Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Microstory 418: Floor 25 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 26 (Part 1)

I hated school. I was very good at it, but I just never liked how it was set up. I’m expected to learn how to solve for x, and then prove it on a test. That’s so boring. I don’t want to know things that I can just memorize. Anything like that can be discovered ad hoc with a simple Google query. What I love are the deep, thoughtful research questions. I like poring through tons of text, looking for that little bit of information I need to totally kick ass on whatever I’m trying to accomplish. It’s hard to explain that sense of reward and satisfaction I experience when I’ve figured something out that no one else was smart enough to see. That look on their faces when they realize I’ve beaten them...well, I don’t ever actually see that, but I can imagine it. Somebody does all the talking, and convinces things to people; some of which isn’t true. It’s my job to provide my colleagues with the necessary ammunition to get that accomplished, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, it might be nice to receive some recognition for my work, but I knew what I would be missing out on when I decided to pursue the research side of the law. I would enjoy sitting at a deposition once in awhile and dropping some knowledge our opponent wasn’t expecting. No matter, it’s not like that happens a lot. Most of what I do is making sure the company follows the law the entire time so that things don’t ever come to a head in the first place. It’s rare for us to have to deal with opposing lawyers, because I’m usually too good for that to happen. Unfortunately, I’m not a miracle worker. I can give my legal advice, but it’s up to the people who run the company to actually act on that advice appropriately. I don’t consider it my fault that people died from Analion’s defective products. I didn’t personally know about them, nor do I have the expertise to have understood that anyway. It was their fault for not listening to me when I tried to change our procedures to accommodate otherwise unforeseen circumstances. Now things are tough, though. I have to come up with an argument that prevents Analion from going under from this terrible scandal. I’m going to stop and play a few rounds of chess. That usually gets my brain working. I need to be free from distraction.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Microstory 417: Floor 26 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 27 (Part 1)

I’m sorry, I can’t help but laugh. There’s some kind of techie nerd on the floor above us who thinks he’s gotten off scot-free. I imagine he believes that he’s covered his tracks, but what he doesn’t realize is that we hired an investigator to look into the leak. Actually, we hired an entire firm to investigate our current legal problems, and help us build a defense for the company. There’s a department within this private firm whose job it is to look at computer data. I’m sure he has a lot of experience plugging in monitors, but he’s no match for the white hat hackers we hired to find him, I’ll tell ya that much. I’ll also tell you another thing. People often ask me how I sleep at night knowing that I’m responsible for protecting the greedy interest of a corporation? I sleep like a dead baby, that’s how. You think I care about saving the planet, or helping me? Hell no. I just want that money, and corporations are the ones with that money. All you have to do is tell them how much work you’ve done for them, and they trust you well enough to pay you for it. The only time I’ve been in a courtroom was when he took a field trip there in middle school. I don’t do research either; that’s for the floor below us. I just use my silver tongue to believe whatever I want them to. Have I ever lied to an opponent? You bet I have. Have I ever encouraged a client to commit perjury? You bet I have. The law isn’t about finding the truth, it’s just about who’s better at manipulating the facts, and there’s no one better than me. I don’t have to know what really happened with the faulty windows. I don’t have to know whose fault it was, or how they could have stopped it. I just need to convince the judicial system to ultimately let it go. Tricking people is my favorite part of the job, and I would almost do it for free...almost.

