Dept 17


I popped my head out of my office door. “It’s go time!” I announced. Tan spun around in his chair until he was facing me. He really sits sideways on that chair. “Is there something wrong with your back?” I asked and using his elbows he shuffled up straight. A little bit straighter. I looked past him to Firelighter who sits over by the window. “Hey! Go time!” She nodded. Sub’s chair was empty. “Tell Sub.”

I popped my head back into my office where the rest of me already was.

What the fuck are you doing? I thought. My thought was aimed at the printer. I’d turned it on and it had instantly begun having a massive nervous breakdown. I hadn’t even sent the email to print yet. As soon as I turned it on it started whirring and groaning and whining and it was still doing it. PLEASE WAIT, the screen was saying. “The fuck are you doing?” I asked it as something moved slowly and noisily inside its black plastic shell.

I put my coat on as I was waiting. I sat on the corner of my desk and stared at it. After a final strained mechanical noise it was silent and I lent backwards and, after struggling with the upside down mouse-pad, I clicked ‘print’ on my computer and… absolutamente nada. I waited for a moment before clicking on print again. My eyes darted around the office while I waited for the printer to animate. My eyes fixed on the framed picture of us from the Jersey Evening Post, but I wasn’t looking. I was listening.

Apparently if you go blind your ears get better. You stick your tongue out when you’re concentrating because your tongue has so many nerves and stuff that taking your tongue out of your mouth lets your brain focus more on other stuff.

Sub’s tongue is out of his mouth when he’s doing the buttons up on his coat. So while my eyes were looking at the picture it was my ears which were in overdrive.

It should have been printing by now. I sighed and stood and went over to the printer. The small screen on the printer was acting like nothing was wrong. It wasn’t complaining about low ink or a lack of paper. Most odd. I went over to my desk and, without sitting down, looked at my laptop screen. I clicked the little printer icon down by the clock. It claimed that the documents were printing. That was a fucking lie. I went back to the email and pressed print again. And then I listened. “Fucking thing.”

I went over to the door and popped my head out. The two of them were sat where they had been. The only difference was Sub was back. Why had I opened the door again? To ask them for help with the printer? What, one of them was suddenly an IT expert? I closed the door. Then I opened it again. “Nice springing into action,” I said, sarcastically. “Get ready.”

“I ready,” said Tan, slumped in his chair but wearing his coat.

“What’s happening?” asked Sub and I looked at Firelighter.

She was tapping a biro on her teeth. She removed it. “Oh, it’s go time,” she said.

“Thanks,” I told her.

“We’ve got a mission?” asked Sub, excited. I nodded with a tilted head. It’s a bit embarrassing that he calls them ‘missions’. They’re jobs. Call them jobs, but I nodded to him.

“The printer’s dicking around,” I said. No reaction and so I closed the door. I looked at the printer screen, which was okay, and then I went over to my laptop. I sat down, uncomfortable in my coat. It still claimed to be printing but clearly it wasn’t and I had a pang of worry that it was printing out somewhere else. Maybe the crystal shop downstairs. That would be a scandal because these documents are top secret. Well, not top secret but, you know, private. I resisted the urge to press print again and instead delved deeper into the computer’s inner workings. I typed printers into the Windows 10 search bar and for once the search worked. Printers and Scanners appeared. I clicked it. The printer was listed. So far so good but then I saw that the computer was telling me the printer was offline. So far so bad.

I looked over the top of the laptop screen at the printer. Offline, the fuck does that mean? I wondered. It was on. I didn’t want to but I clicked ‘manage’ and then ‘troubleshooter’ and then I waited as the computer detected problems.

I normally quite enjoy trying to fix things. It was my computer skills which got me out of the car park. I’d made a spreadsheet. Doesn’t sound like much but they wrote everything down before, so to have a spreadsheet, you know? It got me noticed. It doesn’t sound like much but this was a while ago. But I like fixing things when we’ve got nothing else to do. We had things to do.

Troubleshooting had finished and didn’t find any problems which is absolutely terrific. Great. Or would be if there obviously wasn’t a massive problem. Because of course I’d be running the troubleshooter just for fun, if there was nothing wrong. I don’t know, if I worked at Microsoft and I’d programmed a troubleshooter I’d think that running it suggested there was definitely a problem, and so just coming back and saying “nah, we didn’t find anything” isn’t fucking good enough. Somebody runs a troubleshooter on a computer then the computer shouldn’t fucking stop until it’s fixed it, you know? I’m running a fucking printer troubleshooter and it’s because my fucking document isn’t printing so don’t fucking rest until the printer is fucking printing.

I was getting stressed.

I could have just wrote down the address but I had one last trick. I went over to the printer and pulled out the power cable from the back. I know you’re not supposed to just rip the power cord out of things without turning them off but I kinda wanted to hurt the printer. I plugged it back in and turned it on and girded myself for it to do whatever it does for ten minutes, but this time it went silent pretty quickly.

I went over to my computer but on the way the printer made a noise. I paused. Was it the shit it does when I turn it on? Housekeeping, they probably call it. Was it? No it wasn’t! It was actually printing. It printed three copies of the email. I closed the lid on my laptop and then gathered up the printed emails.

“Come on, go time!” I said as I marched across the big office. They all slowly stood up. “So much energy in this room!” I took the keys off the hook.

“You flying?” I asked Sub.

He winced. Looked over at the window and pretended to think. I know he was pretending because his tongue stayed in. “It’s a bit cold, I’ll fly back.”

“Cool,” I said.

“I’m driving,” said Firelighter.

“Ha! Yeah, right,” I replied.

“What’s the mission,” asked Sub.

“Is assault in progress?” asked Tan, earnestly. “I bloody hope not sexuwal assault,” he said. I looked at him for a moment.

“No, no assault. I’ll tell you in the van,” I said. “Actually…” I realized I had three copies. One for each of them. I’d read it already. That worked out perfectly, in a crazy sort of way. Things have a habit of doing that. “Read it in the van.”

“It’s go time!” said Sub. He held his palm up. Tan slapped it. Firelighter didn’t but Sub’s hand was still up so I did. Just with my fingertips. Then we bundled down the dark narrow staircase. I couldn’t have known then where this would lead. And I don’t know now, either. It hasn’t happened yet.