Some bureaucrats are a bother. Others are overworked. Still others are dishonest. However, this one is a lord or lady of the office, and even the most powerful kneel before them. This is a character no one on the outside knows about. Others get the glory, but they get the job done and well enough to earn praise from their fellows. They are living paper shredders who cut through red tape like a buzz saw and are usually very good with being The Scrounger.
When female, she is likely to be attractive and very much a Plucky Office Girl, but with a streak of an Iron Lady as well, especially if she is old. Often this is a female intelligence analyst who is something of an indirect Lady of War. Sometimes her Love Interest will be one of her field agents. Their general behavior is rather like an Apron Matron in their dedication and their hidden but intimidating air of authority, except this character brings these traits to work.
Regardless of gender, they are something like The Consigliere but tend to work farther in the background. If circumstances call upon them to go into peril openly, they will, of course, take a level and be more straightforward in their badassery. But for now, they are just a Badass Bureaucrat. Of course, just as often their ability to use the rules is their deadliest weapon.
Often found in combination with an Almighty Janitor and/or Silk Hiding Steel. The most effective Desk Jockey can pull this trope off to prove that they're no mere REMF to their fellow soldiers. Also see Pen-Pushing President.
- Code Geass has Magnificent Bastard Lelouch; not just a master strategist and Guile Hero, Lelouch is very good at organizing people, arranging treaties, and creating a coherent, proper army out of a rabble of "freedom fighters". To the point he establishes the United Federation of Nations in R2. Then he becomes The Emperor and ends up taking over the world.
- Descendants of Darkness gives us the Right-Hand Hottie to Chief Konoe, Seiichirou Tatsumi. Very handsome, very smart, and has the power to manipulate shadows.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Maes Hughes is certifiably badass as he uncovers a lot of The Conspiracy through sheer investigation and intelligence not to mention that he takes out both Envy and Lust single handed; too bad they are both immortal and He Knows Too Much.
- In all incarnations of Ghost in the Shell, Daisuke "The Ape" Aramaki is an old government hand, respected and feared by a friend and foe alike. However, setting the Division 9 as an independent Cabinet-level investigative agency — without any oversight by the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence or Ministry of Foreign Affairs — is usually treated as his greatest feat.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The Plot to Assassinate Gihren has an evil example in Gihren's secretary, Cecilia Irene, who is also an example of the dark type of Obstructive Bureaucrat. A coldly efficient young woman who acts like The Baroness, she is feared/respected by the top brass, pushes Gihren's special projects through the red tape, and acts as his keeper of the keys, handling all the black operations that the rest of the General Staff doesn't want to think about.
- The Story of Saiunkoku's heroine wants to become a civil servant in an ancient China-esque country; the show focuses much with the internal workings of the State, and most main characters are Badass Bureaucrats of some sorts.
- In X/1999, Yuuto Kigai and Kanoe work in the Japanese government (he's an office worker in a Tokyo ward, she's the Sexy Secretary to the Prime Minister). Kanoe leads the Dragons of Earth and Yuuto is her right-hand man.
- Marvel Universe:
- Henry Peter Gyrich has his moments, despite usually being at best an Anti-Villain. See his epic victory over the Man-Ape in Black Panther, using nothing but his encyclopedic knowledge of the law.
- In The Avengers, Gyrich was briefly replaced as government liason to the Avengers by Dwayne Freeman, who actually liked them and did his best to help them. Sadly, he died saving the team in a Heroic Sacrifice. Afterward, his position was once again filled by Gyrich.
- Child of the Storm has an offhand mention of S.H.I.E.L.D. Accountants who look like they could break you into pieces with their pinkies. This being S.H.I.E.L.D., they probably can.
- In the Fallout: Equestria Recursive Fanfiction Black and White, Velvet Remedy has become this, pretty much running the newly formed NCR's entire infrastructure. Unfortunately, she's too successful, as her role as Chessmaster Sidekick to a succession of weak elected officials ends up inspiring an ill-fated attempt to force her to take control as Princess.
- Harry Is a Dragon, and That's OK: It would be dangerous for Empress the basilisk teaching Parseltongue to young dragons, which causes them to become sapient, to become common knowledge, but Percy is able to keep her activities aboveboard by getting Mr Crouch to sign off on "cross-language classes for below-age foreign visitors".
"Blimey, Percy, what happened to you over the last few years?" Charlie asked. "You're scary now."
Percy bowed slightly.
- The Infinite Loops makes Mayor Mare into one of these when she convinces the Vogons not to destroy Equestria (with superior paperwork-fu).
- In Origins, Senator Glia Ham'Del might qualify, seeing as she's almost a one-woman crusade against the Republic Intelligence Service, who despite being much removed by time seem to take their cues from the Imperial Security Bureau.
- In Ships Ahoy!, Oprah becomes one of the top agents of Precinct 13579 shortly after being hired there, only behind Olesya, Obfusco and Osage, and it definitely shows in her intelligence and wit. It helps that she's obtained Living Legend status for her efforts in stopping Olga.
- Meowth in Symbiosis, who games Team Rocket's system for Jessie and James's sake.
- In The Universiad, the Salary Men of the Office of Special Resources' Financial Management Directorate pursue financial crimes with superhuman diligence and persistence and have been known to stay on cases for decades to centuries in order to get their man.
- The Victors Project: Plutarch acts like a subservient gamemaker and government cog, while aiding the rebellion in ways like convincing Snow to allow a sponsor gift to be sent to Abram and "losing" a letter Snow sent him demanding that Roan be given a special advantage in the 3rd Quarter Quell and sent after Katniss Everdeen.
- Bob "Mr. Incredible" Parr, from The Incredibles, is this during his brief stint as an insurance claims agent, much to the chagrin of his Obstructive Bureaucrat boss Mr. Huph. When a sweet old lady has her coverage denied, he quickly and covertly rattles off a string of forms and contacts to get her what she needs.
- Roz from Monsters, Inc. sees everything, can appear anywhere, and will have your paperwork filed correctly. She's also the CDA Administrator incognito.
