I’m kind of stoked.
It’s a collaboration of a particularly epic order of magnitude, assuming we all agree to launch it. If we do, it’ll be pretty awesome. If we don’t, I’ll be a little (okay, a lot) bummed. We’ve done a lot of talking over the past few days (I haven’t seen our third online since the conversation, so I haven’t been able to pick her brain yet, but I’m looking forward to the moment I can), and I’m just getting more and more excited.
And thinking about the UNSETIC Files, cleaning up some stuff. In doing so, I came across this little scene that was part of a narrative about how Tim McConaway and Brigid O’Connell, featured in a previous post (the first entry of Doc’s Writercraft), became partners in UNSETIC.
I can remember thinking that they probably should have hung a sign on the door that read X-Files in here. As it was, the office behind the steel door was small, windowless, spartanly decorated but not necessarily uncomfortable. What made it uncomfortable was knowing that I’d volunteered for this.
Of course, I hadn’t had many alternatives.
I sat in the hard wooden chair in front of the desk, staring at the fifty-something man behind it, his hands folded in front of him. He didn’t smile. “We’re waiting on another.”
“Oh.” I folded my hands, staring at them. What am I doing here?
The door behind me opened. I looked over my shoulder toward the door. The man that walked in was slightly older than I was, eyes haunted, face gaunt, a healing cut on his lip and fading bruises on his jaw and neck. I knew him.
He was in the Gulf with us. I thought he died. That was years ago. He moved stiffly, sat down slowly in the chair next to me. He didn’t look at me, just stared straight ahead as if I didn’t exist. Stared at the man who was our new boss.
Why did I volunteer for this? It was simple, though. I was a part of this because I’d seen someone turn a mortal wound into a minor wound and gone looking for answers. It was all downhill from there.
“You’ve been working for us already for the past three years, Lieutenant O’Connell,” Paul Ballard said quietly. “You just didn’t know it.” He looked toward the man next to me. “Are you sure you’re up to this, Lieutenant McConaway?”
He’s out of uniform. The man next to me nodded slightly. “Yes, sir.” His voice was quiet. “I’d assumed I’d be assigned someone from the Air Force to work with, though.”
Ballard inclined his head. “That was the intention, but Lieutenant O’Connell’s potential partner tried to get himself blown up and yours is dead. The assignment can’t wait for us to find a new partner for either one of you, so you’re stuck with each other.”
“What’s the assignment, sir?” I asked quietly.
“You haven’t reconsidered volunteering, then, Lieutenant?”
I glanced toward Timothy McConaway, studied him for a long moment. There were rumors about what had happened to him in the Gulf. From the look of him now, whatever had happened then hadn’t left him whole. But he’s still in the service, apparently. Maybe. I nodded. “Yes, sir. I’m in.”
“Very good.” Ballard stood from the desk and took out a pair of files from the cabinet in the corner. “There’s an installation in theArctic Oceanthat we need you to take a look at.”
“You sound surprised, Lieutenant.”
McConaway frowned. “Sir, what is it, exactly, that we’re supposed to ‘take a look at’ out there? I was led to believe that what I was going to do for this agency was going to make a difference.” He didn’t flinch under Ballard’s stare, but added, somewhat belatedly, “Sir.”
“Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you won’t be, Lieutenant.” Ballard slid the files across the desk. I leaned forward and took one.
We’re going to freeze our tails. I thumbed through the folder slowly. “As ourselves, sir?”
“You are, Lieutenant.” Ballard eyed McConaway. “He is not, but I think that’s par for the course, isn’t it, Mr. McConaway.”
“Yes, sir.” McConaway’s gaze never wavered. He took the folder almost mechanically and was quiet.
“You’ll get full briefing on the way out,” Ballard said, mostly to me, it seemed. “You leave in two days. You’re dismissed, Lieutenant.”
I stood up, saluted him, and slipped out. I considered lingering a moment outside the door so I could maybe catch McConaway on his way out, to talk to him, but something made me think better of it. I left that basement office and headed home.
I forget sometimes how much I really like these characters. I’m not the only one, too, and that makes me feel fantastic.