“Understood, sir. My apologies for the intrusion.”

I glanced up, and Cole was already gazing away, his stare lost down the street. He probably wants to be here as little as I do, I thought to myself as I noticed a hint of sadness in his gaze.

“Run along now,” Coppersmith grumbled, waving me away with a brisk, wrinkled hand.

I nodded cordially, turning back towards the door and avoiding the aggravation of the other corporate members. Before I could leave, my eyes fell upon some of the information on the projected screen – and I stopped in my tracks.

“Sir, that’s…wrong,” I paused, pointing at the screen. “You have here that the Ashen account is running over-budget.” I stepped closer, pointing out a specific area on the projected page. “We had Accounting get in touch, and they freed up another $10,000 for us…” My finger moved to the Staff Investment column. “…And Toby figured out an After Effects trick to automate some of the motion graphics work, so their immediate commercial needs are being met with a full three days’ of work shaved off. Furthermore, Toby and Samantha are collaborating and staggering their work, so that the final product renders overlap and they can maximize their time appropriately. We’re actually running ahead of schedule and thirty percent under budget.”

I turned back towards the table, not sure what to expect. If anything, I was afraid that I’d be banished from the room and reluctantly punished by my boss – possibly even put on some sort of probation. My gaze fell upon the only face in the room that mattered. Cole Andrews was sitting forward now, his elbows uniformly against the table, fingers clasped.

Is he…is that a smirk?

“Miss Walker,” Coppersmith stammered, standing to his feet. “You have interrupted this private meeting for long enough. Leave this room this instant, and let Larry know that I expect to–”


Everyone turned to the founder, who had concentrated his gaze on Larry’s superior. I couldn’t really see his look from across the room, but it was far less pleasant than it had been just a moment before.

“Sit down,” Cole Andrews commanded, and Coppersmith reluctantly slid back down into his seat. He turned his gaze back towards me; it was no smirk, all business. “Is this true?”


“Yes, Mr. Andrews.”

A crisply dressed, older woman with cropped, graying hair angrily spoke up, leaning back into her executive chair. “Why on Earth are we hearing this from you?”

“I…” I paused, realizing that they – including Andrews – were all expecting an answer from me. “I don’t know who is in charge of that information. It doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the revisions I just offered. However, these were somewhat last minute changes, so it’s natural that they might not have entered your compiled reports.”

“How last minute?” A middle-aged Italian woman in a modest, casual suit asked.

“As recent as this morning, I believe.”

“Unacceptable,” the older woman cut in. “These are the kinds of things we need to know to properly conduct these meetings. There was a breakdown of communication here. The Ashen account is our priority right now! If we’re running under budget, well, that changes damned near everything we’ve already discussed!”

I nodded, listening to the resulting verbal outbursts. My eyes flitted from suit to suit, observing their collective fury. It appeared that they had temporarily forgotten me, and I took the time to inch towards the door.

These people didn’t strike fear into my heart, like they did to my coworkers. That’s because they took this job with every intention of making it their professional career. Sure, upward mobility was in full swing, and with time-tested reliability and talent, one ascended the ladder at Andrews Enterprises comparatively quickly.

But this was just like every other job I had ever had, and every coworker I’d ever enjoyed working beside.

They were expendable.

These executives didn’t intimidate me because they were just as little to me as I was to them. Of course, this didn’t mean that I came to work and did an awful job by any means – I was every bit as professional and fluid as an employee could be. My work spoke for itself, and I had made enough ripples for at least one executive to recognize me on sight.

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