The Fiction Issue

The Fiction Issue
The Saboteur's Approach

Stephen Failey | 1 Apr 2008 12:40
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"Good afternoon, Charles."

Chuck Fenton's lighter sparked brightly in the small, dark room of the plant's psych ward. "Cut the shit, Willoughby."

Dr. Anthony Willoughby sighed a little and opened his notebook. "No shit intended, Charles. I was simply welcoming you to my office."
"Yeah, sure," said Chuck in a haze of smoke. "What the hell did you call me down here for? This place creeps me out."
"I just wanted to talk a little," Willoughby said without looking up from his notepad. "How is work going?"
"You know this place used to be the solitary confinement room for the plant prison?" Chuck pointed to an old exhaust port in the wall with his cigarette. "It even had its own ventilation so they could pump airborne sedatives into the space."
"Yes, I know that. Why don't we sit and talk a little bit, Chuck?"

Chuck reluctantly walked around to the armchair in the middle of the room and sat down. He took a long drag, burning down half of the cigarette. He visibly flinched when he inhaled.

Willoughby gave a nod, still without looking up. "Maybe you should quit."
"Maybe you should start."
Willoughby sighed again. "Chuck, the reason I called you down here is because I just received the monthly report for employee Dream Chair usage."
"OK," Chuck said to the ceiling.
"You logged in over 97 hours this month," Willoughby read from his pad.
"So?"

Willoughby looked up at Chuck through his thin spectacles. "So, that is quite excessive. On average, employees enjoy the Chair's services about 30 hours a month. At more than triple that, you've raised quite a few eyebrows."

Chuck sat up in his chair and lit another cigarette off of the burning stub still in his mouth. "I had the credits built up. I didn't break the rules."
"I know that."
"I work real hard on this damn platform!" Chuck leaned forward and flicked his butt into the steel trashcan behind Willoughby.
"Precisely the reason you were able to build up so many usage credits in such a short time."

The doctor leaned back in his chair and set the notepad on his lap. He had no desk. He found them antagonizing. "Chuck, the real reason you are sitting here isn't because of an infraction. It's because it occurred to me when I got this report that last month you spent more time in the Dream World than on your job. That means that you had barely enough time for sleep and meals, let alone any kind of human interaction."

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"The Dream Chair isn't a toy. Excessive usage over 90 hours starts the neurological ball rolling for Kirkpatrick's disease, and that can result in permanent brain damage."

Chuck stared straight ahead at the Willoughby's face. "I didn't know that."
"I think you did," the doctor replied. "I think you knew exactly what the risks were. In fact, I think you were counting on it. Kirkpatrick's disease is a sickness that affects only the highest analytical brain functions: applied math, memory, extremely fine motor functions, that kind of thing. Creativity, speech and emotions are totally unaffected."

Chuck lit another cigarette and smiled broadly. "Yeah, the 'Pink Slip' disease, I remember now. Every department supervisor's worst nightmare."

Willoughby smiled slightly. "Somehow I don't think early retirement is your idea of a nightmare. I did a little digging. You joined up before the Labor Draft. KPD is covered under your disability plan."

Chuck's smiled faded. He sat up a little in his chair.

Dr. Willoughby closed his notepad in his lap and took his glasses off. "You like to work hard, don't you Chuck?"
"Yeah, sure, who doesn't like a little grit and grime?"
Willoughby chuckled. "You work the double shift rotation. Fourteen-hour days every two weeks, and totally optional. You volunteered for the shift change eight months ago. Pretty tough schedule, big guy. Reactor Department Supervisor is more than a little grit and grime."

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