Thursday, October 20, 2016

Microstory 434: Floor 8 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 9 (Part 1)

I’m a blue collar worker in a white collar building. Most people here get to wear nice clothes and turn their noses up at us. I used to manufacture standard products for Analion at our main factory, but they’ve promoted me to custom work at the new headquarters. We’ve barely done anything here yet. The windows that people fell out of were made before the new HQ was ready, which means it was necessarily before my promotion. Still I’ve received a lot of blame for the deaths. I know, a lot of people are saying the same thing but it is no truer for anyone else than it is for me. I keep telling people that I’m new here, but that doesn’t matter to them. Everybody wants to blame somebody else. Is one department at fault for it, I’m sure I don't know how it could be anything else, but it can’t be me. I don’t care who gets in trouble for it, but it just cannot be me. I’m in such a tough spot here. I sort of feel like my superiors knew about the problems before anyone else did, and they brought me in as their scapegoat. The most obvious source of blame is always the one closest to the issue. I and the other machinists are the last to see a window before it goes out to the world. Since each incident was under the control of a different installer, the natural conclusion is that product development did something wrong. And I want to stress that this may actually be the right call, but again, I wasn’t always here. Please, leave me out of it. I’m perfectly innocent, I tell you...innocent. Man, I really need to get back to the factory. I had no idea how much I would hate it here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Microstory 433: Floor 9 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 10 (Part 1)

Let me tell you a little bit about what we do. First, there’s a commission. There must be a need for a new product, or a call for more production of something we already make. If it’s new, then a designer will start figuring out how it will work, consulting with engineers to make sure it doesn’t fall apart. Then Research and Development gets their hands on it and starts asking us to build prototypes for them. They then send it through rigorous testing to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do. In our case, we make mostly doors and windows, so they really just need to worry about whether it can withstand a certain level of strain and other damage. Once they find out what works—and they usually go through a few cycles to accomplish this—they send the finished design to me. I run product development. All we do is calibrate the machines and crank out the product as much as necessary. We do a lot of custom jobs at headquarters. We maintain a couple satellite locations that handle our standard products. Most doorways are about the same, so we don’t develop significantly new designs, but windows are different. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are utilized for various purposes. This is why we can’t blame a satellite facility for the windows that caused deaths. Not only were they custom jobs, but they were also rush jobs. We went through the process at a faster rate than they normally do. Once it gets to us, we don’t pay attention to what it is. All we do is make what we’re asked to make. The floor I work on is primarily offices, and we handle the software side. We feed the specifications into the program, and it determines how to get the machines to manufacture what we want. So you see, it’s impossible for us to have had anything to do the products being faulty. We just do what we’re told. Maybe talk to the engineers.

Floor 8 (Part 1)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Microstory 432: Floor 10 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 11 (Part 1)

I work on the lower floor of the Research and Development department. Why this company needs two floors of labs, and one of offices, for only R&D is something I couldn’t explain to you. Things are far too spread out, and we’ve hired far too many people. In fact, too many people work at Analion in general. It is not a healthy way to conduct business. First of all, you’re spending too much money of labor. Secondly, all of my coworkers are stupid. If I extrapolate my personal experiences across every floor, it would turn out that we’re composed of at least 80% morons. That is, unless you examine only the executives and board of directors on the higher floors. If you do that, you’ll come to a cool figure of 100% moron. As soon as I started working here, I felt like the smartest person on the planet. I mean, there’s the scientific method, and then there’s doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results. Is my department at fault for Windowgate? Eh, probly. We break a lot of things here. Applying enough stress on any object will always ultimately result in its destruction. Nothing is impervious to force. So if we scrapped every project that couldn’t withstand a nuclear bomb, then we would get nowhere. We sent products down the line that eventually made their way to customers’ homes or businesses that ended up killing them. Sorry. I would like to take the blame for it, but I can’t. I told you that I work with idiots, and I can’t stop them from making mistakes. I know I sound like I’m making excuses, but whatever. I wipe my hands clean. I can’t feel remorse for something I didn’t do. If you don’t like it, you can take it up with my superiors. I consider them responsible for everything anyway.

