Showdown: Part 2

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The weekend turns out to be cold and, unsurprisingly, rainy, so my important Netflix plans are the perfect choice after all.  I don’t spend all weekend just watching movies, of course; I also work on fine-tuning my powers, so there are several hours on Saturday where I’m magnetizing my pots and pans and not watching movies at all.

In fairness, ordinarily I would have the TV on during this sort of practice session, playing movies in the background, but earlier, I’d had a brilliant idea.  Here’s how it went down: so I’m sitting there watching movies, and I think, “Hey!  It’s all electronics in there; I bet I could use my powers instead of the remote.”

Don’t get ahead of me.  I already basically told you how this ends, so you can’t go, “Obviously that’s a terrible idea.”  Looking back at it, I also agree that it’s obviously a terrible idea.  You weren’t there, so I don’t want to hear about what you would have said.  I’ve got hindsight, too.

Anyway, so I reach out and try to change the volume, or turn the TV off, or do anything at all, really.  And at first, I think it’s worked beautifully.  The television shuts off, and I’m patting myself on the back for being the first human to directly communicate with a machine.  And then I try to turn the TV back on, and nothing happens.

After a couple of tries, I pick up the remote, and still nothing; it’s not responding at all.  And now I’ve caught up to the part where obviously applying magnetic forces randomly to the electronic components inside of your television is a bad idea.  And yes, fine, now that I say it like that I suppose probably that was a little bit predictable.

After that, I slink off to the kitchen and spend a few hours imbuing pans and other hunks of iron with magnetism, instead of things with delicate electronics.  And when I try my TV again a few hours later, it turns on just fine.  So I learned something without causing any damage, which is not really such a bad result.  Especially when you consider how most of my month has gone.

So, whether by design or not, I do other things than just watch Netflix all weekend.  And Brian comes over on Sunday and we play Mario Kart, which is totally different from movies even if it does involve sitting on the couch.  I’m still working my way toward getting started on that cardio plan, and as long as I’ve got the cast on my leg, I’ve got a good excuse to keep putting off exercising.

Monday I spend doing something that’s still fairly new for me: preparing.  I’ve become a big fan of that since my brief brush with superintelligence, when carefully formulating that plan in the parking lot saved my life.  This is just a meeting with Edgar, so the stakes aren’t nearly as high, but I’d still like to come out on top.

When I walk into Edgar’s office that evening, I’ve still got some butterflies in my stomach, but they’re not the butterflies of apprehension of the unknown.  These are the butterflies of expectation.  I know I’m walking into a fight, and it’s got me keyed up.  But I’m ready to fight back.

“Sit down, please, Dan,” Edgar says icily, and I do.  Edgar gets up as I sit down and walks over to close the office door behind me, then comes back to stand behind his desk.  He pushes a binder over to me and, leaning forward with both palms on the desk, says, “Could you please explain this to me?”

I take him at his word.  “It’s a binder collecting your memorandums of the past week, organized for easy reference.”

“I can see that.  Why have you done this?”  The tips of Edgar’s fingers are white where they’re pressing hard against the desk, but otherwise, he’s got his anger completely controlled.  I’m impressed that he’s holding it in this well, but also a bit confused.  I’m honestly not sure why he’s still so furious about this, days later.  Sure, I made fun of him, and I knew he’d be mad about it, but this seems over the top.

For the time being, I continue to play clueless.  “It seemed like a much more convenient system than having memos taped up all over the desk.  Sitting out like they, they were subject to wear and tear, potential spills, even vandalism.”

Edgar slams his hand down on the binder, index finger pointing at the “DOBSON’S DOs AND DON’Ts” cover.  “Enough!  This.  Do you think this is funny?”  He’s reaching into his pocket, and for a split-second for some reason I think he’s going to Mace me, but he pulls out his phone instead.  Stabbing in the unlock code, he turns the screen to face me; it’s showing a picture of the same binder that’s in front of me.

