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Code Ragnarok: From the Files of Mark Brainerd

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Code Ragnarok". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Mark Brainerd is a Trainee Watcher. With an apocalypse in the offing it's all hands on deck. Fortunately for Mark, the Powers That Be have found the perfect job that needs doing. This is fortunate? Isn't it?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > GeneralHMaxMarius + 8 othersFR183326,99617219,05425 Dec 1213 Dec 13No

A Typical Day - Part Three by (Current Donor)Manchester

Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and also any and all characters from whatever media presented here are the property of their original owners.

8:07 a.m.: Glancing at his watch, Mark Brainerd turned on his desk computer in preparation for getting to work. While waiting for it to boot up, the bureaucrat shot a rather furtive look at the cubicle’s open doorway. Nobody was there at the moment, nor had anyone passed by this space either within the last few moments. Which in itself was the only good thing about the other cubicles out on the opposite sides of him -- all five of ’em -- being devoid of their former occupants, who’d soon one and all sensibly requested a transfer to somewhere safer. Such as on the Cleveland front lines, which were still far less perilous than working next door to a guy that unerringly had the worse luck ever in getting the most peculiar people possible assigned to him for guidance during their recruitment into the ISWC or other organizations for Code Ragnarok.

Waiting just a little bit longer to make absolutely sure he wouldn’t be caught at this, Mark leaned forward in his chair to rest his chest against the front edge of the tabletop, and he stretched out his arms to then give his new desk a genuinely adoring hug.

Hey, anyone else who’d been through the identical ludicrous experiences as Mark would’ve done the same. Given how much trouble he was normally caused by all those weirdos coming into his cubicle, the bureaucrat had recently added to his office routine this fervent thanks for what had been anonymously delivered several days ago to his workplace. After all, if you’re looking for protection from annoyed wizards, cranky superheroes, and other dangerous individuals when they finally lost their tempers over necessary things like signing their names in quintuplicate, you couldn’t ask for anything better to hide under than a desk made of solid adamantium.

It’d appeared there one day without any warning or notice when Mark returned from lunch, not looking forward to spending the rest of his shift trying to do his job without a missing desk. Well, actually…that specific item was still there in his cubicle, only this had been reduced to a two-dimensional drawing on the floor, the result of one of his more aggravating enlistees’ spiteful magical prank.

Anyway, the only thing Mark paid attention to at first, among his mild surprise over so quickly the guys from Building Maintenance had delivered this replacement desk, was how different it was from the previous half-dozen which had been eaten, dissolved by acids, etc., etc. Those earlier furniture had been like all the other utilitarian, everyday desks in the deserted cubicles around him, with a fake wood veneer tabletop upon attached lower grayish steel drawers. This new desk, on the other hand, was constructed entirely of colorless, shiny metal. Even odder, it was completely pristine. Not a single scratch or dent was to be found anywhere upon the sparkling surfaces of what looked to be an example of some multi-national corporate CEO’s ultra-expensive, stylish office desk.

Beginning to wonder if he’d received some ISWC executive’s desk by mistake, Mark hesitated for a few moments before making a reluctant call to those responsible for the building fixtures. If there’d been a mix-up somewhere, the best thing for him to do would be to fix it as fast as possible before he got yelled at for whatever had gone wrong. Holding his cellphone to an ear, Mark sadly regarded that really fine desk until he heard from the phone, “Maintenance, whaddaya need?”

“This is Watcher Brainerd. I’m calling about my desk--”

“Oh, yeah,” the harassed clerk at the other end of the phone interrupted Mark. “Can you wait a little bit longer? We’re in a kinda big rush here right now, and it looks like it’s gonna be a while until we get around to you.”

Without meaning to, the following words came from Mark’s mouth, “Actually, I thought about just taking another desk on my own from one of the other unoccupied cubicles. Is that okay?”

Whoever was in Maintenance evidently liked that idea, as shown by their more cheerful tone, “Hey, feel free, mac. We’ve been just too busy to even get started on finding you a new desk, so if nobody complains, then go right ahead. Don’t wreck anything we’ll have to repair, though.”

“No problem,” hollowly said Mark, staring in utter bewilderment at the swanky desk currently right in front of himself. After managing a last goodbye, the bureaucrat put away his phone while next tentatively walking around the desk to see if there was a note or other message attached to this piece of furniture giving some sort of explanation for the whole thing. Could somebody else, maybe his boss in Personnel, arranged for this on their own without telling Maintenance? Like Mark himself had just suggested, moving another desk here from some other cubicle? Except, there was nothing of this to be found, not even a single Post-It sticker.

