Fic: Rule One
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII Title: Rule One Rating: Australian PG (mild swearing) Summary: In any large organisation, there are rules. A new SOLDIER has to start by learning Rule One. Warnings: clerical work; paperwork; bureaucracy.
The pile of paperwork landed in Nesa's In tray with a thud.
"How soon is that gonna get processed?" The voice was loud, unfamiliar, arrogant, and rude. Nesa didn't look up. "I said, how soon is that gonna get processed?"
Nesa calmly finished checking over the copy of the report she'd just printed (sometimes the weirdest errors got in - and given the report in question was one of the myriad produced about Zack Fair, the subject matter was probably strange enough without errors. Some future archivist was going to giggle themselves silly reading these) then took the first page of the paperwork.
"Mr..." she checked the name on the sheet, "- Legrande." She looked up. The person in front of her was about standard for a newly tapped SOLDIER cadet. Young, male (the few women who went into ShinRa's troops tended to gravitate to the Turks), and apparently convinced being picked as a possible put him on the same level as General Sephiroth from day one. He'd learn. "Welcome to SOLDIER," she said.
"Listen, bitch, I wanna know when that stuff's gonna get processed," the boy said. "Stop trying to fuck me around and do it, right?"
Nesa's eyes narrowed. Time to start this one's training, by the sound of things. She grabbed all of his paperwork, and lifted it out of her In tray. The kid grinned. She shuffled through, and removed the payroll details from the pile. Then she picked up everything else from her In tray, and piled it on top of the recruitment paperwork. The payroll details went on the bottom of the now-empty tray, then the rest of the pile went on top. His grin vanished.
"Rule One of ShinRa soldiering, recruit," she said. "Don't piss off the person who deals with your pay packet." She smiled brightly at him. "Now, there's about a week's work in the tray at the moment. Your payroll details are at the bottom of the pile. People tend to add things to the top of it. An apology may move your details a bit further up the pile."
"What! You can't do that!" The kid was looking a lot less arrogant now.
"I just did," Nesa said, her tone flat. "Oh, and by the way - the apology needs to be sincere, and written."
"That's not fair! You can't do that!" the kid shouted.
As expected, the noise brought Lazard to his office door. "Miss Conway, what seems to be the problem?" he asked. Behind Lazard, she could see the silhouette of General Sephiroth. The recruit had chosen the wrong time to turn up in the SOLDIER administrative office - it was the weekly logistics and planning meeting.
"She said she's not going to process my payroll details!" Legrande said, pointing at Nesa. Lazard looked first at the recruit, and then at the clerk, who had taken the next item to be processed (another requisition for bedcovers for the third-class barracks - surely there had to be some way of stopping their nightmares?) out of her in-tray, and was continuing on with it as though the recruit wasn't there.
"Is this true, Miss Conway?" Lazard asked.
Nesa looked up at her boss, eyes wide. "Of course not, Mr Delacroix. If I refused to process this young man's payroll details, it would be an actionable breach of ShinRa policy. I merely indicated to recruit Legrande his paperwork would be dealt with in the normal run of office procedure. Namely, first in, first out."
Lazard's mouth quirked slightly. "That sounds perfectly in order," he said. "Was there anything else?"
"No sir. I believe recruit Legrande will be undergoing diversity awareness training as a part of his normal SOLDIER induction. I'm willing to accept an apology for his abusive language, rather than starting formal disciplinary proceedings." At this point General Sephiroth stepped forward, coming into view of the already worried recruit. "After all, it's his first day, and I wouldn't want to ruin his chances of remaining in SOLDIER." Nesa's expression didn't even alter. Recruit Legrande, meanwhile, paled.
"Abusive language?" The General arched one slender eyebrow in the direction of the cowering recruit. "Recruit, your apology had better arrive on my desk within the next twelve hours. While Miss Conway is somewhat lenient toward young recruits, I am required to maintain discipline. Dismissed."
The recruit made his way toward the door, saluting General Sephiroth on the way out. Nesa waited until the footsteps had faded from her hearing before grinning wickedly at the General. Sephiroth returned the grin. Lazard rolled his eyes ceilingward, and sighed. While agreeing the process of training new recruits in the appropriate attitude toward the administrative staff was an important one, every so often Lazard wished this particular charade didn't have to happen every week.
Inspirations: This was inspired by a combination of the repeated insistence throughout Terry Pratchett's "Thief of Time" to "never forget Rule One" and a query in my own mind about how someone in Nesa's position would avoid having the various SOLDIER types walk all over her. Given SOLDIER is essentially an elite corps in what happens to be effectively a mercenary force, the notion that the person who controls the payroll (or, as in Nesa's case, controls the point at which your name goes onto the payroll) is important in their own right seemed appropriate.