- Absence of Malice: Assistant U.S. Attorney General James Wells shows up at the end of the movie, gathers everyone together for an investigation into everything that's been going on. Within about ten minutes, he quickly gets the truth out of everyone with a mixture of threats and deductive reasoning before firing Rosen for causing the whole mess.
Wells: Now we'll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is goin' to know what in the good Christ — e'scuse me, Angie — is goin' on around here. And the other's I'm gonna have somebody's ass in my briefcase.
- Keiji Watanabe in Ikiru is an understated example, but best exemplified when his response to being punched in the stomach (while suffering from stomach cancer) is to simply go into the office to rabble-rouse some more.
- Lawrence starts off as this in Lawrence of Arabia. He's supposed to be a paper pusher collecting information on an Arabian feud, and he proves so determined and clever that he winds up playing a major role in it.
- Pam from The Man Who Never Was, and most of the other main characters. They're not soldiers, but they manage to alter the course of World War II through careful intelligence, covering their bases, and a well-placed corpse.
- The middle-aged professionals in Old School are noted for being really good at filing paperwork.
- Mallory from Skyfall at first seems like an Obstructive Bureaucrat but is later shown to be a Reasonable Authority Figure, even Taking the Bullet for M from Silva and killing two of his Mooks before becoming the new M after the previous one's death.
- In Alien in a Small Town, although Paul loathed his time shuffling papers in his alien race's endless bureaucracy, he became good enough at it that when the abused Warriors want to stage a demonstration, he's able to navigate the permits and legal red tape so deftly that the leaders have absolutely no legal way to stop the protest, as much as they want to.
- The Vogon Constant Mown from And Another Thing... seems well on his way to become this at the end of the book — in a race of Obstructive Bureaucrats, he figures out how to use laws and loopholes in laws to help people while at the same time making it appear that he's being as ruthless as other Vogons. (He does have some luck on his side, when some of his genuinely concerned remarks are mistaken for and lauded as very sophisticated sarcasm.)
- Ben Safford Mysteries: In The Attending Physician, HEW employee Charlene Georgian is good at detecting corruption and deception amidst mountains of paperwork. When it looks like the doctors scamming Medicaid will pull a Karma Houdini, Charlene turns whistleblower. She also alerts several patients — all from welfare families who will greatly benefit from lawsuit awards — how the doctors have been using their names to bill for nonexistent operations. This leads to multiple malpractice and defamation lawsuits. When Ben regretfully tells Charlene that she may lose her job for stealing and illegally distributing files, Charlene and her lawyer reply that there was no actual theft or misuse.
Mike Isham: Are you aware that every document mailed by Mrs. Georgian was simply a duplicate of information already forwarded to the same recipient?
Ben: Then why were her mailings such a bombshell?
Charlene: Because the way the HEW mails the information out, nobody can make head or tail of it. I pruned.
- In "Blind Alley", the outwardly mild-mannered bureaucrat Loodun Antyok single-handedly rescues an entire alien species, which he does entirely by being extraordinarily competent at manipulating the rules of the Galactic Empire's labyrinthine bureaucracy, and manages to do it in a way that means he will escape any potential legal consequences for his actions.
- Ciaphas Cain: While most Administratum drones are of the Obstructive Bureaucrat variety (that oft-repeated quote about losing entire planets to rounding errors? Yeah, that's them), Cain meets a refugee who qualifies during his trek through the deserts of Perlia. Not only does the guy survive months of desert warfare enduring countless ork attacks, but he also even plans out the column's rationing for food, fuel and water, without which they'd all have died in the desert.
- Jorj X. McKie and probably everyone at the Bureau of Sabotage in ConSentiency.
- Several of Lord Vetinari's "dark clerks" are Assassin's Guild-trained. How much actual clerical work they do seems to depend on the assignment. Inigo Skimmer in The Fifth Elephant is one of them, a small man with a way of nervously clearing his throat and an expert on Überwald politics, who, left alone with a group of bandits, killed seven before the rest fled.
- A.E. Pessimal from Thud! deserves at least honorary mention, notable for attacking a troll (which are made of rock) with his teeth. After being inducted as a full copper, he puts his skills to use against white-collar crime. The business community's greatest fear is being subjected to one of his audits.
- Even the regular clerks get a touch of this at the end of Going Postal, where the description of the clerks auditing Reacher Gilt's finances makes forensic accountancy sound like an inexorable, inescapable force of Truth.
- On the other hand (or at least the hand that pays him more) is Mr. Slant, zombie attorney and president of the Guild of Lawyers, whose death only enabled him to stop taking lunch breaks. He can quiet a roomful of attorneys with a glance, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of case and precedent because he was there and helped write it.
- And don't forget Mr. Bent, from Making Money, who runs the bank accountants with an iron fist... but as it turns out is very well-thought of because tough as he is, he's also the sole reason why the bank of Ankh-Morpork has worked at all, and he's been a tireless crusader for improving work conditions for the bankers. Plus, he took out assassins with long-forgotten, probably genetic clowning techniques!
- Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files mentions that the White Council has a whole branch of wizards whose sole job it is to leverage their collective political and economic power against the other supernatural factions. It doesn't take a genius to get rich after a few centuries of compound interest trading, after all. And the White Council's been around for millennia...
- Jack Ryan starts off as this in The Hunt for Red October. If anyone wants to know something, talk to him. There is also a secretary referred to who, while directors come and go, she "really" runs the CIA.
- Vinny Duto from the John Wells series, Hero of Another Story. While his days in the field has passed now, he remains legendary in the CIA for his fearlessness. He has once shrugged off a two-month abduction by Colombian rebels with two-week trips in Caribbean.
- The Laundry Files: Anyone and everyone working for Her Royal Majesty's Laundry Service who is not an Obstructive Bureaucrat or snivelling incompetent is revealed to have elements of this trope.
- The Lost Fleet: Ambassador Rycerz shows a resourceful streak regarding fruitful negotiation strategies and handling the civilian officials who give her a hard time.
