The New Secretary in Town
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Home sweet home.

The flight back to the United States was quiet and uneventful- really, Ecro was just happy to have gotten it over with.

But, of course, as all new department heads must, he had to do math- even when he was seven hours into a return flight over the Atlantic.

And compared to the rush of the sales pitch and the gambles he made just a few hours earlier, the routine of accounting seemed to be much less appealing.

“Okay,” Fern said across from him. A calculator was held in her hand, and a large pile of papers was already gathering on top of their private plane’s table. “So how many tons?”

Ecro had a calculator in his hand too, and his own growing pile of papers- full of various statistics and numbers. He answered. “Fifty tons for seven hundred million each.”

Fern let out another billow of awe. “Still can’t freaking believe that you actually pulled that off.” She coughed. “Alright. So that equals to…”

Ecro pushed a few buttons on his calculator as well. The same went for Fern.

Thirty-five billion.” They both said in unison.

Ecro’s eyes widened. Fern’s eyes did too.

“Jesus Christ.”

Ecro sat back, his mouth agape. “That’s seventy-seven percent of the fucking yearly budget.”

On one shipment.” Fern said, a smile on her face. “It’s not enough to rebuild Nineteen- we’re gonna need a bunch of shipments to do that, but… it could be doable. We have lots of surplus saved up over the years.”

“This Department of Surplus is a great fucking idea.” Ecro said. His expression was still frozen on awe. “No more deficits, no more budget cuts…” Then his lips drew up into a smile. “We might just about save the damn Foundation!”

“No question about that.” Fern said, putting down the calculator.

“Mister Secretary,” A security staff member said, entering their part of the seats. She had an apologetic look on her face, with just the slightest hint of irritation. “Sorry to say this, but keep it down. My team’s trying to fuckin’ sleep.”

Ecro guiltily withdrew his lips in an expression of apology, looking down and away from the staff member. “I’m sorry, but I-“

“We apologize,” Fern said, looking at the staff member. Her tone was stern and commanding. “But please do remember that you’re talking to a head of a Foundation department.”

The staff member narrowed her eyes, then sighed, gritting her teeth. “Fine. I’m sorry for speaking to you that way, Mister Secretary.”

“Good.” Fern said, crossing her arms. “Now you can return to-“

Ecro interrupted and moved to block her face with his arm. “I’m very sorry about her behavior. You may now continue on.”

The staff member crinkled her eyebrows and crossed her arms. She shook her head slightly. “Yeah.” She turned to leave. “Alright.”

Her retreating footsteps were loud as she moved down the corridor.

A moment passed.

“What the heck was that?” Fern said, looking at Ecro. “I was trying to assume your position for you.”

Ecro went back to his seat, sighing. “She had a point, Ciara. You should have just apologized.”

Fern scoffed, grinning in incredulity to herself. “Have some more self-fucking-respect, Nu. Did you forget your position?”

Ecro shook his head, looking at her all the while. “I’m not sworn in yet. I don’t have any position. Who am I, fucking Ass-Hat or… or Banner the fucking Terror?”

Banner was the assistant to the Site Director back in 02, and was a terrifying figure that whipped all the departments in the Site into shape. He was also a legendary dick. Ecro felt a chill go up his spine just as he said the name.

“No!” She said. “But you need to grow a damn spine. Your deal just saved the Foundation. If you got it, use it.”

“I’m not one to flaunt, damn it.” Ecro responded, gritting his teeth. “I got a silver tongue and a mind for numbers, doesn’t mean that-“

And you saved the damn Foundation.” Fern interrupted. “Did I have to repeat that?”

Ecro shook his head again. “I don’t wanna abuse my power, Ciara. Other people might, back in Site-02, but-”

Fern sighed with a disbelieving grin. She raised her hands in a show of concession. “Fine, Nu. You win. Game over.” Her voice lowered to a mutter. “People are bound to step over you in the future with that kind of freaking attitude.”

Ecro knotted his eyebrows, but didn’t respond.

“Attention, all passengers.” The pilot said from the intercom. “This is your pilot speaking. We’re about to land on the Site-02 airstrip in ETA two minutes. Please begin packing your belongings.”

