Saturday, 13 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 13

[This is the end of P Squared, part iv, which is, as I have explained, counterintuitively the first part of the novel, the second part of which I am probably just going to post up in all its scabrous, sexually explicit horror soon. A break first, for some more film writing though. Again, if P Squared were a film, it would carry an 18 certificate. You have been warned. Today's chapter contains one of my single favourite dialogue exchanges in anything I have ever written, incidentally.]

Symons is sitting at her desk, typing like nothing has happened. When Pubs and P come back into the room, Symons looks up and says to Pubs without greeting her, “I shall need a word with you in private.” 

Pubs holds up a hand, and begins to reapply a false eyelash, using their phone as a mirror. “Actually,” they say, in the middle of the operation, not looking at Symons, “the Assistant should be present.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” says Symons.

“What were you thinking?” says Pubs.

“What?”

“What were you thinking, getting the KillDrones to shut the department down?”

“I—“ Symons stands up, hands on the desk. She begins to realise what is happening.

“You gained unauthorised—“

“How could I gain unauthorised access, Rina? You change your password every four weeks.”

“You— you— this is a dismissal offence,” says Symons.

“It is,” says Pubs. “This is why the Assistant is still here.”

Symons whirls on P, suddenly animated. “You did it. You allowed them access.”

P cocks their head to one side. “The system does not lie.” They have been primed to say this.

“They didn’t do anything of the sort,” says Pubs. “You’ve revolved the names of your husband and kids with ones instead of the i’s for as long as I’ve been here. If someone — and we’re assuming this as a hypothetical here — if someone stole your identity and sabotaged the Engagement on your login, it’s on you. It’s your responsibility.”

Symons stands up straight, collects herself. “You set this up. I know what you’ve done. You set this up.”

“Think what you like,” says Pubs. “The Assistant downloaded the dismissal order five minutes ago.”

“You wanted Quality’s job.”

“He didn’t make it.”

“Did you dismiss him too?”

“He got dismissed.” Pubs shrugs.

Symons nods. “He was a very competent administrator.”

“He panicked when he was under fire,” says Pubs.

“And you don’t feel sorry for him?”

“I don’t feel sorry for anyone, really,” says Pubs. “Most of the people in this place just aren’t as clever as me, frankly. The useful ones are worth a bit of investment, but in the end, you’re all just people. And people you can replace.”

“You did your degree here, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. MBA. Business and Economics.”

“And you had no feeling towards the School you graduated from?”

Pubs shrugs. “Rina?”

“What?”

“You’re boring me now.”

“You will eventually have to realise,” says Symons, paling, “that management in higher education is not wholly about murdering people.”

“You’re half right,” says Pubs. “It’s about murdering people in the correct order.” They wave their hand like They’re in charge. Which, in fact, they are. “Assistant?”

P cocks their gun, approaches Symons, gestures towards the door.

Symons, face masklike, walks with dignity to the door, walks through the open-plan area, looking straight ahead, ignoring the other staff, all of whom have their heads down, all of whom are trying not to look at her. No one says anything.

P leads her out into the corridor, stands her at the main office entrance.

“You don’t have to do this,” says Symons. “You know what she did. Your testimony could instigate a review of the decision.”

“Kneel, please.” P wants to let her go, watches helplessly from inside an expressionless face.

“I’m not going to beg,” says Symons, sinking slowly to her knees, “but you have to understand that she is dangerous. She is going to destroy everything. She doesn’t care.”

“I know.” P unhooks the safety, points the gun at the side of Symons’ head.

“If you know, you can save the Office from her. It just needs you to come forward. It isn’t too late.“ The barrel of the gun is now nuzzling in Symons’ hair.

“It is, I am afraid.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I am sorry. I really am. But I do.”

“Why?”

“They told me to.”

P shoots. A firecracker report, a stain on a nearby wall. Symons slumps to the ground. P contacts CleanUp. They return to the Office, and they take a seat next to the Publications Assistant, who sits, working furiously on forms and contracts. With THR still working on a skeleton basis, corners can be cut. Appointments can be expedited. Staff can be reshuffled. Pubs is making sure that they will be shuffled upwards.

Pubs stops, gets up, walks over to P, runs a finger over P’s head. “We’ll be keeping you, dolly,” says Pubs. “You’re far too much fun to let go.”

The purchase order is already in P’s datastream, university money used to buy their freedom from the temp contract. Freedom is of course a relative term. But then, this is a capitalist economy, and so it always has been.

“Nice dolly,” says Pubs. “Good dolly.”

P loves their new boss. P hates their new boss. P will follow their new boss’s orders without question. P knows their new boss is a danger to everyone they are close to. P will protect their new boss any way they can.

P wants their new boss dead.

End of part iv.

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