LAST EDITED ON Dec-04-20 AT 11:59 PM (EST)
Friday, April 16, 2410
Deedlit Satori Mandeville Memorial Institute
Jeraddo, Republic of Bajor
Moko was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
It was no one's fault but her own. She was the one who decided to change the burned-out glowsphere in the cavernous red-brick garage of the Stanley Shops herself, instead of calling Plant Services to come and take care of it. She was also the one who chose to do it by climbing out on one of the iron rafters and leaning out to reach the affected fixture, rather than using scaffolding or a mobile lift. Further, it was her own choice not to wear a safety harness. And finally, the snap decision to grab for the old sphere when she fumbled it after taking it out of the fixture, instead of just letting it fall to the floor and sweeping it up later, was all her own.
As such, she really couldn't blame the subsequent forty-foot fall onto concrete on anyone but herself.
For ten minutes or so, Moko's broken body lay motionless where it landed, surrounded by shards of both the old and new glowspheres and a slowly spreading pool of blood, unambiguously deceased. Since it was late-ish on a Friday afternoon, in a part of the campus little-traveled by students or faculty without a direct purpose there, there was no obvious reason to expect it would be discovered before Monday morning.
Presently, however, another person entered from the door leading off into the part of the building where the classrooms were.
"Moko? Are you in here?" called the newcomer, a neatly-dressed, petite woman with very long lacquer-black hair and a refined manner. Receiving no answer, she advanced into the garage, at which point she couldn't avoid spotting Moko's body, sprawled as it was in the middle of the room.
Upon noticing it, she didn't gasp or cry out. The expression that came onto her serenely handsome face was nothing more or less than faint bemusement. Unhurriedly, she advanced until the toes of her shoes were just short of the blood pool's edge. Once there, she looked expressionlessly down at the body; then up at the globeless light fixture directly above it; then back at the body again.
"Oh dear," she said, utterly calm. "Behold, Moko is no more. She has ceased to be. She has expired and gone to meet her maker." Reaching gingerly over the cooling blood, she nudged the corpse with the toe of one shoe. "Bereft of life, she rests in peace." She folded her hands, bowed her head as if in prayer, and said solemnly, "She is an ex-Moko."
Moko's body twitched, then shivered, and she drew a ragged breath. Raising her head, she fixed the other woman with a slightly bleary glare and said,
"You don't know what you're talking about, Kaguya."
With a groan, she dragged herself into a sitting position, various bones and joints crackling in a disconcerting fashion as they repaired themselves, then sat slumped with elbows on knees for a moment, catching her breath. At length, she raked her long, presently rather blood-streaked white hair back out of her face and gave Kaguya a sardonic grin.
"I'm clearly just pining for the fjords."
That said, Moko hauled herself to her feet, stretched her arms above her head, and sighed. "Well, that's not the dumbest way I've ever died, but it's up there."
"You were trying to replace that glowsphere without taking even the vaguest safety precautions, I assume," said Kaguya. "Like the blockhead you are."
"It's the truth," Moko agreed. "I went full blockhead."
Kaguya shook her head sadly. "Never go full blockhead."
Shrugging, Moko brushed ineffectively at her formerly white shirt, now mostly red-going-brown with drying blood. At least it didn't show as much on her red utility coveralls, the sleeves of which she had tied around her waist.
"Anyway, I came to tell you that you're wanted in Dr. Montaigne's office," Kaguya said airily, "but you obviously can't show up in that condition—"
She was interrupted as the door she'd entered through banged open again, and a young woman's voice called, "Professor Fujiwara? Are you—oh my God!"
Moko and Kaguya both turned to see a student, dressed in the (slightly grubby) orange coverall that stood in for the regular school uniform in the shop areas, standing by the lathe and staring at them in horror.
"Is... is that blood?" she asked, pointing with a slightly shaky hand at the pool Moko was still standing in.
"This?" Moko asked, looking down as if surprised to find it there. "Nah, nah. This is, uh... hydraulic fluid."
"You're covered in it!" the student cried, her tone making it sound like an accusation.
"Relax, Hoshino," said Moko soothingly. "I mean, think about it. If I had lost this much blood, I'd be dead, wouldn't I?"
Covering her mouth with a decorous hand, Kaguya glanced away so that Hoshino wouldn't see her struggling not to laugh. Moko shot her a millisecond's worth of a dirty look and then turned her attention back to the student, whose look of alarm was fading into one of puzzlement.
"Well... I guess you have a point, but..." Hoshino looked around, noting the complete absence of anything anywhere near the pool that could have leaked hydraulic fluid. "Where'd it come from?" Cocking her head curiously, she added, "And why is there glass everywhere?"
"Ah... never mind that," said Moko evasively. "Were you looking for me—" she nodded toward Kaguya, "—or the other Professor Fujiwara?"
"Oh, uh, yeah, I was looking for you," Hoshino replied, still grappling with a mix of shock and confusion. "Councilor Kadotani asked me to find you."
"My my, we are popular this afternoon," Kaguya observed dryly.
"Uh... OK, well... I gotta clean this up," said Moko, gesturing vaguely at the mess. "And grab a quick shower. And then I hear Dean Montaigne wants me for something, so I guess Anzu can meet me at her office?"
"Oh, she's there already," said Hoshino. "I'll just tell them both you'll... be a few minutes."
Moko nodded. "Great. Thanks a lot. I'll be there as quick as I can."
