Paperwork | Teen Ink

Paperwork MAG

By Julia S., New, NH

      Perrin seethed with contempt for the man who invented paperwork. Beside her on a battered table was a pile of handwritten reports. Or they might be requests, she thought, I’ve forgotten which. Every piece of work blended together after a while. She reached for the top sheet and fed it into the copy machine, a standard procedure, done every day, never faltering in its irritating simplicity.

Her fingers slid unguided over the glowing screen, touching virtual buttons in a sequence punctuated by beeps and memorized long ago: two-sided, four copies, start. One last chirping beep, as if a distressed cricket were caught inside the machine. It whirred, and four identical sheets came flying out of the slot in the side. They were hot to the touch and had the almost-sweet smell of fresh ink. A small, malicious part of Perrin’s brain wanted to rip the paper in half, which she suppressed. Each copy went into its pile and the routine began again: Feed, copy, sort, all without having to think.

Behind her, the Delta Office of Information was chaos in red and yellow. Green recruits, fresh from the Intermediate Academy, ran around delivering memos and reports to their superiors. They muttered as they went about their work, mostly about how they didn’t join the Offices to be errand boys. Between copies, Perrin grabbed one of the loudest mutterers by the shoulder. He was a boy a few years her senior and several ranks her junior, still pimply from adolescence but with the confidence of a boy who considers himself a man.

Before he could say anything or fully realize who had hold of his recently laundered uniform, Perrin told him firmly, “It would be wise to make your complaints silently, Captain Minor. I’m not the only Commander who doesn’t keep to her office all day.”

The boy forced himself to utter a half-hearted “Sorry, Third Commander Lane,” and Perrin released his shoulder. The red fabric was wrinkled where her fingers had grabbed it, but the boy did not notice and continued on his way, still muttering. Perrin made a mental note to file a reprimand form, then stopped, realizing that she was thinking in terms of paperwork. This was, a laughing Third Commander King had told her in the mess last week, the first sign that you’re turning into an Info Officer.

The copy machine stopped beeping and made a very unpleasant bee-boop sound. The screen flashed the message Perrin had come to dread: Paper Jam, Compartment 2. Perrin wrenched open the plastic door and looked into the labyrinth of wheels, gears, and unidentified thingies. A single corner of ink-smeared paper poked out from between two black cylinders. Perrin pushed up the sleeves of her uniform in a vain attempt to keep them free of ink and endeavored to force the machine to give up its captive.

“Jammed again?” asked a too-familiar voice behind her. “I’m beginning to think you do this on purpose, just to get out of copying.”-*

Perrin twisted herself around and saluted with an inky hand. “No, sir, Second Commander. It’s not my fault if this thing should have been replaced five years ago. Recommend that a request for an upgrade be filed with the Office of Technology.” More thoughts of paperwork. King certainly knew what he was talking about.

Trey Morgan smiled, but the smile did not reach his intense black eyes. “Nothing has come of the last eight requests I’ve sent to Tech, but if you care to try for a ninth, I’ll authorize it. Do you need help getting that working again?”

Perrin returned to coercing the two cylinders into releasing the paper. “No, sir. I’ve gotten pretty good at this.” In the three months since her promotion from Captain Major to Third Commander, there had been 42 paper jams, 37 of which had happened while Perrin was on copy duty. The monster of beige plastic and flashing green lights had become very familiar to her.

Morgan nodded, told her to carry on, and walked back to his office. On his way, he cast a glance at the muttering Captain Minor, and Perrin wondered how long the Second Commander had been standing unnoticed in the main Office before he spoke to her. Every now and then, Morgan did something to remind his subordinates that before he became head of the Office, he had been a very successful Intelligence Officer. Junior Officers made jokes comparing Morgan to the hill mystics who could supposedly turn invisible, and sometimes a particularly quick one would remember that Morgan’s mother had come from the hills and speculate. The more outlandish theories were often a source of entertainment for higher-ranking Officers, none of whom ever believed a word.-*

“I don’t care who his father is! I want answers, and I want them now! Shoot the man if you have to, but get me those papers!” The denizens of the Office of Information paused what they were doing to watch Alexander Caspar Black have a shouting match with his cell phone. Perrin mentally sent her sympathy to the poor soul - likely a low-rank Intel Operative - at the other end. It wasn’t easy to work under Third Commander Black.

“I know it won’t be easy, you idiot! If it were, we wouldn’t be interested! Don’t call me again until you either are dead or have those papers in your hand. Got it?” Black punched the disconnect button with such force that Perrin thought the cell phone might snap in two. When he noticed half the Office staring at him, Black gave them the sort of glare that made strong men weak in the knees.

