The Hyde lobby was very different to the Brisbane lobby – smaller for a start, with the desk off to the right, and the elevators off to the left, instead of a central desk and elevators to the right.
There was also no secretary.
Her HUD clock disappeared for a moment, then reappeared, showing 11:27pm.
Time zones, genius.
Stef approached the desk, double-checked her location in her HUD, then rang the bell.
Nothing but the filtered traffic noises answered her.
‘Waitwaitwait,’ someone called. A small woman ran past her, screeched to a halt, and jumped into the receptionist’s chair. ‘Welcome to A&J Law Services, how can I help you today?’
She stared at the woman, at her blue hair, eyebrow piercing and the one-inch gauges in her ears, and smiled, then shook her head. ‘Okay, maybe wrong building, sorry.’
‘We provide a comprehensive range of services, you can discuss- Wait…you’re the Aussie, aren’t you?’
‘I was given to understand “eh” was more of a Canadian affectation,’ the woman said with a grin. ‘AJ, hiya, nice to meet you, sorry about that.’
Stef looked for the door, just in case she needed to make a quick exit. ‘…am I in the right place?’
‘If you’re looking for the Hyde Agency, then yeah.’
‘One of you, no, plain old…well, I’m two parts fae, ten parts human, no powers to speak of, so pretty much plain old human.’ She pointed to her hair. ‘Unless this counts as my mutant power.’ She picked up the cordless phone and punched a few buttons. ‘Your guest is here, okay, yeah, I’ll keep her entertained.’
‘Law services?’ she asked as AJ put down the phone.
‘Well, what’s your cover story?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said truthfully, ‘I don’t hang out in the lobby that much.’
‘Well,’ AJ said as she required and sipped an espresso, ‘we don’t have any face plating or anything, and you get the occasional person come in, either because they have the wrong address, or because they’re curious about what we do, so with me as the secretary and proclaiming that we’re thousand-pound-an-hour lawyers, we chase away nineteen out of twenty people.’
‘And the twentieth?’
‘Rock stars,’ she said. ‘Or creative types in general, or old creepy guys who propose paying the hourly rate for not…services, but not law,’ she said with a grimace. ‘I love being able to require weapons.’
‘What happens when you do get someone who wants a lawyer?’
‘We’ve partnered with a couple of firms, and we send them their way.’
‘Must work out pretty well for them.’
‘And for us,’ AJ said, ‘there aren’t many experts in faerie law, but there are a few that have studied up on Court laws, and we occasionally need a consult, and it’s good to be able to get an external opinion on certain situations.’
‘Hihihihi!’ an excited voice said from behind her.
Stef turned, and saw the door to the doors to the emergency stairs banging closed, and an excited recruit nearly bouncing across the lobby tiles. ‘Sorry. I was- You’re a bit early-’ she said, puffing for breath. The recruit lifted a brown briefcase and let it drop onto the reception desk.
‘I’m- Milla- Recruit-’ the young woman said, embarrassment creeping into her face. ‘Sorry, but if I’m in certain parts of the building, I’m faster at running down the stairs than running to the lift, and I could have just called Billy for a shift, but I was supposed to- Sorry. Sorry.’
‘Recruit!’ Stef said, trying to break into what sounded suspiciously like one of her own paranoid rants.
Ryan said you two would get along.
She held out her hand. ‘I’m Agent Mimosa, and we can both blame my Director for me being early.’
Milla gripped her hand, and seemed to calm a bit. ‘Milla,’ she said again. ‘I’m Milla. Can I um- Can I call you- I mean, I know your-’ She opened her briefcase and took out two sandwiches, and handed one to Stef. ‘Apology sammich?’
She unzipped her laptop case and pulled out a small emergency bag of cookies. ‘Trade you?’
Milla grinned and took the cookies. ‘This is going to be fun.’
‘Milla,’ a voice boomed in what sounded suspiciously like Ryan’s “I’m your father and I know best” tone. ‘No picnics in the lobby.’
Stef turned at the sound of the voice, then looked back to Milla, who was already halfway through her sandwich.
The agent rounded them, then lifted Milla from the floor. ‘Look at you,’ he scolded gently, adjusting her suit, ‘you were supposed to be nice and clean for your guest.’ He brushed breadcrumbs from the recruit’s suit, then tapped her on the nose. ‘I do suppose you’ll have to do.’
‘And you must be Agent Mimosa,’ Agent Williams said, turning to look at her. ‘Glad you found your way here all right.’
‘But her file said-’ Milla started.
‘She wants to know,’ Williams said, ‘if she can call you by your first name. She is used to being informal with agents,’ he said. ‘But if it’s not all right, then-’
‘Stef’s fine,’ she said.
I’m still getting used to the “Agent” part myself.
‘Oh, Agent Mimosa?’
‘Would you prefer an office or a dorm room for the next few days? I know it’s usually an office, but you’re mostly going to be working away from your desk, so…’
‘Do you have any dorm rooms free?’
‘We have four or five,’ he said with a shrug.
‘Then I’ll take one of them, thanks, I mean, for giving me the choice.’
You’re already three steps up on Grigori, and I haven’t left the lobby.
‘Here, give me your bag,’ Agent Williams said.
She handed it across and it disappeared from his hand. ‘You’ll be in room twenty-five, Milla can show you when we’re done for the night.’
‘Of course sir,’ she said, ‘what work did you have in mind?’
‘Work?’ Williams asked with a smile. ‘There’s a Madchester festival on, I thought you might appreciate the show.’
She grinned. ‘Yes, sir, that would be awes- That would be great, thanks.’
Milla held out her hand. ‘You have to hang on so you don’t get lost in the shift.’
Stef nodded, grabbed Milla’s hand, and watched as the world blurred.