“Showtime.” Fern said mutedly, putting all of the papers on the table in neat and orderly piles in a briefcase. “Time to show them what you’re made of, Mister Secretary. It’s time to order the new department.”

Ecro sighed. “Ciara-“

Fern looked back at him. “Don’t worry about it, alright? Pack up your stuff. They’re probably in reorganization hell right about now, and we gotta step in.”

Ecro began placing his papers into his briefcase as well, along with his pen and calculator.

He sighed again. “You think I can cut it?”

Fern looked up at him, her light brown eyes staring into his. She showed him a half-smile. “We just went to Spain and cut out a gigantic deal. I think you already know my answer to that question.”

“Yes?” Ecro said, doubtful.

“Have some freaking respect for yourself.” Fern answered. “Yes.


No.” Ecro said, shaking his head. “Oh dear God, no.”

“We spent nearly two days away.” Ciara said, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Of course everything’s nice and ordered.”

In front of them, maintenance workers were still walking to and fro with furniture and boxes of things, chattering to each other as they ordered this desk and that, setting up computers on them as they finished laying down furniture. Most of the cubicles were already being erected, but with a hundred employees being planned to become part of the Department of Surplus, it was at that moment that Ecro became aware of the true scale of what he was now leading.

A scale that he would have to address.

Add that to my list of problems.

Ecro sighed. “…the only thing that’s ordered here are the damn cubicles and the computers.”

Fern chuckled. “At least Site Direction already had the location organized. Total number right now is a hundred and ten employees. Twenty from the Amnestics Production Committee, forty-five from my Statistics Subdivision, and forty-two from the Department of Marketing.”

She looked up in thought, then continued. “Also three from Accounting’s IT.”

Ecro looked at her with his mouth agape. “That… many?” Only astonishment showed itself on his face. “Holy fucking shit.”

“We’re on the small side as well, too.” Fern said. “But I’m certain we’ll grow with time, considering our importance.” She looked at him. "You feel like a secretary yet?" She said, grudgingly.

Ecro looked at her. "Fern…"

Fern held a thick stack of papers in her left hand, along with the large briefcase held by her right. She shoved the papers towards Ecro’s chest. “That’s the personnel files of every prospective employee. Select your people at your pleasure. The Terror up at Site Direction sends his compliments.”

Ecro was simply overwhelmed. He rifled through the papers. “We have this many?”

“We’ll go over them later.” Fern said, moving down the main aisle of cubicles.

Ecro followed. He kept reading through the papers as he did. “Ciara, I don’t think that I-“

“You’ll get a handle on it eventually, Nu.” Fern said as she continued down the aisle. “The managerial adviser should be coming down from Site Direction any time now.” She said the words with dread, though Ecro didn’t notice. “He’ll get you up to speed with your management skills, give you a crash course.”

Ecro sighed. “This feels a bit fast, isn’t it? I’m not exactly a managerial guy.“

“The Foundation chose us, and it’s not as if you did a bad job so far.” Fern answered. The cubicles that they were passing through went on and on. She looked to her right, then continued in that direction.

Ecro’s eyes were directed down at the papers in his hands, and the papers alone. “Yeah, but this is leadership, Ciara! I’m not cut out for that.“

Fern put out a hand, stopping Ecro in his tracks. “Nu. Look up.”

Ecro didn’t bother, busy as he was with reviewing his options. “It’s just-“

“Nu!” Ciara urged. “Look the crap up.”

Ecro gave out a sigh of frustration. “Why should I-“ Then he immediately stopped. “Oh.”

In front of them was a large rectangular office, nearly the size of a full conference room. A desk with a desktop computer dominated the front, flanked by a few paintings on the walls surrounding it. Behind the desk was a large and comfortable seat- a far-cry from the office chair that Ecro was used to as an Undersecretary. In front of the desk were wooden chairs as well, tailor-made to receive visitors.

“What…” Ecro was astonished. “What the hell is this?”

“Your new office, Nu.” Fern answered, a wide smile on her face. “Your new, beautiful office. Secretary of Surplus seems to be so much better now, isn’t it?”

