January by the numbers continues (We’re in February now but hey)
From thebonesofferalletters‘s prompt “Void;” a story? At least a ficlet.
Every Bureaucrat had their stamps. Validated. Approved. Rejected. Further Review needed. The stamps held the power of their words, and every honest citizen feared having their chit marked Rejected.
Most wore their chits on a necklace, or hung off an earring. They weren’t large things, and one didn’t want to lose them. To lose your chit meant to not be a citizen anymore, and to not be a citizen anymore meant crimes against you were, at worst, littering. Public noise nuisance. That sort of thing.
Some people — people like Chalene, cautious people — had their chit tattooed on them by a registered, Approved tattooist. That way, nobody could take it from there, and they could not lose it.
(Identity theft, chit-theft, was known to happen. There were children born against regulations who never had a chit. There were people who had gone chit-less but needed to pretend for some reason. There were the Void, who had more cause than most to need to pretend).
If you lived your life within the regulations, staying within your Approved position, engaging only in Approved hobbies, you almost never ran into a Bureaucrat: birth, graduation, hiring, retirement, death.
But if you broke the rules — no, if you broke the rules and got caught, you would encounter a Bureaucrat. If you wanted to pair-bond permanently, to move into a new residence, to have a child, you would encounter a Bureaucrat. If you wanted to move cities, you would encounter a whole slew of Bureaucrats.
Chalene had three Rejected stamps on her chit — new house, new pair-bond, new child. You had to have at least one, or you were a little too straight-and-narrow. If you had too many, you risked seeing a High Bureaucrat.
She had three, and she was staring at a Bureaucrat with her phlegmatic expression, daring the man to give her the fourth. She had filled out all the forms for promotion perfectly. She had her four character witnesses and her five quality appraisals. She had seven hundred dollars, the price for this interview.
“Chit please?” The Bureaucrat was nervous. Chalene was pleased. He should be nervous. Giving someone their fourth Rejected was the equivalent of sending them to one’s superiors and having all of that work reviewed. It meant they would likely be subjected to a life audit — and all of the Rejecting Bureaucrats decisions would be subjected to the same.
Chalene held out her arm and met his eyes. The tattoo on her arm said there is no escaping this decision. People had been promoted by less-intimidated Bureaucrats than this.
But her file said Do Not Promote, and there were no positions in the bank where she worked open for promotion anyway.
The Bureaucrat’s hand shook. He grabbed a stamp and pressed it onto Charlene’s arm.
Further Review Needed.
He swallowed. “Tenth door on the right, tenth floor, in ten minutes. Go.”
Chalene stared at her arm. She had expected an audit. She had expected a review of her file.
But she was being passed to a High Bureaucrat. And only the High Bureaucrats had the power to Void someone.
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