The Incumbent: Chapter 36

Summary:It's an intricate web of murder plots, government conspiracies and rampant tanning. Oh, and the future of the entire nation.

ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.

Felicity Bunkle from HR had been called to Jimi Jones' office. She was keen to meet the new head of the organisation, but somewhat curious that she could find no paperwork on him, apart from a rejected application for a junior post, on the back of which had been stapled Peabody's suicide note.

She'd found his address to the executive team awe-inspiring, and had held a dream that others would come into the company to make it the dynamic powerhouse she wanted to work for. Of course, she could have gone to other, more go-ahead companies, but they wouldn't have wanted her. She wasn't smart enough, and, even if she was, they'd probably have expected her to work hard. Instead, it was easier to get the cushy job at VastTel, and hope someone could change the company without asking her to do much. That way, she could be employed by a go-ahead company, without much work on her part. Perhaps now, with Jimi Jones in charge, the change was about to happen.

Bunkle spent at least four hours each day on Headlook, the social network that accounted for 25% of time spent by all human beings on the planet.

Like everyone in the company, Bunkle spent at least four hours each day on Headlook, the social networking site that accounted for 25 percent of all time spent by all human beings on the planet. In some countries, such as Afghanistan, the percentage was lower, but US forces were fighting to reopen internet cafes and restore what had recently been declared by the UN as a basic human right.

'Off to meet the new boss. Hear he's a spunk,' Bunkle had written on her Headlook profile, a post that would be read by no one, as usual. Then she gathered a notebook, and headed to the top floor. She was the only one in HR to answer the boss' call — the rest were yet to return from the conference in the Seychelles. She had missed the plane out there, and was now running the entire department, which, she quickly realised, did nothing.

Still, she was taking her new job of being the entire HR department very seriously. Deciding she needed to look professional, she had toned down the designs on some of her leggings, rarely wore midriff tops anymore and often wouldn't even plug herself in to an MP3 player during meetings. For her first one-on-one with the new CEO, she wore the player, but rested the headphones around her neck, so he knew he had her full attention.

'I'm going to retrench people,' Jones declared, resting back on his Grade 1 executive chair. He hadn't fully worked out all the features yet, but had read in the manual that if he was strapped in, it was possible to do a full somersault. Repeating this action regularly was good for developing the abs, apparently. Jones hadn't been game to try it — he was aware that the chair had been damaged a little in the rocket attack, which had made the manufacturer's guarantee void.

Bunkle was all for efficiency, but not if it inconvenienced people.

'Retrench people?' said Bunkle, in part wondering if this was a good idea, but mainly wondering what the word meant.

'Yes, half the workplace will have to go.'

'Where to?' she asked, still not getting it.

Jones hadn't expected the question. 'I don't know,' he said eventually. 'Wherever they want to go, I suppose, just not here.'

'Will we still pay them?' Bunkle asked, not at all liking what she was hearing. She was all for efficiency, but not if it inconvenienced people.

'No. That's the point,' said Jones. He hadn't even considered the implications on the people he was getting rid of.

'It means they will be free to take their career in a new direction,' he said, after only a slight hesitation, demonstrating how quickly he'd picked up the ability to speak corporate b*******. He had almost convinced himself that he was doing these people a favour. The new direction taken by most, with no training and little real-life experience, would be to a park bench, probably for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, there were lots of park benches to go round, as the government had been buying more of them recently as an easy solution to the issue of homelessness.

Topics: Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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