When I add something, I'll edit it into this post and post again to bump it. This is a work of fiction; any real birthdays by people named Greg are purely coincidental.
Greg stalked back to his cubicle, thick stacks of paper in either hand. He dropped them on his desk at the same time, so they made a single, impressive thump. The chair rolled effortlessly across the floor, and he set himself in front of the paperwork. "Happy birthday to me," he muttered.
One of the memos warned of an early closure next week. Though the memo didn't say so, Greg knew it was because some maintenance people were scheduled to come in and update the sprinkler system. Apparently that information was on a need to know basis, and for some bizarre, inscrutable reason, Greg had the clearance to be trusted with that tidbit. Quite frankly, he would have been just as happy not knowing. More mysterious, and beyond his pay grade, the memo used the 5thGrader font. The clumsy letters stared up at him from paper a shade of pink that could only be described as blinding. Maybe they'd ordered too much pink in the last paper shipment, and someone was looking to use it up. On the other hand, maybe someone just had the sensibilities of a manic five year old girl.
The other memo, from Human Resources, brought a smile to Greg's face. It was about thievery involving the public refrigerator. A couple of days ago a prospective lunch bandit had stuck his hand into an anonymous-looking paper bag only to have a mouse trap close around it. No one had come forward, and no one had been able to prove who had put the bag there. From the tone of the memo, HR didn't appreciate vigilante justice.
What Greg didn't appreciate was having to staple the two memos together. Normally, interoffice memos were distributed as unattached sheets, even if they were more than one page. It saved on staples, which was good for the company's bottom line. The measure probably kept costs down all of ten dollars annually. But through Byzantine, irrational corporate logic, it had been decided that /these/ memos must be stapled together. He rummaged around his cubicle for a few minutes in frustration, then quit, sighing "Naturally." His stapler was nowhere to be found.
He didn't have to put up with this kind of nonsense at night. A different kind of nonsense, maybe. But not this kind.
GregD_1979: Do they have to be stapled?
GregD_1979: I think someone swiped my stapler.
SuperWarren: lol thats stupid
SuperWarren: did u chek joshs desk
GregD_1979: Sorry, I just went to look.
GregD_1979: Nope. Mouse doesn't have it.
SuperWarren: lol @ mousetrap josh
SuperWarren: what a tool
GregD_1979: Can I just paperclip them together?
GregD_1979: We can reuse them, so it's more efficient...
SuperWarren: lemme check
SuperWarren: no can do chief
SuperWarren: laura says these have 2 b stapled
SuperWarren: if they rn't then a asteroid hits teh earth
SuperWarren: like i know
GregD_1979: So what am I supposed to do?
SuperWarren: borrow sum1s stapler
SuperWarren: do u need help eating 2?
SuperWarren: here comes teh airplane... wooooo
*~Quit~* "Quit? I only wish it were that easy" GregD_1979 has signed off.
Why on Earth had he thought Warren would be any help? Warren was supposed to be the one handing out memos, but he'd ducked out of it one way or the other so many times that Laura had come down from her ivory tower and personally given Greg the monumental responsibility. ‘SuperWarren’. The only thing he actually bothered to supervise was his fantasy football team.
He pushed off and went to the break room for a nice refreshing can of gingerette. Yeah, he thought, a nice refreshing can. What are you, a commercial? He chuckled. If this were a gingerette commercial, he’d have so much energy he’d just grab a fistful of staples and punch them into the memos with his bare hands. And then go surfing or fight a bear or something.
Greg walked back to his desk and sat down again, wondering if he could get away with shredding the memos. Maybe he could say they never reached him. It was while he contemplated shirking his duty that he finally noticed It, and once noticed, he wondered how he had missed It. Sitting square in the middle of his desk, between the cursed memos, was his missing stapler. Or what had been his stapler.
