Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #137

Evidence Card 0104: White Collar Workers

Evidence Card 0104: White Collar Workers

Herman had sensed trouble when he walked into the conference room, but, by the time the urge to retreat had grabbed hold of his viscera, the door swung shut with an ominous click.

The conference table and chairs had all been cleared out of the room, the floor of which was now covered with plastic sheeting.  Most of the fluorescent lights were off, and those that were still glowing flickered intermittently.  There was newsprint taped to the windows.  A stale smell of copper and sweat hung in the air.

He stood next to Philip from asset management, a man he’d hired a year before.  His junior PM bore the same bewildered, slightly fearful expression—a kind of wide-eyed, slack-mouthed timidity, the kind of a guilty dog awaiting the toe of it’s master’s boot.

The company’s vice president of finance, Jeffrey Dilmore, a man-shaped ball of underutilized flesh stuffed into an expensive shirt and tie, stood with Ms. Graham-Newton from HR.  She peered over her glasses and jotted on a clipboard as Benton read from a packet of papers clenched in his stubby fingers.

“Ah,” he started, with a throat-clearing sound.  “Gentlemen … as you may recall from last week’s interoffice memo, we’ve decided to dispense with the usual annual review format and, how should I put it?  Mix things up a little?”

Herman glanced warily at Philip, who seemed to be trying to located enough saliva under his tongue to swallow.

“The sad truth, gentlemen,” continued Dilmore, “is with the current state of the discount retrofit air conditioner parts market, we’re facing a situation of shrinking revenues.  Consequently, there are, unfortunately, redundancies we need to eliminate.”

He paced to the center of the room, his tasseled wingtips scrunching the plastic with each step.  “I think you know where I’m going with this.”

Herman felt the invisible hand gripping his guts tighten and begin to twist.

“In short, we have one project manager position left and the two of you.  I suppose we could simply go with the senior PM,” he said, waving a hand at Herman.  “But I thought it would be interesting to offer a more … competitive method of filling the position.”

Dilmore dropped two metal bars in the middle of the floor, then walked back to the corner of the room where Ms. Graham-Newton was still scribbling intently.  She stopped, clicked her ballpoint pen twice, and gazed intently at the two men.

“Shirts and shoes off,” she barked.  “In the middle.  You have five minutes.”

Good thing I decided to skip breakfast, Herman mused as he undid his tie.

 

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #136

Evidence Card 0103: Fluoridation

Evidence Card 0103: Fluoridation

General Jack D. Ripper: I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.   Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.  Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Well, no, I can’t say I have.

General Jack D. Ripper: Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.  Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk… ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children’s ice cream.

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: [very nervous] Lord, Jack.

General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I… no, no. I don’t, Jack.

General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It’s incredibly obvious, isn’t it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That’s the way your hard-core Commie works.

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen… tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first… become… well, develop this theory?

General Jack D. Ripper: [somewhat embarrassed] Well, I, uh… I… I… first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.

General Jack D. Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue… a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I… I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.

General Jack D. Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh… women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh… I do not avoid women, Mandrake.

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No.

General Jack D. Ripper: But I… I do deny them my essence.

 

—Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #135

Evidence Card 0102: Crusader

Evidence Card 0102: Crusader

A lone knight stood on the battlements of the white castle and surveyed the battlefield.  The newly darkened skies had brought a preternatural calm to a surrounding landscape that had, only an hour before, been a hellscape of noise and human activity.

He adjusted his helm and leaned hard on his spear, searching the shadows below for signs of hostility.  The once hungry crowds that had threatened to overwhelm their defenses before sunset had retreated, leaving little trace of the carnage that had ensued.  Many of the knight’s brave fellows-in-arms were gone now; only he stood atop the parapet now, a solitary figure, stalwart and true to the faith.

A surge of emotion brought him to his feet and he thrust his spear toward the starry heavens in defiance.

