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The Girls of R&D

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“I never see him smile.”

“See who smile?”


Him? Of course you never see him smile. You get your ill-advised wife killed on one of your missions and see how you feel about it.”

“Ill-advised? Wife? I thought… I mean no one ever really said you couldn’t but it just seemed to figure… Wife? I thought you couldn’t—”

“That’s the ‘ill-advised’ part. And then she went and got killed on his watch.”

“So that thing about him breaking a recruit’s arm is true?”

“Oh my God, no! It was totally an accident. I can’t believe you believe that! What are you, a Field Op?”

“If I’m a Field Op then you’re Level Five.”

“Ha! If I’m Level Five then you’re Section Three.”

“Oh yeah? Well if I’m—”

“Oh my God I can’t believe we’re having this conversation. Look, the long and short of it is that Michael the Operative doesn’t exactly have a whole lot to be happy about, and that’s without counting that fact that he’s here.

“I like it here.”

“Of course you do, Ferguson. Little girl gets to play with and dream up big scary toys all day long, and never has to go out on the front lines to do it? The entire department likes it here. Plus no visits to the Perch for any of you.”

“No one told you to get promoted.”

“It’s not a real promotion, thank God. It’s just until they find someone to fill Greene’s spot.”

“It’s been two months.”

“It’s not an easy spot to fill. They can’t just take anybody.”

“I’m just saying…they’ve already got you. They may not decide to fill the spot seein’ as how, y’know, you’re kinda filling it already.”

“Ew! Don’t even say that! I don’t have the administrative background.”

“More than the rest of us.”

“Why, because I temped as a receptionist for about a week?”

“I thought you said it was more like six months.”

“Curse your memory.”

“That’s not what you said when Walter wanted to know the specs on— Oh! He’s back in the shot. Dour and dreamy as ever.”

“Lucky for you.”

“What’dja say?”

“Nothing. Nothing. What’s he doing?”

“He’s just in his office. Come back here and look.”

“Anybody in there?”

“If you’d get over here you’d know for yourself.”

“I don’t wanna come over if he’s just typing up a report. I’d just pull up his keystrokes on my computer if I wanted to do that.”

“You can’t run your sim and watch his keystrokes on the same machine.”

“My point exactly, Ferguson. You tell me when something fun happens and I’ll—”

“Wuh oh.”

“What system crashed this time?”

“Not a system, St. John.”

“That was a bigger ‘wuh oh’ than a computer crash. You usually just swear ‘til you’re blue in the face.”

“‘Cause it wasn’t a computer. Would you just get over here!”

“If you took out a central server I am so handing you over to Birkoff, Operations and Madeline, in that order, on a silver platter. There’s a reason we’re on our own server.”

“Shut up, will you! Now look.”

“You wuh-ohed for a fuzzy connection? Even state-of-the-art electronics go out, Ferguson. Pull out your sonic screwdriver and fix it. If we have to call SysOps to come and fix something in R&D we’ll never hear the end of it.”

“St. John are you blind?”

“Not according to my last eval. Just spit it out.”

“You know…if you’d been over here playing voyeur with me…this wouldn’t be a problem. Okay! I pulled up the current time and date stamp for the current video on this screen. Check your watch. Tell me if it’s wrong.”

“A-okay. So this fuzzy blackness is in real time. So what? I assumed it was.”

“Thought you’d say that. On this screen I have the last minute of video before the blackout. Watch and tell me what you see.”





“Oh crap.”


“Crap, crap, crap.”

“You see what I’m saying n— Stop pacing, St. John. You know I get nauseous.

“Ferg, that’s our tech.”

“I know, St. John. Stop pacing.”

“Ferg, that’s our tech.”

“Yes, you said that already. Now stop pacing.”

“Ferg, that’s our tech—”

“Stop pacing!”

“Ferg, I gave that device to Walter. Personally. I put it in his hands.”

“I know. Half of us were in the lab at the time. I offered to sit on Walter’s lap while you went over the specs with him.”

“Ugh…that’s right. I’d forgotten that part. Jeez—”

“Not the pacing again.”

“—louise, Ferguson. There’s a whole division dedicated just to internal surveillance. You had to be a voyeur. You had to spy on the most depressing, most dangerous operative—”

“What about Operations?”

“Operations is not an operative.”

“Well then what about Jurgen. Operations likes him best. It’s obvious.”