Ambassador Rycerz: Once we leave there, heading for Dancer space, Macadams won't have any means of communicating with his backers except through me or you approving any message he wants to send on your ships. At that point, Dr. Macadams is going to find his responsibilities redefined in ways that effectively sideline him so the other specialists can actually try to do their jobs.
Geary: What if Macadams refuses to accept that?
Rycerz: Don't you have jails on your fleet ships? What do they call them?
Geary: Brigs? You'll want me to arrest Macadams and throw him in the brig?
Rycerz: [grinning] Tell me you don't already like the idea.
- New Jedi Order:
- General (and later Supreme Commander) Sien Sovv is characterized by his thoughtfulness, efficiency, thoroughness, and not a lot of combat experience. While he suffers some ignominious defeats, due mostly to his bosses, the Senate or to the enemy's sheer numbers, he matures into exactly the sort of commander the Galactic Alliance military needs: a shrewd politician but unconcerned with his own power, capable of keeping morale up and riding herd on his more impetuous junior officers while managing the interstellar infrastructure needed to keep new troops and ships pouring in. Over the course of Destiny's Way, he transforms the allied fleet from a crippled, scattered, demoralized Redshirt Army into a well-equipped, fully replenished force of seasoned veterans capable of carrying out Admiral Ackbar's ambitious plans to take the war back to the Vong.
- Nom Anor is a bureaucrat by trade. He is also The Spymaster, a Manipulative Bastard, and highly dangerous when cornered.
- The Power Broker: Robert Moses is called "the best bill drafter in Albany" early on and lives up to it by injecting loopholes into all kinds of legislation. Despite having no elected position, Moses runs right over checks and balances and mayors and governors to build infrastructure how he wants.
- A Practical Guide to Evil has Eudokia, The Scribe. She's usually found in the corner with a lapdesk, quietly catching up on correspondence or whatever. She's also essentially the entire spy network for The Empire, and when it comes to not seeing her coming, she's said to be as dangerous as Assassin. A few words in the right ears at the right time, the correct paperwork filled out and verified — [redacted] was, officially, never even a little problem to have managed existing.
"My lady, I don't know what you think you know but—"
"Everything," the Scribe said. "I know everything there is to know about you, Barsina. I know the name you had before you disfigured your sister in Satus for marrying the man you wanted. I know whose horse you stole to make your way to Ater. I know the amount and provenance of every bribe you've taken since you began patrolling these streets. I know what rivals you had beaten and by who to get to the post you hold. This was allowed, because you served as a counterweight for the two commanders owned by the Truebloods. It seems, however, that you have finally folded to the pressure."
"How dare you," Barsina said.
"You are of no more use to us," Scribe simply said.
She had not raised her voice, or changed her intonation in any way. She stated it as a fact and the night had never before felt so cold to Aisha Bishara as it did in that moment.
- Kwiatuszek from Shaman of the Undead may look like a pudgy secretary, but she has the gift of Awesomeness by Analysis and doesn't shy away from helping main characters, even if it's technically none of her business. She also worked herself into Man Behind the Man position without having other characters' badass magic skills.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: While Tywin Lannister is definitely an effective battlefield commander and tactician, his real strength is his almost unmatched skill as a politician and long-term strategist. He is feared throughout the entire country for his ruthlessness and brutal efficiency. His audiences with people are almost universally one-sided, with him being able to completely break people's ability to negotiate with brutal speeches and out-maneuvering. While his psychopathic grandson is, on paper, the king and the most powerful person in the Seven Kingdoms, Tywin is the real power behind his rule and lets Joffrey know on several occasions who is really the one in charge. Subverted in that the moment Tywin's dead (itself the result of his character flaws), the Lannister faction begins a slow collapse, due to Tywin's sexism and excessive methods, contrasted with the continuing devotion to the idealistic but revered Ned Stark.
- In The Star Beast, we have his Excellency the Right Honorable Henry Gladston Kiku, M.A. (Oxon.) Litt. D. honoris causa (Capetown), O.B.E., Permanent Undersecretary for Spatial Affairs. Mr. Kiku can read at over 2,000 words per minute, useful since he needed to go through a dozen memos and other documents per working hour, making the occasional notation and referral to subordinate for action. Most were for information, but he needed to be kept informed. During the climactic confrontation with the Hroshii on the tarmac of a spaceship landing field and with the threat that they could destroy the Earth with their one ship, he stood there and cursed mildly when the wind nearly blew his hat off.
- Vorkosigan Saga: Ivan Vorpatril from Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is a Professional Slacker and a notorious womanizer. He's also a major administrative genius, being able to chew through the whole daily workload of his boss, the Chief of Naval Operations, in just three hours — and it wasn't a particularly slow day at the HQ, as the narration kindly notes. Later on, after he gets caught up in a major scandal and is Reassigned to Antarctica to hide him from sight for a few years, he manages to compress the whole workload of a Barrayaran Consul (himself) into just three mornings per week, so efficient he is. The "Badass" part comes in when you add that he's from Barayyar. He's expected to look like he came straight out of a recruiting poster and his security clearance requires him to take advanced combat training. This becomes important in the climax of the book when he helps to take out a group of armed thugs.
Tej: And you said you were just a desk pilot.
Ivan: But it's a Barrayaran desk.
- Wolf Hall is about (a Historical Hero Upgrade of) the resident Badass Bureaucrat of Henry VIII's court, Thomas Cromwell. He knows how to fight, but by the time of the books' main plot, he rarely has to, preferring to use words, Rule Fu, and a network of bankers, merchants and spies to get things done.
- Rogue Squadron is an elite special forces unit in the X-Wing Series, whose members were recruited not only for their experience and expertise as starfighter pilots, but also for a wide range of additional skills that could come in handy during covert infiltration mission behind enemy lines. One of the most important members is Nawara Ven, who is a former lawyer and whose legal expertise is frequently used to trick Imperial bureaucrats and occasionally exploit legal loopholes against their superiors. This allows Nawara to continue as a key member of the squadron even after severe injury leaves him no longer cleared as a combat pilot.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: When Coulson recruits Melinda May, she's working a desk job she willingly chose to avoid going through the unspecified trauma that she suffered in the field earlier.