Ecro nodded, his mouth agape. “Oh.” He nodded faster. “Oh, yeah.”

“Go in, come on.” Fern said, ushering him with her arm. “It won’t crumble the moment you walk into it.”

“Fuck you.” Ecro joked. His eyes were wide with awe as he took a step forward. “Is this… is this where I’m going to be now?”

“Heck yeah, silly.” Fern answered, watching him. “This is your new home. You deserve it.”

Ecro didn’t hear her. He took a step forward. Then another step. Then another.

After the third step, he was inside.

The room was large, nearly cavernous by his previous standards. Windows with blinds let the morning light into the room, casting everything in a beautiful glow.

Yes.” Ecro said, finally smiling.

Like a child in a candy store, the thirty-five year old rushed to the desk in a sprint, sitting on the comfortable chair as he savored the first taste of his new lodgings. Setting down the papers and briefcase in his hands, he touched the desk with a hallowed reverence, holding his breath with astonishment as he felt the smoothly polished wood.

“For Pete’s sake.” Fern said, setting her briefcase down as well and crossing her arms. “Do you really like it that much?”

Ecro gave her a wide smile, nodding multiple times in quick succession. “Fuck. Yes.”

Fern chuckled. “Perks of the job.” She took a step closer, placing her hands on the desk as she looked down on him. “Do you feel like you’re a proper department head now? Ready to think like one?”

Ecro kept smiling, not giving an answer for a few moments. Then he looked up at her. “It’s nice.” He said, simply.

“It isn’t.” A voice said outside. They heard heavy footsteps outside, and as they looked in that direction, a large man in a suit walked in, his blonde and greasy hair combed off to the side. He walked in, coming to a stop just a few meters away from Ecro’s desk. He clapped his hands once. “Because it’s about time we get to business.”

“Oh. Shit.” Ecro muttered. He knew exactly who he was- the terror of Site-02. “Are you the-“

“I haven’t properly introduced you yet.” Fern said, understanding the gravity of the current situation as she cleared her throat and stepped back, gesturing to the heavy man with a hand. “This is Arnold Banner, the secretary to the Site Director. He’s the managerial adviser I talked to you about.” She looked at Banner, then gestured to Ecro. “Mr. Banner, this is Secretary Ecro, of the new Department of Surplus.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Banner said listlessly, walking past Fern and stretching out a hand. His reputation preceded him- he was a big man, and intimidating.

Ecro, terrified out of his mind, gave a small bow, standing up to shake Banner’s hand. He was trembling again. He didn’t like the feeling. “Pleased to meet you,” He said politely. “I look forward to learning from you.”

Banner gave a heavy roar of a laugh. “So the new secretary pup wants to learn the ropes, eh?”

Behind him, Fern turned her head. “Please don’t-“

“Eh.” Banner said, interrupting her. He looked back at Ecro, separating his hand from his and bringing it down on the stack of personnel papers. “Have you looked through these yet?” His voice was loud and bellowing.

Ecro feigned a smile, knees continuing to shake. He looked at Fern, who looked as if she might stare a hole into the back of Banner’s head. Then he looked back at Banner. “I have, some, but not to-“

“Well, get to it, Pipsqueak.” Banner said, sliding it to him. “O5s want the new department to be up and running by the end of the week, and we got a lot to cover.”

He put a hand on his chin, looking down on him. He seemed to think of Ecro as a plaything. “Honestly, you should have known all this before you got here, right?”

“I only just came here after the flight to Spain,” Ecro said incredulously. “But-“

“No buts, pipsqueak. This ain’t sales and this ain’t the Dep of Accounting.” Banner said, smiling at him with a hint of irritation and a healthy dose of condescension. “Let’s get to business.”

The hell? Ecro thought. “But wait, aren’t we-“

Banner laughed in his face, disregarding him with a gesture. It looked like his short patience was wearing thin. “Let’s get to fucking business, a’ight? Get your training wheels on.”