Floor 25 (Part 1)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Microstory 416: Floor 27 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 28 (Part 1)

I never really felt like I worked for this company. I mean I work at Analion, of course, but we don’t make the company what it is. We just manage all the technological equipment. A new hire needs a laptop, they call me. It’s been two years, and it’s time to upgrade all the machines, I handle it. That’s it, that’s all I do. So when I tell you what I’ve done, please understand that I never considered it a betrayal. Yes, it’s true that, even as only the technology specialist, I don’t actually have the right to the information found on our servers, but what these people were doing was wrong. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who knew what about what, but the fact is that these deaths could have been avoided. I have proof that the data proving how unsafe the company’s products was readily available. They knowingly sold defective products to customers, and they have an obligation to own up to that. Nobody knows that I was the whistleblower, and hopefully they never will. I sent the information I uncovered to the authorities anonymously, so they don’t even know it was me. I don’t want my name in the papers, and I don’t want to be famous. I certainly have no desire to be infamous. I just had to do the right thing. If that meant breaking company policy, or my legal contract with them, so be it. I’m prepared to suffer the consequences of my actions, assuming whistleblower laws don’t protect me. Fortunately, I don’t think it will come to that anyway, though. I have the education and experience to cover my tracks. No one should be able to find out what I did. Things are going to be better from now on. I did the right thing; now no one else can get hurt. I’m comfortable with my decision.

Floor 26 (Part 1)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Twenty-Ninety-Three

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

There were at least two stargate replicas in the universe. The first thing Leona Delaney-Gelen did after finding the time mirror was find a safe haven she and Mateo could escape to, hoping The Cleanser did not know about it. Out of uncontrollable fear of having to explain her choices to Mateo, she ran through the stargate on Tribulation Island and ended up in the jungle. She immediately regretted her decision, but was unable to go back. Not long after she stepped through, vines reached out for her and snapped at her legs. She hurt about as badly as bee stings, so she was able to pull them off and run away. She looked back and was helpless to stop the presumably sentient vines from crawling further into the clearing, eventually overtaking the stargate and blocking her way out. “Is this Minority Report? Or maybe The Ruins?”
There were no structures as far as she could see. She ultimately spent more than three months in the area and found absolutely no sign of intelligent life. If the Rogue had intended to use this as a tribulation, it wasn’t a particularly complex one. Really, all she had to do was survive. The vines had an aversion to fire, but were not completely stopped by it. There was always more waiting on the sidelines to come out and replace as much as had been lost. She even tried to set fire to the entire forest, but it always eventually died out on its own.
She was only able to make any significant attempts at escape over the course of the first few days, though. The contact marks from the vines started out as greenish bumps. But then the infection began to spread outwards across her tissue. She had no medicine around, so there was no way to stop it. Some of the nearby herbs or roots might have been able to help, but she would have no way of knowing which or how. Once the infection had reached her right knee, she stopped being able to walk, and so she made a frightening decision. She happened to still have on her person the machete she used on Tribulation Island to cut through growth. She built a fire, set a torch in it in preparation, and sat as close to it with her legs spread. Then she held the machete over the fire to both sterilize it, and also make it more kinetically effective. Seeing no other choice, and not wanting to delay any further, she raised the blade over her head. She then dropped it down swiftly, yelling out, “Hershel!” as she did so. She managed to land it just above the kneecap, as if she had done it before. Pushing through the pain, she cauterized the wound as best she could before dressing it with strips of her shirt. A couple days later, as the infection continued up the left leg, she did the same thing again.

Months later, everything was going about as well as it possibly could under the circumstances. What was left of her legs had healed up, and no longer hurt quite as much. She had constructed for herself peglegs out of wood, and a binding paste she eventually discovered how to make. They didn’t have hinge joints, but they kept her upright, and that would have to be good enough. She built a shelter off the ground and learned what plants and animals were edible. She returned to the stargate every day, hoping to find a way through, but never could. Fortunately, the vines did not leave the immediate area, so she was able to safely live pretty close to it. She chose to not seek help or better conditions farther out. It was all just a crapshoot anyway. Civilization could be just beyond the proverbial ridge, but it also could have been just beyond the next one. There was no way to know, and there was no way she was traveling around the planet on goddamn peglegs.
One day, she suddenly heard the stargate activating. As she ran up to watch the ring spin around, she also saw the vines retreating from the clearing. They were almost certainly sentient, and were getting ready to strike an unsuspecting traveler, just like they had done to her. Leona waited for the portal to open, and then at the right time, she ran for it. Three humans walked through, looking incredibly confused. “Go back!” she ordered them. “It’s not safe! Go back!” Not waiting for them to decide to follow her, or not, though, she just went on through the portal and escaped.
Once on the other side, she found herself in a windowless room made of cement. There were steps leading up to the gate, which she was not ready for. She tripped and fell down hard on the floor.

