"Let's go over it again."
"I'm sorry, which iteration is this? Are we still on number 18?"
"It's 19, actually."
"Ok, cool. Funny thing happened on the way to work this morning. Saw a dog walking a man. He - "
"Stop. Try it again."
"Sorry. Funny thing happened on the way to work this morning. Saw a man walking a dog. He led him onto the grass by the bus stop -- you know the one -- and, dogs being dogs, let him do his business. As soon as the dog was done, he looked down to inspect it. He opened his briefcase and took out one of those things you buy tennis balls in. He scooped the dog's mess in there, sealed it up, and put it right back in his briefcase. They walked off and I couldn't figure out why he had done that."
"Good. Go over it again."
"Funny thing happened on the way to work this morning. Saw a man..." and so he droned on. It was just another day at L. Ron Hubbard University. The subject and I were working on a training routine. His name was Mark; I'd seen him milling about the department before, but I didn't know at the time that he had any interest in Advanced Thetan studies.
"...one of those things you buy tennis balls in..."
Half of the time when I did these sessions, I didn't really even pay attention to what they were saying. There's some vague notion of progressing through the different levels of training routines, but it's really impossible to gauge how well someone is actually doing in them. The one we were doing was called "Iterations," which consisted of 25 variations on the same anecdote. This was the fourth training routine in the first tier of exercises. We were on iteration 19 currently, meaning that upon the successful completion of this one, Mark would have only six left. We started the session on iteration 16. That was nine hours ago. A successful completion is based on whether or not (a) the subject believes in what he is saying and (b) the auditor (that is to say, me) believes him as well. I don't believe him yet.
"...I couldn't figure out why he had done that!" Mark said, adding an incredulous laugh at the end. "Crazy shit, you know?" I sigh, take off my glasses, and rub my eyes.
"Ok, I think we ought to call it a day."
"What...why? I'm not downstat, am I?" he asks, seriously worried.
"Hmm? No, not at all. I just think you're not bringing a full tone 40 to this exercise. Iterations can be sort of...well, intense for a first-timer. You made great progress today, Mark. I mean, you got through three in one day, which is great. Remember how the first iteration took up two whole sessions?"
"Yeah," he laughs, "that was pretty rough. It really just seemed like I was telling the same story about the same dog and the same pile of shit every time. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Then it was like -- bam -- I know what the problem is. That LRH tech just kicked in."
"See? You have the right attitude about it now. I think on Friday, we can get to at least number 22. Possibly 23 if you bring that positive energy with you."
"Oh man, that would be awesome. I can't wait."
"Me either, Mark. Now are you paying with debit or credit?"
* * *
I was finishing up the accounting and reconciliation for the day when Dr. Claudio Zajtich, my friend and supervisor, ran into my office. He was wearing kevlar and carrying his M-16.
"Bill, we've got hostiles at the west exit. Let's go."
"Ah, shit. How many?"
"Not sure, we'll figure it out when we get there." I grabbed my gun and put on my body armor. Claudio and I ran out of the building and jumped into the waiting van in front of the door. As always, there were a bunch of other people in the van that I either didn't recognize or knew very vaguely. They were mainly professors and candidates from other departments. We all exchanged pleasantries and joked about the day; Mary from Human Resources told us a story about a lady who came in looking for a job but who didn't actually believe in Dianetics. I laughed uncomfortably, knowing as I did that I could lose my job (as well as my prospects for other jobs) if it became known that I had only about a half-hearted devotion to LRH tech. As other brief anecdotes were exchanged, the sound of gunfire became progressively louder. It was impossible to look out of the windshield from the seat I was in, but it was obvious that we were getting close to the area. This fact was underscored when the van slammed to a sudden and complete stop and Claudio's rifle slammed into my jaw.
"Ow, fuck!" I yelled, vainly rubbing my face as if that actually helped make it feel better.
"No time for all that," Claudio said, dramatically flinging the door open, "let's waste these fuckers!"
We all jumped out of the van and started firing blindly. This probably seems like a really haphazard and inefficient strategy, but when you consider what we were actually up against, it wasn't that awful. The enemy was slow-moving and guided by something less than a staggering intelligence; even "instinct" might be too sophisticated a word to describe it. Maybe "reflex"? It was appropriate; our studies were all about eliminating what LRH called the "reflexive mind," the part of a man's subconscious mind that didn't allow him to see beyond very narrow, selfish boundaries. The real question that apparently only I asked was what external force was guiding these things; what stimulus were they reacting to?
