Fungal Propagation                                                  GREEN  2.3
 

      Lex is nervously standing in Mr. Rangler's office, only a few inches inside of the door. It is splendid, a proper office, with a window and all of the trimmings. The door has been left wide open, and the people walking in and out of the front bay are giving Lex curious looks. Lex would appreciate it if Rangler would ask him to take a seat. Although they've never spoken before, Rangler is one of the many people to whom Lex's organizational arrows point. Rangler talks on the telephone for several minutes, his glance occasionally landing on Lex. He has a dismissive look that makes Lex want to light up. After the call is completed, Rangler swivels around to face his computer and work on something more important than Lex.
      After a while - Lex knows that it's been seven minutes and twenty seconds according to the fine bronze DSA 40
th anniversary commemorative clock mounted above Rangler's desk - Rangler looks at his email in-box, sorting on the senders and checking subject lines without finding anything he deems worthy of opening. His incoming mail alert is set to sound like a little telephone, and it has been ringing off the hook. In the time that Lex has been standing in the office, Rangler has acquired nearly a full screen of new messages. Rangler begins to compose his own message, selecting recipients rapidly from the global address list. He types a single line, examines it, then types another. This process is repeated many times.

      Lex has been standing quietly for nearly half an hour before Rangler finally swivels around to face him. He seems surprised to find Lex still in his office. He clears his throat, pausing a long moment, then leans forward. He has Lex's cartoon in his right hand. In a voice much harsher than the one he had been using on the phone, Rangler asks Lex just what the hell he was thinking of, putting up an offensive picture like this on the door of a government office.
       "Do you think that this is appropriate behavior for a senior employee, Thompson?" he asks.
      Lex hates rhetorical questions.

      Rangler strokes his mustache, trying to put together a mental picture of Lexter Thompson, GS-334-14, Computer Specialist. Has he ever seen this man before? Why does he have to be the one to deal with him? Damn it to hell. Like this is the only thing he has on his agenda for today.
      Rangler has placed Lex's personnel file in an intentionally conspicuous position on his desk. This is a cunningly effective management technique, he thinks to himself, letting the employee imagine whatever they might about their history resting in front of them. It's a Rorschach test. Will the employee project fear, will they project hope, will they to be too fucking dumb to even notice that the file is sitting there? Rangler hasn't read much of the file, and has no intention of doing so, but he's examined it enough to know that Lex has established himself as a floater, drifting around the agency from office to office for more than a decade. He knows that Lex was dumped here by some other business area during the most recent reorganization.
      The same business area, he is shocked to discover, that had realigned him into Information Operations a couple of months prior. Good Lord, he thinks in a shock of denial, have I been slacking? Is it noticeable? I better start picking up the pace before I end up like this poor slob.
      No, he thought, not me. That will never happen. Look at this guy. He really is a slug. Brrrrr. Hasn't been promoted in over twelve years, and at his age, he's never going to be promoted again. Why won't these people just leave on their own? He's old enough. Lazy bum. Plus he's got a fat ass.
      Rangler inadvertently thought about his own posterior. He had been logging a lot of chair miles for himself over the past few years...
      Lex was from J-8? Don't remember him there...
      Rangler's first thought had been that J-8 was always dumping their garbage off on someone else, usually J-6, Info Ops. He quickly had to suppress this notion, since his own mentors had assured him that the reason for his transfer to J-6 was to help round out his skill set. 
       'No, not me', Rangler thought, 'it couldn't be. Look at this guy. He's nothing but a down-trodden goofball.'
      This soon after his transfer, however, it was impossible for Rangler to tell  with certainty whether he was being groomed for promotion or being pushed aside to wilt in the darkness. It could probably go either way. Without having said a word, Lex had already managed to piss Rangler off.

      "What's it mean, Thompson? Talk to me. Cat got your tongue? Why don't you go ahead and explain to me what sort of point you were trying to make with this?" Rangler was fingering Lex's cartoon, holding it by the corner, dangling it over the high efficiency paper shredder sitting on his mahogany side-table. Lex sadly noted that a coffee ring was badly staining half of the panel.

      Lex badly wanted to reach out and reclaim his cartoon, and his fingers twitched anxiously in their desire for action. They have become very long fingers. They were trying to transcend his hand. 'Snatch it back', he thinks, 'snatch it back'. His thoughts have become very dark, and he knows that he must carefully guard against showing his feelings. 'Fuck you mother-fucker fucker fucker fucker', he thinks. 'I have been working here since forever, and this balding clown dares to sit here in judgment of me! Die, asshole, die! Bite Me! Bite me bite me bite me!'
      Lex stands solemnly, a slight slump to his shoulders. In a way, he does not look unlike Bill Rangler. Their hair is in a similar corporate cut, with the same blend of salt and pepper coloring. 'Only I've got all mine', thinks Lex, 'while this clown is going to look like Kojack by the time he's my age'. Their gold framed eyeglasses are much alike, and they've got similar well-manicured mustaches, but 'Good Lord, take a look at that big ass on Rangler. Wouldn't hurt to work out once in a while, cueball'.
      There is one major difference in the two of them. Rangler looks a hell of a lot more comfortable sitting there in his big black leather chair. Lex has been standing up for what seems like ages, and he would really love to be offered a seat. Even a wooden one. His back hurts, 'You know that Asshole?'  A thorough investigation of Lex's personnel records would have revealed that he had once slipped on an icy patch in the DSA parking lot, injuring his back and causing him to use up several weeks of sick leave, leave that he could ill afford to take at the time. Where had the union been then? Rangler obviously would not care even if he knew, the bastard.
      Lex calms himself down. His breathing is steady. His expression betrays nothing. Lex supposes that the rude treatment he is receiving now is part of the punishment for the reprehensible deed of posting a cartoon that, let's face it, wasn't really all that offensive. He was standing here in Rangler's office at the moment solely because he gave off a faint odor of disloyalty. Lex may be guilty, but he's certainly not guilty beyond all plausible deniability.

