THURSDAY: THE ONE WITH THE OLD AND THE BIG AND THE BANG THAT WAS NOT
In many ways, Emil preferred it when he could reduce his life to the dull monotony of repeating patterns.
He woke up at the same time every day and allowed himself a long nap every weekend after lunch. He had the same breakfast every day, same lunch, and left all the experimenting for dinner, which, in itself, became a pattern. He methodically organized his books according to country of origin and had separate shelf-space for books originating from different branches of the language tree. He organized his music according to year of release. His closet was organized, moving from left-to-right, as most-recently-worn to have-not-worn-since-I-bought-it-last-year. And he kept a spreadsheet of his daily, weekly, and monthly expenses and balance at bank. The Martingale always held.
It may be precisely because of these reasons – that faced with the uncertainty of the task that lay ahead of him and the permanent discord to his routines that could result from his actions of the day – that he had his elbows on the table-top, his eyes shut tightly to the world, his fingers caressing his temple, and his face stuck in a grimace. Emil, we may add, was not a man-of-action. He had no great physique, or stomach, for that.
“I know, your coffee sucks,” Inora said; grimaced, but drank more anyway.
Emil took a sip out of his mug. Grimaced harder. “Yes,” he said, because it was true.
Inora was reading the newspaper, “Inflation, unemployment, inequality…”
“Business cycles.” Emil explained, “Things will look better soon enough.”
“At the risk of sounding like a broken record…”
“You certainly have a broken planet.”
Emil grimaced harder. That hurt his cheeks. So he stopped. This was not the homecoming he needed. “Hmph, hmph.” he said, hoping that would be the end of the conversation. Because he had nothing left to say. Except, “Hmph,” which he said again for good measure.
But Inora misunderstood his hmph as willingness to continue the conversation. “I think Uncle Man is getting rid of the Earth because he is afraid that given time, we will become more advanced than you lot.”
“You guys are far behind us.” Emil said, regretted having done so. Should have just gone with a hmph.
“But we are catching up.”
“Only because time passes twice as fast on Earth. Earthians can get more done.”
“What do you mean?” Inora asked.
“Days are twice as long at the Planet. I told you. Planet has fewer days.”
“You’re an idiot, Emil. Once this is over, we have to sit down and reconsider this friendship.”
“Hrmph!” Emil said. Took another sip of his coffee.
“Hel-low Emil! Top of the morning, Inora!” Emil’s TeleDev said. Inora did not say anything. Emil asked what it wanted. Zara was requesting entry. “Let him in.” Emil said, “And put yourself on energy-saving mode.”
Zara teleported into Emil’s living room. “Emil! Back home, old boy! How does it feel?”
“Home-y. I suppose. How is the AI coming along?”
“On schedule; ahead of schedule even! Which is a miracle after the delay that monkey caused.”
“Hey! Lay off Masum!” Inora barked.
“And who might this charming young lady be?” Zara asked.
Emil introduced her as an old school friend.
“Well, Inora, I do not know in what capacity you know Masum, but let me assure you…”
“You cannot assure me of anything!”
Emil interjected, “Right yes, uh, the reason I wanted to meet you, Zara. We need a little favor, you see, and you can say no if you want to…”
“It is more like a demand actually.” Inora corrected
“Well, yes, we have a demand, but do not feel obligated to…”
“That is not how demands work!”
“Right well, I guess what I am trying to say is…”
“What are you trying to say Emil?” Zara asked.
“We need you to…”
“Inora, we talked about this. I do the talking. You let me do the talking. That was the deal.”
“You asked a girl to let you do all the talking and you expect her to keep her end of the bargain? Oh, Emil, Emil, Emil, let me assure you…”
“You cannot assure him of anything! Earth-destroyer! Apocalypse-profiteer!”
“No, that is alright, Emil. I am used to such slander. All you bleeding-heart-liberals.” He gave Inora a patronizing glance.
“Zara, we have a demand to make of you,” Emil looked towards Inora, looked back at Zara, “and you better supply it.”
“What do you want? No, don’t tell me, I already know. I know how this works, old boy. Your activist friend here needs to make ends meet and requires a real-job with the Zara Conglomeration, is that it? I am sure something can be found for her. Tell me, what are her credentials?”
“I do not want to work for you.” Inora spat.
“Yes, she does not want to work for you, Zara.”
“Work with me?”
“That would be excruciatingly worse.”
“No, she does not want that either.”
“You want a free sample of my prototype boomerang that will not come back to you?”
“What is the point of that?”
“Sometimes, when the stress is too much and the days long and lonely, people just want to hurl something out of the window without it coming back and hitting them on the ass.”
“We want you to arrange a meeting for us with Mr. O’Gawd. Today.”
“No, now. Now is faster. Do it now.” Inora chimed in, poking the table-top with her index finger.
Zara waved away the demand nonchalantly, “That is it? What do you want to meet that pretentious old fart for?”
“Because we want to cho…”
“We just need to talk to him about something and we want to do it alone.”
“Yes, alone. Just the three of us.”
“Well, that goes to reason,” Zara said, “just three of us with the big man.”
“There will be a total of three people at the meeting.”
“Yes, right. I guess that makes even more sense.” Zara said, displeased, “May I ask what this is all about?”
“You may.” Inora said.
“What is all this it about?”
“We are not telling you.”
“I do not like your friend, Emil.” Zara told Emil, “Do not like her one bit.”
“If that feeling is not mutual, I will be very surprised.”
“Look, I have a meeting with the big man right after the press conference. You two can tag along. The rest is up to him.”
“That will be enough.” Emil assured.
“Thank you.” Inora said.
“And when this is done,” Zara added, “Emil, we need to reassign you to something new. You’re back, old boy! We’ll give you something fun, eh? Something not as challenging as the last task we set you.”
“That will be nice, Zara.”
“And we also need to renew your employee insurance. Just paperwork, nothing more.”
“What’s wrong with my existing coverage?”
“We took over the company last week.”
“Zara Insurance, baby! Premium so cheap, you can’t afford to die! Just come around the headquarter next week. We’ll sort you out.”
Emil shook his head.
“Ok guys, lots left to do. I am off. Emil, sweet Inora, see you all soon.” Zara waved and with another flash of light, was gone.
“Hrmph.” Emil grunted, “Why did he call you sweet?”
With another flash, he came back, “So I guess I will meet you two at the press conference?”
“Yes, we will be there.” Emil answered.
“Ok, good. Till then.” With the fourth flash, he was gone.
With the fifth flash, he came back, “So should I meet you guys outside? Or inside the Asylum? I don’t really…”