I don't normally do linked prompt responses, but when "panjandrum" came up in the ten minute thread, it seemed perfect as a followup to the response which became the first chapter here. A panjandrum is "a self-important or pretentious official."


Callan just barely avoided jumping physically - her brain had been miles away. Manning the monitor desk in ISO Comms might be an honour and a responsibility, but it was pretty darn dull most of the time.


"I think we've got another one."

She sighed inwardly. "Pass all implausible use of language over to Lieutenant James for evaluation" had seemed harmless enough, but she was starting to wonder whether half the ISO Comms staff needed remedial vocabulary lessons. Much of what she was given she'd have classed as ordinary everyday speech. Still, this might be the one... Corporal Yoshida was one of the older staff members, someone who Callan was faintly nervous about outranking, and scarily competent.

"Send it to my console, please."

It bleeped at her a few seconds later. Half a page of text, in a teen forum thread discussing whether it was better to join ISO or NASA if you wanted to be an astronaut. Happy fantasies from kids who didn't appear to have the faintest idea what level of achievement you'd need to get into either.

And there it was, on the sixth line. "NASA, surely. I hear that Anderson of ISO is a panjandrum."

Three posts all expressing confusion, and then the same poster again, equally confused as to why they hadn't been understood.

Callan had seen enough. She forwarded it to the list of people who were informed whenever they identified an online Spectran presence, and only as she hit 'send' did she remember that Anderson himself was on that list.

She hoped he had a sense of humour.