It looked like we were the last of our colleagues to get there, so we missed most of the action, if indeed it could be called that. Claudio and I strafed to the left and ran into the maintenance shed, where Frank from the Theozoology Department was waving at us.
"Frank, what is it this time?" Claudio asked.
"About fucking time you got here," he snarled. "Damn near a hundred of them. Matt from History bought it. One of 'em chewed right through his scalp. Blood and brains and shit spewing out everywhere. Cheryl -- you know her, kinda fat gal from my office -- well, she started puking because she'd never seen one of these things get a hold of someone before. Looks like she'd been eating chili or --"
"L. Ron Hubbard Almighty, man, just get to the point!" Claudio cried.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Well, anyway, it looks like they're trying to get to the generator. That's the direction they were all going at first."
"That's pretty smart of them," I said. "They've definitely come a long way from just wandering through the campus and tearing off people's limbs."
"Yeah, I guess whatever it is that's controlling them decided to give them some real orders for once instead of just letting them go apeshit," Frank shrugged.
"All right, let's get back out there," Claudio sighed. Frank and I nodded, and soon the three of us were outside and mowing down these inhuman walking corpses. I started to make my way over to the generator since, per Frank's comment, that's what they seemed to be after. Sure enough, I did notice a distinct trend in their movement toward that area. The really strange thing, though, was that the generator over here was just one of five -- even if they got that one, we'd still have enough power to operate the force field if it came to that.
"Bill! Look out!" Claudio yelled. I looked to my left and saw that one of the creatures had managed to get within 2 meters of my position.
"BLEEEAAAARGH,"it declared, raising its arms at me to accentuate the point. I suddenly wondered what it would be like to hook an e-meter up to one of these things. Could they be taught Dianetics? Probably not; they were, after all, dead aliens and hence presumably had no money to speak of. I put four rounds into its head and it fell to the ground, green ooze seeping out of the new orifices I'd made for it.
"All right, get back," Frank said, running up beside me. I stepped away from the thing's body as Frank aimed his flamethrower at it and proceeded to set it ablaze. It was necessary to do this because, as we learned the first time, shooting them really only had a temporary effect on their bodies. Poor Lisa took some of the bodies into her lab to examine them after we thought we'd killed them the first time (or after our former security guards thought they had; after we all got trained with guns and flamethrowers, the university fired the security company as a cost-cutting move). They were, of course, still alive (or rather, not fully dead yet) and by the time we got there, there wasn't much left of her -- part of her chest and the left portion of her skull. We were lucky in that only three of them came in the first engagement, as though they were some sort of advance scouting party. I'm not sure what good it would have done their leaders since these things are so fucking stupid that it seems really unlikely that they'd be able to furnish any sort of report to them. Of course, I was neither an alien nor a zombie, so in fairness, I was not qualified to speak on the subject.
To make a long story short, the rest of the night went basically the same way. Once it was over, Claudio and I lit up our cigarettes and surveyed the losses.
"So I guess Matt was the only casualty?" I asked. Claudio shrugged.
"Yeah, looks that way. You going to early or late services tomorrow?"
"Early, I guess. I have a session with some girl named Julia tomorrow, and I can tell already it's going to take forever."
"Ah yes, I remember approving her application. She'll do fine. You'll thank me for assigning her to you," he said, grinning.
"Thanks in advance," I said dryly.
"Trust me on this one," he said.
* * *
I looked at my watch. I had been sitting in the Church of Saint Thomas the Divine for three hours. In some old minority religions like Christianity or Islam, religious services consisted of all the devotees sitting in one place and listening to someone talk to them for hours at a time. Our way was more reminiscent of a job fair; people are bustling about, breaking down into workgroups, talking, exchanging stories, figuring out the best methods to KSW, and all that good stuff. I was in the middle of getting audited by some octagenarian who apparently wasn't born into the church. It really felt beneath my station to have this convert auditing me, but that hidden prejudice spiked the e-meter and he noticed.
"What..." he started to say, pausing to cough up a lung, "are you....thinking?"
"Nothing," I lied.
"Tell...the truth..." he said with great effort as particles of mucus dripped from his mouth and nose.
"I was resentful that you're auditing me and not the other way around," I admitted. He nodded.
