The Arcanas, Stac[iy] and some guys in Windbreakers visit Sean and Jan at work. And, there are fisticuffs, backhanded insults, weird phone calls to guys with weird job titles and a turning point. Does Sean even need that Computronium any longer? Why are (is?) Stac[iy] being so weird?
I was in a conference room at work, all my coworkers were there, plus three guys who looked like feds, and the two Stacies, and those Arcana representatives.
The white-haired Arcana woman barked, “Stacy, do you feel it?” The Stacies made no move. They stared… at nothing… eyes glazed. Their mom’s eyes blazed as she bellowed, “A nswer me!”
Her husband, the man I’d heard called Rufus said, “Anna, they are overcome.”
The woman, Anna he called her, scurried over to where I sat. She slammed the table right in front of me and yelled, “You! This is because of you!”
Thirty minutes before, Jan and I were together in the conference room, just us, when we spotted this group on the other side of security. Before we could duck or run, they had pushed past our completely ineffective security team like a mob infiltrating the Capitol Building during a historic convening of both houses of Congress.
As quick as you could snap a selfie with a cop or steal a lectern, they were upon us in the conference room.
Joanna, my boss, got between them and us and said, “You are not allowed in here! This is a classified government project. You need clearance!”
Anna had smiled serenely at Joanna. Then she snapped her fingers and one of the men in windbreakers said, “Anna’s okay. I’ll vouch for her.”
Joanna turned to Windbreaker Man and said, “And, who are you?”
The man reached into his pocket. He looked like a fed, I thought he was going to present a badge, but instead, he pulled out a phone. An old flip-phone. He punched one single button, waited a moment while Joanna looked from Anna to me, and back to Windbreaker Man. Finally, Windbreaker Man spoke into the phone. He said, “Mr. Undersecretary, your assistance is required.” Windbreaker Man listened for a moment, mumbled something I didn’t understand, then handed the phone to Joanna.
He said, “Here.”
Joanna hesitated, took the phone, and said, “Hello?” She listened. Then, her back straightened and she said, “Oh, yes sir. No, sir, I didn’t –. I see, yes, Mr. Undersecretary. No, I understand, sir. I will.”
Joanna slowly lowered the phone from her ear, then handed it to Windbreaker Man. She looked at Anna and said, “You may proceed.”
Jan shot me a glance as though asking, “What the hell?” I just shook my head.
I had no idea.
Then, the guys wearing suits and navy-blue windbreakers, rounded up everyone in the office. Developers, managers, the intern. Packed us in. Even our unarmed security team was there.
And now, after slamming the table and yelling at me, Anna surveyed the room and announced, “My daughters have been overcome. Anyone with knowledge of this Matter must come forward now.”
Jan and I were the only ones knowledgeable, and we didn’t say a thing. Then, Windbreaker Man pulled out handcuffs and said to me, “You are under arrest for the murder of three men last week –”
Rufus cut in, “Not yet. First, we help our daughters. They have been overcome. They need to hold that the Computronium this man is hiding.”
I said, “I don’t have it.”
Rufus lunged at me. He grabbed my shirt and lifted me so easily it was like gravity stopped obeying the law. All two dozen of my coworkers gasped. I said, “I threw it away. Really. In a trash can. Honest!”
I was lying. To me, it sounded plausible. I felt good.
Until what happened next.
Rufus flung me aside, then he grabbed Jan and lifted her out of her chair. Everyone gasped again. Two of the office security started to stand, but the Windbreaker Men turned toward them and security slunk back into their chairs.
Rufus had ahold of Jan, I was lying on the floor where he’d discarded me. He looked down at me and said, “You will talk. Or, we will make her talk. When you see how we make her talk. You will scream!” Rufus twisted his torso, and to punctuate the word “scream”, he slapped Jan with the back of his hand so hard her head spun. I swear, it spun.
Surely, the impact of Rufus’ ruthless slap had snapped Jan’s neck, and next in a fact, I snapped.
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I remembered later what I did, but in the moment, it was a blur. I did not have the rock. The rock was in the room, jammed up under the table. I was not touching it. So, this was all me and somewhere in me I found the ability to kick ass.
It was just like having the Computronium. I could see each action before it happened. I felt like I had superhero powers.
I shouted, “Run! Everyone out!” I lunged at Rufus. Anna went for her gun. She waved it for a minute, tracking me, but I was engaged with Rufus and she couldn’t shoot. The two Stacies had guns, too, but they were sitting placidly in the corner, doing nothing, a five-mile stare on their face.
Joanna and Robbie had grabbed Jan, everyone bolted from the conference room, pushing each other, screaming. In the melee, my intuition showed me how to keep hold of Rufus, blocking them from the door, blocking Anna from shooting anyone. Rufus was much stronger than me, but I computed which option would keep him off balance. Nudge him this way, sway him that way.
Enough to keep his wife from shooting me. Enough to allow everyone the chance to escape. But, Rufus wasn’t an idiot. And Rufus did something I did not expect.
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson