Thursday, November 4, 2010

How to go behind someone's back to get their trust

It was going to be one of those days. She just knew it.

That morning Celina arrived to a slew of messages griping about a shortage of plasma in wing five. Supposedly they had asked for it countless times, but now the situation was critical. The other side of the story was accounts payable signaling her that wing five had exceeded its order request quota. Worse yet, it raised a red flag and the internal auditor had to investigate what wing five was doing with all that blood. She had been at it for 5 hours and traced the problem to a missing box in wing five’s requisition forms. All thirteen requests had gone to Accounts; the blood - enough for a small massacre - was sitting in the blood bank awaiting an authorization to override box 125c which was improperly filled.

That morning Tanya was in a particularly cranky mood; she had not been sleeping well all week. When Maia tried to kiss her goodbye, Tanya pushed her away. Maia pretended not to be heart broken and Celina suppressed the urge to point out it was her own fault for not being around more.

This was the kind of day she was having. When the Chief administrator arrived at her office door just before midday, she was sure it was about to get a lot worse. To her surprise, he was smiling and chatting away with someone else.

“Thanks again, I’ll remember that next time I have a cocktail function,” laughed the balding bureaucrat. He had once been a half-descent surgeon - Celina thought to herself she had been a good nurse once too.

“Here you go, Tom, she’s right in here. Celina, you have a visitor. I’ll be off now, thanks again for the bottle.”

With a handshake her boss was off again, the sound of his shoes and chuckles echoing down the administrative wing of the hospital. The gentlemen who entered her office was in his 50s, though his looks could forgive someone guessing he was younger. He was smartly dressed in a waistcoat and vest; he wore high boots and a hat which was currently clasped in both hands. He was quite handsome and very familiar; it took Celina 10 long seconds to place him in a tuxedo at the gala. His image had all but been wiped away under a deluge of adrenaline and blood.

“Doctor…”

“Chambers, but please, just call me Tom, I’m not practicing.”

“Oh? It looked as though you knew Dr Freeman a moment ago.”

“We just met actually, though he doesn’t know that. He thinks I got him drunk at a symposium a few cycles back. No matter, he led me to you, which is all for the best.”

“Really, so what can I do for you? I am a little busy right now…”

“Dr Freeman assured me you could take some time to come have a talk with me over lunch. Come on, I know a great place around the corner.”

Celina was still getting used to the ways of Management. To her, the idea of leaving the hospital while still on duty was inconceivable. What was more, the last thing she could imagine was Dr Freeman cutting her any slack. He had been the boss from hell since her promotion, always condescending and critical. She chalked it up to double standards; Freeman and Chambers got along thanks to a shared pre-nominal and the ease of their social rank. She didn’t like leaving the mess of plasma requisitions unfinished, but she hated the idea of staying here and dealing with it right now even more.

They chatted about the weather, then the gala and the tragedy of all that violence for a few minutes. True to his word, they went no further than just around the corner, but it wasn’t a restaurant, it was club. As a nurse, not to mention worker caste, she had never set foot in the Doctor’s Club on the first terrace; it was reserved for those privileged men and woman who had taken an oath to the Neufelt Axiom.

Somehow they didn’t stop her or question what she was doing there, which to her mind they should have. She guessed she could enter as Chambers’ guest since she was there looking at the menu in what resembled a large living room. After pushing her chair in, Dr Chambers sat down and smiled.

“What’s good here?” She asked when he didn’t touch his menu.

“Everything, it doesn’t matter. Just order whatever your in the mood for, they’ll make it.”

When the waiter arrived, Chambers ordered a cream of vegetal potage with freshly baked bread followed by roasted game in a sweet sauce with a side of buttered roots. He made is sound highly complicated, and the waiter made him feel like he was the culinary genius preparing the food rather than the pedantic patron making his life difficult. Celina ordered the same.

“Are you going to tell me why I’m having lunch with you, Tom?”

“Only you can answer that, Celina, but I’ll tell you why I asked you out. I want to offer you a job.”

She paused a moment at the unexpected response. Before she could formulate a more elegant and precise line of questioning she simply said, “What?”

“I want to offer you a job. It’s quite simple really. I know of a position for a head nurse in Khayr Ad-Din and you told me that you wanted to go back to nursing again and make a difference, so here we are.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Well, maybe not in so many words, but that’s the impression I got from you. Forgive me for being presumptuous, but it was kindly meant.”

“I’m sorry, what is it you do exactly Dr Chambers? Go around the world and negotiate arms deals for rebelling forces and hire nurses on the side, or is human resources more of a hobby? I’m just a little confused.” In truth, she was half-wondering if the doctor was putting her on as some sort of elaborate prank.

“Please, just call me Tom. But I see your point. I have a number of interests, Celina. Right now I want to help the Sajhalin in their fight for better treatment; tomorrow, who know? One of my pet projects has been healthcare for Badlanders; are you familiar with the Meredine Foundation?”

“Yes, they do good works, research and such. They also have a clinic in the Prospects.”

“They have clinics all over the Badlands, including one in Kayr-Ad-Din. Well, that stretches the definition of the word; it is really more of a hospital. I know they could use you, and I think you would enjoy the feeling of helping people again.”

Celina paused, thinking it over. The food really was excellent, even if it was simple vegetable soup with bread. “I can’t deny I don’t like what I’m doing now, but it isn’t that simple. I don’t really know you, and there are other considerations, big ones, like my family.”