- Vir Cotto in Babylon 5 uses recordkeeping to aid his smuggling of Narns to other worlds, by declaring them dead via a fake Centauri noble so that they would not be missed. He helps thousands of Narns in this way.
- Giles describes the Watcher's Council as good enough to get the job done when it comes to combat, and the best in the world when it comes to manipulating bureaucracy and pulling political strings.
- On the evil side, there's Wolfram & Hart, who keep rich dangerous criminals and demons free to wreak havoc. One of them got the idea to weaponize municipal bureaucracy against Angel.
- The Cape: Secretary of Prisons Patrick Portman has a gun in his desk to use against enemies in the second episode and provides some assistance during one fight scene in a later episode.
- Chernobyl portrays Boris Shcherbina as this. Being a grumpy career politician, each episode shows he got where he is because he knows how to read people and play the game. Display incompetence and he'll politely instruct guards to escort you to Party Headquarters. Prove you know what you're talking about, and he'll bite your head off, but then he'll stomp off to conjure up five thousand tons of boron and sand so you can save the day.
Valery Legasov: Of all the ministers and all the deputies, entire congregation of obedient fools... they mistakenly sent the one good man. For God's sake, Boris, you were the one who mattered most.
- Doctor Who:
- "The Curse of Peladon" had the Ice Lord Izlyr, an Ambadassador from the Galactic Federation and (naturally, being an Ice Warrior) quite a badass.
- Donna is a variation: although she never made it past temp,note she can pretty much single-handedly run an office, work out complex calendar systems, type 100 words a minute and do a Sherlock Scan of office file systems. She saves the day a few times over with those skills.
- Game of Thrones:
- Tyrion during his stints as acting Hand of the King and Master of Coin.
- Tywin was previously Hand of the King to Aerys II. He becomes Hand of the King once again after King Robert dies. For all his faults, and perhaps because of some of them, he is a true genius with political intrigue and public administration within his capacity as a statesman.
- The Braavosi banker Tycho Nestoris is played by Mark Gatiss of Sherlock fame for a reason.
- In Season 7, Sansa Stark becomes this when her brother Jon names her as his regent and she accepts the position. When Jon must go on a mission to retrieve the necessary resources and win the alliances they need to defend the North against the oncoming army-of-the-dead, Sansa rules the North until his return. She proves herself capable by managing to hold down the fort, helps prepare for winter, diplomatically addresses the concerns of the Northern lords, and manages the day-to-day affairs of the North. Her administrative acumen and savviness in northern politics eventually earns her realm independence from the rest of Westeros and herself the title of Queen in the North in the series finale.
- Mad Men: Pretty much everyone in the office acknowledges that Joan Holloway really runs the place and is one of the only people who knows how the office bureaucracy and logistics truly works.
- Radar from M*A*S*H. Klinger later manages to grow into the role after Radar gets sent back to the States.
- Plenty of the Ministry workers in The Ministry of Time. They're civil servants with little to no weapon or hand-to-hand fighting training, but perfectly able to kick serious ass.
- Hetty from NCIS: Los Angeles is both a bureaucrat and a former agent who once wrecked a Ferrari in Monte Carlo and is proficient in numerous exotic weapons. She is nicknamed "The Duchess of Deception".
- Bunpei Shiratori, a local government bureaucrat from Inba, Japan, is an All-Star competitor in Ninja Warrior. A particularly memorable competition has him recovering from heat exhaustion to advance all the way to the third stage.
- Primeval: James Lester's main concerns are typically bureaucratic in nature, but it's quickly revealed that he cares much more than he'd like to admit. When someone points this out, he coldly threatens to sue them for libel. In the latest season, when the wealthy industrialist financing the ARC is demanding that all the prehistoric creatures be put down (after one nearly causes his death), Lester threatens to leak information about this to the press, even though he himself has often complained about the animals (except for the mammoth, which saved his life earlier).
- The Professionals: Cowley may be Da Chief of a unit of Cowboy Cops, but he's always done the paperwork to cover his backside. And as various powerbrokers who think they can use CI5 for their own ends discover, Cowley knows the corridors of Whitehall better than any of them.
- Sherlock: Mycroft Holmes claims to have a minor position within the British government. It is heavily implied that Mycroft Holmes is the British government. He does, after all, control all the CCTV cameras in London... and is possibly the head of MI6... when he isn't running the CIA... or, according to the fandom, any or all of the other intelligence agencies on the planet.
- Stargate-verse: Richard Woolsey starts off as an Obstructive Bureaucrat, but through character development becomes this when he is put in charge of the Atlantis Expedition. In the Grand Finale, he takes the Atlantis into battle against a super-hive in Earth's orbit, even ordering Carson to keep firing at the risk of causing the city to have an uncontrolled re-entry.
- Arthur in The Tick (2016) can put on a suit of Power Armor and go out and fight evil. Thanks to working a boring office job for most of his life, he's also one of the few people capable of navigating the convoluted regulations of A.E.G.I.S. well enough to actually get anything done while still playing by the rules.
- Torchwood: Miracle Day: Esther Drummond isn't very good at gathering intelligence, or being professional and separating her work from her personal life, or coping with high-risk situations, but give her a pile of data, and she's sure to advance the plot.
- Pretty much the entire main cast on The West Wing. They're always cutting deals, manipulating other departments and offices, and getting none of the glory outside of the office.
- Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes, Minister epitomizes this trope. He basically runs the Department of Administrative Affairs and has a huge influence on the British Government whether working for his Minister or out-gambiting him as an adversary. He eventually rises to Cabinet Secretary where he is the bulk of the power behind the Hacker regime, including getting Hacker promoted to PM in the first place — all while being a "humble functionary". Sir Arnold, prior to retirement, also fit this.
- "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" by Cake is about the narrator's love for a female badass bureaucrat. She "uses a machete to cut through red tape".
