End of the Fiscal Decade

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
At the end of the fiscal decade, accountants of the Peldak Protectorate must go over the financial records of every company in their domain, to make sure they've properly paid their taxes. A week into the process, everyone is tired and worn down.

Submitted: September 06, 2019

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Submitted: September 06, 2019

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Hysteria, confusion, sleepless nights and frustration. It was a completely average day for the end of the fiscal decade.

To make sure nobody stiffs them out of their tax money, every ten years The Peldak Protectorate takes inventory over the many companies that do business within the thousand star systems of their domain. It’s hard work, but the brave men and women of the Protectorate Financial Bureau take to the earnings report with pride and distinction.

One such man is Accountant William Petrikov. An ordinary citizen who’s on his third consecutive day of getting only four hours of sleep.

He wakes up at his desk, instinctively limps his way to the breakroom, and gets ready for the day. His last shower was a week ago, his doesn’t have time to brush his teeth, and his uniform, a light blue suit and tie, is undone and sloppy. As he drinks his morning coffee, he wipes crud out of his eyes and stretches. Every movement brings a click or a pop from his joints.

Walking out of the break room, not really refreshed but as good as he would feel, he sees the standard chaos of his office.

A large curved room with the far wall housing a window that peers into the depth of space. A hundred finely crafted desks built from the trees of Holy Peldor. Papers and documents stacked high, whiteboards covered in writing, at least 20 people sleeping at their seats, air freshener thick in the air, assistants frantically bringing documents back and forth, and the sounds of phones ringing and calculators tapping that echoes off the walls. There are similar rooms all across the station.

Not only do these poor souls have to check the earnings of each and every company, they have to cross check those numbers with every planet and company they’ve done business with.

William hardly registers the nonsense, or the oppressive stench of body odor mixed with spray deodorant.

Walking back to his desk, a heavy thought weighs on his mind.

‘How much did I get done before I passed out?’

Every accountant has that thought at least once during these trying times.

“William!!” A man shouts as he grabs Williams arm and pulls him closer, “William! William.”

Being shook from his thoughts and delirium, William tried to speak clearly but there’s a slight slur to his words. “Y-yes? What-?” He gags slightly from the smell, “What do you need?”

“I need you to cross check my work!! I think I found something!!”

This is Accountant F. Derigog. His eyes are bloodshot, his hair is sticking up from the grease and grime, and his clothes are stained with coffee and food.

Pulling William over to his desk, there are five whiteboards all covered in black and red ink.

“Okay, now, you gotta hear me out! Right?”

“...right.”

Derigog nods, then starts his presentation. “I was assigned to track the economic activities of the... theeeeeee...” he scrambles for a piece of paper. “The ‘Somar Pharmaceuticals’. Uhh...” he puts it back down and points to the long series of numbers. “S-so! Everything was going well up until three years ago, when they started doing business with the newly annexed planet of..!” He looks for another paper on his mess of a desk but soon gives up. “Not important, lets just call it planet... X. Uhh... this number over here, 300,000,000,000 represents how many credits the company used to buy the patent for the drug from the locals! Yeah?! Now, they ramped up the price of the drug by 782%, pretty standard, right?” Derigog waits for Williams answer.

William blinks a few times, then scratches the back of his dirty, greasy hair, “...oh, uh... Maybe? What does the drug do?”

Derigog shrugs, “Dunno. Something about making the peoples horns grow stronger. Not important. The answer is no! That’s way too low! Looking at other medical acquisitions, adjusted for price, they’re not charging nearly enough! So, it got me thinking, why?”

William yawns and sits on the floor, back against a sleeping accountants’ desk. “I don’t know man. Cause the planet is newly annexed and their economy hasn’t improved enough to afford prices that high?”

“That! That’s exactly what I thought!” Derigog gives an exhausted, but excited, smile, “I knew you were the right man to bring!”

“...so what’s the problem?”

“Hmm? Right!” He slams his hand on the whiteboard, almost tipping it over. “Cause we’re giving the planet subsidies to help the people pay for those drugs! There’s only so much a citizen could pay, but they can charge a ton more if the money is coming out of our coffers! Now, that got me thinking. Why would they not want more money? Are they trying to hide something?! Are they trying to fly under the radar and get us to escape their notice!?” Derigog hops up on the table, grabbing the attention of a couple other workers, “Well it won’t work! Not a single accountant in the Protectorate Financial Bureau would let any misstep, no matter how small, escape their glance!! Nothing can be hidden from our expert eyes! All shall be brought out of the shadows and massive fines will be levied on those who even think about stiffing us! About stiffing the Protectorate!! About stiffing Holy Peldor herself!!! No matter how painful it may be, we’re not gonna let their theft continue!!” That last part booms throughout the office space, echoing off the walls.

A few people clap and Derigog laps it up like he’d just been coronated. William claps too, a bit of energy returning to his tired eyes.

“Anyway.” He hops down, “They ship the drugs off in batches, and they reported 434 shipments of this drug over the last three years.” He flips the whiteboard, this side showing two grids. The left is labeled expenses and the right is labeled revenue. William leans forward to pay more attention and Derigog continues, “Uhh... so I’ve broken down the expenses like so, listing each and every item. Labor costs, utilities cost, cost to contract shipment, protection fees, cost to buy crates, cost to buy the packages they come in, cost of marketing, it’s all here.”

“You went through each one separately?” William asks, just to be sure.

