Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Tapestries hang on the walls of a room where anatomical diagrams and scientific charts would have been, centuries ago. Two men stand reading a display that floats above the supine form on the chrome table at the centre of the room.

Doctor Jeferv is unimpressed: “Why did you make it female? Ignoring my rules for artificial form gender assignment is nothing to be smugly amused about.”

Doctor Vallahine grins: “An advance demanded it.”

“Demanded it? How dramatic. An advance? By you? I doubt it.”

Vallahine scratches an eyelid, then shrugs: “I’ll admit it was an accidental discovery, but some of the finest outcomes have started from unexpected results.”

Jeferv waves his hands in distaste: “These days, a proper scientist does not suffer accidents or unexpected outcomes, as he has already discerned the broad results of his efforts.”

“Are you implying I’m not a proper scientist?”

“Merely stating a truism. The fact you identify with it could be regarded as telling.”

“Oh, I’m not disagreeing. By your lights, I’m not a proper scientist. Personally, I’m bloody happy about that. Science should be about seeing something unexpected and then explaining it, not expecting something, then explaining why you haven’t found it, and ignoring anything along the way that doesn’t fit your pet theory.”

“You are surprisingly primitive in your outlook.”

“And you’re dismally predictable in yours.”

“I think, Doctor Vallahine, that I am going to recommend denying the renewal of your tenure. You should bear in mind that the governors look to me for guidance in these matters.”

“I’m hardly unaware, as you mention it during every conversation, germane or not. So, shall we return to my advance?”

Jeferv pulls a vibro-scalpel from the top pocket of his lab coat: “I’m sure it’s mediocre at best. Therefore, I think we should move directly to recycling.”

Vallahine sighs: “Personally slicing up the specimens you reject is petty. Hardly the actions of a ‘proper’ scientist.”

“Merely ensuring that time is not wasted with arguments and appeals.”

Vallahine shrugs and steps back: “Your funeral.”

Jeferv quirks an eyebrow at him, then smiles and swings the shimmering blade toward the prone form.

Violet eyes open and meet his gaze as she seizes his wrist and elbow, then twists his arm into a lock while swinging herself off the table, forcing him to his knees as she does so.

“I’m the advance who demanded to be female, numbnuts. Private Karen Little, formerly a trooper in the army of the United Kingdom. Not pleased to meet you.”

Jeferv glares up at Vallahine.

“So, you transplanted a revived brain. I fail to comprehend the advance.”

Vallahine smiles: “The nub appeared in a culture of organic slurry scooped from the Calais Crater. I grew it to completion out of curiosity, likewise with booting it up. I got the shock of my life when what I thought was only a retrieved blank swore at me.”

“Sorry for messing up your experiment, Doc.”

He glances at her: “No problem. Apart from having to write up the outcome and implications of the new aspect of retrieval science I’ve discovered, that is.”

“You’re about to be famous, Doc.” She smiles and points at Jeferv: “I can’t type. Why not ask him?”

Jeferv snorts in disgust, stands up, spins on his heel, and strides stiffly from the room.

“Think I’ve upset him.”

Vallahine chuckles: “Makes a change. It’s usually from me goading him.”

“You think I wasn’t? Come on, Doc.”

The sound of shared laughter from behind makes Jeferv stride faster.