- Savatage features two on Handful of Rain. "Chance" is about Chiune Sugihara and the turmoil he must have felt as he destroyed his career to do the right thing (see the Real Life section below). "Castles Burning" is about Giovanni Falcone, who died taking on The Mafia.
- The Adventure Zone: Balance: The Director of the Bureau of Balance also survived a destructive planet on her own, survived Wonderland, and saved the world.
- Anyone with high Administration and Martial/Combat in Embers in the Dusk.
- Governor Fredrick Rotbart, an Administratum Adept who not only turned out to be a military genius but also personally killed a Chaos Lord with a Power Knife before he acquired any augmentations or much combat training.
- Avernites in particular have earned a reputation for making these, helped by the fact that their Governor started off as one. There's even a trait named "Avernite Bureaucrat", which gives bonus to Administration and Combat.
- In Exalted, the number of things that can be accomplished by members of the Celestial Bureaucracy with the mere stroke of a pen can be staggering. Some of the most noteworthy are the Sidereal Exalted who are at the forefront of the Bureau of Destiny. The most powerful Sidereal, Chejop Kejak, hasn't been using his powers much in the past several centuries, but maintains incredible power in Heaven through the number of committees he chairs or has membership in (which amounts to virtually all of them), and in Creation through his status as advisor to the Scarlet Empress, tutor to her children, and secretary of the head of the most powerful religion in the world.
- In the First Age, we have Salina. To recap, Salina is (in)famous for a Working that literally rewrote the laws of reality. The only thing exceeding this achievement is the amount of bureaucratic wrangling she managed to pull off to secure the official support and logistics required to implement it.
- This is one of the key talents of Eclipse Caste Solars. Give an Eclipse ten minutes, a piece of parchment, and a pen, and he will snare your entire government in pits of bureaucratic madness that nobody can escape, then take advantage of the chaos to go and punch a deathknight through a wall or three.
- Magic: The Gathering: While very much conforming to the Obstructive Bureaucrat archetype, there's no denying that the Azorius are awe-inspiring when moved to do something.
- The few notable Vilani commanders in the Interstellar Wars era tended to be this. Vilani bureaucracy is so convoluted that only a badass can survive it. But several do and do so quite well.
- The alien race of the Bwaps has this as its hat.
- There's a reason Clan Ventrue is considered the Lords of the Camarilla in Vampire: The Masquerade. They may not have Disciplines that directly aid in combat, but Presence and Dominate are perfect for currying favors and lobbying bills and policies in the grand scheme of things, while Fortitude will let them survive assassination attempts that would have eviscerated other vampires. You being an Elder won't matter if a Ventrue simply condemns your home and has it demolished in the daylight.
- Most high offices in the Empire are inevitably held by great generals, wizards or Sigmarite warrior priests. It's not bizarre at all for the Treasurer of the Empire to suit up in plate armour and fight Orcs in personal combat from horseback, with thousands of men at his back.
- Karl Franz, the Elector Count of Reikland and current Emperor, is not only a skilled warrior and a brilliant tactician but also considered one of the greatest statesmen the Old World has ever seen. He once ventured into the forests of Athel Loren alone, a place where even the inhabitant Wood Elves have to be careful, and not only survived but was also able to convince the xenophobic elves to strike an alliance with the Empire to fight the Beastmen together. This feat of courage and wit impressed the elves, so they gave him the egg of a gryphon, which the noble creature Deathclaw hatched from.
- The Seneschal player class in Rogue Trader is characterized in this way. A typical seneschal is a financier, quartermaster, and/or business manager to one of the eponymous Rogue Traders and is an expert in matters of commerce, intelligence — oh, yes, and personal combat as need be. Like all Rogue Trader characters, they are expected to hold down both shipboard posts and participate in highly dangerous adventures.
- The Bureaucrat class from Anarchy Online lives and breathes this trope. They use a combination of bureaucratic red tape and propaganda to hold enemies in place or turn them neutral, making them invaluable for crowd control, while their robot bodyguard or charmed enemies handle the rest. The nice suits and Guns Akimbo which they frequently sport are just gravy on one of the most Difficult, but Awesome classes in the game.
- City of Heroes: The Rogue Isles are run in a state of organized anarchy by Arachnos, which keeps things running smoothly with their Arbiters. You need to go to them to take advantage of level-ups, they give you training while also taking note of your current threat level. However, one does not get to be a bureaucrat in the Rogue Isles without first having veteran military experience, as all such Arbiters will have a pencil in one hand, a notepad in the other... and an assault rifle strapped to their backs. Furthermore, if you do not fill out form 32-B, they have legal authority to open fire.
- In earlier versions of Dwarf Fortress, raising any skill would increase all your stats, regardless of the skill; raising it to godlike levels would make you godlike. And the Bookkeeping skill was incredibly easy to raise by assigning a dwarf as your bookkeeper. As a result, Dwarf Fortress bookkeepers would rapidly become practically demigods.
- The Elder Scrolls has Ocato of Firsthold, an Altmer who served as the High Chancellor of the Elder Council and Imperial Battlemage under Emperor Uriel Septim VII. His talents for running the government earned him those positions, and later, the title of Potentate of the Empire once there were no more Septim heirs. His other position as Imperial Battlemage, along with his actions during Mehrunes Dagon's attack on the Imperial City, shows just how capable he was in combat. After being named Potentate, this made him in charge, and he was such a threat that the Thalmor had him assassinated to force the Septim Empire into vestigial status.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, you can find Ranger Jackson, a mustached ranger who serves as the commander of the Mojave Outpost. He is described by Cass as a "washed up old fuck-up" and a "Brotherhood Scribe" because he loves paperwork and doing things exactly like the law says. However, if you accomplish some good work for him, he may have "lost some supplies" that ended in your pocket, and if you find evidence of the Van Graff's and Crimson Caravan's corruption and murdering work... The NCR bureaucracy is described in the game as obstinate, but you don't want to have it against you. Jackson will assure you the Van Graff and the Crimson's leader will be in deep trouble, and Cass even says that it is a fate worse than death...
