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Batten down the Hatches

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It was quiet in the room. Iris sat behind her computer and let out her millionth sigh of the day. And she’d only been there for like half an hour. Andy and Jordan were looking just as downtrodden as she was. Without Ophelia and Justin, the room just felt empty. How the heck were they going to keep the agency running with only the three of them and without Q.

Yesterday there had been an uproar in the hive. The news that Q had been relieved of duty had hit hard and spread like wildfire through the building. Having known what was going to happen the news only caused a wave of sadness with them. But the rest of the building looked like it was going into an all-out strike. It became so bad Moneypenny called M out of a meeting with the PM to calm them down.

Ophelia and Sadler came into the room, startling Iris out of her thoughts. Q had spent his last day at work with the two of them. Coaching them, teaching what they needed to know to run the department. It had been a bit distracting because what Q had to say was really interesting. Ophelia and Sadler seemed to think so too because the next day when she came in, they were still going strong. Right up until the moment Q had to leave for the hearing.

Hope sprang up when she saw that their faces were oozing with determination. It looked like they had just come out of a meeting and had come up with a plan. Iris stood and approached them.

“So, what’s the plan, bosses?” She asked jokingly as Andy and Jordan joined her.

Ophelia actually twitched when she said that and if Iris hadn’t been so sad today, she would’ve laughed. Ophelia clearly wasn’t used yet to being in charge of them, which was ridiculous because she had always taken charge when Q wasn’t there. Now was no different.

“Well.” She started, clearly uncomfortable. “We’ve had a chat with R…”

“Don’t you mean Q?” Jordan interrupted her with a frown.

“No.” Sadler said. “She has requested we call her R. R will keep her current role in the department and will only temporary take on the tasks Q used to perform, until a new Q can be found.” The words ‘or the old Q can be reinstated’ were not uttered but everyone heard them.

“Anyway, we’ve had a chat with her and have come up with a game plan for the coming time.” Ophelia continued.

“We all know it’s going to be a rough few weeks, or however long this is going to last.” Sadler said. “The only way to get through this is together. At the moment we are far understaffed as you know. Beside you we’ve got Bruce, Darnell and Ormond on the night crew. That means efficiency is going to be key.” Ormond was on the night crew. Iris’s breath caught in her throat. Ormond was on the night crew. He hadn’t left them. She smiled. That devious bastard. That was what Q had meant when he said he wouldn’t leave them alone.

“We’ve decided that because the workload is so high, we’re going to split you up into three shifts.” Iris frowned. That was an odd choice.

“Were understaffed as it is.” She said with a frown “Why thin ourselves out even more?”

“So, we don’t burn ourselves out.” Ophelia answered. “We can’t lose any more people due to sickness. So, taking care of you is going to take extra priority. If you all take 9-hour shifts instead of 12-hour long ones, we can all see the sunlight every now and then and enjoy a little free time. It will help you stay healthy.” Okay, Iris could see the benefit of that.

“We’re also going to be setting up some activities outside the branch. A bit of bonding so to speak.” Ophelia continued. Iris cringed. The idea sounded so very much like some horrible happy cuddle course that she had had to attend. God, she hoped this wasn’t Sadler’s idea of making amends to them.

“The activities are voluntary, but we highly encourage you participate in them. It will be good for all of us.” Sadler said. He sounded convinced that this was actually a good idea. Iris wanted to sigh for the million and many-eth time today. She was so not looking forward to that. 

“If you say so.” Andy sounded as sceptical as she felt. “I’ll come to the first one. But if I feel that I’m just wasting my time, I’ll go home.” Now Iris did sigh. That actually didn’t sound unreasonable. She could give it a shot. If only to make life for Ophelia easier.

“I’ll come too.” She said reluctantly. Ophelia smiled.

“You won’t regret it, I promise.” She said.


That week went by fast. Sadler and Ophelia had been right. Work had piled up, now that there were only two of them, plus one of the bosses on shift at a time. She worked at a furious pace for those 9 hours that she was on shift and was glad that she could go home after. It had been decided that she would take her shift with Darnell, who was a decent bloke and a hard worker, but not really much of a talker. It made him perfect for the night shift because those guys were all a bit quiet. Luckily, he didn’t seem to mind that she liked to talk, so she chatted his ears off as they worked. Usually, Ophelia or George, as he asked them to call him, joined them at a computer. Sometimes they even pulled out their laptops and sat in a circle at one of the desks so they could talk about the work. It was nice to work like a team again.

Now they were on their way to their first team building event. Sadly, Andy and Jordan were on duty with Ophelia at the moment. But Darnell, Bruce and George were with her along with a whole bunch of R’s people. Ormond had apparently decided to skip this day sadly. She would've liked to talk to him. But she knew he was probably busy still with all the things going on.

She looked out the window of the small bus R had hired for the event. London was grey and busy as always but for some reason they hadn’t had a single red traffic light. Which was rather odd come to think of it? Almost like someone was pulling strings. Iris’s thoughts immediately turned to Q. That would be something he would do.

The bus pulled up at a large building that looked like a typical production company in an industrial area in the city. They all got off and walked towards the double doors, above which the name Radius Solutions Company was proudly displayed in brand new lettering. The front hall was grand and easily had enough space to hold all of them. The decorations looked like they had been copied out of a magazine for interior office design. There was an open stairwell, with a modern chandelier hanging down it, a sitting area for guests beneath it and a reception area that was occupied at the moment by a very familiar face.

“Rose.” She heard Darnell and Bruce cry out happily. They dashed around the desk and hugged her. Iris walked up to her too, but got distracted by a blue mohawk that had appeared in the corner of her eye. Immediately she veered off.

“Justin.” She hugged him to her, hard, not caring that he’d stiffened at the amount of contact. She just needed to reassure herself that he was really there.

“Hey Iris.” Justin said, sounding a little uncomfortable. She let go of him and took a step back to really look at him. There were the remainder of bruises on his face but they looked like they were healing well.

“Are you okay?” She asked, worried for hidden injuries.

“Just bruises.” Justin smiled at her. “My ribs were a mighty sore for a while.” Iris startled. She hoped she hadn’t made anything worse with her hug. “But they’re fine now.” Justin quickly reassured her.

“God, I was worried. I’m so glad you’re okay.” She felt like crying in relief. Everything had looked so bleak lately. With Q gone and the rest of them just waiting for the events he had warned them about to unfold. Now there was a bit of sunlight on the horizon again.

“Ladies and Gentleman, if I can have your attention for a moment.” A familiar voice said. It made her heart jump for joy. She turned to the stairs and her mouth fell open as she saw her former boss standing there in a suit that wouldn’t look out of place in the wardrobe of a double-0.

“Welcome to the new Q-branch emergency headquarters.” Q said.