The day dawned bright and clear.
A gentle breeze was bringing the fresh cool air from the Pacific right into Berkeley, as Markos pedaled the last couple of miles before descending three floors into the Orange Bunker. He wasn’t paying much attention to the weather, even though the day was glorious.
No, this morning Markos was preoccupied with a far more urgent matter. What to do about Bob Johnson!
“Edscan”, yelled Markos, “Park the bike carefully today, I noticed a new scratch and if I see any more you will never be reprieved”.
Edscan took the bike, helmet dangling loosely from the right handlebar, and wheeled it away.
“Not my fault you can’t swan around in a fucking Tesla” he said, but he said it very quietly as Markos disappeared from view. Edscan had felt the wrath before, and he was in no great hurry to repeat the experience. What Meteor is capable of with those Blades is a movie plot that even Quentin Tarantino would shrink from.
There is an unusual level of noise as Markos entered the bunker that morning. Kumbaya is still playing from the sound system so it can’t be that. Faith Gardner had suggested it. Still a little new, and irrepressibly optimistic, she felt that a little soothing music might stem the flow of vitriol that filled her screen every time she reviewed a comment thread.
As his eyes traveled past the favourite child of his long-time Executive Editor, who we will call Susan, as that is her name, he noticed Hunter and Armando deep in discussion. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, so they couldn’t be responsible for the nagging feeling that something was wrong, but he wandered over anyway.
“You can’t have barbeque chicken AND pepperoni on the same slice”, he hears Armando sneer as he approaches, “It’s … it’s … it’s … unAmerican!”
“Is there a law against it?” asks Hunter, quietly, a small smile playing about his lips in a way that anyone paying the slightest attention would have recognized as triumph.
Markos is a little surprised to hear Hunter play the “law” card so early in an argument. This is troubling. It’s a standing joke in the Bunker that the way to shut Armando up is to lead him, slowly and carefully through many hours of well-constructed debate, to the point where you play the law card. This little trick is Armando’s Achilles Heel, because he is a lawyer and simply can never resist that kind of challenge. Markos is worried now. The guys must have been here for hours already, and he needs to find out why.
“How many hidden comments did we get last night”, Markos interjects, hoping to turn the conversation onto more pressing matters than either lunch, or Hunter’s childlike joy at outmaneuvering Armando, again!
“Seventy six”, came the reply, the words muffled, coming as they did from Armando, his nose already buried in what looked suspiciously like a well-thumbed copy of a law book. A quick glance at the spine confirms it. Hein Checklist of Statutes (state and Territorial) Vol. 38.
“Seventy Six? SeventyfreakinSix?” Markos yelled. "We don’t get seventy six in a month!”, This was worse, much worse than Markos had initially thought. What had merely been a nagging suspicion of trouble brewing was now a full on crisis.
“By the way, Armando, there is an error on page three twenty-seven of that book”. It never gets old he thought, grinning as he saw the smile appear on Hunter’s face, and the look of utter consternation on Armando’s.
“It’s the spammers”, said elfling, joining the conversation. She had been hiding out in the Executive Washroom, the only place in the Bunker off-limits to Armando since the "great reconciliation". That restriction was nearly up, and elfling had been worrying for some time where she might hide when Hunter and Armando started going at each other. “It’s the spammers”, she repeated, “I think the Users are onto us”.
A swift and ominous silence fell over the room. A faint gasp could be heard from Faith, and Susan rushed over to comfort her. Elfling had said “Users”, and no one could quite believe it. Mentioning the Users, in the Bunker was the equivalent of rushing into the Great Hall of Hogwarts Castle, and yelling “Voldemort!”.
“That will be twenty bucks in the cuss-jar”, said Armando, looking up briefly from page three twenty-seven. “You know the rulz”.
“On to us? What do you mean they are on to us? I thought I told you to put out a statement. Fix in the works, technical blather, nothing to see here … That kind of thing”, said Markos in a tone that suggested he was becoming very irritated.
“I did Boss”, elfling sounded unhappy at the direction this was going, “but … Bob Johnson!”
Markos stopped her. “We had a foolproof plan. We fill up the comments with offers of sixty bucks an hour, mix it up with a few Health Clinic offers, and the Users (whispered) forget about the Sponsored Content”. Markos was beginning to wish that today was yesterday. Yesterday life was good. Yesterday no one said “Users” in his hearing. Yesterday the only thing Hunter and Armando had to worry about was pizza.
“We need a diversion, any suggestions?” Markos looks hard at his two sidekicks, his Prosemeister-In-Chief and the New York legal eagle with a strange attraction to alligators. “Well boys, what ya got?”.
“We could get Jed to make a video”, suggested Hunter, “And Waldman could do something on the radio, that should reach about ten of them”, added Susan, helpfully if a little on the churlish side considering the expanding audience of Daily Kos Radio.
“What we need is a game-changer”, added Armando, who, when not fighting with Hunter and everyone else, was actually quite insightful. “We need a diversion so shocking that they who shall not be named are stunned into silence”.
There was quiet as that thought percolated the collective mind of the assembled staff. Then the corners of Markos’ mouth began to twitch, and Hunter, looking at an unspecified object in the middle distance, grinned. Susan and Faith realized, in that same moment, what needed to be done. As elflings fingers got to work on her keyboard, rapidly turning Bojo into Mojo, they all turned to face the door, and in a single voice yelled …