Welcome to the Machine

Horsehockey V - Episode 4

Over two hours ago, in the enormous world headquarters of the multinational firm ConHUGEco on St. James' northwest side, two separate employees were summoned from their departments to the "New Frontiers" wing of the complex. This was actually a top secret laboratory in a sub-sub-sub basement of one of the numerous buildings on the campus, and very few people outside of the executive suite and the research department knew of its existence.

Andrew Carondolet was summoned from the finances department. Josephine "Zoey" Kedzie got the message from her position in customer relations. Andrew worked in his own office, while Zoey was one of the many drones operating in the cubicle farm. They both met for the first time on the elevator ride down. Andrew noticed that Zoey was carrying the same colored document he had found on his desk after lunch. He asked Zoey if she was headed to the same place he was. She said yes. They began to chat, mostly about their jobs and how confusing this new assignment really was.

It was Casual Friday at ConHUGEco. Andrew had on a clean new short sleeve button up shirt, his favorite khakis and black shoes. Zoey probably grasped the concept of Casual Friday better than Andrew, as she was dressed in a pink hooded sweatshirt, dark blue jeans, and white Adidas, with her long curly red hair down. By this time, Andrew did not fail to notice that Zoey would never address him as "Andrew", but as either "Andy" or "Drew". He found it kind of endearing, to be honest.

Several minutes passed, and the two found themselves in this cozy waiting room outside the entrance to the New Frontiers wing. An unidentified man asked them both to wait for a few minutes. "A few minutes" turned into nearly ninety minutes, which afforded both Andrew and Zoey the opportunity to talk, and quickly go from strangers to friends. Finally, the same unidentified man interrupted them to ask them to please come in.

They entered a massive room filled with enormous flat screen monitors and more computer equipment than either one of them could ever recall seeing in one place before. Several men in white labratory coats scurry around the floor of the complex. Meanwhile at center stage, there appears to be an object the same size of a lectern covered in a beautiful blue silk sheet. Six men in white shirts and ties congregate around the podium, and one of them catches sight of Andrew and Zoey. Andrew tried to figure out why he never knew about the existence of this wing of the ConHUGEco world headquarters; Zoey was momentarily overwhelmed by sensory overload from all of the computer screens flashing, and she briefly clutched onto Andrew's left arm to calm herself.

One of the men who had surrounded the covered podium with his fellow coworkers walks towards Andrew and Zoey. He is Mr. Wernsing, the only one wearing a hard hat and carrying a clipboard.

"This is the launch of an exciting new project," Mr. Wernsing told them. "And you both were randomly selected out of a pool of over three thousand employees to help us embark on this new journey. If you can take a look at this lectern in the center of the room, you will see a series of buttons on the panel. What we'd like one of you to do is to press any of them to officially kick off the latest ConHUGEco endeavor."

There are eleven buttons on the panel arranged in two rows. The buttons numbered one through nine have white numerals on a blue background. A tenth button labeled "Old School!" has yellow lettering on an orange background. The last button is simply marked "more?" in red lettering on a white background. All eleven buttons are illuminated.

By this point, Andrew and Zoey have grown comfortable enough around each other that they seem to be on the same wavelength. They both look at one another, exchange mischievous smiles, then embark on a quick game of rock-paper-scissors. Andrew and Zoey split the first two rounds, then he beats her rock with paper to win the tiebreaker. Zoey feigns outrage, exclaims "Oh!", then playfully swats Andrew on the arm.

"I take it Andrew is going to push the button?" smiles Mr. Wernsing.
"It looks like it," Andrew tells him.
"Go get 'em, Andy," Zoey says as she gives him a gentle shove as he starts to approach the lectern.

  1. One pushed button later...

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Ben McClellan

6/5/2019 2:05:06 AM

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