After Lucas had finished answering his morning emails, he sat there in his black leather chair, staring blankly at his screen for a moment, before turning his head slightly to steal a glance at Brooke. It was impossible for him to hold back the hostility of his stare, because he was entirely unable to muster any positive thoughts or energy around her. She was sitting there in the chair, her spindly legs crossed together at an awkward angle, as her body hunched toward her laptop screen.
‘Obviously no one taught this girl how to sit up straight,’ Lucas thought. ‘Jesus, her body looks like it’s doing its best impression of the letter “C.” How is she possibly going to last a month here? Maybe she’ll be so inept that Dave gets involved or something…and solves my problem for me.’
But Lucas knew that all of this was wishful thinking. Dave rarely condescended to micro-manage Lucas’s division, and whenever he had in the past, Lucas had generally not felt well-disposed towards the intervention, since, of course, it reminded him that he did not enjoy as much real power as he sometimes felt he had. It was strange, now, to realize that he had been subconsciously starting to hope for Dave or someone higher up to come rescue him from this unenviable situation.
“Ok, so…learned a thing or two about nanobots?” he asked out loud, trying to keep the antagonism out of his voice.
“I…uhh…I’ve r-read some about them, y-yes,” answered Brook, looking up anxiously from her screen. The pixelated light reflected off the waxiness of her brunette hair, further highlighting its unkempt oiliness.
“Well?” asked Lucas, inhaling through his nose. “Anything to say so far?”
“N-not really,” said Brooke apologetically. She shifted clumsily in her seat, out of sheer nerves, and as a result, her laptop came tumbling down onto the carpeted floor.
“Oooo drat!” she exclaimed, reddening in embarrassment as she bent down to pick it back up again. Lucas watched as she fumbled about, and he noticed that her laptop already had a number of dings and chinks in its exterior — clearly, this was not the first time that Brooke had dropped it.
“Really? Nothing to say?” asked Lucas, even as he asked himself why he was pushing the poor girl. “Ten minutes of reading and…no new information?”
“I…I’m s-sure that I learned something,” said Brooke, stumbling forward a bit as she retrieved her laptop from the floor. “B-but…but I, uh…I mean…it’s kinda…was kind hard for me to...find the right...website resources.”
“Oh yeah?” asked Lucas, raising his eyebrows without empathy. “Well, maybe try and focus yourself today, ok Brooke? This job…er, internship…temp position…whatever…will require you to not only remember large amounts of data and information, but to also process it as well. Surely you had to remember things at your former internship at Macking, right?”
“Uh…y-yes,” said Brooke. “Th-that is…um…I mean…w-we…uh, I…I did a lot of j-just watching others, y-you know?”
“Uh…ok,” said Lucas, looking intently down at a random spot on the floor and opening his eyes wide as he shook his head a little back and forth. “Ok, well…I guess we need to get started.”
Sighing audibly, he stood up, walked around his desk, and toward his office door, where he stopped and turned around expectantly. Brooke was still sitting in the chair, looking up at him confusedly.
“That means both of us, ok?” Lucas said, beckoning her out of her seat with an irritated whirl of his hand.
“Oh! S-sorry!” she said hurriedly, standing up abruptly from her chair and causing her laptop to once again fall to the floor. She bent down and picked it up, oddly holding it under her arm as she walked over toward the office door.
Lucas pinched the bridge of his nose in disbelief, closing his eyes as he titled his head slightly down. “Just…just leave your laptop in the chair, ok?” said Lucas, pointing. “You’re not gonna need it for what we’re doing.”
“Oh…a-alright,” stammered Brooke, obviously out-of-sorts. She put her laptop down and walked back up to Lucas. He stood there looking down on her for a moment; he felt almost like he was studying a biological anomaly, looking at this girl. She was just so clumsy and…and scatterbrained and out of it…that it was almost interesting. Almost. But as he looked down at the top of her head, which, in her 3-inch heels, was even with his eyes, he felt a wave of distaste in his mouth. For a moment, he really considered calling her out on the disheveled state of her appearance, but something internal stopped him.
‘Eh, she’s already having a hard time speaking, she’s so nervous,’ he thought, not out of pity so much as practicality. ‘If I give her even more reason to be insecure, then it’s just gonna make my day that much harder.’
“Ok, all set?” he asked out loud, arching his eyebrows at her as he tried to make his voice sound pleasant.
