Laura Kinch lives in North Queensland, Australia, where she works as a mechanical engineer in the railway. Laura writes science fiction, fantasy, and young adult, with a tendency to create tech that makes her characters’ lives all the more complicated.
Rebecca rolled her eyes and huffed. “I’m trying to do my job, Steve.”
“No, you’re trying to make me lose mine! She’s constantly asking me questions! I give her everything I’m supposed to! What more does she want from me?” Steve was in full flight by now. He waved his arms around his head as he spoke, probably not realising how ridiculous the gesture made him look.
They were in the office of the lead engineer for their section. It was the second time that month. This should have scared her, but Rebecca could only work up irritation. Perhaps it was because of the display that Steve was putting on. Even if she had been upset, she would have been hard put to outdo his emotional outbursts.
It took Rebecca a moment to realise her boss was addressing her. He sat across from them both, arms folded as he frowned at them across his big glass desk. Or rather, frowned at her.
“Okay, yeah. I asked Steve about the inputs for the engine,” Rebecca confessed. “But only because…”
“I gave you the inputs!” Steve snapped.
“Yeah, you did. But they didn’t make any sense! I figured you must’ve stuffed them up somehow, so I wanted to…”
“Rebecca,” her boss said firmly. “You know how things work around here. There is no reason to be accessing information that isn’t necessary for your work.”
“But it was necessary!” Rebecca insisted. She could feel her cheeks beginning to flush. “Steve might have been wrong. I could’ve picked that up.”
“I don’t get things wrong,” Steve muttered.
“We have these rules for a reason,” her boss continued. “Now, if everyone does their little piece of work, their little piece of the puzzle, and keeps their heads down, we come up with an end product. Simple. It’s when you start questioning that things fall apart.”
“Thank you,” Steve said with a huff. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell her.”
“No, you haven’t!” Rebecca cut in. “You’re just mad because I caught your error. This is stupid!”
“If Steve did make an error, then it’s someone else’s job to pick that up,” said her boss. “Not yours.”
“Yes, but, isn’t it quicker if I find the error before the work goes up the chain?”
“Look, Rebecca. Steve’s got a right to be upset. You’re putting him in a tough spot. And you’re a brilliant engineer. I don’t want to lose you. But if you keep on sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong…” he shook his head. “This is the second time this month. So I’d like you to take the rest of the day off. Get out of the office. Think about where you want your career to go.”
Steve had folded his arms and was wearing a self-satisfied smirk on his face. Rebecca briefly wondered if she had fallen victim to the cutthroat clawing for positions that sometimes occurred between the younger engineers. But she couldn’t blame Steve for this; it was she who had started bugging him for information.
“I…” Her boss was right; it was the way things worked. What would she accomplish? Losing her job? She shuddered. That wasn’t really worth it.
“Okay, fine. I’m going home.”
One good thing about the seclusion that was inherent in almost every aspect of her work and workplace was that Rebecca could slip from her boss’ office to her enclosed cubicle, collect her handbag, and sneak into the lifts without being noticed. On the ride down she found herself running through the conversation in her mind. Why couldn’t she ask about a part of a colleague’s work she was unsure of ? Surely that would make things run more smoothly, make errors quicker to identify? But no, the expectation was that one just worked on their little bit of work and didn’t care about anything else. It was so frustrating!
And yet, maybe her boss was right, at least about keeping her job. Did if really matter if she were right or wrong in the grand scheme of things?
The last thing Rebecca wanted was to become an Unemployed. She wasn’t going to mooch off the System.
Rebecca pushed these thoughts to the back of her mind as she exited the towering engineering complex and made her way down the outer stairs. It was still hot when she got outside. She glanced at the watch on her wrist. Just after two. The buses would not be running anywhere near regularly enough to suit her. But her apartment was only twenty minutes’ walk. And she needed to work off some steam anyway.