He could still make out ‘SWING’ along the striking red length that was still exposed, but the rest of the manufacturer’s identity was obscured under some kind of gleaming metallic sheath. It put him in mind of a football player’s pads, but he couldn’t guess what purpose all this extra junk served. He extended a finger and turned it around slowly, cautiously inspecting from several different angles. In just the right light, he could see a little bit between the stapler and its new outer shell. Maybe his eyes were playing tricks, but he thought there were some tiny gears… and an odd coppery circuit board pattern on the inside of the shell.
When he finally decided that it probably wasn’t going to bite him, he set a hand on top of it. Immediately, a soft, mechanical voice said “I require staples. I am sorry for any inconvenience.” Greg was rolling backward in his chair before he was conscious of having shoved away from the desk. The stapler, for its part, had opened up and silently awaited loading. A few seconds passed before it helpfully prodded “Please load staples now.”
Staring it down, Greg wondered what would happen if he didn’t.
There was a soft tink of metal against metal, and then, a moment later, the stapler spoke once more: “Staples detected.” From somewhere inside its new cowling, a red light turned on. “Chamber has not been manually closed. Chamber will automatically shut in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…” With a hiss, it was done. “Ready for duty,” it said.
“Do you like it?” The voice made Greg start, but when he wheeled around and saw Mary he managed to keep himself from jumping out of the chair. She would have looked like a mousy little thing even without the big, oval glasses that magnified her eyes or the unflattering baggy grey pantsuit she wore.
“It’s certainly… uh…” He was at a loss for words.
Mary didn’t seem to notice. “It’s not your fault that you have the same birthday as that dragon lady Laura, and it’s not fair that she doesn’t want anyone celebrating today, so we can’t have a party for you like we do for everyone else. So… you know… happy birthday!” Her voice was a cheerful squeak.
“Uh… Thanks, Mary. I was just going to… I was just going to staple these memos, and I’m sure this… this thing will help.”
Her face brightened, “Oh! Please do try it out! It was sort of last-minute you know, and I didn’t have time to do a lot of testing to, you know, make sure it…” she furrowed her brow, searching for the word.
“You don’t know if it works?”
He looked incredulously at the stapler, then back at Mary. A talking stapler wasn’t something he ought to keep around the office. It was too likely to draw unwanted attention. But at the same time Mary was one of the few people in the office that didn’t make him crazy, so he didn’t want to put her off.
With an inaudible sigh, he took one of each memo and placed them together under the stapler, half expecting it to fire automatically. When it didn’t, he gently smacked it with his palm.
The staple had gone through the memos. But it had also gone through the bottom of the stapler and into his desk. Effectively, it had stapled itself to his cubicle. Bemused, he turned back to Mary.
“Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen…”
No matter how hard Greg stared at the stapler, it remained firmly affixed to his desk. Not off to one side or the other, but inconveniently in the center, between the twin stacks of memos. In his head, he could hear it laughing at him with its detached, artificial voice.
“Is there some… button or switch or lever or something to… like… disengage it?”
Mary brightened, “Oh! Right, yeah! The button! It’s just…” She looked embarrassed.
“It’s kind of… on the bottom.”
“The bottom of the stapler?”
“So if it ever got stuck in something, all you’d have to do is press the button that you couldn’t possibly get to?”
“Sorry. I didn’t have time to test it out. But it’s only a minor design flaw. Once I reconfigure it, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“But it’s stuck! How are you going to do anything--” Greg could hear his voice rising, and could see the downcast look on Mary’s face, so he cut himself off. He did some quick thinking and said, “Look, it’ll be fine. Maybe it’s not stuck so badly after all…” He put one hand on top of the stapler and the other under the desk, making a show of trying to wiggle it back and forth. The thing didn’t budge.
“Hold on… I think I’ve got it…” frost began to form on the lower half of the stapler, then, with a loud POP, it sprang off his desk. He caught it out of the air before Mary got a good look at it, and held the underside against a forearm to melt the ice he’d used to depress the release button. With any luck, she’d be none the wiser.
