Space, a sparkling infinity that stretches further than the human mind can comprehend. Not even our planet's top scientists truly know all of its secrets, power and danger it can hold. Planets turn, stars live and die, and meteors race without restriction. One such meteor headed towards planet earth at lightning speed. Within its core was something shining and green, something that the general public would never be aware of. Below it, in the heart of London, were four people who couldn't care less about any of that.
If you tried to start a conversation about space or meteors or anything of the sort to the night shift of Atlantic Gold Insurance you'd probably be laughed out of the room. That was providing they were listening to you in the first place. Atlantic Gold Insurance (which had nothing to do with gold or the Atlantic) won customers over with the human touch. It refused to replace its customer service operates with automated robots and, providing they rang between the hours of 11 am to 9 pm, they could expect kind and polite assistants to help them through whatever problems they may be having. Anytime before or after that, however, was a very different story.
12 am to 7 am, the worst shift. Quiet and dead with four rightfully resentful employees. Nobody ever had anything worthwhile to say at 2 am. Not the callers, not the operators. So if you just happened to have an issue with your car or house insurance first thing the morning then it was best not to expect that much. The employees certainly didn't expect anything from their callers. After all, anyone driven to call an insurance company at 2 am couldn't be in the best state of mind.
"Yes, mam I know you're upset. Yes, I know this is the third time you've called." Mark, the manager of the team, struggled with a middle-aged woman on the end of the line. The manager was a very loose term. He was a tall thirty-year-old man with thin framed glasses who could barely manage himself let alone anyone else. He was a pale, quiet sort. The type of person who avoided the outside as much as he could. In theory that should have made the night shift perfect for him. It probably would have been if it wasn't for the people, people with a lot of pent up aggression that they liked to aim at him. "If you could just call back in a few hours."
"When we've all left you mean?" a joking voice called over from another desk.
"Shut up." Mark hissed. "No, not you mam." The joking voice was coming from Aidan. Aidan was almost the exact opposite of Mark. He was shorter than Mark, not quite reaching 6 feet, but he liked to think he made up for that in personality. He was tanned 28 year old with blond hair and blue eyes. A social type, which unfortunately didn't mix well with being locked up all night.
The desk separating the two men, presumably to stop them from fighting each other, was Veronica. She was 26 with thick black framed glasses. Her hair was long and chocolate brown to match her eyes. She kept tied back in a neat ponytail, it seemed to look more professional to her that way. She was also the indoors type. However, it was more out of necessity than choice. There was no time to party at night, work left her too tired to do much in the day. She had accepted the night shift life. An uneventful life.
Finally, in the corner was Danny, stuck in the office at the age of twenty. His greasy black mop of hair sat barely brushed on the top of his head. Danny was not important.
"You shouldn't grovel to your customers, they'll walk all over you. You need to let them know whose boss. They should respect you, lest they find another zero on the end of their bill." Aidan unhelpfully suggested. Mark waved him off. Fiddling with legal documents didn't seem like an effective way to deal with stress. He should probably check whether Aidan was actually doing just that. That would explain why none of their clients ever wanted to talk to him.
"An extra zero? No, you raise one of the numbers in the middle. It's less obvious." Veronica argued. Aidan shrugged, either strategy worked for him.
"Could you guys- yes I'm listening." The pair snickered as Mark was pushed and pulled between conversations. "If you could...no hang on" The woman a string of obscenities. She yelled about how she would never call again, which was exactly what Mark wanted, and hung up. He swore under his breath and kicked the desk. He immediately regretted it. Those things were hard.
"You doing okay?" Veronica looked over. Short outbursts of rage were pretty common from everyone. They often passed without any real incidents to speak of. Still, it was always nice to check. It gave people the impression that she cared and allowed her to gauge whether anything was going to get thrown at her ahead of time.
"Oh yeah, just great thanks." Mark smiled through greeted teeth.
"Deep breaths dude," Aidan said without looking up. On this rare occasion, Mark followed his advice. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Wait, was it supposed to be in through the mouth and out through the nose? Whatever, in through the nose was working fine. After a couple of minutes, he felt well again. He opened his eyes and smiled at his relaxed, not at all pressuring work environment. For a moment everything was calm. A moment later it was all shattered by another ringing phone. "You know what we should do?"
"Client." Mark signalled to the phone.
"We should go somewhere together." Aidan continued as if he hadn't heard a thing.
"We're together now." Veronica rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair. They spent seven hours together and there was no way she could ever forget it.
"Somewhere other than here." Aidan scowled.
"Client." Mark repeated, louder this time.
"In a minute. Come on guys there are seventeen hours a day where we're not at work." Slightly more on Sundays, he might have added. Not that any of them went anywhere on Sundays. Sundays were sleeping days, that was one of the unspoken rules of Atlantic Gold.
"Yeah and they're seventeen hours I'm happy spending away from you thanks." Veronica commented. It came out much ruder had intended. It was just that after work drinks were never her idea of fun, especially considering that 'after work' was 7 am.
"Whatever, I'm going for a smoke break. Want to come?" his draw screeched open as he retrieved a small packet of cigarettes. If he was honest with himself he didn't really like them. They tasted disgusting. He had started smoking them due to peer pressure. Now he just smoked them out of boredom.
"I don't smoke." Veronica mumbled.
"You really want to sit in here with yes mam over here?" he smirked.
"Aidan, answer your bloody phone" Mark snapped. Aidan picked it up and immediately slammed it back on the hook. He shot a glare over to Mark that burnt right through him. Veronica got up without a word. They both left in the silence.
"This is the kind of behaviour that gets people fired." Mark yelled after them. He got no reply, they were already gone. He sighed and rested his head in his hands. This was ridiculous. This was not where he wanted to be at the age of thirty, this wasn't where he wanted to be at any age.
"You shouldn't let them walk all over you like that." Mark just about managed to lift his head. He noticed the young man in the corner whose eyes hadn't left his computer.
"Who are you?" Mark mumbled. He was debating whether the night would be more productive if he just fell asleep right then and there.
"Oh I'm Danny, the intern" Danny smiled as he finally looked up. Mark tried to place the face. He was sure they'd met before but he wasn't exactly familiar.
"Is this your first day?" Mark sat himself up in an attempt to look presentable. God help the poor boy if this was his first day. They were hardly giving a good impression. At least it was accurate to the overall experience though.
"No, actually I've been here for six months" Danny pressed his lips together trying to make his frustration as invisible as humanly possible. He supposed he should be happy. This was one of the few occasions his presence had been acknowledged at all.
"Oh," Mark awkwardly nodded. What was he supposed to say to that? He decided this would be a good place for the conversation to die.
"But Aidan's right. You are the boss, their boss. You need to stand up for yourself. Be a man"
"Yeah..." he stared towards the open door. They never bothered to close it. Even in the middle of December, it would be left for all the cold air to blow in. He knew they wouldn't be far away. Knowing them they were just in the car park. It would be an excuse to leave the office and wouldn't technically count as a workplace dispute if they were outside. "Yeah you're right."
His chair was left spinning as he headed for the door as fast as he could. He should have done this years ago. Too long he'd let them treat their job like a joke. He was their manager, he could get human resources to wipe the floor with them. It was now or never, he was regaining his office tonight.
"Any time boss." Danny shouted after him. Finally, a productive work night.