Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Engineers

"Sir, I've finished the blueprints for the support frame that you assigned to me," Francine said.

"Good, good."

There was an awkward pause while CEO Soren Soresgard smiled at her from behind his desk, his eyes inscrutable behind the sunglasses that he wore at all times. Francine could see the reflection of his desk lamp in their lenses, round and puffy like beetles squatting over his eyes, accompanied by the demonic red points of the clock radio that read "12:05." Just after high noon, and his office was darker than a cave.

"But I don't understand what the purpose is..." Francine said.

Soren continued to smile.

"If I knew what the frame was to support, I might be able to foresee any structural problems," she said. She'd been preparing for this for months. She loved her job. Soren treated his employees with the utmost respect and always deferred to them on all matters in their field of expertise. The only flaw in his benevolence was if people asked him questions about what they were working on. He doled out details like other company owners doled out money - as little as necessary to get the job done.

But Francine was an engineer, and that made her prone to questions. Important questions. Life or death questions, if it came down to it. Structures could collapse, and especially enormous structures like this appeared to be from the loads that her support frame would bear. For any other boss, she'd never have done her work with so little information. It was dangerous, separate engineers designing discrete sections of a building. The engineering department already had a better idea about the scope of the project than anybody else, even the accountants that Soren broke up into batches scattered around the world, all of them speaking different languages and only communicating to each other through spreadsheets.

"Francine," Soren said, his smile never cracking, "you know better than this. I would hate to dismiss you. You've done such exemplary work, all of it quite top-notch."

"But sir," Francine said, her professionalism overtaking her, "if I don't have a better idea of the overall structure, what I've designed might be dangerous. I have these specifications of the stresses and loads and all of the rest, but-"

"I am quite confident that your designs will work. I am reviewing each design as they come to me, and collating it into the final blueprint."

"You are not an engineer!" Francine said.

Soren's smile vanished. "You are quite correct. I'm afraid that I dropped out of high school to devote myself to television watching. But I overcame that with motivation, momentum, and a single-minded devotion to my goal. And I beg you to be as equally myopic towards your own duties."

"Do you promise me that my designs," Francine said, knowing that she hadn't the courage to continue the battle but wanting to retreat with some dignity, "will not put blood on my hands?"

"As long as your blueprints continue to be as top notch as they have been in the past, then no," Soren said. Francine nodded once and marched out of the office. After the door clicked shut, Soren sighed.

"No blood will be spilled, but only because it will be frozen into place," Soren whispered.

Francine had been holding the same glass of wine for fifteen minutes while the project was unveiled to her, the other engineers, the rest of Soren's employees, including an enormous knot of accountants all bellowing expletives in a hundred languages. They'd all been flown to South America and trucked into thick jungle and up winding paths into a forgotten volcanic crater.

Now she saw the fruits of her labor for the past five years. The enormous, staggering struts that she'd designed looked like toothpicks next to the superstructure of...whatever the thing was. Enormous bundles of cables ran to and fro. The truck that brought her here passed three nuclear power plants, and from the patterns of steam rising from other parts of the jungle, they were but triplets in an extended family. All of their cables converged on a central tower pointing towards the sky.

"Damn," said one accountant near her.

"Kuso!" said another.

"Whiffleby and shivvlecrips!" added another.

"Good afternoon," Soren said, snapping them all from their trance.

"I'm happy that you all could join me. Please, refresh yourselves while you indulge me in my talk. What you've been working on is no less than my life's work, began decades ago."

"As many of you are aware, I never graduated high school. The reasons for it are myriad and include an absentee mother and an alcoholic father, but these influences were crystallized in the phosphorescent glass of the television. It was my refuge from my life, and it was the television that led me towards skipping class at first. In the mornings, I'd be watching the latest episode of 'Scorpion Wranglers' or the serialized adventures of 'Hank Rockjaw,' and I would think, 'well I'm going to be late to school anyway, I'll catch the first few minutes of "Bud Jones, Doctor of Adventure and Maxillofacial Surgery."'"

"That is, until my mother sold our drapes to scrape together enough pennies to take my father to court for a divorce. I don't know why she never got rid of the television. I think it was out of guilt. Regardless, she may as well have because those drapes kept me in the dark towards my greatest enemy: the Sun. No longer would they protect my television viewing from the tyrannical rays of the Yellow Wretch. The only thing that could match the white hot glare across my television screen was my white hot rage that such an impassive monster could ruin my plans from ninety-three million miles away!"

"And so I devoted myself to destroying it. The knock the Sun from the sky would be my purpose in life. In a twist of fate, it was my drive to destroy it that got me to stop watching television. In fact, I haven't viewed one in over ten years, since they canceled 'Hank Rockjaw' in favor of some drivel involving men with no teeth having jerky eating contests. And now, we stand on the verge of that. You've all helped me to achieve my dreams, and for that I thank you."

"In return for your dedication, I am giving you all access to a full underground bunker that will allow you and your children to live to the end of your days in relative comfort, even as the planet decays into a frigid mass of rock hurtling through the blankness of space."

The engineers were horrified.

"But what about our children?" someone near Francine asked.

"Your children are being brought into the bunker as we speak."

"But what about their children?" asked the same engineer.

"They will not have any and, I'm afraid, neither will you if you haven't already. I had radioactive isotopes embedded in all of your desks of an amount specifically calculated to irradiate your genitals but not leave you at a significantly higher risk for cancer. Why do you think that, for all of my benevolence, I never allowed you to work from home?"

"You can't do this!" said the engineer.

"But I already have," Soren said, clicking a small button on a controller in his hand. The air crackled with ozone for a moment, and then they were plunged into darkness.

"My work here is done, if I may exit on a cliche," Soren said in the darkness. Lights kicked on just as Soren dove into the jungle, never to be seen again.

The Moral: always make sure to have ample beans on hand in case somebody decides to shoot the Sun.

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