There were no visible bruises. Good. I wasn’t in the mood to explain what had happened last night to anyone, especially not Annie. I put on a white collar shirt with the same
blue tie I had worn before and stepped out of my apartment towards the bus stop.
As I stepped out of the bus and walked up to the large glass doors of The Lab, I briefly considered simply walking away forever. I often wonder what might have happened if I had. I opened the door and stepped inside. My watch read 8:05. I still had a few hours before Gary would show up.
Annie was sitting at her desk, flipping through a stack of papers. She looked up at me and waved, a friendly-but-tired smile on her face.
“Do you ever go home?” I asked, walking towards the elevator.
“Sometimes. Mr. Moore said to meet him on the floor above his office.”
I pressed the 14 and the doors closed. I found myself thinking about Dawson, and how in hell he had ever managed to talk Annie into marriage. Maybe she sees something in him you don’t. A voice in my head said. After all, you only just met him. I laughed a little. And what a great impression he made!
The 14th floor looked about the same as the 13th. I walked down the exceedingly long hallway, not entirely sure where I was going or what I should be looking for. Finally, I stopped at a door that had a piece of paper taped to it. In Here the paper proclaimed in sharpie.
I shrugged and knocked.
“That’d be Todd.” I heard Paul’s muffled voice say before the door opened. He smiled at me and said “Morning. I’ve got someone here for you to meet.”
The room was the same size as Moore’s, but the walls were white and the floor was covered in a bright blue carpet. It had the same large window, but instead of only a lamp to light the room there were bright florescent lights above us. Small cushioned chairs were lined up in a semicircle at the far end of the room, directly in view of a large TV screen.
A tall African-American man was sitting in one of the chairs wearing a pink suit. He was old, but not as old as Paul, and he looked like he could scare a lion by saying ‘boo!’ I had a pretty good feeling that if I laughed at his clothes he’d snap me in half like a toothpick.
“This is Mr. Harrington. Mr. Harrington this is Todd Anderson.” Paul introduced us before sitting down. I sat down on the chair on the very edge of the semicircle so I could face both of them.
“It is a pleasure to meet you.” Harrington smiled at me, revealing a set of perfect white teeth.
“You too.” I nodded, hoping I was making a good first impression.
“Mr. Harrington over sees most of the projects that go on in The Lab.” Paul explained. “He’s a very good friend of mine, and I hope he will be yours too. Now, as for the room we’re in, you won’t be coming in here too often, but I thought you should know where it was. That TV over there is connected to a computer somewhere around here, and allows you to talk to people through video chatting. Ain’t that neat? I use it mostly for people who send me supplies and such.”
"Wonderful sir, but..." Harrington looked at Paul, his voice impatient. "Shouldn't we have started paying back Morgan by now? We promised him $50,000 two months ago."
"Did we?" Moore looked at him in surprise. "I..." He suddenly had that same look of desperation I had seen when I first met him. It was the look of someone who was beginning to realize their time was running out. "I must have forgotten. My mistake. Send him the money as soon as you can, and make sure he knows we still need those steel bars."
From the look on Harrington's face, my guess was they already had the bars. "Yes sir." He said anyway. Pity suddenly overtook me as I looked between the two of them. Here were two men who had known each other for years, and now one was being forced to watch the other fall apart. Then it hit me that, being his replacement, I was going to be a constant reminder of Paul to Harrington.
Luckily, a beeping noise began to sound off in Mr. H's pocket. "Excuse me." He said, leaving the room.
Paul turned to me, his blue eyes shining in the bright lights. "I was hoping we might get a few moments alone. What I'm about to tell you is extremely confidential. You must not tell anyone if you can avoid it." I nodded. I had had a pretty good idea something like this might come up sooner or later. "I don't know how much longer I have left, so I wanted to tell you this as soon as I could. There's a reason I didn't die before I met you.
"That 'magic' we talked about earlier? It is the reason this company is here, it is the reason you walked through those doors a few days ago. It is the very reason, Mr. Anderson, I've kept myself together this long. You think humans made it this far on their own? Hell no. We've had help from many different sources. I don't know what the name of this magic actually is, but I like to call it Megaleioths." He smiled. "It's Greek. The Megaleioths has a personality of its own, Todd. It likes games, mind games in particular. It will play with you like a toy before you leave this world, that's for certain.
"It also likes to be in control. I wouldn't test it if I were you. It made this company so it could tease mankind with wonders of the future, but only it decides when we release what we create. It floods our inventors' heads with ideas so they can make glorious objects, only to have them be shut away in a basement for a decade or two. But it still needs someone to lead the inventors and the scientists and the engineers and every other bloody person in this place. So, every now and then, it goes out looking for someone to take over this place when the old boss is ready to die. Why speak to thousands of minds when you can have fun with just one?
"You will listen to everything the Megaleioths says, Mr. Anderson. You may not realize it's speaking to you at first, but you'll figure it out eventually. Anyway, the Megaleioths isn't dumb, it knows human beings are very fragile things. So, it gives it's favorite toy, soon to be you, a kind of force field. You will not die as long as you are the owner of this company. You can't kill yourself either."
I sat there for a moment, taking it in. I was pretty sure this was whatever disease Paul had speaking, but even then I couldn't help but feel a touch of fear. Was this my destiny? To become the plaything of something that probably existed long before Earth was even thought of? I shuddered a little, remembering Moore's last sentence."You can't kill yourself either." Had he tried? I couldn't read his expression, and I wasn't sure I wanted to.
"I can feel the force field slipping away as we sit here Todd. It won't be long now..." His eyes were starring straight into mine again. I never forgot his gaze.
The door opened quietly as Harrington stepped into the room."That was our tool guy." He said bluntly.
Paul sighed and stood up. "Here." He tossed me a quarter. "Get yourself a soda from one of the vending machines. Me and Mr. Harrington have stuff to take care of. Annie told me you'd be having a visitor pretty soon anyway."
I nodded, standing up and catching the quarter. "Thank you sir. When should I expect to see you again?"
He paused. "Some time after 2 o'clock." And after Harrington sent me a quick nod of farewell, the two of them were gone.
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