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Astrid listened intently to the voice on the other end of the phone then smiled brightly as if they could see her. "Yes, delivery." She read off the notepad in her other hand. "General Tso's Chicken, Sesame Chicken and Beef and Broccoli, all combos. With a root beer and two sweet teas." She listened, smile fading. "Yes, please. Thank you." She rattled off their address and hung up. She set her cell beside the computer and looked around the lab. "Half hour, Walter!"

"Thank you, Agent Farnsworth!" came his voice from his office.

She shook her head and went back to searching for the files Olivia requested. As far as jobs go, this one had to be the most unusual one she had accepted to date. She had seen the stuff of nightmares as well as dreams, things you only read in science fiction novels or see in movies.

There was a crash and the unmistakable musical shattering of glass, followed by some mumblings.She grinned. And then there was Walter Bishop.

Astrid ran to the office, finding a very distraught older man kneeling on the floor over a broken coffee mug. He looked up at her. "I was going to get another cup," he mourned.

She smiled and helped him up. "It's okay. There's an extra by the coffee pot. I'll clean up."

He nodded absently and shuffled off like a lost puppy.

She hunted the lab for the broom and dustpan, locating them in the bathroom. She wasn't fooled by the Harmless Old Man bit. Walter Bishop was every inch the mad scientist, dangerous by some accounts. The same old man that was grinning over a fresh cup of coffee sitting by the lab table was the very same whose inventions could make you sit bolt upright at 2am in a cold sweat if they weren't classified so heavily that they might as well not exist. She swept the pieces into the dustpan and dumped them in the trash, placing the broom and dustpan in a more sensible place.

There was a knock on the door. Walter turned. "Is that our lunch?"

She nodded. "Yep. I'll get it."

The delivery man was a pimply kid who tried not to yawn in her face as he counted out her change. His eyes got wide, boredom replaced by awe. "Is that-"

She rolled her eyes. "Yes," she said then slammed the door.

They cleared spots on the lab table and separated the bag's contents. "I made sure we got some duck sauce this time," Astrid told Walter.

"Very good, Agent Farnsworth." He tucked into his beef and broccoli, using chopsticks with surprising skill. He paused to savor a mouthful. "Have you heard from Peter and Olivia yet?"

"No, nothing yet." She paused to swallow. "They better get here soon, I may eat Peter's General chicken."

Walter chuckled. "Did they say what was going on?"

"Not a word." She gestured with her chopsticks. "That worries me. Means she couldn't discuss it freely wherever she called me from. Never a good sign."

They ate in silence for a few minutes.

"Astrid?"

She looked up from her chicken. "Hm?"

His eyes were clear, lucid. "I do appreciate everything you do for me. Don't think I never notice."

Astrid smiled. "Thank you. I'm actually glad I'm here, I've learned alot from you."

He grinned. "You ARE turning into a very capable lab assistant. And you're much better company than some of the inmates in the mental institution."

She giggled, nearly chocked. "Thanks, I think."

Together they cleared the table, Astrid putting leftovers and Peter's food in the fridge as far away from specimens as she could. She remembered vividly leaving a carton of rice beside an innocent-looking petri dish and having the damn thing sliter out when she opened the door. She shuddered then grinned at the memory of Walter whooping like a child and chasing it with a trashcan while a long suffering Peter searched for something heavy to throw at it.

Her phone chimed from beside the computer. She dashed over and answered it. "Farnsworth." She listened for a moment then nodded. "On it, Olivia. See you in a bit." She hung up the hpone and replaced it beside the computer. She raised her voice. "Walter! Olivia said to prepare for an autopsy. They're bringing a body."

He rushed about the lab, muttering to himself.

The door banged open, paramedics pushed in a sheet-covered gurney and nearly ran out. Olivia and Peter followed, both looking a bit worn. Walter put on gloves and lifted the sheet with a gloved hand.

Agent Astrid Farnsworth grabbed a pair of gloves and went to work.

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August 2011

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