The scene is the control room of a spy satellite, launched by an unnamed country. Two men sit in semi-darkness, their faces washed in the ghostly light of a video screen. At this moment, the satellite is transmitting images of a new master-planned community known as Dos Lagos, located in the western Riverside County city of Corona.

“What’s that?” says the first guy, pointing a sausage-like finger at the screen. It shows the configuration of office, retail and residential buildings. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The second guy squints at the screen. “It looks like suburbia to me.”

“How do you know,” says the first guy in a contentious tone, “that it’s not some sort of weapons plant? You see those two lakes? They could be cooling ponds for a reactor.”

The second guy squints again. “Nothing big enough there for a reactor,” he says finally. “It looks more like a master-planned community in Southern California.” He adds teasingly: “You oughta go back to spook school, dude.”

At this point, the two men break the tension by exchanging some playful punches.

“How can you tell it’s suburbia?” says the first guy, still feeling a little defensive. “That layout sure doesn’t look like the suburbs where I grew up in the ’70s, when the streets looked like something you’d see inside a can of bait. This place is a lot more orderly and put-together, like a big industrial operation. Besides, if this is a residential community and not a weapons plant, like you say, what are those missile silos doing there to the left?”

“Those are office buildings.”

“And how do you explain those chemical factories next door?”

“Those are live-work lofts. You’ve gotta have housing choices in these master planned communities. This isn’t the ’70s anymore.”

After a moment, the first guy asks: “What are office buildings doing in a residential master plan? I thought you said this was the suburbs.”

“The office buildings are there,” says the second, “ because this is an enlightened, state-of-the-art plan that balances jobs and housing.”

“Really?” says the first, showing interest. “How many people who live here will actually work here too?”

“If experience is our guide,” says the second, “almost nobody.”

“Ah-ha!” the first guy shouts. “What about those airplane hangars next to the runway?”

“Those are retail buildings arranged on either side of the main street,” says the second guy quietly.

“Stores, huh?” says the first. Then, after a moment’s reflection: “How come that retail strip is the most formal and orderly part of the installation?”

“Well, now, that is a good question,” says the second before answering his own question: “I think it’s because retail is the most public part of the master plan. This is where folks are supposed to gather and hang out. It’s a promenade, like.”

Promenade?” says the first, in a derisive tone. “Dude is talkin’ French now. Tryin’ to lose your security clearance or somethin’?”

The second guy colors a bit. “I read about it in the papers,” he says, sounding a bit steamed. “It’s called the New Urbanism. That main street is probably meant to be a lifestyle center, which is basically a shopping mall that’s supposed to look like a street or something.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m an idiot,” says the first, also getting a bit ticked. “I know a little something about the New Urbanism.” Attempting to lighten the mood, he asks: “Hey! You know what they call a city full of naked people?”

The second one sighs. “The Nude Urbanism?”

“I guess you heard that one already,” says the first. Then, summoning his confidence, he says firmly: “This layout makes no sense as urbanism.”

“How you figure?” says the second, cool and incredulous.

“Well,” says the first, “To the south, you have a strongly defined axis of the street with all the shops. But instead of continuing all the way through to the north, where the office buildings and live-work lofts are, the shopping street stops at those two lakes. If this street is so all-fired important, why doesn’t Mr. Enlightened Developer locate all the commercial buildings on the main drag?”

“Because the water is an amenity, dude,” says the second, with a trace of condescension, adding, “It’s about lifestyle. This is L.A. It’s supposed to look like paradise.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” says the first. “If the water is an ‘amenity,’ as you call it, then why is it stuck in the middle, where it gets in the way of everything? It should be off to the side in a park.”

“You’re an idiot,” says the second. “The water is smack dab in the middle so everybody can see the water no matter where they are! It’s brilliant!”

“It’s stupid,” says the first, growing similarly uncharitable. “There is no reason for the main street not to have all the commercial space, especially if this street is supposed to be the public part of this here master-planned community!”

Now it is the second guy’s turn to get quiet.

Clearly on a roll, the first guy jabs his fat finger at the screen again. “Plus, what kind of mixed-use development is this? Nothing is mixed! Everything is kept in its own little area — office buildings here, retail there, housing somewhere else. Nothing touches anything else. It looks like one of those sectional plates that little kids eat from, so their creamed corn doesn’t get up mixed up with their peas.”

“Anyway,” the first guy goes on to say, “we’ve got to get our report out — we’re under pressure from Upstairs to find you-know-what.”

“Say anything you want,” says the second dispiritedly. “I’m hittin’ the can.” He gets to his feet wearily and walks out.

The first guy rubs his chin for a minute, and then starts to type. “Suspected suburban development,” he writes on his keyboard. Then, after a moment, he adds: “Weapons plant cannot categorically be ruled out.” He hits the send button, stands up, hitches his trousers and goes to lunch.