Jurgen didn’t go racing through the ranks to Level Five and Jurgen doesn’t have a piece of our experimental tech.”

“Okay so maybe you have a point.”

“Yes, of course I have a point. Now—”

“Look! It’s back!”

“Kill the second screen. Turn up the volume. Can you tell if anyone in Surveillance is watching this? What am I saying? Of course there is! Take that back… Anyone reported what just happened?”

“Uh, no. They did put in a call to SysOps for Maintenance to come down and check on their monitors and the bugs in Michael’s office.”

“ ‘Kay, that’s normal enough, which is good. But everything’s gonna gheck out fine which is not okay.”

“What— What exactly are you saying, St. John? You’re not suggesting we protect—”

“Ourselves? Heck, yeah. Michael aside, depending on how Maintenance and Sysops read the findings, they’ll either decided that it was a glitch on the part of the hardware or that something else happened.”

“You said yourself that even state-of-the-art equipment goes down.”

“Yeah, I know, but this is Section One. We’re paid to be untrusting.”

“We don’t get paid.”

“You know what I mean. The one thing we do have in our favor is Michael himself. If he gets any more upstanding they’re going to have to surgically remove the stick from his backside.”

“Don’t talk about my man like that.”

“Your man is flirting with getting us killed. Both your men since Walter must have given it to him.”

“Michael might have stolen it.”

“Because that’s better?”

“Well, you gave it to Walter.”

“We give all new R&D prototypes to Walter! And may I point out, of the ten other people in that room, six of whom were women, which one volunteered herself for Walter’s lap?”

“Clarice doesn’t count.”

“If she doesn’t count then certainly Kirkpatrick and Marcos do.”

“Fine, fine. One or both of them have potentially screwed us over lovely. What’s the plan for fixing it, because I know you have one.”

“I don’t want to be to preemptive – y’know, cleaning up messes where there aren’t any. On the other hand—”

“On the other hand we’re paid to be untrusting. Right. So we create a system’s glitch? To the monitors I’m guessing, unless we want them wondering what the heck is wrong when a second set of bugs goes kerpluey.”

“Ferguson, have I told you lately how glad I am that we managed to steal you away from Birkoff and Comm?”

“You’ve never told me that before.”

“Guess you never proved your worth before.”


“Just get on it. I’ll rewatch the video, see if I can guess at what he’s hiding. Or trying to hide.”

“Michael? Never happen.”

“Yeah, well, we need to at least figure out how seriously Maint is going to take this when they do their review. And in case you were wondering, this takes priority over your draft schematics. Over my sim, too.”

“What’re you gonna say to Operations and Madeline when they ask about the delay? They wanted the schematic for that smaller EMP before the morning briefings.”

“So they’ll get their better mouse trap in the afternoon. This is R&D, Ferguson. They’ll just be happy we haven’t already built a prototype that accidentally takes out the lower three levels.”

“Well isn’t someone looking presentable.”

“Shut it, Kirkpatrick.”

“Just getting a tease in while I pass through.”

“Folks, it’s not a rumor, St. John has legs.”

“You too, Ferguson.”

“Aw, you’re just mad because you’re gonna be this much closer to actual daylight.”

“Don’t make me bring you up there with me. I’m allowed an assistant.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Oh yeah? Anyway, I read Maint’s report to SysOps— Your glitch was perfect. They’re not even recommending replacement or maintenance.”


“That’s pretty much what I thought too, except with more air-punching involved. We’re lucky we’re one of the few areas Surveillance doesn’t watch. But you know what this means, right?”

“We confront Michael?”

“No way! He broke a recruit’s arm!”


“We counter-engineer our tech.”


“I know right. I’m gonna call a department meeting after I’m done with the meet-n-greet upstairs. I can’t wait to see what he’s trying to hide. This is going to be so much fun.”

“Aw, do we have to tell Lido?”

“First off, yeah she’s part of the department. And she drew the original schems. We need every hand on this if we went to do it and fast. Especially fast.”

“Well, do you think maybe when he’s jamming Surveillance…”


“Do you think maybe he smiles? I’d do anything to see that man smile.”

“Funny, I can’t even imagine it. And anything’s possible. I guess. Anyway, tell everyone there’s gonna be a meeting when I get back, but don’t tell them about what. No point going over it more than once.”