Saturday, 30 March 2019

P Squared, chapter 4

“So. Did THR get anyone? Anyone who matters, I mean?” says Quality.

“Transhuman Resources didn’t appear to have liquidated anyone at all as far we could see,” says P. They are sitting at a desk that does not appear to have been dusted or tided for a very long time, hardwired to the desktop terminal, updating the online departmental staff list (“These are staff who are no longer with the department,” Symons has explained).

“We accounted for at least one THR resource, however,” continues P, “and seriously injured one more. HR also appear to have taken a further casualty thanks to Alumni. According to Klaire, this is.”

“Oh?” says Publications. “Did you see who?”

“Klaire said the man Alumni liquidated was called Glen. I didn’t scan any of them, though.”

“Glen? Little fat guy? Beard?” says Quality. He makes a kind of “beard” motion around his chin with one hand.


“No great loss there, then,” says Symons, not looking up from her desk. She notices that Quality and Publications are staring at her. “What?”

“You’re using your out-loud voice again,” says Publications.

“Oh,” says Symons. She smiles, keeps on typing.

“This isn’t a good thing, you know,” says Quality. “THR are going to go spare. Three losses means they’re going to have to recruit. They might go on a redeployment run. And nobody wants that.”

“Shit, no,” says Publications. “Do you remember what they did to Aneta?”

“God. Yeah,” says Quality, “I saw her again, you know. Did I tell you that? I had to put her—“

“Let’s move on from that,” says Symons, more loudly than is necessary.

“It’s going to be bad, is all,” says Quality.

Symons stops pretending to work. “You must realise,” says Symons, talking across the room to P, who is back in the staff list and barely listening, “that, normally, unless on an explicit assignment that so requires, staff in the University not in the THR department are only permitted to use lethal force if they are targeted by other staff members or external agencies.”

P, of course, knows this, whether they want to or not; the regulations flow across their consciousness now, hundreds of words a second, but they also know to let their line manager talk as much as she wants.

“And we have a directive,” continues Symons, “Not to interfere with THR.”

P returns to the room. “Have I done something wrong?”

“Well, no, no, you haven’t, not really. But you may have made the relationship between this department and THR a little bit” — she gestures with her hands as if holding something heavy and unpalatable — “more difficult.”

“I should say that Klaire was equipped only with a nonlethal weapon.”

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s fine. You’re not in trouble. Just for you to, you know, bear in mind in future.”
P nods. Symons pats her hair and returns to whatever it is she is doing. Quality is smirking at P. Publications is looking at them with those heavy-lashed eyes, and P cannot read their expression. P shrugs inwardly and begins to reply to a flood of e-mails sent to their now-deceased predecessor.

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