Ramesh came to a Tee in the corridor. He stopped, looked and listened. Identical corridor in each direction. From the right he heard a muffled chorus of screeching, from the left he heard peppy Latin music.
The choice was obvious.
Ramesh turned left and once he was around the corner shrunk up against the wall. He pulled out his phone and found it had powered itself off. He hit the power button and nothing happened. He could have sworn he had decent charge. He tried again. Nothing.
Here he was locked in an underground dungeon with a kinky gay Troll who could punch a dent in a metal door. His NYPD escort didn’t know where he was. His phone was dead. He was being used as a drug mule. At least he could skate on the last part if he ever got out of here.
Ramesh prayed silently – first to his Hindu grandparents’ multi-limbed gods, then to his mother’s crucified god, and for good measure recited the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
He began to feel better. On the positive side there was a good chance he could pass as a respected member of the community, although that carried its own risks. Today seemed to be some kind of special costume-wearing day which provided further cover. And then there was the weed which could be used to explain strange behavior, and win friends.
Ramesh heard a commotion from behind. He turned around and saw three men and a handcart approaching him. The commotion resolved into an annoying electronic beeping “preet, preet, preet,” followed by a voice announcement “Gangway, Gangway. Please move aside so that your WartCo technicians can bring you the finest service anywhen.”
The cart contained a large spool of thick cable. The foremost crewman was an older athletic man who stood on the front of the cart turning the spool and yelling back at the other crewmen, two chubby younger guys. The crew were all wearing white coveralls and hardhats, each bearing a logo consisting of a stylized “W” inside a circle. The second crewman was pushing the cart from the rear. The last crewman was taping the cable to the floor with a rolling device on a stick.
Manually laying floor tape is one of the most tedious, time-consuming and painful jobs many of us have to deal with. But with the high cost of a trip or fall, safety has to be a priority. Finally, there is a better way: introducing the GaffGun™. No longer do you have to be on your knees or use excessive tape to make your cables secure.
“Dammit Corey, put some muscle into it,” yelled the chief to the crewman working the taping machine. “And keep that cable as close to the wall as she’ll go. Steady Brian,” he said ducking down to avoid a light fixture, “and a warning would be nice.”
Brian smirked, and pantomimed jerking the cart sideways which the chief ignored.
Ramesh decided to ask for directions. “Hey, how do I…”
The crew chief shook his head. “Sorry Sir, we’re just techs. Your site POC should have all your destination info. Someone named Fist of Etiquette”
“Remember lads, we’re here to lay cable not to judge our clients.”
“Yeah, we all know whose cable you’d like to lube up and conduitize,” observed Brian, aping the posture and gait of a Troll.
“Shut your piehole and push the cart. His Growlr pic is totally hot, but it’s a decade and a hundred pounds out of date.” The WartCo crew receded down the corridor.
Something really big was about to happen at Thought! Magazine, at least with the commenters. Ramesh wondered how many of the handles he had seen while lurking were, well, whatever these people were. Was this somehow related to the music video? Thought! had the most notoriously rabid, snarky and informed comment section in the political arena. And it was well-known that there was no love lost between the commenters and staff. The boss had asked Ramesh to look for a weak point that could be exploited to further alienate the two sides from one another, but it appeared that was happening on its own.
“Hello,” said a close by voice.
Ramesh shrieked and started. Standing next to him was a man wearing a red and black checked flappy hat, matching flannel shirt, and loose-fitting jeans semi tucked into unlaced work boots.
“Hey, sorry about that. I didn’t hear you come up.”
“Good one, Doc.”
So apparently he did look like Doctor Bombay.
“Hey, I’m glad you’re back, eh. I’m headed over to Mario’s. He’s taking this really hard. Can you spare a second to help cheer him up?”
“Sure, I need to drop off something from Godwin, anyway,” said Ramesh as he started walking again.
“Thank God, he’s frantic. I wonder how long he can make that last? He’s going to Holland, but decades before the green cafes – if they even exist in that timeline. Where are you going?”
“To be a junior federal prosecutor working for Preet.”
“Beauty. Wreak havoc. The Squirrels really have a hardon for him, eh?”
“And speaking of whom.” The Canadian paused and opened a door which somehow Ramesh had failed to notice. On the door was a sign reading “Data Processing.”
The room contained a complicated, multi-level structure of of small ramps, chutes, hamster wheels, spinning levers with balls attached, all now silent and still – a Sciuriac, an antique Indian squirrel-powered computer which used acorns to encode and store data. The Indian Museum of Digital Computing had an exhibit with part of a unit and a brief film loop of countless squirrels running to and fro along the ramps and wheels, taking acorns from the various output cups then dropping them into the various input chutes.
“Let’s not leave Mario hanging,” said Ramesh.
“Right. Good point.”
As they walked down the corridor the peppy Latin music started up again, and grew louder as they walked. They passed a door labelled “Men” and from around the next corner Ramesh saw a man in a black dress and low-crowned, broad brimmed hat approaching, as he got closer Ramesh saw the simple wooden cross on the twine around his neck, and the notched collar on whatever the dress-type garment was called – some sort of clerical outfit.
“Hello, Your Holiness,” giggled the Canadian.
“Hello Rufus, Heathen. I’ll pray for you both. Better get to your boy, he’s crying like the sissy bitch he is.”