Floor 9 (Part 1)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Microstory 431: Floor 11 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 12 (Part 1)

I’ve always loved my job in the Research and Development labs, and I never made any effort to be promoted. I was recently hired at Analion in a leadership position, but this is as far as I want to go. If I’m promoted from here, I'll have to move permanently into an office, and I have zero interest in that. If you look at my little cubicle right now, you would think it’s just a storage area. I feel safe and comfortable around all the dangerous objects, even though we don’t have much of that here. My last job used a lot of corrosive chemicals and other hazardous materials, so this is pretty tame by those standards. They were a legal nightmare, so I would’ve hated a full time office position even more. My boss there was always under a great deal of stress. She was constantly having to worry about someone getting hurt…or worse. It’s weird that I spent all that time with deadly poison, and it’s just windows that are the major problems here at my new job. Nothing happened in the labs, but out in the field. I have no idea what went wrong because that was before my time, but had I been around, I promise we wouldn’t have been on the brink of any lawsuits. One thing my previous boss taught me was how to be careful and slow. In all honesty, though, safety precautions were of a higher priority. Analion, I’m starting to see, doesn’t care so much about all that. From what I gather, I can’t be surprised that one of our products lead to deaths. They’re far more interested in speed than quality. They think this is efficiency, but it’s not. Efficiency is the balance between speed and accuracy. If they had just slowed down, I bet things would have been fine I suppose I'm doing a great job of convincing myself that I should quit before things get real bad. I’m going to contact my old boss who went off and started her own business. Analion is not the place for me, and I think she would understand that and give me a chance to get on the ground floor.

