Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chapter One

Chapter 1

David Mars was currently having his boss scream at him. To some, this might be a rare, but to Mars, this was what was known as “Wednesday.” On Wednesdays this Boss, Mr. Cunningham, was to attend a meeting with all the Senior Partners in Smith Times 4, the firm where they both worked. It had previously been called Smith, Smith, Smith, and Franklin, but Franklin and the second Smith soon fell in love, and got married. Originally Franklin was against being the one to change his name, but they decided with a coin flip. Then in an effort to be “hip” and “edgy” they decided to change it to the now known “Smith Times 4” because every consulting firm needed to be hip, apparently. It only made the bitter divorce that much worse. In the end only the first Smith and the Third Smith ended up sticking around. (And instituted a very strict “no dating among Senior Partners” rule.) The Fourth Smith/Original Franklin now worked at a Starbucks, and the Second Smith took her share and now resided in a tropical country that the Fourth Smith/Original Franklin will never find.

Cunningham wanted to be the Fifth Smith. He even started the paperwork to change his name.

Of course, as he was reminding Mars of this for the ninth time, he would never be the Fifth Smith if Mars didn’t provide him with the proper information.

“I did provide you with everything. It was done at three o’clock, an hour before you originally asked for it. You didn’t come back from your ‘lunch’,” Mars so desperately wanted to say. But then figures of Student Loans continued to dance in his head. So he just continued to nod.

For all it’s behind the scene scandals which made for some hilarious headlines for a while, Smith Times Four was actually a very respected Consulting Firm in Washington, DC. The Senior Partners (the two that were left) came from the military, then spent time working on Capitol Hill, hobnobbing with the people that pretended to run the country - or could at least point them in the right direction - and learning all of their little secrets. It was one of those windows people would see as they walked through Washington, DC, that Mars had always been told, “this is a great place to start out! you’ll do great!” Of course, those words would have meant more had Mars actually known what he wanted to do with his life.

It looked like Mr. Cunningham was wrapping up this session of screaming. Mars started to nod. “Yes, sir, Mr. Cunningham. I completely understand, won’t happen again.”

“See that it doesn’t,” Mr. Cunningham replied. “Now, send Evie in here next.” 

Evie was Mr. Cunningham’s assistant. When he first got here, Mars briefly entertained the idea that there was something going on between Evie and Mr. Cunningham, but he slowly realized that while Cunningham had many mistresses - four at last count - Evie was not one of them. She was just really good at juggling them, and got a bonus each time one of those mistresses was brought on.

Mars let the door close behind him before looking over at Evie. She gave him a sympathetic look. “Wednesday Scream Appointment?”

“Yep,” Mars replied, taking his glasses off and cleaning them with his tie, “I hope we didn’t go over time this week.”

“Nope. Nothing on his schedule until a two o’clock ‘Slunch Meeting,” she replied, smiling. 

“So I’m just lucky, I guess.”

With one smooth motion, Evie flipped her long dark hair into a pony tail and made her way into Cunningham’s office, prepared for literally anything to happen. Mars made the long slog back to his desk.

David Mars for the most part was a fairly unremarkable person in a fairly unremarkable job. This wasn’t by choice, but so much from the “someday” school of thinking. After studying hard and getting great test scores, he went to school and got excellent marks. (As his grandfather always said. He never really knew anyone that actually still called it marks, but as a tribute to his grandfather, in his head, he always called it “marks.”) But he was told that if he studied hard, got those good marks, he would someday go to a good school. And he did. Then some day he’d get a good job. 

For the most part, working at Smith Times Four wasn’t a bad job, although most of it did consist of being yelled at on a pretty regular basis. But at least it was a regular basis, so he could schedule his happy times around the times when his boss was going to do his best to tear him a new one.

He was pretty well liked, the only person who really had a problem with him was that one guy who was in charge of Acquisitions. And that was partly because of the big faux pas of being introduced to too many people at the same time, and he ended up calling him “Carl” despite the fact that wasn’t his name. To Not-Carl this was a pretty big problem, and he decided that Mars was going to be his office nemesis. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to take up too much of Mars’ time, just sort of causing a few problems here and there when it came time for him to get a new delivery of pens.

The problem was he was still sort of waiting for “someday.” he was pretty sure that “someday” didn’t feature betting yelled at by a man who’s face got incredibly red and his corpulence seemed to indicate at any time this man’s entire body was going to explode.

Smith Times Four would probably make him clean up the mess.