While thinking about this, Mark absently stopped in his circuit and he rapped a knuckle against the unmarred tabletop. It didn’t make a sound. Growing intrigued, Mark rapped harder again, accomplishing nothing but bruising his finger upon the unyielding surface. Shaking his hand, the man next stood against the left side of the desk compartment housing the drawers there, and he gave an experimental brisk nudge with his knee to this to see if that would shift the desk. However, it didn’t move. At all, without even the slightest quiver being shown in the highlights reflecting back the office fluorescents overhead.

“Sturdy,” Mark approvingly muttered under his breath.

Going to where his swivel chair was waiting in a corner, Mark sat in this, and then he scooted back over the floor to park himself in front of the exquisite desk. He rapidly went through the drawers, which were totally empty. Beginning to slide back in the last drawer while luxuriating in the velvety smoothness of this action, just like all the others, Mark stopped short at a sudden thought.

Pulling the drawer open again, the trainee Watcher put his right hand in there, and he ran an index fingertip all over the inner bottom and sides. Bringing that finger out and then up to his face, Mark saw there wasn’t the merest speck of dust sticking there. It was like the desk was brand new and he was its very first owner--

Mark crooned while covetously stroking the smooth desktop with one palm, “I’m keeping you, no matter what, you beauty!”

The discovery later on of his new present’s supremely protective properties didn’t hurt, either.

Straightening up from his customary hug to something which he’d remained very, very quiet about without anyone so far ever alluding to this much less directly confronting him over it, Mark made a last check in the top desk drawer of what would be surely necessary for today: a couple dozen enlistment forms, a fresh pen, and the pillbox for his antihistamines. Satisfied there’d be a plentiful supply of all these, Mark shut the drawer. He then went through the e-mails now presented on his desk computer, with the bureaucrat’s good mood of just a moment ago instantly turning sour again.

There were even more electronic memos from General O’Neill! Not copies of those he’d already seen on his laptop back in his apartment, but new ones! All of them demanding that Mark fit answering them in his already busy schedule, without regard as to where he could find the time for dealing with these various communiqués. Didn’t that Stargate guy ever sleep?!

Okay, he needed a little something before work to deal with this. And if O’Neill didn’t like it, that jerk could just get stuffed.

Mark grumpily reached down to the lower right desk drawer, and he opened with an angry yank of one hand. Reaching into there, the man lifted from inside the drawer a small wooden bucket by its rope handle, depositing this odd object onto the desktop by his computer monitor. When the crudely-fashioned pail landed there, puffs of white vapor briefly spurted from around the rim of the wooden lid keeping the pail’s contents from spilling. Tugging off the lid, Mark took from inside the bucket a wooden teaspoon floating atop the murky liquid sloshing around in there. Scooping up a little bit of the ominously-appearing fluid with wisps of steam drifting upon the surface of this, Mark brought up the miniature ladle to his mouth, and he swallowed his recommended daily dose of Kickapoo Joy Juice.

Two large smoke rings simultaneously shot out of Mark’s ears, his fingernails crackled with tiny sparks, and a Saturn V rocket launched itself to infinity and beyond from deep within this bureaucrat’s stomach.

After taking another minute to fractionally recover, Mark shakily returned the spoon, lid, and bucket back to their previous positions. He next leaned back in his chair to pound hard his clenched right fist several times against the front of his body, where a pulsating heart was doing the Mexican Hat Dance, accompanied by an enthusiastic mariachi band and loud Oles! from a cheering audience somewhere in his lower intestines.

Wheezing for breath, Mark assured himself once more that he wasn’t drinking on the job, not really. After all, when he’d finished enlisting Hairless Joe and Lonesome Polecat back then, those Al Capp characters had good-naturedly insisted Mark have a friendly sip of their latest batch straight from Dogpatch. When the Watcher finally regained consciousness in his cubicle, he’d woken up with those guys gone, except for a certain little gift the hillbillies left behind on Mark’s desk. Blearily remembering then that pair’s warning not to ever let the stuff touch metal, Mark scavenged up a wooden cup and he used this to send a sample of perhaps the most dangerous libation on earth to the ISWC’s research division.

The next day, Mark received a quite surly reply from the scientists and wizards working there. Before all their test instrumentation (most of it irreplaceable) had either melted away or blown up, it’d been confirmed there wasn’t any form of alcohol known to man in whatever incredible substance had been delivered to their now-wrecked laboratory. Much like there not being the least bit chance of finding a single snowflake in a just-detonated ten-megaton nuclear weapon’s fireball. Oh, and if Watcher Brainerd ever again dared to do something like this without adequate advance warning, they were going to make him really suffer for it.

8:15 a.m.: Shifting upright in his chair, Mark Brainerd squared his shoulders, now finally feeling ready to face his first interview of the day.
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