Registrar Sandrov was enjoying his coffee. He didn’t seem to be in any hurry to enter his own office, and they’d been chatting while he relaxed in Violet’s guest chair. He seemed pretty interested in her Employee of the Month trophies.
“These are…” He turned the May trophy around. “They seem so….”
“Yes, their faces…. And this pattern, running around the feet?”
Registrar Sandrov set the trophy back down very carefully. “There’s something almost….”
“Well, malicious. It’s almost like….”
“Registrar Finlay had a particular sense of humor, sir. She was famous in the office for her practical jokes.”
The Registrar looked over at his new office door. Violet slipped a pile of file folders out of her desk drawer. Her moment was coming.
“In fact, sir, I have reason to believe she may have left a… a very energetic practical joke for you. I’d suggest that you never open the safe behind your desk. Not under any circumstances.”
“Thank you. I’ll, ah, I’ll be sure to leave that safe alone.”
Registrar Sandrov opened his briefcase and pulled out some papers. “I’ve been going over the reports. I’m concerned about how few investigators we have just now; we’re thirteen short of our average. And the officers, too. We really need to step up our hiring.”
Violet pushed her stack of folders a little closer. “That’s a real problem,” she said. “But they’re difficult to train, and if they’re not throughly trained they don’t do well.”
The Registrar shuffled through his papers. “Yes, there was that recent promotion. The fellow from the mail room.”
“Officer Binder’s retirement seems very peaceful, sir. The home has a large pond. There are a lot of flies in the summertime, but although that would bother most people –”
“Yes. Enough said about that. I hope Officer Binder is enjoying his retirement. Still, that situation makes it clear that officers and investigators must be well trained before we send them out into the field.”
While the Registrar stood to pour himself another cup of coffee Violet slid her file folders all the way across her desk. He turned and noticed them.
She pointed helpfully. “On the other hand, we have some experienced help right here in the Registry. I’ve prepared these files for you, if you have the time.”
He smiled. “That’s very helpful, Violet. I’m happy to see that you’re thinking ahead.”
He took the files and started toward the door. “Uh, apart from the safe…?”
“It should be perfectly fine, sir. I tidied up in there yesterday.”
He let out a breath and opened the door. “Well, I’ll just be making myself at home, then.”
Violet watched as the office door swung shut. Then she rose to clean out the coffee pot.
Some would say that the secret to happiness is low expectations. Some of those people would add that it’s necessary to lower these expectations on a regular schedule.
None of these people are actually happy. You probably shouldn’t listen to them.
Violet, who was also not happy, felt a cautious surge of optimism. She’d deflected the new Registrar from the safe; she’d have to do something about that safe later on, of course, but for the moment its threat had been averted. The files she’d given him were a complete account of all the Registry investigations in which Violet had participated. She was confident that her record would speak for itself. Since the new Registrar seemed like a person she could work with, the future was looking… possible.
She’d just started a new pot brewing when she heard the televideo ring again.
“Could you pull the files on Professor Wilcox?” Ben’s face looked strained. There was a lot of interference in the picture.
“I’ll do that right away,” she told him. “Is there a problem?”
“Yeah, well, yeah. A problem. Thing is, I was just here for a few minutes when Doctor Moore’s laboratory kind of floated away.”
Violet reached for Wilcox’s file, but that file drawer was just a little too far.
“Floated?” She ducked out of the televideo’s view and came back with the Wilcox file.
“There was this big noise, this big ripping noise, and everything tilted and shook, and now we’re up in the air.”
Violet paged through the Wilcox file. “What am I looking for?”
“Something that makes a big ripping noise and sends buildings up into the sky? Maybe?”
“You’re sure it’s not something Doctor Moore has done?”
“According to her, yeah. I’m, uh, I’m inclined to believe her because she’s hiding under a lab table.”
Violet scanned Professor Wilcox’s patents. “I’m not seeing it here,” she said. “I can check his preliminary applications.”
“That would be great. Uh, I looked out the window. We’re floating over the Switchboard office now.”
“You’re outside the District?” Violet was shocked. “That’s a zoning violation!”
Scientific laboratories in Retropolis are restricted to the Experimental Research District.
“Yeah, well, zoning, you know, not our department,” Ben told her. “I’m sure somebody’s worried about that. But what we really need here is a way to get down.”
Violet thought over the ramifications. “How fast are you moving?”
“What, have I got a speedometer here? I don’t know. We’re floating. I guess the wind is carrying us along.”
Violet checked the weather reports. “Well, you’re probably moving at less than ten miles an hour,” she decided.
“If you say so. Can you do that check on Wilcox’s preliminary patent applications?”
“I’ll have to sign off first. They may not be filed yet.”
She saw Ben look wildly around Dr. Moore’s laboratory. She caught just a glimpse of Doctor Moore herself, under the table.
“I’ll call you back when I have anything, Ben. Take care of yourself up there.”
She switched off the televideo and thought for a moment. Then she went out into the hall. The officers and investigators had been trickling in.
“I need any recent preliminary applications from Professor Wilcox,” she called. “Also, Doctor Moore’s laboratory is floating out over the city. It’s already outside the District. I’m starting a pool, if anybody wants to bet on where it’ll come down.”
There was the sound of sudden rustling in offices up and down the hall.
“Where is it now?” somebody yelled. “It looks like the wind is moving at twelve miles per hour.”
A head popped out of the office next door. “How much does that lab weigh?”
“Don’t forget the preliminaries,” she reminded them.