What you’re about to read started as an adult NSFW game I developed years ago. Corporate Raider was actually a trilogy, each game a learning project, with each building on the previous one. It presented a dystopian corporate gamescape in the near future where the Player was invited to rape and pillage his way, all in pinstripes, through a company— a kind of modern Viking, clutching a bag of credit cards in one hand and a female executive captive thrown over his shoulder. Politically incorrect, to say the least!
That game trilogy was well received and I proceeded, with encouragement, to develop other games that all shared the same aesthetic—a ‘day after tomorrow’ world where sexual norms are re-set by the Player to establish their own private kingdoms of the imagination—realms where they set the rules and dark desires run rampant and unchecked. Why not? That’s what games are for!
Company Man is a novelisation of a re-boot of that original Corporate Raider trilogy. It is written from a myriad of perspectives about what happens when an agent manages to wage a war of subversion within a post-modern corporation and the inevitable changes that occur in the people around him, for good or ill. It basically poses this question- if YOU had the power to make the rules in a company that you controlled, what would you do— and to whom would you do it?
Before I go, let me offer a caveat. If you’re looking for a non-stop stream of BING-BANG bodily collisions, this ain’t for you. I’m a slow burn guy and I’m going to clear paths for you that at times may challenge your patience. If you’re looking for fine literature, which is far less likely, this sure as hell ain’t it—though this is porn that, at times, has literary pretensions! That all said, if you’re looking for a deep dive into dark sexual fantasies with heavily non-consensual themes, you’ll feel right at home.
Just a final note: if you find you enjoy strolling through the world you’re about to step into, consider joining and supporting us at www.Selectacorp.com(our forum) or enjoying the loads of free content at www.Selectacorp.dk/wordpress (our free content site), where you can enjoy loads of other games, interactive fiction and more. Finally, if you wish to support and make more of this content possible, consider supporting me at www.Patreon.com/Selectacorp.
That’s enough from me. I hope you find reading the following story as much fun as I had writing it!
Best, as always,
Selecta (always on a beach somewhere)
PROLOGUE 1- HEN HOUSE
Wherein we meet Deborah Jones, our heroine!
I love myself, I want you to love me
When I feel down, I want you above me
“Wake up Chipmunk” The young female voice sounded insistent over the gradually raising volume of the music while the overhead fluorescent bulb flicked on
God I hate being called that. Deborah stirred in her bed and reached for her head to remove her sleeping earphones, all the while the voice in her earphones repeated “Wake up Chipmunk”. She always found it unreasonable difficult to manipulate the locks to turn and unlock the earphones, which had been whispering instructions to her while she slept.
“Fuck!” Deborah cursed. Chicklet, had, once again, managed to pull the thin cotton blanket over to her side. Selfish bitch, Deborah thought, then yanked it back to her side. They had to get up anyway, so it barely mattered. But she needed to make the point, if only to prove to herself that she had a shred of will and authority left in herself. It was always cool in their room. Cool in the winter and too warm in the summer. For a moment, Deborah leaned back in bed and basked in Chicklet’s warmth still trapped in the blanket. She finally managed to remove the now unlocked earphones, too. This did not stop either the incessant voice nor the music. The computer generated assistant continued from the sound system along with the song now playing at normal dormitory music volume
I search myself, I want you to find me
I forget myself, I want you to remind me
“Good morning Chipmunk. A good Artemis Girl doesn’t swear. I’m sorry but I have to have to log it.” The AI assistant managed to sound like a mildly disappointed governess talking to an unruly child.
Damn. Deborah hadn’t yet gotten used to the new feature designed to ’help young ladies improve their language’. The speech recognition was improving all the time and the engineers behind it were using Artemis Girls to perfect it. After all, everything she said and did was not only being listening to by her smart watch 24/7 but also recorded for ‘verification purposes’.
Dormitory Girls are great test subjects, Deborah thought bitterly. After, all someone else might have pesky privacy concerns about being recorded 24/7. Or demand getting paid for it.
Chicklet was stretching and yawning. Like her bikini panties, her crop top was plain white cotton, her small breasts bulging out the two-way arrow and text that read ‘Both Ways’ in purple. Deborah herself had slept in her pink nylon chemise and tap pants, but then the roommates had very different wardrobes.
“I’m sorry Ma’am,” Deborah replied while she and her sister got out of bed. Making her address the AI assistant with ‘proper respect’ was another recently introduced new feature being tested on Artemis Girls by the development team. An all male team developing the perfect AI assistant designed especially for female needs, Deborah reminded herself sulkily. And we are the lucky girls to benefit from it first.
“A good Artemis Girl always watches her language.” the disembodied voice reminded them. She had seen some of the internal papers and knew that this part of the AI’s function was called PDA: Personal Discipline Assistant. Finally satisfied with their submissive apologies, the digital governess finally became more businesslike.
“Good morning Chipmunk and Chicklet. It is five minutes after five o’clock in the morning. Your biometrics indicates less than 6 hours sleep. Being sleep deprived is not healthy for young women. A recommendation has been entered to move your bedtime back to 8 PM tonight. Your Dorm mother will inspect your room in teen minutes at 0515 hours. Please make and tidy your bed.”
I search myself, I want you to find me
I forget myself, and I want you to remind me
Chicklet was already humming to the melody while she straightened the bed cover. Deborah found the wake-up songs that marked the start of the working girls day throughout the dorm tiresome. They were always too loud, high energy, and suggestive—more dance club than soothing. The sound bounced off the pink cinder block walls that were mostly bare. Everything in the room was built in or bolted down—from the single bed the roommates shared to the chest and closet they shared, each containing their respective clothes, shoes, cosmetics and few personal items they were allowed to keep in their room neatly side-by-side. What cash and few valuables a girl might have when checking into the dormitory would immediately be securely stored in the safe by her housemother along with her Passport and Drivers license. All for the safety and convenience of the girls according to the ’Handbook for Artemis Staff’, which all female staff was expected to memorize. For many of the girls it was the only book they ever got to read.
There were no windows. Apart from a huge flat screen there were only two visual distractions in the room. One was a poster that simply read “NO ONE KNOWS I’M A LESBIAN”. The other was her own MBA, taped to the wall on her side of the bed— a reminder of a different her. There were cameras attached to the ceiling flouro lights as well. Those were often on both roommates’ minds, as they had been the previous evening.
I don’t want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself
Ooh, I don’t want anybody else
Oh no, oh no, oh no
You’re the one who makes me come runnin’
You’re the sun who makes me shine
When you’re around, I’m always laughin’
I want to make you mine
“Please assume inspection position girls,” The bodiless voice told them as the ten minutes were up. Dormitory girls had to assume the inspection posture whenever their room was to be inspected. The Girls moved to the position indicated by markings on the floor at the end of their beds and assumed the correct posture. Raise arms, hands placed behind their neck with fingers laced together and their feet apart.
“Elbows further back Chipmunk,” The AI corrected her. “Remember a manager might be watching. You want to make the right impression.” Adopting her sister’s pose, Deborah got her elbows way back. Displaying her breasts and her obedience to the cameras at the same time. She got plenty of practice; it was a posture Artemis girls assumed often. Some executive might well be inspecting girls waiting to be released from their rooms to pick out his next secretary. Maybe it had been his manual input that had prompted the digital governess to correct her posture. Usually, the AI couldn’t tell such minute details. But the girls were purposefully left in the dark about the extents of its capabilities. That way, they always felt watched. And whether by men or machine, they didn’t know, and couldn’t even tell apart with certainty.
While they had to be in position precisely on time the Dorm mother sometimes took awhile getting to them. Today the wait was brief. Five minutes tops. There was a redundant knock on the door before she swung the door open.
“Good morning, girls!”, she greeted them cheerfully. “Will you be good Artemis Girls today?”
“Yes, Ma’am! We will be good Artemis girls today!” both roommates responded in unison.
Miss Merchant nodded and entered to do a cursory inspection of their room.
At first glance, the tall women looked strict, even menacing. The way she entered the room seemed to exude a certain self-assured authority that was underlined by the leather razor strap she always carried on a thong on her belt. She was dressed to make an impact in a severely cut feminine business suit. The immaculate, starched white blouse with its high stiff collar and gently puffed long sleeves, knee-length grey tweed pencil skirt and light tan, seamed fully fashioned stockings and three inch black heels provided for a truly imperious image of a strict headmistress or governess.
However, the strap-wilding female authority figure was less imposing to Deborah then someone watching on the cameras might assume.
Lisa Merchant had worked for Artemis for over six years. Just turned forty, she was among the oldest of the female staff left in a supervisory position. When the changes began she understood that the only viable career path for women under the new regime was avoiding any competition with men for real power or status. Her seniority along with her demonstrated loyalty to the new ethos permitted her to choose, within limits, any of the jobs still allowed to women. Female ambition, ruthlessness and drive could be useful if properly directed and being a Dorm mother seemed an attractive occupation for women ruthless enough to subjugate their own gender. It offered board, a study salary, and a position of some authority within the company that other female staff was required to respect …and fear. But the image of empowerment projected by the self-assured governesses as an independent female authority figure was an illusion and Deborah knew it.
Ms Merchant had to dress to please men and intimidate females without any real choice in the matter. Her heels were perhaps the most telling. The men who ruled Artemis liked to see their girls in heels so Artemis Girls wore heels. A minimum of three inches and to a skilled observer of female movement it was obvious that the three inch heels were just a bit higher then she could walk in with complete confidence. But a dorm mother was limited to exercise her authority in a way that pleased the male gaze. Men liked to see her in heels so she wore heels like a good girl no matter her supposed status. She was always ultimately answerable to a man and she could only maintain her position by obeying male’s commands and enforcing ultimate male authority on other women. The dorm mother couldn’t open the safe with the girls’ valuables and documents without being authorize and any male executive, even a trainee could overrule her on room assignments, curfews, schedules, meal plans and even her own core competency: discipline.
