#fridayflash: corporate event

Meg shifted the stack of papers on her desk. "Go ahead," she said with her back to Candice.

"Oh that's perfect!" Candice stepped first onto a visitor's chair, then the empty area on Meg's desk. Meg wondered, not for the first time that morning, why Candice had worn a pencil skirt and stilettos on a day when she knew she'd be putting up the Take Our Kids to Work Day decorations.

Because she's Candice thought Meg, as she pretended that entering a column of numbers into a spreadsheet was a very interesting thing to do.

"Is the banner straight now? Is it? Oh Joyce, could you just be a love and check for me? Is it straight?"

Meg considered telling Candice to let Joyce take a look without being yammered at, but thought the better of it. She consoled herself by picturing Candice falling off the desk and breaking her neck. The office should be so lucky.

"Who's the bright spark who decided to hold this so close to Hallowe'en every year, anyhow?" she asked as Candice made a great show of clambering down to the floor level.

"Oh, but it's national," Candice said.

And so is Hallowe'en, thought Meg.

"Isn't Bradley shadowing you this year, Meg?" said Joyce, probably desperate to change the subject.

"He's with me, yes," said Meg. "He wants to do what Tom does, but Tom's department can't participate. It's all outdoors and heavy equipment. Safety regs. You know."

"It'll still be useful for him to see what his mummy does," said Candice for all the office to hear. She tottered off to the site of the next decoration.

"Safety regs?" Joyce whispered. "C'mon Meg, even Candice isn't that thick. Cut her some slack."

Meg shrugged, all innocence. Joyce wagged a tentacle at her and ran to catch up with Candice. Meg noted how the bright colours on the banner clashed with the official corporate green-grey of the walls and carpet. She sighed and turned back to her work.

Meg's computer screeched, announcing a new e-mail. She checked her inbox. The floor manager was going to bring all the visiting teenagers to the camera room, so they could see the operational side through the security monitors. Meg smiled; that would make Brad happy.

The next day, on Take Your Kid to Work Day itself, participating parents and spawn were treated to breakfast in the boardroom. The floor manager made a speech about the importance of the event, and then led all the shadows away to the camera room.

"So that was your son in the brown suit, right?" Joyce hissed as they left the boardroom.

"That was him," said Meg. "I spent an hour last night letting out the hems on his trousers."

"He's growing into a real monster," said Joyce. "Is he taller than Tom now?"

"Not quite, but we think he's going to be."

"Lucky you."

They settled into their respective cubicles and got to work. Meg made a point of trying to save the more interesting things she had to do that day for later, when she could show them to Brad.

She didn't get much work done. Nor, it seemed, did any of the other parents. Co-workers who were walking by kept stopping to give reports on how things were going in the camera room.

"The manager's not just doing a tour," said Bill, one of the accountants Meg sent data to. "He's asking questions. Your Bradley was answering a lot of them, by the way, and very well too."

"He's been asking, so between Tom and I we've been trying to explain to him," said Meg.

Bill leaned down over Meg's desk so he could whisper to her. "Candice's girl got something wrong, and your boy corrected her. He knew the ships don't have captives on them, but volunteer sacrifices."

"Oh yes," said Meg. "He and Tom were discussing that over dinner just a couple of nights ago."

"Well, the manager was impressed, let me tell you. Brad will have a nice recommendation at the end of this if he plays his cards right."

"That would be lovely," said Meg, and Bill walked away. She turned back to her work and added another paragraph to a report. As much as Bill's news was good, it made her nervous. Surely today was just about letting the spawn see what the working world was like. She hated the idea that they would be evaluated for service without having a chance to prepare.

Bradley appeared just before lunch, and said the floor manager had told all the teens to collect their parents for lunch. Meg locked her computer and hurried to follow him to the cafeteria.

"I spotted Dad on the cameras!" Brad said as they slid into an elevator. "He was signaling to a ship's captain that the hold was closed and they were ready to go."

"Lots of offerings this time of year," said Meg.

"Where do they take them to?"

"It's hard to explain. The Great Old Ones sleep at the bottom of the ocean, in a very deep trench. There's not much to mark it on the surface. Before GPS and the live NASA feed from the Hubble telescope, they had to wait until the stars were right."

"But that's what you do, don't you?"

"Sort of. I get data on the volunteer sacrifices, the star charts, and the shipping conditions, and put it together into some sort of timetable. If I can arrange things so that we save money on crew and fuel, it goes towards my end of year bonus. I'll show you after lunch."

"This is so cool." Brad's one grey-green eye gleamed.

"I'm glad you're enjoying it."

The elevator doors opened and they made their way to the cafeteria. The floor manager greeted them at the door.

"Did you tell your mother about your morning?" he said.

"There's so much to tell!" said Brad. "This is so great."

"Glad to hear it." The floor manager beamed at Meg.

"Cthulhu fthagen!" said Brad.

The floor manager's smile widened. "Cthulhu fthagen," he said. "Now do make sure you get in the lunch queue quickly — we've got human on the menu as a special treat."

Happy Hallowe'en to all the monsters.