“Oh, cruel fate!  Why do you task us to such a wicked work as this?  Battered we are, by wave upon wave of enemies, but still we stand!  Never shall these white walls fall to the soiled hands of the infidel!”

Warm tears stained his cheeks and his voice broke.  “Who will stand this watch with me?”

That moment, something stirred in the darkness below.  The knight crouched and peered downward, suspicious.

It was Buck Fenton, the assistant manager.  The White Castle logo was prominently embroidered on his stained polo shirt.  He walked to the middle of the parking lot, turned, and gazed up.

“Dammit, Jeb,” he shouted.  “Not this crap again!”

The knight stood, paralyzed in fear.

“Get that bucket off your head, stop waving that mop around, and get down here and finish cleaning the toilet!”

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #134

Theory 21

Theory 21: Economic Singularity

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Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #133

Evidence Card 0101: Bodyguard

Evidence Card 0101: Bodyguard

Benton pulled the chair away from the table for his new client and scanned the restaurant.  “I had the maitre’d reseat you, sir.  The center table was a little too exposed for my liking.”

“Thank you, Benton.”

Suddenly, Benton swept the elderly man to the floor.  “KNIFE!”

The old man shook him off and struggled to his feet.  “He’s cutting his steak, you idiot!  Get off me!”

Benton helped him up.  “I’m so sorry sir.  I guess I’m a little over-cautious.”

As his client sat down again, Benton caught movement in the corner of his eye.  “GUN!” he shouted, reaching for his own.

“That’s the lady’s purse, you moron!  Now, leave me in peace!  You’re fired.  If I ever see you again, I’ll see to it the only person who safety you have to worry about is your own!”

Benton slunk away and exited through the kitchen.  Near the back door, he brushed past a man preparing an exquisite chocolate mousse.  The two made eye contact as the cook was pouring a small portion of liquid into the mixing bowl from an unlabeled bottle.

The cook nodded, put the bottle in his pocket, then handed Benton a rubber-banded bundle of hundred-dollar bills.

“He’s all yours,” Benton said, pocketing the money and walking out the back door.

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #132

Evidence Card 0100: Puppet

Evidence Card 0100: Puppet

“Ms. Buchholdt, you have two minutes to reply.”

“My opponent, Mr. Sampson, seems to believe that we need to reign in corporate spending on campaigns.  But I think, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s the delicious, low-calorie taste of Crystal Light!”

“Excuse me?”

“And what could be more American than a backyard barbecue featuring Oscar Meyer brand hot dogs?  And hamburgers topped with Kraft cheese Single and Kraft Mayo!”

“Ms. Buchholdt, the debate topic was—”

“Why, any of the fantastic, life-altering products sold by that most patriotic of companies, Kraft Food Group Inc.—which is soon to merger with another beloved American brand, Heinz—is more than adequate illustration that corporate spending in our political system is fair, decent, and good for democracy.”

“Um, thank you Ms. Buchholdt.”

“Eat Jell-O Pudding!”

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #131

Theory 01: Total Media Control

Theory 01: Total Media Control

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… and now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #130

Evidence Card 0099: Court Decision

Evidence Card 0099: Court Decision

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor.  On the count of 3rd degree indecent exposure, we find the defendant … guilty.”

“Objection!”

“You can’t object during the verdict, Mr. Ames.  The trial is over—”

“Heresay, your honor!”

“What?”

“Do we have any proof the jury has ruled this way?”

“It’s on this piece of paper in front of me.”

“Anyone could have written that!”

“It’s signed by the members of the jury.”

“Lack of foundation, your honor.  I move for a mistrial.”

“Is this your first defense, Mr. Ames?”

“Irrelevant, your honor!”

“I ask because you keep reading things from a list you’ve written on your arm.”

“Argumentative!”

“Bailiff, I want you to remove Mr. Ames from the courtroom and give him a good, sound spanking.”

“With pleasure, your honor.”

“Any further objection, Mr. Ames?”

“Ooh!  Could I be handcuffed too?”