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Tales From The Digital Bunker: The Salesman Part 1

The SalesmanThe Salesman

The greatest book about selling customers an alternative to their current electricity provider is “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. Coincidentally enough it was also the greatest book about selling automobiles, mortgages, personal lines of credit, life insurance, and cupcakes. At least that’s what the Salesman’s mentor had told him. The Salesman kept a copy of the book in his briefcase along with copies of Jocko Willink’s “Extreme Ownership”, Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Crushing It!” and “Inky” by Inky Johnson. These were all sacred tomes for any would-be salesman and entrepreneur. At least that’s what the Salesman’s mentor told him through tobacco heavy breath.

“Listen, kid, these books here? These pages are bleeding magic! Anytime you’re feeling down or that you’re a failure, I want you to crack one of these books open.”

So far, the Salesman had made it halfway through each of them before deciding that he needed a break from all the uplifting positivity and motivation. One book extolled the virtue of not being afraid to fail, another told him to plan corrective action like a Navy SEAL, and another told him to rebound from his tragedies with optimism… and it was just beginning to be too much. He had found that each, while well-intentioned, weren’t really helping him with his current predicament. The Salesman had been walking door to door for weeks and so far no one wanted to talk to him about their current energy plan.

The Salesman’s feet hurt as he continued walking in his leather Monk Strap shoes and his tan suit was clinging to his body from sweat. The sun was hanging high above his head and the humidity this time of year was reminiscent of being inside an indoor swimming pool. So far that morning he had four doors slammed in his face, two threats of physical violence, and one lonely old woman who thought he was her son finally coming to visit her. While he still wasn’t able to convince the woman from changing her electric provider, at least his belly was now full of lemon tea and digestive biscuits.

A hot wind blew across the Salesman’s face which forced him to close his eyes as he felt sand get kicked up into it. When he opened his eyes, however, everything looked different from what it did a few moments ago. Where once the circular end of a cul-de-sac stood was now a vast, empty desert. The Salesman removed his brown fedora and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his jacket sleeve. He turned around to make sure he hadn’t taken some Bugs Bunny-esque wrong turn but the street he had been walking on had been replaced by the same desert.

“Where the heck am I?”

The whipping wind of the desert didn’t answer him. With little in the way of choice, the Salesman trudged on into the unknown with his motivational/inspirational literature filled briefcase. The Salesman stumbled and staggered through loose tan desert sand with a body that threatened to collapse under fatigue with each step. If he had thought the heat was oppressive before then the desert sun was an entirely different beast. He was sweating out all the moisture in his body and, if he didn’t find relief soon, the sun would cook him alive. He held his briefcase over his head to create at least a little shade to shield his face.

“Ah an offering to the Briefcase Gods… I can dig it.”

The Salesman turned his head to see a young man wearing a black and yellow military uniform in circular glasses looking back at him. What was even more alarming was the large hangar that was sitting behind the man. Where had that come from? Was that a mirage?

“So… what’cha doing?”

His arms fell to his sides as he stared in disbelief at the hangar and the man standing in front of it. The structure was massive from the outside… how on Earth had he not seen it? He recognized none of the markings on the man’s uniform. He also didn’t appear bothered by the heat in the heavy material of his uniform or the knit cap that sat on the back of his shaved head.

“I’m… uh… are you interested in switching your electricity provider?”

The Salesman wasn’t sure why he had jumped right into the sales pitch instead of asking something a little more sensible like “where the heck am I” or at least “do you have any water?” The young man in the military uniform cocked an eyebrow at the question as he robbed his chin.

“You know what… I am.”

“You do?”

“Yeah… the hamsters and I have not been seeing eye to eye lately. Follow me inside and I’ll see if any of the others are available to speak with you.”

“Others?”

The military man spun on his heels and walked through the sand dunes towards the base without answering. Ecstatic about his first interested customer, the Salesman practically tripped over himself as he rushed to follow behind. That hangar must use a lot of electricity. The Salesman felt his luck changing for the better.. But did he say something about hamsters? No matter. It would be nice to get out of the sun and maybe figure out how he ended up out here.

The closer they moved to the hangar the more impressive the structure became. A small rectangular outcrop stood out from the wall of the hangar. The young man pulled a yellow identification card from his wallet and tapped it against the rectangle which beeped in response. The Salesman saw a photo of the man accompanied by the words “Toy Soldier.” There was a hiss of pistons as the large hangar doors spread open.