“It was very nice of you to remember my birthday,” he said, stalling for time, “And… well… it’s the thought that counts, right?” From the way Mary’s face crumpled, she must have thought he was rejecting the gift. “Um… Hey, I was going out for dinner after work since it’s my birthday and all, and it’s kind of depressing to go by myself… And I’d love to hear how you tricked out my stapler like that… so… uh…”
A cheery smile lit her face, along with a slight flush. “That would be great!” She turned to leave, but Greg caught her eye again, waving the thawed stapler.
“Uh… Mary? Forgetting something? And while you tweak this one, could I borrow your stapler?” He fervently hoped her stapler still worked as the manufacturer had intended.
Greg stared out the dirty, streaky windshield of his not-quite-broken-down jalopy, taking in the parking garage. It was all shadowy alcoves and concrete pillars and grey guardrails. And everyone had a nicer car. He laughed at himself, “It’s just Mary. Why the nerves? It’s not like I’m into her or anything,” he drummed his fingers on the dashboard, “Must be that gingerette I had.”
For a moment he wondered why he was talking to himself, but the answer came almost instantly. Since he’d found that… that talisman, he’d grown much more prone to verbal exposition. That wasn’t the most obvious side effect of the thing, not by a long shot, but every now and then—
Before he could finish his thought, the cell phone he kept in the glove compartment started ringing and he jumped and hit his head on the roof. The only one with the number for that phone was Officer Cage, his contact at the Twilight Police Department. Well, Cage and the occasional burnout. Greg had gotten the phone on the black market (a measure he justified as protecting his identity), and suspected that it had once belonged to a dealer, but that was neither here nor there.
“Sweat! Sweat! Sweat!” went the phone. He hadn’t been able to figure out how to change the ringtone from Billy Idol. Maybe he could ask Mary about that.
“Weatherman,” he answered in his normal voice. Initially, he’d ground words out in a harsh growl, but after that first call it’d taken him weeks to convince Officer Cage that he wasn’t just some pervert. He still used the growl in person; when he was standing in front of someone, the costume let them know that he wasn’t… /that/ kind of weirdo, anyway.
“Hope you didn’t have anything planned, W. We’ve got kind of a situation coming apart at St. Anne Park…” In the background, Greg could hear angry shouts punctuated by obnoxiously loud drum beats and guitar riffs.
He scanned the garage. No sign of Mary. “What’ve we got?”
“Well, it started off as a battle of the bands. You might have heard something about it on the radio? They’ve been talking it up for a few days. Anyway, the thing has degenerated into an actual battle of the bands. Although they’re starting to beat up people in the crowd too, so I guess it’s just a regular battle at this point. We could really use your help out here, W. Don’t have enough people to handle a riot.”
Greg paused dramatically, then, “The forecast calls for a 100% chance of justice, with scattered beat-down throughout the viewing area.”
“Uh… right,” Cage hung up.
The spare tire weighed a ton, and the shape of the trunk didn’t really help. “I’ve really got to find a better place for this stuff,” Greg lamented, lifting the false bottom where he kept his equipment. Besides being a pain to extract, the rubber smell of the tire seemed to have rubbed off on his costume; on several message boards, people had started calling him “Raincoat” and speculated that he was an employee of a condom factory.
Sometimes, a change of career didn’t sound that bad. Then again, the parking garage across from Prince Industries headquarters didn’t have security cameras in it, so staying with the devil he knew seemed safer. At least until he could set up a proper hideout. It never crossed Greg’s mind why the parking garage didn’t have security cameras.
When he got back into the driver’s seat of the car, his company-issue PDA was already vibrating furiously. While he’d been fiddling around in his trunk, a few text messages had come in. Greg scrolled through them, and then sent a reply.
MaryR: forgot have 2 pick up cousin @ airport
MaryR: would b l8 4 dinner
MaryR: is k? or reschedule?