"Good. Why....uh....why is that?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
"Because you're old and I'm young and I didn't have to convert," I said with a sigh. He was about to ask another question when the bell sounded, indicating that services were over for the day. I was relieved. I smiled at the old man and let go of the e-meter's conductors. I was smart in picking a seat in the back of the hall because I knew that would be the easiest way to get out of there. I milled about for about thirty seconds in an effort not to seem antisocial. I opened the door and saw that the cashiers, five perky blondes, were all in place, smiling and ready to help their customers. I was the first in line and handed the girl my auditing card.
"Hi!" she said cheerily. "How was everything today?"
"Very on-source and upstat," I replied. "Can't beat the tech."
"You sure can't!" she said with a slight laugh. "Ok, Dr. Lee, that'll be $1454.78. How will you be paying for that today?"
"Oh, let's say credit," I said, cringing inside. I wondered what the cost would be without my faculty discount. In one fluid motion, I reached into my wallet, pulled out the card, handed it to her, she swiped it, handed it back, and I put it back into my wallet. My card was approved, of course, because I can't remember the last time I heard of someone's card being declined for any reason.
"Have a great day!" she sang merrily, handing me my receipt.
"KSW," I replied, smiling. By that time, however, she had stopped paying attention to me and was already helping someone else. Well, whatever.
As I exited the church, I was mobbed by people who had been excommunicated, like I always am. The reason for excommunication is almost exclusively a failure to pay.
"Please, I'm cold, I'm hungry, I just need enough for one auditing session!" a morbidly obese woman sobbed out at me.
"Sir, please, sir, I'd give anything to do a TR with you!" a man said, yanking on my coat.
"Fuck off," I grumbled, shoving them away from me.
"But you don't understand, these body thetans are killing me!" the fat woman yelled, clutching her chest.
I just kept walking. I wish these idiots would just get a job or something. It wasn't a very long walk from the church to my office, since it was technically on the university's property. I hurried as quickly as possible because I wanted to start this stupid training with Julia, whom I would apparently like a great deal. Claudio does this to me every once in a while; he thinks I work too much, so he'll "randomly" assign me these highly attractive (and unintelligent) female subjects in an effort to get me to ask them out or something. I never do since it's not like they interest me enough to pursue anything and also because doing TRs with them dehumanizes and depersonalizes them to such an extent that it becomes impossible to view them in a sexual manner. There is of course the forbidden appeal of using a position of authority to take advantage of someone, but that feeling is really rather transient and would eventually become just another unresolved issue that the e-meter would catch during my auditing sessions.
I arrived at my office and I saw my secretary talking to a girl whom I supposed was Julia.
"Oh...well, there he is now! Dr. Lee, this is Julia!"
"Hi Julia," I say with an outrageously fake smile. "Dr. Zajtich told me I'd be expecting you today."
"Yeah, I'm here," she said flatly. I was sort of taken aback by her demeanor, but at least she was easy on the eyes.
"Ok. Well, are you ready to start?" I asked.
"Sure, why not?" she said. I opened the door to my office and she walked in. I shut it behind us and we took our respective seats.
"So tell me a little bit about yourself," I began.
"I'm 20, I don't care about your tech, and I'm just doing this to get a job," she said.
"Well, uh," I stammered, "I don't know if that's the right attitude to have about this."
"What attitude should I have?" she asked.
"You should be more positive and on-source," I remarked.
"On-source?" she asked raising an eyebrow.
"Oh. LRH is called 'source,' so anything in accordance with his tech and ethics is called on-source. Your attitude is quite off-source if I do say so myself."
"What are we even talking about?" she sighed. "Are we going to do this or not?"
"Uh...sure. I just thought you might want to know a little bit about the procedures and whatnot."
"I know this 'procedure' pretty well," she said. Before I had a chance to ask her what she meant, she was straddling me and putting her tongue down my throat.
"What...what the hell are you doing?" I asked, pulling her off of me.
"I'm applying for a job, Bill," she said nonchalantly as she started unbuttoning my shirt. I grabbed her hands.
"Look, I don't know who you are, but this really isn't what I do," I said. Now it was her turn to seem confused.
"But...this is what that other guy said I should do," she asked rather than said. "I need a certificate saying I passed the first tier of training routines to get a job and that guy said you would help me if I helped you."
"Huh? Clau-er, Dr. Zajtich told you that?" I asked.
"Who? No, Richard," she said.
"Who is Richard?" I asked, suddenly bewildered.
