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Paperwork III: Paperweight MAG
There’s a mole in the Office of Information, and Third Commander Perrin Lane knows who it is. With proper paperwork in place, she goes after the First Commander that could ruin them all. Read parts I and II on TeenInk.com
In the distant past, when the Provinces were still emerging from the anarchy that had come before, someone decided that yellow would be a good color for the Delta Offices. And perhaps it could be, in small amounts. But sometimes it’s just inappropriate, Perrin thought, staring at the gaudy paint that covered the door in front of her. The bright yellow, reminiscent of cheerful things like flowers and lemon candy, made what should have been a foreboding moment seem ridiculous.
“Are you just going to stare at the door or are you going to open it?” Black asked. The two of them were alone in the narrow hallway; Morgan had gone to notify Office Security, in case they needed backup. “I do have other things to do today.”
“We can’t just walk in,” Perrin whispered. “It’s ... it’s too easy.”
“Would you rather we burst in with guns blazing? This isn’t the civilian police. Didn’t your teachers tell you why Commanders in our Office never carry guns?”
“Because the weapon of Delta Information is truth and knowledge, not lead,” Perrin quoted her eighth-year Ethics teacher. “That doesn’t change the fact that this is too easy.”
“Easy or not, we know it’s him. We might never have this chance again. People could die because of what he’s done. Maybe some have already.” He grabbed Perrin’s shoulder and swung her around to face him. “Open the door, Third Commander Lane, or stand aside and let me do it.”
Perrin touched her hand to the pocket on her left hip to check that a single folded sheet of paper - not a report or a memo, but a form entitled Warrant for Arrest - was still there. It had been filled out hastily only a few moments before, and the ink on Morgan’s signature was probably still wet. Knowing it was there gave her a small amount of comfort, as if whatever they were about to do would be alright simply because it was written down. This is definitely a sign that I’m hopelessly an Officer, she thought.
She reached out and grabbed the doorknob. It seemed particularly hard to open, but she wasn’t sure whether that was because the door was stuck or she was just nervous. Finally, Black pushed her aside and forced the door open with a loud cracking sound.
The redheaded receptionist, who couldn’t have been more than a year older than Perrin, jumped at the noise. When she figured out that the crack was just the door and not a gunshot, her startled expression was replaced with one of boredom.
“Good afternoon, Officers,” she said in the tone of someone who has said the same words a hundred times in the last hour. “How may I help you?”
Black nodded at Perrin, and she understood. Black was technically in charge because of his seniority, but this was Perrin’s moment. This was her chance to do something with her position besides wrestle with the copy machine. She pulled the warrant from her pocket, unfolded it, and put it in front of the receptionist. The girl’s eyes widened as she read.
Perrin’s voice sounded almost like Black’s as she said, “Tell the First Commander that we need to talk. Now.”
Perrin remembered First Commander Christian Hawthorn as a slightly overweight man who had a solid laugh and called her “Morgan’s little prodigy.” She hadn’t paid much attention to his face at the time; she had been too busy being annoyed at being called “little.” Now she soaked in every detail, from the wrinkles that had begun to form around Hawthorn’s eyes and mouth to the way his brown eyes grew large when the receptionist let Perrin and Black into his office.
The office itself was twice the size of Black’s and gave new meaning to the word “extravagant.” Hawthorn’s desk was made of polished, ornately carved wood that cost more than the average Officer earned in a year. The lush carpet was, of course, a vivid shade of yellow. The First Commander hastily tucked some papers under a book on his desk before standing up.
“Miss Weber,” he said to the receptionist, “I thought I told you I was not to be disturbed.”
“Yes, sir,” Miss Weber said, twisting her hair nervously. “But they ... they have a warrant.” Without waiting for a reply, she ducked back to her own desk.
Hawthorn went pale. “A what?”
“A warrant, First Commander,” Perrin said, surprised at how easily the words came out, “for your arrest.”
“Arrest?” Hawthorn echoed, trying to sound like he found the idea ridiculous. “For what?”
In answer, Perrin handed him the warrant. Hawthorn read it and snorted in disbelief. “You can’t honestly believe I would commit treason? What reason would I have?”