GregD: I didn’t have reservations anywhere fancy or anything, and I’ll be just as old and feeble on the weekend, if that’s good for you.
GregD: Er… dinner, I mean. Being good for you. Not the old and feeble thing.
Greg stared at the words he had sent. “What were you thinking?”
MaryR: lol mayb old+feeble plays 2 my advantage
MaryR: but wknd is good
“Fantastic,” he said, “At least she didn’t end with—”
MaryR: good thing ur birthday isnt valentines
MaryR: or a girl could get the wrong idea :p
The bassist for Electric Current was a burly guy with a swath of stubble that would have passed for a beard on a lesser man. Greg didn’t know if the term ‘axe’ included bass guitars, but the fellow was certainly swinging his around as if it did. And the instrument was surprisingly robust; the bassist had leveled at least four fans with it since Greg had arrived at the scene and nary a string had broken, let alone anything else. The people he’d clobbered… they didn’t look nearly as undamaged. Greg made his way through the panicked throng to the man, which wasn’t very hard because most everyone scattered before the Electric Current behemoth.
“Might want to change your tune,” the Weatherman growled, “Or I’ll have to add several stars to your view of the night sky.”
The bassist turned and bared his teeth at Greg. “I’d call my boys, but if you’re all I got to deal with I think I can keep going with my solo a while longer.” He raised the bass high into the air.
The Weatherman only glared at him and gave his talisman a light touch. A split second later, a bolt of lightning struck the guitar. The bassist stood on the spot for a few seconds, shaking, then fell over. The Weatherman gave him a quick once over, making sure that, despite the smoke, he’d be okay. Okay until he found out his leather jacket was ruined, that was; the bolt had fused the zipper.
“I think you’ll find that you have a relatively clear view of Mars tonight,” the Weatherman ground out, “In case you want to do something while you lie there.”
It was a good first impression, but then things went rapidly downhill. The singer from Dick's 12-Step Recovery Program threw a full bottle of vodka at his head, which somehow managed to connect. Now as woozy and wobbly as the thrower, the Weatherman found himself being pushed around by the hysterical mob. Greg kept trying to put a hand out to steady himself, but for a while only succeeded in poking a few guys in the eye.
The world had almost stopped spinning when, from behind, the drummer of Cement Brunette smashed a drum around his head and pulled it down, effectively pinning his arms against his body.
“Hey fellas!” the drummer cried to his band mates, “I think this is the guy who fried Dave!” And a circle of seedy looking rock and roll types gradually encircled Greg.
“Hell, he smells like a liquor store a bomb went off in,” the frontman smiled humorlessly into the Weatherman’s mask. “But I never did like Current, those bunch of prima donnas. We ought to thank you, pal. If you don’t go up with one match, we’ll call it a day. That sound fair enough?”
Just when Greg thought his fat was literally going into the fire, the singer dropped his matchbook. “It’s… it’s…” the vocalist began backing away, the color draining from his face. Whatever had caught his attention, Greg wasn’t in a position to see it. Then there were four loud cracks, and the whole band went down in unison without making another sound. The canary and crimson feathers of the tranquilizer darts hardly seemed out of place on their gaudy outfits.
“You know,” the voice came from the same direction as the shots, “You remind me of an old cartoon. Except those barrel-wearing guys had the sense not to get their arms stuck. And you’re missing the suspenders. Suspenders really pull the whole thing together.”
“Hold on…” he growled, “I’m experiencing some technical difficulties.” A quick air shield shattered the drum holding his arms down, and Greg turned to see who had saved his bacon. His jaw dropped. “Awesome Girl!”
