The Twisted Skein

2038 -- Thirty Years Hence

Aaron Dioxond leant back in his chair. "It's actually not that bad," he said.

The woman standing in the middle of his Response Centre folded her arms. "Oh, no? And why's that?"

Aaron shook his head. "Diane, Diane... can I call you Diane? We're practically cousins."

Diane Peryan rolled her eyes. "No, we're not," she said, "but all right. Aaron. Why is it 'not that bad'? The things they do these days..."

Aaron laughed. "Well, I know who you've been talking to. Don't tell me - the big scary Department of Efficiency and the evil Department of Author Correction ruling over everything with iron leaves?"

"... something like that," Diane admitted, watching him. "Is it not that way?"

"Not at all." Aaron gestured at the room. "Look, I'm relaxing in my chair, and the console's absolutely silent. Would that've happened in our parents' day?"

"... no." Diane shook her head. "But that was Legal..."

"Their role is a lot more limited now," Aaron informed her. "The whole place is a lot better run than it used to be. The rules are a lot clearer."

"And more restrictive!" Diane exclaimed. "With that timer on your consoles, and all the monitoring..."

Aaron waved a hand dismissively. "I've only heard of one or two people being called to the DoE on timer issues. Mostly it's just to motivate us, give us something to improve on. Same with the mission times - they don't really care if you go over, but everyone needs something to shoot for."

"And the monitoring?" Diane waved a hand. "If I hadn't had it disabled, they'd be listening to us right now. Writing down our every word..."

Aaron snorted. "How many Agents do you think they've got? Diane, it all just goes straight onto the tapes. No one ever listens to it unless there's been a problem and they need evidence of who was where."

"... what about Author Correction?" Diane asked, not willing to give up. "You can't tell me that's right. They've killed people..."

"Which is about what the OFUs used to do, on a far greater scale." Aaron shrugged. "There've only been a couple of deaths in the DAC, and as far as I know, the Illian girl - that's who you're talking about, right? - is the only one they didn't end up reviving. Apparently she hid the severity of her injuries until she got back home, and when she died, her parents wouldn't let them bring her back to fix it."

"They still torture people!" Diane exclaimed. "Girls in their teens, who've done nothing more than a bit of bad writing."

"And we kill Mary-Sues who've done nothing more than try to seduce a canon character." Aaron shook his head. "But they're honestly not like that. Most of the time they just have to chat to the girl a little, and she'll accept what she's doing wrong, and everyone will be better off. The torture... well, no, they're not perfect, but it really is very rare."

Diane scowled. "Why are you so blind?" she asked. "It's like you don't want to see what the PPC has become."

"And you don't want to see the good in it," Aaron retorted. "You just can't deal with the concept that different doesn't have to mean worse, and that rules might be better than anarchy."

Diane bared her teeth. "I don't want any more to do with you," she snapped, and then vanished without another word. Aaron looked at the spot where she had stood, and shrugged.

"Fine by me," he said to the empty air. "I've got work to do."

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