In a snap inspection two days ago, she’d given both Deborah and her sister a swat for an untidy room but she had looked worried doing it and the yelp of pain had been acting for the camera. Most girls would have angry red welts for an improperly made bed sheet’s hospital corner but while Deborah had the relative lowly status of a secretary, she was the de-facto PA of the boss himself and he talked to her sometimes. And Ms Merchant was smart enough to know that it was unwise for a mere female to needlessly antagonize someone who had regular pillow talks with the boss, no matter her official status. Deborah might be relegated to a secretarial dorm for now but who knew if she could sweet talk herself back into his good graces?
The episode had reminded Deborah how the only real power a women had was the power to influence men and that she was close to the boss himself despite being relegated to the dorm.
They both knew that was the real reason why the inspection was as cursory as she thought she could get away with for the cameras. Leaving the door open, she continued her wake up route in a brisk stride, her high-heeled shoes clicking on the rough concert floor, muffled over the rugs repeating herself seven more times over the next few minutes.
She and Chicklet pulled off their sleepwear and tucked towels around them. They joined the queue forming up leading to the bathroom, composed of fourteen other women waiting. “Water on!” the Dorm Mother announced and the line moved forward quickly into the communal shower, hanging their towels on assigned pegs. Steam began filling the green tiled walls of the shower as the pairs of roommates huddled together under one of the eight showerheads. The water came on automatically the same day every day at the same time. It was lukewarm at best and only lasted for five minutes. At first it had been hard to wash up and do a proper shampoo in the time allotted, but of course she now managed it—even while wearing (and washing) the chastity belt all admin staff had been placed in. Except for the water, the shower was quiet, each of the eighteen women focused on washing themselves as thoroughly as possible.
As always, Deborah reflectively compared herself with the other girls. She was attractive but had plenty of competition. All the Dorm girls were very fit young women with splendid figures, athletic but emphatically feminine and sexy. Hours of gym work and a strict diet was used to improve the physique of all Artemis girls from a good baseline. And what nature couldn’t provide, plastic made perfect. There was always the worry that one of them would catch the boss’s eyes and take her place. Many of them had angry red welts on their rumps from the strap or cane being applied indicating failure to find a male protector, making Deborah both proud and glad that she had. In each corner, a camera recorded their ministrations. She’d long since stopped thinking about them except occasionally daydreaming that her boss was watching her all the time secretly infatuated with her. As she rubbed the soap suds over her breasts, she began unconsciously humming along herself.
I close my eyes and see you before me
Think I would die if you were to ignore me
A fool could see just how much I adore you
I’d get down on my knees, I’d do anything for you
Personal hygiene also included carefully brushing teeth for the proscribed full 5 minutes after getting out of the shower with an electric toothbrush under the watchful eyes of both cameras and the house mother. The staff manual for Artemis Girls emphasised the importance of proper oral hygiene. Of course it does. Bosses want nice pretty clean females mouths to put their penises into, Deborah thought with resignation as she brushed and flossed carefully. A certain type of male managers seemed to think that was all women’s mouth were good for at the office, ordering them to keep it shut at all other times. Not that her own boss was like that. Not only was she allowed to gossip with the other girls, he allowed her to talk to him. She could even express opinions fairly openly as long as she was polite and remembered the proper forms of address. In a way, Deborah knew, she was actually privileged. And, in a quiet corner of her mind, that she usually didn’t acknowledge existed, she was actually grateful.
“Time for breakfast girls. Remember it is the most important meal of the day.” Their Dorm mother announced. Still wearing their bath towels the girls lined up for the dispensary. Breakfast consisted of a power shake carefully mixed and measured to each girl’s needs. It was automatically given out by a machine when the scanner read their biometrics. As she quickly drank her sweetener-sweet but otherwise somehow both gross and bland at the same time diet shake, Deborah longed for the kind of fresh baked butter croissant and coffee she used to spoil herself with in the morning. A real meal, in short. The shake was based on a formula produced “especially for female mental and physical wellbeing”, if you believed the marketing. Among the benefits, it was supposed to improve mouth and body odour and there were rumours about other effects being tested by the development team, and it was better for a girl not to inquire about it. If you did, rumour had it, you volunteered yourself as a test subject for the next batch. It was actually produced in a variety of tastes but the Dormitory Girls weren’t consulted on taste, consistency, amount or additives.
During breakfast some girls were handed pill glasses with medicine. Artemis took protecting the medical information of female staff very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that most dormitory girls had no idea what medicine they were given or why. Prescriptions were made by the company clinic in consultation with a girl’s manager and often the first time she learned of it was when her dorm mother handed her a pill glass. It was obviously absurd for an ignorant office girl to think she understood her medical needs better than the experts in employed in the company clinic. If she did, the strap was there to remind her to be a good girl and take her pills for her own good. Miss Merchant wouldn’t tolerate a fuss about it. If she was suspicious she would make the young woman in question assume the inspection position and open her mouth for examination to carefully ensure she had shallowed everything. Sometimes even putting on latex gloves to check. After making sure the last girl had swallowed Miss Merchant clapped her hands. “You know the routine. Time to get dressed. Remember to doll yourself up for your bosses.“
A minute later, Deborah was busy considering what to wear—probably her most important decision she’d make today. It was certainly one of the few. Deborah Jones no longer made many decisions about anything at all. The phone interrupted her.
She snatched the phone, accepting the call. The ring tone was her own voice, sweetly responding even before taking a call. It had been her boss’s idea and, of course, the only calls she ever received on it were from him. It was locked from making any outbound calls.
Pleasing the boss had become the overriding purpose of her existence. In many ways, both on a conscious and subconscious level, the Boss was a stern farther figure that made her feel like a little girl in need of guidance, discipline and love. He was her source of conversation, punishment, praise and protection as well as her one and only way to obtain sexual relief from an unwilling arousal that consumed her constantly.
She understood that he was the one responsible for turning her from a self confident ambitious business woman into an indentured office girl effectively under lock and key but while a part of her still resented what had happened his ability to effortlessly bring women to their knees was just more proof of his power and masculinity. What was more, it was proof that he was strong enough to protect her. And perhaps, her sister.
She understood that he was redirecting the fate of hundreds of women, of course. Girls disappeared from Artemis almost every week being replaced by fresh recruits. Deborah vaguely suspected that at least some of them ended up as well trained and obedient sex workers indentured to their new postings. Vacant buildings were hurriedly being converted into suitable secretarial dormitories until expanded custom build facilities could be completed. But those girls weren’t like her. They don’t get his personal attention the way I do, she consoled herself.
Deborah spent most of her time away from the office under curfew at the dorm, where the only conversation on offer consisted of vapid chatter about fashion, make-up and who was prettiest. Not only were those the only topic that were safe in the digital panopticon of the secretary dorm; it were the only topic that mattered. Beauty and fashion were not a game for an Artemis Girl. It wasn’t even a lifestyle. It was life.
But it wasn’t …fulfilling… for Deborah’s sharp and inquisitive mind. As much as she hated it, he was always grateful when he deigned to spend time with her. He had stripped away her old dreams and put her under the discipline of the paddle and strap but sometimes he was nice to her. Being scolded for letting him down was worse than the paddle. It gave her a sense of terrible despair. Made her feel unloved, reviled, and loathsome to others and to herself. She needed Him to protect her, to guide her. He was so much wiser then her, and tough, strong, self-confident – a man sure of himself and secure within his own mind
“Good morning, Sir!”
He looked up at her from a bed. There was a blonde lying next to him, but it wasn’t clear who his companion was.
“Good morning, Chipmunk! That was some session last night. Not that we watched all of it, but when we did, you two looked very cute together!” There was a titter in the background.
At that moment, she knew exactly who he was with. After all, the hated nickname had been her suggestion—Stephanie Tremont, her boss’s mistress.
If her feelings for her boss were confused they were straightforward towards his mistress. Deborah’s recurrent fantasy was that the boss would one day tire of Stephanie and demote her to the secretarial pool, taking her place in the Dormitory while Deborah was moved into the penthouse as a kept woman. There was basic sexual jealousy that this woman kept the boss away from her. She also instinctively resented the older women with her elegant sophistication and her place in society. The one-time COO might not be living her best life, but compared to Deborah, she lived in the clouds. The broken executive had taken to the mistress role offered like a grateful dog taken in from the rain, and spent her days waiting to be called or visited by her new lover. No matter that he was married. No matter that Deborah was his secretary and, as such, yet another readily available female in his life. Instead of exhibiting jealousy, Stephanie dripped with condescension. Deborah was ‘cute as a chipmunk’—just an office rodent in comparison to herself.
“Thank you, Sir!”
Chicklet glared at her, as she dressed. As if she was to blame for any of this!
There was mumbling and the phone was handed over. Stephanie now looked at her, as her boss got up and vanished from the screen.
“It was my idea, Chipmunk,” the imperious older blonde winked. “When did you start again?”
“Eight o’clock, Ma’am,” she replied with an edge she regretted.
“We were having cocktails at the Metro—I thought, why shouldn’t the girls have a little fun too! How long were you told to go to?”
“Ten o’clock, Ma’am.”
Stephanie yawned. “I’m afraid we forgot about you! We were into our second course by then. I’ll review the recording later, if I think of it. Did you enjoy some heavy petting with your little sister?”
Katherine—Chicklet—pointedly looked away.
“Yes, Ma’am. Thank you, Ma’am.” The response was flat, curt. She wasn’t a lesbian, let alone an incestuous lesbian. Nor was her younger sister.
“Of course, it must have been frustrating. With those chastity belts on, all you could get to was second base! Poor Chipmunk! Poor Chicklet!”
Deborah forced her lips into a neutral, vacant smile. The locked belt jealously ‘secured’ her sex for her Boss, who was her sole keyholder. The metallic nanofiber was hygienically porous, allowing her to bathe herself and so silky smooth to the touch that she sometimes forgot she was even wearing it—until she felt the twist of arousal. Then it was sheer hell. How had the Boss sold this again? The Take Back the Night Initiative. She sighed. Women could be so… stupid at times—especially corporate women. She spitefully prayed the Boss kept Stephanie under lock and key too, though she doubted it.
“Anyway, I thought I’d give you a heads up.” Stephanie paused, looking over her bare shoulder. The loud gush of a five star hotel shower filled the air behind her. She returned to Deborah, a sly, conspiratorial smirk on her cruel, lovely face.