"Richard Ryan, the motivational speaker. He told me that if I slept with you, you'd give me a certificate," she said.
"He said that about me specifically?" I asked. "I've never even heard of this guy."
"No, he just said whoever I met for the training routine. I mean...oh wow, you really don't do this, do you?" she asked.
"Well, some people might, but I don't. Not because it's immoral but just because I usually don't have the energy to do it," I said with a sigh.
"I'm sorry," she said. To my private disappointment, she got out of my lap and arranged her clothes properly. I cleared my throat and buttoned my shirt back up. It was impossible, I saw, to hide my raging erection, so I just slid my rolling chair under my desk where it would be obscured.
"Tell me about this Richard Ryan," I said, curious.
"I'm sure you've heard of him. He runs a series of motivational speeches called 'the New You.' It's about maximizing your potential and being goal-oriented."
"And, uh, he tells you in these speeches to have sex with other people to get ahead?" I asked.
"Ha, not quite. He does private sessions too. I had one with him and that's where he told me to do it," she said. "Everything else he said worked out all right."
"Private sessions? What, do you sleep with him too?" I asked.
"Pfft...hardly. All he cares about is money. It's weird, because he'll hook you up to this lie detector thing and ask you questions until..."
"...until he says the needle is floating?" I asked.
"Yeah, exactly. How'd you know?" she asked. I pulled out my e-meter. "Hey, that's the thing right there."
"Your friend is a squirrel," I said. "That's someone who uses LRH tech outside of a Dianetic setting for personal gain."
"Dr. Lee?" she asked.
"Yeah?" I said.
"You're not going to give me that certificate, are you?"
"Uh, no, of course I'm not."
"That son of a bitch charged me $2000 for a private session and said it would work. Now I have no money and there's no way I can get the job I want."
"Look, Julia, I'm sorry this guy took your life-savings or whatever, but there is the possibility of, you know, legitimately doing the training routines. They're not that hard and honestly, I just sort of make up grades for people as they go through them," I said trying to be comforting.
"How much does that cost?" she asked.
"Each session is about $250," I said.
"How many sessions?"
"Usually about 20," I said, only then realizing that that didn't make matters any better.
"Yeah, ok, I'll just get that $5000 out from under my mattress," she said, rolling her eyes.
"If you did an internship, you could sort of defer the costs. It's very common," I said.
"Yeah, ok, I've heard all about that. Number one, I don't really believe in all of this crap. Number two, even if I did, I don't think I'd want to spend my whole life paying off my Dianetics loans. Number three, internships are for liberals who don't care about little things like 'eating' or 'having electricity.'"
"Well, I guess we're at sort of an impasse, aren't we?" I asked.
"I guess we are, Bill. I guess we are."
* * *
I took Julia to a restaurant off-campus so we could talk more about the situation. I was starving and I was starting to feel really uncomfortable stuck in my office alone with her. I kind of just wanted her to go away, but I knew if I tried to get rid of her, she'd insist on staying. As the meal and the conversation went on, it became agonizingly apparent to me that I was not going to get paid today. I could probably get Mark to come in for a session, but then that would just leave me with no income on Friday. I started to get angry at this Richard Ryan for costing me time and money.
"And it was just like...blah," she said, exhaling sharply and downing her drink. I had no idea what she was talking about.
"Sure. You know, Julia, I'm thinking that maybe the best way to proceed here is to go see this guy and try to get your money back. I'll tell you what: if you can get the $2000 from him, I'll take care of your training certificate."
"Really?" she asked. "That's a pretty big discount, isn't it?"
"Well, no, because we're still going to do the sessions. We're just going to go, uh, at an accelerated pace. It will be pretty intense this way, but we'll manage."
"That sounds great!" she said. "Gee, why didn't I think of that before? Oh wait: there's no way the motherfucker is going to give me my money back."
"I'll bet I could convince him," I said.
"How do you think you're going to do that?" she smirked.
"Well, if I told you, then you'd just go and do it yourself and I'd never get any money from you."
"Ugh," she spat, "all you guys care about is money."
"No, it's not the only thing I care about, but it's the way I make my living and it's the way the university determines my value as a human being. Besides, I already said I'd certify you if you gave me the money."
"So you'll take a bribe, but you won't take sexual favors," she said thoughtfully. "Hmm. Interesting."
"Sexual favors don't buy research equipment," I remarked.
"Fair enough," she shrugged.