“What are you lot looking at?”

Perrin had never seen people work so diligently.

Black pushed his dark hair out of his eyes and returned his phone to a black leather pouch at his belt. Perrin paused in her rescue of the jammed paper to look her colleague over. There was a splotch on his right leg, not too noticeable on the red uniform but very prominent on the yellow stripe, that looked suspiciously like blood. When Perrin took into consideration the fact that this was Alexander Black she was looking at, “suspiciously” turned into “definitely.” The customary dark circles under Black’s blue eyes were even more pronounced than usual.

“You look like hell,” Perrin told him.

Black leaned on the copy machine and flashed Perrin one of his sardonic smiles. “I’ve been through it. Break the copier again, Lane?”

“I didn’t-” Perrin’s retort was cut off as the paper at last came free, sending her sprawling to the tiled floor. Black grabbed her left arm. His grip was incredibly strong, with a hint of danger, as if he could just as easily break her arm as help her to her feet. Thankfully, he chose the latter. “-break it,” she finished.

“Of course you didn’t. Morgan too cheap with the budget to get this piece of junk replaced?”

“He’s tried. You know Tech.”

Black nodded. “That I do. Speaking of Tech, I need some help getting the Discoveries Report together. Could you pick up a couple of analysis sheets from Hutton after you’re done?”

“Sure.” The annual Discoveries Report was the bane of the Office of Information. Discovery Operatives from Intelligence spent months gathering information on every major scientific breakthrough in the country, sending painfully researched details back to Third Commander Black to be analyzed for risk factors and practicality before getting sent to the Office of Technology to be tied up in a mountain of red tape. And, of course, Black left everything to just before the deadline ... which was in two days. “You know, if you actually started the Report early, you might not be so rushed all the time.”

“How old are you, Lane? Thirteen?”

“Fifteen.” Perrin seemed cursed to look forever young, no matter how many stripes she had on her uniform. “And that has nothing to do with anything.”-*

“You’re 15, and you’ve been a Third Commander for, three months, is it? I’ve been head of Intel for 12 years, and I’m 26 years older than you. Don’t boss me around, kid. I perfected the art of procrastination before you started at Beginning Academy.”

Perrin shut the door on the side of the copier and pressed the reset button. Beep! The pile of paperwork - they were reports, Perrin recalled - was more than half gone; it would probably take another 30 minutes, then each copy had to be delivered by an Officer ranking Captain Major or higher to its respective place: originals to the Evaluation Office, one copy to Delta First Commander Hawthorn, one to Morgan’s secretary, one for the Deployment Office, and the final copy to Third Commander Hutton in the Sub-Office of Files and Records. All precisely in accordance with Section 57, Sub-Section J of the Laws and Ordinances of Delta Province Office of Information, which Perrin had memorized in her fifth year of Beginning Academy.

When Perrin looked back from the stack of reports, Black could just be seen as a silhouette behind the frosted glass of his office door. A single folded sheet of paper had been left on the side of the copy machine. Perrin glanced around to check for any muttering Captain Minors who might be in a position to notice anything, then unfolded it. It was in standard Office code, which any Intern knew how to read, but which somehow was still considered an effective security measure.-*

Memo from Third Commander Alexander Black, Sub-Office of Intelligence, Office of Information, Delta Province, to Third Commander Perrin Lane, General Sub-Office, Office of Information, Delta Province.

Lane - report from Capt. Maj. Westing came 0500hrs. Pass on to Morgan. Don’t use Office channels. This is big.

Similar Articles


This article has 27 comments.

i love this !

This is great.

on Jan. 12 2017 at 2:59 pm
TheEvergreen SILVER, Birmingham, Alabama
8 articles 0 photos 64 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Never laugh at live dragons." -JRR Tolkien

You did an amazing job, but nothing I can say will cover anything different than what is said in the other comments. I am just anxious for a sequel! :)

on Sep. 2 2016 at 3:59 pm
Screen_name: BRONZE, Phoenix, Arizona
1 article 0 photos 5 comments
ye _

Writer3 said...
on Apr. 23 2016 at 3:59 pm
This one is really good, I'd definitely read it if it were a book! Good Job!

judyhhh BRONZE said...
on Oct. 30 2015 at 2:47 am
judyhhh BRONZE, Beijing, Other
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments
the dialogues in this article are so realistic that can really pull me into the story,also the great details can easily make readers get the picture

van0777 said...
on Oct. 30 2015 at 2:34 am
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I like this one , it is interesting!!

on Jul. 3 2014 at 10:52 am
Silhouettes GOLD, Waltham, Massachusetts
12 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it." -Vincent Van Gogh