Floor 10 (Part 1)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 12, 2097

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

Two years after Mateo Matic disappeared into the future, a television series premiered. It actually technically didn’t run on television. As time went on following the first jump, media began to bleed into the internet with increasing speed. People were getting used to the idea of watching what they wanted, when they wanted, and not having to worry about recording programs. The most powerful of these services provided audiences with an amazing show called Stranger Things. It took place in the 1980s and followed the residents of a small town as they battled supernatural forces. The first season revolved around the premise of trying to find a missing child.
Upon spiriting Mateo away from his planet, The Cleanser sat him down and forced him to watch every single episode of the series, much like Boyce had done for those dancing films. The difference here was that the Cleanser was not allowing them to be watched at double the speed. It took the better part of two days to watch them all straight through, with absolutely no opportunity for rest. By the time he was finished, Mateo was wandering around the house, purposely bumping into walls, because it each time felt like a good idea. His vision was blurred, and his mind unfocused. He shoveled food onto his cheeks and poured milk down his chest. After failing to eat, he went back to walking aimlessly. Despite, or maybe because of, his extreme fatigue, his mind was telling him to do one thing: escape. Whatever would happen next, sleep had to be worse than the attempt at freedom. Looking back on it, his logic was fundamentally flawed, but at the time, it made perfect sense. He just kept going. When he ran into an obstacle, he would turn only far enough to break himself of it and walk in the new direction as far as physics would take him.
During Mateo’s fugue state, the Cleanser stood back and watched. He must have considered it entertaining that Mateo couldn’t think straight. At some point, though, the wandering became boring on its own. Presumably in order to spice it up, he began snapping his fingers and teleporting them to various locations around the world, or possibly the universe. Mateo started stumbling around deserts, mountains, prairies, and city streets. Sometimes, the Cleanser would even mash two or more different locations together in this complex web of hyperdimensional superposition. Mateo was no scientist, like Leona, but those were the words that came to him. They sounded right, as far as he knew. And then it happened.
Apparently, the Cleanser had been apporting Mateo to random locations, without even thinking them through himself. His eyes lit up when he saw where they were with this last trip. It was a dirt road with a mountain on one side, and a huge cliff on the other. It looked surprisingly similar to a particular scene in the first season of Stranger Things. Mateo recognized this, but he couldn’t stop himself. He just kept shuffling along the road.
“I never actually planned on you recreating anything from the show. I’m not The Rogue, afterall. I have no interest in watching you reenact my favorite movies. The tribulations are meant to be difficult, deadly, and distressing. I don’t care how. Forcing you to watch one of the best shows ever created without sleep was meant as a form of torture, and so that you would be the only person in the world to harbor feelings of anger and pain towards it.”
Mateo could still speak, but choose only to babble back, because no words would help in this situation.
“I wanna see how suggestible you are. But first...a thousand words.” He apported a digital camera into his hands and pointed it towards Mateo who instinctively stopped and looked to the lens. He didn’t pose, but he didn’t shy away either. “Now this moment will live on forever. Walk off the cliff.”
Mateo thought about arguing, but he was having trouble remembering how, and assumed it would end in his compliance no matter what. It was easier just to let the world go. If you counted the time he remembered being stuck in another dimension, he was thousands of years old. That was enough for anybody. He turned and stepped right off the edge, as he was told, raising his arms like it was nothing more than a fun roller coaster. He hadn’t managed to fall very far before he could feel someone else’s hand take hold of his wrist. “What?” he asked in an indoor voice, as if he simply hadn’t heard his teacher’s question.
“Take my other hand!” a voice called to him.
Mateo twisted around and grasped the side of the cliff. He looked up and could see the figure of a man, but he couldn’t tell who it was since he was still delirious.
“Reach up and meet me halfway, dude!” the voice pressed.
Still easily suggestible, Mateo did as he was told and grabbed the man’s hand, using his feet to help himself up as the man pulled.
“Here ya go,” the man said, jabbing something into Mateo’s leg.
Mateo went for his leg with his hands, but was unable to control his motor functions. Whatever was in the injector began to course through his body, supplying him with a massive boost in energy. Within seconds, he wasn’t back to his old self, but he was much better. He could see, and he could understand. The man who had saved him was none other than Horace Reaver. He looked about Mateo’s age at the time, and immediately seemed much nicer than before. He looked over to find a totally stunned Cleanser, his jaw literally dropped.
A young woman Mateo didn’t know printed a piece of paper out of some kind of gizmo and handed it to the Cleanser. “What does this picture look like to you?”
The Cleanser took it. “Well, it’s—oh no!” He tried to drop the photo but it was too late. His body quickly pixelated and disappeared into the photo, which itself pixelated into oblivion upon landing on the ground.
“What just happened?”
“Mister Matic,” Horace began as he was helping him off the ground. “This is Miss Paige Turner. Paige, this is my good friend, Mateo Matic.”
She extended her hand. “Pleased to finally meet you. I have heard so much about you and your adventures with my father.”
“You had another daughter?”
“No, not in this timeline,” Horace said, shaking his head. “She accidentally slipped through time. My boyfriend and I took her in and raised her.”
“How did you get here?”
“That dumbass took a picture of this moment,” Paige explained. “All I had to do was get my hands on it.”
“If you’re from this new timeline, how do you have any memory of the other one?”
“The Blender,” was all that Horace said.
“Oh God.”
“She approached me many years ago, hoping to return to me the memories I had of our hate towards each other. She has it out for you, man. I do not know why she’s so bloody angry, but her intention was to get me to start trying to kill you again.”
“And are you?” Mateo asked.
“Very much not,” Horace replied.
“Because you’re a good person in this reality? These ones are overpowering your old memories?”
Horace shook his head. “It wouldn’t have mattered. Had she removed this reality’s memories, I still wouldn’t be against you right now. My experiences with you were driving me to become a better person without my realizing it. Once you finally got me into that prison cube, I was free to reflect on my choices, and I realized that I preferred you as a friend than an enemy. And I prefer myself as a good person.”
“So we’re friends now?”
“From my perspective,” he said, “yes. Though I cannot speak to your feelings.”
Mateo breathed in deeply through his nose. “I could sure use another friend right now.”
“What about two?” Paige asked.
“Even better,” Mateo responded with a smile.
“It could be three one day. We left my husband several years from now. He wasn’t capable of coming back with us, but we’ll catch up to him eventually. For you, it’ll only be a few days.”
“Do you still have your day rewind thing?” Mateo asked.
“Not as I did before. I don’t remember Round Ones consciously, but I feel them. Though I usually don’t anyway. Serkan has the ability to suppress or limit temporal powers.”
“You mean...” Mateo started to ask.
“Yes,” Horace said without needing Mateo to finish his sentence. “Soon, the days of skipping time could be completely behind you.”
“That would be nice.” Mateo went into another trance, fantasizing about permanent settlement in the timeline. Maybe this guy could cure him completely so they wouldn’t even have to be in proximity. That was a question for another time, though. He looked over to Paige. “Do you happen to have any pictures of Tribulation Island?”
“Yes, but only one,” she answered. “We were saving it for an important occasion.”
“You can only use them once?”
“We all have our limitations,” she said with a shrug. She printed another photo from her gadget and slipped between them so they could all see. “Say boo to a goose!”
They were suddenly in the Nexus control module on Tribulation Island. They could see Saga Einarsson elegantly walking down into the transport well. Before Mateo could open his mouth, an orange light swallowed her up and she was gone. “What was she doing here?”
Paige laughed just a little. “She was the one who took the picture.”
“Oh, that makes sense.”
Horace looked at the computer screen. “It’s almost midnight. You better get back home and get some rest. We’ll be waiting for you when you wake up next year.”
“Okay, thanks.” Mateo started to walk out of the Nexus building but then turned back. “And Horace?”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Frenzy: Page Turner (Part XIV)

