The Job at Hand
It is September, two thousand and sixteen.
I work in a fairly new department, that is a stand-alone agency within Military Intelligence Six building. The agency was officially opened in September of two thousand and fifteen. I started in October of two thousand and fifteen.
There are only twenty of us that work in the agency at the moment. Because we are a small division, we were given floor space by Military Intelligence Six to work in. Our open-plan office is in the Special Intelligence Service building.
The office was given a new dark-grey carpet. We were also given new cubical light-grey desks. The desks are laid out in five columns by three rows. My desk is one of the end columns. Our floor manager has his own office at the end, with glass walls. I assume it is so he can over see the floor from his desk.
The agency specialises in gathering intelligence on companies that fund terrorism. The companies are both United Kingdom and international. We investigate the companies around the world and domestic that have a business registered in the United Kingdom.
These are companies that may be supplying their resources such as factory, machinery and plants. It can also be component stock or finished product stock and cash.
The end users are persons or groups that are a threat to
the United Kingdom. The end users are not necessarily British or immigrants. They can be any nationality around the world.
Our floor manager has, over the past twelve months, built up communication with key intelligence services in America, France, Germany, China, Spain, Cayman Islands and Switzerland. This is to allow free flow of information within the intelligence community.
The new department was created because Military Intelligence Six, Military Intelligence Five, Government Communications Head Quarters and police were stretched already. The current entities are already struggling to deal with the direct terrorism. There was a gap in monitoring indirect terrorist threats and actually targeting the beginning of the supply chain rather than the end of the supply chain. So the new agency I work for, solely targets the indirect terror which means targeting the companies.
I was approached by one of Military Intelligence Five personnel, at the time when the department was starting to form. I was approached, when I attended my friend Anthea’s engagement party. At first, when I found out that he worked for the secret service, I thought I was targeted. Now I realise it was a pure coincidence in meeting him. He could not have planned it as there were too many variables. I first met him last year, at the beginning of July two thousand and fifteen.
After four months of liaising with the civil servant, I was recruited to join the new agency. It was not my first choice as I was happily working in practice as an accountant. Looking back, I feel I was groomed for the role when I was spotted at the time. The reason why is because I was asked to use my skills to interpret a few set of accounts. The accounts were, without my prior knowledge, of companies supplying their resources to terrorists.
The Special Intelligence Service building is situated along the Thames in central London, where you can see Vauxhall Bridge from the office windows. My desk is situated next to one of the windows that faces Vauxhall bridge. I can also see a part of the river Thames in the distance.
The new department has recruited externally for eighteen of the staff, including myself and two from Military Intelligence Five.
The twenty staff are broken down into six field agents, five information technology staff, six analysers and three reviewers. I am one of the six analysers.
The six field agents travel domestically and internationally, gathering intelligence information such as component stock, chemical stock, delivery notes, goods received notes and internal management accounts. The field agents are given information of what to look for. The names of chemicals and materials that go into bombs are supplied to the field agents. This is so that they know what intelligence to collect.
The five information technology team help to run the mainframe, server and internal internet. Also to look after the storage of written reports, emails and evidence. They supply and support the hardware such as desktops, printers, laptops and hard drives. They also provide key cards to allow our field agents to override security doors. They are also creating software to allow universal serial bus to automatically extract data. The department also help to keep track of where their six agents are.
The six analysers, including myself, collate the information supplied by the field agents. The intelligence collected is then recorded in a report that we write. We are given a internal template of a report. We then fill in the template with our own style of writing. The report cannot be suggestive and factual. We are not allowed to form our own opinion. We also use the companies’ financial reports. We retrieve the financial reports from Companies House and companies’ websites.
The financial reports are used to ascertain who the officers of the company are and what industry it is trading in. The officers are the chief executive officer, the vice presidents, directors and chief finance officer.
We also find out the background of each officer in terms of business associates, friends and interests.
The report can be ten pages long with about five thousand words.
The three reviewers proof-read our reports. Not to check our grammar but to see that we have provided an impartial recommendation. Our own opinions are not in the report.
One of the reviewers is called Stephanie and she gives me a hard time. She will critique my work while ensuring everyone can hear her. Luckily the other five analysers can see that she is picking on me. We talk among ourselves, questioning why she does not criticise the rest of us. In the past she has made me work till gone nine o’clock in the evening. Being depressed and not wanting to be here, on earth, does not help either. In the past I have gone to the toilet to have a good cry. This has helped me to feel that I have done something physical to release the proverbial dull pain in the pit of my chest.