- Gilgamesh's Caster version from Fate/Grand Order remains as amazing of a king as his Archer counterpart and is jokingly called "the busiest man in the world" due to him being always loaded with paperwork, to the point of once casually dying from overwork in the middle of his Singularity, forcing the protagonists to interrupt their quest to go pick him up in the underworld.
- Mass Effect 3:
- You can intercept this transcript from a human colony world about to be overrun by the Reapers:
Secretary Phillips: The emergency fund's gone, sir. We don't have the credits to hire enough ships to evacuate the colony before the Reapers get here. Not with the prices their captains are asking for.
Councilor Gujir: What about the military?
Phillips: They left an hour ago. They said... They said it's too much of a risk to come back.
Gujir: Did they?
Phillips: Yes, sir.
Phillips: This... is this a passkey, sir? And an inventory?
Gujir: Phillips, I am authorizing you on behalf of this city's Senate to seize any and all eezo stockpiles in our treasury, in order to secure safe passage for our citizens on any available ships.
Phillips: These look like private stockpiles. Senate members' stockpiles.
Gujir: I'm forgoing re-election. Now get us those ships.
Phillips: Yes, sir!
- There are a few oblique references that Shepard, despite being a hero shouldering the burden of an entire galaxy at war, is still careful to always fill out his/her paperwork properly.
Brooks: I'm going to have to write a report about getting shot. I hear those are really complicated.
Shepard: It's faster if you make a template.
Brooks: I think maybe you get shot too much.
- You can intercept this transcript from a human colony world about to be overrun by the Reapers:
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has Senator Steven Armstrong, who is not only the true mastermind behind the plot but is also capable of physically overpowering Raiden with his bare hands due to nanomachines that grant him Nigh-Invulnerability and Super Strength. At first, Raiden stands no chance against him. It's only after Raiden obtains Sam's High Frequency Blade that he is able to do any significant damage to Armstrong.
- The Outer Worlds: Sanjar Nandi, the Honest Corporate Executive CEO of Monarch Stellar Industries, can out-bureaucracy the Board, a collection of the system's worst Corrupt Corporate Executives, all while living on the sulfur-drenched Death World of Monarch, keeping his employees alive in a world that only barely counts as terraformed.
- The checkpoint the player mans in Papers, Please is regularly attacked by terrorists. Eventually, funding is cut so much that they no longer employ soldiers to protect you, meaning you have to resolve such situations with a sniper rifle. The player can choose to aid a shadowy revolutionary group. While this requires less shooting and making more "mistakes", the player and their entire family are under the watchful eye of the Arstotzkan government and could be killed or detained for the slightest infraction.
- Red vs. Blue has a scary-looking guy with a deep voice who "seeks to serve Lavernius Tucker". Then it's revealed that he wants to serve a legal injunction — he's a process server!
- Lars Sturtz from Dominic Deegan. Most of the events in the Battle for Barthis were to either delay or distract Brakkis, the Lawful Evil Corrupt Corporate Executive, so that Lars could navigate the legal system to rescind the unsubstantiated declaration of corruption on the town, grant the citizens disaster relief, circumvent Gregory's "debts", organize a benefit concert, and expedite the rebuilding protocols. Not to mention Lars' painstakingly arduous auditing of the executive's doctored consolidated financial statements that uncovered a complex money laundering scheme and connections to a few murders that ultimately took Brakkis down. And Lars only did that just to bring his son closure.
- Girl Genius:
- Vanamonde von Mekkahn looks like a young loafer who does nothing but laze around and drink coffee all day. In reality, Vanamonde secretly runs the town of Mechanicsburg from his seat in the coffee shop, can rally the people of the town into highly effective guerrilla fighters against the Wulfenbach army in a matter of hours, and will utterly mess you up if you dare threaten a member of the Heterodyne family.
- By necessity, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach had to become this. By the time he returned from exile, he found Europa torn apart by the various mad scientists, his estate destroyed and rampaging Eldritch Abominations, essentially undoing all the work his friends (the Heterodyne Boys) did. Lacking their charisma and the fate of Bill and Barry Heterodyne pretty much unknown, the Baron proceeded to amass a great army to take over Europa and force people to stop fighting by basically saying "Do NOT make me come over there." And it worked. He brought peace and order back to the land, with the quality of life being second to only when the Heterodyne Boys were around. However, he is very miserable as the realpolitik and managing of an empire has made him cynical and weary, not able to enjoy his passions in science and having to be forced into greater measures when worse things happen (even having to coerce Gil, his own son, at one point, something he really didn't want to do). The necessity is proven during the timeskip. Klaus' latest drastic measure ends up locking him and the rest of Mechanicsberg in time-stop state, putting him out of the picture. Two years later, 40 of the 52 royal families of Europa are dead, warlords are trying to take the Empire and Gil having to use all the forces to retake his empire while dealing with the aftermath his dad put in. The people view Wulfenbach's rule as some sort of lost golden age and things have gotten so bad that the Knights of Jove (a massive conspiracy against the Baron) align themselves to restore Gil to the throne to try and restore order.
- Boris Dolokhov serves as the Baron's personal secretary and administrative second-in-command. He personally organised the forces of the empire in the face of continent-wide rebellions while the Baron is incapacitated, and when faced with the mutiny of the Jagers he beats the location of the generals out of their messenger so that he can discuss the matter with them.
- In Grrl Power, when faced with an aggravating supervillain that gets power via getting hired by other supervillains and abusing the terms of the contract, it's up to Arianna, the team's PR representative and lead counsel to play Rules Lawyer and break the contract and end the fight with a stamp on a piece of paper.
