01 Apr

Geoff tapped merrily away at his keyboard with blurring speed and accuracy. His key strokes echoed in the cool of the basement of HQ and reverberated around his makeshift office.

He loved it down here and took no time to settle in.  In his first few weeks he’d met other staff doing similar roles and had been offered the opportunity to move upstairs should he ever decide to change his mind about working in his solo quarters. 

As time had passed Geoff had decided he was more than happy down here.  It wasn’t that any colleagues he’d met had dissuaded him from moving, just he had targets to meet and he could meet them with ease down here, alone and working in a solitary manner that he enjoyed best.

Geoff liked getting through his day knowing he achieved what he had to before going home to his equally solitary but enjoyable life. He got extra for working in the basement too due to the additional duty of server watch, although it was something he never had to worry about.  

The server worked perfectly it seemed to Geoff and it was obviously being improved or maintained and in ways Geoff couldn’t identify, he merely noted subtle differences from time to time.

As for his targets Geoff smashed them and was getting excellent bonuses in return.  He had the choice of bonus too which was a plus. The choice consisted of money or extras in his recreational basket. He alternated depending on what he had planned for weekends which normally meant getting mercilessly stoned on a Saturday night while watching films or messing about on games consoles.

It was Geoff’s idea of paradise. He liked it simple, uncomplicated and alone. Geoff was not needy or in need of company, his own time was precious to him and he relished it.

As Geoff flew through countless applications, his stats and output required little to no attention from any lurking line managers. His loner persona and performance were enough for line managers to leave him alone and Geoff’s particular manager was thankfully, in Geoff’s eyes at least, uncomfortable in Geoff’s company, no matter how fleeting.

The most contact Geoff had was when he exceeded targets and for invites to any social work events, which Geoff nearly always declined.  He attended the odd ‘do’ for appearances sake, was amicable enough when he did, but all that drinking and loud music was a bore and was never something he relished or truly enjoyed while the build up to a night out he positively dreaded.

Besides all this, Geoff didn’t do office politics and he knew they would happen once he was integrated into a department. They already were happening of course, but Geoff was none the wiser in his safe cool basement office. 

The buildings server was Geoff’s only companion and it blinked its lights and whirred soothingly in the background.  It was perfect company, the server didn’t answer back, didn’t ask him what he had planned for the night and didn’t pass judgements on him or his life.

Little did Geoff know of the full details of the politics that were flying around and the general feeling of staff across Proactive Square.  Just a few months had passed, and some employees were growing tired of never leaving the square or ever seeing a bit of the outside world or visiting family and friends.

So slowly, extremely slowly to start with, whispers of revolutions began.

Some people grew restless and started to plot departures. The very odd individual did attempt escape here and there.  These sporadic inconvenient attempts had been covered up, with so many people in the city that was easily achieved at this stage. Panic wouldn’t be good for anybody after all.

Still, it didn’t stop the more informed and gutsy employees, who knew all that glittered wasn’t finance, from talking. Maybe escape is pointless but over throwing this empire from within is not.

So far however, every time plans were hatched to over throw from within, the main employee behind the plan grew predictably ambitious and greedy and wanted to run things for themselves. So once HQ found out about these plans, they normally promoted the main protagonist to a highly paid role that was by all accounts a ‘patsy’ job. The illusion of power cleverly matched with a nice salary increase and an apartment spruce up was enough to take away the legs of any mutinies. Terry Duran and his ECO Warriors would then mop up any stragglers.

This continual cycle would continue if allowed to, month after month, year after year until rebellions or revolutions would just be a method for employees to attempt promotion, leaving those who genuinely wanted to rebel or be part of a revolution,  quietly hysterical and entirely useless.

Hence the politics were in full motion and the game was on.

Not for Geoff, he remained blissfully unaware and at this stage he and his work were completely taken for granted and he was not someone people needed to see or indeed bothered to see.

Apart from one person that was. 

Marie Petrie.

Marie was flying in her work too, bringing rich dividends for HQ and the Square itself. Her department worked hard for her, they were loyal by and large and she had their trust.

Marie’s reputation on the Square along with her work persona was a far cry from that of her home self. Staff liked and respected Marie here just as they did in her pre-HQ days. Even the ECO warrior, the man himself, Terry Duran, had a soft spot for Marie. He never had cause to tongue lash her or ‘pistol whip’ her as he liked to call it, never did he have to question her department.

Marie had been sat in her luxury office one day, sipping a latte from the vending machine and looking through department stats. They were looking healthy as always and the amount of applications that had been worked on was remarkable.  Marie knew the data entry clerks were good, on reputation the very best, but still, the applications that came upstairs arrived in record time. 