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

“Uh, hi,” Ace says awkwardly, trying to sound upbeat. “Are you lost?”
“I was at Stonehenge,” the girl replies. “Are we in London now?”
“I was afraid of that,” I say.
“Well,” Ace begins. “No, we’re not in England.”
I go behind her and wave my arms around, trying to find the portal again. My assumption is that it’s gone, but it could also just be invisible. That sometimes happens, right?
“What are you trying to do?” Ace asks me.
“I’m trying to find a way to send her back.”
He sighs. “We can take a plane back to Stonehenge. It’ll be weird, and we’ll have to be clever to prevent her parents from freaking out on us, but we’ll get her back.
What? I think to myself. “Look at her camera,” I say to him. “And her clothes.” She doesn’t belong here.”
“Oh,” is all he says. Now he gets it. “Little...what’s your name?”
“Paige.” She starts tearing up, but it doesn’t look like she’s going to cry. She probably thinks we’ve kidnapped her. “Turner.”
Ace does his best to sound comforting and distant at the same time. “Paige, what’s the date?”
“October 8.”
“October 8...?”
“1971,” Paige completes her answer.
I pull him aside and speak softly so that she can’t hear, but I keep my eye on her. I’m worried that she’ll get the idea to be brave and try to run away from her captors. “What are we gonna do?”
“We have to go back and talk with your lawyer friend,” Ace suggests.
“What do you think he’s going to do about it?”
“Send her back home.”
“He can’t personally do that sort of thing, and I get the feeling that the Jenga trick isn’t going to work twice. That delegator guy was none too happy to see us too. Besides, you call Rutherford my friend, but I obviously didn’t know him. We can’t trust him.”
“So, what? We just keep her? Like a pet.”
“No, not—I mean...I don’t know. Maybe we can take her to child services, or whatever it’s called.”
“And tell them what? She’ll be going on about President Nixon, and Vietnam War hippie, rocks! They’ll put her in special needs classes, and try to fix her for believing it’s the 70s. She’ll never be safe, and she’ll never be happy.”
“Then apparently we’re the only ones who can handle this.”
“You mean raise her?”
“Do we have a choice?”
“Yeah, we went over other choices, and they have their problems, but this seems...wrong. She’s supposed to be decades older than us.”
“We went through the wrong gateway. We did this to her, so we have to help.”
Paige is looking between us with this face like she’s holding her breath. The tears have dried up, and suddenly, she snaps a photo of us.
“I don’t know that there’s any way to develop those here.”
“Because we’re in the future?” she asks, about half sure that she’s right.
“She figured it out,” Ace whispers, impressed.
“Maybe there’s hope for us yet.” I bend down and get to her level. “This is...” I start to tell her the year, but realize that I don’t know what that is. It’s not the 22nd century, and it’s not the 18th, but that doesn’t mean I know exactly when we are. We do know we went through the wrong gateway, so we have to figure out exactly what made it wrong, besides the fact that we brought with us another stowaway. “Ace, what year is this?”
“Why, it’s...” he stops himself as well, clearly realizing what I already have. He moves away from us and asks a random stranger the dumbest question they’ve probably ever heard. I see him close his eyes, trying to accept what’s happened. He returns to us. “October 15.”
“Yeah...?” I know it hasn’t just been a couple weeks.
One year. Not that bad, all things considered. It’s easier for me to accept than him because I’ve been through this before. In fact, I’m one step closer to getting back home, so it’s better for me. But it’s not better for Paige. “It’s October 15, 2023. You just traveled through time.”
“Like the Connecticut Yankee.”
I smile at the reference. “Yes, like that, except that you went forwards.”
“Is there any way to go back?” Paige asks. She doesn’t quite look like that’s what she would want.
“We could try, but we only know one other traveler, and he probably wouldn’t help us.”
“If it’s been fifty years, then my parents are probably dead.”
“It’s possible. It depends on how young they were. We could look for them.”
“No,” she says quickly. “If they don’t know I’m here, then I’m safe. I’m finally free of them.”
I stand up and look to Ace. We don’t know what to say. Theoretically, we would try to get more information out of a child who says something like this, but she’s right. She’s free of them, and however they were hurting her before, they can’t do it anymore. If she ends up wanting to tell us, she can do so at any time. Maybe it wasn’t the wrong gateway afterall. Maybe we were always supposed to bring her along with us. “You know, there’s an easy way to decide what we should do about our situation.”
“What might that be?” Ace asks, unconvinced.
“You tell us. You’ve already been through this day, right? I know you don’t remember, but what do you think? Subconsciously?”
“Well, it’s not that easy...” He trails off and stares into space.
“What? What do you see?”
“Nothing. This doesn’t feel familiar at all. I don’t know that I’ve ever been on this particular street, and I don’t recognize Paige.”
“What does that mean? That this is the first time around? That you’ll go back and do it over?”
“No, that doesn’t feel right either. Now that I think about it, yesterday wasn’t familiar either. I had no way of predicting the future.”
“Really? Has that ever happened before?”
Paige looks at us like we’re crazy. Even though she knows that she jumped to the future, she still doesn’t understand who we are, or what we’re talking about.
“No, never in my life. It all started the day you...”
I can guess what he’s about to say, “the day I arrived. You lost your ability when I showed up.” I start pacing a little bit, trying to work it out in my head, but ultimately thinking out loud. “Three years from now, Rutherford shows up and tells me I’m different. He says that he can’t use his own ability around me. Then I go back in time and meet you, only for you to experience the same thing.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m like him. I’m one of you. I just...I’m just different.”
“You take away people’s power?”
“Exactly, or so it would seem. It hasn’t always seemed to work, though. I met a speedster in the future, and he didn’t seem at all affected by me.”
“Maybe you have to concentrate on doing it. Or maybe you have to concentrate on not doing it.”
We stand in silence for a long time before Paige breaks the ice. “I’m hungry.”
“We can get something to eat,” Ace replies. “I have some cash on me, which we’ll need, because I’ve been missing for a year and retrieving my identity might prove to be complicated.”
“So, what are we going to do?” I ask. “After finding food, that is.”
“I have no idea. I’ve never been so lost in my life. Ya know, I guess I do have that secret offshore bank account. They probably won’t ask questions about any missing persons case, but it will take some time to get my money back stateside.”
“That could come in handy.”
We start walking forwards with no real plan for where we might want to go. Paige snaps photos of the scenery, Ace actually looks like he might be a bit relieved to have shed his old life, and me? I think I’m gonna be okay. Jinx.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Microstory 430: Floor 12 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.

