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Republic of Jesters

By StevenOlsen All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure


David Dunlop peaked into the office, and although the room was dimly lit, he could still make out Robert Christiansen’s head lying on top of his unkempt desk.
“Hey champ, have you seen your new assignment yet?” said David in an overly enthusiastic tone.

No response. Robert was deeply out of it, but who can blame him? A morning chalked full of bureaucratic paperwork can make the most hyperactive person drowsy.

This time snapping his fingers, David blurts out, “Hey champ, have you got a look at your newest assignment?”

This gets Robert’s attention enough for him to raise his head off the desk. But his head is not the only thing raised off the desk: a piece of paper that’s attached to his cheek also comes along for the ride. Robert quickly removed it, and while doing so, he discovered that it had been adhesively clinging onto his face by a strand of nap-drool. A cold look washes over his face, but it has less to do with how he looks at the moment and more to do with the fact that he has smeared the ink on the paper so he’ll have to rewrite that report.

Most people would be embarrassed after being caught sleeping on the job with some evidence stamped on their face, but Robert was caught by David Dunlop; a man Robert doesn’t care about in the least. David Dunlop is the type of person that would fit perfectly into marketing, promotions, or an advertising occupation of the early 21st century. He has that certain optimism and phony charisma that gullible consumers eat right up, but anyone with a hint of cynicism can easily clue into it and have instant contempt, so it’s no wonder that Robert can’t stand him.

Although he wasn’t embarrassed about the nap, Robert did however try to clear up evidence of its extent. Most of his reports and pending assignments were consciously centered in the middle of his desk, thus creating a stack that doubled as a pillow. Hoping that David didn’t notice the stack in the first place, Robert dispersed it when David glanced into the hallway for a second.

When David looked back into the office, Robert finally answered the question. “Huh? I was just resting my head. What’s up?”

“Are you alright? How long have you been ‘resting your head’ for?”

“Uhh, only ten minutes or so.” Robert didn’t actually know how long he had been out for, but he knew that ten minutes was an underestimation.

It was all the lighting’s fault, thought Robert. That’s what caused his napping tendencies in the first place. This office building, like most other buildings in the nation, had opted out of the energy intensive fluorescent lighting of yesteryear and had gone with the greener alternative: natural lighting. It’s low cost and much less polluting, although there are some obvious downsides to this lighting arrangement. The first thing that comes to mind: productivity tends to decline at certain times of the day, and this all depends on where ones worksite is located. It’s sort of like a solar panel; put it in the sun, productivity goes up, but put it in the shade for a minute and watch it flatline. The same principles apply to this room. Come afternoon this office has barely any sunlight filtering through its window due to its eastward facing nature. In all, it starts to look more like a cave meant for a hibernating bear than a highly productive, highly lit office of the past.

Robert didn’t know exactly what a bear coming out of hibernation went through, but he guessed that it felt something like his current state.   

“Well anyways, did you hear about your new assignment?” asked David after an awkward pause.

“Uh.... no.” Oh great, thought Robert, just what I needed. Another assignment. He was already behind, and now he was getting another one? Couldn’t they give it to David? That’s someone who would actually get it done on time.

On the bright side, at least his pillow will have more cushion to boot.

“Oh okay. I guess I’m the first one to tell you, hey?”

“Yep. Do you know what it is?”

“Well I don’t know. It’s not for me, it’s for you. From what I’ve heard, it’s a big assignment. Really important. The Big Man is probably waiting in his office for you.”

Oh right, ‘The Big Man.’ That’s another aspect of David’s personality that Robert couldn’t stand. David is always giving more admiration than one should merit. An example: his appreciation of The Big Man aka. Doug Armitage aka. Robert and David’s boss.

David dishes out more compliments to Doug Armitage than a devout Faithful gives to the Lord. David is always trailing around Doug, boosting his ego and filling him with pride. Doug just loves it too; he has worked his way up throughout life and feels that he is entitled to the barrage of praise that David supplies him with. One can interpret this exchange as a symbiotic relationship; much like a shark and a remora. In their mutualism, David maintains Doug’s self-pride while Doug protects David from what he fears most: demotion.

Overall, Robert sees David for what he is: a corporate ladder climber. Oh how Robert would like to smother the rungs above David with Vaseline, making it impossible for David to reach advancement and eventually causing him to slip into a pit of failure. But then again, Robert doesn’t care enough to actually go through with this sabotage. After all, he is five years from his pension; that much closer to being out of here altogether.

