[This conversation takes place in the ruined QuantumWorks wing in the office building I work in on a Saturday night. Ted Bradbury and I have just gone four rounds with each other and some alien plants, and after a brief vomiting interlude, are about to commence pounding on each other again. Dr. Quark has just arrived, revealed that he is actually John Quentin - one of the VPs in our company - and has thoroughly confused and pissed me off. Let’s begin.]
ME: OK, again: what the hell is going on? I’m gonna keep hitting people if I don’t get answers.
QUARK: Please, Mr. Mackenzie, calm down. I can explain everything.
ME: That would be fucking great. Go.
QUARK: First of all, I’d like to apologize for deceiving you. It wasn’t our intention to –
ME: That’s not explaining, that’s apologizing! I don’t know if I’m conveying how super-molten-lava-nuclear war pissed I am right now! If that’s not coming across –
DICKHEAD: Why don’t you shut up and let him talk?
ME: Hey, fuck you Ted! You want some more of this? [I point at my fist.]
DICKHEAD: Let’s go, asshole, I’m ready.
QUARK: Both of you, calm yourselves. You’re done fighting.
DICKHEAD: I have to be calm? Me? Q, look at this place, look what he did here!
QUARK: It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, Ted. Mr. Mackenzie was doing what he thought was right, based on very limited information.
ME: Information I still don’t have. What is going on here? What is that thing in there, the black hole thing?
QUARK: That is QuantumWorks, Mr. Mackenzie. I’ll explain. As you know, we were developing an infinite-capacity historic search engine. The key to the whole project is our transdimensional feed technology, patent pending. We created a stable portal to a pocket dimension which both powers and acts as data storage for the search engine.
ME: Okay. Isn’t that, you know, illegal?
QUARK: Yes, well, technically. We were working on the patent process and getting approval with the feds when we had our problem. Several months ago we lost complete control over the portal. To put it in simple terms, the dimensional fabric began to tear, and we had a potential dimensional breach on our hands.
ME: That sounds bad.
QUARK: It is, yes. We’ve had experts from various disciplines working on the problem, and with the help of people like your friend Hydrangea, we’ve managed to stabilize the tear and have averted a full breach.
ME: So you say. What happens if there’s a full breach?
QUARK: Basically all the matter in a particular dimension gets sucked through an ever-widening dimensional rift – a black hole is the nearest analogy.
ME: Let me see if I got this straight. You guys were screwing around with shit that people shouldn’t be screwing around with, and you created a black hole that could destroy everything in this universe? By accident?
QUARK: In essence, yes.
ME: Do you have any idea how fucked up that is?
DICKHEAD: Hey! You have any idea who you’re talking to?
ME: Again, fuck off, Ted.
QUARK: We’re aware of the magnitude of the problem, yes. We pulled the plug on the QuantumWorks project several months ago, but we’ve maintained the illusion that the project is still ongoing while we try to seal the breach.
ME: And so you’re John Quentin, huh?
ME: Who’s he? Who’d he use to be? [I point at Ted/Dickhead.]
QUARK: Ted, would you care to fill him in?
DICKHEAD: No fucking way. He almost broke my knee, Q!
ME: You know what? I don’t care who you were. I just want to know why you guys dragged me into this shit, why you’ve been screwing around with me this whole time.
QUARK: Well, we actually hired you on the QuantumWorks project to keep a closer eye on you. Your work has caught our notice.
ME: Whose notice?
QUARK: The Storm Riders.
ME: [disbelieving] Ted’s a Storm Rider?
QUARK: No, Ted’s the CFO of our company. My projects overlap, frequently. We – The Storm Riders – have been interested in starting a franchise organization, of sorts. For more ground-level threats. We –
ME: Hang on. You guys hired me so you could spy on me, see if I could play nice?
QUARK: It was my idea, really.
ME: Have you guys bugged my house? Did you break into my house in January and steal that canister I took from Interbionics? What about Hydrangea, did you send her out to test me, was that the deal? And Margo –
QUARK: I have a proposal, Mr. Mackenzie. How about we shelve this conversation until tomorrow, say about 11:30? We can meet here and discuss the matter, answer any questions you might have.
ME: I can’t believe you would dick me around like that! Like a little fucking chess piece or something!
QUARK: See, this is why I think we should talk about this when we’re all a little more calm.
[At this point I walk out. On the way past Dr. Quark, I stop. I can hear the blood pounding in my ears. I can rarely recall feeling so stupid, so pissed, so outraged.]
ME: One last thing.
[I drive my knee into Dr. Quark’s crotch. He folds, slumps to the floor.]
[Then I split before he turns me into a toad or something. I can’t believe I just kneed the Surgeon of Reality in the nuts.]
[He had it coming.]