She woke up in what looked like a hospital of some kind. The first thing she asked was, “what year is this?”
“It’s 2093,” someone answered. “Where have you been? How long have you been there?”
Leona just rolled over to her side. “And where are we?”
“You are in a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.”
“I need to get back to Kansas.”
“That can be arranged, but we have some questions.”
“I don’t want to answer anything.”
“We need to know what happened to your legs, and how you would like us to proceed with helping you.”
Leona rolled back over. “How could you help me?” she asked out of curiosity.
“Well, we have a number of prosthetic choices, ranging from exposed mechanical to mostly organic.”
She sat up and rested on her elbows. “You mean you can make them look like my real legs?”
The nurse laughed a little, but managed to stop himself. “Yes, of course we can.” Then he tilted his head in thought. “Are you...are you not from this time?”
“What? Why do you ask that?”
“The way you hold yourself. You don’t look like you belong here.”
She lied back down. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Who is the president of the United States at this time?”
“I...shut up. I’m not gonna take your test.”
“This should be an easy question seeing as that the U.S. no longer has the office of the presidency.”
“Yeah, that’s what I meant,” Leona said.
The nurse waited for a while before speaking again. “I will reconstruct your leg organically, and then I will arrange transportation back to Kansas.” Then he left, probably to make preparations.
The Cleanser teleported in. “How are you feeling?”
“Did you always know where I was?”
“I did not. Have you been here?”
Leona angrily threw her bed sheets off to reveal her stumps.
“I would imagine not. I have been looking for you for a long time now. As soon as you stepped through that portal, you almost disappeared from the timestream. I could see that you were still in it, but I couldn’t see where. That’s never happened to me before.”
She rolled over again, but he just made a short teleportation trip to the other side of her bed. “Leave me alone.”
“I can take you back to Mateo.”
“No, thank you.”
“Are you two fighting?”
“Would you just get the hell out of here!” she yelled.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I need to know what happened to you,” he insisted.
“I accidentally walked through the gate and ended up in a jungle on a different planet where vines destroyed the tissue in my legs and forced me to cut them off by myself! That’s what happened to me.”
“Hmm,” he said. “Really?”
“Really,” she answered, annoyed.
“And these people are gonna give you a prosthetic?”
“Yes, why?”
He turned away and started thinking. “Interesting. The vines are new, but the end result is the same.”
“What on Earth are you talking about?”
“No, not on Earth. Anywhere but Earth. You’re in the middle of one of Boyce’s tribulations.”
“Yeah, I’m not surprised. It was pretty tribulationy.”
“Do you know what it comes from?”
“No, I must not have seen it. I don’t really care all that much.”
“It’s from the Stargate franchise.”
“I saw all of those. Nobody’s legs were ever cut off.”
“You didn’t see these ones, Imperatrix Harmony.”
“What did you call me?”
“It was the fourth show. They didn’t make it in this timeline, I guess. One of the characters is blown across a room by an explosion. The event horizon of the gate shuts down just as goes in, removing her legs in the process. She spends months on a jungle planet alone until she finds her way back to civilization and gets prosthetics.”
“Whatever.”
“She spends about a year away from her team before she finds them again.”
“Sounds great.”
“It’s a happy ending.”
“I don’t need a happy ending! I just need you to leave!”
He sighed. “As you wish,” he said with a chivalrous bow.
“Hold on.”
“What?”
“I’m actually one of the few people who didn’t really like The Princess Bride, so if you put me through that, I’m gonna be pissed.”
“As—” He started to say the catchphrase again, but he stopped himself after Leona gave him the stink eye. “I promise that I won’t. Instead, I’ll say...go fuck yourself, San Diego.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Frenzy: There is No Sanctuary (Part XI)

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story (so far).

