Magnolia carefully balanced the files in her arms and knocked on Taylor’s office door, hoping that he would not insist on making her fade through the door – with this many files, there was every chance that a few of them would be lost in transit, leading to the very straining task of trying to find them again.
‘Come,’ came the order after a moment, the door lock clicking open.
She quickly entered the room before he had a chance to change his mind – as soon as the files were out of her hands, she would bend to his every whim, but the paperwork was more important, as a large portion of it was overdue, or approaching due, as he had been- She quickly adjusted her train of though – his priority had been the limit testing of Mimosa, so he had been less willing to waste time on paperwork than normal.
She stood, waiting for permission to approach his desk, which he gave with a slight nod.
‘Good morning sir,’ she said, placing the files on the corner of his desk.
‘Anything to report from training?’
‘Nothing major, sir,’ she said, ‘Dawson has a bit of an attitude problem. I set about correcting it. I’m going to draft dismissal paperwork though – I’m not sure about his longevity in the position.’
He lifted a file from the desk. ‘You sent him to the Parkers.’
‘He impugned my authority. It wasn’t anything major, and he’s not scheduled for anything in the next eighteen hours, it won’t affect his performance.’ She stared at the form. ‘M-36, M-37 or M-38 with attachment b?’
‘Thirty-seven,’ he said, giving her a wary look. ‘It’s unfamiliar.’
A chair appeared and she quickly sat in it. ‘It’s the replacement for M-36,’ she said, ‘implemented three weeks ago, it’s a streamlined version of the process. Now instead of-’
‘What do I do with it, Magnolia?’
‘If I might sir?’ she said, extending her arm across the table. He stared at her for a moment, then handed the form to her, a rare gesture of civility, instead of simply dropping it onto her side of the desk, or throwing it at her.
She quickly required a pen. ‘In this section,’ she said, marking it with a small x, ‘you simply state what happened, whether it be a friendly fire accident, disciplinary incident or testosterone-filled brawl.’ She required a sheet of paper, and wrote three code sequences down, each disappearing and replacing themselves with a paragraph of text. ‘I’ve set up new macros for M-37, as the requirements are slightly different to its predecessor. Here are the new ones for your use if you like,’ she said, handing over the sheet of paper.
He gave it a quick look, then laid it down on the desk.
‘In the next section,’ she said, marking it with another x, ‘if necessary, state whether the action was warranted – this mostly applies to disciplinary actions, and the second part is if any action was taken on your part, so for instance, you would state which of my privileges were taken away, and the length of time. Dismissal requires attachment b, execution requires attachment d.’
‘Anything else?’
‘Your signature and the date at the bottom,’ she replied, ‘handing it back. Overall, it does take up a lot less of your time.’
‘Anything else of note?’
‘I’ll be making recommendations for advanced training within the fortnight. There’s a few more factors I need to take into account before I can finish off those reports.’ She began to sort the files she had brought with her, placing the highest-priority and overdue ones into a smaller pile. ‘Then-’
‘What did Grigori tell you?’
Her hand slipped from the file she was inspecting, and she focused her gaze on it, straightening the papers inside.
‘Everything I see.’
‘Sir, he-’
‘I-’
‘He didn’t tell me much that I didn’t see myself, sir,’ she said, handing across the top file, ‘routine approval, but it’s overdue, countersign my initials in the middle and signature at the bottom.’ She paused. ‘Only that you hadn’t been recycled.’
‘You saw-’
She passed across the next file. ‘You were a little busy to notice me, sir,’ she said. ‘Same as the last, but no counter-signature necessary.’
‘Why were you there?’
‘We left the hotel at the same time,’ she said.
His hand slipped, messing up his signature. He scrawled across it, then wrote it again. ‘And what did you see, recruit?’
She braced herself for a bullet, to taste her heart’s blood as it was torn from her chest, or to see her back as her head was twisted in place. ‘I saw you making a mistake sir.’
He snapped his pen in half.
She sat still in her chair. ‘You could have ordered me to do it instead,’ she said. ‘Or gave any such indication, there are a dozen ways that it can be done without implicating you. I have no done it because I did not want to overstep my bounds, but now that she’s-’
‘You’ll do nothing,’ he said. ‘They will trace it back to me, no matter what.’
‘And if I simply slit her throat, and then my own?’
‘I said no.’
‘I-’
‘Don’t make me repeat myself, Magnolia.’
She stared at him for a moment, then looked away. ‘Yes sir.’ She shuffled the files, and handed across the next one. ‘This one-’
He put a hand on the file and pressed it down to the desk. ‘I need to clear my head.’
‘Of course, sir.’
‘Spar,’ he said, pushing his chair back from his desk and heading for his gym.
‘Yes sir.’