"And it's not a bribe, we're going to go through the training routines. It's just that our time is limited."
"But you've already predetermined the outcome. It's not 'honest,' you know," she said.
"So where do we find this guy?" I asked, changing the subject.
"Where else? Interzone," she said with a tone that said "what a fucking idiot."
"Interzone? Sister, I don't want to go there," I said, barely hiding my disgust.
"Why? That's where I'm from. It's not as awful a place as you think," she said.
"Prostitution, drugs, slave-trading, gang warfare...yeah, sounds awesome," I scoffed.
"Oh, get off your high-horse. All that stuff happens in your world, you just can't see it. In Interzone, we're honest about it at least. Are you in or out?"
"In, I guess. Let's do this," I said, putting some cash on the table. As soon as we got outside, though, I was greeted by a familiar sound.
"Oh, god damnit," Julia groaned. "These stupid things." She pulled a rail pistol out of her purse and leveled it at the thing, putting a slug into its forehead. It collapsed back onto the sidewalk.
"It's not dead," I said, looking down at it.
"I know, but I forgot to bring my vat of acid with me. Where do these things come from, anyway?"
"Outer space, naturally," I said.
"Well, I know that," she sighed, "but where?"
"They can't speak very well, you know, so it's not like we've been able to ask them," I said.
"Huh. Well, whatever."
* * *
"There is a way that seemeth right unto man! But the end thereof...is Death! Ladies and gentlemen, this is a passage from what used to be called the Holy Bible. What it means is this: the easiest way to do something is usually the wrong way. Why is that? Because usually it's too good to be true, right? No! We talked about this last time. For the New You, nothing is true and everything is permitted. The reason the easiest way is wrong is because you can never grow if you do things the easy way. When you maximize your potential, your will, every way is the easy way. There are just varying levels of easiness. When you apply your..."
Julia and I had been in the lecture hall listening to Richard Ryan's speech for about an hour. Every word out of the man's mouth was obviously a damn lie, but that didn't stop it from sounding at least partially appealing. Looking around, I could tell that the people here were mainly ones who had either flunked out of TRs or who held onto more off-source notions than on-source ones. I couldn't blame them, but my job depended on me at least sort of pretending to profess Dianetic principles. A lot of what Ryan was saying resembled our tech, really, it was just packaged in a more individualistic way. I wasn't sure what his full story was, but it was clear to me that he had at least something of a Dianetic background.
"...and that is what separates us from these damn alien zombies wandering around the country. I mean, am I right or what?" he asked rhetorically to great applause. I was now beginning to wish that I had just let Julia suck me off because this was unbearable. I knew, unfortunately, that there was no turning back at this point. The speech was winding down and collection plates were being passed around. Our neighbors enthusiastically dropped coins, bills, checks, credit cards, whatever they had into them. Ryan wished everyone a good day and the seminar was over.
"What did you think?" she asked.
"He's not bad, I guess, but I've heard better. I guess when you're totally desperate, this makes sense."
Looking up, I could see Ryan mingling with the crowd. He was coming in our direction, moving subtly through the crowd like a snake winding through the grass. We stayed in place and before I knew it, he was standing in front of us.
"Julia, how wonderful to see you today. And this, I presume, is Dr. William Lee of L. Ron Hubbard University," he said to me, smiling and extending his hand. I shook it, confused. "Rich Ryan, nice to meet you."
"Uh, yeah, right back at you. How did you...?"
"Don't worry about that now. Just keep smiling and follow me. Don't even think about running away," he said, still grinning like a shark. He grabbed me by the arm and led Julia and I into a room at the back of the auditorium. He pushed me in and slammed and bolted the door behind us.
"What the hell is going on here?" I demanded.
"Have a seat, doctor," he said, taking off his jacket. "Julia, would you get us something to drink?"
"Sure, Mr. Ryan," she said, walking out of the room and smiling at me. Shit. I had been duped by a dupe.
"Ok, you know who I am and you know what I do. Why am I here?" I asked, sitting in a leather chair in front of a desk.
"That's a pretty hostile attitude you're copping with me, Dr. Lee. I don't know if I appreciate your tone," he said, sitting down behind his desk and sighing.
"I don't appreciate being threatened," I remarked.
"And yet you came here to threaten me," he said. "Doesn't feel too great, does it?"
"Well...I guess you've got me there," I said rather impotently.
"You came here to get money from me. Money, I might add, that you have no claim to. It's rather hypocritical and downstat of you, don't you think?"