I’m leading the small pack, but Ace is directing me where to go. He says that we need to get to the other side of the river, and at some point, find a vehicle. Our final destination is too far away to run. Rather, it’s too far away for him to run. I would be just fine, but I have to recognize other people’s limitations. We first head for the loopway and run alongside it for a while, letting it take us across the Missouri. Less than an hour in, we make a stop at the huge railroad junction. In this part of the metro, you can always find a classic car just waiting for be stolen. These things don’t have GPS, and they certainly don’t have driverless features. The obvious benefit to this is that they can’t as easily be traced. First off, it’ll be awhile before anyone reports it missing, but the police are also not going to be spending a ton of resources looking for something like that. It’s too much work, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
I spot a little red Japanese truck built all the way back in 2002. “It’s missing the passenger seat,” Ace says.
“That’s fine.”
“You’re not sitting there. Look at all that exposed metal and rust. No, we’re finding something else.”
“Who says you’ll be the one driving?”
“That creature is your responsibility. Besides, you’ve been out of the loop today. I know what’s going on, and how to get to the FBI building from here. And I have more experience as a driver.”
“Those are all good points. We’re still using the truck. I like it.” I take a peek at the bed. It doesn’t look too bad; a little dirty, maybe. “We can sit back here.”
He sighs. “I suppose it will have to do. I do already know how to hotwire it, and we better trust the devil we know.”
While he’s working his magic, I’m feeding Crispin some grass I picked from nearby. He’s eating it up, and man does he love it. I can literally feel energy surge through his fur as he begins to digest it. His body was somehow engineered to convert food energy to electricity. “What are you?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer.
We hear the engine rev and then Ace closes the door behind him before speeding off on the gravel. Twice in one day I’ve ridden in the open air in a vehicle piloted by a human. That’s got to be a record. That reminds me of Krakken. “We have to go find out if Krakken is okay!” I cut through the wind with my yell, into the little window in the back of the cab.
“We go to the FBI first!” he yells back.
“No, I brought him into this! He’s my responsibility!”
“And you are my responsibility!”
“What the hell does that mean?”
Then the truck starts to make that clinking sound and starts to slow down dramatically. Ace musters enough strength to pull over to the side of the highway. I can see him massaging his eyes. “I didn’t even look at the gas gauge,” he says. “Rookie mistake, Horace.”
I hop out the back. “It’s okay. We’ll find something else. There’s a junkyard within spitting distance of us.”
“You really do know this city, don’t you?” He asks rhetorically while stepping out.
“It’s my job.”
This time we just start walking, wanting to gather and conserve some energy. I’ve never been to the junkyard, but maybe someone will have a candy bar, or something, that we can pay them for. I know of no restaurants or stores in the area.
We walk the short distance to the junkyard, hoping to find something just this side of good enough to get us to where we’re going. It can crap out on us after that, but we do need to get to the FBI building. They’re the only ones who will know what to do with Crispin, and the people chasing us. Speaking of which, they just appear again out of nowhere. I can’t tell whether they’re the same ones as before in the parking lot, but they’re still intent on retrieving their rabbit dog. How do they keep finding us? If he has some kind of tracking chip, or radiation signature, then they would have been able to find him long ago when he was with Krakken. Why now and how? I shake it off, realizing it doesn’t matter. We just have to run.
Our journey takes us into the maze of cars piled on each other. It seems to be like it would be better if you stripped the cars to their smallest components, cataloged them, and just sold them like that. Why take up all this room if most of these cars can’t run on their own? And how are they staying in business at all? No one needs this crap anyway. It’s 2026, get with the program. I shake that off too, because we’re in the middle of playing a deadly game of hide and seek. We’re not just trying to avoid capture, though. We’re methodically heading towards the outer edge of the premises. We don’t have time to find a car that works, so our only chance is to head in the general direction of the FBI building.
We finally manage to sneak past all the cars, but then we’re out in the open, so we have to keep moving. I’m not running as fast as I can, but I also don’t have to slow down too much. Ace can hold his own, and it makes me even more attracted to him. We run down into, and back out of, this part of the blue river that’s dried up. I’m not sure why they did that, but it does make it easier to cross. Not a mile later, we’re starting to head for a cemetery. I’ve seen a number of movies with standoffs in junkyards, and still more set in cemeteries. Have I fallen into an action film? Is this really happening? Is this real life? Yes, it is, and going through the cemetery is the best way to get where we’re going, as the crow flies. Until we break free from our pursuers, we don’t have time to find a more efficient means of travel. I mean, I love running, but this is ridiculous.
As I’m sprinting across the lawn, I look back to see how close they are. This was a bad idea. I don’t notice an open grave in front of me. Despite my prowess as a professional racer, I don’t have time make a course correction, or stop. Crispin flies out of my hands, and it appears that he’s going to land safely on the other side. I decidedly don’t, however. I crash face first into the grave, and for a few minutes, I can’t move. I try to convince my body that we’re in more danger if we stay put, but it doesn’t listen. “Move your big toe,” I say, invoking the spirit of Uma Thurman. I can’t see my toe through my shoe, but I do think it moves. The rest of my leg moves as well, because I’m not paralyzed, or anything. I regain the rest of my strength and crawl out of there, expecting to be surrounded by men in suits. There’s no one there, and I mean no one. Ace was a little behind me, so he should have stopped to help. Why didn’t he? Where did my rabbit dog go? Where did they all go? What the hell is going on?
I look up and around, first noticing that it’s much darker than it was when I first fell in. I lost consciousness? Oh, no. They took both Crispin, and Ace. Why did they leave me? That’s not cool. Sure, it sounds bad that would want to be captured, but at least we would all three be together. I still have no idea who these people are, so I have no chance of rescuing my friends. I’m completely lost, which is something I’ve never experienced before. “Hello?” I call out to the abyss.
“Hello?” A man slowly walks up to me holding a lantern, even though it’s not quite dark enough for that yet. “Good morning,” he says.
“It’s morning? What the hell time is it?”
The man looks at his watch. “Oh, pardon me, I get confused. It’s 7:13 at night. Sundown exactly.”
“I’ve been down for hours.”
He looks to the open grave. “Did you come from there?”
“Yeah, I fell in. Sorry if I messed up your work.”
“I’m sorry,” he almost laughs. “I have this weird brain thing. What’s the date?”
“It’s July 16, 2026.”
He looks back at his watch. “I’m afraid that’s wrong.”
“What? Is it already tomorrow? I could not have been there for more than a day. Someone would have found me.”
“Uh, no...it’s not the seventeenth either.”
“Something tells me that you’re not talking about two days.
“I’m sorry mister...”
“Demir. Serkan Demir.”
He doesn’t continue.
“Tell me the date. I can take it.”
“It’s September 24, 2022.”
I stop to think about it for a moment, but all that goes through my head are the words he just said. It reminds me of when I was a child. Analog clocks I could read just fine; it was digital clocks that gave me trouble. Something about going around in a circle made sense to me, but you give me numbers that are meant to represent a time of day, and its relation to surrounding events, and I have to concentrate on it. September 24, 2022 just runs through my head on repeat  until I can fully recognize exactly what that means. “I went into the past.”
“Yes.”
“Is there any way back?”
He shakes his head in disappointment. “I can take salmon and choosers, but I can’t take humans. How you managed to slip through with the open grave is something for which I have no explanation.”
“A man named Lincoln Rutherford referred to me as a chosen one, or at least he thought that might be what I was.”
“I cannot speak to that,” he says. “I’m just The Gravedigger.”
“Could you direct me to someone who can help?”
“Well, I could try to—” He’s cut off by the simple fact that something causes him to  disappear before my eyes, but it doesn’t look like he did it on purpose. My only guess is that someone doesn’t want him to help me.
I get the feeling that I’m supposed to be here, but why? Is it to change my own past, to help Crispin escape the villain’s secret lair, to invent 3D printed human organs? I desperately want to go home, but I know that’s not possible. Right now, a 12-year-old version of me is running around the house, still learning about his own sexuality. No, I can’t interfere with myself. No one I know can help me, except for one person. He seemed to know more than he was letting on. I head for Ace’s apartment.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Microstory 415: Floor 28 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 29 (Part 1)