“Mmhm,” she said, looking up at him with her big eyes and nodding.
“Alright then, let’s first take you on a little tour of the office, ok? It’s standard protocol for all of our temps, uh, I mean our new employees, to meet everyone. Just to maintain a good sense of community, you know?”
“Ah, yes…yes definitely,” said Brooke automatically, following Lucas out the door, her heels starting to clack loudly on the marble floor behind him.
Lucas proceeded to make the rounds with Brooke, going as quickly as he reasonably could. He knew that it didn’t really matter if anyone really got to know her, since she would be out of there in thirty day’s time, but at the same time he was committed to following Braden’s company protocol; the last thing he wanted was for Dave, or heaven forbid Bill, to somehow get wind that he was lax in his obligations.
He dropped in on Trent first, knocking on the door frame. As soon as the snappy young engineer looked up from his computer, Lucas had a sinking feeling in his chest. He realized that he was embarrassed to be showing Brooke around like this — what were his co-workers going to think of him!? He silently hoped that somehow Dave had informed everyone that this new position had been filled as a last resort, and would only be temporary. Otherwise, they would definitely look askance at him, and perhaps even begin to question his ability to effectively manage the branch. He hated that he couldn’t have a private word with everyone, before exhibiting Brooke. That would all have to wait.
“Hi Trent,” said Lucas, clearing his throat a little as he attempted to speak normally. “Just thought I’d introduce you to our newest…employee here. This is Brooke. Brooke, this is Trent. He’s one of our associate software engineers. A real up-and-coming talent.”
Brooke peered shyly around the doorframe, so that Trent could barely see her. In response to Lucas indicating with his hand, she silently stepped forward into the doorway a little more, looking timidly down at the bottom of Trent’s desk, where it met the floor.
“Uh…hi Brooke,” said Trent, his mouth twitching slightly into a smile as his brow creased a little.
Brooke didn’t answer for a moment; Lucas made eye contact with Trent and raised his eyebrows, silently indicating that he knew exactly what Trent was thinking.
“Uh, Brooke,” muttered Lucas in a low voice, “Say hi.”
“H-hi!” exclaimed Brooke a little too loudly, looking up for a moment at Trent’s face but then almost immediately switching her eyes to the wall behind him.
“Brooke is…on a trial period with us for one month,” said Lucas, hoping that Trent would understand what that meant. “She’s…conveniently been able to fill the vacant position, so…I’m showing her around today. You know, giving her a taste of what we do here.”
“That’s…that’s nice,” said Trent, with effort. The young engineer was tall, fit, clean-cut, and brilliant. Lucas had always been a bit worried that one day, Trent would overtake his position. But thus far, he had worked exceedingly well as his “right hand man” in software development, particularly with the nanobots the past year and a half.
“So, she’s a temp?” asked Trent, not even bothering to ask Brooke herself.
“Uh…I mean…in a manner of speaking, yes,” said Lucas, wishing that Trent had not picked this moment to grill him about the particulars of the new hire.
“So…she gets a security clearance, then?” persisted Trent, squinting his eyes a little as he cocked his head to the side, unabashedly looking Brooke up and down, from head to toe. The young, confident (and slightly chauvinistic) engineer was not in the habit of hiding his feelings, and now was no exception. Even though he wasn’t saying anything out loud, it was clear that he did not approve of the notion of someone so rumpled and disarrayed having access to Braden’s secret technology.
“Uh, yeah…yeah she’ll be getting one,” said Lucas. “But, I mean…it’s not like she’s going to be around the stuff all the time. A security clearance for all our employees is standard policy, since, you know...all software engineers need to have access to the lab in order to upload our latest builds to the nanobots.”
He felt irritated at Trent — was he seriously going to sit there and cross-examine him about every aspect of Brooke’s hiring? Did Trent even realize that he, Lucas, had been basically forced to make this hire at the last minute, at the behest of upper management!? It was all well and good for Trent to sit there in his cozy little associate’s office, churning out product after product, but the young hotshot had no idea what it was like…what it took…to run an office.
“O…k,” said Trent slowly, moving his eyes back and forth between Lucas and Brooke. His behavior more than confirmed to Lucas that he was puzzled, and disapproving, about the choice to let this new person into their circle. But Trent was aware of how he came across, and he maintained this external show only long enough to get his message across to his boss. A moment later, his face was bright and sunny again.
