The Quest for the Sword of Justice! Part Thirteen: Portal to Salvation
This is my NaNoWriMo 2016 project, not to be confused with my other articles that are mostly about headphones. This one might be rougher than the others as I didn’t give it my usual brief editing pass. Thanks for reading!
Lisa’s mom put a small hard drive down on Randy’s desk. He looked down at it.
“Wh..what’s this? Is that the hard drive from the inside of your computer?,” asked Randy.
Shut the door Randy. I need to talk with you about something.
“Uh oh,” said Randy. “This must be important. You only ask me to shut the door if something big is going on. Like that time in college, you remember?,” asked Randy, as he shut the door. He took a seat at his desk. “You had just made a secret computer game project on the side, and you thought all of your friends in the writing program would think you were weird and stupid, so you showed it to me instead.”
You…you remember that?”
“Of course I do! That was the moment that I thought back to when I asked you to join me on this crazy software adventure. I knew that, even though it wasn’t your first interest, or even something you truly loved, that you had the curiosity for it and you’d be an excellent first member of my team.”
I’d be touched if I wasn’t here to call you out on something wrong.
“I know,” said Randy with a sigh, “I just wanted to have a good moment before we had to have the bad ones.”
Randy, did you hire Melanie in order for her to purposefully counter everything I said?
“I don’t know that I would put it quite like that…but yes, I did.”
Why the hell would you do something like that to me? Why would you do something like that to her? I watched her cry into a sandwich today, Randy. She was a total mess. She told me because she couldn’t live with her she felt any more.
“The world of software is male-dominated, as you know, and I just thought that maybe with two women in leadership positions, the rest of the team, who I knew would largely be male, wouldn’t get as upset — “
Two women who would constantly bicker and endanger the working environment on a daily basis? Two women who probably agreed about most decisions in real-life, but were forced to fight because of your under-the-table shit?
Randy let out a sigh and looked at the floor. “You’re right. It was wrong. I’m very sorry.”
Lisa’s mom held up her hand to stop Randy from talking.
“Where do we go from he — “
I’ve already figured it out. As of today, I’m quitting.
“Whoa!,” said Randy. He stood up suddenly. “I don’t want you to do that, I — “
Sit back down Randy. This is what’s happening. And you’re going to be okay with it, or I’m going to come back here with a great attorney friend of mine and we’re going to blow this scummy practice of yours wide open. The only reason I didn’t do that right away is because we’ve been friends for so long, and I desperately want to find a way for that to still be true after today. Because I need all the friends I can get.
Randy sat back down. “Okay, go ahead.”
I’m quitting, effective immediately. This is my hard drive. The rest of the computer is mine, because I paid for it myself. You own all the information on it, as the owner of the company. I’ll leave all of my notes on our tools and systems so that someone else can easily take over my position. I know that I still have an agreement with you that gives me a small percentage ownership in the company. In exchange for that percentage, I want my pay for the rest of the year plus the Christmas bonus I would have gotten from this project. You can wait up to one month to pay me, if you’d like. Oh also, I want Melanie to get a raise from the money you’ll save not having to pay me my enhanced salary any more.
“That…hmm,” said Randy. He rolled everything around in his mind for a bit. “You know what, that all actually sounds really fair to me. I really am sorry, I never meant for things to end like this.”
Just never do something like this again, promise me. You need to be respectful of your employees. Melanie and I have agreed to keep quiet about this because we like you even though you’re an idiot, and we know that you don’t always mean to be an idiot. However, if we catch wind of you doing this again, or anything else that doesn’t have the utmost respect for those people busting their butts for you out there, then we’re going to go public.
“That’s more than fair also,” said Randy with a sigh. He stood up and held out his hand. Lisa’s mom shook it, then slid the hard drive across the desk. “Do you still want to come to my Christmas party this year with Lisa?”
Are you still going to make those crazy Peppermint Rum drinks you always have?
“Absolutely,” said Randy with a smile.