“Ohh, uhh, alright. Thanks, I guess,” Robert said reluctantly after an extended pause.

“I’m always here to help you. Do you need anything else?”

“Nope. That’s all.”

“You’re A-okay then?”

“Yes. Don’t worry about me.”

“Alright then. Ciao Robert!”

“Uh, later.”

With that, David left the office and disappeared into the darkness of the hallway.

Robert felt a bit relieved that David was now out of his office, yet he dreaded the fact that he was being targeted for a big assignment. If it was so important, thought Robert, why would they be sending him? He was known for being somewhat of an unorganized slacker, so their choice doesn’t seem to add up.

One look at Robert’s desk would be enough to ascertain that he wasn’t the right man for an important assignment. The top of Robert’s desk is a scattered mess of paperwork after all. Although he had rearranged things to create his pillow, the articles didn’t really move out of position, so they tend to resemble layers of rock sediments. Monday’s report, which should have been handed in by now, represented the Cretaceous; last Thursday’s paperwork, which Robert had given up on almost immediately after he started it, was the Triassic; while dossiers from weeks past could easily be the Permian, Devonian or Cambrian periods depending on what order Robert had abandoned them.

With such a record of abandonment, why aren’t they making David do the big job? He could probably get it done in a quarter of the time and do it with such quality that the report would be handed back with a smiley face sticker that has ‘Great Job!’ written on it.

Coincidentally, Robert has never been punished for his low output. Or at least recently he hasn’t. The country has been stable as of late, so the Public Relations department of Alpha Corp, which Robert works for, hasn’t needed to make any drastic changes. No major threats means no major changes, which means that Robert’s department has been very slack. He doesn’t feel his work is urgent, and neither does his overseers, so they let him get by.

The term ‘public relations’ has changed quite a bit since its inception, so Robert’s work is not what people might think of at first. During competitive times, public relations meant maintaining a good image for a business. People wanted to work for you and people would want to buy your products as long as they thought they were supporting something justifiable. No one would work for Ebenezer Inc. or buy from Hades Ind., so companies needed PR people to make them look good. It helped them stay competitive after all. But times have changed since then. Since competition has been severely reduced and maintaining a positive public image is no longer of high priority, the only company in the Republic of America - Alpha Corp - has its public relations division make sure that no other organization has the potential to take away any Alpha Corp. profits or products. It’s still public relations in the literal sense, but its purpose has drastically changed. A PR employee is now more of a ‘business assassin’ than a ‘sweet talker.’ They are commonly called ‘silencers,’ but amongst themselves they prefer being called ‘dampers.’

If this assignment was as big as what David made it out to be, then maybe Robert might do some out of town dampering. He hasn’t left the office for a few weeks, so he was sort of looking forward to such an opportunity.

It could also mean that it’s a threat that might put his department back on its toes and start cracking the whip whenever Robert feels like having an afternoon nap. That wouldn’t be the best, thought Robert, but nonetheless, an opportunity to get away from David for a while is an opportunity to get away from David for a while.  

After he finished pondering the situation for a few minutes, Robert realized that he might as well just suck it up by visited his boss and finding out what all the fuss is about. Robert’s nap didn’t do much for him - he still felt groggy, maybe even more so than before his nap - but he knew that if he didn't mobilize now then he would never get to Doug's office. He placed the ink smeared report on the bottom left hand corner of his desk - the urgent report region - and backed his swivel chair out of his desk. He got up, stretched out his arms while yawning, then left his own office into the hallway.

Since the hallway had only two windows, one at the Western most point and one at the Eastern, and most of the office doors on the floor were closed, the hallway was very dark at this time of the day. Despite the fact, Robert knew where he was going and there were probably no obstacles in the way, so he could probably get to Doug Armitage’s office accident free.

Having checked his pocket watch before and seeing that it was 3:26 pm, he expected Doug to be in his southwest corner office. The bosses always have the greater workloads; therefore, they need the most sunlight to make sure they are awake enough to get the work done. Caffeine is a rare commodity these days, so to make up for it, the bosses tend to switch their workplace throughout the day. In the morning the bosses tend to be found in the eastward facing offices while later in the day they’ll be in the southwest facing offices.

Having known this for years, Robert headed down the hallway to where he could find Doug. He stopped at the presumed door and felt the lettering just to make sure he was at the right door. Through pseudo-Braille he figure the door said:

Mr. Doug Armitage

District Executive Manager of Public Relations

Just what he hoped for. After a brief moment of hesitation, Robert knocked on the door and awaited a reply.

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