“Alright then,” Trent said, forcing a smile. “Nice to meet you…Brooke. See you around.”
Brooke continued smiling toothily at the carpet as Lucas led her out of Trent’s office and down the hallway, where he introduced her to Steve, Ryan, and James respectively, all of whom were associate software engineers. Steve and Ryan were more in line with Trent: young, ambitious, and good-looking software engineers who liked to go out on the weekends and spend their handsome earnings on status symbols that they could show off at stylish bars and nightclubs. They both reacted to Brooke more or less the same as Trent had: with puzzlement and confusion, thinly veiled under a friendly facade. They had both eyed Lucas searchingly, trying to get to the bottom of how someone like Brooke could have possibly been hired. Lucas had stared back at them, trying as hard as he could to communicate the fact that his hands were tied. It was a decidedly unpleasant experience for him; Lucas never liked openly admitting that his role as division manager was contingent on the power of upper management, but now, this admission was all he had to save face in front of his employees.
Brooke’s introduction to James went slightly differently, since James was rather awkward and insecure himself. James was a bit older, a member of a generation who still had memories of a time before computers. He was an “old fashioned nerd,” looking thoroughly the part with his large rectangular glasses, his uncertain, halting gestures, and his wardrobe of tight-fitting office clothes that always seemed to make him look a bit more rotund than he actually was. Upon meeting Brooke, James, as he did while he met anyone new, actually blushed. Brooke actually managed to look up at James and make eye-contact, and the two of them shared a stare for a moment before they both looked away sheepishly.
‘Geez,’ thought Lucas, ‘Maybe these two would actually work as a couple...Nah…James is a dweeb, but he’s super smart. He’d get tired of her slowness before too long.’
They were almost to Sophia’s office, but first, Lucas made sure they stopped by Olivia’s first. He wanted to give Brooke a good look at who exactly she would be compared to. By this point, he wasn’t sure that his new hire even had the capacity to appreciate what she was about to witness, but it didn’t stop him from laying it on thick when he stuck his head into the young software engineer’s office.
“Olivia?” he inquired pleasantly. “I have a new employee here for you to meet.”
“Oh nice!” chirped Olivia, looking up from her computer and pushing her leather chair back from her desk. Olivia liked to work very close to her screen, almost hunched over…such was the strength and intensity of her concentration.
“Let me present…Brooke!” said Lucas, with all the fabricated sincerity of ceremony, as he beckoned Brooke into Olivia’s office. The hapless girl stumbled forward a little, and Olivia stood up, taking off her glasses to get a better look at the new hire. Olivia was half-Latino, half-caucasian; she was nearsighted, but that was, as far as Lucas was concerned, her only physical flaw. She stood a taller-than-average 5’8 in her bare feet, but with the 4-inch heels she wore, she was only an inch shorter than Lucas, and a little more than that if the slight lift of his loafers was factored in. But her height was just one of her many striking aspects — Olivia had been a swimmer in college, and had stayed in shape in the four years since she had graduated. Her rigorous exercise routine, combined with a little extra mid-twenties development, made for a decidedly curvy and delicious figure, not heavy set, by any means...just with lean curves and smooth skin. Her hips were wide and appealingly curved, and her ass, which Lucas couldn’t help but gawk at daily, was larger than what might have been expected. It bounced and danced after her in the hallways, like some kind of separate organism eager to play with the rest of her body, and connected to powerful thighs that Olivia was not ashamed to show off. Today and always, she wore form-fitting dresses that only came down to her mid-thighs. Her D-cup breasts perhaps weren’t as big as Valerie’s, but they were quite large nonetheless, and always looked like they were straining the confines of anything she wore.
Not only was Olivia physically blessed far beyond the norm, but she had also developed a swerving, sleek “modern office” fashion that suited her short, spiky blond pixie cut perfectly. Today, her tight dress was blood-red, with red fingernails to match (cut short, of course, since she spent all day typing). Lucas actually felt himself hardening a little as he drew his eyes up her body, as if he was unwrapping her. She looked even hotter than usual today, and she knew it — her subtle eye shadow framed two hazel eyes, which were glancing at Lucas with incisive humor as she strode up to Brooke, offering her hand.
“Pleased to meet you, Brooke!” said Olivia, looking genuinely down at the timid girl.