“You-know-who wanted a certain something last night but I convinced him that was more in your department, if you get what I mean. You might want to pre-lube, otherwise you’ll be biting that pillow very hard, missy!”
Deborah fought to push her rising fury down.
“Yes, Ma’am!” she replied curtly.
Stephanie yawned. “Tip off Baby Dyke too. He might want to do both of you.”
Deborah merely nodded. Her sister glared at her hard as she buttoned up her regulation white Oxford style blouse.
“Got to order room service. Have a great day Debbie and remember to put a smile on your boss’s face!” With that, the connection ended.
Great. Her boss was probably going to fuck her up the ass sometime over the course of the work day. She almost wished Stephanie had left it a surprise. She reached in her top drawer and pulled out the tube of Anal-eze, dropping it in her purse before she forgot.
Katherine’s eyes followed the tube’s voyage, disgust written all over her face.
If his Trophy Wife was a fine meal, then his mistress Stephanie was comfort food. That made her the junk food option on her boss’s sex diet. Quick, cheap, spontaneous and easily available. It probably meant her sister was the sexual equivalent of chewing gum.
I don’t want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself
Deborah considered her wardrobe options. She looked down at her smartwatch and with a tap launched the app offered ‘suggestions’ based on previous selections and how long since she had worn an item of clothing. She had to admit that it was an absolute godsend. On her secretarial salary, it was always a challenge to find a new combination of clothes that might visually pique her superior’s attention.
“YOUR DAILY SUGGESTION”
Deborah sighed, looking through her top drawer. The matching sheer turquoise bra and panty set. Check. The shiny tight black polyester blouse. Check. The turquoise polyester miniskirt. Check. And of course, the obligatory black garter belt and sheer black stockings. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d worn pantyhose—the Boss was not a fan. Then again, when was the last time she’d picked out what she actually wanted to wear? A long time, she noted, slipping the panties over her garter belt. She put the black spike heels on last, wincing at the discomfort. The old Deborah wore sensible shoes but the boss considered proper female footwear important with stiletto heels mandatory for all Artemis girls now. Deborah enfeebled herself when she put the heels on. They altered her legs and buttocks in a tautly strained conformation that reminded her that she existed solely to please men. Wearing very high stiletto heels changed the way a woman looked at the world around her. Any surfaces not specifically designed for easy female access, such as steep slopes, high staircases, grass, gravel, mud, basically anywhere in the countryside, where walking involved small, careful steps, preferably holding someone’s arm and walking any distance became be a challenge. To reach forward to pick something up, or to carry something heavy required a careful awareness of balance. Wearing stiletto heels always an inch higher than she was comfortable with was a perfect way to constantly remind her of her vulnerability and helplessness. Wearing high heels changed the way the world looked at her, too. In heels, she was marked as the kind of woman who would forego comfort and utility for looks, for male attention.
At least she had an ever changing selection, unlike her little sister. Katherine was an Office Girl, and a junior one to boot. Like all the other girls consigned to the Secretarial Pool, she wore the same outfit day in, day out—the white too-small Oxford blouses, the black too-short miniskirts, the black high heels and the boring white cotton bras and bikini panties. The look was completed with a cheap dollar store bright red lipstick. It was enforced dress code conformity, making the SecPool girls interchangeable and anonymous while still ensuring they looked attractive to men. It signalled to anyone seeing it that she was just a SecPool girl and could be assigned if anyone needed her. There were even rumours of having all the SecPool girls share the same hair colour and styling.
She sprayed herself with the sweet smelling fragrance the Boss had given her for Secretary’s Day last year. Katy Perry’s Purr seemed more appropriate for a tween than a woman in her late twenties but it was better than nothing. For Office Girls like Katherine, perfume was a no-no. They had their own, cheap, deodorant to even make them smell uniform.
“Let’s go girls! Shuttle bus is here!” the Dorm Mother boomed.
Ooh, I don’t want anybody else
Oh no, oh no, oh no
I love myself, I want you to love me
Deborah patted her hair down, slipping her purse over her shoulder. She zipped up her Hard Bodies gym bag which contained the workout wear she’d need later and completed her outfit with the SmartGlasses that were mandatory for all Artemis secretaries. While all Artemis girls wore the SmartWatch, only secretaries and above wore the glasses. The two Jones girls filed into the hallway again, this time in the opposite direction, and headed towards the waiting corporate shuttlebus that would transport them straight to the office.
As she got onboard each girl paused to politely greet the driver with a “God morning, Sir.” The Artemis handbook emphasised decorum. Addressing male staff with a proper respectful tone along with smile was mandatory for Artemis Girls at all times.
Inside the bus a discreet symbol was emblazoned on the back of every headrest. There was no explanatory text for the symbol and it would be obscure to a casual viewer but an Artemis Girl would instantly understand that it depicting an open female mouth surrounded by a red circle and crossed by a bar. Every woman on the bus knew perfectly well the meaning of the ideogram for “No female speech allowed.” While the bus came fully equipped with audio-visual surveillance someone was likely worried about the mobile data connection giving out when passing under bridges and though tunnels. Management didn’t like the idea of their girls talking in private.
To further make the point there was also a cheery poster reminding everyone that. “Gossip at the workplace is a form of micro-aggression that creates a hostile work environment for women and girls. If you overhear or experience gossip your are required to report it.” No one ever said bosses didn’t have a sense of humour.
Keeping quiet on the bus was no great hardship for Deborah. Girls were allowed to talk about sex, fashion, make-up and other suitable feminine subjects but serious matters were for men and talking men-talk would get a girl in trouble. She appreciated the quiet time. It was only a ten minute trip but it was her favourite time of the day. Like her co-workers, she looked out the windows, fantasizing she was just another one of the commuters headed to work. She watched a smartly dressed woman talking on her phone as she made her way to her office. The pricey cut of her pants suit and smartly styled short red hair suggested she was an executive.
For a moment Deborah willed them to change places, for her to be the one headed to an interesting, important job where she’s be respected and admired—not to mention, well paid. Part of her found the idea vaguely unnatural. The idea of not having to obey, not having rules to guide her – and to have orgasms when she wanted them, without the boss’s permission, seemed strange and almost obscene.
Suddenly the women looked up at the bus. Her frown was a mixture of pity, distain and outright contempt. Deborah knew what the women saw: A busload of low skilled office bimbos, who likely had to fuck their bosses just to keep their entry level jobs. The digital display on the nondescript buss actually said “Artemis female Staff morning commute.” Artemis made no secret that it was providing both housing and dedicated transport for “vulnerable female staff” and given the increasing extend of the practice, rumours had inevitable begun to circulate about the highly regulated life young women lived in such places. Rather than outright try to deny the reports Artemis had created the impression that it was rescuing “highly troubled lower class girls” and providing them the “structured environment“ such girls needed to keep a job rather than end up on Hump Alley as drug-addicted street prostitutes. Comparing the dormitories to strict girls’ boarding schools and more than hinting that many of the girls had dabbled in the sex trade or gotten pregnant without a father anywhere in sight, before being given a chance of a secretarial job. Out of concern of such vulnerable wayward girls falling back into prostitution Artemis had even sponsored a program of cooperation with the city police force were dormitory girls were registered as ‘probable’ prostitutes with the vice enforcement squad and were to be picked up and returned to their dormitories if apprehended out after curfew. Key members of the police force were often invited to company sponsored events where the vulnerable girls they helped to protect could show their appreciation.
Their eyes met as the lights turned green and the bus started up again. The look in her eyes said “poor little whore,” the distain of the delicately reared professional woman towards one of her less fortunate sisters, neatly shrink wrapped in politically correct pity. In a flash of humiliation, rage and jealousy Deborah’s fantasy changed. Suddenly, she desperately wanted to see the unknown professional young woman among the job applicants at Artemis who were inevitably and expertly processed into obedient office girls. She wanted to see her stripped bare for her job interview, in front of a roomful of leering men. She wanted to see her bent over a desk and taught manners and respect. Then inspiration struck. I work for the boss himself, she thought. I’m his girl. Perhaps I could actually help make it happen. Her smart glasses took continuous high definition images of her field of view. She couldn’t control the camera or prevent it from recording and sending data. What she did have was a phone application to review and mark out frames for attention. The application was restricted for female users in that it didn’t allow her to edit anything and she would be flagged if she tried to obstruct the camera. Artemis girls were encouraged to report on each other’s transgressions and the application was included on her phone for just that purpose. She held her gaze steady to ensure the glasses took a series of images of the mysterious women as the bus accelerated away. After she was out of sight Deborah opened up the reporting feature of her application and found several clear, useful images. After carefully considering several pictures she highlighted one that showed off both the beauty of the young woman, as well as the haughty look of disapproval on her face, adding a comment that said: “Haughty girl looking at the bus on the way to work. Would be fun if she found herself looking out, instead of in. Perhaps there is a place for her at Artemis? “ Deborah felt a warm glow of satisfaction, and sent off the report. As she squirmed in her seat, her fantasy drifted from an act of betrayal just to assure herself that she wasn’t entirely powerless to …something else. After all, the woman was very pretty, just the boss man’s type, too. So HE would be pleased with her, perhaps even reward her with an evening out. And the announced anal tryst would take place in his bed, instead of over his desk. She felt a rush of wet excitement between her legs at the thought. The Artemis IT systems should have no trouble identifying the young woman from the images. If she had unrestricted internet access, Deborah could probably do so herself in a few minutes with image search software. But of course, she didn’t.
The reverie was broken as the shuttle pulled into the underground garage and the doors opened. Deborah was first off the bus, but the garage already echoed with the measured tap of high heels as girls lined up to be processed at the security station. Several young women, all pretty, preceded her in line to the scanning and clock-in station. There were no male employees in the line. By contrast the uniformed security guards supervising, directing and policing the behaviour of the women in the basement were all men. Masterful men in all their dominating forms, and aspects of control and subjugation of women excited Deborah deeply. Unlike the Dorm mother dressing like a dominatrix to please the men who might be watching this was real power, raw masculine authority. Just like a dorm mother’s strap their equipment was on display. Their wide black service belts were adorned with the usual accoutrements of security: sundry items of control and authority. Handcuffs, electronic prods, even canisters of pepper spray. She imagined being detained for a ‘random spot check’, and handcuffed to be ‘processed’ with a shudder of excitement mingled with fear. She wasn’t alone trying to tamp down her sexual reaction to the uniformed masculinity. The basement garage was full of properly belted healthy young women in peak physical condition. As a result of their monthly medicals more than half of them were given additional female hormones to combat any signs of sexual dysfunction. As a result there was more than a whiff of the aromatic fragrance of frustrated female arousal in the basement.
A wall sign announced that they were at underground entrance W along with a pictogram figure of a woman. An explanatory text below announced this was “A safe space for unaccompanied female staff.” The boss had proudly explained that separate entrances were made available for women to enable them to feel safer in women-only parking spaces in an interview with business week last month. Deborah had been interviewed for the feature as a poster girl for how well the company met the gender specific needs of its female staff.
The fact that female staff was only allowed entry and exit via the secure underground facility unless signed out personally by a manager was not mentioned. There were several busses unloading but no private cars. Of course not, Deborah reflected. Men used private cars at Artemis, women were bussed.
At a signal from the guard the women in front of Deborah in the line stepped up. She spoke quietly to him in a voice too low to be heard. Trying to explain something. She wasn’t wearing an Artemis Girl smart watch. The uniformed guard, who was athletic with short, brown hair closely cropped in a military style, took away her purse and picket up a detection wand, “Arms out,” he said. The girl complied. She wasn’t in a proper corporate uniform or the usual secretarial dress. She was wearing a navy suit, with blue heels. The outfit looked expensive. Like something the smartly dressed woman she had seen from the buss would have. Must be a new hire. Someone thinking she was taking the first steep on the career ladder. Stupid bitch Deborah thought with satisfaction. The wand brushed the side of her jacket. The girl tensed. The guard stood in front of her. She was hyper aware of his presence, tall, severe, authoritarian with his black leather belt. Security always scared Deborah.
“Jacket open,” ordered the guard. The young women undid the button and returned her hand to the stretched position. The guard lifted the material away from her, using the wand. The tip of the metal touched her blouse as he ran the device along her side. She shivered slightly. He ordered her to take off her jacket. “Excuse me, but I don’t see the point…” she managed to croak. ” “Jacket off,” he repeated, a cold crisp bark, warden to prisoner. “Put it on the table,” he commanded. She walked to the table, under scrutiny. He threw her purse on top of the jacket before he ran the device over her nipples, one by one, deliberately, slowly. He played the metal over her flesh, carving invisible, obscene lines on her cheeks, over her neck and collar bone. No security checks here, this was molestation. Part of a deliberate policy to cow the young woman, keeping her off balance emotionally and physically.
“Hold position,” he casually ordered as he emptied her bag on the table, casually rummaging though and examining her most intimate possessions.
“Do you have your supervisor’s permission to carry contraception?” He asked. Showing her a small packet of condoms he’d picked out of her bag.
“What? No. It isn’t your business” She protested feebly
It was the wrong thing to say. No Artemis security officer had any intention of letting an indentured women lecture him on law.
“I don’t feel a chastity belt either” He continued as if she hadn’t spoken at all while putting a hand between the shocked woman’s legs. I take it you are not belted?”
“No, I’m not wearing a chastity belt” she tried to sound self-assured and angry but it came out like an apology.
He glanced at his smart watch. “Unmarried and no listed boyfriend?”
He didn’t let her finish. “So, you are an unmarried single women not in a permanent relationship coming to work with condoms in your purse” He continued calmly, ignoring her flinching at his touch. “You are not in a steady sexual relationship – clearly you are allowing strange men fuck you. Have I got it right so far?
The woman was shocked and stunned at his language. “No!!! I haven’t…I mean they are from when I was in a relationship.” Her face was flushed with shame.
“You are a whore,” he said, “as if stating the obvious. “You meant to profit from prostitution in the workplace”. He gestured to an elevator door behind him. “That will take you to be medically examined for physical evidence of illicit sexual activity and checked for signs of venereal diseases. You’re dismissed,”
As she made to pick up her jacket and purse he stopped her. “Those need to be examined. We don’t have time for that now. They will be returned to your manager. Now go!”
They would strip-search her, Deborah knew, claiming to be looking for drugs. Full cavity search: ears, nostrils, mouth, vagina and rectum. Deborah imagined she would be thoroughly purged before they violated her anus, probing painfully and unmercifully into her rectum, extensively, fully, investigating her viscera in depth with well lubricated, rubber clad fingers. Making her stand in for the unknown woman she’d seen from the bus in her mind, Deborah hoped they made her bend over and hold her bottom cheeks apart for the inspection. She knew it would be the beefy fingers of men adding to her pain and humiliation. The real purpose of the degrading activity would be to diminish her self-esteem, of course, reducing her to tears of humiliation and groveling subservience. The embarrassment of being stripped naked, on her back and with her legs spread open wide would help convince her not to try to deny the obvious fact that she had been caught attempting to illegally prostitute herself. She would demand a lawyer and, fortunately, the company had an expert on prostitution on hand who could help the girl memorize and record a detailed and convincing confession. A company-friendly prosecutor and judge would perform some legal magic and she would be a self-confessed and convicted whore by the end of the day.
“God morning Sir.” Deborah forced a smiled as she stepped up to the scanning station to have her biometrics verified and electronically clock in. Her heart slammed in her chest. She should be horrified and indignant. But her nipples were hard and aching. There was moisture between her legs, lubricating her belt. While it prevented her, very successfully, mind you, and no matter what she tried, from getting off by herself, sometimes, when she got just wet enough, the belt’s rubber inside found some traction on her softest flesh, pulling back the hood from her clit enough that every step gave her a little rub. Every step, or just shifting in place like she did now. Deborah felt small, vulnerable and feminine in the presence of the security guard’s unashamed masculinity. And, ashamedly, she had to admit that it turned her on.
The indentured Artemis office girl and the male guard seized each other up with their eyes. Shame, fear and arousal, strength, confidence and dominance, naked vulnerability, and uniformed authority.
“God morning girl.” He couldn’t even be bothered to check her name tag as he glanced at his workstation displaying her bio signs. The smart watch was a surprisingly effective lie detector especially as it was calibrated for each girl for that purpose “Are you carrying contraband items such unauthorized electronic devices, official documents, credit cards or cash?”
“No Sir,” she answered truthfully. Deborah could only dream of having cash or use her own credit to spend money on whatever she wished. She had a company issued charge card to be used to purchase company approved items at company approved stores paying company approved prices. The rational for introducing the system had been to “prevent vulnerable girls and young women from overspending and getting themselves into debt,” and Artemis considered it a great success. Of course most girls were in perpetual debt to the company and paid interests on their card.
He checked the readout and looked up. Her heart slammed in her chest.
“Do you always get aroused by watching girls get molested?” he asked. There was an amused leer on his face but no real hostility or suspicion.
Deborah felt a flash of shame at the way her biometrics betrayed her. “You are very good at your job, Sir. I enjoy seeing girls get the discipline and control they need.” The last bit was almost an exact quote from the female staff manual but then she repeated it so often she was beginning to believe it.
“It really is true isn’t it? All you Artemis Girls are shameless sluts. You are appropriately belted today?”
That was easy to give the correct answer to. How couldn’t she be? “I’m always belted. My boss wants me focus on my duties instead of my selfish needs.”
He chuckled at that. “He certainly seems to have you well in hand. You are cleared.” He typed something quickly at his workstation. “Given the commotion and your positive, cheerful attitude, I’m assigning you an additional 10 minutes to reach your work area.”
That was actually quite generous. For a male staff getting around the Artemis campus was usually straightforward. Their smart watch or staff badges would enable touch panel screens to let them go where they needed to go at their leisure. Female staff were usually restricted to a fairly specific zone and given a set amount of minutes to reach it before being away from her assigned workspace too long would cause her smart watch to flag her. Since security could always track those “runaway girls”, they were usually picked up within minutes.
Deborah and Katherine parted company as she headed to the Executive Suite on the top floor and Katherine to the Secretarial Pool down on three. Deborah’s smart glasses helpfully lit up directions and indicated time remaining until she was to be at her work station. Her access would not unlock executive express elevators so she had to take the stairs.
Even with most girls effectively geofenced to their immediate work space, the rhythm of high heels drumming the floor was everywhere. There was a prevalence of matching corporate uniforms like the one her sister wore. Fetching coffee; copying, filing and doing all the office drudgery men could never be bothered with. All the female employees were perfectly made up, well groomed and in very feminine dress. Some were elegant and stylish, and some looked fairly tacky in slutty miniskirts but they all displayed shapely nylon clad or occasionally bare legs. No women in trousers or sensible flat shoes trying to look like a man or take his job anywhere in sight. With few exceptions, female staff kept their heads down or their eyes lowered. Anything else might …invite… male attention. On the surface it looked like an idealized version of a high end corporate campus. A curious mixture of futuristic modern design and a rediscovery of natural gender roles in the workplace. Few men were at work this early but there were some early risers. A secretary was greeting her boss with a morning kiss at his door and on elevators rides, the lucky girls allowed got a friendly groping on tights or buttocks. With the right help and encouragement, women here learned to alter their psychic geography in order to exist in a world where assertive male behaviors were normalized. They learned how to dull the part of themselves that feels distress when men demand sexual submission, because it was impractical not to. Well adjusted women at Artemis accepted this state of affairs as just part and parcel of inhabiting their gender. Anyone with eyes and ears at Artemis got pointers on the finer points of gender stratified management. The orderly procession of girls and young women in the hallways and offices following the rigidly applied rules and regulations expected of them at Artemis and the sight of powerful males putting their hands on powerless women at their leisure; all these manifestations of iron control over women expressed the Boss’s able administration and stern dominance at the helm. When he took her some place, Deborah felt a fierce sense of pride at her place at his side. And the other girls took note, making way for her as she scaled the stairs, hurriedly but unsteadily, in her heels. From casual remarks she had overheard from mysterious influential men visiting the boss, she had come to understand that powerless females subject to male mastery was an ideal long held by many politicos and plutocrats behind the scenes. One man she had recognized as one of the world’s top tech billionaires had noted with approval to the Boss that the state of the art campus turned aggressively independent career women into the very embodiment of respectable feminine docility and servitude. Outside the nondescript and discreetly labeled staff motivational room Deborah passed a statuesque beauty waiting at attention, hands behind her head, breast thrust forward and eyes demurely lowered. Girls were often made to wait outside a motivational room in a display posture. It helped to install a thorough respect for authority and put them in a fearful state of mind; the necessary and desired mental condition of readiness to feel the full effect of corporal punishment. If one were to peek inside the electronically locked and fully soundproofed room one would see a plethora of canes, crops, and whips hanging from pegs in orderly arrangement, an embarrassment of riches for the correction and disciplining of young women. Humility and submission to the discipline of cane, crop and whip was simply part of the burden of being female at Artemis. To Deborah it had come to seem a fitting nemesis; a just and proper punishment for the arrogance and willfulness of women like the one she’d seen from the bus. Women who thought to subvert their appropriate feminine place, status and social role – she shuddered deliciously, her thighs clenching, as her straying thoughts descended, unbidden, into the servility she had subconsciously come to consider innate to her sex. The liberal and frequent application of corporal punishment helped most girls and women to come to terms with the need to accept the role the boss had decreed for them. If not, then the rooms were supplemented with, leather muzzles and bulbous rubber gags, serrated, spring-loaded clips for painful attachment to sensitive areas of female prisoners, and myriad other devices to evoke terror …and cooperation in females. Deborah doubted anything more than a light correction would be required on the young woman showing the proper and correct attitude waiting at attention. When she got close, Deborah noticed the faint scent of helplessly frustrated female arousal. The woman’s stiff nipples pressed up against her thin blouse could easily be made out. The areola, dotted with goose bumps, stood out ostentatiously and her nipple rings were obvious. Getting their favorite girls pierced and intimately ringed had become something of a trend among high flyers at the company. If the girl was lucky they would be silver or even gold. She was more than beautiful enough to be a model. In fact she might have been before an Artemis executive, perhaps the boss himself, had caught a glimpse of her modeling haut couture – or lingerie, when shopping for something for a wife or favored mistress online and had …redirected… her career. Discipline would ultimately be good for her. She would emerge well marked and quite familiar with the immediate painful effects of corporal punishment on yielding femininity and the lasting afterglow of agony and humiliation that continued to inform and elucidate the women as to their appropriate role and function at Artemis. It seemed a proper reward as well as a punishment for the mere fact of being female. Deborah always felt the dual nature of her indenture sexually and psychologically. The suffering offset by sexual excitement and the humiliation ameliorated by her innate femininity, the urge to submit to her all-powerful boss.
Deborah was by no means the only secretary at Artemis in a sexual relationship with her superior. Often, frequent intercourse did what nature intended, and developed the emotional ties of young women beholden to their male superiors, in the same basic way that all mammals build their relationships. The key difference between the normal working out of the mating game and how things played out at Artemis was that a policy was in place to prevent undue mutuality in the bonds. The belting of female staff helped to make them constantly needy and dependent – addicted to sex that only a single male could provide. For the male partner, the company strongly advised any superior in a relationship with a subordinate that he should work to retain his own psychological independence by ensuring that he maintained simultaneous sexual relationships with other women. Doing so allowed a man the necessary distance to consider the duties and discipline of female subordinates dispassionately, no matter how much he might enjoy them sexually. No attempt was made to disguise the one-way nature of such relationships. Women at Artemis had needs, of course, but only men had sexual agency, and the satisfying of female needs was entirely at their discretion. This helped undermine undue confidence on the part of women and ensured that the way couplings worked was that they happened only when men arranged and allowed them. Women learned to tease, then to beg, and when all that didn’t do the trick like they expected to, they learned to please. On the other hand, when a male partner wanted sex he was not to be gainsaid and his girl would learn to oblige him and enjoy it – whenever and wherever she was. With her thoughts turned deeply submissive just from passing by the staff motivational room, Deborah allowed herself to realize that she loved the Boss. He gave her guidance and a sense of security when she was with him. He was strict and stern sometimes but she would never respect a man who didn’t know how to put a woman in her place. With his clever and effective ways, he ensured that she received the full measure of his guidance and love. If he had caged her in the dormitory it was her own fault for not working hard enough to please him
As she passed the heavily monitored recruitment centre floor, two young women were waiting to be interviewed. As Deborah approached a message notification popped up on her smart glasses triggered by her proximity to the guest passes both girls wore. It just informed her they were “Female Visitors” with an icon that further data was restricted. A manager would no doubt have been given access details about them. Deborah just needed to know their status. Artemis Girl always had to be on their best behaviour when interacting with female visitors. It was possible that some bored security section employee would review the footage from building cameras and her glasses in conjunction with audio recordings from her smart watch. Not likely, but possible. The best policy on how to act in front of strangers who were not part of the Artemis corporate family was simply to keep her mouth shut.
Not for the first time, Deborah reflected that the whole Artemis Campus was like a panopticon, a type of prison that allows a single security guard to see every inmate while the inmates could never tell whether the guard was looking at them. Feeling as if they were constantly being watched, Artemis Girls were motivated to behave themselves at all times, just in case. The realization always made her marvel at how clever the boss was.
One of the girls was a pale freckled redhead about her age; the other a tall brunette with legs as long as the Nile. The redhead appeared to be in her early twenties, pretty, wearing a white skirt and blue jacket with matching high-heeled spectators. She looked nervous; swinging her crossed leg up and down while casting anxious glances at the closed door by the secretary’s desk. The other girl seemed even more anxious. She wore a very short paisley print dress. Its tight bodice revealed her modest, well-shaped breasts to good advantage, but the short hemline of her dress showed off her very attractive, very long legs magnificently. She must be six feet tall, thought Deborah. The woman also looked shaken and shamefaced, blushing up to her eyes. Deborah noticed the back of her dress was only partially zipped up. With a cursory nod Deborah made to pass them when the brunette timidly reached out for her.
“Excuse me, Miss. You work here?” she asked. As her smart watch pick up the voice and matched it to the database another message flashed in Deborah‘s field of vision. “You are now interacting with a female visitor. Your behaviour will be evaluated.” Someone was likely to review her interaction later unless they were actually doing so live right now.
“I do,” she answered. Noncommittal.
“Is this a good place to work for women?” she asked. “I was told it was, but when I applied they were very specific about dressing appropriately for my interview and when I checked in at reception…” She hesitated. “They needed my biometrics for the badge and wanted pictures for my application file. I had to …pose”
Yes recruitment officers really like to put girls into the standard inspection pose. The same one Deborah and her sister had assumed at the foot of their bed this morning except it would have been stressful to be coerced into it for the first time by a stranger just “taking a few pictures”. The boss liked to watch the video sometimes, to evaluate both the girl, her attitude and the ability of the interviewer to coax her into complying. Told to raise her arms and place her hands behind her neck with her fingers laced together, a girl tended to be confused, careful and slow. She would be told to hurry and not be a “difficult girl”. To get her elbows way back, breasts thrusting out for the inspection and approval of the recruitment officer and others that might be watching on campus surveillance.
If the recruitment officer was skilled and judged the girl to be sufficiently submissive, she would then be told to spread her feet wide apart while keeping her arms back and her breasts forward. Ideally, she was made to spread her legs wider until her inner thighs were strained and tensed. The Boss had promoted one recruitment officer on the spot for his “exceptional women-management skills” after watching footage of him making a confused and scared girl strip down to her bra and panties for the camera.
Looking down at her, Deborah was not close enough to read the name sign. Amanda, it said. Female applicants didn’t get last names on their tags. Amanda was on the cusp of some important changes. She still thought of herself as an independent agent with a choice about her career decisions and a free life ahead of her. Probably, she imagined that she’d meet some new man soon – that she’d get engaged and married – that this job and her relationship with Artemis was only a temporary affair.
‘Run girl. Run for all you’re worth, before it’s too late.’ Some small rebellious part of Deborah wanted to yell. It was not what the boss would want and not doing what the boss wanted was wrong so instead she smiled as reassuringly at the brunette as she could muster. “This is a very women-centric company. More than 80% of the staff is female and there are all sorts of procedures in place to ensure that special female needs are fully meet. Management gets special training in making this a safe and protected workplace for female personal.”
The girl bit her lib nervously. “I was told the badge was my access pass but the door won’t open. Could you let me out?”
Her pictures would already have been circulated among management. If Deborah had the clearance she would have been able to see them with her smart glasses right now. Deborah had talked to plenty of fresh young women hired under the new management to guess their situation. Odds were that somehow both girls were saddled with debt and had no income. They were just young women. A status that would immutably see their future to forfeiture to Artemis System, to serve, to be owned, to be moulded into new beings whose sole purpose would be to submit to the will of others.
Deborah flashed both girls another reassuring smile “You should be proud they want to offer you a job. They are not taking in just anyone. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll find someone to help you?” Deborah urged the young woman back into her seat before hurrying on.
I must notify the Boss, she thought. He may want to watch them. He sometimes took an interest in freshly recruited girls during their first days with Artemis. If he liked what he saw, the two young women were likely to be sharing a dorm room safely under curfew and receiving the supervision and discipline Artemis management considered a particular female need before the end of the week.
Deborah was at her desk at 8:00 AM, as she was every workday. The Boss was rarely seen before ten, but no matter—there was always a To Do List of tasks she must attend to. Settling into her swivel typist’s stool, she logged in and reviewed her alerts. Alerts ruled female life at Artemis. Most girls didn’t have access to email anymore—just alerts they could reply to, if required, regarding assignments, reminders, meeting appointments and all the other corporate detritus her life was composed of these days
It was a modified version of email, real-time messaging and social media combined into one. An ‘easy to use, single point, female friendly messenger’. In short, a supervised, infantilized feature for female staff. Another product tested and designed by Artemis to provide “a productive and stress free experience for female users.” According to the official description, one way of reducing female stress was to make sure they were ‘protected’, meaning locked out, of any content that might “micro aggress them,” and to restrict communication to “safe and trusted contacts”
“CURRENT P SCORE: 72%” was followed by “REMINDER: DAILY PANTY CHECK @ 10AM”.
