It is a brand new morning, and I am finally awake—time to ruin someone’s day.
Breakfast with the Fnord Forth! team is where the day begins. It’s a rather placid starting point, but I’ve always been excellent at taking things that seem pleasant and escalating them.
“Good, good,” I murmur, lifting my cup of Irish coffee to my lips.
Andre nods along amusedly. Today his wheelchair bears waffle hubcaps, a bit on the nose, but I still appreciate his sense of whimsy. Delia, to his left, seems a bit more bemused than amused, but it’ll pass. Eggplant and Andre came over to my side of thinking, and she will too. I’ve found that humans can be remarkably misanthropic themselves, no matter how hypocritical that may seem to a non-human creature like myself. However, given the very nature of humanity, it is also extremely easy to believe at the very same time.
I’m currently in female form, rocking a tight bob, chunky sunglasses, and a black feather bolero over a short black bodycon dress. My stiletto heel black boots are resting on the table, much to the waiter’s chagrin, but I feel I may scare him a bit too much for him to say anything.
“May I ask…” Delia stumbles over her words, “why are we encouraging guideline violations?”
“Imagine the news headlines! Our hypocrisy! People will soon be doing hot takes and outing our corruption on the gram, the tok, and all the others!” I squeal.
“We could be on our way to be cancelled.” Eggplant smiles.
“And that’s a good thing?” Delia pauses.
“People are never more popular than when they’re cancelled,” I say matter-of-factly. “The people, the worst people, will rally around us simply because we are hated. The pendulum swings on and on.”
“Right,” Delia says flatly with a sombre nod.
Eggplant, Andre, and I share a look.
“You know, Delia, I have some important plans today. Would you mind joining me?” I concentrate on making a small, sincere smile. In one of my lives, I was an actor.
“Oh.” Her suspicious look vanishes, replaced by one of curiosity. “Yes, I suppose I could. What are your plans?”
“Oh, you know, the usual. Cause some discord, create chaos, throw a wrench in the works.” I wink in her general direction, “Trust me. You’ll love it.”
Longinus Marketing formed a rather grotesque phallic silhouette against the London skyline. Delia looked a bit shaken. Presumably, she hasn’t done much teleporting in her life.
“Eris,” she groans, “what are we doing here?”
“You used to work here, right?”
“You know I did.”
I stop and look at her. She’s unlike I’ve ever seen her before. The confident marketing head seems to shrink in the shadow of the skyscraper.
“You were a marketing intern here relatively recently, yes?”
“Yes.” She sighs.
“Then you left to join us. Intern, no more.”
To this, she just nodded. A smile danced around her features for half a second but never actually formed.
“Now, I’m thinking,” I say, turning back to the building before us and walking forward. “The fact that you were old enough to be the mother of the CEO’s barely legal third wife may be why you were relegated to intern status for, what I can tell from my half-hour of research, three times the usual length of time?”
“Eris, we’re not going inside, right?” she asks manically, trailing behind me.
“I also found out that you filed an age discrimination suit that was dismissed by a judge that the CEO later went golfing with, correct?”
“Eris,” Delia warns as I enter the lobby, and she reluctantly follows behind me, “we can’t be in here.”
“Don’t worry, Delia.” I laugh wickedly. “What’s the worst that ever happened from entering uninvited?”
We find the office of Lance Johnson, CEO of Longinus.
“Eris, someone is going to recognize me,” Delia seethes behind me.
“I’m able to throw a wrench into the perceptions of others, sweet D. I’m also able to step out of the material world of humanity, and though I cannot take you into the Void with me, I can do the next best thing.” I pish-tosh. “Everyone we’ve encountered has just seen us as noise in their peripheral vision. The little grey man, as my friends at the CIA call it. Uninteresting and unworthy of note.” I smile with a nod.
This seems to placate her, and we enter the grandiose office. It is manned by a single secretary who resembles a FOX news anchor as parodied by MadTV. She is a caricature with golden waves of extensions, clownish makeup accenting her plastic surgery, and a tight, custom-fitted blazer showing off her push-up bra.
We walk past this unfortunate young woman and into the main suite.
Lance is inside, going over emails on his laptop and thumbing his own hair plugs. I wonder if maybe they got a company rate on the faux hair. He has all the bravado of a middle-aged white man who failed upwards into a position of power. He reeks of someone asking for a little comeuppance.
As we enter, he looks up, but as I said, he seems to look just to our left. He notices the motion. He probably even thinks he sees someone, and then? He just misses seeing us or looks in exactly the wrong place.
“What are we doing here?” Delia asks.
“Just as I said. We are going to cause some discord, create chaos, throw a wrench in the works.” I smirk. “You asked why I do the things I do and about the general motivations behind what we do at Fnord Forth! So here we are, release a little chaos.”
“How?” Her voice was hesitant but also a little excited.
