“So, Mr Tsukaisute, it says here you’re an expert in Ju Jitsu.”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Ah no. Blue.”
“Blue? That’s just one above white, isn’t it?”
Tsukaisute looked down at his knees, and folded his hands in his lap.
“I fear so, Ms Trippelhorn.”
“And you’ve handled a range of firearms? Handguns, pump-action shotguns, sniper rifles, semiautomatics?”
“I confess I have not had direct experience of all of those fine weapons, no. But I am familiar with the concept.”
“Do you scuba dive? Can you handle a gas powered harpoon?”
“Sadly no. I do have a certificate for 100 metres breaststroke.”
“I see. But no doubt you’re willing to learn.”
“Indeed I am, Ms Trippelhorn. I am a very keen learner.”
Ms Trippelhorn leafed through the resumé, occasionally glancing across the desk at the interview subject.
“I see you have convictions for armed robbery, grand theft auto and extortion.”
Tsukaisute blushed deeply and stared even more intently at his knees.
“That is, regrettably, also true. I hope this will not impact too negatively on my prospects.”
“On the contrary, Mr Tsukaisute. It’s the most positive thing I’ve read so far.” She studied the resumé some more, and made some notes in the margins. “So,” she continued. “You’re not ideal, but in the current employment climate I think you’ll have to do. Is there anything you wish to ask me about the position?”
“Can you tell me about the career prospects? Is there a company pension?”
Ms Trippelhorn stifled a laugh, turning it into a hacking cough.
“I can honestly say that question has rarely arisen, Mr Tsukaisute.” She took off her glasses, laid them on the desk and studied Tsukaisute intently for the first time. “You do understand the nature of the work we do here?”
“I believe so, Ms Trippelhorn.”
“Good. Then you can start immediately. Mr Hakushaku will take you to your dormitory, on the other side of the volcano. You’ll receive your uniform in the morning.”
“Thank you, Ms Trippelhorn,” said Tsukaisute, rising from his chair. “I thank you for placing such confidence in my humble person. It has been a real pleasure to make your acquaintance.” And with that he left the room, gently closing the door behind him.
Ms Trippelhorn leaned back in her chair, and swigged the remains of her cold coffee. She looked through the resumé a final time, then took it to the filing cabinet and dropped it into a new folder, writing Tsukaisute’s name neatly on the label in black marker.
She sighed deeply, leant back in her chair and picked up the phone, stabbing a number on the switchboard.
“Eliza Trippelhorn here from Human Resources,” she said. “I need to speak to Dr Venom as a matter of some urgency. Yes, I know he’s very busy. But he’s just going to have to find the time.”
While she waited she held up her hand and examined her fingers. Chipped nails, frayed cuticles. She’d give anything for a decent manicure. But the chances of that were less than zero.
“Dr Venom? Thank you for taking the time to speak to me. It’s Eliza Trippelhorn. No, that’s Ms Trippelhorn. Well, it may be all the same to you, Dr Venom, but it makes a difference to me. Yes, I do understand you have other things on your mind, Dr Venom, so I’ll be brief. We have a problem with recruitment.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find suitable candidates. No, it’s not a question of money, they’re all very content with the generous remuneration package they receive from us. It’s just… well, I’m not sure how to put this, Dr Venom. It’s just that you do burn through them at an alarming rate. Fourteen more dead just this morning, in that fracas at the docks. Nine in the cablecar incident over the weekend, and twenty-two in the shoot-out at the casino last week. I’m going flat out, Dr Venom, but filling the vacancies is becoming a real problem.
“Well I’m sorry you feel that way, Dr Venom, but you must appreciate that I’m doing all I can to keep the positions filled. I have agents throughout the far east, who are doing an excellent job of vetting, assessing and recruiting suitable candidates. I’m content providing the fake passports, arranging the flights, bypassing the security and immigration checks and scheduling the helicopter pilots for transfer to the volcano. But it’s a question of quality, Dr Venom.
“We’re just not getting the calibre of henchman that our demanding conditions require, and this may in part be the cause of the short-lived status of many of the applicants. Some of them have never experienced combat before, and most don’t get the chance to experience it for a second time.
“No, Dr Venom, I’m not saying that. I think all these young men have potential. But perhaps if we could instigate a more rigorous employee development skills program, possibly involving some training in hand-to-hand combat, weapons handling, that sort of thing? If we could teach them to shoot straight, they might have a better chance against a superior enemy.
“Yes, Dr Venom, that’s why I am looking into the matter. As it happens I have a combat and firearms expert visiting me this very afternoon, whom I believe may prove to be the solution we require. But it will involve releasing the employees from some of the more routine tasks for an hour or two each day, so they can take part in the training program.
“Thank you, Dr Venom. I hope to be able to report back to you with more felicitous news in the very near future.”
Ms Trippelhorn put the phone down, and picked up the business card that had found its way to her over the weekend. It might come to nothing, of course, but she had the feeling that this man from Universal Exports could be the very thing the company needed.