“I’m Private Six, by the way. It’s very rude that you didn’t introduce yourself.”

“I’m sorry. I’ve been wandering out here in the desert for hours. My name is -”

“This looks like a desert to you? That’s fascinating.”

The Salesman’s brow furrowed. What did he mean by that? He followed Pvt Six into the structure with his briefcase in hand. The sight of an automaton looking right back at him immediately overwhelmed him. The metal being’s glowing red eyes locked with his which made his permanent toothy smile that much more creepy. Slowly, the robot turned and walked away leaving the Salesman terrified.

“What is this place?”

All around him, men and women were hard at work with various soldering irons and wrenches as they repaired robots similar to the one that just approached him. A giant piece of technology that looked like a server of some variety sat in the far wall of the large empty hangar next to a door that read “Admin.” The Salesman felt Pvt Six step beside him and put an arm on his shoulder.

“Welcome to the Digital Bunker. So… what were you selling again?”

 

Written by Private Six

The Screwdriver Maniac

TheScrewDriverManiac

Keeping the Digital Bunker in a state of maximum operational effectiveness requires far more resources to be at our disposal than we currently have. So awhile back it was decided that the best state we could hope for was “It’ll do for now.”. This is certainly not an indictment of those Toy Soldiers who help where they can, sealing broken pipes, relaying cables, and the bravest of all, willing comrades with plumbing skills (I ensure they receive extra rum rations as a thank you).

The problem is the Bunker is old. Extremely so, and over the years various groups have made use of it before we turned up. I’ve found documents belonging to several 3-letter agencies whose existence have always been denied, plans for tunnels signed by Victorian era men in stovepipe hats, and on occasion I still stumble upon ancient arrowheads in the furthest reaches of the bunker. All in all, I wouldn’t dare put a number on the age of the bunker, but it does mean those robots assigned to maintenance are at it full time.

So when I’m in the mess hall grabbing some grub before scurrying back to my office, the last thing I want to hear is rumours of some supposed ‘Screwdriver Maniac’ going about undoing our work.

“Guard rails on my bunk bed fell off. Landed in my pile of dirty washing though.”

“Three of my experiments exploded because the pressure chamber had been unscrewed.”

Before I even heard another, the table and bench a group of soldiers were eating at collapsed, throwing food everywhere. A screw unceremoniously rolled to a stop at my boot.

“Right, I’m issuing a general order. Anyone whose current mission or project is below level 3 priority, is reassigned to find this damned screwdriver maniac!” The blank stares that greeted me were disconcerting until the penny dropped. “YES! You can take your lunch with you!” The mess hall emptied in an instant, soldiers always glad to get out their Nerf guns to hunt someone down.

Considering that health and safety standards of the Digital Bunker were slipping rapidly, I opted to take the long route back to HQ via the stairwells, careful not to exert any pressure on the hand rails. By the time I reached HQ and finished my chicken mayo sandwich salvaged from the mess hall, I was greeted by half a dozen of our robots standing at their consoles, directing queries, filing reports, and monitoring some of the camera’s throughout the bunker. “Alright. What’s the damage?” I asked, taking my place at the back of the HQ and tapping in my login codes. One by one the robots spoke up, coat racks dismantled on level 15, desks falling apart in the WRITE Spec Ops Division, and arcades collapsing in the break rooms.

“And a secondary engine has fallen off the airship docked in hanger H.” Chimed in another robot.

“That’s Keptin Sari’s ship. She’s been ignoring the mandatory maintenance schedule for years now.” Dismissing it I walked over to the bank of monitors systemically switching between cameras within the bunker. What had originally been planned as an army wide manhunt for a singular individual had devolved into a Nerf battle between Toy Soldiers. It couldn’t be helped. Having fun comes naturally to any Toy Soldier, no matter the situation or crisis.

“Unidentifiable individual on level 18, sector 4.” The camera zoomed in on a figure making its way down a hallway, pausing at doors and panels briefly, before moving on again.

“Gotcha!” If it was a robot, its head would end up mounted on my desk as a fishbowl. If it was a soldier, they were going to end up on plumbing duty for the next 6 months. And then the thought occurred to me, what if it was neither? What if we had a genuine intruder in the Digital Bunker? If they were intentionally sabotaging the Bunker and the Army of Toy Soldiers, it would mean there was an enemy, individuals intent on preventing us on our mission of creativity, imagination and world domination with giant frigging robots.