     Lex answers calmly. It is the simplest thing in the world.
     "Well, you see, sir, I'm certain that you realize that the man holding the marker is spelling out the words GO FUNGAL".
     "Go fungal, Thompson?"
     "Yes sir, go fungal. That's one of the new methodologies that I'm researching for the agency at the moment. I'm sure that I don't need to tell you. You must be aware of it. Fungal Propagation is a
very important Knowledge Management concept. Fungal Propagation. You've heard of it, haven't you sir? The process of spreading information incrementally throughout the enterprise using the existing network infrastructure and the system/user interface.  It's low-hanging fruit, Sir, and I must say that the more I learn about the subject, the more that I'm able to assimilate the core concepts of Fungal Propagation, well, the more excited I am about it. Just spreading the word, sir."
      Rangler slowly looks Lex up and down before propping his elbows on the desk and cradling his head in his hands. He massages his temples for a few seconds before looking back up at this strange man.  Rangler's face shows such a look of unmitigated disgust that it's quite an unpleasant thing to see. Lex would love the chance to wipe that look right off of Rangler's ugly mug.
     "Okay, Thompson. Okay. Assuming that's the case, then I guess maybe I just didn't understand. Think that might be the case? Your turn, then. Go ahead, maybe you would be so kind as to inform me exactly why this is supposed to be humorous?" He is gripping the cartoon with an intensity which has caused his thumb and fore-finger to turn white.
      Rex boldly takes a step closer to the oversized desk. He can see the sincerity of his face reflected in the polished wood. "Oh no sir, I don't think you misunderstood. What I mean is, if there's any confusion on this matter, it's entirely my fault. I'm apparently the one who didn't understand... No one's briefed you on Fungal Propagation, have they? I am so sorry. Sir. Let's back up for a minute and start anew. This is clearly my mistake. This drawing is not supposed to be funny, no, not at all, sir, this drawing is supposed to be inspirational. It's a way for me to demonstrate, to you and the entire J-6 business area, my enthusiasm for a process that could greatly benefit the entire DLA organization. Absolutely. Really, really benefit the agency. And I must say, Sir, were you to give me the money to start up a pilot project on FP - that's the acronym, you know - it would certainly be a feather in your cap. You would absolutely get all of the credit, as well you should, for showing such vision in sponsoring me."

      What seems like a considerable period of time passes. Lex abruptly extends his hand, and before Rangler has time to consider what he's doing, he finds himself standing up and shaking it. Goddamn automatic reaction. Usually it serves him so well.
      Rangler looks at Lex without blinking for an eternity. He examines him in the manner that he might scrutinize a virus through a microscope. Lex returns the gaze with a hurt but sincere expression. Oh, sir, how you have misjudged me. Rangler sits back down at his desk and pulls a Wet-Nap out of a side drawer, carefully opening the package and making a show of cleaning the Lex germs off of his hands.
      Rangler picks up a fresh yellow pencil and briefly regards it with utter distaste before biting off the eraser and spitting the pink rubber tip out into a silver silk handkerchief. He adapts a savage look.

      "Thompson, let me be blunt. You're fucking with me. You are personally fucking with me."
      He stretches to pick up Lex's personnel file and taps it sharply on the desk.  "You want me to put those words down in writing so you can run and tell the union about it?"
      "No sir, that won't be necessary. Good joke, sir."  Lex cuffs his hand up to his mouth and makes a sound somewhere between a laugh and a cough.
      Rangler could swear he hears the word asshole in Lex's sound. He could really use a cigarette.
      Lex speaks. "They told me you were an amusing fellow, Sir. I was never all that good at jokes, myself."

      Rangler snaps the pencil in two and hurls the splintered yellow halves towards the trash, missing by a good two feet. "Who does your employee evaluation, Thompson?"
      "I do sir. I do my own. And may I say that I've received excellent ratings the last few periods." Lex smiles broadly.
      "Well I do it for you now, Thompson."  Rangler flips through the first few sheets in Lex's file, not even pretending to read. "I want you to write me up a synopsis of all your official duties, the moment you leave my office. I want to know every project that you're working on. Every little thing. And Thompson?"
      "Yes sir?"
      "You can leave right now."
      Lex was already standing so making a speedy exit would be no problem. In his mind, he was already halfway down to the smoking area.
       "Thompson!"
       "Yes sir."
        "One more thing." Rangler has turned Lex's cartoon into a tiny ball of trash, which he now tosses to Lex. Can't be accused of illegally confiscating an employee's property. Union wouldn't like that. "Hope your schedule isn't
too overwhelming for you right now. I have a special assignment for you. You'll be briefing the Executive Panel. Monday afternoon at 1530."
        "Yes sir. On what, sir?"
        "On fungal propagation."