Ragar snarled and flung his tablet across the room, but it only plonked off the wall and fell to the floor unharmed. He looked around the room for something he could smash, but even the windows were made of infini-glass. So instead he called up the intercom interface and screamed, “PEABODY! GET IN HERE!”
A few minutes later Peabody came through the door. He was tall where Ragar was short, young where Ragar was old; his head was shaved where Ragar’s was merely balding.
“You called, sir?” The tone was deferential, the pose submissive, but there was something in the younger man’s eyes that gave Ragar the distinct impression that far beneath the surface the young man was laughing at him.
“I just got a message from Senator Dobs,” he snarled. “Last minute changes to the scenario. Said YOU suggested them.”
“‘Suggest’ is perhaps a bit stronger term than I would-”
“Shut up. I like you Peabody. Really. You do good work. But this kind of thing has to stop.”
“Isn’t there a last-minute changes clause in the contract?”
“You know there is. And the Senator’s willing to pay through the nose for the new scenario. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t more work for the rest of us.”
“Maybe not as much as you think, sir.”
“Don’t give me that. We’ve got the planet all set and ready. Ruins smoldering properly, rot-bots charging up. The senator’s son was all set to be the hero of his very own zombie apocalypse and here you come, weeks before D-Day with this stupid spider idea.”
“Everyone does zombies sir. I’ve been trying to tell you we need to branch out; try new things. I’ve got this idea for a plant-based-”
“Shut your trap, Peabody. I swear to god if he changes his mind again, that’s it. You’re out of here. I don’t care how good you are.”
“You’re making this into a much bigger deal than it has to be.”
“Really? Then tell me. How are we supposed to reset and entire planet in two weeks. And remember, no holograms.”
“None needed sir. It’s really quite easy. The rot-bots we can just deactivate, leave them lying around as the carnage of the spiders.”
“It’s not the bodies I’m worried about. Where are you going to get billions of spiders from? The fabbers won’t work that fast.”
“They won’t have to. With a few simple modifications they’re going to BE the spiders.”
Ragar turned the idea over and over in his head, looking for holes. “You’re saying we slap a fresh coat of paint on them, program their dispensers to spin webs and give them the run of the planet?”
“Right. Maybe we have them work up a couple or three monster-sized arachnids to keep things interesting. We could do all that in a week. Tops.”
Ragar growled, trying to think of some other objection to raise, and when he found none ready at hand he snapped, “Fine. Go. Make it happen.”
When Peabody was gone, Ragar pounded his fist against his desk in frustration. He still wanted to break something.
Anymore, everything was practically indestructible. And why shouldn’t it be? This was the future, the perfect paradise, Utopia realized, the New Jerusalem descended from the heavens. And no one was happy.
Well, no that wasn’t strictly true. There was a manner of happiness to be found. But contentment…that was another bird entirely. The whole world seemed to be caught in the grip of a paralyzing ennui, a specter that lingered like an unseen cloud over the glittering skylines of their peaceful and disease-free cities.
And so people distracted themselves. In a world with no dangers to speak of, brats like the Senator’s son paid billions for manufactured conflict, tramping off through warp holes to fight against hoards of zombies. Or, if Peabody had his way, deadly swarms of spiders. It was enough to make Ragar sick.
He walked over to where his tablet had fallen, and brushed it off with his sleeve. And then, there on the floor where the cursed thing had fallen, he noticed a single tiny spider skittering across the tile.
A grim smile slithered across Ragar’s face. He carefully raised his shoe, and then slammed his heel down with a crunch.