- Chancellor Jarjuna of the human nation of Vasgol in The Water Phoenix King has yet to appear in person, other than one brief glimpse in a flashback to the war as a "kid in goofy armor", but he gained his position by leading the rebellion despite being only a commoner and killing a god with his own sword — and he's held onto that job for the decade since despite ongoing attacks from outside forces and fractious nobles trying to grab, or grab back the power they had before the empire was shattered. So pretty badass, despite being dismissed as a mere bureaucrat by the old nobility, and hinted to be pretty good as well — he seems to be trying, and at least partially succeeding, to be a good ruler, at least.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Long Feng in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se's extremely bureaucratic government and head of the Dai Li, maintains a brutal grip on the city (at least until exposed by Team Avatar), and is also a highly capable earthbender (being one of the few characters on the show to actually kill someone)
- Yangchen's predecessor Avatar Szeto — as revealed in The Shadow of Kyoshi — was a highly competent administrator in the Fire Nation Government and did most of his good work by keeping the Fire Nation from civil war through diplomacy and administrative politics. However, as the Avatar, he was also highly capable of incredible displays of power, such as the time we see him enter the Avatar State and bend the lava out of several distant volcanoes.
- Tarrlok, a Sleazy Politician from The Legend of Korra, at first seems to be your average Desk Jockey, but quickly displays his prowess as a martial organizer (What else do you call a politician who participates in police raids?) and is a competent waterbender who can bloodbend without the full moon.
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: Whenever Commander Nebula isn't reluctantly fulfilling his bureaucratic duties, he is more than happy to help Buzz Lightyear and his team whenever they need help. His peg-leg even doubles as a laser gun. He even plays the undercover role of a mercenary tasked with hunting down rogue subordinates of Emperor Zurg under the alias "Shiv Katal" (though he ends up needing to hand the role down to Buzz).
- Hermes Conrad from Futurama once organizes a forced labor camp where he is imprisoned efficiently that all the work can be done by one Australian man. He also uses his organization skills to lead a fleet in a battle to retake Earth in Bender's Big Score. He also at one point manages to clear the Central Bureaucracy's entire backlog in 3 minutes, 58 seconds... while performing a musical number.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Twilight Sparkle adores lists and schedules, which is often mocked by those around her. (One Running Gag is her penchant for very long checklists. Another is her attempts to precisely schedule her day only for life to happen.) Still, on many occasions, her attention to detail has saved the day, and she has shown herself to be pretty competent in a governmental position. She's also a traditional badass, for added flavor, especially after her promotion to alicorn, placing her fourth in command over all Equestria.
- The comics suggest that third in command Cadance has a streak of this too. And then there's the glimpse of Celestia's life. Celestia and Luna may share the top two spots in name, but of the four, Luna stands out by not having been depicted as this.
- In SWAT Kats, Callie Briggs is officially the Deputy Mayor of Megakat City, but as the Hypercompetent Sidekick to the lazy, incompetent Mayor Manx, she's the one who does most of the work. She can also handle herself in a fight, becoming an Improvised Weapon User to defend herself when necessary.
- Transformers: In some continuities, Optimus Prime was a "data clerk" before becoming a soldier. Needless to say, after becoming leader of the Autobots, his ability to fight and command is demonstrated in full. The Transformers Aligned Universe Optimus (or Orion Pax as he was known at the time) in particular is mentioned in Transformers: Prime to have predicted the massive inequality that led to the rise of the Decepticons and tried to work alongside Megatronus to rectify it. Unfortunately, Megatronus — now known as Megatron — became arrogant and greedy, and tried to seize power for himself, so Orion/Optimus had to take matters into his own hands. Perhaps best exemplified in this quote from Transformers: Fall of Cybertron:
Megatron: Not bad for a librarian! Perhaps you should have spent more time in the pit!
Optimus: And perhaps you should have spent more time at the library.
- Betty Carp, an attractive immigrant filled this position at the OSS and earned praises from various formidable spymasters.
- Felix Vasquez your typical salaryman, a Housing Authority Supervisor for the city of New York to be exact, who received a call that one of the buildings that he oversaw was on fire. After calling the fire department, he then ran to the burning apartment building, beating emergency services, and saw a woman who was waving her baby out of a window. When he told her not to throw the baby, the woman misunderstood and threw her baby out of the window. Having only seconds to spare, Felix hopped a freaking fence and caught the baby, saving its life. What's even more badass is that the baby wasn't breathing when he caught it, so he gave it CPR. If that's not badass, nothing is.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower. Stuck in a training post for World War I, he never saw action leading men in combat and did not hold an independent command higher than a battalion before World War II. His appointment as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force was considered a maverick act. He turned out to be one of the most able general officers the United States has ever sent to war, at least partially because the sheer size of the Allied Expeditionary Force required someone whose skills were not those of your typical combat general. Probably Eisenhower's most important skill was the recognizing that his post was primarily a political one. He knew he was never going to be recognized as a battlefield leader or expert strategist or tactician, and didn't think of himself as one. His job was to ride herd on his international team of subordinates who had such an assortment of personal quirks, raging egos, and nationalistic points of view that they'd be disastrous in command of a multinational military force.
- Eisenhower's boss, George C. Marshall. Marshall more than any other man was the architect and builder of the United States Army that fought World War II, and as such its ultimate success in Europe and the Pacific was largely his doing. Winston Churchill called him the "organizer of victory". After the war, he moved into diplomacy, where he was responsible for the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe in the late 40s and early 50s.
- Josef Stalin. Monstrous tyrant he was, he was still an accomplished bank robber and a revolutionary, and far more charismatic and intelligent one than his most famous sources portray him as. He used bureaucracy as a springboard to establish an uncontested dictatorship and through both heavy industry buildup and on the bodies of thousands, turned Russia from the least of the Great Powers into one of Earth's two superpowers.
- There are a number of stories of diplomats and consular officials who saved Jews from the Holocaust due to determined applications of bureaucracy.
- Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, saved thousands by filling out visas that allowed Jews to evacuate to Japan. He was recalled in disgrace, but he continued to fill out visas as fast as he could until the very last minute, even flinging them out of the window at the crowd as the train pulled away. Sugihara was a vice-consul, which means in the (highly stratified) Japanese diplomacy he did not have the authority to decide on visas. He gave them out in direct violation of his orders from Tokyo, during the time when powerful Japanese generals had to step carefully to avoid disgrace, execution, or assassination. This is an even more badass act.