Fern tried to speak up. “Alright, but please if you would-“

Then Banner turned with a fury, he said through gritted teeth. “For fuck’s sake, woman, stop fucking interrupting me.” He stared daggers at her. “I’m doing this as a favor to Director DeVere, so let me do my fucking job!“

“Hey,” Ecro said, putting out both his hands in a gesture of reconciliation. “We don’t need to-“

Fern continued. She didn’t seem to hear him. “He’s still a Secretary though, Sir, so if you will-“

“Agh!” Banner said, disregarding her again. “I won’t tolerate this fucking shit!”

“Please-“ Fern said.

Should I intervene? He thought. But-

“I will address him as I damn please.” Banner said again, turning on her and squaring his shoulders. “Now let me do my damn job!”

Fern shrunk at once.

Fern-

At that moment, Ecro remembered what Fern told him on the plane.

People are bound to step over you in the future with that kind of freaking attitude.

Seeing it now, she was right.

He needed to stand up for himself.

“KINDLY SHUT IT, BANNER!” He shouted.

That didn’t count as an abuse of power, right?

Banner stopped in his tracks. He turned to Ecro.

“You…” Banner was nearly frothing at the mouth. He was on the edge of a rampage. “Did you just…”

“I did.” Ecro said, gritting his teeth. “And I will not tolerate this gross disrespect in my department.”

Banner looked at him, staring daggers into his eyes.

Ecro looked up at him all the same, holding his ground. “If you shout at my staff again, you can show yourself out.”

Then, Banner crossed his arms, then smiled.

“So he does know how to bark. Fine, Mister Secretary.” He said with a grudging respect. “I’ll act properly.”

“Thank you.” Ecro said, sitting down. He gestured to the seats. “Please, sit down.”

Banner followed his instruction, crossing his legs. “Alright then, where do you wanna start?” He spoke slowly and menacingly.

Ecro looked at him. “From the beginning, please.”


The next few days were close to hell on Earth.

Initiatives. Tactical plans. Analyses. Personnel selection. Strategic plans. Words, not much numbers.

Having set down in Site-02 on a Wednesday, the deadline for all the things they needed to cover was on Saturday, which left them with three short days to write up what they needed.

To his credit, Arnold Banner was a fantastic adviser- Even Ecro could admit that, looking past their first meeting. Thanks to him, they covered every nook and cranny of every pertinent concept they needed to learn. Together, they appointed more undersecretaries, created subdivisions, selected personnel (with Fern’s input being extremely valuable with Statistics), wrote down proposals, and did everything imaginable to get the department running- at the expense of sleep.

When Saturday came and their plans were approved by the Site Director, they brought in nearly all the new employees from all the other departments, having coordinated with their department heads beforehand in order to facilitate a smooth transition.

Which leads up to this moment.

“You ready, Mister Secretary?” Fern said, her hands in her pockets. “They’re all waiting for you.”

Ecro gave a confident smile, though his knees were shaking again. “Ready as I’ll ever damn be.”

“Good.” Fern said, placing her hand on the door. “Let’s get ready. Chin up.”

With a silent whoosh, she pushed the door open, and Ecro stepped through and out into the corridor, looking out at all the various employees of his new department. Each of them looked weary and stressed, and in their own way, they were- Site-19 had burdened all of the departments equally.

Looking at all of them like this, the sheer number of a hundred people was almost enough to get Ecro’s knees to buckle.

But he knew that that wouldn’t give a good first impression.

Dear God. He thought. They’re endless.

He cleared his throat.

“Department of Surplus!” he shouted with the same volume that he did with Banner.

At once, all the employees turned their eyes to him.

“This is new.” Fern said, crossing her arms. “I think they heard about Banner.”

Oh shit. He thought. His teeth were chattering. Oh shit.

He put both his hands out. “It’s an honor to see you all here, but let’s keep it short.”

He heightened his voice, causing it to echo across the room. “The Foundation needs us, so let’s not keep it waiting! From all of you up to me, let’s get to work!”

A silence followed.

A moment passed.

Then the employees’- His employees’ eyes perked up. “Yes, Mister Secretary!” They barked back.

He smiled.

“Our first initiative…” He paused.

”Get this department off the ground.”


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