“You tell us, sir,” Black said. His right hand rested on his cell phone, still in the pouch at his belt. Assuming Black was following Office protocol - which Perrin assumed he was - his finger was poised over the phone’s panic button, ready to summon Security if Hawthorn gave them any trouble. “Tell us what reason you would have for putting my agents’ lives in danger. Tell us what reason you would have for betraying us.”
“This is absurd! Get out of here before I have both of you discharged.”
“That’s an empty threat, sir,” Perrin said, taking the warrant out of his hands. “The warrant has been verified, copied, and filed, in accordance with Section 56, Sub-Section D of Province Law. If you try doing anything against us, it will only add to the charges.”
“What makes you think it was me?” Hawthorn was beaten and he knew it, brought down by a simple form that had been filed in triplicate. He was just trying to delay the inevitable, to give himself time to escape.
Black must have known this, too, because he moved across the room to the open window and shut it. Perrin could see the defeat in Hawthorn’s eyes; the window and the door - which Perrin was blocking - were the only ways out of the room. She answered his question anyway; telling the truth was Office of Information policy.
“The information you passed to the rebels in Epsilon City could have been accessed by anyone of rank Third Commander or higher,” she began, “but if the mole had been a Third Commander, they would have known that Intelligence had an agent in Epsilon, because that’s practically common knowledge in our Office. I knew about it even before I was a Commander.”
Black took over, repeating what Perrin had told him and Morgan just a few minutes before. “If the rebels knew about her, she’d already be dead. But she isn’t ... or at least, she wasn’t a few days ago, when she sent me her report.”
“Which means that the real mole couldn’t be anyone who knew about her,” Perrin continued, “but it had to be someone who had clearance to access Delta Information’s files, but wasn’t an actual member of the Office. That could only be you, First Commander.”
There was a new spark in Hawthorn’s eyes now, a glint that Perrin recognized as panic. At first it seemed the First Commander was going to surrender; his shoulders slumped in defeat and he started to put up his hands. Then, before Perrin or Black could react, he ducked under his desk. Perrin heard a quiet click from behind the carved wood and both she and Black dove to the floor as a bullet buried itself in the wall next to the window.
Hawthorn scrambled out before Perrin and Black could get up. Perrin tried to move toward the open door, but a second bullet inches above her head convinced her not to.
“Don’t move,” said Hawthorn. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“Maybe you should have thought of that before you sold us out,” Black growled. Hawthorn fired another shot into the wall.
“Why don’t you just give up now?” Black asked, as if the shot hadn’t been fired. “Security will be here any min-ute, and they’re not as nice we are. You won’t gain anything from killing us, except two charges of murder on top of treason.”
“I said, shut up!” Perrin was starting to agree with Hawthorn; it was rather stupid to annoy a man who was pointing a gun at you. Hawthorn was getting very irritated, and focusing on the source of his irritation: Black. This meant he wasn’t focusing on Perrin.
Hawthorn had knocked many books and papers off the desk and Perrin’s eyes fell on a heavy glass paperweight just a few inches from her hand. Keeping her eye on Hawthorn and Black, she reached for it. This is for every time the kids in gym class said I was a lousy pitcher, she thought, and threw the paperweight at Hawthorn’s head.
Her aim was a bit off; the lopsided sphere of glass actually hit Hawthorn in his right shoulder, but that was enough to make him drop the gun. Before the First Commander could recover, Black shoved him against the wall. Hawthorn had never been a very good fighter - he’d been a researcher for the Office of Technology before his promotion - and collapsed to the floor, unconscious.
Perrin smiled at Black. “So much for our weapons being truth and knowledge,” she said, smoothing out the warrant.
“Sometimes they just need a little help,” said Black. “Nice throw.”
The door cracked open again, and Perrin could hear Office Security shouting at the unfortunate receptionist. “I should go.”
“So soon? Don’t you want to bask in the glory a bit?”
“No time,” Perrin said, grinning. “An arrest like this needs at least a three-page report, and I still haven’t gotten you those analysis sheets.” In her mind, Perrin could already hear the annoying but familiar beep of the copy machine.