Lucas felt like he had never seen such a lopsided comparison between two girls in his entire life. Here was Olivia, looking like a pixie vampire in her stylish haircut, standing six feet tall and proud, with her shoulders back, and her thick, curvy figure seemingly about to burst out of her red dress, her big breasts right about even with Brooke’s hunched shoulders. Lucas could even see Olivia’s nipples poking through her red dress, and her bra underneath. He had never seen Olivia’s naked breasts, but he had long fantasized about how big her nipples must have been, to be that prominent. And it wasn’t just her nipples that drew his (and everyone else’s) attention — her dresses fit her in such a way as to reveal the maximum amount of cleavage permissible in a corporate office environment. The chasm between her twin mammaries left little to the imagination, showing off the bulging burgeons of taut breast flesh on either side. And what’s more, Olivia always wore a necklace with a small medallion on the end of it, which invariably got stuck deep in her cleavage over and over throughout the day. She would fish it out absently as she worked, only to have it inevitably fall back in. Olivia was a hard worker, and was not intent on overly manipulating anyone. But she knew what she was doing.
And then there was Brooke…standing with her knees slightly bent, with a curved back and her neck thrust slightly forward (Lucas suddenly realized that she had an overbite…of course she did), loose black tights on her skinny legs, oversized heels, blemished skin, and oily, unkempt hair. Lucas suddenly had a strange moment, as Olivia and Brooke shook hands, where he felt…almost turned on by the crazy extent of the comparison between the two of them. He didn’t really understand this odd flash of erotic energy that flared up in him, and he didn’t like it…and so he distracted himself by chattering away at Olivia.
“Brooke will be with us for 30 days as our new…t-, uhh..our new employee,” he finished a bit lamely.
“Oh really?” asked Olivia, releasing Brooke’s hand as she turned her piercing eyes to Lucas. He saw her subtly wipe her hand off on the back of her dress; Brooke’s hand was wet with nervous sweat. “So she’s not full-time?”
“Well…that, uh, remains to be seen,” said Lucas, glancing doubtfully down at Brooke. “I think she’s…got a thing or two to learn before we can take her on permanently, you know?”
“Now don’t forget,” said Olivia, looking down at Brooke, even as she continued talking to Lucas, “That I was a nervous wreck when you guys hired me.”
“Yeah, but…you aced one of our test scenarios…using Python,” said Lucas, referring to the high-level programming language.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Olivia flippantly, waving her hand (even though Lucas knew she enjoyed the memory of that interview). “Point is, Brooke, everyone starts somewhere, right?”
“Y-yes…yes, right,” said Brooke, completely missing Olivia’s subtle and unintentional put-down. Lucas didn’t miss it, however — and it also wasn’t lost on him that Olivia was several years younger than Brooke. He watched Olivia sit down, looking a bit too long; she caught him, as she often did, and gave him a knowing smirk.
“Well go on,” she said to him, playfully shooing them out of her office. “Nice to meet you Brooke, but if I’m not careful, I’ll have Lucas ogling over me. Should I mention to Chase that you’ve been staring at me, Lucas?”
“Haha, you’ll do no such thing,” chuckled Lucas. Chase was Olivia’s fiance, a crossfit instructor and entrepreneur who was friendly with everyone else in the office, Lucas included. Even though Olivia’s threat was mostly jocular, Lucas didn’t want to think about antagonizing Chase. At 6’5, and a solid 240 pounds, Chase was a beast; Lucas often found himself imagining how intense their sex must have been.
They stopped by Sophia’s office last. Lucas had intentionally structured the tour this way, so that he could get all the other employees out of the way first — he more or less knew what Sophia’s reaction would be to Brooke. Besides, more than the other employees, she understood the situation with the new hire.
“Aw, hello!” said Sophia brightly to Brooke, upon Lucas’s introduction. Unlike everyone else, Sophia actually bothered to get up out of her chair, walk over, and extend her hand to Brooke, who shook it limply. Sophia was about an inch taller than Brooke, and for a moment, she peered earnestly into Brooke’s face, trying to get a read on the new girl. Brooke nervously made eye contact with Sophia, and then smiled a little and looked away.
“Well, pleased to meet you, Brooke,” said Sophia, letting her hand go as she stepped back a bit to get a full profile. Just as the other men had done, Sophia looked Brooke up and down, but instead of puzzlement and confusion, a look of kindness and pity came over her face.