The Boss enjoyed conducting Panty Checks and scoring her underwear appeal. All managers seemed to. Some girls secretly hated them of course, but that was irrelevant.
She needed to up her score—anything under 80 resulted in a payroll deduction. Deborah made a note to get herself to Vixxxen’s this weekend. She needed to up her lingerie game or she’d not only be pay check punished—she damn well might be demoted to the Secretarial Pool for good. As much as the Boss said he had a soft spot because of their shared history at Artemis, Deborah wasn’t naive. There were too many pretty girls to choose from if he ever grew bored with her and sought a replacement.
There was a message from her boss. Those were always at the head of the alert queue and were expected to be replied to at once. It was a reply to her flagging the mystery woman’s picture. She was almost afraid to open it but the system would log any tardiness in response time on her part.
You are an observant and quick-thinking girl. Daddy is very proud of you. You are right that she would be perfect for Artemis. I’ve notified recruitment to see what they can do. No promises but if we manage to land her would you like to mentor her? See if you got what it takes to get into female management responsibility?
Also let’s forget the Chipmunk thing. I’ve authorized you to pick your own username for the system. I’ll make sure all the girls use it as well as you like.”
It was an explosion of pure joy. Daddy was pleased with his little girl.
That was when her smart glasses displayed the second alert of the day
“CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY AT ARTEMIS SOLUTION SYSTEMS!”
Three years? It seemed so much longer. It seemed like she’d always been there. What was worse was she was pretty sure she always would be there.
PROLOGUE 2- CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
Wherein we meet our hero!
THREE YEARS EARLIER
“Is everything ok?”
He looked up. His waitress—no, it was ‘server’ here, wasn’t it? He was having trouble keeping up with the accelerating churn of old words for new, non-sexist replacements.
“Fine, thank you.” It wasn’t actually, but the location was more important than the coffee.
Her smile was perfunctory but her face was pleasant enough to look at. He was unconsciously redressing her faults as he considered her. The short hair would be grown out until it reached her shoulders, the colour dyed a more golden cornflower than the current dirty blonde, the breasts definitely increased by two cups. But she wasn’t merchandise and so he just as unconsciously shelved the improvement plan—for now.
Once you were in ‘the trade’ one tended to evaluate all young women professionally, rather than sentimentally. In some ways, it was a pity.
“Two flat whites, if you please,” he added just as she was turning away.
Her brow arched.
“I’m expecting a friend,” he added. She nodded, acknowledging the order. There was no further interest in him in those brown eyes (correct with lenses? An icy blue?), but then he was an old man and she was no doubt thinking of some boy (or girl, these days) she currently fancied—not some old duffer like him! And yet, of all the potential improvements, that was perhaps the easiest to address! He laughed.
“What’s the joke?”
He was here.
“Please, sit down. I ordered you a coffee.”
“How was your sabbatical?”
The younger man smiled. The blue linen shirt, khaki trousers, and well-worn boat shoes might have been the uniform of a grad student, a programmer, a trust funder, or a venture capital investor. In this part of the country, one just never knew. Nor did anything else about him provide clues as to his primary interests. He was of average height, perhaps even a bit under. He possessed a kind of bland good looks and only the new hint of muscle tone suggested a physicality that hadn’t been there just six months ago.
The pretty short-haired server arrived with their coffee. She offered his companion a broader smile than she bestowed upon him, he noted, as she placed the cup in front of him.
He smiled and winked at her in return, causing a slight blush on her pink cheeks.
“I think she’s in love,” he observed, watching the server’s backside wiggle away from them.
Now his companion chuckled. “She’s got potential. The face needs some work, but you’d get it all on the back end on a ten to one ratio. I’d say $225,000— unprocessed. Anyway, it is good to be back.”
“$250,000—and add another hundred thousand if Asia bound,” he corrected the visitor’s valuation. “The case officer said your contributions were significant. The word ‘impressive’ was featured in the after-action report.”
If he’d hoped for a reaction, he would have been disappointed. He had not. This one was a cool customer. This generation of operatives seemed impervious to judgement of any kind. Like many his age, he both admired and feared this aspect of the next rising generation of agents.
“It was very hot.” After sipping his coffee, he added, “and the local fare was pretty much MREs.”
He nodded. “Expect a significant upgrade in the Katangan hospitality sector. Between the rare earth minerals deal with the Chinese and the sex tourism explosion forecasted, your next visit will be spent in fine form.”
The younger man shrugged. “If and when the orders are cut, I’ll go wherever needed—even Katanga. It was,” he paused, “quite the learning experience, Herr Kempler.”
They sat in silence, each sipping the sub-par coffee. Despite the regrettable beverage, there was much scenery to enjoy. The sparkling glass towers lorded the skies above but blessed the leafy city pedestrian pavilion below with sunlight. Lined below with quirky boutiques and intriguing eateries, the city center was, by American standards, a delight. Most pleasing to the eye were the scores of young women brought by work or leisure to the public space.
“How do you find Zenith?”
The late twentysomething nodded. “I prefer it to Katanga, though I don’t know much about it.”
“It is an interesting place. A bit Portland, a bit Silicon Valley and throw in a dash of Singapore and you have Zenith. For good or ill, America is always reinventing itself—that’s Zenith in a nutshell. As older regions become less business-friendly, Zenith is a proud proponent of capitalism. Tax concessions, relocation grants, and development waivers have all made Zenith a boom town. That said, the local powers that be insist it is also a city that cherishes social justice above all else. All the usual civic virtue signaling is in effect here— proclamations, resolutions, and declarations all celebrating various aspects of the latest nonsense are broadcast loudly and constantly.”
“Trans Marx in a dress then— with a black AMEX card?”
Kempler chuckled. “This is one way to see Zenith, yes. It is a Petri dish of dystopic social capitalism.”
“How far we’ve come from the Cold War, Herr Kempler. The existence of Zenith is proof that both sides lost.”
It was one of those discordant observations he had come to expect from the agent. In an era when history was a tweet from last week, he appreciated the young man’s long view. It was incongruous in a fellow his age and one of the things that had commended him. They were both orphans of the twentieth century more than they were occupants of the present one.
“As are we, my friend. An organization such as ours would have been inconceivable if, as you say, either side had actually won. We emerged from between the cracks of history.”
“We are the future,” his visitor replied starkly.
Kempler wasn’t so sure. He had been once. Age had a way of robbing one of such youthful confidence. All he knew was that after reaping the whirlwinds of both sides of the last century’s conflict, he hadn’t had many options remaining. When it was winding down, he’d been an agent to a double and triple degree magnitude, at the end no longer even knowing what side his services were ultimately benefiting. His professional and ethical ledger was so hopelessly compromised, he hadn’t bothered to balance it for decades. Refuge in what had become Selectacorp represented a preferable option to suicide or self-exile. He had made that necessity into a virtue but even now, he was too jaded to believe in it the way the apprentice agent did.
“Speaking of the immediate future, you’re here because your next assignment is in Zenith.”
His visitor exhibited no visible response.
“Ever heard of Artemis Solutions Systems?”
His visitor shook his head ever so slightly. He was becoming known for his economy of engagement.
Kempler pointed to the farthest of the gleaming glass towers, atop which a sign proudly announced the corporate headquarters of Artemis Solution Systems. “There is it— the main campus, anyway. Hot new next-generation technology play. They’re carving out a niche they call Femtech—technology developed specifically for the fairer sex. It started with a family of mobile applications then branched out into wearable technology— all of it developed to ‘empower women today to lead the world of tomorrow’ or some nonsense. It’s been on all the investment sites,” he admonished.
Again, the shrug was minimal, the mocking smile razor thin. “Sorry, Herr Kempler– I’ve been preoccupied dodging bullets in an African hot zone helping to replace one regime with another.”
He waved the excuse away. “Selecta agents are expected to stay abreast of the latest. In any case, Artemis looks like an excellent prospect for financial colonization.”
“A pump and dump? Sounds dull, to be honest. Not that I’m complaining.”
Kempler smiled. “Nor should you. Here’s a flashdoc file on the current management team—including Wall Street’s feminist icon, Jennifer Page.”
The younger man took the grey paper folder, opened it, and nodded. He watched the agent’s eyes scan the photos enclosed hungrily. After a moment, the agent tapped the folder five times in quick succession, reducing it and all the enclosed photos into a covering of fine dust.
“Not dull—and no longer complaining. Herr Kempler. No men whatsoever?”
Kempler shook his head. “Artemis is—or has been—staff exclusively by women. Part of the mystique, actually.”
“Yes. Through a proxy, we launched a legal challenge to their employment policies. The Foundation for Advocating Parity—”
Kempler continued. “I don’t design these cut outs—that’s Operations. As I was saying, FAP won their court case and Artemis has been ordered to admit males that qualify into their Management Trainee Program. Congratulations—your application has been accepted.”
“It will be an incredibly hostile environment but if you survived Operation Burning Spear, I don’t imagine you’ll be intimidated by a bevy of self-entitled First World feminists. Here—look at this.”
The younger man took the grey paper folder, opened it, and nodded. He watched the agent’s eyes scan the photos enclosed hungrily. After a moment, the agent tapped the folder five times in quick succession, reducing it and all the enclosed photos into a covering of fine dust.
Then his eyes met Kempler calmly. Almost as much body-language control as I have, he thought with interest. It might be better, actually. I wonder how deep it runs. It was only years of intimately studying his protégé that allowed Kempler to glimpse the emotion.
“Not dull—and no longer complaining. Herr Kempler. I would have thought there would be some concern about my judgment being clouded in this matter.”
“There was some pushback,” Kempler confirmed. “I had to call in a few favors.”
“I hope you didn’t have to go too far out on a limb for me.”
“Failure would potentially compromise my ability to assist you further,” Kempler admitted.
“I won’t fail.” From the certainty, in his voice, he might as well have declared that the Earth was round. “May I ask why you did it?”
Kempler grinned. “Oh, I expect you will repay me with another stunning success, thus demonstrating my brilliance.”
“I would do that with any mission.”
