It's been a while since something truly humiliating happened to me - I guess I was due.
I'm back at work and my nose has been running all morning. I'm doing a boring market study for the QuantumWorks project this week - it's something I would normally have a lackey or two do for me, but as I'm a one-man marketing and brand management department, it has fallen on my manly shoulders. I swear, I think Quentin, Bradbury, and Clarke are just thinking up stuff to keep me busy, but whatever. The pay's good.
Lately I've been entertaining an idea for breaking into the Ninth Floor after hours and snooping around. I can't tell if it's a stupid plan or not, so I'm still thinking about it. We'll see.
Oh, right: the humiliation. Well, my nose is kind of drippy today. I've run out of tissue paper, but I fight the instinct to call Chad and make him go get me some. No, I've learned it is not cool to make underlings perform menial tasks for you. I will go find some tissue paper myself. Maybe the supply room...
I'm heading down the main hall on the Ninth Floor, the one with the strange plants, when Margo comes out of her office, holding a bunch of papers and an Odwalla. Her face brightens a little when she sees me, which is nice.
"Mackenzie!" she says and flashes The Grin. She's wearing a vanilla colored silk blouse and a short-but-not-too-short black worsted wool skirt. "How's it--"
I sneeze. Explosively. On Margo.
When you've got mid-range super strength like me, it affects your entire physiology. I weigh a good thirty pounds more than a normal guy my height and build, because I've got thick bullet-resistant skin and dense muscles. A lot of people don't think about this, but when you've got super-strength, every part of your body is super strong. You see where I'm going with this? For instance, if I want to I can pee a good twenty, thirty feet. Seriously, I can piss from one side of my back yard to the other because of my powerful internal muscles. And that's just an example; I'm sure you can probably think of other bodily functions that would illustrate my point. The science fiction writer Larry Niven wrote a great (but graphic) essay called "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" that kind of touches on this subject. It describes how sexually incompatible Superman and Lois Lane are, being from different species and all. I won't go into detail, but I think this quote sums it up: "...with kryptonian muscles behind it, [Superman's] semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet."
You get the point. I'm no Superman, but I'm stronger than a rhino, and when I sneeze...
The contents of my sinuses blast out of my nose and mouth like a firehose. I blow the papers out of Margo's hands and splatter the front of her silk blouse with nose spray. She screams.
We look at each other for a moment. I'm intensely aware of a strand of snot dangling from my nose. Oh, God. Somebody please just shoot me.
"Uhh..." she says, looking down at her blouse and the wet papers at her feet. Her lovely face is dappled with little flecks of saliva.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry!" I say, wiping my nose. "I've got this cold, and -- and --"
She holds up a hand. I admire her composure. People are coming out of their offices to look.
"I'm okay, it's okay," she says softly. "I'm just going to... go back into my office. I have a spare blouse."
"Margo, I'm so sorry, I..."
She forces a smile and wipes her face with the back of her hand. "It's okay, it's okay," she says. "These things happen." Margo kneels down to pick up her papers, then thinks better of it, and straightens herself. With as much dignity as she can muster, she smiles and walks slowly back to her office. She tosses her Odwalla into the copy room trash bin on the way.
My face is burning with shame. I want to die.
At the far end of the hall, Ted Bradbury leans out of his office door. He gives me a sarcastic thumbs-up then goes back inside, laughing. How I loathe him.
I'm left just standing in the hallway, totally humiliated.
"Anybody got a Kleenex?"