"Greetings and hello! You have reached and been put through to the Department of Redundancy Department - that's us - and are now communicating with me, an agent of said Department. My name is Rosalind, which is what I am called, and I, Rosalind, agent of the Department of Redundancy Department, am here to take your call and assist you in any and all ways I can - or at least am able to." With a practiced motion, Rosalind flicked on the recorder and prepared to write out the message - typing with her left hand, handwriting with her right.

Excellent, the Coriander's voice came instead, and Rosalind dropped her pen in surprise. Once again you prove yourself an excellent senior agent.

"Thank you, sir - I'm flattered," Rosalind stammered. "Your words make me proud of my long service, the years I have worked for you, so thank you."

There was a pause before the Coriander spoke again. That isn't absolutely necessary within the department, you know.

"I apologise, sir - I'm very sorry," Rosalind replied. "I do know and am aware, but it isn't entirely my fault. I have little control over it - I can't help it."

Oh, yes, I recall. You really ought to see-

"No, sir," Rosalind cut in, "I can't stand doctors - I don't like them."

Well, never mind, the Coriander conceded. To business. We have a new recruit.

Rosalind's jaw dropped. "A new recruit? Your intention is to mean-"

Yes, a replacement for Agent Brabender. It's taken a while to find someone who won't attract the Cosmic Irony Division's attention.

Rosalind swallowed and quickly made the sign of the Legal Chao - always a good idea when talking about the Legal Department. "This new recruit - will said recruit be arriving soon, and when?"

He's already on his way, the Coriander said. I'm trusting you to train him - he's coming to us from the Postal Department, so he may need a little... coaching.

"Sir, I will do you proud - or at least," Rosalind corrected herself, "I will work to the best of my ability, as always, and strive to make you proud of the quality of my work, which I trust and hope will be good."

Er, yes, the Coriander said, sounding slightly dazed - a common response to Rosalind's declarations. I'll leave it in your capable appendages. She hung up quickly, before Rosalind could reply.

"A new recruit to join us," Rosalind whispered to herself. "I wonder what sort of man he'll be, and what he'll be like?" She sat back in her chair to indulge in a few moments of fantasy, and - since it is unwise to draw Legal's attention to yourself - that was when there was a knock at the door. Just one knock.

Rosalind pulled the grey door open with a "Hello and welcome!" and then stopped dead. Standing on the far side was a tall brass-and-steel machine man. He didn't move in response to her greeting so, hesitantly, she said, "Are you... the new recruit who is joining us?"

"Yes." The word was at once astonishingly lifelike, and strangely flat. High up in the robot's head, a light flicked from green to blue, and that was all.

"Er, right," Rosalind said. "I suppose you'd better come in then, if you want to..." She stepped back, and the machine man stalked in: one, two, three steps, just past the door, and then still again. "So... do you have a name that I can call you?" Rosalind asked, trying to remain cheerful. The machine man tilted his head to look at her. There was a long pause.

"Haar," he said at last. Rosalind nodded. Progress!

"A lovely name," she said, "very nice. Is it short for something, or a nickname? Harry, perhaps, or Harold?"

The pause was even longer this time, uncomfortably so. Then at last Haar said, grudgingly, "Harpoon."

"... so, Haar," Rosalind said, "this is our Response Centre, which is where we work. Our job in this department, which is the Department of Redundancy Department, is to collect and collate information on any and all redundancies encountered by the PPC, or by agents of the PPC, in the course of their missions, if they come across redundancy. With me so far?" Haar didn't reply - he just looked at her with blank eyes. "Moving on, then!" Rosalind said brightly.

She showed Haar around the RC twice, pointing out all the equipment that helped them do their job. The machine man took it all in with the same blank expression, with none of Rosalind's questions meriting a response. She explained DRD procedures carefully - three times - and at the end of it all, faintly exasperated, she burst out, "Well, do you understand or don't you?"

Haar's brass face suddenly looked very threatening as he loomed over Rosalind. A light above his eye shaded slowly from blue to red. Finally, he spoke: "Yes."

Rosalind whimpered softly, but held her ground. This machine man wasn't going to intimidate her! He was obviously completely unsuitable for the DRD, and as soon as a call came in, she could prove that to the Coriander. Given the usual workload of the PPC, that would be any-

[BEEEEEEEP!]

"All right," Rosalind said, gesturing at one of the desks - the unoccupied one. "You know and claim to understand the procedures, so demonstrate. Show me what you can do."

Haar studied her for a long moment as the beep continued, then stalked over to the desk. He didn't sit down, just reached out one steel arm and pushed the button. A string of red lights on his temple flicked to green.

"Greetings, hello, and good day, night, or other appropriate time designator. Your call to the Department of Redundancy Department has been routed to us, the Department of Redundancy Department, and so can be said to have reached its intended recipient, the Department of Redundancy Department. My name is Haar, which is my name, and you may call me Haar, my name. I work for the Department of Redundancy Department, being an agent of the Department of Redundancy Department, and am here to answer your call as I have done, to extend my greetings on behalf of the Department of Redundancy Department, as I have done, to introduce myself as Haar, which I have also done, and to accept and record your information concerning a redundancy. Please state the nature, cause and location of the redundancy you have discovered in your mission, so that I, Haar, may record it for my department, the Department of Redundancy Department."

Rosalind watched with wide eyes as the machine man's nimble fingers wrote and typed the agent's message, the recorder whirring in the background. After the usual long time, DRD message requirements being what they were, Haar lowered the pen. "Thank you, we are grateful for your information, being the information which you have provided to us, the Department of Redundancy Department. I, Haar, an agent of-"

The glow of the button flicked out as the agent hung up - a common occurrence in the DRD. Rosalind was too busy staring at Haar to notice. Finally she managed to choke out, "You... how did you do that?" The robot simply turned to look back at her, and she swallowed. "Never mind. Well, I am... pleased to say that you seem as if you will fit into the department just fine."

Haar didn't move, but Rosalind had the uncomfortable feeling he was studying her face under high magnification. Finally a single light over his right eye came to life, shading from green to blue, and he spoke:

"Good."