Then I’ll be there. Oh! And one more thing, my daughter works for you, yeah?
“Yeah, of course, you didn’t know?,” said Randy, with surprise on his face. “She’s one of the best members of our test team right now, and she’s only working a few hours a week. I thought you knew!”
You’d better not fire her.
“I wouldn’t dream of it! In a few years when she’s old enough I’d even love to have her full-time.”
Okay. Good. We’re done here.
Lisa’s mom left the room. She calmly packed up her computer into a small box at her desk. The rest of the team were so busy typing away in their cubes that they didn’t notice…except for Melanie. She started to tear up. As Lisa’s mom walked by with her proverbial cardboard box, she winked at Melanie.
It all went okay, I’ll see you for lunch tomorrow.
“Where are you gonna go now?,” asked Melanie, fighting back some tears.
I’m gonna go be a writer.
As space stations went, this one was dilapidated and old… a rusted out, filthy husk of what it has once been. Its lights didn’t blink, its decks didn’t spin, its computers didn’t run. Ships would regularly fly past its sector without even knowing it was there. Without an electrical signature to detect, people would have to specifically look for it to find it. This was Salvation, and it had been quiet for decades.
It still had attendants, but they were all robots and computers, and they worked about as well as you’d expect decades-old technology to run. Some days the cleaning robots wouldn’t even turn on. The task of running a 5 deck station that was built for a crew of hundreds was an impossible task for a handful of old robots. The computers all ran their silent monitoring tasks, generating and saving just enough power to watch for what they were supposed to watch for, and nothing more.
In the far corner of the upper deck, a light started blinking on one of the consoles. The light was so happy to be working again after years of inactivity, but dismayed that no one was there to see it. It tried blinking brighter, and faster…but still no one was there. At the far end of the deck, a cleaning robot clicked on thanks to some automated process.
It noticed the blinking light.
The robot came walking over to the console as fast as it could, its metal parts clanking along the steel floor and against each others rusted joints. Its optical sensors pondered the light for a moment, and crusty processes inside its basic robotic mind churned away, trying to decide what to do. Eventually, it pressed a button next to the light, activating the main computer attached to the console. Then it hobbled away to clean the floor.
Computer screens along the console flickered to life and began running processes they hadn’t used in years. Analysis of data began. A signal had been intercepted by the station, and the automated alert system had kicked in. After a few moments of processing, the screens began to display text.
SOMEONE HAS ACTIVATED A PORTAL….
WHIMSERIA: SEA OF UNCERTAINTY
OSIRIS CONFIRMED ALONG WITH OTHERS
SEND DISTRESS CALL
The computers whirred away for another few moments. An old transmitter on the outside of the station fired up, and a signal fired off deep into the reaches of space. The transmitter shut off. The computer screens went dark, and the station’s automated management generated some power to replace the juice lost by their activation. The light stopped blinking, pleased with itself that it had completed its appointed task.
The cleaning robot clanked around for a few minutes, cleaning the floors, and the windows. Its optical sensors took note of the blinking stars far away, and the moon below that the station orbited. It pondered the nature of existence of a while, but its processor was unable to produce any satisfactory results.
It went back to sleep.
Deep in a cave, underground, sat a marvelous golden plinth. It was lit from above by some unknown light. Spinning above the plinth, suspended in mid air, rotating slowly…was the Sword of Justice.
It seethed with anticipation.
Soon, it thought to itself…soon I will be free of this place once more.
One of you must get here, before the third…
We cannot wait much longer.
We need to thrive.
The adventuring party looked with shock at the portal.
“My goodness,” said the Wizard. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this! In Wizard school they did not allow us to trifle with portals.”
“I have not trifled, Wizard,” said Osiris. “This is a very special portal. The portal network has been closed for generations. It is home to only beings of darkness, and endless tunnels where men may lose their minds. But this portal is different. This one will bring us salvation from this endless place.”
Lisa’s mom walked out of the portal.