The offices of Fox Television happened to be quiet that day: Obama and McCain hadn't done anything worth even mentioning, hurricane Farouk hadn't yet ruined anyone's day, Britney was staying indoors, and no one even know where the Jolie-Pitts were hanging out that week.
Consequently, when there came a flash of light, a squawk from two voices, and a mighty crash from within a closed office, most of the sixth floor took notice.
A brave accounting assistant approached the door to the office, hesitatingly, as there came muffled thumps and voices from an office that was supposed to be vacant all week... it was her boss' office, and he was out of town. Others gathered round her, to bolster her courage, albeit from a safe distance. Finally, she turned the doorknob, pushed the door opened, and stood back.
Amy and I stepped out, supporting each other--we'd landed painfully atop a teak coffee table, and neither of us could walk without limping--and followed by a small panda bear. The three of us stopped, and stared silently at all of the people silently staring at us.
Amy and I did the only thing we could think of: We did an impromptu soft-shoe number, limp-shuffling for the elevator bay, followed by the panda, which ran around our legs like a show-dog. We reached the elevators, a door opened, and without paying any attention whether it was going up or down, we high-kicked aboard and doffed our imaginary top-hats as the doors closed upon us.
When the doors closed, the accounting assistant muttered, "I hate sweeps week."
We had to dance at four other floors before we reached the bottom, whereupon we quick-stepped through the lobby and, once we were outside, ran like our pants were on fire.
We stopped when we reached a park, where we found a water fountain and washed the paint off of our faces, using our gloves as rags.
"So, that's the end," I said as I wiped the last of the black paint from behind my ears. "Now what?"
"Now," Amy said as the panda helped himself to water from the fountain, "we have evidence of how the publishing industry has been intentionally keeping e-books at bay. We can go to the public, to the authors, and to the media, and expose them for the monsters they are."
"And hope the world actually cares," I added.
"Yeah... there's that," she admitted. Amy regarded me, and a funny expression came across her face.
"What?" I said finally.
"Well," she replied, "for an ex-published author, with no espionage experience, who fell clumsily into a trap, almost got himself killed escaping, was crazy enough to go back, and unlucky enough to fight with a 2-ton panda, you handled yourself pretty good back there."
"Thanks. I think. And may I say that, as I repeatedly got the s**t kicked out of me, I never had better company."
"Thank you," she said, and actually blushed a bit. (Actually, it might have been from my cussing.)
"What will you do now?" I asked.
"Well," Amy replied, "I've got to find work again. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure this is Washington, D.C. That means there are lots of non-commercial editing jobs about, if I can get one. Places where maintaining tight-fisted control over profits is not so vital as commercial publishing. You know... like academic textbooks. And how about you?"
"Mmm," I thought. "Well, all of this might make an interesting germ for a story, given a bit of polishing and embellishment. I could stand some additional research on the subject matter, though." I moved closer to Amy. "Something a good, experienced commercial editor might be able to provide, with the right... incentive
. Someone who knows the... intimate
details. What do you think?"
And Amy looked at me, with those dark Mediterranean eyes, smiled, and said, "Yeah, good luck with that. Is there a Metro station near here?"
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - for with Amy, I have struck out!
I am not absolutely sure why, but I will be collecting these installments of "6 of one", and making it available as a collected short story on SteveJordanBooks.com. Unless I come to my senses first.
No pandas were harmed in the telling of this story (unless they were particularly sensitive to cussing).