We are called Production, people...Production. We are not the same thing as Construction. I tell ya what’s ironic, though; I’ve spent years reminding people that our two departments do totally different things. Now all these reports come in of people dying from our products, and for the first time, I’m glad people think they should blame construction. I know I should feel bad about it, and also that it won’t last forever, but I just feel lucky to still have my job. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you what went wrong. I’ve been analyzing the situation during my own little investigation, but I’ve so far come up with nothing. The designs appear to be flawless. I’ve not been having trouble with any of my developers on the production floor. I’ve even looked into regional installation contractors, and they seem fine. I guess I can only go so far, though. If I rock the boat too much, I paint a target on my back. It has to have something to do with us, though. People are saying the windows were marketed poorly, or that we weren’t allotted he right materials, but that’s impossible. First of all, people know what windows are. I don’t believe this could be customer error; that’s utterly ridiculous, and insulting to the human race. If we had problems with resources, then fine. But that doesn’t explain why a bad product ended up in the market in the first place. It must be quality management. That’s the only explanation. Everyone could have done everything wrong; created a window that shatters when a butterfly lands on it. But no matter what, quality management should have stopped it. That’s their bloody job. I must investigate more.

Floor 11 (Part 1)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Microstory 429: Floor 14 (Part 1)

Click here for a list of every floor.
Floor 15 (Part 1)

I worked very hard to get out of the labs, and into this office. I’m sure you hear Research and Development, and you think that it sounds exciting. Why, we must be blowing things up and getting into other crazy situations every week! No, it’s boring, and this is as it should be. We would be shut down by the health department, or some other government division, if we experienced such things on a regular basis. No, we do some experimentation, but this is no chemical lab. We mostly try to figure out what kinds of materials work well together, and which combinations to avoid. We try various glass thickness, and new shapes. We test strength against wind and other trauma. It might have started out fun, but throwing rocks at triple pane windows gets old pretty quickly. I also don’t really like dangerous situations. Even though we take all necessary precautions, I feel much safer in the office, on a different floor. This new headquarters we built is a major problem, though. The lab  technicians need a nice, open, rectangular space. This doughnut shape we got going on is just awkward. The atrium that runs almost all the way up sure is purty, but sure is completely impractical for our needs. I tried to voice my concerns to the construction department, but hell if they ever listen. Far be it for them to take input from anyone else. If they had it their way, the whole company would be absorbed and digested into their one department. They don’t think the rest of us need to exist at all, and would sooner see us gone than admit that it takes a village. I’m about to go upstairs to lobby the president to transfer the R&D labs back to where we were before. I know everybody’s really busy with all this scandal, but I can’t think about that right now. Let the lawyers handle it. We have to move on with business as usual. If they call me up for a deposition, or witness testimony, or whatever, then I’ll deal with it. I don’t see the point in worrying so much about things that have already happened.

Floor 12 (Part 1)