Tom handled the objection smoothly. “Your daughter will have the best schooling available in the Badlands, I can assure you of that. Moreover, it won’t be in a school where she’s seen as…”

“A simple worker?”

“An outsider. Kayhr Ad-Din isn’t perfect, Celina, but they won’t judge you or your daughter on anything other than your merits. And neither will I, for that matter.”

“My wife works for Paxton, her career is here. Well… she just wouldn’t go for it.” Celina stopped herself from saying anything more about Maia and her career, but the tone of her voice betrayed her. Chambers picked up on it, she could tell. She was actually interested by his offer; the thought of a simpler life was appealing. No bureaucracy, no politics, no fretting about Tanya’s acceptance and future. But Maia wouldn’t be drawn away from her new job, and without Maia, there wasn’t any point in leaving Peace River.

“I know about your wife, Celina. I’ve met her. In fact, I want to recruit her as well, though not to work in a hospital.”

He smiled, but she wasn’t in the mood for his vagueness. She didn’t understand what he was saying. Was this part of the offer or…

“Are you using me to get to her? Is that what this is about, the job, the pitch? Who the hell are you?” She was halfway to her feet.

“Don’t get angry. The offer I’ve made to you is legitimate, and I made it because I know you can do the job and that you want to do the job. When events conspire like that to create a perfect set of circumstances, it would be foolish to pass it up. Likewise, I have seen your wife at work; she’s competent and resourceful but she’s not living up to her full potential. You know it too, I can tell. I think Maia has the potential to be much more than a pencil pusher; I think she can achieve much greater things than advancing her career in PaxSec. I’m not trying to use you. I’m trying to make sure you aren’t wasted, and I want to make sure the same thing goes for your wife. Call it the irrepressible capitalist in me, I see inefficiencies and I want to correct them.”

Celina had sat down long enough to listen, and she fretted over what he said. She stiffened a little when he mentioned PaxSec; her mind flew to the gun, the promotion and the late nights. She had to admit he was right about her wanting to do more and about Maia not living up to her potential. After the war, Maia said she would change the world and Celina believed her; it was a big part of why she fell in love with her. Celina knew her wife was successful; she had achieved everything she had set out to do, but the goal had turned out to be hollow. Management entitled them to better a lifestyle, but that wasn’t a better life. Celina couldn’t see her old nursing friends because of the way they looked at her, and she couldn’t make friends with management caste employees. She feared that it was worse on her baby girl. Maia’s victory had changed their world for the worse and done nothing to save the world at large.

“How do you know Maia? Is it through these negotiations?” She could tell he was keeping something from her, evading some point in his answers.

“No, I met her in the ESE. I was down there working in relief hospitals for the victims of the war. I found out I had some friends in trouble and I used your wife as a guide; I used her to get me into places only a Paxton rep could go. Basically I used her. I’m not proud of it. But throughout that experience I got to work with Maia and I saw something special in her. Against the backdrop of that terrible strife, I saw she cared.”

“She hasn’t told me anything about any of this,” she said tersely, swallowing a lump.

Tom didn’t look surprised. “Don’t hold it against her; she probably wanted to protect you. What she experienced down there was hard. I should know; it’s largely my fault she suffered it.”

“So now you’re making amends?” Tom smirked, and Celina pursed her lips. “Did I say something funny?”

“No, I just hadn’t made that connection. I guess that’s probably part of it, at least as far as your family goes. But on a larger scale, the Badlands needs help and I think Maia and you can be part of that in your own ways. I need to make up for more than my wrongs towards Maia; ironically, she may help me make even larger amends than you suspect.”

The plates were empty, the complimentary cawfees long since drained. “Anyway, that’s my pitch. I hope you enjoyed your meal. I also hope you’ll take my offer seriously.”

He got up and bowed, leaving her alone at the table with her thoughts and the empty dishes. Her emotions were all over the place; Dr Chambers had swept in like a sand storm. There was just too much information to digest, too many feelings to make sense of. She felt suddenly very alone. Maia had not let her in, and Celina realized that there was no one she could talk to.

The waiter shook her from her inner turmoil to ask her if she wanted anything else. She shook her head, suddenly becoming very self-conscious surrounded by the luxury. Far from feeling invited, the intimate setting of the club made her feel like she was in a stranger’s house. She left in a hurry. As a matter of course, she headed back to her office. She dashed in and shut her door, her eyes red and her cheeks flushed. She was confused, hurt and frustrated. Her eyes focused on her terminal and the bureaucratic mess created by wing five and its plasma requisitions. It was the last grain of sand, and she broke into tears.

6 comments :

Julie said...

And -- just to be clear -- while the Doc is going behind Maia's back, Georges is *not* going behind mine. We consulted extensively about this post, and we both think that it sets things up excellently well for Maia to eventually join the PCs in their organization.

Tor Hershman said...

Daily breadcrumbs - now that is funny.

Certain Betrayal said...

Who the hell was that? And what the hell was he talking about?

Julie said...

No idea who he was, but "Daily Breadcrumbs" is another of my blogs (hosted on Blogger), which I stopped updating about two years ago.

Heavy Josh said...

Tor Hershman's my personal hero.

Game Thug said...

If only you were joking.


 
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