After having unlocked my banhammer from the armory in TSU-HQ, I made my way down to level 18. As I walked to the halls and corridors, a few Toy Soldiers began to follow. Morbid curiosity for if Dutch has gotten the banhammer out, it meant someone was going to be digital disintegrated from the bunker and booted back into meatspace. Always a sight to behold. I reached sector 4, a hydroponics area built to grow the ingredients for our infamous mind-control cookies. Already some ceiling lights had collapsed, and I could see hamsters using donuts as buoyancy aids swimming in the water tanks. I flicked the radio at my chest to contact TSU-HQ and get a report.

“Individual remains in sector 4.”

“Good. Seal the blast doors.” Immediately the sound of gears and hydraulics could be heard as the blast doors that separate each sector from the other closed. All except one. “He’s planned ahead.” I ran up to the blast door and as expected, the internals of the door mechanism had been loosened, and hydraulic liquid was leaking onto the concrete floor.

One of the scouts with the curious mob that had followed me ran over. “Dutch, Sector 5 is supposed to be under quarantine. Biochemical hazard.”

I paused to consider this. Neither robots or toy soldiers would go into a biochemical hazard quarantine. Both would probably melt into a puddle from whatever happened. Then a second thought occurred. “Why on earth do we have food production stationed next to a biochemical hazard?” No one could answer. Sometimes the Bunker liked to move things around without rhyme nor reason.

“Nevermind. Seal up the blast door, and make sure every adjacent sector is sealed up as well.” A group of Toy Soldiers broke off from the mob that had formed to carry out the tasks, while the rest milled about tidying up the mess the Screwdriver Maniac had caused.

To say I wasn’t happy would’ve been an understatement. Certainly I wasn’t going to delve into a quarantined sector, specially with a biochemical hazard, but it still bugged me that I couldn’t solve this case. It was going to gnaw at the back of my mind for a while, which frustrated me even further.

Waiting at the blast door to Sector 5, a team from the Engineers regiment arrived. I noticed one of them was equipped with a hazard suit and I questioned him. He knew the nature of the biochemical hazard in Sector 5, and it hadn’t been as bad as I imagined. Within moments I’d put the hazard suit on, grabbed my banhammer and made my way through the blast door.

Sector 5 was an absolute mess. Chemical vats had been tipped over, and treatment machines lay in pieces. Shelving racks that reached the ceiling originally lay scattered on the ground, with whatever they were storing equally dispersed like a collapsed house of cards. The lights were low or flickering, and through the hazard suit I couldn’t make out much.

Somewhere I heard the distinct sound of screws dropping on the ground, and I gripped my hammer firmly.

I turned a corner and there stood someone, something, with its back towards me. I could make out its vague humanoid shape but still couldn’t tell if it was robot or human. Just that they were unscrewing something in front of them. When I saw what it was, I instinctively took a few steps backs.

“I recommend putting the screwdriver down, and stepping away from the chemical disposal unit. Immediately.” No idea if they heard me through the suit, but if they did, they chose to ignore me and continue removing screws. “PUT THE SCREWDRIVER DOWN AND STEP AWAY FROM THE UNIT!” I shouted. They paused. I think it turned its head slightly to look over its shoulder for a moment, but they returned to the task at hand and continued.

In all but a few seconds it was over. The chemical disposal unit had been full, and once one of the seals had been sufficiently weakened, the pressurized acidic cocktail within burst forth onto the Screwdriver Maniac. Even though I was standing a safe distance away, and the metal grated floor allowed the chemical slurry to flow away elsewhere, I could feel the heat of metal and biologics melting. Yet I didn’t hear a thing but the liquid flowing. No screams. No malfunctioning noises from internal speakers. Nothing.

By the time the disposal unit had emptied itself, there was no sign of the Screwdriver Maniac. Just a pool of acidic liquid with some unidentifiable remains of whatever had been standing before the unit a moment earlier.

Two hours later I was back in my office in TSU-HQ with a bottle of rum. Sector 5 had been sealed up and added to the long list of areas to be cleared and renovated, though it was unlikely that was going to be done any time soon. And I’d been right. Not knowing the identity of the Screwdriver Maniac was gnawing at the back of my mind. Knowing that there was little danger anymore of sabotage was some comfort, as was having all Toy Soldiers and Robots accounted for. It had to have been an external intruder after all.

But whom?

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