hypatia_66 (hypatia_66) wrote in section7mfu,

Subtle communication (Short Affair challenge 1 January 2018 (Measure. White)

Short Affair challenge 1 January 2018 (Measure. White – but nothing to do with New Year)
It was by no means my first job, but none of the others had been quite as unconventional as this one.

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Subtle communication

First of all, access to the offices was through the most unlikely range of other businesses. The Section 2 agents even came in through a tailor’s shop. Other agents came in through other shops in the block. Ours was through a department store. There was also the garage, but only certain agents used the fleet of automobiles – and traffic in New York being what it was, the fleet was used out of town a lot more than in.

Anyhow, once inside – and once you found your office or laboratory, which wasn’t necessarily that easy given the uniform anonymity of all the corridors – it was friendly enough. I was given a locker, a white coat, some pens, and a place at a bench alongside one or two others, where I began to be inducted into the research they were working on.

“Is this all the staff?” I inquired of my neighbour, a quiet guy called Robbie, who was bent over, examining a new kind of communicator. I’d been there only about a week, and staff seemed thin on the ground.

“Oh no,” he replied, “a lot are out with agents, testing things in the field.”

Well, that made sense, of course. “Do the agents offer suggestions, then?”

“Oh sure – some real silly ones, sometimes. Science fiction stuff. You know, like a computer to keep in your pocket, giving access to the files, that kind of thing.”

“Sounds like a good idea, but you’d need an outsize pocket.”

“Right. This is the kinda futuristic thing they come up with. That one came from a Section 2 agent, of course. Well, you can see why – they’re out on a job, they have to call in for every kinda stuff and sometimes the stuff they want needs a whole library to find the answer.”

“Couldn’t they keep microdots of information?”

“Think about it. They’d need to know in advance which ones to take, get them copied, and they’d need to carry a microdot reader.”

“So, in the meantime we improve the communicators.”

“You got it.”

We sat working in companionable silence for a while, until the quiet swish of the door announced a visitor. Robbie paid no attention, but I looked up to find a young man standing right next to me – I hadn’t even heard his footsteps.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Good morning. You’re new, I think?” His voice was deep, and had an accent I couldn’t place. I was aware of vivid blue eyes and, for the moment, not much else as he stood there with the stillness of a predator. Not a very big predator, but quite menacing.

I introduced myself, but got nothing in return except that his gaze turned to the object I was working on.

“How long before we get a communicator that just vibrates?” he said a little accusingly. “Without that beeping sound. It attracts the attention of the enemy. We only just got away with a whole skin, yesterday.”

Robbie turned at that. “I’m working on it now Mr K.”

“And you?” said Mr K, looking at me again.”

“I’m trying to make something that you don’t need two hands for, or even to hold.”

He smiled, and, while it wasn’t the most relaxed smile I’ve ever seen, it changed his air of menace into something altogether more approachable.

“That would be extremely useful,” he said. “When you’ve got something, we’ll take it out and test it.”

When he left, I looked at Robbie. “Who’s he?”

“He’s number 2, Section 2,” he said, “Illya Kuryakin – bright guy.”


“Yep. Works with Mr Solo – our best enforcement agents, but very demanding.”

“Was he the one who wanted the pocket computer?”

“You got it.”

The possibility of making a silent, small communicator with a separate microphone was quite difficult of achievement. It needed to be easy to wear, easily removed, and invisible. Mr Kuryakin started to come by quite often, offering suggestions.

He was sitting beside me one day examining a device I had acquired to work on, when I realised I could check where to fit it.

“Can I measure your collar?” I said.


“I’m thinking that the microphone could sit under your collar with the receiver-transmitter in a pocket of your shirt.”

“I don’t always wear a shirt on missions.”

“Well, we have to start somewhere. Could we open your collar?”

Under his coat, he wore a white shirt, leather holster and gun, and also apparent was a surprising musculature for such a slight man. He took off his tie and undid the top button of his shirt, which meant I didn’t have to – his air of menace wasn’t put on.

Nevertheless, when I opened his collar, he started slightly and flushed. “Sorry,” I said, a little embarrassed myself, and seeing alarming scars when I had to undo a second button. I swallowed hard and, trying not to touch the warm skin, turned the collar back to attach the microphone inside. I put the cigar-shaped receiver-transmitter into his shirt pocket, which made it sag badly. He was watching my face as I drew his shirt together again.

“See if you can do up the buttons again,” I said. The gleaming hair flopped forward as he bent his head to look at the microphone.

“Activated with a switch?” he asked.

“That’s right, but it’s battery-operated and doesn’t have a long life.”

“The half-ton weight sitting in my pocket might be a problem, too.”

The transmitter was heavy – a good seven ounces, and the microphone wasn’t much less.

“I’ll look through the literature again – see if anyone has designed something more subtle,” I said.

“It needs to work when I’m – we’re – wearing a turtle-neck or tee-shirt, or stripped to the waist. Can we check that too, Miranda?” he said. “Why don’t we meet later and see?”

This time it was I who blushed. He smiled at me guilelessly. “Do you prefer Italian or Chinese?”

Tags: gen, illya, short_affair
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