CHAPTER 1: A REAL JOB
“Todd! The copier is down—again!”
Paula was looking more frazzled than usual as she stood at the door to Todd’s “office.” It was the third time today that the copier had gone down, and he was ready to take it behind the building and put it out of his misery.
Every time he’d gotten up to check the infernal machine there had been nothing wrong and it worked fine, as long as he was sitting there watching it.
He pushed himself away from his makeshift desk and his ailing chair made a squeal of protest.
“Did you try turning it off and on?” Todd’s smile was hopeful, but the expression on Paula’s face remained pleading.
“That’s not funny. I’m in the middle of something for Mr. Sullivan,” she said as Todd sidestepped a few boxes of paper and pushed past her and her flowery dress on the way to the small copy room. It was down the hall and to the right, just past the bathrooms and close to the pit, the large main office area where the cubicles were set up.
The hair on the back of his neck began to stand up and he knew it wouldn’t be nothing this time. He was concentrating on his breathing, trying to keep it deep and even. He clicked his pen as he walked faster than normal through the office area. People were huddled in some of the other offices, watching through the windows to see what was about to happen, and others were still working away at their desks. They’d seen this kind of thing before at other places, but it was a newer occurrence at Sullivan & Sons.
Todd turned the corner and stopped short as a hatchet buried itself into the wall right in front of him, just missing his favorite tie by mere inches, the one with various dinosaurs playing the guitar. A half frown of surprise leapt across his face and his eyebrows raised while he studied the crudely made instrument and looked in the direction from which it came.
The goblins were making lewd noises and incomprehensible grunts as they tried their best to tear up the lone multifunction copier in the building. It seemed they had gotten bolder.
“Hey!” Todd yelled. “Stop that!”
The noise of plastic banging and papers ruffling and noses snorting and mouths burping stopped suddenly as all four of them looked at Todd. Goblins would sometimes scatter when caught, sort of like the cockroaches of the monster world, but this particular group seemed to be three feet of fearless piss and vinegar and they didn’t really care that Todd was about to ruin their day. It was well past noon on a Friday and Todd really didn’t want to have to deal with this. The goblins went back to their raucous work of trying to tear up the printer and, in general, be nuisances.
Joan, a tax specialist, had her hands on her hips and was casting a stern look toward Todd.
“What? It’s not like I invited them in here.” He was getting tired of Joan’s and everyone else’s crap. This was his first job since graduation and the people here were very used to the way things had always been.
Sullivan & Sons was a small accounting firm located in Southside, an older section of the city. They had never before had a need for an Office Knight, but recently they were upgraded by the Knights Council and zoned a Level One establishment due to the addition of more associates and an increase in revenues. These factors tended to coincide with monstrous activity.
Todd thought she should have been more scared of the situation than she was. Monsters may have been commonplace, but they were still dangerous.
He sighed. “I really don’t want to do this, guys. Why don’t you just leave?” He was talking slightly louder than normal to get over the din of the noise. “It’s Friday. I don’t want to have to kill you and you don’t want to be smeared across the office walls.” The smell of goblins reached his nose, awful. It was like rotting gym socks stuffed in a fish.
He clicked his pen, twirled it in his hand, and whispered an incantation. The pen was now growing and turning into a long wooden shaft as tall as Todd with a combination axe and spear on one end. He had to shift his grip to maintain his balance. Todd tapped the wooden end on the ground to get the goblins’ attention again.
The goblins snorted and climbed down from the printer and counter tops, thus accepting his challenge for the territory. Their ugly faces carried a murderous intent as they began closing the gap between themselves and Todd. Two of them pulled out knives while one grabbed a letter opener off the floor as he advanced. The last balled up his empty fist, probably wishing he hadn’t thrown his hatchet.
From the corner of his eye Todd spied Luciva and her two o’clock appointment emerge from her office. The noise had been enough to disrupt whatever meaningless conversation they’d been having. He took his gaze off the goblins to see what she was doing. She stood at her door, shot him a slightly annoyed glance with her dark green eyes, and she nodded in his direction.
Todd looked away when he heard fast, tiny feet moving toward him. He swung his halberd and hit the wall behind him with the end. Luciva put her head in her hand and went back in her office.
“Whoops.” The drywall was dented, but he managed to lunge forward and take two goblins down. They disappeared before they could even hit the ground. The others picked up the dropped weapons of their comrades and were upon him. Todd was regretting his choice in weaponry at the moment. The halberd had looked cool but was really too long for this type of office setting.
Todd stabbed it into the floor and blocked the swinging knife with the middle of his handle and dodged the stabbing letter opener by spinning around his staff and kicking the other goblin. It landed in a trash can, turning it over and spilling out the contents. It was almost like they couldn’t help but make a mess. Todd ran over and stomped on the nuisance. The goblin disappeared under his foot, almost making him fall. The last one was behind him and wasted no time in picking up another knife.
It brandished the weapons in front of him. Todd stood back and started walking around his opponent. Carrying a stapler that he’d swiped off of Joan’s desk, he carefully made his way to the halberd in the floor and wrenched it free, leaving a mark that he knew Luciva would bring up in his review. Making sure the stapler found its way to another desk—no need to damage any more office equipment—Todd took a two-handed grip on his weapon. He shifted his weight and charged in with an overhead strike that took out a ceiling tile. Which arrested his swing, but the ceiling dust also got in the goblin’s eyes and distracted it.
“Gotcha!” Todd yelled.
He kicked the goblin in the chin knocking its head backward, spun around, and sliced him in half, each half disappearing into dust. When he was done, he rubbed his thumb on the smooth spot on the halberd and muttered another spell. The weapon shrank until it was a ball point pen again.
There was no applause or cheering. Everyone went back to what they were doing before this minor inconvenience happened.
He put the pen behind his ear and walked into the copy room to survey the damage. It was minimal, thankfully. He sighed with relief but was miffed when he realized he’d have to do a report first thing Monday—and that he would have to label the pen he used as “unsafe for enclosed spaces.” He turned to look at Luciva with a hopeful, slightly smug grin, but she had already gone back into her office to do whatever she did.
People were beginning to line up at the copier and were arguing over who was going to use it first. Todd started walking back to his “office” and heard a loud cheer from the accountants when they realized a huge print job had been saved and was going to continue printing. A feeling of self-pity began creeping into his mind.
“Thank you, Todd.”
He turned to see who it was. To his surprise it was Joan. They didn’t really talk much. She was all the way on the other side of the building from him, but right now he was glad someone was showing him a little appreciation, finally.
“No problem,” he said with a wave.
“No, really. I do appreciate what you do for us.”
He didn’t necessarily need to hear this, but it felt good. He would have gotten over his feelings eventually; this helped, though.
“What are you doing this weekend? Anything fun?”
Todd hadn’t gotten that far into the weekend process.
“Nothing much, just relaxing. What about you?”
“Same for me.” She looked at her watch. “Oh, let me try to knock out some of these reports before five. Have a great weekend!”
He watched her walk away and then continued down the hall. In his mind he imagined himself jumping and clicking his heels together. He’d never do something like that in real life, but someday it might feel good to let one heel click loose.