Marie contacted the line manager for the data entry department, a viciously ambitious sort who went by the name of Steve Rocker.  His name was somewhat ironic as he was clearly not a cool out there type, but he did specialise in taking credit for others work. He looked like Barney Rubble from The Flintstones and came across just as prehistoric.

Marie suspected he was what she termed a 'business tourist’. Someone who happened to work in businesses just as they were hitting the upward curve, but through no work of his own, just pure luck and coincidence. Perhaps the Proactive Square recruiters had missed this fact but then they were recruiting on an unprecedented scale, so a few slippery bad fish were bound to slide through the net. Steve was one and Marie knew it.

“Hello Steve, its Marie Petrie here, how are you?” she enquired into the phone.

“Oh hello there Marie, I mean Ms Petrie, Mrs Petrie rather, ha ha, I’m….. I’m good thanks. You know um, well. Trundling along nicely as they say,” Steve bumbled in response.

“I hope you are not merely ‘trundling’ Steve, your staff are certainly doing more than trundling. Their output and productivity levels are remarkable.  In fact, from my experience they are unprecedented,” Marie replied before adding, “Marie is fine by the way and you can drop the Mrs.”

“Excellent Mrs Petrie, I mean..Marie. Yes, well we do try our damned hardest down here, we’re a fine bunch I must say, and our data entry clerks here do their bit too.  I couldn’t be prouder. We’re like the definition of Proactive you know,” Steve laughed.

Marie cringed at the sound of his voice, what a sickening little toad he was implying the success was down to him.  Marie had it on good authority that he mainly sat around interfering in menial items that added nothing to the department whatsoever. He micro managed the pointless details for a workforce that was selected on the back of their trusted ability to work to targets and productivity levels. He interfered with process if anything, busying himself with checking what time staff logged in and out, constantly monitoring their e-mails for ‘unnecessary personal use,’ and issuing warnings to staff who he didn’t ‘dress appropriately’ for work.

He was tedious and pointless. Marie had designs to bury Steve Rocker or even better, set Terry Duran on him.  Terry already had Steve in his sights after having kept his jet-black beady eye on him.  Terry had already commented to Marie what he had been hearing about Steve and would soon ‘take action,’ once he’d tidied up pressing business elsewhere.

“Well that is good to hear Steve and your clerks down there certainly are a proactive bunch. Steve my reason for calling is one of your data entry clerks is standing out, I mean head and shoulders above the others, which takes some doing as they’re all performing very nicely indeed.  Do you know the one I’m talking about Steve?”  Marie paused before asking the question, she knew full well that Steve would likely not have the foggiest idea of whom she spoke.

“Ooh, um, let me just consult my chart. I mean my stats chart thing you know. Okaaay, I’ll just pop you on hold Marie, just a second,” Steve garbled before placing Marie on hold.  Marie smiled to herself as the hold music played the theme tune to The Flintstones.  One or several of his staff had obviously played this little prank on him for no doubt irritating them.

Just as the tune was about to start again and with Marie on the verge of losing her temper with the halfwit, the music stopped and Steve piped up, “I don’t seem to have those to hand Marie, I did have them in my sub-folders on my system but I think someone has opened them so I can’t locate them to review.  Could I perhaps give you a call back in a little while?

“No, you can’t Steve. Besides, I have them in front of me already,” Marie took delight in informing him.

“Oh well you just could of..” 

Marie cut into his sentence swiftly, “I could of what Steve? Just told you? You put me on hold before I could shout ‘Wilmer.’ Steve, the person I’m talking about is a chap named Geoff Smith. His output is superb, best I’ve seen so I’d like you to send him up to my office. In fact, escort him up please I don’t want him getting lost on route which is easy to do in this place.”

“Sure, yes no problem. What time would you like the three of us to meet? Perhaps we can take the meat off the bones with his processing hmmm?” Steve enquired.

“I don’t need you in the meeting Steve, I just need you to show Mr Smith where I am,” Marie informed him and not without a degree of amusement at his awful clichéd comment.

“Fine Marie, I’ll do that now then yes?” he replied clearly annoyed.

“Now would be good yes Steve. Whatever Mr Smith is doing I want to see if it can be replicated. Oh, and Steve?”  Marie added after a brief pause. “You may want to change your hold music.”    

Steve listened to the line’s annoying dead tone for a moment before hanging up himself. That didn’t go well he thought and what fucking ‘hold’ music I don’t have hold music. Do I?

