This happens after Preconceptions.
“I’m sorry, that’s an Administrator-level decision.”
“Well, we have an Administrator again, don’t we? Let me talk to him, please?” The woman, pinch-faced and exhausted, looked desperate. Antheri did his best I’m-so-sorry face and shook his head woefully at her over his steepled fingers.
“Administrator Giulian has gone out for a walk, I’m afraid.”
The woman paled, her complexion going ashen and dead-looking. “A walk? Out there?” She gestured with the hand that still worked; the injured arm was clutched over a heavily swollen belly. “Out there? But it will be weeks before they send us a new Administrator.”
“At least,” Antheri agreed. The Under-Administrator was rather proud of himself for this; the paperwork to fill the position of his supervisor took longer and longer each time, as the Higher-Ups did their best to find someone that the rest of the world wanted to get rid of. And the Town wasn’t even all that bad – at least, if you knew how to handle it. “If that’s all…?”
Badly-suppressing sobs of frustration, the woman took her leave. She would give birth to her bastard on the factory floor, like so many others had, and if it was one one of the strange and fae river bastards, well, it would never survive the coriander-laden air of the work floor.
No wonder she wanted to leave. But when they left, seventy-four percent of the time, the women did not return to work; when they gave birth on the floor, they only died forty-three percent of the time, and were permanently incapacitated beyond the ability to work another fifteen-point-five percent of the time. That meant, statistically, it was more reasonable to make them work until childbirth. Training new workers was expensive, time-consuming, and slowed down production.
The Administrators, though, and the Higher-ups rarely saw it that way. There were Policies. There were Regulations. There was Morale to consider, even though, Policies or Rules or Morale or WhatHaveYou, it was still Antheri who heard it when the Almighty Production was down.
Easiest just to never let it get to an Administrator at all.
And how convenient that this one had chosen to go walking so soon. He’d been asking questions, awkward and uncomfortable questions. He’d been letting people take time off in non-peak times. He’d been reading his predecessor’s notes.
And now he was gone down to the river, and Antheri would begin the paperwork for his…
“Under-Administrator! Come here!” Impossible! That bellow! Well, perhaps he’d simply gone mad? Antheri scurried out, doing his best toady impression.
“What is it, sir? Did you enjoy your… sir, what is that?” The Administrator had taken off his coat and wrapped it around something, around a bundle bigger than an infant, but not as large as a small dog. Near the large man’s shoulder, something glittered.
Antheri took a step backwards. Up here, in the offices, the air was not infused with coriander. Up here, they didn’t need it. “Sir, what’s that?” How had he gotten it in his arms? How was he still alive? “Sir, I don’t think…” He was still back-pedalling, but the file cabinet behind him, his precious files, were in his way. “Sir…” The damn man was still walking forward. “They’re poison, you know!” He was babbling now, reaching into the back of the cabinet. “They can kill you with a touch. They can draw out your soul.” Somewhere, somewhere… there! The old revolver had done him well with his third boss. It would serve him well again.
“So I’ve heard.” Why, damn him, WHY didn’t he seem worried?
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