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“Attention all employees, attention all employees. Please remember to have your ID pass visible at all times. Vostrom Incorporated will not be held liable for any injuries caused by security staff in the event of an unknown person in the building. Thank you.” Bill Nostrom flinched slightly at the sound of the tannoy system. The speaker was so close to the hard plastic bench he was perched on it was as if the brisk authoritative voice was shouting directly into his ear. Instinctively checking that his ID tag was on his person, (it was, as always, clipped firmly to the breast pocket of his cheap suit), Bill continued fiddling with his tie and waiting for the clock on the wall to strike 3. It was currently sitting at 2:58, and the second hand seemed intent on travelling as slowly as possible.

Bill had a meeting with the head of the regional marketing director, Duncan Hertzmann. Mr Hertzmann was a kindly old man, with a touch of senility giving his personality a bizarre mix of politeness and bluntness. Being called into his office usually meant bad news. Hertzmann considered himself a good bearer of bad news, a fact his yes men have been too spineless to refute. Outside the floor to ceiling windows, afternoon traffic roared and horns blared. Bill would sell his left leg to be in one of those cars right now, racing far far away from Nowhere City out into the leafy green forests. The blonde secretary interrupted his wistful daydreams, startling Bill. She had been sitting still for so long, flipping through a magazine, she may as well have become part of the furniture. “Mr Hertzmann will see you now,” she stated, with all the emotion of the automated tannoy. Bill straightened his tie, and stepped through the imposing wooden door.

Instantly his nose was assaulted by the pungent reek of cigars. Hertzmann’s office, although situated in the non-smoking portion of the 15th floor, always reeked of cigars, the stench having long embedded itself into the wooden furniture and shag carpet. “Ah, Bob! How’re you doing?” Bill had long ago given up trying to correct Hertzmann. He only bothered remembering the name of the movers and shakers in his department. This reminder only served to cause Bill’s stomach to drop further into despair. “Very good, sir. Thank you for asking.” Bill took a seat in the plush leather chair opposite Hertzmann, doing his best to inhale as infrequently as possible. “That’s great. Bob, that’s great.” Hertzmann’s expression told Bill that the old man hadn’t heard a word he’d said. “Now, I’ve brought you here to discuss your statistics. This quarter, you completed… 1657 sales, with a total pickup rate of 94.98 percent. Now how’s that look, Bob?” Bill gave Hertzmann a quizzical look. “I don’t understand, sir. Last I checked, my pickup rate was 96.60?” Hertzmann returned Bill’s look with a smile one gives when explaining something to a small child, or someone who is very dense. “One of your clients, a Mr Wendell, went bankrupt earlier this morning. His purchase has been cancelled. Now I know what you’re going to say. ‘Mr Hertzmann, that’s out of my hands! What could I have done?’ That’s not the attitude we like here at Vostrom. Be a go-getter, Bob! Nothing’s ‘Out of your hands.’ If you’re going to think like that, you may as well move to Fulgistan!” Hertzmann erupted into a wheezing chuckle. Bill’s face remained a stoic mask, not betraying his internal anger and confusion. The old man’s ramblings made little sense to him. Hertzmann’s cheery voice temporarily distracted him from the autoclave of emotions in his gut. “Now normally, this would be a dismissal. But, I like you, Bob. You’ve got a second chance.” The fire of rage in his gut was quenched slightly by the cool water of relief. “But of course, there’ll be a reduction in your pay. Standard for a breach of contract. Oh, and a new policy. Your medical subscription will be dropped from gold to silver. Still, better than nothing, right?” Bill’s heart dropped instantly. “But… but sir, I’m diabetic! What about my insulin? Silver won’t get me enough for the full month!” Hertzmann rose slowly to his feet, letting out the sigh all men do after a certain age when rising from a chair. Placing one arm around Bill’s shoulder, he led him to the door. Hertzmann’s gold watch felt like it weighed a tonne on Bill’s shoulder, and the ticking was deafeningly loud. “Now now Bob, what did I just say? Be a go-getter! I don’t want excuses, I want results. Let this serve as a motivator! Tell you what, if you can square your stats back up, I'll see what I can do to get you that gold again. No promises though, Bob.” Before Bill knew it, he was back in the waiting room. “Go get em, Bobby!” Hertzmann exclaimed optimistically, then slammed shut the ornate wooden door.

Edited by Smiggie Balls
I spelt square wrong (see edit history)
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