A True Story About the Workplace

Argus

The day that there was no work to do, Philch came in at 9:30 in the morning as usual. He believed in asserting his dominance in the workplace by flouting expected norms. Although his manager, Incorrigble Goblespit, had spoken to him about tardiness well over a dozen times, he refused to give in. In fact, he had only come in at 9 A.M. twice this year so far. Both accidents. The trains had run express those days and brought him to his destination precisely at the necessary moment.

However, the lateness was not really of his own volition. He normally went to bed with every intention of waking up at the necessary hour; he would set the alarm to give him enough time to get ready and walk in to work at the correct time or even earlier. Instead, he would turn off the alarm as soon as it rang and then wake with a start nearly an hour later– always by some miracle– and rush to put his affairs in order before getting on the train at the time he ought to have been walking into the office.

Today, was as an ordinary day as ever. He tied up all the loose ends before leaving his desk last night, and expected a deluge of requests today.

Incorrigble was at his desk jabbing at his node like a mole rooting in damp dirt. He was so absorbed that he did not even notice Philch’s entrance.

Philch breathed a sigh of relief. As soon as the login was complete, the boss would have no idea when he actually came in. Ever the optimist, Philch assumed he always got the benefit of the doubt.

The chair didn’t creak as he sat down, and luckily he was wearing the pants with the button fly today. So there was no awful loud zippering as he opened up, gently tugged out his penis and slid it into the moist, cylindrical terminal of the Argus network. A hexagonal and porous membrane known as the BiosInterface appeared in front of his face. This was an outdated bioelectronic technology and the receptor connection was pretty loose. In its decrepitude the Bios tended to display objects incorrectly and sometimes grotesquely, lose information, and generally stutter when performing tasks. It was like a human brain with a display of thoughts and an ability to store memories. But it was pretty much senile.

The cells and pores of the big membrane were still and empty. On most days they were alive with storms of electricity and activity–messages flying in and out, information processing, and calculations computing– today it was dead. Well it was alive, it still expanded and contracted with a slight wheeze, but the activity was dead. The receptor node clung to his penis limply, contracting lightly with the pace of the visual membrane.

After 10 minutes, Philch called to Incorrigble, startling him from his trancelike thrusts.

“Bonny, boss. Been here all morning and haven’t seen you look up once.”

The purple faced man with jowls sagging to his chest looked at him with the bloodshot eyes of a registered alcoholic.

“Nothing yet, Philch.”

There had never been a day like this. He looked at the Helios, and saw that it was already 10:00; and yet no synapses had fired in his or his superior’s workstation.

“You don’t suppose it’s…”

“It will come.” Incorrigble stated in the tone of a wall.

It was time to call Gras, the man with the silent last letter. He was the ultimate master in the art of shirking work duties. He worked from home every day on a Nervous Extension that he had personally grown to his residence. It was a work of art, and he deserved a prize for his careful cultivation and maintenance of such a distant a connection to the Argus Network. There, he did no work. He normally woke up just in time to register and reroute a few synapses and would sleep until noon. His role with the company wasn’t entirely clear so he was contacted rarely. Whenever he answered his Echolalial Tube, his voice would be hoarse and raspy with sleep.

“There’s no work yet, Gras.”

“Huh?” It was the voice of utter confusion and loss.

“Gras, wake up. They haven’t had any synapses yet.”

“Mmmm. OK. Call me when th…” And he was asleep again.

“Gras?”

“Good morning this is Lexitor Gras, present.” This was recited in a clear and sonorous voice, and followed immediately by a snore and the sickly sound of the Echolalial tube falling to the ground.

Gras never missed mandatory brainstorms. However, it was no secret that his participation was limited to announcing his presence and bidding farewell at the end of the hour long session.

“Alright then everyone. Very good.” Philch heard Gras muttering from far away.


Incorrigble was absorbed in his mindless task. He was still poking his interface, clicking away at its oozing membranes, trying to start up a synapse even though the equipment was purely receptive.

Philch left his desk and walked around the office. His colleagues were glued to their seats watching the membranes of their Bios, but the Argus network had nothing for them.

“Hey Yellein,” he said to one of his peers. She briefly looked up at him and resumed her vigil.

“I’m sorry, can we talk later? I’m super busy.”

“But the network’s not sending any signals.” He looked at the aged and wilted shaft of the receptor she used. It was obvious that she had no connection to the Bios. “You’re not even sitting on it…”

“It will. I can feel it coming.”

“So you can just deal with it when it starts, it will take a while to phase in anyway.”

“I’m sorry. I have to go.”

Valdimar was no different. Even though he and Philch shared lunch occassionally, at work Valdimar was no one’s friend.

“Val, what’s up.”

“Dude, I can’t right now.”

“What are you talking about.”

“I’ve got so much stuff to do.”

“But Incorrigible hasn’t even connected to Argus yet, how could we get…”

“Philch, come on man. Don’t be a clown.”

Completely lost, Philch headed back to his seat.

Incorrigble was still poking the Bios, his hands were covered with the thing’s excretions.

“Boss, I don’t think it’s come in yet.”

“What do we pay you? To walk around? Sit in your seat and get busy!”

“But there’s nothing to do. The system is silent. I have no synapses, and you have no instructions for me.”

“You know, I care about your career more than you do I think sometimes.”

“I just don’t know what to do.”

“Prepare for work.”

And so it happened that on this day, when the Argus was suffering from a blockage in its nerve endings to the Directory Department, where Philch worked, and no synapses came in, everyone sat at their desks and pretended to be fully engaged at their work.

Gras, who knew the system better than anyone, had of course caused the blockage, no one knew how, just because he was so tired and needed to not be bothered at all today.