Monday, February 04, 2008

War on the Highest Scale

Jameson stalked into the Federal Express office. "I've had quite enough," he hissed to the man behind the desk. "You undercut our prices and insult us behind our back. I'll have no more! No more, I say!"

"Well, what'll you do of it?" the man behind the desk responded with equal vitrol and greater condescension. "You UPS men - you haven't the spine to do a thing, not without triple-signed authorization from headquarters." His nametag identified him as Williams.

"You think THAT?" screamed Jameson. His face had turned dark with blood. "I'll send you a message, then, I will!" Drawing himself up, he spat straight in Williams' face, then turned and strode out of the building.

Williams, deliberately, pulled on a glove and wiped the spit off his face. His manager, Robert (by the nametag) walked up from the back room. "This means war, you know," he told Williams.

"Of course," Williams replied. "Naturally, this will result in steady escalation of hostilities, from subtle sabotage from outright attack. A normal sequence, relenting only when one party loses its will to fight - or dies, of course."

"Is there any reason to go through the charade instead of just skipping to the end?" Robert asked.

Williams considered. "Nah," he decided.

"Then let's break out the heavy artillery," Robert ordered. "And lets send those UPS scum a mail bomb they won't be catching in standard screening!"

Around a corner and two hundred feet away, the ground shook in the UPS office. Jameson instinctively ducked under a doorway; his superior, Leah, dropped under the counter. When no further tremors followed, they both eased themselves carefully up.

Jameson checked the sensors. "We've been hit with an explosive shell - from some sort of heavy artillery, by the extent of the damage. Nearby stores are damaged but we're holding at nominal structural strength."

Leah considered this. "You know your suggestion to reinforce the building with a concrete ceiling and titanium support beams, a few months back?"

"Yeah?" Jameson asked, uncertain.

"I think you just earned yourself a 10% bonus," Leah told him.

They paused.

"Now what?" Jameson asked.

"We have the advantage now," Leah told him. "Our attackers won't know that we weren't destroyed for a little while. We'll have to make the most of it."

"It's those damn Fedex boys," Jameson complained. "I'm sure of it!"

Leah shook her head. "We've no proof of them. It could be anyone - I know that the Footwear Etc. owners have been more than a little envious of our parking space, and those little men in the Pizza My Heart are fearful of anyone who's been here longer than them - that is, everyone. No," she said, shaking her head, "We'll just have to send them all a message."

Jameson looked uncharacteristically doubtful. "Collateral damage?" he offered.

"Bah," Leah dismissed with a wave of one hand. "At this hour, anyone in the shops is up to no good in any case."

"All right, then," Jameson said with a slowly widening grin. "Time to prepare a mass mailing - of doom!"

Rockets burst out of the UPS building in vast numbers; launching themselves hundreds of feet into the air before executing a graceful flip and shooting toward the strip mall below. Darkened stores and restaurants were blown each alike into piles of blackened timber and ash. Only the UPS store was left intact of buildings within five-hundred feet of the Fedex office - rockets aimed at it veered away suddenly as they neared, guided seemingly by an unseen force. The Footwear Etc. next to the UPS took much of the brunt - reduced, tragically, to a mere Etc.

"Curses!" Leah declared as the smoke cleared over the failure of her efforts. "Jameson, prepare a second volley! We'll give them brimstone this time!"

"No time," Jameson said. "I think they have their own ideas."

Across the ruins of the strip mall, Williams was busy in the rear room, busily adjusting switches and knobs on an array of panels. "How did they survive our first strike?" he wondered to himself.

Robert, appearing suddenly at Williams' side, shook his head. "Doesn't matter. They underestimated our integrated anti-missile electronic countermeasure system. They've no way to harm us - so they'll die soon enough." he told Williams.

"Time for an expedited delivery," Williams agreed, twisting a final knob. "Of death!"

Appearing from the rear of the smoke-blackened Fedex building, five high-powered lasers caused the air to shimmer as they blasted the UPS building. The top five inches of the store vanished; then, suddenly, a subtle glow surrounded the UPS store, and the destruction ceased.

Jameson tapped a few keys on the keyboard, frowning and sweating. "Shields at 70% and holding," he told Leah. "We should have at least ten more minutes before service degrades further."

Leah looked at Jameson. "You know how you said we wouldn't need the shield generators to power up in less than five seconds?" she asked.

"...yes?" Jameson said, uncertain.

Leah pointed at the conspicuously absent ceiling. "You just lost that 10% bonus," she told him.

Jameson sighed.

"This has gone on far too long," he admitted sadly. "Well, let's bring this to its Final Destination."

"Wait!" Leah said.

Jameson waited.

"Nah, okay, forget it, it's good," she told him. "I'd forgotten about the integrated power generator for the shields, that's all."

Jameson entered a password. With a subsonic rumble, the ground shook once more. Slowly, the devastated strip mall lifted into the sky, carried by an underground platform festooned with futuristic machinery.

The UPS and Fedex employees met in the middle, by unspoken agreement. The rubble was gone, sliding off as the platform rose; now all that was left was bare metal. Each gave another the nod; Jameson and Leah on one side, Williams and Robert on the other. Then they charged.

Williams moved fastest, moving in sudden stops and starts faster than seemed possible. Jameson cursed him, calling, "Cheater! Wavedasher! Abuser!" Williams flickered toward him, throwing a mighty punch; but a glowing sphere blinked into existence around Jameson, absorbing the blow and vanishing. Robert moved into assist; Leah intercepted him.

The combatants exchanged blows, darting across the battleground and flickering with coloured light as their technological guardians protected them. Pieces of undelivered mail fell from the sky, some usable as weapons; disregarding federal law, the packages were opened and used with glee. It was nearly a stall; then Jameson darted too close to the edge, and Robert took the opportunity to topple him. Williams, shouting a warning, was too late; Leah wavedashed to the edge in the blink of an eye, and pushed Robert over.

The two survivors stared at each-other. Fedex versus UPS - here, on the Final Destination of all mail, it would be decided. With the wind whipping about them, they walked, matching each-other step for step, to the middle. Then, quickly, both jumped into the air; then jumped again, propelling themselves to the height of a building. Time seemed to freeze as Leah and Williams stared one another down.

That day, their hearts grew three sizes.

And that's why the postal employees over there are always nice - even to this day!



King Kessler said...


Cavalcadeofcats said...

I can only take credit for execution; the core notion was my father's.