Rachel pushed away from her desk and sighed heavily. She picked up her calendar and traced it back 3 days to the minister’s visit, tapping thoughtfully against his name as she groped for her coffee. Absentmindedly sipping at the lukewarm drink, she rifled through the notes spread out on her bed. Eventually, a noise outside her door caused her to look up before hurrying to stuff everything into a cabinet in the corner. Just as she closed the drawer there was a knock at her door which, after a quick glance round the room, she went to answer.
When she opened it, Sue pushed past her and walked straight over to lean against the little cabinet.
“Come on!” she urged cheerily “time to get back to it!”
“Oh, really?” Rachel sounded surprised; her eyes were bloodshot and tired. “I feel like we haven’t been away from it at all.”
“Ah well, you should know by now to take your rest where you can get it… we’re so close to cracking this – you can’t expect a proper break at this stage.” Sue’s voice rose in anticipation while a cynical snort from the doorway served to announce Jim’s arrival into the room.
“We are wasting our time here” he declared.
“Oh, shush Jim. Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean that we have to be.” Sue waved her hand dismissively as she moved to herd Rachel out of the door.
“Why not? We all know that this isn’t going anywhere.” He sounded like a sulky teenager and Sue whirled round in response like an exasperated mother.
“What are you talking about?! We are so close! Obviously it would be better if we could open it out and of course there are obstacles. But we are doing so well; every set back, every way we find that doesn’t work is just one more route that we don’t need to worry about anymore. We are closing in on this, I’m sure of it.”
“Well, that’s one way to look at it” grumbled Jim, “and you always were one for looking on the bright side, but honestly? I think we could find the solution tomorrow and it wouldn’t make any difference…”
“Our job is to worry about the science, not the politics.” Rachel chimed in, flapping her hands as she tried to chase them into the hall. “But how could this not make any difference? People are scared out there; they need us to be able to do this.”
“No they don’t. Sure, they want us to, but that isn’t the same thing at all. This has become too political, it doesn’t matter what we find out here, they’re never going to use it the way it should be used. It’s going to become part of their power games and the real science will probably never see the light of day!” Rachel and Sue stared at him in shock.
” What’s happened to you?! I thought you were the golden boy; the one determined to produce the goods for king and country. I thought it was up to better political minds than ours to decide how this should be brought into the public arena?” He shook his head sadly, holding up his hands against Sue’s sarcasm.
“I know what I said, but it’s not just women that can change their minds.” He flinched slightly in mock anticipation, but neither woman reacted so he continued with a shrug. “This thing is too big, everywhere I look there’s this increasing sense of fear and panic but it’s becoming more and more of a political tool. Come on Sue, don’t be naive. What’s the point in dedicating what’s left of our lives to finding a solution if our lords and masters don’t have the will to use it? We can create as much magic as we want in here but if it never gets out, if nobody ever knows about it where’s the point?”
“Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself!” Sue cut across him impatiently, “You’ll always have the gratification of knowing that you know something that the rest of the world doesn’t. And don’t pretend that wouldn’t give you a kick.” She grinned and pulled him into the corridor. Just before she pulled the door shut behind them, Rachel looked over at her cabinet. Tapping her fingers thoughtfully against the doorframe she paused briefly before turning to follow.