“I found this on Instagram!” Edgar hisses, his control slipping.  I look again at the picture, and sure enough, it’s an Instagram photo captioned “ha ha Dobby’s at it again #phb”  It has a surprising number of likes, but I don’t have time to read the comments before Edgar whips the phone away.

“I will not be the subject of mockery!” Edgar insists, his voice rising.  “I am not your joke!”

Now Edgar’s anger makes sense.  I’ve embarrassed him publicly.  He’s probably had that Instagram picture up on his phone all weekend, refreshing it and seething over each new comment.  But he’s not the only one who’s tired of having his life made miserable, and so I drop the innocent act and respond with some fire of my own.

“You know what is a joke, Edgar?  These memos.  They were specifically and transparently designed to harass me.  Every one of them is a cartoonish attempt to give you cause to fire me, or to make me give up and quit.  And yes, I put them into a binder as a joke, and do you know why it’s funny?  It’s because I’ve treated them as if they were serious and worth referencing, and the fact that you’re angry proves that you know that they are not.

“If you want to fire me without cause, then do it.  I’ll walk out of here right now and file an unemployment claim.  Or find an actual reason to fire me, something legitimate I’ve done wrong.  If you can.  But I am tired of these pathetic attempts to trip me up.

“I do my job.  I may not ‘go above and beyond,’ I may not be a ‘go-getter,’ but I do my job.  If that’s not good enough for you, fire me.  Otherwise,” I stand up, forcing him to look up at me, “I’m going to go get dinner.  I’ll be back in time for my shift.”

We lock eyes for a long moment.  I can see the hate and rage in Edgar’s eyes, and I wonder if he will fire me after all.  But after a couple of seconds, he’s still said nothing, and so I incline my head, say, “Mr. Dobson,” and walk out of his office.  The effect’s spoiled a little bit when I catch the tip of one crutch on the doorframe, but I recover without too much of a fumble and keep going.

I go into a coffee shop across the street for dinner, more to hide from the rain than anything else.  I pick listlessly at a sandwich, thinking about the fight with Edgar.  I feel like I should feel good, like I’ve won, but I don’t.  I’m still a little jittery from the adrenaline, but more than that, I just feel sort of unpleasant.  I faced Edgar down, stood up for myself, and what did I get out of it?

Nothing new, that’s for sure.  Edgar resents me more than ever, and this won’t fix anything.  It’ll just crop up in a new way down the road.  I wanted to deliver a knockout punch, but it turns out that there was just another guy standing behind the one I knocked down.

These morose thoughts tag along with me from dinner through the start of my shift at the museum.  Edgar’s gone before I get back, and so is Dobson’s Dos and Don’ts.  I take this to mean that I can go back to reading on-shift, so after my first set of rounds I take 1984 back out and compare my problems to those of Winston Smith.  His problems win pretty handily.

I’m about halfway through my shift when I hear what sounds like a faint knocking at the door.  Puzzled, I put my book down and wait, and shortly it comes again– several sharp knocks in quick succession.  I free my flashlight from my belt and walk over to check it out.

As I shine my light out of the door’s window and press my face up to it to see out, I don’t really have any expectations for what I’ll see outside.  But what I don’t expect to see is a face right up against the other side, staring back at me.  I leap back in surprise, having had time to register only two things.  The first is an impression of tangled, sodden blonde hair; the second is that the storm outside has really intensified.

I put these two together just as the first lightning bolt hurtles into the door, smashing the glass all over me.  I fall backwards, reeling from the shock and the noise, as two more bolts hammer home and the door swings opened, the metal smoking and charred.  The stormraiser — Regina — stands in the doorway looking down at me triumphantly.

The wind howls behind her, and hail begins to beat insistently on the domed skylight far overhead.  “Time to end this!” she cries, and the skylight shatters into a deadly rain of ice and glass cascading onto us both.


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