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'Redacted' and the Company Perks

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Kay's shriek died with a choked gasp as the dragon stopped short, swept off its feet by the chain she failed to notice around its neck. Granted, she was occupied by other things.

She clutched her chest, willing her heart to cease its attempts to leap out her throat. Shaffer was absolutely unruffled.

"Are you alright, Ms. Oritz?" Not a single damn blond hair was out of place.

Kay sputtered a few incoherent noises and pointed at the dragon on a chain, now pacing with a restless flick of its serpentine tail. It stuck a forked tongue out at her and curled up on the concrete floor, its ridged spine to the two women.

"Sorry! So sorry! Didn't realize anyone was coming down here. Dorothy's pen needed some maintenance." A familiar figure emerged from behind the dragon in a sky blue uniform smeared with all manner of dubious substances. He mopped his sweaty face with a shredded orange rag and pushed his thick coke bottle glasses back up the bridge of his nose. A dark snarl of curls sat at a rakish angle on his head. This close, Kay realized he was younger than she first thought, likely due to those ridiculous glasses. He had to be nearly blind.

"Stanley, I've brought your probationary recruit," said Shaffer. "This is Kay Oritz."

Stanley blinked and did a double take at Kay. "Hey, welcome aboard," he said with an extended hand. It took her a little on the longer side of awkward before she finally detached from the wall and shook the man's hand.

She tried to get her tongue to form words again. "That's a dragon."

"Yes it is," said a solemn Stanley.

"Please debrief Ms. Oritz and make sure she is fully prepped to exit the building by the end of the day," said Shaffer. Kay found a slim hand and manicured nails pressing into the small of her back as Shaffer shoved her out of the elevator. The  doors slid closed behind her.

She was alone, with man and dragon. She flinched at the sound of claws scraping on stone.

Stanley cleared his throat. "Um, first things first. Why don't we get you a proper uniform?"

Kay wobbled a little as she turned around. "That's a dragon," she whispered.

"Yes, I'm aware of that," said Stanley.

"Dragons aren't real," said Kay.

"I assure you, they are," said Stanley, with a surprising amount of patience.

"No, they aren't," said Kay, despite evidence to the contrary curled up on the floor at Stanley's feet. "Someone would have mentioned it by now."

Stanley held up his hands as he took a step towards her. "Many well-intentioned and government sanctioned companies like this one have spent the last few centuries making sure nobody mentioned them."

"That's some Illuminati level conspiracy shit right there," said Kay. She sat down hard. The concrete was a cold stony slab beneath her butt and smelled vaguely like wet hay. Her breathing was a little too short, too fast. Great, first day on the job and she was already hyperventilating.

Dorothy the dragon peered at her over its curled up body and made an unmistakable eye roll. A hysterical giggle escaped Kay's mouth.

Stanley crouched next to her and squeezed her shoulder. "Ms. Oritz, look at me."

It was either that or stare down the unimpressed dragon. Kay looked up, Stanley's large brown eyes were calm. His gaze centered her, until she finally managed to take a full breath. She realized he was speaking to her, had been speaking to her for several minutes in low soothing tones until the vise grip of her panic finally released.

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by Kristin Jacques
Kay lands a job at Fantasy Land INC, where she's looking after mythic...
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