Well, so much for watching the construction:


What’s missing? Knotholes. In the old cartoons, these walls always had a hole, so people could peer through the gap and observe the work. Which makes you wonder what the purpose of the wall might be - safety, probably. If anything comes flying out of a construction site, a sheet of wood oughta stop it. But the lack of holes means you can’t have “sidewalk supervisors,” as they were known. At least no one in those days kibitzed about the work - a back-seat driver may have better ideas about how to get around town, but a sidewalk supervisor is unlikely to yell out instructions for the guy who’s tossing the rivets up to the man on the beam.

Reminds me of something else:

I’ve been watching this one go up for the last six months. It’s wood. That’s not a surprise, but it i, in a way -- one or two floors, sure, but an entire building made of wood seems like it would blow away or catch on fire. Of course, brick buildings burn, but it’s the contents, not the walls. If bricks could catch on fire they couldn’t make bricks. What are you doing with those bricks? Er - putting them in the kiln? Don’t! They’ll catch on fire!

They’re also ripping up the lot across the street, and it’s rather freewheeling - no fences, no wood, just one big machine running around beeping and digging, seemingly at random. Reminded me of a dog that caught the scene of a squirrel on the ground. Also reminded me that there’s a basement below the lot, which I assume they know about. There's a tunnel under the street, which I'm sure I've mentioned; has it been blocked off?

 

30 MINUTES LATER

So I went back down into the basement. The haunted place. It’s been a dumping ground for years; all the old desks and chairs and cast-off computers come down here for eventual return into the Eternal Waste-Stream, but it’s also furnished with reminders of the days when the paper was printed in this building, when the paper came up from the tunnel on rails, when the plates from the hot-type machines ran along grooves cut in the floor. It’s all still there . . . but month by month there’s less and less. Huge steam-tables that once sat in the cafeteria are gone; the palettes of shrink-wrapped dead computers empty out one by one; the heaps of cream-and-tan office infrastructure that told the tale of the Great Purge have been reduced by half. It’s like visiting a cemetery that’s been slated for redevelopment - which, I guess, is exactly what it is.

Every aspect of office culture depresses me, and always has. The act of pushing a pin into a foam-core cubicle wall to put up a picture is like putting a nail in my side. Beige. So much beige. (I was also in offices during the brutal reign of Puce.) I supposed that’s because I haven’t been in a modern office for years; I’m sure I’d think differently if I was in a Silicon Valley tech suite where you sit in bright rooms spitballing and blue-skying and dreaming up social apps that let people share ephemeral moments with six-second videos whose capture and production not only overshadows the moment it’s supposed to memorialize, but redefine the experience so that you’re not actually doing something to be captured and shared, but capturing and sharing something in order to capture and share it. All life is post-production now.

But it could be fun. I’ve just never been anywhere that felt like that.

The basement is more: it’s old tech. I mean very old tech. There’s a Monotype machine in the corner of the room across the street, past the tunnel. No one knows how to use the device. It would be like putting a Cro-Magnon at the control panel of a nuclear power plant and saying “make hot!” There was this:

 

An old microfilm reader, I believe. It looks homemade. It looks like a 1942 Heathkit Television Viewing System.

I walked to the edge of the basement to get a compass reading, so I can compare it to the ground above and see where the walls end. I heard the machines running around overhead - great thumps and groans, and for a second I thought what might happen if the tunnel collapsed. No one knew I was down here. No one would expect anyone would be down here. No one would hear me! Oh, except for the phone in my hand. Still.

Passed some empty rooms that looked like jail cells:

Hastened up the tunnel and went back to the elevators. There’s this:

I looked around for the sadistic officer in the black uniform who was looking forward to asking me some questions.

I don’t like it down there. I’ve never liked it. Fascinating ruins, but old and tired. You look at the cabinets and chairs and office partitions and imagine people with 80s hairstyles typing on dumb terminals that showed the story in green letters, and you wonder where they all went. Once I saw a stack of promotional material for a website I ran, and was amused: I’d never seen it before. I had no idea. Apparently it was the next great thing.

It was paper, so I expect it burned.

 

   

This sounds . . . horrible! A monster? A robot? A dreadful machine with spinning blades?

 

He's considerably more cheerful this week:

 

 

He jumps out a window, and there’s a ledge, and not one piece of the cascade of sundered masonry hits him.

Well, we learn that Malodor also has the plans for the Electronic Thunderbolt, which can cut through steel and concrete. The old scientist was really interested in destroying things, it seems. And no one in Police Commissioner’s office seems to think it odd that the District Attorney knows these things. Doesn’t he have something else to do? Isn’t this, say, FBI work? NO. In serials, the world is very narrowly focused. Like the Electronic Thunderbolt!

Back at the Lair, Maldor is unable to decode the plans for the Thunderbolt. He needs them to do crime things. The Vibrator is forgotten, as usual; every other episode has to bring up some technological gee-gaw McGuffinator. Since the professor is under the care of the District Attorney - of course; remember what I said about the narrowness of the focus - they’ll have to get to her. But how?

Altogether now: through his secretary. Of course.

 

He has a poisoned joy buzzer; once she shakes his hand . . .

. . . . she's all purpled-up with the hypnotic drugs. He makes her call of the cops on the prof, because Maldor is sending two mugs over. When the DA finds her confused as the chemical wears off, he says they should get some fresh air. As in:

Let’s take a drive out into the country! I’ll cancel all my meetings.

Or:

Would it help if we walked down the block for a soda? That might refresh you.

Or:

Why not drive over to where the professor is being held? You can sit in the car while I go up.

Right. So, the mug gets the drop on him. He says he’s doing to kill him and make it look like suicide. Here’s how that looks:

I’m baffled, sir. It’s obviously a suicide, but the shot appears to have been fired from across the room, and there’s no gunpowder residue on the hand.

Of course he’s okay. As he explains: The first bullet in his gun is always a blank, so he can fire a warning shot!

Ah. Because when you need a gun you don't really need need it.

Then there’s a proper gun battle: one behind a desk, the other behind a chair. Strategy: wait for the other guy to stand up, then fire. Because desks and chairs are bulletproof. Eventually the DA shoots him, bringing his personal death count up to five over the course of three days.

Meanwhile, the hoods have the professor at a secret location:

 

He won’t talk, so they come up with a surefire way to make him spill:

Their nefarious plot is busted up by Cap. who - hey, how did he find the barn again? Something about tracing a phone call. To a barn. Well, fistfight. Cap’s knocked out and the old man gets a gun while still tied to a chair. The thug, of course, decides to let the tractor do the work. Sorry, the MECHANICAL EXECUTIONER.

 

Oh no! It ran right over him! He's got to be dead! This is the end! No -

 

That's what they'll BURY HIM IN! He's DEAD!

Strib blog in short form in the morn; Tumblr, of course. See you around!

 

 

 

 
 
 
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