"You want to cut a deal with me or something?" I asked.
"No, I wanted to make you aware of...your options."
"What options?" I asked. "What are you talking about?"
"Has it never seemed strange to you that these 'alien zombies,' as you call them, are just accepted as a normal part of life? That the government doesn't really do anything about them? That President Travolta doesn't make any more statements about them? That a bunch of academics and grad students are charged with killing them as just another part of the daily grind?"
"Of course it's bizarre," I said, with Julia just now returning with our drinks, "but what am I supposed to do? Make my own TV station and broadcast news about it 24 hours a day?"
"I'd rather you didn't," Ryan said with a laugh. "The point I'm getting at is this: these...creatures...are a red herring. What OT level are you?"
"OT4," I said, somewhat proudly.
"So you know the creation story? Xenu and all that?" he asked me.
"Well, yeah. I don't think anyone doesn't know it," I replied.
"What would you do if I told you that that was all true?"
"I...uh, I'm sorry, what does this have to do with me?"
"Our master is returning. These alien zombies are paving the way for him. The more of them you kill, the more Thetans get released from their bodies and then empower him. Soon, very soon, he'll be here to reclaim his throne."
"There is no such thing as Xenu or Thetans. Cut the bullshit and tell me what you want," I demanded, growing both angry and disturbed.
"What I want is men of talent on our side. Your admission just now shows that you aren't under the sway of your professed religion," he answered. "You're a man of persuasion and you know how to get what you want."
"Except for your money, obviously," I joked.
"Ha ha. Well, except for that," he laughed. "So what do you say?"
"What's in it for me?" I asked him.
"You live," he said, his smile fading. "If you say yes, you walk out of here. If you say no, I carry you out."
"What would I...do?" I wondered.
"Basically the same thing you do now: middle management."
"Bill, you ought to listen to him," a voice said. I turned and saw Claudio walking into the room.
"Claudio! What are you doing here!?" I shouted.
"Isn't it obvious? He's been my man inside the university all this time," Ryan said.
"Bill, I pushed hard for him to give you this chance. You're the only one right for it," Claudio said. "Don't let me down, man."
"Listen to your friend," Ryan said. "There isn't much time."
"Do you believe this shit, Claude, or what?" I asked him, ignoring Ryan.
"I didn't. But then one day I woke up on the mother ship. There are tubs where they genetically grow these things. They send them down in drop ships to get killed. They have a hold on the government. Think about it: a new order is coming. A new order of alien zombies. We are going to need to manage these people who are not going to understand what is going on. This is what we do, Bill. This is what you do."
"He's right. The creatures that you kill are the lowest tier. They're recycled genetic material with the most rudimentary of brains and nervous systems. But the next tier is more intelligent. Say, the level of a dog. The third tier is at your human level. I'm the fourth tier," Ryan said, his eyes penetrating mine. "I can't even show you my real face because your mind wouldn't even be able to process it. Make your choice. Join us and shape the future or bend your head forward now and let me eat your brain. It's your decision."
"Do it, Bill, for Christ's sakes," Claudio said. "We'll be the alien zombie Gauleiters of Interzone."
"I...this is too much," I said, feeling as though I was about to break into a full-on panic attack. "Yes, yes, ok, I'll do it." Richard Ryan smiled at me.
"I knew you'd come around," he said. "And I can't tell you how excited we are to have you on board. Now why don't you take the rest of the day off?"
"Well..." I said, still highly nervous.
"Oh, that's right," Ryan said, "stupid me." He pulled out his checkbook and scribbled out a $4000 check. "Here you go. Some spending cash."
I took the money and stood up. Claudio looked at me and nodded.
"Let's get you home, Bill," he said. And that's where we went.
* * *
"Wow, Dr. Lee, I can't believe I got through all those iterations today!" Mark said excitedly. "Six in one day, that must be a record!"
"Hmm? Yeah, you did great, Mark. Really impressive," I said, distantly.
"Dr. Lee, are you ok?" he asked me.
"Sure, I'm fine. Just, uh, just have a lot on my mind," I replied mildly.
"Well, don't sweat it, man. Before too long, I'll be able to audit you and help you in the same way you helped me!"
"I can't wait," I said, weakly smiling. I took his money again, of course, and sent him on his way. I sat down to do the accounting for the day, but I couldn't concentrate. The alien zombies were coming. I could feel it in my bones.