Five years running, I’ve been given the distinction of being the company’s best worst salesman. It’s a kind of recognition that most people would be afraid of, but I consider it an honor. At he beginning of every fiscal year, the department hires a new gaggle of salesmen. And at the end of the year, they fire the lowest earners, no matter what. We could all sell very well, but they would still trim the fat. I’ve always kept my name on the black side of the leaderboard. Why do I do this? Why would I work so hard to succeed so little? I dunno, probably because I don’t care about the organization I work for, or the products we sell. There are tons of other companies who sell the same thing, and I honestly can’t tell the difference. They’re just windows, dude. Just windows. Do I earn lower commissions than the other people on the sales team? I sure do, but not by that much. Ya see, one day some bigwig was reading about how detrimental the commission sales model was to productivity. He decided to make a change, but instead of going all the way, he just capped commission earnings. His reasoning was that he wanted to meet in the middle of two extremes. He figured it would lower labor costs while maintaining just enough incentive for us to do a good job. But of course that doesn’t work, because once anyone reaches the cap, they just sort of check out. The only reason anyone works hard is to stay out of the red side of the leaderboard and keep their jobs. Has this contributed to Analion’s recent scandal with deadly defective products? I don’t know about that. In fact, I imagine the death toll would have been higher if more people had bought our crap. So, ya know what? I’m actually a hero, aren’t I? That’s right, I saved lives by preventing people from buying things that could kill them. They should make me president of the whole company. I’m sure there will be a spot opening. Word is that the current president is about to fall from grace.

