Tagler Jansen, the source of the southern twang in Avery’s ear, wears his beard short and neat, his hair short and messy, and a Ministry of Chronology uniform buttoned to perfection. He sits in a dark closet at a desk in front of a holoscreen, Avery’s point of view floating before him and blocks of lettered information floating below.
“You done good with those ladies,” he commends the agent. “I didn’t expect being nice was in your realm of expert-ease.”
Avery’s voice gives a sardonic laugh. “Being polite and being nice are two different things.”
“Fair enough, fair enough,” Tagler -Tag, to his friends and coworkers – says. “Hey. You – uh – you got uh couple’a’three minutes before you get to where you’re goin’. I’m uh be right back.”
“That cool with you?”
“Alrighty, then. I’ll be back.”
Tag swipes away the holograms above his desk and stands. He stretches and turns. He takes the two steps toward the door and it opens for him, revealing an oxtagonal room, each wall hosting a door to match his own.
In the center of the octagon sits a captain’s chair occupied by a woman speaking to thin air.
“There isn’t time for – Not everything is a joke, Gray – No – N -”
Tag steps into her space. When she notices him, she sighs.
“Gray, I’m ending. I said I’m ending!”
“Ma’am,” Tag says, drawing to attention under the woman’s gaze.
“At ease, Tagler,” she commands with a roll of her eyes. “What is it? The new recruit giving you a hard time?”
Tag shakes his head. “No, ma’am. She’s doing better than expected. On her way to the target AWS.”
“Good,” the woman says. “Sater has been on my jock to get this guy from day one. You don’t let it go tits up, you got me?”
“That’s a ten-four, ma’am,” Tag says, pulling to attention again and offering a salute.
“My name’s Shon, soldier, and we’re not at war. Ease up with the military shit. You’re giving me a headache.”
“Yes ma-” he begins in mid salute. He drops his hands and shakes it off. “Okay. Shon.” The words are unnatural on his lips.