Steve called his personally appointed deputy, a bony fellow with ambitions and an approach that met Steve’s. His hair was thin and stuck tightly to his head, it looked as if it had a life of its own and was desperately trying to escape his scalp. He carried a constant sneer with his thin lips always turned upward. He also had an unusual lisp which gave him an odd hissing quality when he spoke. Nick leaned on Steve’s desk while taking in the imaginary envious looks he thought he got from colleagues. “What can I do you for bosss?” he hissed.  “Nick, can you tell me who the fuck is Geoff Smith and where does he sit on this floor?” Steve asked briskly.

“He works in the bathement ssir, by the ssserver” replied Nick as he stretched his trouser braces out in front of him, “He doesn’t ssit on this floor.”

“Well why the hell is he down there he should be up here with the rest of us in the firing line. Never mind for now. Can you fetch him please and bring him to my desk?”

“Sure bosss. Is he in trouble? Not ssurprising really hidden away down there. Why they let him sssit down there unsssupervised is anyone’s guethe” Nick mused.  “Sssort of underminess you I think bossss” he sneered.  Nick’s perilously thin lips managed to produce a flicker of a smile as he checked Steve’s predictable response to his needling. Steve flushed with colour, "Just get him Nick and nobody here undermines me, I’ll see to that.”

Nick marched off arms swinging stiffly and made his way down to the basement and to a certain Geoff Smith.

Geoff was busy treating his keyboard like a piano when his door way was darkened by the snake like stance of Nick.  Geoff felt his slippery presence before Nick opened his mouth.  Nick promptly summoned Geoff to follow him up to the bosses’ desk as the boss wanted a word.  Geoff smiled inwardly at the expression, deliberately hung out there and suspended in the air like a threat.

The newer confident and relaxed Geoff didn’t fall for such suggestions easily these days.  He knew he was exceeding targets and was getting good bonuses as a result.  Geoff was confident in assuming therefore he was not in any performance related trouble. He followed Nick out through the door of his makeshift office and wandered up the two sets of winding marble stairs, being careful to take his time and not march at Nick’s speed.  For Nick’s part, this was most annoying, he ‘tutted’ several times and turned to give Geoff frequent ‘hurry up’ expressions and gestures, but Geoff continued to meander and thus broke Nick’s attempt at any fleeting power. 

By the time they reached the open plan office and spied Steve at his desk, Nick was agitated to see that Geoff still retained a lazy walking pace and was some way behind him. Nick would be perceived by onlookers as having no part in Geoff’s summons which particularly perturbed him, so he made a mental note to target Geoff in future.

Steve informed Geoff that he was wanted in Marie Petrie’s office immediately and that she wanted a ‘talk’.  Geoff enquired about what and Steve dismissively claimed he didn’t know but he would take him up there personally. Steve added that perhaps it was about moving Geoff out of his cushy basement quarters and onto the open plan floor with the rest of them.  His answer made Geoff think he definitely wasn’t in any trouble and rather the opposite.  It then clicked it was Marie Petrie, the lovely lady he met on the bus tour all those months back, the poor woman with the foul-mouthed husband.  Geoff had been so lost in his own world down there in the basement that he forgot Marie was here and higher up the chain of command.

Steve promptly got up and beckoned Geoff to follow. Geoff wondered if Steve would also walk at ‘important pace’ but didn’t. Geoff was getting a clear picture from the way Steve was holding himself today that all was not well in his world as he watched Steve slouching in front of him, in a manner akin to that of a child who has had his favourite toy confiscated. 

Steve walked Geoff out the office then in front of a sparkling looking elevator. “Right, floor eight, she is around the corner on your left as you get out the lift, she has a secretary and she’ll sort you from there. Once you are done let me know how you got on and what was said please, that clear Smith?”

Geoff pondered this for a moment before replying.  “I’ll report back sure, if Mrs Petrie asks that I do so.  It might be private, it might not be, I really don’t know boss.” 

Steve looked at Geoff incredulously. “I beg your pardon? You’ll do as your damn well told Smith!”  Geoff smiled politely then informed Steve he would do exactly as he was told, yes indeed, which led to a smirk from Steve. Geoff continued, “I will do exactly as asked by Marie, after all she is the ‘boss’ as far as we’re all concerned yes?” before stepping into the elevator. 

Steve’s bunched his fists petulantly then said rather loudly, just as the elevator doors were sliding shut, “And you will be moving ups..” before being cut off as the doors slid shut and the elevator shot up to the eighth floor.

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