Joe vs God

[Estimated reading time: 4 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]

Scene 1 - Office, visitor, research

It's another Tuesday in the Phoenix Audit Office.
Everyone except Joe is working from home, has been for the past three years, even before COVID offered the opportunity.
He saunters back into the cement two story building, a throwback to the 70s when it was poured and lovingly dedicated to a dead mayor.
The auditor's office is next to a strip mall, the only other building around, and Joe is carrying a white bag with a logo of a burger joint just doors down.

The office sits on Route 9, an east-west road that connects far off places you've never heard of in the mid-west.
On the north side of the route is a corn field, green and ten feet tall at this point in the season.
There is an empty field on the south side, where the Audit Office stands.
A lone green Civic sits in the parking lot, Joe's rental.

Twenty minutes later a bright red Lamborghini, no longer gleaming due to the dust all over its shapely corners, pulls into the lot.
A vision in a well-cut black suit steps out and goes into the Audit Office.
There is no one at reception and the vision has to wait for Joe to respond.

"Hey, sorry about the wait, what can I-" and Joe freezes mid-sentence as the gears in his brain grind to a halt.
Though Joe recovers fast. "How can I help you, Miss Wayne?"

"Elle, please," she bows as if in the presence of a lord.
"Are you Joe?"
She points and all he is able to do is nod, weakly.
"Ah, good, I was hoping to speak with you."

She is full of energy and uses her hands to radio in her emotions at any given moment.
Right now her fists are clenched in mock fury and she is happy to have run into Joe.

"Why don't we take this inside?"
Joe holds open the door to the back office and Miss Wayne barges in.

As she passes, Joe is mesmerized by her nonchalant nature.
She passes through the large empty space in the middle of the office and heads right for the "war room" where Joe has organized evidence on boards and various screens.

"Now this is what I had in mind!
Good, good, good," she mutters, looking over the copies of the logs that Joe dug up out of the Chicago Nuclear Zone.

"Now, ma'am, Elle, what did you want to discuss?"
Joe aims to please, but the vision feels like a squirrel on acid, and Joe is having a hard time keeping up.

"Your research," she waves at the room at large.
"It's fascinating, and I would love an introduction.
What can you tell me?"

"Well, first off ma'am, this department doesn't have a public visitor program.
I was under the impression you had a question..."
Joe trails off.

"Right, your department doesn't entertain guests, but that's changing."


"Because the State Department is moving your department under the WayneTech Research Group.
And I, in my capacity as your boss, amd asking you to tell me about your research."

Joe takes a moment to let that sink in.
The WayneTech RG was a prestigious posting that promised unlimited funding, prestige, and job security.
And that is all true, Joe knows.

Joe adjusts his glasses and tie, remembers the elevator pitch he gives his boss' Senator friends, and gets into it.
"There has been an unidentified but statistically present force at play within the United States, Canadian, UK, and other governments around the globe.
This office is analyzing close to three centuries of government records in thirty seven different languages in an attempt to identify the Shadow Hand."
Joe looks back toward the empty office and frowns.
"Lots of us work from home."

"Tell me about the Shadow Hand."
Elle Wayne is as serious as a heart attack.
Twin curls frame her narrow face and her dark-brown eyes bore deep into Joe's soul.

He is mesmerized and stumbles about for a moment before finding his footing.
The public persona of the globe-trotting adrenaline junkie is quite at odds with this unstoppable behemoth of quiet force.

"Right, right.
The Shadow Hand is my name, for an invisible force that has been meddling in human affairs for centuries.
It has been running multiple campaigns around the globe, I have found its fingerprints all over mass graves and demolished cities.
Sodom and Gomorrah, even," Joe confides and furtively glances around, as if the walls are listening.

Elle looks around, from one white board to another, and nods slowly to herself.

"It's so exciting, Ms Wayne, Elle, to finally have a backer, someone who supports this endeavor."

"Oh, Joe, you misunderstand.
Your department no longer exists.
You're out of a job, and all of this research...", her hands move to encompass the war-room, "is going away."

Scene 2

"Say what?"
Joe's reaction is unfiltered incredulity.

"Mr Banks, your research ends here and now.
I'm confiscating all of your data and I'm firing you.
Thanks for your hard work and all that, feel free to take a souvenir home," she glances around then grabs a mug half-full of cold coffee and extends it to Joe.
"Here, from all of us, here at the office."
She smiles radiantly and Joe feels like walking on the surface of the sun.

"Why?" is all he manages to ask in a soft voice.

"The short of it?
You got too close, and that won't do.
My family has gone to great lengths to keep our activity secret, and we won't be taken down by you, Joe.
Besides, it was always for the greater good."

"The greater good?
Give me a fucking break!
Only psychotic freaks say that shit and mean it."

"True, true, a lot of the club members have been quoted...
We've sabotaged fascist organizations, added internal strife to corrupt governments, so on and so on."

"And enriched yourselves."

"Too true.
But by our count, we've averted sixteen world wars, thwarted them in their infancies and led the world to peace.
That's not nothing.
And your meddling is making it harder for us to operate..."

Elle trails off mid-sentence and turns her head quizzically at Joe, who is cracking up, laughing at the absurdity.

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