- Similarly, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved numerous Jews by falsifying paperwork permitting them to enter Sweden, then bought up 32 apartment buildings, filled them with Jewish families, declared them Swedish sovereign territory (much like an embassy or consulate in a foreign country), and pretty much dared the Nazis to stop him. They didn't.
- John Rabe, on the other side of the world, was a diabetic Siemens employee who managed to get a section of Nanjing turned into a safe zone for Chinese civilians during the Japanese occupation with no authority, no government backing, and no military force.
- Alan 'Frank' Foley ran the British Embassy in Nazi Germany. Like Sugihara, he and his staff filled out thousands of visas to help Jews and others escape. It's estimated that he may have saved as many as 10,000 people. And in his free time, he helped set up a spy network for MI6 in the heart of Nazi Germany. When Germany got too dangerous, he retreated to Sweden and served as a radio operator.
- Samuel Pepys almost founded the Royal Navy on his own during the Stuart monarchs.
- Abdolhossein Teymourtash. Persia's youngest Member of Parliament and one of the top authorities on the Persian language despite not actually speaking it as a child. Was halfway through completely overhauling the Persian judicial system when the government fell and Reza Shah Pahlavi came to power. Teymourtash became Minister of Court, a position with no actual responsibility, and turned it into the Ministry of Absolutely Everything. He set up a central bank, a bar association, a secular school system and a university, defined the border with Turkey, built the country a railroad network, centralised the collection of taxes and sent hundreds of students to Europe to pick up technical skills, while the ministers supposedly responsible watched in amazement. Foreign treaty-makers had spent a century extracting concessions from Persia in return for "aid"; Teymourtash took five years to send them all packing. All except the British, whose oil-drilling agreement caused Teymourtash's downfall at the hands of the Shah — not because Teymourtash hadn't been remarkably successful in renegotiating it, but because the capricious and ill-educated Shah couldn't understand why he didn't just rip the thing up.
- Frank J. Wilson, agent of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Internal Revenue (and later Chief of the United States Secret Service). It was his meticulous scrutiny of Al Capone's finances which allowed the criminal's arrest and conviction for tax evasion. You might be able to bribe the right elements of law enforcement to stay free, but God help you if the IRS comes after you...
- J. Edgar Hoover singlehandedly built the FBI, arguably one of the largest and most powerful law enforcement agencies in the world. Not only that, but as director of the FBI, Hoover was effectively the most powerful person in the US, outlasting 5 presidents and largely being untouchable, due to him having dirt on everybody. Nobody dared try to remove him from office and he only gave up the position due to his death from a heart attack.
- Staff officers in an army have throughout history had the job of working out all the little details that turn a general's grand plan into actuality, from ordering the right quantities of ammunition, rations, etc. to mapping out the paths that the soldiers will take to their deployment and jump-off points, how many carriages in how many trains are needed, organising transfer and care of the wounded and dead, and making sure that infantry (and cavalry in a bygone age), artillery, and (where applicable) tanks and aircraft all work together smoothly. Etcetera. They are the ultimate detail-obsessed pen pushers. They are also all trained professional soldiers.
- When WWII broke out, the British Parliament decided to form a national unity government, uniting left and right, Labour and Conservative, in a single executive dedicated to fighting the war effort. At the head, in the office of Prime Minister and providing the face and the quotes, was the irrepressible Winston Churchill, leader of the Conservatives. The body, however, was definitely Clement Attlee, leader of the Labour Party. Where Churchill was flighty, Attlee was steady. Where Churchill was emotional, Attlee had a Vulcan-like analytic mind. Where Churchill was charismatic, Attlee was grey and dull. And yet his organizational skills, essentially centralizing and creating a vast, unified, war machine out of Britain's sprawling Imperial bureacracy, was just as important a contribution to Britain's victory as Churchill's speeches in the Commons.
- In Nazi Germany itself, we had Georg Konrad Morgen, who was horrified when (after intercepting contraband in the form of stolen gold fillings) he learned of the extent of the Holocaust, doing everything he could during and after WWII to nab other Nazis, typically on charges of corruption, up to and including Gestapo chief Maximilian Grabner.
- US President Herbert Hoover tends to be remembered, if at all, by Americans as being the guy under whose watch the Great Depression started, and he tends to be regarded unfavorably because of that (despite the fact that it wasn't his fault, and he did probably all he could legally and in good conscience do to cut it short). What's forgotten is that he donated nearly all of his salary as President to charity (the first of two Presidents so far to do so) and headed the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the US Food Administration during World War I and the American Relief Administration after it, all of which provided literally millions of tons of food and supplies to war-stricken countries in Europe.
- He was also the Secretary of Commerce during the Harding and Coolidge administrations. During his tenure he managed to create the first meaningful radio communications regulations in The United States, the same regulations which would be one of the major influences on the FCC when it was founded, standardized motor vehicle driving laws and rules for the entire nation to reduce traffic accidents, coordinated and organized the relief efforts necessary after the Mississippi Flood of 1927, and managed to stamp out malaria, pellagra, and typhoid fever in much of the same region.
- The Order of Solomon's Temple, while famous for their knights deserve mention here. Everyone has heard of the Templar Treasure, but while movies imagine this as hoards of gold or Thor's hammer, the reality is that their funding largely came from investments. By creating one of the most well-established banking and cheque systems in Europe, they were able to establish what was essentially a multinational corporation. By investing the pilgrim's money while they were in the holy land, they were able to receive the interest profits from these investments and amass their own personal endowment that rivaled kingdoms. In reality their eventual purge was little more than a hostile takeover to take control of these assets. All of this while they remained one of Europe's most effective armies.
- To put this into perspective: the king of France was the one to order the Templars put out of business, because the kingdom was so far in debt to them that the order could have taken France itself in payment.
- Lazare Carnot, he was known as the "Organizer of Victory" in the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars.