Shamus Carlyle awoke late, on a beautiful Saturday morning. Wasn’t the first one that he hadn’t been scheduled to work, but still the first one this quarter where he’d been allowed to sleep in, instead of coming in to help his boss with something or other. It was also an unspoken rule that asking for overtime was not the sort of thing you did, regardless of the regulations. You worked for the people after all, and so to do so would be the height of selfishness. It was stupid, but government attracted the sort who loved that kind of theater, or worse, someone who meant it.


  He was chasing a director position, instead of simply being the head of the welfare office for his county. Promotions were of course, how you really made money, and gained all kinds of benefits. Speaking deals, and those were, well, up to your boss really. Sure, there was a system, with its rules, but really it was about how far you get your nose up their ass. As loathsome as Shamus found it, all its lies, unspoken rules, shitty bosses having you by the balls, seven bosses that haven’t spoken in a year, rules that change by the month, and twelve manuals of such rules to track, he could admit his position, had its perks.


  A young woman shared the bed with him, lying at the other edge, turned away, curled up. She was, he’d evaluated maybe an six, and She was too anxious to stream, without an artistic bone in her body. He’d plans to test her malleability, and he was patient as could be. ‘Good Morning, Miss Laytham. I am so pleased to inform you, that your request for higher welfare has been approved.’ He gave her his best salesman smile, a thin veneer to hide the cruel hunger behind his eyes.


  Her hesitating to meet his gaze, ‘Yeah uh.’ she was young, her armor hadn’t built up, this was clearly first time, experiencing something like this. ‘Thanks?’ the uncertainty clear as day. He relished these moments, because they revealed the clay that lay before him.


  ‘Of course. I will, temper your expectations.’ his face shifting with false sympathy. ‘These things normally get reviewed semiannually, but I’ve heard rumors, just rumors mind you.’ he nodded, and didn’t continue tell she’d returned the gesture. ‘They might be occurring quarterly.’ Her face contorted, crestfallen. Good, clearly last night had cracked something, getting the rest of her pulled apart could proceed apace. A pretty young thing was such a useful piece when broken in properly.


  ‘I uh.’ she started gathering up her clothes


  ‘Yes, your little brother, right? You should probably be heading home.’ He reached into a drawer, removing a couple large wooden chips from a drawer and he handed them to her. ‘These should get you home.’ his voice mustering as much kindness as he could. Push, then pull, harsh, then kind, his heart raising, pain, then pleasure. That would come later, patience, he told himself.


  She left without a further word and he collapsed back into his mattress. Pulling his phone off the nightstand, text notification, his boss, it said urgent, too early. Next was an encrypted message, interesting, he’d check that one at the office, didn’t even want to think about work, for at least another hour. He put his phone down back down, it was bad, for, dopamine or something. Not to mention unpleasant, and he’d been having such a good morning.


  He tried to drift off to sleep, but the sense of annoyance. It would be one thing if he’d been warned, but this guy liked to wait til the night before, or the morning of to let you know. He’d learned long ago to stop making plans before seven in the evening. Sleep seemed to be avoiding him so he got up, and wandered into his shower, phone in tow.


  Boss needs him to answer questions about one of his cases? A guy who had showed up from outside the system, criminal type of course but that wasn’t a line along which he’d discriminate. All citizens were entitled of course to government aid. Human rights and all that. Thankfully he got to determine just how much, and when those checks started coming in, powerful leverage for favors. It was the weirdest thing how their paperwork kept getting lost of course.


  ‘Cid Wallport?’ he mumbled to himself, walking into his shower, with its seven rotating heads, probably his favorite thing in the house. A good shower was probably one of the supreme human pleasures. Top three any way. He reached back into his memory, trying to pull the face with that name. He saw a lot of people week to week and no one was coming to mind. Punching in a reply to his boss, that he’d have to dig through his files. He’d be in as soon as he could.


  The refreshment and cleansing of the shower complete, he ran through the rest of his routine. Fully dried, he pulled on some chinos, and a polo, not caring over much to look great, just, good enough, and he walked causally out to the nearest train station, his boss could afford to wait. He was curious though, as this sort of request was very few and far between, last two times it was a corp request, and considering his own chain of contacts he was quite interested in how accurately he should report the information.


  It was several stops, he’d wanted to have as low a chance of running into people from work as possible on his day to day, and they tended to cluster in the housing around the department building. He’d take the commute. He cast his gaze across his passers by, few though they were, though within expectations for a Saturday morning, the majority absorbed into a book, or within the play of their headphones, a sentiment he could agree with, finding his own in his pockets. This early any way, causing him once again to feel growing malice for his boss.


  He arrived at work, stepping onto the long walkway that connected the station to the sixth floor, of a tall, square building, a line of windows, on the ninth floor were the only markers on the outside save the lettering above the only external doors. The World Humanity Welfare Department of Financial Support, they read, in plain but pragmatic silver, black outlined text, block letters in the three major languages left to humanity. As the various corps merged, the global governments had grown scared and responded by taking and solidifying as much power as they could, and had to largely centralize, to keep pace with the corps. This involved getting as many people hooked into their financial system as possible.


