“My name’s Corisette,” said the pretty little woman. She looked, to Margoyle’s eyes, as though she had Oriental ancestry: her skin was flawless, her nose was delicate and slightly pointed, her chin was elfin and her eyes would have put a Manga character to shame. Her hair was neatly coiled into a bun that sat just above the nape of her neck, and was skunk-striped.
“Corisette?” Margoyle’s tone was flat and cold like the wind in a Canadian winter. Corisette actually shivered slightly when Margoyle had finished saying her name.
“Yes,” she said. “Like Anisette, only more bitter and toxic to cattle.” She smiled, and little dimples appeared in her cheeks and chin.
“You look like a bowling ball when you do that,” said Margoyle. “I’m finding it hard to resist the temptation to come over there and hurl you along the corridor and see how many interns I can knock over. Try not to tempt me again.”
“You can’t do that!” said Corisette, the pitch of her voice rising in indignation. “I’ve dated an HR manager, and I know that that’s harassment, and possibly intimidation.”
“You should probably meet our HR director then,” said Margoyle. “Or at least read the company handbook. We have slightly different policies than those you may be used to.”
“I couldn’t read the handbook,” said Corisette. She looked longing at the chair opposite Margoyle’s desk, but didn’t dare sit down. Not until she was invited to. “It was inside the shredder in my office, and I couldn’t find any way to turn the shredder off to get the book out. The shredder appears to have its own internal power supply, and… well I pushed an intern’s hand into it and now… now they’re in hospital.” Margoyle raised an eyebrow that had been plucked almost to extinction and then had a miniature weave sewn in place. It waved gently as though it were alive.
“And you’re about to start complaining about harassment?” she asked.
“We don’t pay interns, do we?” asked Corisette, looking meaningfully at the chair. Margoyle ignored her. “So they’re not really like us, right?”
“Many people dehumanise them,” said Margoyle. “Why do you poison cattle?”
“I’m sorry?” Corisette didn’t look sorry, she looked annoyed that Margoyle had changed the subject. Her dimples had disappeared, and her face was notably angular now. Tiny little red blood vessels crowded the corners of her eyes.
“You said you were bitter and poisoned cattle.”
“Oh. No, I don’t poison cattle, but the plant I’m named after does. Corisette.” Margoyle said nothing and toyed with a pencil. “My mother was a naturist and she liked to name her children after the things she studied. My sister’s called Wedlock and my brother is called Ramp.”
Margoyle smiled thinly, her lips pressed so firmly together to prevent any laughter escaping that they were a white version of her eyebrows. When she felt she had herself back under control again, she looked Corisette in the eye. “I hope you mean that your mother was a naturalist,” she said. “I suspect your sister is actually called Hemlock too. And your brother… –“
“I don’t like him.” Corisette sniffed. “He smells like garlic all the time.”
“… might just be accurately named,” said Margoyle. “Why are you in my office, Corisette? I don’t care about your family, or you for that matter. I don’t care that you can’t get through the shredder – which is a test, by the way, that you can still fail if you try – and I’m not seeing the report I asked you for, either in my Inbox or in my inbox. So why are you here?”
“I’ve been promoted,” said Corisette. “I was told to tell you.”
Margoyle shrieked like a banshee at karaoke. “This is a stalling action!” You’re a diversion, aren’t you?” Corisette’s face was as blank as her mind for a moment. “You stupid little cow-poisoner! You’re not promoted at all, only I can promote you! You’re keeping me occupied why Jeronica takes the corner office on the third floor!”
“But… but she said –“
“She’d say anything to get you to keep me occupied! You stupid little plant, you idiotic child of sludge, you simple-minded slime mould! How could I be so stupid as to let you in here! Get out! Get out now!”
Corisette fled the office, turning left instead of right, and Margoyle smiled tightly, her bad mood gone as quickly as it had appeared. Corisette should have gone left, back to her own office, but right would take her to the stairwell and the third floor, presumably to meet up with Jeronica and receive her reward for her treachery.
There was a surprisingly loud click, which Margoyle knew was a solenoid engaging and preventing the doors to and from the stairwell from opening. Corisette would have used her standard access pass-card, not realising that Margoyle would have tracking programmes in all of Data Analytic Marketetic Normalisations systems, and little contingency scripts for… eventualities. Something whumphed inside the building, and the floor rocked. Margoyle waited. Two minutes later exactly, by her watch, an intern tapped on her open door, and peered cautiously in.
“Security warning,” she said, her voice trembling. “Apparently there’s been some kind of air lock in the stairwell and everyone is to use the lifts for the rest of the day. Until the pressures can be equalised.”
Margoyle smiled, and her eyebrows waved at the intern like a sea-creature in a warm-water current.