While Nexus points of this nature exist elsewhere in the world, it is in the United States that they are the most prominent. This is, in my opinion, an example of culture’s influence on universal narrative principles: bizarre happenings in small town America has been a common media trope since the very beginning of the country, to the point where it is hardly anomalous to us anymore. The oddities of the small town is expected, and as such, these nexus points are very easily contained by their own nature: no matter what unusual events occur, it will never seem to leave its borders of the town, and the populace will remain in blissful ignorance of the happenings.
Such a principle would not go unnoticed by the Foundation. Of the twenty-three confirmed nexuses within the United States, fifteen of them have full sites located within the town, and the remainder are under some form of observation. Of these sites, Site 87 is, I find, of special note.
- Dr. Philip Verhoten, The Crossroads: A Study of Urban Anomalous Nexuses in the United States.
“You went and did it…”
‘You almost sound surprised. You know what my job entails. Come on, pay up.”
Harold Breaker sighed, and withdrew a wad of Monopoly money from his pocket. He licked his thumb and leafed through it, tossing five hundreds in the center of the table, in between the two rather disappointing breakfasts.
“Thank y’kindly.” Ryan Melbourne said with a complete lack of anything remotely resembling happiness at the outcome. He added the bills to his own wad. Breaker shook his head, chuckling in that vague “I can’t believe you’re doing this” manner of people who have just witnessed a friend get roped into something stupid.
“Laugh all you want, but you know what? Hughes bought me this shirt, because he’s an asshole. If I was able to turn down a free shirt I’d burn the thing faster than you can say hot Texas barbeque! Yeah, you can laugh, but you guys have had it easy since Darwin. I have to re-write half of the book every other week just because a hipster farted and someone put it on the Internet. Do you know how much extra work this damn show’s given me? At least twenty percent goddammit! It’s in my head and it won’t leave!”
Breaker looked up from his newspaper and sipped his coffee simultaneously. The combination of cup angle, location of paper relative to the table expression of the eyes, and the length of the sip said: “8/10 on the rant: you’re overdoing it a little bit, but it’s amusing so I’m going to make a snarky statement to further incite the situation.”
Coffee sips are very expressive.
“You’re still wearing a shirt with My Little Pony on it,” he said.
“Yes, and I am simmering with the indignity of it. You caused this, you know. You and my gambling addiction.”
“I didn’t think you’d actually do it.”
“You don’t know how addiction works, man.”
“Admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery.”
“Implying I want to recover.”
“Probability is minimal.”
“I hypothesize that this is all incredibly silly.”
“I concur with your hypothesis.”
“The data supports it.”
“Final conclusion: this conversation is incredibly silly, and we should probably stop.”
“Agreed.” Breaker went back to the paper, and surprisingly enough looked like he was actually reading it. “Though I’m going to have to give Hughes a chewing out for his bad taste. Twilight Sparkle is the best pony. Lynn says so.”
Melbourne did a passable imitation of a trout for a few moments, blinked several times, and went back his corn flakes, defeated. How did he forget the crucial fact that his friend had a six-year-old daughter? Of course he’d made the bet. He knew the stakes, had contextual knowledge. he knew the bet would be fulfilled, and then knew that he’d get to have the humorous final comment when it was all done. That bastard…
The cafeteria went quiet again, though granted, Breaker and Melbourne were the only people in there and the former was busily plotting vengeance on the latter.
A few minutes of coffee-sipping, cereal-chewing, newspaper-reading and vengeance-plotting later, the door to the cafeteria opened, revealing a lanky, brown-haired man with a boyish face and small, rectangular glasses.
“Oi, Bailey!” Melbourne called out to him. “Which one are you today?”
“Same one I’ve been every day from the last five months.” Tristan Bailey walked over to the cabinets and began shuffling through the contents. Someone would have to buy bread soon.
“Dammit.” Melbourne handed Breaker a fifty. “I swear, you’re going to pull that switcheroo joke on us one of these days and I am going to be ready for it.”
“Going to be hard to do that, with Trev at 19 and Tom in Antarctica.” Bailey put four slices of wheat bread into the toaster. There was no peanut butter.
“Yeah, yeah, keep trying to fool me. I’m watching you.” Melbourne made the universal sign of “I’m watching you punk”, though the effect was greatly mitigated by his choice of shirt. Breaker finished the last of his coffee and continued read about how some people were killing some other people somewhere in the world by means of sundry mundane methods.
Some time was spent waiting for toast.
“Finally.” Bailey removed his toast. “I think old four-slot has seen better days.” He chose normal butter to make up for the lack of peanut butter. “Is it just me or is this place dead this morning?”
“Eh, it’s Friday. It’s always dead on Friday.”
Bailey placed the butter back in the fridge, took up his plate and mug, and sat down next to the other two.
“And what a wonderful death it is. What’s on the agenda for today?”
“Gonna try knocking out a good chunk of the security meme update package, then data collection, and then several hours of staring at the ceiling and wondering where everything went wrong. Same as usual,” Melbourne said. “How about you?”
Bailey swallowed a mouthful of toast.
“More negotiations over mining rights in F-3426-Delta. Dumb bastards have been sitting on top of enough rare earths to plate the goddamn Statue of Liberty in iridium, not doing a thing with it for centuries, but the moment we ask to mine some of the stuff they dig in their heels.”
“Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha. Ha.” Breaker gloated with well-practiced theatric fakery. “All I have for today is the final paperwork for the E-5503 tests, and then the whole bunch is off to Resources and Processing. I’ll be done by lunch.”
Melbourne glared at him with the special loathing only acquired by being forced to wear a humiliating t-shirt in public for fake money. This was not something you just let people get away with. No, this required action.
“Bailey, I need you as witness to this.”
“I am witnessing it.”
“Good.” Melbourne took out his considerably thick wad of pastel bills, kept one for himself, and slammed the rest on the table.
“I bet you all of this that you won’t get done by noon today.”
“Fair enough.” Breaker’s tone was so noncommittal, so flat, so accepting. No, no this wouldn’t do. This wouldn’t do at all.
“Okay, you know what, no. Stakes aren’t high enough. I have seventy-five dollars and a Steak n’ Shake gift card in my wallet. I am willing to bet all of that on you having to stay past noon. Deal?”
They shook on it.
Site 87 woke up, or in the case of the night shift, went to sleep. In both cases it was much like a cat, with yawns and stretches but no particular hurry to do so. Some cars entered the parking lot of S & C Plastics, others left, and absolutely no one outside found anything unusual about the fact.
Ryan Melbourne sat down at his desk and sighed. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why did he bet real money? The entire point of the Monopoly money was so that he’d stop betting real money. He booted up his computer. The desktop wallpaper was a picture of Earth from the ISS.
But that was how he worked, right? Things got stuck in his head. Melbourne is a compulsive gambler. Everyone knew that. Melbourne would bet his own grandmother on what someone had in their lunch. It was a meme. It stuck in their heads, and it stuck in his head. You didn’t think about memes, you acted on them. They were automatic. You threw “implying” at the beginning of sentences. You said that things were twenty percent better when it didn’t even make sense. You made references that no one else understood, just because they made sense to you, and your mind wouldn’t let you stop. That was a good deal of memetics in a nutshell: programming the mind through the transmission of ideas.
Good God, he needed help. The pony on his shirt didn’t mean anything anymore: this was one of those moments where a man realizes that something is very much wrong and he needs to act immediately before the moment passes and he falls into complacency.
He grabbed a pen and a pad of sticky notes.
Make appointment with Dr. Talbot
He stuck it to his computer monitor with a sharp jab, adding an emphatic period to the statement.
He paused for a moment and then wrote another note:
Stop pitying yourself.
He then began reviewing dispersion patterns.
“We do not consider your case a pressing need.”
It was the same response that Tristan Bailey had been hearing for the past two weeks of his adventures in bureaucracy. The translation software had latched onto the phrase, spouting it and variants in its metallic monotone. It seemed to fit the man sitting across the negotiation table: bald and tall, with a thin face and not a spark of life anywhere in his eyes. At the very least he didn’t have a “sub” or “vice” anywhere in his title. He might actually have some power.
“That may be the case, but as I have said a thousand times before, your society can’t be without needs. Tell us the need, and we will be more than happy to supply you.”
“I have no authority to make decisions of this scale.”
That same answer. No one seemed to have any authority.
“Are you sure? There’s absolutely nothing your people need or want from us? Luxury goods, cultural knick-knacks, anything?”
“I have no authority to make decisions of this scale.”
Bailey argued back and forth with himself in his head. There was a significant amount of valuable materials available here, and two weeks wasn’t an abnormal time for negotiation. Maybe he was just too used to dealing with primitives who saw them as gods or fellow institutions of the paranatural. But, there were only so many extra-universal contacts and contracts that could be held at any one time, and leaving this one open for weeks without progress would just be taking resources away from something that needed them more. This was a judgment call scenario.
The mining could wait. It wasn’t like Multi-U was low on options.
Bailey stood up and straightened his tie.
“Well, it appears that you won’t be swayed by any of my reasoning, so I’m going to have to take my business elsewhere. Good day to you, sir.”
They shook hands. For a brief moment, the thin man took notice of a slight prick in his palm. His eyes went glassy a brief moment later. When he woke from his stupor, all he would remember was a plain looking foreigner who had been attempting…something.
Bailey walked out of the room, and hoped he had better luck in F-3426-Gamma.
Harold Breaker smiled to himself as he checked his watch.
It wasn’t so much that he had won the bet. Caring about those things was Melbourne’s job. He was just happy that the project was done and out of his hands, as were the creatures themselves. That was always a good feeling, getting something done. What made things even better was that E-5503 had proven itself to be quite fireproof, enough so to justify farming the things for their leather.
He knocked on the wall of Melbourne’s cubicle. The man himself was hunched at his computer, typing away lines of code.
“Of course. Today is just not my day.” He jabbed a thumb at a small pile of cash on top of a filing cabinet. “Right over there.”
Breaker scooped up the money, took the two steps necessary to cross the cubicle, and set it down next to his mouse pad.
“I’m in need of a ballpoint pen and I am willing to pay seventy-five American dollars for it.”
“Well, what do you know? That’s my asking price.” Melbourne grinned “You can keep the card. There’s only like four bucks on it anyway.”
The next day was Saturday, which meant it was Harold Breaker’s visitation day. As such, it involved cartoons about friendship, followed by burgers and milkshakes for lunch.