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The Audit

by Dot Warner

        Talon stifled a yawn as he sifted through the myriad reports that laid before him.

        Samui set down the paper that she was reading. "Would you like to take a break, Talon-san? I'll make us some instant coffee."

        "Yes, please." Talon also set his paper down and rubbed his eyes, then let that previously suppressed yawn out as he stretched.

        After Samui had shown him around the different dimensions, they had stayed mostly in CAPOW, dealing with the more tedious part of their job, namely, paperwork. Talon found it both fascinating and slightly disconcerting that almost everything--including bar fights at the Lurker's Retreat--was written down somewhere in a report, even the Halloween party that he and Samui attended a few months prior. Due to a phenomenon known as "Report Lag", however, the report for the party didn't get finished until many months later. In fact, a large amount of reports were unfinished, including several which had been started well before Samui had arrived in CAPOW.

        Samui returned to the table with two steaming mugs of coffee, giving him one, and sitting down across from him with the other. Talon appreciated the fact that Samui didn't make much small talk, and let himself enjoy the silence that resulted. All too soon, though, it was back to work.

        The phone rang, and Samui rose to answer it, mostly listening to the other side and answering in monosyllables.

        "What was that about?" Talon asked after Samui hung up.

        "Itsuko-san called to remind me that it's about time for another 'friendly visit' [1] to Washuu-san's place."

        "Washuu? Who's that?"

        Samui pulled on a red jacket and snapped shut the second button from the top. "I'll explain on my way there."

--Washuu's Subspace Laboratory--
        Washuu let out another sneeze. "Damn dust," she muttered, putting her disks onto a shelf. "I really ought to clean this place out more often."

        One of the many video displays jumped to life, showing a green-haired woman and a taller man approaching her lab.

        Is it time for another audit already? Washuu wondered.

        "Ooh, visitors!" Anne exclaimed happily, twirling around so that her white sundress with daisy patterns floated into the air. WakWak [2] played a little fanfare.

        Washuu pressed a button, opening the door to her lab. "Hey, Samui!" She waved. "Come on in!"

        The taller man facefaulted. "You're Washuu?"

        "Yup! That's me, the Universe's Greatest Genius, and the Cutest, to boot." Washuu grinned. "You can call me 'Washuu-Chan', though." She walked up to him and extended a hand. "And you must be Talon, the new partner Samui's been so enthusiastic about."

        Talon raised an eyebrow at Samui. "I wasn't aware that Samui could be enthusiastic," he said with mock seriousness.

        Samui declined to comment.

        Anne bounded up to the adults, WakWak following shortly thereafter. "Hi! I'm Anne! Nice to meet you!" She greeted, bowing. WakWak followed suit, playing the first line of "Getting to Know You" at the same time.

        "Nice chocobo," Samui commented after shaking Anne's hand.

        "Thanks!" Anne beamed. Without warning, she turned around and yelled as loud as she could, "JOSEPH! GET OUT HERE! WE HAVE VISITORS!"

        A small, distinctively feminine voice anwered back: "Coming!" Softer, the voice muttered, "didn't have to yell so loud. Uncute tomboy [3]."

        Anne's eyebrow twitched. "I heard that..."

        "Joseph..." Samui tapped her chin. "That name sounds familiar..." she snapped her fingers. "Didn't she use to waitress at Madoka's [4]?"

        Anne nodded. "Yeah!"

        Talon's mind boggled. "She?" he repeated incredulously.

        Washuu, Samui, Anne, and the newly arrived girl answered simultaneously. "Spring of Drowned Girl. Very Tragic Story." [5]

        Talon turned to see 'Joseph', and nearly facefaulted again.

        The red-headed child stuck her hand out. "Hi. I'm Joseph Sutedja." Before either Samui or Talon could shake, however, the girl retracted it again. "Look, could we talk later? I'd really like to get some hot water." Jo-chan spun on her heel and disappeared into the depths of the lab again, pulling up the blue canvas overall strap that had slipped off her shoulder as she did.

        Talon's mouth opened and closed, once. ", sure..."

        Samui waved a hand in front of Talon's face. "You still with us?"

        Talon blinked, then shook his head to clear it. "Yeah, now I am." He looked towards where Joseph had gone. "You weren't kidding when you said that some really weird things happen around here."

        Samui smiled slightly. "You have no idea."

        Washuu tapped her toes impatiently. "Can we get started? I don't have all day, you know."

        "Of course." Samui took off her jacket and hung it on a coat rack that Washuu had whimsically designed to look like Tenchi. "Lead on."

        "This your newest acquirement?" Samui asked when they came upon three rows of enormous boxes.

        Talon ran his hand across one of the the ancient panels. "What is this? I've never seen anything like it."

        "ENIAC, the world's first computer," Washuu answered. "It's so old it still used vacuum tubes. I've been meaning to upgrade it, but I never got around to it."

        Samui eyed the gargantuan device coolly. "I don't even want to know where you got that."

        "Oh, don't worry, nobody misses it," Washuu reassured Samui with a wave of her hand. "The previous owners wanted to get rid of it so badly they were ready to pay me for it."

        "Is this something important?" Talon wanted to know.

        "What? Are you kidding? Where were you born?" Washuu asked incredulously. "The ENIAC only paved the way for the entire computer era!"

        "Now that you mention it, I think I might have heard about it," Talon mused. "But I'm not really familiar with these kinds of things." Looking around, he saw a small box resting on one of the panels. Walking towards it, he discovered that the box held a moth mounted on a pin. "And what in the world is this?"

        "The world's first computer bug," Washuu replied with a grin. "Or, at least, a reasonable facsimile thereof."

        Samui might have smiled. "Cute, Washuu-san."

        "Of course!" Washuu beamed. "It wouldn't be me otherwise."

[1] This isn't what it sounds like. Really.
[2] Anne's shikigami chocobo. Aside from looking cute, it also supplies mood music.
[3] Famous Last Words (tm)
[4] Hey, a Field Researcher has to get income one way or another, and the Guide seems to be suffering from a rather large backlog of unsent checks...
[5] Everyone who knows Joseph can repeat this forwards and backwards, in several languages, to boot.

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