It was another bright and cheerful day at Heroes Incorporated until disaster struck.
Little did she know it, but today would be the day Shrink Girl finally made her mark at Heroes Inc.
“Code Rose!” Mike, the Middle Manager, yelled, running through the cubicle farm. The world’s most famous superheroes popped their heads over the cubicle walls like a herd of masked prairie dogs. Mike turned down one row, up a column, down another row, rounded a corner, and started retracing his steps, all the while shouting, “Code Rose!”
Beet red and breathless, Mike stopped and leaned against a cubicle wall.
“Anything I can do to help, Mike?” asked the Human Megaphone.
The Human Megaphone never missed an opportunity to help middle management, unless there was a chance to help upper or executive management.
“Need… to find… Shrink Girl!” Mike wheezed. He bent at the waist, forcing blood back to his head.
“SHRINK GIRL! REPORT TO SECTION B, ROW 7, CUBE 27A! I REPEAT… RRRREEEKEEKEKKEBBERRR!”
Everyone covered their ears to block out The Human Megaphone’s feedback.
“Who is using a transistor radio?” The Human Megaphone glared at the heroes around him. “I’ve asked you not to use transistor radios as they interfere with my abilities! … Mike, I’m so sorry. I’ve told them…”
A row over, Scarlet Mime switched off her nonexistent radio. There was, in her opinion, no need to shout in an office.
“Hello? Did someone call me?” Shrink Girl asked, rounding a cubicle corner. She bit her lip in an unsuperhero-like manner and assumed she was in trouble.
“Where have you been?” Mike demanded.
“On The Public Relations Importance of Catchphrases When Dealing with Collateral Damage webinar. I had my headphones in,” Shrink Girl said, lowering her eyes.
“This is exactly why headphones are forbidden in the office. Right, Mike?” The Human Megaphone said, at a volume 4, so everyone heard.
“That’s right! I know you’re new here, Shrink, but we have rules for a reason.” Mike launched into a lecture on the dangers of headphones in an office, which is easily summed up by saying, “And that’s why radioactive marine life now run Topeka.”
Mike, as Middle Manager, was obligated to give the longer explanation.
Shrink Girl had only worked with Heroes Inc. for three months, replacing the former shrinkable hero who left to pursue a career in accounting.
Since starting, Shrink had only been allowed to attend seminars, conferences, and webinars on all topics superhero and legal. She had also taken forty-seven tests on the Super Employee Handbook and Crime Fighter’s Manual and passed each one.
And all of this experience led Shrink Girl to one, undeniable conclusion. She was underutilized.
So she began sending out her résumé.
“And just after Google installed a fiber network. Such a waste,” Mike said, finishing his lecture.
“I’ll never wear headphones again. I promise,” Shrink Girl said, wondering how the Dastardly Debutante would enjoy listening to tomorrow’s webinar: ‘To Rescue Or Not To Rescue – The Likelihood of Lawsuits.’
“Good. That will be all,” Mike said.
Shrink Girl turned to go.
“Mike, what about the Code Rose?” The Human Megaphone whispered.
“Of course!” Mike shouted, grabbing Shrink Girl’s hand and dragging her off through the cubicle farm.
“Good luck, Mike! Your work is appreciated!” The Human Megaphone called after them.
“The Human Megaphone’s a good guy. Keeps up morale, which is very important. You could learn a lot from him,” Mike said pulling Shrink Girl towards the stealth hanger.
A Code Rose? Thoughts swirled in Shrink Girl’s head.
A Code anything was important.
Someone had taken notice of her test scores and hard work!
Soon she would be in the stealth plane getting debriefed on the Code Rose situation!
Now, if only she could remember what a Code Rose meant.
Red indicated a major continent was being attacked.
Orange meant a minor continent was under attack.
Blue was for asteroids, space junk, or other inanimate objects hurtling towards Earth.
Shrink Girl blanked. She pictured the page in the manual, but couldn’t find Rose.
Not that she would admit this to Mike, the Middle Manager.