“Of course,” Derigog speaks as if it was silly to even ask that, “I also went through the shipping companies files and got the weight of each delivery, back to that in a moment.” He turns to the revenue grid, “Revenue was a lot easier to calculate, considering they sell the drugs to the planetary government and no third parties. There’re some discrepancies in the cost, as in if one unit costs 5 credits you’d expect two units to cost 10 credits but it’s more like 9.99, but I realized Somar Pharmaceuticals offers slight discounts when you buy in bulk and, with that in mind, everything on that front lines up. So, putting all these numbers together down to the last credit, you know what I found?”

William fidgets a little on the ground and leans forward, a wide smile on his face, “No, what’d you find!?”

“The numbers perfectly match Somar’s reported earnings with no discrepancies.”

William, the wind knocked out of his sails, slumps back and hits his head on his desk. He closes his left eye and rubs the back of his head, “Oww...” he then shoots up, “Come on man! Is that it? Did you just waste all my time for nothing?!”

“Of course not!” He’s smiling ear to ear, with his left eye open wider than his right, “This is the best part! I knew something was off, I knew it in my soul! There was no way they were spotless, there had to be some issue! So, I looked over the weight of each shipment with a fine tooth comb and I found it! Shipments 1 through 8!” He slaps the whiteboard, “I ran the numbers! I ran them twice! I ran them three times! With the weight of the packaging, the drugs, the big metal crate, their reported weights were all off! One was 300mg less than what the shipping company reported, another was 256 mg over, and so on and so forth!! Each a few hundred mg over or under the actual weight! Do you know what this means?!”

“They rounded?”

“Exactly! I’ve already written up a letter to the courts to let us investigate and I just need you to sign off-!” Derigog pauses, only just registering what William said, “What?”

“Well, it’s only up to shipment 8. Those are pretty early on. Maybe they hired someone new and they didn’t know they’re not supposed to round shipment weights? What do you think happened?”

The color is gone from Derigog’s face, his shoulders fall forward, “I...I thought... I mean, I looked it up... It’s around the weight of this flower needed to make a dose of...” he looks atop his desk but soon gives up, “some drug common in the sector...”

William walks over and hugs his friend, “It’s okay, Derigog.” His voice is kind and soft, it cuts through the unkempt workflow of the office, “You’ve vetted the company, they’re clean, your work is done for now, just make a pillow out of paper and take a nap. I’ll wake you up in a few hours, okay?”

Derigog gives a long sigh, then nods. He pulls his seat out, sits down with a thud, then immediately passes out, slumping in his chair.

William nods, then sits at his own desk.

“Right... so where was I before?” He shifts through the papers and documents and looks over the notes he doesn’t remember writing, “I... can read some of this, at least.”

He looks over everything to jump-start his memory, then his eyes go wide!

“Yeah! That’s right! The..!” He squints at the name of the company but can’t make it out, “this company!” He looks over their financial records, and the badly written but accurate math he did, “Month 1-4, a total of 7,556 credits (not a lot of money) unaccounted for from their sales! Months 5-6, 13,798 credits (not a lot of money) missing! Months-! Well I can’t read the rest of it, but they’ve been stiffing the Protectorate out of money for years!”

He jumps out of his seat and brings over one of the white boards from Derigog’s desk. He wipes it down then starts writing his own calculations, “I wonder what they’re planning to use that money for! Terrorism!? Money laundering?!” He’s smiling ear to ear, his eyes bloodshot and his heart racing from the excitement, “They think they’re gonna get away with it, but they can’t fool me! I know I’m on to something!”

For the next two hours, William breaks down the earnings reports of the entire company, segmenting the records to find where the money is being lost. He manages to determine which sector the leak is happening in, then narrows it down to a specific planet. The company runs thousands of department stores across the planet, and, going through every last one, William finds the store that’s losing the money, a modest location in the center of a small town.

William’s body shakes with excitement! This is it! It’s all happening here! The anticipation of figuring out what they’re hiding, and the sleep deprivation, makes it hard to type the request for every sale the store made within the first four months.

The printer under his desk sputters to life and prints hundreds of pages detailing the hundreds of thousands of transactions that took place over that time.

Cross referencing the sales for each day against the reported earnings, William’s heart flutters as he very quickly finds the connecting link! A specific cashier! His hands shake, his eyes start to tear up as he’s so close!

Everyday she works, there’s a dozen instances where she sells herself items using her employee discount, but she never registers the discount in the system! She always puts it in as a full price sale!

“…Wh-what?” William slumps in his seat, the emotion drains from his face, “They’re not… She’s… Just…” William swings his body around to the other side of his desk and pushes a stack of paper off his computer and keyboard. He looks up the specific policy of this company.

“…Ah…” William starts having difficulty in keeping his eyes open as he reads the bright monitor, “Monthly bonuses go to the best salesmen, and she’s been employee of the month every month since she started… since she started padding her numbers out… This isn’t illegal at all…” His shoulder’s slump forward, “I thought… I wanted…”

With a heavy sigh, William writes, in very clear, legible handwriting: ‘company is clean, no need to investigate further’.

After trudging across the room and shaking Derigog awake, William’s head falls on a messy stack of paper and he falls asleep.

After a few hours, he awakes feeling oddly more rested than he has been, and takes to the next company with a bit more enthusiasm than normal.


© Copyright 2019 RichardPercival. All rights reserved.

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