Almost Perfect :: Original Short Story
“One more leaf.” Diotima urged on the minion whose number she had already forgotten. If only she wouldn’t have to deal with those stumpers all the time, she might be able to suck up to her boss and get out of this stupid job. None of them had any initiative. Which might be for the best. At least they didn’t fuck things up. Update-6482 was a god-send. She no longer had to worry about those minions having some great idea and simply forgetting to check with her before acting upon it. Ever since 6482 was introduced, life had become a little bit less complicated. Although the workload had increased. Something her boss didn’t care about.
Diotima walked over to a minion standing to the side. “Brain-three. I told you to put more dust on the walls.”
“I put it on there, as you requested, Captain Diotima. But it didn’t stick.”
She looked down and saw heaps of dust lying on the floor. She sighed. Exactly her point. “Don’t you know how expensive that stuff is? Real dust! Quickly go to Office fifty-three and get some dust adhesive. Make sure you get that dust to stick. And that one is to help you. He is done with the leaves. Forty-five, is it?” She looked around only to find Brain-forty-five still observing the leaves that were lying in a corner.
“You there! Brain-forty-five, collect all the dust that is lying on the floor. And when three comes back, you are to help him to stick the dust on all the indicated places. Please don’t mess this up. It needs to look authentic.”
“Yes, Captain Diotima.”
It took the brains another thirty-four hours until she was satisfied. But finally she got an Earth-like feeling from the result. Which was no small feat, as she had to arrange every single detail of it herself. And of course she had never been to Earth. But she had spent enough years in VR to know at least what it should have looked like.
She made sure all the brains left the premises before she went to see Heidegger, her stick-up-his-behind boss that always had something to complain about. Even though nobody really cared about details nowadays, especially for gameworlds. Players would not even notice the effort she put in by having the minions mix the leaves with cobwebs and heaps of dust. They’d be thinking about who was hiding behind those doors. Or about any possible hidden treasures.
Once she was promoted she would get to boss around real people instead of these brainless brains. And she’d get to pick a new avatar-body. Some important philosopher this time. She couldn’t wait to get rid of this unknown side-character that nobody took seriously. Who should she choose? The most famous characters were already taken, obviously. Perhaps she could become Nobyeni, a relatively unknown philosopher with great stamina. Who wasn’t afraid to stand up against assholes.
“Yes?” Heidegger’s voice sounded ominous.
Diotima opened the door and walked over to Heidegger’s desk. He didn’t seem to be doing anything. But that was why he was the boss.
“The scene is ready for your approval, Herr Oberführer Heidegger.”
“I will decide whether it is ready or not, Diotima. Thank you very much. But all right. It took you long enough. Show me.”
She led him to Space-thirty-five. Her mind wandered, thinking about the scene. Did she miss anything? But as she opened the doors and saw her creation, she was sure. It was perfect. This would be her ticket to promotion. No more stupid brains to work with.
Heidegger walked up to the scene, careful not to touch anything. “What’s this white stuff on the floor here?”
“It’s plaster. It’s an old place, and the plaster is giving away.”
Diotima wasn’t an expert in communication and she had passed up on the latest communication update as she was sure to be promoted soon. Was that last remark meant to be ironic or sarcastic?
“I think it’s perfect.” She was trying to mask her insecurity, but as she heard the words come out of her mouth she knew she was utterly failing to do precisely that.
“You think. You think. It’s dangerous, to think. Yet you might be right. It’s not bad, that’s for sure.”
Diotima was not sure if his levels of irony had just dropped or gone through the roof. Once she got that promotion, the first thing she’d do was get that upgrade after all. This was getting annoying. Would she or would she not get that promotion? “Thank you, sir. I’m glad it’s to your satisfaction. May I remind you, that if you would be able to sign it off as perfect, I will be promoted to the next level. I’m so glad you are willing to consider this. This means so much to me, Herr Oberführer Heidegger.”
Heidegger turned around to face her. “Perfection? Perfection! I haven’t said anything about perfection! You are my most valuable worker, I will not risk losing you now. All the others produce nothing but garbage and nonsense. It’s as if that latest upgrade affected not only the minions. Not a single good scene has been produced in a long time. I’m very pleased with you, Diotima. But this is definitely not what I consider perfection. It is almost perfect at best.”
“But, please, Herr Oberführer Heidegger. Almost perfect? I wish you would invent some words that are a bit more precise. I didn’t think philosopher Heidegger would hide behind words like that. He would say the truth. If I didn’t know you, I would think you’re just arrogant. Having his name doesn’t mean you actually get to pretend you are anywhere as good as the original Heidegger.”
Oberführer Heidegger smiled. “So now you are going to tell me what the real Heidegger would do, aren’t you? I’m not here to be lectured by someone like you, Diotima. Such a weird choice, really. Why did you pick a philosopher that never even spoke a word herself? I have been following you for a long time, but no matter how many upgrades you give that body of yours, your model is just beyond saving. It’s a miracle she was even discovered, only because of that one mention by Socrates!”
Diotima couldn’t help but laugh. Such ignorance! “Plato, you mean.”
“Well, whatever. Who cares. I’m your boss, and you know I have written off employees for less than this.”
“You won’t write me off.” It slipped out before she realised what she was saying. But she knew she was right.
“Oh, Miss Smarty-Pants. And why not? I can do whatever I like.” Heidegger was gloating.
“But only as long as you keep delivering results. Update-6482 really put you in a tight spot, didn’t it? No-one knows how to handle brain-dead brains. Well. As you can see, I do. I’ve already been approached by Plato and Wittgenstein, I can come work for them any moment. Just be honest. How many scenes have you delivered lately?” Diotima knew she hit a sore spot when she saw small beads of sweat appear on Heidegger’s head.
Heidegger pointed to the scene, her scene. “This is a result, isn’t it? It might not be perfect, but it sure is the best scene I have seen in a long time!”
Diotima slowly walked over to the edge of the build-up, and raised her arm to the wooden panelling she had spent three days on to get it right. “You mean my scene?”
She put her finger against the wood and heard him gasp. As her nail hit the wood, she pushed it into the malleable material and slowly carved deep into it. She could feel his anger building up. He started breathing loudly, sounding more upset with every inch she moved her fingernail through the wood. As she finished a straight line and took out her nail, Heidegger let out a sigh. He knew that he couldn’t stop her without risking her quitting. And it was her scene still. He hadn’t signed off on it. She put her nail back in. She might as well take her time to carve the wood until she was satisfied.
Once she was done she stepped back and looked at her work. Her cheeks were red from concentration. She walked back to Heidegger. He had not dared to come any closer. As she approached him she could smell his fear. Or was it anger? “So I guess we’ll have to discuss that promotion after all.”
Heidegger bowed his head and mumbled something.
“Is that a yes?”
Heidegger took out a pen and a piece of paper from his pocket and scribbled something onto it. “Here you go, just enter this code on the form. But please don’t mention this again.” He looked pale, as if he had never had a beating before.
As he handed her the code, he asked “What did you write?”