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Shift House, Alicia I
'It's only two clients today, and I think that's the boss yelling,' came Alicia's roommate voice from under the covers. It was her day off, yet she still somehow managed to know what was happening today. Alicia yawned once, threw her covers off and stalked to the pile of laundry that could be vaguely classified as "clean". Or at least, "cleaner". She pulled on a pair of tan shorts and a tight red tanktop hurriedly and walked out, forgetting to close the door as usual. The sun-warmed wood of the hallway floor felt good on her bare feet this morning.
The boss' office was more like a vagrants' throne room, his desk occupying a raised up podium with a huge gilded and padded chair straight out of some bankrupt king' rummage sale. Both items and in fact the rest of the room have seen better days, and daylight shone through the many ill-fitting slats of the walls. Good quality but ancient glass covered the skylights, and the pits and irregularities gave the light an organic, uneven feel. Papers were strewn everywhere, old invoices, receipts, overdue bills with zero chance of payment - the detritus of a harried office worker, or so it seemed. Three pairs of tall, wooden filing cabinets flanked the approach from the door to the podium like silent sentinels, enhancing the throne room feel. Susan suspected the boss put them there as a joke, since she's never seen them used in their regular capacity.
'You did sheep shearing at some point, right?' were the words she was greeted with upon entering. As random as the boss was he could still sometimes throw her for a loop, especially early in the morning. Alicia managed to stammer out an affirmative but the boss was going on regardless.
'Got a group of catfish in for a trim, so I assigned you to that one. Should be about fifteen of them, I think it's some sort of underwater mafia, so be polite. Should be easier than it sounds except for their boss. It'll be in North Ten, you have fifteen minutes. Your second job will be in the dropbox as usual, still getting details. Go.' The last word was unnecessary as Alicia was already heading out, the boss' typical unrelenting speech mode washing away the last traces of sleep. As she stepped out of the room she heard the boss yell 'Get Rana in here!' She grabbed a note out of the nearest dropbox and sped up.
Rana was the shifteks' unofficially elected spokesperson. A taciturn bunch with no seniority, no supervisors and no accountability, they nevertheless needed to deal with the boss occasionally. Generally they communicated through an intricate and unexplainable system of notes left in dropboxes, but Alicia suspected they were simply telepathic; their elaborate rules on note format, dropbox locations, note pickup and dropoff were one great joke on everyone else. Still, who was going to call them on it? No one, of course - everyone rather liked their rooms to stay where they were, and their doors to only open into the hallway, thankyouverymuch. There were entirely too many opportunities for pranks at the Shift House.
The nearest hub was right outside the boss' office. Alicia ran into the small round room, barely registering the pneumatic door sighing closed behind her. She aligned herself with the North target marker and closed her eyes. She waited for the sounds outside to fade out completely, then and tapped her heels three times. Sound and light rushed back in and the door opened. She stepped out into the North wing.
Room One on every wing was shiftek territory; considering their lack of discipline it was amazing how easy it was to always find one there. Using the wall as a desk, Alicia scribbled the request on the note and dropped it in the dropbox. Then she poked her head into Room One and yelled at the nearest shiftek that the boss wanted to see Rana. A curt nod was her response and she withdrew, satisfied, picking up her pace again. Apparently, she was on someone's good side, as Room Ten was only four doors down. The door was plain and unmarked but a rotating barber pole was stationed outside, confirming that this was the right place. She put her hand on the knob, turned and pushed.