692 words by Stanley Lieber
UNIVERSAL MOLD, NYC OFFICE
Plinth Mold scrolled through the morning news and shook his head.
"They make up some lie and then they get mad at you when you see through it. Because in their mind they think they've crafted the perfect deception, which should appeal to your (perceived) faults."
"That's pretty fucking ridiculous. Clearly they are to blame for their own inability to con you."
"By the way, do you want to come in early today?"
"I'm already here, sir."
Plinth looked up from his leaf and saw that Thomas was indeed standing in the doorway to his office.
"Oh. So I'm not talking to you on the phone."
"You sound like you're on the phone."
"I'm not, sir."
"Nano-toxins. That eat sperm. Selective genocide."
"History is spamming weird."
"Yeah, I read about it the other day. Something they unleashed during World War II. Hell of a way to get your pipes cleaned."
"Barbaric. And yet... Hmm. Piques the curiosity."
"I'll say. I wonder if it hurts."
"See if you can finish up these inks before Chricton comes back from lunch."
Thomas moved his fingers inside the box. Ink lines began to appear over the blue wireframe on his screen. Once finished, he would export the flat image to paper. For some reason, Plinth Mold still preferred a 2-D mock-up for his action figures. Thomas found the whole get-up awkward, but for a paycheck he was willing to oblige.
"I know this is not what we set out to do with ourselves," Thomas said to himself as he continued to trace the lines on his screen. "We've allowed a number of years to slip by, and yet, no clear progress towards our goals is apparent."
Just as Thomas was getting into the rhythm of self-deprecation, Chricton returned, bursting through the door with two brown paper bags full of groceries.
"That was quick."
"Yes. I ran into Eva in the corridor. Relieved her of these. Here, let's snack while we work."
"Thoughtful of you."
"Yeah, I don't think she was going to do anything important with all this stuff anyway. She was covered in some kind of white powder. Just stood there while I took her groceries away from her. Distant look in her eyes."
Thomas leaned his head down on his drawing surface and pretended to snort a line of cocaine.
Both men laughed heartily.
Plinth was flossing with a piece of o-ring from one of the prototype figures.
"Boss, that's gross."
"Hey, all this junk is mine anyway. Keep your eyes on your own paper."
"You know, I've often wondered how to solve the problem of The Troll."
"What the fuck is a Troll, boss?"
"I'm glad you asked. A Troll is merely someone who enters into a discussion with the intent of disrupting the equilibrium; usually by misrepresenting his own or others' actual positions in favor of inflammatory rhetoric, or by the constant interjection of non sequitors."
"I see. This has to do with one of your theological speculations, doesn't it? Doesn't sound like a very friendly habit, anyway."
"No, the Troll isn't a very friendly sort at all. In fact, the practice of Trolling is usually undertaken maliciously. Why, the history of the Green is positively peppered with examples of individuals who --"
"But boss, why would someone want to do something like that? Seems counterproductive."
"That, Thomas, is the problem of the Troll."
Chricton looked up from his workbench. "I think we should make a figure of this Troll character." He swiveled his screen around and displayed his design: a small creature with an obnoxious outgrowth of wispy hair, mounted atop a pencil as if it were some kind of ornamental eraser.
Plinth was visibly amused. He depressed a switch inside his coat sleeve.
"Capital idea, Chricton! Our only obstacle will be securing a license on the concept from the Green Consortium."
All of the men chuckled hesitantly before deliberately shifting the discussion to other matters.
The Green Consortium never issued licenses.
Not to the likes of Plinth Mold.
To be continued...