Our line manager is a man called Miles Stones. He is the one who created the agency. He does not head it, as that is Mary Johnson. The funding would only happen if she was put in charge. I have no idea if Miles is upset or is just glad he received his funding.
His role is also attending the committee meeting with Mary to discuss our reports we have written, to determine if the agency should target the companies to shut them down. The foreign secretary is at the meeting to give the agency the go-ahead to go after those companies.
I had my training in the first three months while working on the job. I would go on short trips each week being trained in self-defence, close-quarter fighting and techniques retrieving details. I was also trained in firearms and had to train for six months. I finally received my certificate and licence after intensive training. I had to go away at weekends at a time to learn how to fire weapons and simulate scenarios. By the end of the six months, I finally had my weekends back to myself and my brain was frazzled from all that training.
As an analyser I am only allowed to use the agency internal internet network to do my research on the companies I am instructed to look into. So I cannot go rogue and do my own research using external internet search engines. Also I cannot choose my own company to research as the department’s policy is strict. Everyone’s desktop computer is digitally monitored and recorded, so our work can be watched live by the computer support team. Our boss is lenient in regards to using the internet for personal use like banking and personal searches. They prefer it for the point of view of looking after their own.
The dress code at work is casual wear so that we blend in with civilians when we are out on business so not to attract ourselves. For work I will wear my jeans with a slim fit double cufflink shirt and a slim jumper that allows my cuffs to stick out of the jumper sleeves. I still wear my Skechers.
My job is in three steps that we have to follow in order. We cannot juggle the process around.
The first step is to download the company’s annual report. We list all the directors including the chairman and chief executive officer. We then analyse each officer, including their associates. This includes politicians, presidents and prime minister. We write in the report their background including education, previous employment and any criminal activities whether blue collar or white collar.
The second step is to record a complete breakdown of what the company trades in including suppliers, customers and materials.
The third step is to report on the company’s current assets such as inventory and bank accounts. We also look at their lenders if the company has borrowed money. We ignore the performance of the company such as cashflow and income statement.
We also use media such as newspapers, magazines including specific industry.
The whole process can take a few days as you have to detail everything. You cannot write the report with personal opinion. So the review team check for that. When we have finished, we upload it on the internal cloud so it is not kept on our personal desk top computer.
The work can seem mundane but I find it interesting as it feels like people watching, seeing how the other half live. We also look at their personal assets and see what they do with their money.
I was sold by the idea that it would be exciting, rewarding and fulfilling. The work bores me as I find it very straightforward analysing the data to see through the information interpreting what the financial information is really saying. There are distractions to break up the day. I can see the rest of the analysers beavering away, hearing the click clacking of keyboards and staff walking around picking up stationery and chatting to their work colleagues, laughing and joking around. It brings a warm feeling inside me seeing a purpose in life, protecting the world. I usually just work nine to five, Monday to Friday and never at the weekend, unless Stephanie is bored and decides to pick on me for the day. My salary is slightly more than I was being paid in my old job. I was recruited because of my educational background and what I specialised in as a career. I would not have been recruited otherwise, as I do not come from the same cloth. My last job that I trained for when I finished university was tax and forensic accounting. My evenings and weekends are freed up and my quality of life is better than my last job as well. Some of my colleagues go out for drinks after work but I like to keep my personal life separate from work, as I like to work to live not the other way round. I think it sends a wrong signal but I do not care. The way I am feeling, I am in no mood to want to socialise. I like to just go home and hide under my duvet and stay there until the next day. My only motive is seeing Miles at work. He is eye candy and he gives me a reason to get up every day and come to work.
It feels strange that we only cover one floor, within Military Intelligence Six who occupy the whole building. We are not made to feel like outcasts, but I feel swamped in their presence. We share their canteen and made to feel it is ours. However, we seem to huddle in a corner when we sit and eat in the canteen.
I prefer to eat at my desk with home-made salad and salad dressing from the shop.
I did not imagine how busy the office would be, with just fourteen of us. We all get on together in a team. We work together like clockwork.
We do not have accesses to the other floors of the Special Intelligence Service building. We share the same lift but the other staff have their security cards to have access to their office. I do not have any interest knowing what happens on the other floors. One or two of my other colleagues have openly wondered what happens on the other floors.
It feels surreal working for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I dream about going in the field for the agency, having lots of sex with fit men even though I am still a virgin. But it is not what you see in the movies. There are no explosive pens or watches. Everything is transported by email or text.
I never have to see the main boss Mary, or Miles, as it is not warranted.
Our office is open-plan with cubical desks where you have to stand up if you want to see another face. But they have to stand up as well. Our main boss Mary Johnson is the next floor up and so neither of us has seen what her office looks like. I only met her once, during my induction week.
