Thursday, September 25, 2008

Prep for NaNoWriMo

In preparation for National Novel Writing Month, I thought I'd see how many words I could write in a half hour, without really having an idea of what I was going to write until I started writing.

The answer? 923 words written in a half hour of my lunch break. "Exuberant Imperfection" was the goal. Write quick, dirty, and without self-editing or censoring. Simply write. For quantity, not quality. I think I hit the backspace button only a few times, moved one set of words a half-sentence forward to make more sense. But other than that, this is the final, raw product. Enjoy.

“This is a test. This is only a test. If this had been an actual emergency . . .”

“We’d all be dead already,” Jeff grumbled. His chair groaned as he leaned back and thudded his feet on top of his desk. The blinking red light just above the monitor reminded him to flick off the security switch and deactivate the alarm test.

Meanwhile images of people trudging back into the building danced across dozens of television screens. The closed circuit surveillance system was supposedly state of the art. When it was built. In 1976. But now there were more than a dozen “blind” sectors where the cameras existed only as obsolete wall-hangings.

It’s not like a building like this actually needed all that security. Only twenty stories tall, and dwarfed by the neighboring skyscrapers, Maditech Inc. scarcely merited a security department as big as it had. Two dozen employees wore the navy blue and green uniform of a Maditech Security Specialist.

“Bullshit.” Jeff spat as he punched a few keys and brought the image from monitor A1-G onto the big screen. There he could see in all their grainy, blurry, depravity, Lorna and Michael fucking in the bottom of stairwell A1. The maintenance storage closet.

Michael was not an attractive man. Neither was Jeff, but at least Jeff was somewhat in shape. He wasn’t “ripped” but you could tell from looking at him that there was muscle under his bulk. Mike, on the other hand, looked like there was more bulk under his bulk.

“Like a fucking soap opera.” Jeff laughed and reached for his walkie-talkie – another relic from 1976. “Steve, you wanna handle the lovebirds this time?”

“Copy that. One cold shower coming up.” Buzzed back the voice on the radio.

Seconds later, Jeff nearly fell out of his chair laughing, when the silver fire sprinklers drenched the illicit rendez-vous in a frigid downpour. He knew he’d probably have to file an incident report, and somehow gum up the sprinkler system in that section to make it look like an accident. But hell, a little monkey-work to pay for hilarity like this? “So worth it.” Jeff mouthed to himself.

Maditech Inc. was founded in 1974 by John Thames. It quickly grew through the 1980’s manufacturing computer parts. In late 1990 it was bought out by a much larger company in California, and all production moved West. But the company headquarters remained in Minneapolis.

Back in 1985, Maditech bought the building in which it currently houses it’s main operations. The higher-ups declined to do any sort of renovations on the building. Instead they renovated the company to fit the building.

New departments were created. Old departments were gutted or split. Employees were promoted or demoted for no reason other than Maditech needed someone in the corner office on floor 15 and that department didn’t have anybody qualified for that kind of office.

Michael Turning, wet and cold, was one of those promotions. He had worked in accounts receivable for only two months before the move. And when he got to the new office, he was surprised to see his name engraved on a brass plate on the plywood door to the large office on the 14th floor.

Jeff, on the other hand, was one of the unexpected demotions. He had formerly been Head of Security for Maditech in their warehouse-like offices on the other side of town. When the company moved and Jeff got to the new building, he found a slew of new hires in his department. And not one veteran security specialist at Maditech outranked the new kids. That’s just what they were. The oldest among them was 25. And the seven new hires had a combined total experience in security of less than seven years.

Jeff Storch was 38 when the company moved. He was pushing 60 now. These days he didn’t mind being a Security Specialist II. The pay was good. He had seniority, so he got to work the day shift. And the benefits package was staggering.

He’d done the math. If he were injured on the job – nothing life-threatening even, just a broken arm – and couldn’t work for six weeks, he’d get the equivalent of three months’ pay. He’d only collected on that once, and he hadn’t even been injured.

In early May, 1998, when he was still working night shifts, Jeff had been making a sweep of the 16th floor before heading home for the night. He saw a light on in an office that should have been empty. He radioed for backup, not because he needed the help, but because he knew the other guys were probably so bored they’d appreciate the excitement. When Jeff threw open the door, Tommy and Greg rushed in.

There, sitting behind Mrs. Swok’s desk, was a strange man dressed in a dull gray suit, smoking a cigarette and letting the ash fall all over the desk. The three guards approached the man and gently led him out the front door onto the street. For his part, the stranger was polite and friendly. He even offered the guys a cigarette.

The next day, Jeff received a note in his mailbox. “Meet me in my office. – Dave Lorach”

The meeting was brief. Jeff was told he’d been working exceptionally hard, and his commitment was appreciated. “We just want to make sure that you stay healthy, Jeff. We need you well-rested. You are officially on vacation for the week. When you return, your post will be waiting. With a pay raise.”