WIP: Teaser from “Ms. Liberty Splits Up the Superb Squadron”

Cover of ebook Ms. Liiberty Gets a Haircut

The WIP is a prequel to “Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut.”

The meeting room had been storage area originally. Like everything else in the laboratory converted into headquarters, it was cramped, incredibly cramped, and more soon because of the outsized table someone had jammed into the middle. Chairs were crammed in around, an assortment of styles and shapes, as though everyone had elected to bring their own seating arrangement. In a corner was a small triangular table, holding a battered coffee pot and a perpetually empty plate.

They were the first to arrive, and Ms. Liberty took the opportunity to select, not the sturdiest chair (a hefty wooden bench) in the room, which the Unicorn would probably need, but the second sturdiest. Her augmented flesh was denser than that of most of the other team members, and she thought that breaking a chair would be a bad way to start off her first week with the team. The chair she picked was made of metal and was unyielding underneath her ans she sat down. She tried to relax into it, tried to assume the pose that would convey her attitude when others entered the room: not too eager but certainly on the alert.

Meanwhile, X wandered the corners of the room, extruded a long thin tentacle, which thoroughly explored the inner workings of the coffeepot, fingered the edges of the map of the world thumbtacked to the wall next to the nonfunctioning video screen. Over Antarctica, someone had scrawled in barely legible green pen, “Kilroy was here.” Air blew in through the vents, the only real source of sound in the room other than their breathing and the sounds of their movement.

The clock on the wall, which hung a little askew as though buffeted somehow in the past, clicked, and the hand clicked over to a minute before the hour. The door swung open and Dr. Raffy emerged, arms full of navy-blue folders stamped with the Squadron’s logo. He nodded at both of them and began to put a folder at each seat. X turned into a porcupine and waddled over to take the seat next to Ms. Liberty, a plain pine kitchen chair, its seat well-worn with use.

The Gladhander was the next to appear. “Ladies, gentleman…” He smirked as he slid into his chair, a leather Aeron that gave silently underneath him. The door opened again to show the Silver Juggler and Ballboy, both looking ill at ease and unhappy.

At the hour, Dr. Raffy began to speak, despite the lack of the Unicorn.

“If you’ll open the folders in front of you and turn to the first page, which is printed on cornflower blue paper, you’ll see our agenda.”

They all dutifully did so. The writer side of Ms. Liberty noted several spots where passive voice could be eliminated, a sentence whose parallel structure was insufficiently clear, and an out of place comma.

Dr. Raffy continued. “I’d like to welcome our new members officially, Ms. Liberty and X. While the circumstances that have opened new positions on our team have been sad, we are glad to have their new insights and experiences.” He smiled at Ms. Liberty and she smiled back, feeling genuinely welcome for the first time.

“Here, here,” the Silver Juggler said and led the room in a round of polite applause. X blushed purple appreciation.

“I know that you all read their backgrounds while undergoing the application process,” Dr. Raffy said, “so I won’t bother with recapping who they are. Their presence, unfortunately, brings us to agenda item number two: the smallness of our quarters.”

”I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t mind the smallness of the rooms. Reminds me of when I was first enlisted serving on the submarine Helvetica,” the Silver Juggler said. Beside him Ballboy nodded enthusiastically.

“It’s no skin off my back,” Dr. Raffy pointed out. “I have my own quarters and there suitable for my needs. Should we postpone the item for further discussion in the next meeting?” He spoke quickly, as though rushing them through the item and Ms Liberty wondered what the hurry was.

The clock ticked to the ten after mark. The door opened and the Unicorn sidled in. “You better not be done talking about the living quarters, Raff,” he said without preamble. ”I got something to say about all that shit.”

Dr. Raffy sighed. “Your arrival is timely,” he said wryly. “We were just discussing that very item.”

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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