Kempler rubbed his chin meditatively and then decided to speak. It was no secret, after all. “You have better impulse control than anyone I have ever met, but ultimately it is counterproductive to deny our passions—the joy of love, the clarity of hatred. Come to terms with these or let them destroy you. In the end, our personal history is either our servant or our master.”
“So this is a test?”
“Life is a test.”
The agent didn’t bite on that, but merely asked “What are the mission objectives?”
“Ascend the ladder, take control of Artemis Solutions Systems, take it to IPO, and turn it over to Select so we can squeeze it for as much liquid capital as possible. As you said—it is a pump and dump.”
“And the staff?”
“You’ve seen the Management Team— it is fairly reflective of the corporate body, so to speak. Jennifer Page has recruited her team with an eye for maximizing social media potential. Most, not all, of the ladies of Artemis are fairly attractive. We expect generous candidate harvesting. Commercial thinks we can liquidate the human capital as profitably as the financial, intellectual, and hard assets of the corporation. You’ve been assigned lead agent and I’m to be your handler. How does all that sound so far?”
“Time frame? Methodology? Am I solo on this?”
“We think twenty-four months should suffice. Plenty of time for a Selecta agent to infiltrate and take over a business of this size—especially one composed entirely of females. As for methodology, consider it a sandbox— use whatever tools or tactics you see fit. And yes, unless intervention is absolutely required, it is a one-man job.”
The younger man chuckled. “So I’m to work my way up– from the bottom– through an international technology player, assume leadership and drain it of any value—all by my lonesome. I’ve never had an assignment of this scale, Herr Kempler.” It wasn’t a plea, merely an observation.
“You’re ready. You know the ropes. Your wetwork and fieldcraft are exemplary. It is time for you to stretch and play on the corporate stage if you’re to reach your full potential.”
The visitor looked straight into the eyes of the older man. “This as you, wasn’t it?”
Kempler didn’t answer. He didn’t need to. “The Executive Council has confidence in you. As your company sponsor, I have confidence in you.”
The protégé lowered his head in a subtle sign of respect and gratitude. “I won’t disappoint. Frankly, the mission sounds… delicious. A whole company of women waiting to be taken in hand, a fortune to be claimed, and a fast track to promotion. What could go wrong?”
The insouciance was back and Kempler smiled. “Are you ready to launch Operation Company Man?”
“The Operations boys sure have a sense of humor. Yes, I’m ready.”
“I’ll have Quartermaster Division prepare the required back story documentation. What name would you like to use for this one?”
When the protégé answered, they both chuckled.
“It would appear the apprentice also has a sense of humor. Very well. Give me twenty-four hours and your field kit will be delivered to… where are you staying again?”
“The Cosmopolitan. Very expensive.”
“You have one more day to enjoy room service. After that, you’ll have to get used to living on a Management Trainee budget—that is until you start your climb up the corporate mountain. Good luck.”
He watched the younger man rise wordlessly and then disappear into the crowd of office workers. Kempler considered himself as emotionally vacant as any long term executive at Selectacorp, but the boy’s sangfroid was… exceptional. Like a plane stripped down in order to exceed the manufacturer’s recommended flight range, he knew the agent had dispensed with any superfluous baggage long ago. He couldn’t claim it was Selecta training or his own doing. He’d always been… compartmentalized.
It was what had first caught his attention when he’d been tasked with recruitment a few years ago. SC networks continually scanned hundreds of millions of illegal government ordered psych profiles to cherry-pick that tiny cadre of potential recruits. The protégé’s profile suggested a 100% Optimate match and the initial proffer pretty much concluded as he’d hoped. At first, the prospect of recruitment was a wearying one. However, once he’d met with the candidate, he found the chore more enjoyable than he’d thought. The recent university graduate had been floating, trying half-heartedly to land some entry-level office job when he’d made the offer of a lifetime. There had been no hesitation. He had no connection to his own family and his personal life was a hermetic one. That human trafficking— or as SC preferred, ‘human capital management’—should represent a fulfilling career path said all you needed to know about the age in which they were living. Kempler had fallen in with SC only because no other paths were available. For the protégé, it was a road leading to professional liberation.
Kempler looked up, noticing the server’s name tag.
Impresso Espresso Café
“Yes, thank you.”
As he watched the blonde attend to his order, he made a mental note. $250,000 was pocket change. Surely the Selectacorp Executive Dining Room could use a fresh new barista to perk things up? By the time Cindy had returned with his order, he’d already requested an Acquisition Order via smartphone. She’d “quit” her job via text in a few days, another twentysomething bit by wanderlust, and booked to travel Asia by herself. The next time he’d see her, they’d both know who had authored her future. He looked forward to it.
“Anything else?” she asked with a modicum of solicitude.
“Not today, Cindy. Not today, thank you.”
When he’d drained the third cup, he made sure to leave her an overly generous tip. When their reunion eventually happened, he wanted her to remember him well.
Wherein we meet the new boy in town!
What a day!
She felt the cool morning air fill her hungry lungs as she jogged past Harbour Plaza, glittering office towers reaching high into the blue cloudless sky. The odd freighter bumped along but it was mostly pleasure craft that filled the blue waterway, most darting out from the Neptune Yacht Club, indulging in an early morning sail before the city’s business day truly began.
Deborah continued her jog, looping around Hump Alley. Zenith’s own Red Light district was squarely between her and the nicer neighbourhood she lived in and unavoidable. Nevertheless, she kept a safe distance from the concentration of bars, clubs and shops that was such a blight on the city she otherwise had come to love.
Finally arriving at her own apartment building, she wiped the beads of sweat from her brow and checked her fitbit. 7:30 on the dot and three miles logged for her morning job. Plenty of time to get ready for work and she felt fantastic. She’d never had any weight issues, except for a spell where she’d actually was a bit underweight in her senior year at State University. That was her all-important final semester and she’d been a bit frantic. Once she’d aced her Econ finals, she’d rewarded herself with a pizza splurge that brought her right back to one hundred twenty pounds.
Walking into Tout Suit Apartments only elevator, she immediately noted the young guy holding a box, surrounded by luggage. She smiled.
“Moving in?” she asked pleasantly.
The man stuck his head around the edge of the box he was holding with an effort.
“How could you tell?” he replied. “I hope I have room for all my junk. You live her too?”
Deborah nodded. “It’s not bad. Small but clean and you can’t beat the location. Oh—what floor are you on?”
“Didn’t I— oh, I’m such an idiot! Four please!”
Deborah tapped his floor, then her own. She was on eight, the top floor and has great views of the harbour, but then she paid a bit more for the privilege. She considered more polite chit chat but shelved the idea. Thankfully, her elevator companion wasn’t in a talkative mood either, though she did feel his eyes on her momentarily. She knew she was attractive, even after a morning run, and she didn’t resent it—too much.
She held the OPEN button. “Looks like you’re home!”
He smiled and, struggling with his box, made his way out of the elevator.
“Let me help!” Deborah offered, transferring the man’s luggage from inside the elevator so he could collect it once he’d relieved himself of his box.
“Thanks! Appreciate it! See you around, I guess!” the young man hoped aloud.
“Maybe!” Deborah tossed back.
“Say. What’s your name?” the newcomer asked as the doors began to slide shut.
“Uh, Deborah!” she answered as the doors closed and she continued her trip upwards.
I didn’t get his name, she released. Not that it mattered. He wasn’t her type.
After a shower, Deborah sat in her small balcony devouring half of a grapefruit. She cherished her view. She found the Artemis Tower and Campus complex in the distance. Once she wrapped up the Management Trainee Program, she’d rotate through the company’s departments, most of which were based in the tower. There was Planning, of course, which was on the other side of the CBD. The Consulting Services Group she was currently assigned to was in a small leased office building just a few blocks away. All were within walking distance but by the time she was promoted, she might want to move closer to HQ and into a more upscale building.
She was three months in and things were going well. She’d survived that initial confusion and had masked her disappointment at being placed in Consulting. It was the least prestigious business unit and felt isolated, like some outpost compared to the sexier HQ or even Planning. She’d wanted to get into Artemis before graduating State University back in the Midwest. It was THE place to start a career—a hot tech start-up play that was building speed towards an IPO.
Yet despite her Summa cum Laude Economics degree and impeccable recommendations, she’d been knocked back three years ago. A sympathetic HR assistant named Jada had suggested she come back with an MBA in hand and try again. That had been a tough decision. It was a huge commitment— more student loan debt and three years of her life she’d never get back. Then again, job prospects weren’t great anyway. Sure, she could land something but that wasn’t the point. She wanted what she wanted— she always had. Her younger sister Katherine had mocked her as “The Machine” since high school years and Deborah knew she was a pathological overachiever type. She’d made the call and began applying to B Schools. She wasn’t concerned about getting accepted somewhere, but she wanted Forbes—which she got. International Studies seemed a perfect track to prep her for overseas assignments and she projected herself into the future, running a business from London or Singapore or even more exotic foreign cities. On a schedule of her own design, Deborah was now exactly where she wanted to be— a Management Trainee of the most exciting corporations of the twenty-first century, wielding a prestigious Forbes School MBA earned with high honours.
She wished her dad had lived to see this day. An air traffic controller, he had been a distant figure much of her childhood but in retirement he would have enjoyed seeing her kick-off her career in such a powerful way. The heart attack that took him at his desk in the tower in her second year at State meant that would never happen. Nor had Life been kind with regard to her mother, with whom she’d always had a close relationship. A lifelong party player in state politics, her mother had climbed from Precinct Captain to School Committee Member to City Council to State Representative, she’d ended serving her district as State Senator for the past decade. That was until the symptoms of early onset of Alzheimer’s began robbing her mother of the firm grasp she’d always had on her world. In the middle of her MBA, she’d had to organise her mother’s financial affairs to guarantee her long term care. Thankfully, the value of the family home meant her mom would have care for as long as she lived. For all that Responsible Daughter duty, Deborah’s last visit to Peacedale Sanatorium had been with a stranger.