  He ascended the stairs up the two floors to his department, and walked into his office, digging through his cabinets, to find one for that name. It wasn’t too hard to find, he’d always been meticulous about organization. The name in question, fake, bribes in the right places ensured approval, down to the notes, non-compliant, was what he’d written. Not too long ago, but long enough that the exact details were hazy, but if Shamus had put that in here he wasn’t squeezable for favors, and he hadn’t put in the right bribes to avoid that. His background would have made him rather useful, to a number of Shamus’s corporate contacts. Placing the file, he pulled out his cell again, this time to check the encrypted message he’d received.


   One of his more effective corporate contacts, always payed well, and timely, He’d actually secured the contract for the new shower actually, one Donovan Blake. Detailing a physical description, some one who would have been in the system but disappeared… a similar amount of time to the file on his desk. Looking for an address, or any other information, apparently he was an important person. He also wanted to know, if anyone else was asking about the target.


  How to play this, he could drag the information from his boss? See which corp he had backing, though that was just the sort of question you definitely don’t ask. He could bait it out, a bluff maybe. Then he’d need a stall, either way, could he try archives? Their boss was woefully unforgiving so likely wouldn’t be pliable, that might stall. He knew a girl down there who could help with his bluff? Sadly he didn’t want to owe a favor but that was just the price of business he told himself.


   Picking up his phone, he punched his bosses cell in, knowing he wouldn’t be in the office. ‘Carlyle? You get the file?’ came the gravely demands of his boss.


   ‘Yes, but there’s some odd notes in it what I have. Looks like I sent most of it back down to archives, as he’s gone missing.’ Shamus attempting to keep the vitriol out of his own voice.


   ‘Damn. Well bring what you have down to my office, we’ll discuss.’ abruptly ending the call. That made this all the more interesting. Decker was in his office? A rarity even during the work week at this hour. He wasn’t sure yet exactly how he’d spin this, but he misplaced several of the more useful tracking artifacts from the file in his desk.


  Bringing the remaining bits down, walked past many of his fellows in their own cubicles, more than would be usual, even a few who seemed satisfied with their positions. Might be why the boss decided to show up, it can’t all be about this one guy. ‘The file, you requested sir.’


  ‘Good. Good. Sit we need to discuss this case.’


   ‘Very well sir.’ Sitting, in the slightly too thin, slightly too boxy chair across from Decker.


   ‘File seems a bit thin’


  ‘Yes, again, archives. I’ve tried to push most of it along to the next person down the line you know. Have to figure out what to do with that cell number, reassign the apartment, get the id to the appropriate authorities.’


  ‘Ah. So still archives. That is, disappointing. Don’t suppose you have any of this in your mailbox?’


  ‘I hadn’t checked, I focused on getting the file, and letting you know I was the case worker involved.’


  ‘Go, check, if you have anything print it, and bring it to me.’


   ‘Done and done.’ Shamus dipped out of the office and back to his own. This would be his opportunity he thought. Corps were usually recruiting, probing people, as well as quality assurance or the departments own security manager, he’d drone up a false email, report it to the boss, and look for a reaction. Thinking that it was Donovan calling, that would make it an energy or weapons thing, meaning the main competitors were Bevel and Bargaz, or Veyber Technica. Those were the kind of odds Shamus liked.


   Logging in, he qued up and waited for his email to load, and pulled started digging through the QA fileshare, as they’d yet to remove his positions in the two years since he’d left them, a situation he was not keen to alert them to. He found their template, filled it out, then tinkered with it to add a bit of authenticity, changed the email for the same effect, finally printing it. Proper procedure was print it and bring it to your boss. Waste of paper he’d always said but it was government work.


   He pulled up some old email chains, and found one that contained some of the artifacts that had been in the file. He decided the identification card would be the least compromising, and printed it out, a fresh copy.


   Stopping to scoop up his printouts, he took a slightly different route to his bosses office, and found the place mostly empty. Had the boss called everyone in just for this? Clearly, the payout was going to be huge. He began to wonder if it had maybe come from one or two steps up the chain if this was the response. Either way, it was delicious leverage.


  ‘Boss, all I could find was a grab of his ID card, and looking at it its probably fake. I can send it off to get it analy-’


  ‘No, that will be fine Carlyle, you can head home.’


  ‘You sure boss? I’d be happy to help.’ that same practiced salesman smile.


  ‘And if I have anything for you-’


  ‘Oh, and one more thing boss. Think QA’s up to their old tricks again. Got one of their emails. B and B? Looking for this guy? Like does any one actually fall for this?’ proffering the paper to his boss. Decker’s eyes flashed with something like worry, that would mean Veyber probably.


  ‘Ah, yeah.’ his boss chocking out a fake laugh, ‘I’m glad to see you’re attention to detail hasn’t grown any rust Carlyle. I’ll see that this gets reported.


  ‘Well, you have my number boss.’ he turned to leave, dipping back out of the office. Only an two hours out of his day, he’d have to look over his files to see if any other of his stress reliefs cases were due for a review.


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