I am currently at my desk finalising my latest report on a company that has offices in the Middle East and the company annual report states that they manufacture pipes for the oil industry. The company is suspected of supplying their materials to make bomb casings from the same material that is used to make the pipes. An explosion that took place up in Manchester, forensic found a partial logo that was linked to the company. The information I gathered on the officers of the company, found that one of them was linked to the group. It is what our department classes as a ‘rogue officer’. An individual that goes out on his own to disrupt, making the other officers look bad including the company. It is likely that the committee will act on my report.
While I am finalising my report, I cannot stop thinking about a man in my building that works for Military Intelligence Six. We bumped into each other in the canteen. He is the first person to talk to me in the last twelve months who is also single. All the other men seemed to be married or in a relationship, telling me about their problems. I seem to always attract attached men.
Well this person was unattached and after a month, he finally cracked my shell and I could be myself and he found my quirky side funny. We never talked about going out but we always talked about our social life, making it clear that there were no other person involved. The last conversation, two days ago was an invite on his plus two invitation. I casually said that I will tag along if he can’t find a date and is happy having a friend tag along. He came across excited and made it clear that he will not find anyone at short notice. My plan is that we will get together at his plus one party.
I am in the process of finalising my report when Stephanie is walking towards me. I am dreading what she is going to say to me. I just want to be anywhere but here. I lean forward in my chair to look at my screen, pretending to be engrossed in my work. I am pretending that I do not notice her. She stands at my desk holding, what looks like another report to rewrite. I am still facing my screen while she stands next to me, with her body facing my right side square on. I continue to pretend I am busy reading. When she realises that she has to get my attention, she makes conversation as if we get on.
She comes across all nice, ‘Jane.’
I look up pretending to show a quizzical look of interest, ‘What can I do for you?’
She gives a look of butter would never melt, ‘Nothing this time. I just wanted to let you know that Ben asked me out on a date.’
At first I do not register what she has just said, ‘Ben told me that he is struggling to find a plus one.’
Stephanie huffs, ‘Uh, didn’t you hear me? We are going to his party that he is invited to.’
It takes me a few seconds to realise, ‘But how did you know? He was all set to take me.’
She looks proud of herself, ’Well I took your advice.
You told me to ask him out.’
I start to get upset, ‘but… but—’
She is now patronising me, ‘But what. You really thought you had a chance with him. Who do you think he would rather be with. A woman who knows how to have fun or a girl who thinks a cup of coco and a book is fun. What would you have done? Talk about accounts and bored him to death.’
I am tongue tied and I do not know what to say in retaliation. She continues to make fun of me.
‘Look at you. Look at the way you dress. You talk. You walk. People would think he was dating a twelve-year-old. You’re too short for him. So I thought I would save you the embarrassment. I have to go and find a dress to wear for Saturday night. I only have two days.’
I start to well up but hold the tears back. She looks into my eyes then smiles at me knowing she has achieved the desired effect. She taps me on my head like she is stroking a puppy looking for a home. I am in shock as my potential love life falls apart in front of me.
I lean forward with my hands flat against the temples of my face. My elbows on my desk. All I can do is hide my face of sadness and embarrassment from my work colleagues. I feel Stephanie gloating as she stands up and walks away. Before she does, she puts her arm round me and whispers in my ear.
‘You can always run into the toilets and have a good cry, like a big baby. Just like all the other times. You didn’t think I noticed. Try not to think of us on Saturday night as he passionately kisses me. If he is lucky, he gets to make love to a real woman. Make him realise that you would have been a big mistake. I will be glad to let you know how it went on Monday.’
She makes me feel small and I cannot think how to come back from this. All I can do is think about running to the toilet and crying. I feel that everyone in the office can see me and have heard the conversation. I wish the ground beneath me would crumble away and swallow me whole. I am struggling to stop my shoulders from juddering. I quickly brisk walk to the toilets, keeping my head down, avoiding eye contact from anyone.
Stephanie sees Jane going off to the toilets and laughs to herself with no remorse. She feels that she has achieved her revenge on Jane making her boyfriend end their relationship. But Stephanie knows that Jane has no idea why. She sees Jane as a complete thick bimbo with no sparkling personality and no threat.
She feels she has not finished with Jane. There is a football tournament in middle of September when it is still warm. She wants to hurt her badly on the pitch or in private when no one is around. She feels Jane has not been punished enough.
When I get inside the toilets, I frantically check that each cubicle is empty, by checking if they are locked. I am struggling to hold back my tears now. Once I know I am alone, I quickly rush inside the end cubicle, furthest away from the door. I lock the door and then I cry uncontrollably.