Which left her alone on the world—almost. She and Katherine, her younger sister by three years, had never been close. They were too different, too competitive for their parent’s attention. Deborah was tightly controlled, buttoned downed and self-aware. Katherine was spontaneous, risk-taking and lived in the now. Her current pursuit of a Performance Art degree was incomprehensible to her—an utter waste of time and money. Then there were Kate’s string of boys and misdemeanour drug charges that her mother had been forced to use political favours to deal with. Deborah suspected she didn’t know the half of her prodigal sister’s mischief and didn’t want to. Other than the occasional requests for ‘loans’, they rarely talked. That was a shame but Deborah was mature enough to acknowledge Life’s disappointments without dwelling on them.
The navy blue tropical wool suit from H&M was one of her faves and she had complimented it with a white cotton blouse, sensible matching navy blue flats and neutral stockings. She had her hair styled these days, but the colour was her own—a gold blonde that contrasted with her light blue eyes. Makeup was an afterthought— a mere dash of lipstick and dash of blush. She had been told by her infrequent boyfriends she was a natural ‘girl next door’ look that makeup could only detract from and it was true. Deborah grabbed her soft brown leather Kate Spade briefcase, a B School graduation gift to herself, and she was off, ready to begin her third month at Artemis Solution Systems.
The Artemis Consulting Services Group’s office was a one-floor pre-fab affair that totally antithetical to the Artemis brand. It might have been home to a third rate insurance agency, industrial distribution outfit or an auto parts wholesaler. It housed the six-member team run by Susan Granger, the unit’s manager. She’d been sold the CSG as an outgrowth of the company’s booking consulting contracts and that Susan was an insider with the personal support of CEO Jennifer Page. It had sounded good until she’d arrived at the address she’d been directed to by HR. After the futuristic fit-out of the corporate campus, it was downright depressing. Everyone’s got to start somewhere, she thought, opening the glass door.
At the receptionist’s desk, she waited patiently, a pointed silence beginning to grow.
“Good morning, Ms. Jones.” Britney had broken the silence with a greeting boarding on resentful. There had been a ‘discussion’ with the airhead the previous week and a correction regarding forms of address. The ditzy receptionist had been informed that ‘Deborah’ was inappropriate and ‘Debbie’ was positively out of bounds. Susan, once again, had neither backed her up or requested she back down.
“Good morning, Britney.”
The tarted-up office girl gave her an insincere half-smile as she walked past her. It stopped her in her tracks.
Britney looked at her computer screen, coyly ignoring her gaze. “What ‘what’, Ms. Jones?”
“Knock it off, Britney. You look like the cat who swallowed the canary. What’s up?”
Britney considered before responding dramatically. “Oh, well—he’s here. In Ms. Granger’s office,” she added with a knowing smile.
“Who is ‘he’ then?” Deborah was losing patience with this twit!
“The court guy! The man the company had to hire because of that legal stuff!” the receptionist explained with unseemly excitement. “There’s gonna be an all staff at 9:30 in the conference room to meet him!” she practically squealed.
Deborah nodded, then headed off to her own desk. She’d heard about the out of court settlement requiring the ‘tempering’ of the formerly all-female hiring policy. So, he was being dumped here. Just more evidence she’d been stuck in a dud department! She knew she mustn’t dwell on negatives. That was the wrong mindset!
“Hi, Ms. Jones! Can I get you some coffee?”
“Good morning, Amanda! You know you don’t have to do this,” she admonished, even as she reached for her wallet. Handing her a bill, she added “And get one for yourself, ok?”
The button-nosed intern— her intern, really— just smiled.
“No, thanks though! And I don’t mind at all. Be back in five!”
Deborah smiled. Amanda was a smart college kid interning at Artemis. It was to her credit, as landing an internship was pretty competitive. Assuming she did a decent job, it also meant the high probability of getting a job offer upon graduation. Given what she knew about Amanda— a hard-working girl on a full boat academic scholarship pursuing a Finance degree at City College—that would be a very big deal. Susan had assigned Deborah as her manager, which sort of meant she was responsible for the girl, a responsibility she took seriously. Of course, she’d never required Amanda to go get her morning coffee but it had just sort of happened.
Not that she minded. She was an MBA after all– the only one in the CSG. She looked at her framed degree, proudly displayed next to the window which provided her with a nice city view. For a cubicle, she’d done okay, scoring one that offered semi-privacy in a corner that also gave her a precious window spot. A corner cubicle wasn’t a corner office, she thought, but it was a nice start!
She had a few minutes before the all-staff and began clicking through her emails. There was a reminder she owed Jada Baxter in HR a Progress Update on Amanda Ellsbach. She’d tackle that before lunch and assure Jada Amanda was doing a great job. Anne Miller was asking for a reorganisation of HER client database and had, of course, cc’d Susan. She sighed. Anne was a typical sales prima donna!
“Here you go, Ms. Jones!” It was Amanda, back with her coffee and change. “What would you like me to work on today?” The girl was so eager to get to work!
“Ah, let’s see. Why don’t you check on how the temp girl—Jill?– is doing with the document transfer project?”
Amanda nodded. “Sure! Will do, Ms. Jones!” she promised, bounding back to the Records Room, where the aforementioned temp had been scanning old files for weeks now. Deborah shrugged. Make poor life decisions, end up with dead-end jobs, she observed.
An incoming email snapped her attention back to her screen.
“TO: DEBORAH JONES
SUBJECT: STUDENT LOAN TRANSFER”
Deborah clicked on the email and read.
“As a result of the recent acquisition of ScholarSource by our firm, your student loan has been transferred to our care. Don’t worry—nothing will change and the current conditions of your student loan will remain exactly the same! Please click on ‘YES” to acknowledge you have been properly informed of this change in your loan and to accept the new Terms and Conditions as required by Federal Civil Education Code, Title 3, Article 23.”
“Thank you! We are happy to welcome you to the DegreeCorp family. If we can be of any assistance, feel free to contact our Customer Care Centre 24/7!”
She’d never had any dramas with her student loan. She’d organised a fairly modest monthly payment as soon as she’d landed the Artemis job. It was manageable and as soon as she got her promotion out of the Management Trainee Program, she’d increase the payment. It was a big loan but then she’d paid for a degree from one of the top B Schools in the country. It was also only big now. As soon as she started breaking into middle management, she should be able to knock it down pretty quickly.
She looked up, assuming a smile.
Susan Granger, Manager of the Consulting Services Group, looked as flustered as always.
Brushing a strand of blonde hair back, she smiled back. “Just trying to round everyone up for the All Staff. You ready?”
Deborah nodded and followed. Soon the whole CSG team had filed into the back Conference Room table– Anne Miller, the CSG sales exec, looking at her watch and bored; Britney Bower, their GED trained receptionist; Jill Vander, the bitter college drop reduced to temping; Amanda Ellsbach, her own intern; Susan Granger, the erstwhile boss of the group and herself.
And standing next to Susan— that guy!
As she took her seat, he smiled and winked.
“OK,” Susan began. “Thanks for your attention! As you know, the company has recently agreed to EEOC requests that Artemis offer more career opportunities to unrepresented communities—in this case, males. While Artemis is a proud advocate for female opportunity—”
Anne yawned. “Sorry, Susan. Late night. Please, go on.” The sales rep loved waving her engagement and fiancé in front of any and all. She’d spent the night at her attorney fiancé and gotten the sheets messed up. Big deal.
Susan nodded impatiently. “What I was saying is that we’re pleased to offer an opportunity in our group to our new colleague, who will be joining us as a Management Trainee.”
That caught Deborah’s attention.
“Everyone, say hello to Hunter Downe!”
Everyone followed Susan’s lead and dutifully clapped. Britney looked smitten. This was all such a bad idea and of course, they dumped him on us, Deborah thought.
“Thanks, ladies. I’m really excited to be joining you. Hi, Deborah!”
Deborah broadcast a neutral smile.
“You two know each other?” Susan asked, surprised.
“No, not really,” Deborah explained. “You—uh, he just moved into my building— Tout Suites Apartments. I didn’t even know his, uh, your name,” she insisted.
Britney’s eyes narrowed.
“Oh! Well! In any case, we all look forward to Hunter’s contributions. Where will we put you though? Next to Deborah, perhaps?”
“That would be a tight fit,” Deborah pushed back, politely but forcefully.
“I wouldn’t want to cramp anyone’s style. Is there room in the back?” the new boy suggested amiably.
Susan nodded, grateful to avoid conflict. “Yes, of course! There’s a cubicle near the Records Room. Jill, would you mind cleaning it up for Mr. Downe?”
“Please, Hunter will do just fine!” New Boy insisted cheerfully.
Jill smiled. “No problemo, Hunter!”
Resuming her focus on the day’s To-Do List, Deborah watched the new guy make the rounds as he made personal introductions. It was clear Britney was already thrilled to have a bearer of XY chromosomes in the house. Jill seemed intrigued as well. If he plays his cards right, she thought, Hunter could have some fun, as long as he had fairly low standards. Anne had left for client meetings as soon as the meeting was over. Susan had retreated back into her office and Amanda hadn’t registered much interest as she returned to working with Jill on the document scanning. She stiffened as Hunter now approached her.
He extended a hand, which she reluctantly shook.
“Wow— what a coincidence! Nice to formally meet you, Deborah.” He was well-spoken, confident.
“Yes, well— welcome aboard,” she responded with subdued enthusiasm.
“As a fellow Management Trainee, do you have any advice? I was hoping you’d show me the ropes around here,” he added. Was that a smirk? And she didn’t like the way he was subtly assessing her.
“I’m sure you’ll find your way,” she offered. “Where did you go?”
“To school, you mean? I see you went to Forbes. Great school. International Studies, I see. Are you gunning for an overseas posting?” He was looking at the framed MBA on her wall.
“Yes, I am.” She regretted her curtness. Why be so defensive? New Boy was starting three months behind her. She’d be on to a management role while he was still stuck here—assuming he made it through his probationary period.
“Don’t worry about me then— International has no appeal for me. Been there, done that,” he explained vaguely. “Anyway, nice to meet my co-worker— and neighbour!”
And that was that. Deborah noted he’d never answered her question about what school he attended. Probably some fifth-tier college he was embarrassed to reveal. The more she thought about him, the less of a threat he seemed.
Gone in three months, she predicted.