Daniel stared into his empty cup. A guru had once spoken to him of how the universe was no more than the composite of our rational minds struggling to comprehend each other. Daniel needed coffee. Why didn’t the universe understand this?
Daniel turned to subject the speaker to his caffeine deficient wrath. Steve was standing there with a college-age girl in tow. His mind went in two directions. The first part imagined a coffee tree growing from Steve’s body. The other twisted the mouth into a professional smile and said “Steve, how can I help you?”
Steve turned to the woman beside him “Amelia, this is Daniel our best employee. Dan, this is Amelia the new intern.”
A half-remembered e-mail popped into Daniel’s head. He leapt from his chair and grabbed Amelia’s outstretched hand “Nice to meet you, Amelia.”
She looked nervous and squeezed his knuckles so hard they ground together. Daniel drew back nursing a bruise. And then Steve was Steve “Actually Dan, I have to pop off to a meeting. Was hoping you could show Amelia around, give her the lay of the land.”
Daniel resolved to look up the difference between murder and manslaughter “Sure, Steve. Happy to help.”
“Cheers, don’t forget to induct her!” Steve winked on the way out.
That left Amelia.
“And this is the coffee dock.”
Daniel gestured grandly to the little nook. An ‘out of order’ sign was stuck to the coffee machine. Daniel dropped his cup in the sink, resisting the urge to weep. Amelia nodded, they’d already exhausted the typical newbie topics like what college you went to, how long the commute was, did you read the sign outside that said asylum.
“Cozy,” she ventured.
“You should see it in the mid-morning rush.”
Her laugh was so forced it was traumatising.
“What are you doing? Don’t click that. Don’t click that!”
Daniel peeked around the corner, starting as Amelia followed him. Matthew stood at the corner desk in shades, berating one of the Sales Managers. The laptop on the desk sounded its death rattle.
“I just need to get into my files!” he wailed.
“No. I told you not to open that executable. You violated a direct order from IT. Your machine is forfeit. You can have it back when we’ve wiped it clean.”
“But what about my files?”
There was a certain relish in Matthew’s tone “They’re with God now.”
Daniel wandered up “Hey Matthew,”
“No ticket, no time,” he snapped, then actually looked at who he was speaking to “Oh, hey Daniel.”
“This is Amelia, the new intern.”
Amelia went to shake but Matthew merely glanced in her direction “Is she cool?”
Daniel took a moment to think about it “Uh, yes?”
Matthew glared, then snatched a pad off the manager’s desk and scribbled something. He tore off the page and pushed it into her frozen hand “If you need help don’t call desk support. This is the real number.”
“Thanks!” said Amelia.
Daniel was impressed, she must have thought this was part of the induction. “How come you didn’t give me the real number?”
Matthew frowned “Steve goes through your drawers for snacks. Can’t risk him getting his hands on it.”
“It was nice meeting you,” said Amelia.
Back at Daniel’s desk he locked his drawer while the induction website loaded “So were you assigned a desk yet?”
“Not yet,” replied Amelia “Steven met me at the door and brought me straight to you.”
“Yeah Steve can be a bit scatterbrained,” Daniel clicked the mouse busily “Ok so this is just the usual legal stuff. These things tend to be the same everywhere. I’ll bring you through the highlights.”
He started reading off the screen “A subscription to Darwinian Theory as it applies to race. The burning of the Reichstag. Celebration of empire to last a thousand years.”
Amelia looked aghast.
Daniel picked up the phone “One second. Hi, desk support? Yes I’d like to report an issue. Someone’s vandalised the ethics policy. It appears to be describing the rise of National Socialism now.”
A tinny voice spoke at the other end. Daniel scrolled down.
“No the equal opportunities bit is still there. Oh, alright. Sure,” He slammed the receiver down.
“Something wrong?” asked Amelia innocently
“They said it’s a low priority fix. Nobody reads it.”
Daniel’s brow creased “Didn’t Matthew give you the real number?”
She clutched the piece of paper tightly “He, um, said you weren’t cool.”