “Whoa, whoa! I appreciate your enthusiasm, I really do, but you have to take your time with the form,” Vaughan says, as though this is something to relish. He walks Imogen through each section, granting her a slot two hours from now. “Then sign, stamp, date, initial over here, and check this box—always check this box. Don’t worry why, just check that box. It makes everything so much easier.”
☐ Does code 7-3-42 apply?
Imogen raises an eyebrow. That code is not referenced anywhere else on the form. She dutifully checks the box, though, and hands over the form. Vaughan claps it to his chest. “I’ve got this,” he says reassuringly. “I’ll see you back here in two hours. Uh, and then, you know, dinner opens up just an hour after that. Again, two tickets to the Officers’ Club. I really am interested in your innovation idea; I think it’s really good. And, you know, I think I’m interested in you. But let’s take it slow, right?”
Imogen glances to the side to see what her partner is making of this and realizes that Lilly has left. “That’s fine with me,” she tells Vaughan, ready to be done here for now.
“All right, I’ll take this and file it. Thank you so much,” he says with a grin. He writes her name down on the large calendar in front of him and then pulls out his own personal calendar, jotting her name down there for one hour later.