Ben left Violet at her desk and knocked on the Registrar’s door.
“Come in,” she called, and so he slipped into her office.
“All done at the Academy,” he said.
She was packing a box with keepsakes and whatnot from her desk. “How did it go?”
“About what you’d expect,” he told her. “We had a casualty, though.”
Registrar Finlay looked up and eyed him. “You don’t often have casualties at a lecture,” she said at last. “Not at my lectures, anyway.”
“He bred up some giant venomous worms,” Ben said. “One of them got him.” This was accurate, if not complete.
“Ah, well. So long as he was the victim of his own experiment. Can you reach those?”
Ben pulled a set of books down off the Registrar’s top shelf. “You’re… going somewhere?”
“I received an offer from Retropolis Power & Light while I was at the conference today. A very important job. Quite a lot of responsibility, in fact.”
She leaned down behind her desk to open a small safe that Ben had never noticed before. From this she pulled out a long, handwritten document. It looked like it had been written by several different people.
“Not to denigrate this office, of course,” she continued. “Our work here is very important. But when it comes to sheer scale, well….”
She settled into her chair and picked up a pen, turning to the latest page in the papers she was holding.
“Shouldn’t you get Violet to type that up?” Ben asked.
The Registrar smiled something that wasn’t quiet a smile. “No, not this one,” she said. “This is just a little guidance the Registrars pass down, from one to the next. We wouldn’t want Violet typing this.”
“Oh, sure, I get it. Privacy.”
“Something like that, yes.”
She started to write at the top of a new sheet. Ben was pretty sure he could read Violet’s name, even upside down.
“So,” he tried, “This new job. I guess you got some kind of recommendation?”
“Several of them,” the Registrar replied. She didn’t look up from her writing. “It seems as though all of those speeches and awards and conferences have put me into the… public sphere. I’ve achieved quite a bit of notoriety. Hard to imagine how that may have happened.”
“Hey, that’s great,” Ben said. Then he excused himself and went out to see if Violet’s coffee was ready. It was.
He nodded toward the Registrar’s closed door as he settled into the guest chair. “Looks like we’ll be getting a new Registrar,” he said.
Violet glanced at her row of Employees of the Month. Their faces were still drawn in stark lines of pain.
“How nice,” she said. “It’s always refreshing to have a change.”
“Maybe the new one will promote you.” But Ben was thinking about that long handwritten document, handed down from each Registrar to the next, in which he’d seen Violet’s name.
“I always like to take an optimistic view,” she said. “It’s so much better for one’s state of mind.”
Ben took a long drink of that good coffee. “I couldn’t agree more.”
“Shame about young Fenwick,” he added a moment later.
“That family! Each one brilliant, but they always seem to die so young.”
And that was about all either one of them had to say. So they sat in a friendly silence, with the muffled sounds of the Registrar’s packing coming from behind the door.
The Files of the Retropolis Registry of Patents continue with Professor Wilcox and the Floating Laboratory.