Her hair was the red-orange of the setting sun, full of brilliance even in the darkest of night. She hovered over the scene like an angel in her stylish jetpack, its chrome shining like the surface of a cool mountain stream, its cherry red accents giving her an energetic and dynamic appearance while she did nothing more energetic or dynamic than observe. Her left hand held a heavily modified military sidearm, smoke wisping lazily from a barrel that had been turned outward to resemble a classical musket. Slender fingers coiled around the grip, their glossy pink nails drawing the wandering eye. Awesome Girl was every bit the superhero, from her fire-orange lipstick, to the warm smile it sat on, to her bearing and gadgets and attitude… The stage lights that had been set up for the bands all converged on her, or at least that was how it seemed to Greg. And why wouldn’t they? She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and if her TV interviews were any indication, she was just as sassy and charming and…
Her lips took a downward turn. “Oh,” she said, “it had to be you.”
“Me?” the Weatherman choked. He’d never seen her in person before. Could it be? Had she heard of him before? It didn’t seem possible.
She descended to the ground, and poked a well-manicured finger at his chest. “I know you like to play dumb because you’re so very good at it, but we both know who’s under that mask. Could you be any more desperate? Or transparent?” The finger became a hand that shoved with each word, “Rodger-freaking-Stone.”
Greg’s mind raced. Rodger Stone was the weatherman for channel 5, an actual meteorologist. Four times a day and three on weekends, he used his forecast as a forum for hitting on Awesome Girl. A while ago, there’d been a rumor that the two had been dating… a rumor that had been fueled, partially, by Awesome Girl’s refusal to comment on it. From the tone she was taking now, Greg wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that Stone had started the rumor himself.
“And you smell like you just crawled out of a still! You’re so pathetic!”
“They threw a bottle at me,” Greg said lamely. “And I’m not a weatherman, I’m the Weatherman…”
“Yeah, I bet they threw it right into your hands. Too bad ‘they’ didn’t damage your ego at all, you megalomaniac.” She looked around, then held up a finger “Hold on, my passive scanners are picking up some kind of signal. It’s close, but over all the craziness…”
“Is it causing the riot?” A like scenario had played out at the University not so long ago.
Awesome Girl shook her head, although her expression said that the same thought had occurred to her. A second later, she laughed. “I’ll send the feed through the speakers in my suit and turn up the volume…”
The transmission was slightly tinny, but the sound was instantly recognizable*:
Once upon a midnight dreary
while I pr0n surfed, weak and weary
over many a strange and spurious site of ‘hot xxx galore’.
While I clicked my fav'rite bookmark, suddenly there came a warning,
and my heart was filled with mourning,
mourning for my dear amour,
“’Tis not possible!” I muttered, “give me back my free hardcore!”
…quoth the server, 404.
As the song descended into the vicious drum solo, Greg’s jaw went slack. “You’ve got to be kidding me. They never stopped playing?”
Awesome Girl shook her head again, “As far as I know, they never started; I took them out on my way in. This is just a recording.”
“Oh man, 404 State is so awesome. It’s like that live show they did in ’06, when they came out with sub sandwiches instead of their instruments. When the music started… dude, the crowd couldn’t get enough.”
“Yeah, and they didn’t start eating them until the vocals kicked in. It was…”
Of their own accord, Greg’s eyes had wandered down to Awesome Girl’s waist. Something on her fashionable-yet-utilitarian belt seemed very familiar and very out of place. After she trailed off, Greg raised his gaze only to have his vision filled by her fist. He staggered back, shielding his stinging nose too late to do it any good.
“For a second there, I almost thought you weren’t Rodger. You know, if you really wanted to impress a woman, you’d remember that her eyes are up here!” She made several gestures, only one of which indicated her eyes, and flew off in a huff.
Greg stared after her as she disappeared. “You’ve got my stapler!”
*I have no idea where this is actually from, or if anyone else does for that matter. I saw it in someone's forum sig somewhere years ago and saved it in a text file. But if you've never heard it before, I'm just letting you know it ain't mine.
Jesus (#229) | Solitude (#257)
Last edited by Jesus on Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:31 pm, edited 9 times in total.