“So Lucas here is giving you the run-down, huh?” she asked, smiling wryly in his direction. “Showing you all the company secrets?”
Lucas was giving Sophia a hard look, like he was daring her to try and pull something on him.
Brooke nodded in confused affirmation.
“I just met…” she began, but Lucas interrupted her.
“Trent, Steve, Ryan, James, Olivia” said Lucas robotically.
"Y-yeah, those people! I can only remember a few of their names right now..." admitted Brooke quietly.
“Aw, that’s ok honey,” said Sophia warmly. “It’ll get easier as time passes.” As she spoke, Sophia looked over at Lucas challengingly, who had begun to shake his head.
“I mean,” continued Sophia, still looking straight at Lucas, “After a few weeks or so, you’ll have everyone’s name down pat. And a couple months from now you’ll be doing what Lucas is doing right now: giving some new employee the same tour that you’re being taken on now. That’s how it all works, Brooke. Don’t worry — I know it’s kinda scary now…new job, new place, all new people…but it’ll seem like home before you know it.”
As Sophia was talking, a smile had grown on her face, exacerbated by the slashing motion Lucas was performing on his throat with his finger. Brooke looked up at Sophia briefly, and saw her making eyes at Lucas. But very quickly, Sophia felt Brooke’s eyes and looked back at her, smiling. Brooke returned the smile as best she could.
“R-really?” she managed to say in response. “Y-you think…you think I can fit in here?”
“Absolutely,” said Sophia immediately, looking back to Lucas. “It’s all about the support you get from your co-workers. And I’m not worried about that; this is a fine place to work. But Brooke?”
“You can come by my office any time if you need help with anything, ok? Don’t be afraid.”
“O-ok,” said Brooke.
“Ok, alright,” said Lucas, cutting the interaction between the two women short. “So that’s everyone, Brooke. Let’s go to my office and discuss compensation, before we go and get your security clearance.”
Turning to leave, Lucas heard a sudden thump behind him. He turned around and saw that Brooke had tripped over her oversized heels, falling down to the ground on all fours as she made a surprised, exhaling sound. Almost as soon as she hit the floor, Sophia had swooped in and was picking her back up again.
“Aw, I’m sorry honey! Easy, eeeaassy up…there we go. Looks like you tripped on those heels, haha! You ok?”
“I’m…f-fine,” said Brooke, blushing all over again. It was obvious she had gotten used to falling down.
“We’ve gotta get you some smaller heels, girl,” said Sophia. “Maybe I can take you out shopping sometime soon, huh?”
“Ok!” exclaimed Brooke, looking up at Sophia and beaming for the first time.
“Ok,” said Sophia warmly as she locked eyes with Lucas. “Go on now.”
A few moments later, they were back in his office.
“Now what was your hourly at Macking?” Lucas asked.
“I…um…I can’t really r-remember,” said Brooke.
“You…can’t remember?” asked Lucas incredulously. He looked over at his framed diploma from Georgia Tech, as if to share his disbelief with the inanimate object.
“Oh wait…I remember,” said Lucas. “It was an unpaid position. You said so in your interview.”
“Oh! Oh, r-right,” said Brooke.
Lucas sighed. “Ok. Well…how about we pay you $17 an hour…you know…for this first month, and just…see how you do, ok?”
“Ok!” she replied immediately, clearly having no idea he was slightly underselling her.
‘Well, it’s just under the 25th percentile for entry-level jobs,’ he thought to himself, drawing up the paperwork. ‘And besides, she’s not even gonna be like a normal temp. This is more than she deserves.’
As he made a record of the compensation, Lucas couldn’t help his mind drifting to what he made hourly.
‘Let’s see…$180,000 a year,’ he thought to himself, going over the numbers deliciously in his brain, ‘working 50 to 60 hours a week…let’s just call it 55…55 times 4 is 220…220 times 11 is…’
As he went through the simple calculations, he actually wrote them down in front of Brooke, not paying her any mind. It’s not like she knew what was going on, anyway. A moment later, he had it.
‘Basically $75 an hour,’ he thought happily. He still hadn’t gotten over how successful he had turned out to be.
But looking at Brooke, who was staring absentmindedly up at the ceiling, he wasn’t sure he was being paid enough to deal with her.
“Ok, let’s go,” he sighed, getting out of his chair. “Let’s get you a security clearance.”
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