Wednesday, 27 January 2016

News from the OFUs: OFUDisc - News from OFUDisc

The Administrator of OFUDisc was chronically overworked. Oh, it wasn't as bad as the frantic days of the Ispace Wars and the establishment of OFU-Squared, and these days he had a couple of very able assistants to take some of the burden off his shoulders, but he was constitutionally incapable of delegating very much. At any time, day or night, it was a better-than-even bet that he would be found in his office, deep in the basement of OFUDisc's castle, scribbling away at one unavoidable sheet of paper or another.
In this case, it was yet another memo from Mr. Bentley, one of the OFU2 coordinators, asking why the latest video lecture had been delayed yet again. The Administrator chewed on the end of his pen (a habit he was still desperately trying to break himself of) and attempted to conjure up a reply other than 'because I forgot again'. He was almost relieved when there was a knock at the door. "Enter."
The door clattered open, and the scrawny figure of Stanley Howler - former 'pinhead', now Head of Stamps at the Ankh-Morpork Post Office - stumbled in. There was a suspicious flash of gold behind him as the door swung closed - the sort that might be made by a certain Postmaster General shoving his sacrificial lamb inside and running for it. The Administrator shook his head, a hint of a smile forming on his face, then focussed his attention on Stanley.

The young man was shaking - actually trembling, to the point where the Administrator wondered if the cube-shaped box in his arms was too heavy for him to lift safely. But the expression on Stanley's face wasn't pain: it was disbelief, and distress, and… fear?
"Sir," the young man blurted, "I mean, Mr. Administrator- I mean, Sir-"
"It's all right, Stanley." The Administrator stood up and walked around his desk; it was quite clear Stanley was in no shape to come to him. "Why don't you tell me what's happened?"
"They said- but it can't be true- Sir, they're saying that- he can't be-"
"Stanley." The Administrator stepped forward and placed a hand on Stanley's shoulder. "It's all right. Tell me."
Stanley Howler bit his lip, hard enough that it bled, and held up the package. "This came for you, Mr. Administrator." He swallowed. "From… from outside."
The Administrator took the box. It was light, almost light enough to be empty, and about the right size to hold a football. He crossed back to his desk, picked up a letter-opener, and cut away the tape. "Let's see what's got you so-"
The Administrator stopped dead. Wordlessly, he reached into the box and lifted out a black fedora-type hat.
No, not a hat.
A Hat.
He stared at it for a long time. Then, in a swirl of his cloak, he turned and strode out of the room.
~
Another office. Another desk. Another pile of paperwork. And another black-clad figure bent over it.
The Administrator seemed to step out of nowhere onto the small carpet surrounding the desk. In one hand he clutched the Hat hard enough to leave finger-marks; the other was clenched into a fist. "What," he growled, "have you done?"
The figure working at the desk lifted its head and made eye contact, and the Administrator found himself looking into the pale blue light of infinity.
"MY DUTY."

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