I am not upset with Stephanie or the rejection from Ben, but the affirmation of what I believe about myself. A third party reminding me what I already know to be true.
I lose track of time and worry that someone may wonder where I am. So I go to the sink to see myself in the mirror. I wipe my tears away and blow my nose. I am glad I do not wear eyeliner. I recheck my face and see if there are signs of crying. Then walk back to my desk.
Barney saw the conversation from his desk, looking over his desktop computer. While looking at his screen, he saw Jane walking hurriedly towards the toilets. He had concluded that Stephanie said something horrible. While still working, he kept an observation of the door to the toilet, waiting for her to come out. He checks the time to see how long she has been in there. It had been more than five minutes. He was worried that she had been crying and that she may do something stupid. It was almost ten minutes now and he was tempted to get hold of Miles. As he was about to get up from his chair, to go over to Miles’ office, the door opened and Jane walked out.
He is relieved, as he is aware of her depression as he spent time collecting information on her for Miles back in July of two thousand and fifteen. Once Jane is back at her desk and allowing her a couple of minutes, he thinks of an excuse to go up to her, as he walks over.
He sees her focusing on her computer screen, when he hesitantly says, ‘Have you managed to test out the new cloud?’
I am caught off guard not realising that Barney was behind me. I quickly wipe my eyes discretely.
I nervously turn round hoping he cannot see that I have been crying, ‘Yeah. Thanks for that. I have been distracted, so I have not had time to let you know.’
Barney is relaxed now, he has seen her face, ‘Cool. I thought I would ask. What have you been up to lately?’
I am not nervous now, ‘Nothing much. Just catching up with friends. How about you?’
He smiles at me, ‘My girlfriend has been making me do DIY.’
I feel better already, ‘I have never asked about your girlfriend. What is her name?’
I see in Barney’s eyes that he is glad I asked, ‘Kate.’
I am naturally interested, ‘Have you got a picture of Kate?’
He has a look of ‘I never thought you would ask’. I watch him get his phone out of his pocket. He walks up to me as I see him flicking through his mobile. I can see from the expression on his face that he has found a picture of her.
He then faces his mobile screen at me, ‘Here she is. This was when we were on holiday.’
I find she looks pretty, ‘Aaww, she is pretty. Where did you meet?’
He sits on my desk to my left, ‘At Oktoberfest.’
I am jealous of him, ‘How did you meet?’
I can see him reminiscing, ‘I was at the bar getting drinks when I knocked her drink out of her hand. I bought her another drink and the rest is history.’
I find it romantic. I picture that happening to me somehow.
I wish that could happen to me.
Barney turns the conversation to me, ‘Are you seeing anyone?’
I look down, feeling the answer is embarrassing, ‘No.’
He looks surprised, ‘You’re kidding. I thought you would be close to being married.’
He makes me smile, ‘Never been an opportunity.’
His facial expression tells me that he does not believe me, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way. You are a very pretty girl. Whoever snaps you up, will be a lucky guy.’
His words fall on deaf ears, ‘So are you doing DIY this weekend?’
He responds, ‘No. We are going to friends for dinner.’
Again I am jealous, ‘I wish I was doing something this weekend. I have chores to look forward to.’
Barney looks down as if he is hiding something, ‘That is not what I hear.’
I look at him with a curious look. He looks at me with a look of guilt. Barney is about to tell me something before our boss comes up to us.
Miles looks at the both of us, ‘When you are finished, can you come to my office. It doesn’t have to be now.’
I feel I am in trouble, ‘Is it serious?’
Miles turns back round, ‘My office when you are done.’
I look at Barney, shrugging my shoulders and raising my hands. Barney smiles at him for reassurance,
I look at Barney nervously, ‘What have I done this time. Do you know something? You look suspicious.’
Barney shrugs his shoulders and waves his innocence, ‘Don’t ask me. I am just the IT guy. But I can tell you, you are not in trouble.’
I look at him for hints and he just smiles at me as I watch him walking away from my desk. I don’t stop watching him walk away. He stands at his desk smiling at me and I cut my eyes at him. He raises his hands up again shrugging off his guilt.
I check that my desk is tidy and then I walk over to Miles’s office. I am anxious that I have done something wrong. That Stephanie has said something to him. Not that I have done anything wrong. I can see Miles sat at his desk through the glass wall. He seems to be engrossed with something on his desk. When I get to his glass door, I stand there waiting for him to recognise me. After a few seconds I come to the conclusion that I will have to knock on his door.