Floor 27 (Part 1)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Microstory 414: Floor 29 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 30 (Part 1)

My mother cannot figure out what my job in marketing is to save her life. To be fair, she was born, and spent most of her life, in India, so there is a bit of a language barrier. Mostly I think it’s just that she doesn’t want to accept that her daughter pursues market research. Of course people like me exist in India, but it’s not the kind of profession she wanted me to get into. Sure, she wanted me to go to business school, but she thought I would go back to our home country and help some large corporation. She watches a lot of American television, and she just sees people in business suits making things happen. I guess she doesn’t really know what she wants. For those of you who don’t know, marketing is not sales. We don’t get on the phone and try to get people to buy our stuff. We figure out what people want now, and we work on ways to manipulate trends so that what people want changes to what we have. I love my job, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I’m extremely extroverted, so it’s a great opportunity for me to get out there and meet new people. It’s my responsibility to curate relationships with others so that the company has a network of allies and consumers. I like to move around the department and learn new things. Right now I’m just supposed to research the history of trends. It’s rather boring, but I am learning a lot. I’m scheduled to move on to the social media team where I was hoping to make a few changes there and see if they stick. As of now, the team just tries to post at least once on every social media platform. First off, that’s not enough, but they’re also not very engaging. They’re looking for ‘likes’, but ‘likes’ are empty. What you really want are reshares. You want more brand exposure. They also ask customers to do dumb things like post selfies in front of our buildings. Forgive me, but no one wants to do that. Unfortunately, I don’t know what’s going to happen with the company, let alone the department or team.  Analion is going through a pretty bad rough patch, and they need someone with experience to come in and save our reputation. That’s okay, it’ll just be one more person I get to meet. Hopefully they don’t think we had anything to do with those tragic deaths.

Floor 28 (Part 1)