Jack liked having an empty cubicle opposite him, he often considered pulling down the wall in between, and claiming it like some invading force. He also liked being able to throw stuff in there when his desk started to look like a paper recycling plant.

This morning though, as he walked into the office Jack noticed that his empty cubicle had someone sitting at, and Derek, Jack’s manager was sitting with that someone.

“Jack, meet Simon,” said Derek. “He’s just come over from JBT, which as you know is our largest competitor.”

“If I know, then why would you say it?” asked Jack

“Just in case anyone is listening and doesn’t know.”

“Oh I see, continuity.”

“Exactly,” said Derek. “Anyway, Simon is going to be working very closely with you on several of your accounts, as we are looking to transition a few across.”

Simon held his hand out over the cubicle wall. “Nice to meet you Jack.”

Jack took Simon’s hand and gently started rubbing it. “Your skin is so smooth.”

“Jack don’t be weird,” said Derek. “Now if you could take Simon through the system and give him a tour of the office, I’d really appreciate it.”

“Of course you would Derek,” said Jack. “That would involve me doing your job. When would you like me to do my job? If you could do it for me I’d really appreciate it.”

“You’re a funny guy Jack,” said Derek as he walked toward his office. “A really funny guy.”

Jack sighed. “So Steve…”

“My name is Simon.”

“Right, Simon, that’s correct. You passed the first test, now would you like a tour of this grand abode we call the office?”

“Sure,” said Simon with no real enthusiasm, and he pulled himself out of his standard office chair and trudged after Jack.

“Now Simon,” said Jack. “I know how scary it is starting in a new company, so if you feel nervous or scared feel free to tell me and we can hold hands.”

“Ummm… I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

“Well, the offer is open.” Jack stopped at the photocopier. “Now, in days gone past, should a duplicate document be required, one would call a professional man of letters. However, those days are behind us Simon. Behold, new and innovative technology. Using this device, I can create copies quickly and easily.” By way of demonstration, Jack put his face into the photocopier and pressed the start button. Taking the copy from the tray, he passed it to Simon. “So you’ll always remember me.”

“I know what a photocopier does Jack.”

“Well of course you do,how foolish of me. Follow me and I’ll show you the machine which takes the humble coffee bean and transmutes it into a delicious and lifesaving drink called, ‘Coffee Bean Juice.’”

“Jack, I think there’s something you need to know.”

“Of course there is Simon, in fact there are many things I need to know. For one, how does Derek’s hair always look so shiny? It’s a mystery of nature, but one which must be solved. I suspect it’s not real hair,and that his head’s not real either. His eyes are likely in his nipples, and he looks at the world through his almost transparent shirts. From his point of view, I probably appear like a blue or green blob, you know depending on the type of shirt he’s wearing.”

Simon looked around. “Jack, before you say anything else, you need to know why I’m here. Derek hired me to run your team, it’s going to be announced later today. I’m your new boss.”

Jack nodded slowly. “So Derek asked me to show my new manager around without telling me that he’s my new manager?”

Simon shrugged. “He thought it would give me a more honest first impression. That’s why you can’t tell anyone yet, I want to meet the rest of the team on the same terms.”

“I like it,” said Jack. “Begin with a clever trick, some would say a lie – but not me.”

Simon patted Jack on the shoulder. “I’m sorry I misled you, but now you know who I am and you can stop the clowning around.”

“I thought you said you wanted an honest first impression?”

Simon didn’t say anything, but his eyes narrowed, in the universal signal for demanding respect.

“I understand,” said Jack. “Follow me, I’ll show you what else you need for your first day.”

“Thank you Jack, I’m sure we’ll end up working well together. You should know though, I’m not new to the industry, and I don’t suffer fools.”

Jack led Simon to an old man seated behind a well worn desk. “Henry this is Simon.”

Henry half stood up and put his hand out slowly.

As Simon shook the limp hand he asked, “And what do you do Henry?”

“I’m the Safety Officer.”

Simon breathed in sharply, and shot a pleading look at Jack, but the die was cast.

“Today is Simon’s first day,” said Jack.

Henry retook his seat. “Oh, then you’ll need to do a safety induction, pull up a chair.”

Jack knew he was in trouble after Simon had finished his safety induction, but all three of them knew, that wouldn’t be for a long, long time.