Magnolia stared at the ceiling – four hours of sleep had refreshed her, had centered her, and had given her several rather pleasant dreams. She pulled the sheet back and slipped out of bed, one requirement tidying her hair, and another putting her in clothes, rather than just a black slip.
She looked to the clock – Taylor wasn’t expecting her for nearly two hours, but it was best to keep out of his way until then, rather than to act outside of her expected parameters.
She left her room and headed for the elevator, berating several of her colleagues for clogging up the halls along the way – there were designated rooms for loitering, the halls always needed to be clear in case of emergency, and there was always the chance of an emergency.
That, and it was a fire hazard.
She punched the elevator button and waited the precise 7.78 seconds for it to arrive. The doors slid open, and she hit the button for the tech department, two floors above. Doors slid open a few seconds later, and she stepped into the middle of a war.
A war being fought with words, concerning…Batman and Wolverine, if she was translating the geek-speak properly, but a fierce battle all the same. The recruits stopped for a moment, going silent as if she were a stranger in a wild-west saloon, then continued their argument when she’d passed.
There really was no reason for them to gather near the elevator, but it was a popular meeting place for the techs all the same – just another thing she didn’t understand about them. The unwillingness to fight, that she could understand, some people weren’t made for it, or were physically unable to withstand the sort of hell her body went through on daily basis, but the way they lived their lives, as if their work was the smallest part of their lives at the Agency was foreign to her.
She knew where she was going – unless the experiment had been moved, and the file had never indicated anything like that. An entire lab – albeit one of the smaller ones – had been sequestered for the experiment, and there was no reason to move it this close to completion.
The room had, as most did, swipe card access, and a numeric keypad. She required her ID and swiped it through the slot – unsure if she’d be allowed access. She typed in her code, and the light flickered green, the heavy lock releasing. She depressed the handle and stepped into the lab, blinking as the darkness was quashed by automatic fluorescent lights.
In the middle of the room, on a slab, under a sheet, lay Mimosa. The thing they had the nerve to call an agent was unconscious, or asleep, or in a coma – some unaware state, still, without the barest of breaths in her body.
‘I’d like you to tell me what you’re doing in here, Magnolia.’
She turned and saw Jones, who very slowly and deliberately walked around her, placing himself between her and the experiment.
‘The door let me in,’ she said, ‘if I wasn’t allowed in here, it wouldn’t have let me in.’
‘I asked you a question, Recruit.’
‘I honestly don’t know,’ she said, ‘I’m still trying to figure out why she’s worth all the trouble.’
‘Some agents actually like their recruits,’ he said as he picked up a small scanner and ran it over Mimosa’s head. ‘And would prefer to help them out rather than to watch them bleed out on the floor for making the smallest of mistakes.’
‘She’s a scrawny runt,’ she said, ‘who’s got no business wearing the uniform.’
‘So I take it you approve of what your boss did last night?’
‘Gods,’ she whispered, ‘was that only last night?’
‘Yes,’ Jones said flatly, ‘it was.’
‘I’m not here to kill her, if that’s what you’re thinking.’
‘Actually, it’s precisely what I’m thinking. You’re very much your master’s lapdog.’
‘If I had wanted to kill her, I could have before you got here, Jones. Magic bullet to the brain, would have taken me all of three seconds.’
‘That isn’t the kind of thing you should freely admit.’
‘I’ve done nothing, it isn’t actionable.’
‘With everything that’s happened in the past twenty-four hours, you really shouldn’t be acting as caviler as you are. Things are…going to be different around here. Better. That, and I’ve spent over two hundred hours writing new code for her, I’m just as interested in keeping her away from harm as Ryan is. Two hundred hours, Magnolia, that’s a of a lot of work, and I’m not going to listen to you stand there and say you’d destroy all of that without a second thought if some asshole snapped his fingers. Get the hell out of my department.’
‘I think I’ll go see Merlin.’
‘Keep away from him, I’m not going to let you near him until you’ve gotten this out of your system. You know he’s a reader, can’t you imagine how much poison thoughts like this will hurt him. Until you accept what’s going on, no, you stay away.’
‘I don’t have to accept it.’
‘Then maybe you should fill out a transfer form. You’ve got seniority, she’s got rank, if it comes to a head, you’d be the one made to leave.’
She stared at the corpse. ‘Where do I sign up for this, anyway?’
Jones sat the desk, and the computer flared to life. ‘I can’t think of a single advantage to having you become an agent. And sure as seven hells Taylor wouldn’t ask for it.’
‘At least I wouldn’t be carrying around a piece of magic that could end the world. What happens if she spazzes out and decides she wants to drop nukes?’
Jones shrugged. ‘Head to the basement, you’ll be safe there. The company is less than ideal, but you’d be safe.’
‘So it is true then, there are things in the basement.’
‘Oh yes, the finest freaks and failed experiments in the country I’d wager.’
‘Isn’t that where she should be?’
‘I thought I told you to leave.’
Jones lifted a hand and snapped his fingers.
The bright lights of the infirmary blinded her as the world came back into focus. What was strange though was the angle at which she was viewing the infirmary from – flat on her back.
‘Voluntary organ donation!’ one of the Parkers said with a grin on his face as he appeared over here. ‘Mags, I didn’t know you cared.’ Oh. That Parker. The crazy one.
‘I didn’t-!’ she began to protest.
A gas mask appeared on her face. ‘Won’t take very long at all, you’ll be up and…prepping yourself to come back here in a couple of hours, I might do some random exploratory surgery while I’m in there. How do you feel about cultivating some fungus for me?’
‘What the fuck?!’ she screamed as she tried to get up, but the restraints around her arms stopped her.
He held up a form. ‘It’s all here, a lung among other things, very, very generous Mags, though won’t that make your life a bit difficult?’
‘I didn’t volunteer!’
He paused, his hand halfway to his instrument tray. ‘What?’
His twin appeared, and took the paperwork. ‘It’s not signed.’
A pen appeared in Parker’s hand. ‘Be so kind to sign this so that I can get started.’
She pulled at the restraints again. ‘I’m not signing anything, let me go!’ The restraints disappeared and she leaped off the table. ‘Not. Funny.’
‘Hey, you appeared, it’s not malpractice if I’ve got a form.’
She smoothed her dress. ‘I’m going to-’
The calmer of the two Parkers looked at the form more closely. ‘Magnolia, can I ask you a question?’
‘Yeah, sure.’
‘Did you piss off Jonesy?’
The taller Parker pushed away his instrument tray and sat up on the operating bed. ‘Damn, you did, didn’t you? Big mistake. Seriously, rule four of the Agency should be something like “Do Not Fuck With Agent Jones” – he’s one of the quiet ones, do you never see it coming when he decides to fuck your shit right up.’
‘I didn’t do anything.’
‘If you say so.’ The taller Parker rolled his eyes and flopped back on the bed. ‘Seems a shame to let this bed go to waste.’
‘Can’t you save your dirty thoughts for after-hours?’
‘Nope,’ the taller Parker said, sitting up and grabbing his twin, pulling him onto the bed. ‘Mags, lovely to see you, come back if you want to donate any of your organs, but if you’re staying, there’s a charge.’
‘I have places to be,’ she said, looking away from the progressively-more-naked doctors, and making her way free and clear of the infirmary.