Done with drama, wit and style that gripped me till the closing sentence. Good action and description to a minimum; it helped keep attention. :) The names, ranks, forces, stations and what-have-yous weren't boring in the least; just helped the story flow better and unite the characters with the setting. Very creative and very unique indeed! Keep writing, please!

on Nov. 14 2013 at 10:59 pm
Deej6595 BRONZE, Billerica, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 369 comments

Favorite Quote:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

This is an interesting story you have created. I hope you continue. This definitely should be continued. I like the title it is very clever. How did you come up with this concept?

on Aug. 29 2013 at 7:25 pm
Tornado Misha BRONZE, Ng, Other
1 article 0 photos 53 comments
Just saying: if you want people to check out your work through a comment, try getting the grammar right or they won't even bother. Anyways, about this story. Great job :D The pacing was perfect and the descriptions were very special, rendering reccurant, mundane tasks compelling to read about. You used a variety of metaphors to refer to objects which also helped. The dialogue is realistic, helping to flesh out the characters without having to use flourishing detailing of their appearance and demeanour. Overall, great little fic. I'm not sure what to criticize about it. Usually I would talk about the descripitiveness, but this one works fine without really having to go that far. XP Bravo!

on Jul. 16 2013 at 3:27 am
Blackdiamond166 SILVER, Westgate, Iowa
5 articles 0 photos 4 comments
Omgosh! I love this! I actually just wanna sit down and keep going! I wanna know what happens! I wanna read a whole book! Keep writing because you are awesome! 

on Feb. 14 2013 at 3:42 pm
AlwaysAntlers SILVER, Kingsport, Tennessee
5 articles 0 photos 72 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Don't forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.”
― Charles de Lint, (from his book,The Blue Girl)

leave a link to the sequel please? :)

on Jan. 23 2013 at 2:09 pm
In_Love_with_Writing GOLD, Easton, Pennsylvania
12 articles 0 photos 389 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13

Oooh I like this one!! nice job :)

on Jun. 20 2012 at 11:39 pm
__horizon133 PLATINUM, Portage, Michigan
26 articles 0 photos 231 comments

Favorite Quote:
"laugh, and the world laughs with you. laugh hysterically, and for no apparent reason, and they will leave you alone." anonymous

I read this some time ago--just found the sequel and am rereading it; it's still good!

on Jul. 16 2011 at 7:09 pm
Tongue_Blep PLATINUM, ????, Ohio
40 articles 1 photo 769 comments
It was really great! good job and keep writing! :D (Sorry for advertizing) I just wrote two stories called the beast and nightstalker. If any of u could check them out, that would be appreciated. And please post comments saying if u liked it or not or if i should change anything. Thanks! :)(:

bobun16 SILVER said...
on Jul. 7 2011 at 12:28 am
bobun16 SILVER, Mesa, Arizona
7 articles 0 photos 60 comments

Favorite Quote:
is this a trick question or what?-Calvin and Hobbes

also, and I'd like to state that I didnt say what i asid above to suck up to you, but my pieces are woefully underread, and I need feedback, if you find time, maybe help critique a story of mine, I love my writing, but I love getting feedback for it too, xD

bobun16 SILVER said...
on Jul. 7 2011 at 12:27 am
bobun16 SILVER, Mesa, Arizona
7 articles 0 photos 60 comments

Favorite Quote:
is this a trick question or what?-Calvin and Hobbes

Very well written, I love your writing style, it's completely natural, it flows. xD, Keep up the good work!

on Jul. 2 2011 at 2:14 pm
__horizon133 PLATINUM, Portage, Michigan
26 articles 0 photos 231 comments

Favorite Quote:
"laugh, and the world laughs with you. laugh hysterically, and for no apparent reason, and they will leave you alone." anonymous

i LOVE the cliff hanger! the whole peice is very realistic and flows wonderfly. i think my favorit part was all of the titles and ranks and names of stations that you kept in perfect order--did you have to research that? it was also interesting how young Perrin Lane was. very, very well done.

on Mar. 22 2011 at 4:19 pm
PerfectMGymnast DIAMOND, Parker, Colorado
57 articles 25 photos 633 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you don't leap you'lll never know what it's like to fly"

This was really good! the words flowed so nicely throughout the story! and i love how descriptive this is!! :))

on Feb. 20 2011 at 2:41 pm
MidnightFire PLATINUM, Lincoln, Illinois
40 articles 6 photos 239 comments

Favorite Quote:
'Dream as if you will live forever, live as if you'll die tomorrow.'
for my sister: 'when life gives me lemons ... i eat them'
'do not be afraid, be faithful'
'God is not safe, but He's good'

amazing :) NEEDS a sequal !! :) loved it