Mars was able to put on the brave face for Evie... she was after all his friend. But things got difficult as he continued to walk through the office, looking at the faces of everyone so intent at work doing... whatever it is they were doing. At times even he wasn’t sure. Sometimes he felt as if he was just moving one pile of rocks to another, bigger pile of rocks. Eventually, they’d collapse.

Mars’ mind was heavy as he collapsed into his chair and started staring at his computer screen. The screen saver had cut on and the Smith Times Four Logo bounced back and forth in full hypnotic effect. 

“Trying to manipulate the keyboard psychically?,” he heard a voice say. Mars glanced up to see Tyler, who shared the office next to him, peaking over the wall. This meant that Tyler was currently kneeling on his desk.

Mars quickly moved the mouse, then proceeded to open an email that was not only probably worthless, but also the subject of one of the phone messages the blinking red light told him he had. 

“Nope, just getting over another ‘meeting’ with Mr. Cunningham,” Mars said, acting busy.

“Ah. I wish he’d talk to me like that. I’d tell him what for!” Tyler said, holding up his finger and swinging it like a sword. Of course, Tyler would never have to go through this. Previously he had turned in a three thousand page report that contained a typo that cost the company over 2 million dollars. Normally that would have gotten him fired, but this was during the Smith/Franklin debacle, and quite frankly none of the partners could be bothered with it. So he was shuffled off the corner with Mars, and was never given any work of real value again. Current joke was that the only way he could be fired is if he burned down the building. Along with the joke was that he was completely willing, but he was just too lazy.

“Ah,” Mars replied, still trying to look busy. He wasn’t typing anything, just trying to get rid of Tyler. 

“Hey, I think a few of us are heading down to the bar after work. Why don’t you join us?” 

Mars got invitations like this about once a week. He really just wanted to go home, grab something unbelievably greasy to eat, and settle in for the day with his cat, Captain Sisko, as per his usual routine. When he first started he used to join everyone a lot, but this had tapered down a little bit as the Mr. Cunningham Chew Outs became more frequent, and he became more unenthused with his job, and nights snuggling with Captain Sisko and checking out a stupid movie were more and more appealing.

He had every intention of opening his mouth and lying. He was going to lo, “Sure. That sounds like fun.” 

“Really?” Tyler said, his face temporarily disappearing. “That’s great! I think Evie is coming, and at least most of accounting...”

Tyler continued to rattle off a few names that regularly joined the group. But Mars had already stopped listening. He wasn’t even pretending to work on his computer anymore, he was too fascinated with the fact that he just agreed to go to Happy Hour at work. The voice coming out of him was his, but the words weren’t.

“Hey, Tyler,” Mars said, still not looking up, “What if this is all there is?” 

“That’s a deep question for right now, man. Maybe we should save that for tonight after we get a few drinks in us. I’m just excited you’re coming! You never come!” 

Mars didn’t realize that their was currently an office pool to see if he would come out. Sadly, Not-Carl lost by his refusal last week, and which meant Tyler won this week.

Of course, there was a lot that Mars wasn’t aware of. For one, Mars wasn’t aware  that as a result of losing the bet, Not-Carl was going to delay another order of pens, but this time they would not be delivered to the Third  Smith, who would be unable to sign a contract that would transfer soul ownership of the company to the First Smith should anything happen to him. As a result, when the Third Smith would go for coffee exactly three weeks from now and get hit by a runaway food truck specializing in Mexican/Chinese cuisine, his company would go to the Third Smith’s wife, who would appoint her lover to head manager, resulting in downsizing in the Acquisitions Department.

Mars also wasn’t aware that at that moment, Evie was learning of a brand new mistress, and rather that her usual - trying to determine which new shoes she was going to buy with the bonus - decided she was disgusted with trying juggle the mistresses and was instead going to quit, blowing the lid off everything. She decided to wait so she could discuss it with Mars first, which pushed the timetable of all of this back three weeks. 

Of course, the really important thing that Mars was unaware of was the fact that at that moment, he was being watched. Off in the distance, a young man with a goatee, thinning hair, wearing a dark suit with a long coat was watching him through the window in the abandoned building nearby. He was unaware of that this man had been watching him for a week now, catching his routine. He was unaware that this man, only two weeks ago, had watched as a man failed him, throwing himself into a fire instead of stopping the end of the world like he was supposed to.

Mostly, he was unaware of the supernatural nature of this man, and that he had the ability to take the phrase, “I’m going to go home and watch a movie with my cat, Captain Sisko” to say, “Sure. That sounds like fun.” 

The man turned around and smiled to no one in particular. The plans were in motion.

Somewhere, Not-Carl got a box of pens he believed was intended for Mars. He slipped them into the bottom of his desk drawer.

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