They were ten feet from the hangar doors when Mike made a sudden left. Shrink Girl, lost in hashtags descriptions for her first mission, missed the turn.
She lost her footing and fell into the doorway of the 4th floor supply room.
Red-faced, Shrink Girl stood up. Three heroes, plus Mike, stood there staring at her.
“She’s here. If anyone can find the paper jam, I’m certain Shrink Girl can!” Mike announced to the group.
“Just use the 3rd floor machine,” Mister Stretch said for the third time today.
“That’s for support staff,” Mike replied, clearly appalled at being lumped in with them.
Mister Stretch rolled his eyes.
“Shrink Girl, this is important. A rash of yogurt thefts are bringing down morale. We need fifteen signs reminding people to only eat their own food. But the copier is broken,” Mike said. “If we don’t have morale, what do we have?”
“Paychecks?” Lady Mystery suggested.
“People don’t work for paychecks, Mystery. At Heroes Inc., we work for the love of our job. This is our passion and a yogurt thief will not undo our commitment!” Mike replied, banging on the Rose-McKellan copy machine.
Lady Mystery’s smile was difficult to read.
“Here’s the background, Shrink. I got Stretch, but he couldn’t reach the jam, and Kongliath wasn’t able to shake the paper out. Now you’re up. Make me proud!” Mike said, stepping aside.
“What about Lady Mystery?” Shrink Girl asked, hoping to finally figure out the Lady’s powers.
“I just came for a pen, but stayed for the excitement,” Lady Mystery replied, leaning back against the laser printer, as if to say, ‘Why not just print more pages from this?’
“So get in there and show us what you’ve got, Shrink Girl!” Mike said, popping open a compartment door.
“Okay!” Shrink Girl said, hoping enthusiasm hid her disappointment. Only Mike seemed fooled, but Shrink Girl figured this was fine, since Mike was the only one who cared.
She dove into the open compartment door, shrinking to the size of a pea, and landed on tab B. Shrink Girl climbed over a roller and entered the heart of the Rose-McKellan.
Back in the supply room, Mike’s head snapped towards the door. “Did I hear Paper Mate out there? Isn’t he still on vacation?”
“Today’s his first day back,” Kongliath replied, picking a nit from his forearm.
“Why didn’t anyone say so?” Mike asked, hurrying off to find Paper Mate.
“I’m starving. What are you two doing for lunch?” Lady Mystery asked.
“I brought mine,” Kongliath sighed. “Dan has me on a diet. I couldn’t fit into that monkey suit for his 40th birthday, so now I’m stuck eating chicken feed and lettuce.”
“I’m going to Jimmy Subs. You’re welcome to join,” Mister Stretch replied.
Lady Mystery shrugged. She’d already eaten Jimmy Subs twice this week and was getting tired of them. But she was also one punch away from getting a free sub. “Let me get back to you,” she said, as Mike pulled Paper Mate into the supply room.
“G’day, mates. Whad’ve we ‘ave ‘ere?” Paper Mate asked.
Originally from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the corporation rebranded Paper Mate to appeal to their Oceanian clientele.
As part of the rebranding, Paper Mate spent Tuesday and Thursday afternoons working with an Australian linguistic coach. So far he had managed to alienate most of New Zealand and the better part of Queensland.
He looked at the Rose-McKellan’s display panel.
“We’s pulled the machine apart, but it still won’t run,” Mister Stretch explained. “There’s a scrap in there somewhere.”
“Nah. Yoo joost ‘ave to turn it off then on a’gin,” Paper Mate said, slipping into a terrible Canadian accent.
He flipped the power switch.
“No!” everyone yelled, except Mike, the Middle Manager, who muttered, “Yes, of course! Turn it off and on again.”
The machine buzzed to life, spitting out signs reading, “Remember: Gogurt Your Own Yogurt!”
“Something must be wrong with the ink saturation,” Mike muttered, throwing the top five pages into the recycling bin. “Oh nevermind. No more red streaks. We’re all good.”