"OK. Uh... well, bye then," Hoshino said, and, still looking confounded, she turned and left.
"Huh," said Moko once she'd gone. "The Dean of Student Life and the chairwoman of the Student Council Committee on Activities want to see me. Th' heck do you suppose that's about?"
"Perhaps they want to congratulate you on your spotless workplace safety record," said Kaguya, and when Moko turned to give her a sardonic look, she wordlessly proffered a mop she'd acquired from Moko knew not where, adding an impish trace of a smile to go with it.
"... Perhaps," said Moko, taking it with a sheepish little grin.
"Well, I'll leave you to it, Moko darling," said Kaguya, stepping around her and heading for the door to the outside. "This is clearly no sort of work for the likes of me. I'm off to do something more suited to my intellectual gifts and grade a few dozen midterm literature exams."
"Yeah, run along, Princess, we wouldn't want you to break a nail," said Moko sarcastically. "Hey," she added as Kaguya reached and opened the door.
"What's for dinner tonight?"
"Ordinarily, I'd say 'How should I know? It's your turn to cook,' but given that you've just managed to kill yourself replacing a light bulb, I doubt I can trust you with kitchen utensils today," Kaguya mused. "So I think it shall be meat buns."
Moko grinned. "I love you."
"I know," Kaguya replied, and then, as tenderly as anyone had ever said it, she added, "Idiot." Following which, with a breezy, "Be seeing you," she was gone.
Moko stood grinning at the door she'd left through for a few moments, then shook her head and got to work cleaning up the mess.
Showered and dressed in a fresh shirt and coverall, Moko knocked at Dean Montaigne's inner office door, waited for the dean to respond, then let herself in.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," she said apologetically as she entered. "Had to clean up a mess in the garage. What's up?"
Before Dean Montaigne herself could reply, if she'd intended to, the student seated in one of her visitor chairs turned a grin to Moko and said without preamble,
"How'd you like to be the faculty advisor for the Armorsport Club?"
Moko gave her a puzzled look. "What Armorsport Club?" she asked.
"Well, exactly," said Montaigne with an indulgent smile. "There isn't one yet, but Anzu here seems convinced that one is about to erupt onto the scene."
"How can we have Miho Nishizumi and Leona Southwell Ozaki on this campus and not have an Armorsport Club?" Anzu Kadotani reasoned. "That would be against the laws of thermodynamics."
"Miho Nishizumi, seriously?" said Moko, eyebrows raised. "I haven't seen her around the shops."
Anzu made a dismissive gesture. "Oh, she's pretending she isn't interested in Armorsport any longer, but, well, if that's true, why has she brought a tank to school and already recruited a crew for it?"
Moko brightened. "Oh, is that why there's a Panzer II in the Motor Club's barn?"
"Miss Kadotani," Montaigne put in, just a touch severely. "Are you suggesting that you intend to conscript fellow students into forming a new extracurricular club?"
Anzu turned a look of wide-eyed, innocent indignation to the administrator. "No! Not at all! What kind of manipulative monster do you take me for?" Then, tossing her twintails with blithe nonchalance, she went on, "I just think that since they're inevitably going to be driving tanks around anyway, we should be proactive and give them a charter before it's a problem that they don't have one." She gave the dean a cheesy grin. "See?"
Dean Montaigne gazed levelly at her for a moment, then deadpanned, "Your logic is inescapable and yet somehow terrifying."
"Aw, thank you," said Anzu modestly.
Moko scratched the back of her head in bemusement at the byplay. "Uh... I don't really get it, but sure, I'm in."
"Great! Then that's settled," said Anzu cheerfully.
"How is it settled?" Dean Montaigne inquired. "You haven't even asked the people you expect to be members of the club."
"Oh, that's next on my list," Anzu assured her. "I wanted to make sure I had everything ready before I brought it up."
Moko leaned against the doorjamb, hands in her coverall pockets, and smirked at the student councilor. "You mean you want to present them with a fait accompli."
Anzu leaned back in her chair and gave Moko a casual grin. "I prefer to think of it as making the process more efficient."
Moko laughed. "Sure, whatever you say."
Dean Montaigne sighed. "All right, Anzu, you win. I'll draw up the paperwork. But if you can't interest the minimum number of members in actually belonging to the club once it's chartered, the deal is off. And make sure they know what it's really for this time! I don't want another fiasco like the Spanish Inquisition Society."
"I thought it was just a foreign-language literature club with a cute name!" Anzu protested. "How was I supposed to know they were into the actual Spanish Inquisition?"
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition," said Moko sympathetically.
"Right?" Anzu agreed, nodding.
The dean chuckled, making a shooing gesture. "Right, right, out of my office, you two. Thanks to you, I have some forms to backdate."
"Well, thanks for your help with that, Moko-chan," said Anzu as they were leaving Dean Montaigne's outer office together. "I'll set up the first meeting and let you know when. Bye!"
And like the small cyclone that she was, she was off to involve herself in something else, leaving Moko standing by the elevator, mouthing silently, "'Moko-chan'?" Then, recovering from her bemusement, she glanced at her watch. Quarter-past six, no wonder the admin offices were deserted apart from Montaigne's.
Hands in pockets, whistling a bit of Sousa, Fujiwara no Moko sloped off toward home, daydreaming about fresh, hot meat buns.
DSM Panic! The Panzermädchen Files
File 03: "Fait Accompli"
a Future Imperfect Mini-Story by Benjamin D. Hutchins
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