“Well, you used to work here. What do you think would hurt this place the most?”
Our eyes meet, mine burning gold now, and she slowly raises her phone from her pocket.
“Anything I write, they’d know was from me.”
“I can help you with that.”
Scrambled by programs created at Insane Troll Logic, designed by our own Andre, Delia crafts a beautiful email. She sends it company wide with every contact she had ever made at Longinus, including the ones that blocked her when she left.
The subject of the email is: Regarding the Upcoming Publication.
It is so simple, which is why it is perfect, no details, no threats, and no negotiations. It is merely presented as a courtesy of an upcoming article detailing an impropriety at Longinus. It let the company know that further details would be forthcoming and thanked them for their patience.
It is that vacuum of detail that did them in.
Lance panics, becoming suspicious of everyone. He cancels all his appointments and puts a stop to all his outgoing payments. Of course, this leads to a story that uses this action as proof that he had done something wrong. So then he schedules a last-minute press conference to deny wrongdoing, but since no publication has come out as of yet, it is his own denial that makes people believe there is something there after all.
The lack of money works against him too. Soon the leaks began. Every employee is trying to get ahead of it by reporting any little crime they’ve ever seen or even just heard whispers of. They are trying to cash in on the interviews before the company goes under.
Before the week is out, Lance is being led out of the building in handcuffs. Extortion, bribery, insider trading, inappropriate business liaisons, sexual impropriety, tax evasion, you name it, this guy has done it.
I’ve taken her back to that office every day to watch it all play out. Each night she thinks it is over, and each morning some new layer is added. I tell her this is how we work. This is how you turn an apple into a war.
After news of his arrest, we go back to the eighteenth floor of the GC, and we relax with drinks, my birds chirping happily around us.
“How did that feel? Seeing it happen? Causing it to happen?” I needle her, sipping my appletini.
“Good,” she said after a moment of thought, sipping her whiskey. “How do you live with it, though?”
“Live with what?”
“Yes, Lance deserved what happened, but what about his employees? Everyone whose lives counted daily on Longinus’ ongoing success?”
“Let me tell you a story.” I put my drink down. “There was once a happy young couple, living their lives, harming no one. Their names were Polytekhnos and Aedon. One day, in a moment of bliss, they beamed at one another with unconditional love and professed that they loved one another more than Zeus and Hera loved each other.”
“Uh oh, I know how these Greek myths tend to go. Let me guess, bad idea?”
“Oh yes. Hera, Queen of Heaven and Earth, heard them, and she turned to me and asked me to do what I do best. How could I refuse my liege? We Primordials were all too happy to cede authority to the Olympians, unlike our Titanian relatives. So I went down and stoked a fire within them, a little harmless competition. He was working on a boat, and she a tapestry. Whoever finished first would surrender a favoured female servant to the other.”
Delia listened intently, absorbed in my story.
“Aedon finished her task first. Polytekhnos flew into a rage, as men so often do when a woman shows them up. He attacked Aedon’s sister, Khelidon, and raped her. Then, in her traumatised state, he disguised her and gave her to his wife as the servant that was to be the prize for the winner. Of course, being sisters, a little disguise didn’t fool Aedon for long. Upon learning what her beloved husband had done, she and her sister killed his son from a previous marriage and cooked him, feeding him to his father.”
Delia blinked in shock.
“The gods were satisfied and decided to wash the whole mess from the face of the Earth. They changed them all into birds and pretended the whole thing never happened.”
“That’s terrible. How is that supposed to make me feel better?” Delia asked, gobsmacked.
“People aren’t innocent. Polytekhnos and Aedon seemed like they were. They never hurt anyone, but given the right push, look at what they were capable of. All of humanity is just waiting for the right excuse to be monsters.” I wink, picking up my glass once more. “That’s how I live with it. That’s how I live for it.”
“You’re right.” She sighs, lifting her own in a toast. “To business.”
Delia Manx goes home so late that the sun is already coming up, like a shiny golden apple. The whiskey still lingers in the back of her throat, and a strange mix of satisfaction and disappointment sits in her heart. She thinks about how long she’s wanted to get revenge on Lance Johnson for how he treated her, but she’s not sure this is the way she would have chosen.
She logs onto her computer, opening a secure server with some reluctance. Delia frown as the black box representing the other party appears on her screen.
“Delia.” The garbled electronic voice greets her as warmly as an electronic voice could. “It has been a while. I thought you weren’t sure you were even interested?”
“Yeah, well, I changed my mind. You wanted an insider at Insane Troll Logic. You’ve got it.”
“Delightful! I don’t want to push my luck, but what managed to bring you around?”
“This… Eris. They may or may not be a god, but I know one thing for sure, they’re a misanthrope through and through. They believe with all their black heart that destroying humanity is the right thing to do, and they have the power to do it. We have to stop Eris… no matter what it takes.”