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All Things Being Equal
Joan Tully

The wailing of sirens grew louder. "If I'm quick, I should just make it to the Executive Suite," Bill thought to himself as he pushed his mail trolley into the lift. The doors reopened on the top floor, and the trolley glided noiselessly across the plush carpets. The aroma of percolated coffee hung on the air. "How the other half live!" Bill glanced around at the wood panelling and the prestigious name plate on the Managing Director's door.

Carefully Bill placed a pile of envelopes on the secretary's polished desk.
"Any mail to go?" he whispered.

She eyed him over the rim of her spectacles and shook her head.

"See you later," Bill smiled politely. "And thanks to you, too," he muttered under his breath as he quickened his pace towards the lift. Those sirens were getting closer.
He couldn't wait to get down to the floor below, where he knew the atmosphere would be warm and friendly.

He wasn't wrong. As soon as his wheels crashed over the threshold, noise and bustle surrounded him. His young athletic figure swerved in and out between the desks as he threw bundles of post on to trays. VDU operators fixed their gaze on his handsome features as he passed by. Only the supervisor glared at him, discouraging any hint of distraction.

Bill reached the window just as two fire engines screeched to a halt. Smoke billowed from two floors below.

"Better get down there as quickly as I can," thought Bill. The lift shot past the third floor Conference Suite and jolted to a halt. Bill slammed his trolley out into the corridor, narrowly avoiding a pretty young blond who had to skip around him.

"Can't stop," Bill yelled.
"Where's the fire?" she scowled at him.

Bill flung himself on to the floor of the copier room. Thick smoke obscured the daylight and people were running around in a mixture of horror and confusion as they craned their necks for some sign of rescue.

"All right, people; let's not panic." Bill fancied himself as a bit of a hero. Secretly he was revelling in the excitement, the adrenaline pumping through his veins. An extended ladder appeared out of nowhere; there was clapping and cheering as people were hauled to safety.

Bill knew he had to act fast. Forgetting the mail, he ran headlong down the stairs and through the restaurant, where half-eaten meals lay abandoned on the tables. Finally making it to the bottom floor, Bill charged into the street just as his friend, Kathy, ran across the road and flung her arms around him.

"It's O.K. You're safe now," he comforted.

He looked across at the blazing inferno and then up at his own office block. There, high on the fifth floor, he could see Executives watching helplessly through the blinds.

"A great leveller, a fire." he murmured.

He wandered back inside. The windows into his own world, the ground floor Post Room, looked more than usually satisfying and equally prestigious.

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