MONSTER TEMP AGENCY STORY
"In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded." - Pratchett
RECAP SO FAR:
Yesterday we got through a couple of establishing scenes, rewrote and re-edited the intro, and started writing a detailed summary of the plot as I envision it.
PROJECT FOR THE DAY:
Finishing up the summary, creating and fleshing out a villain / antagonist.
Start on some more connective tissue between introductions and the meat of the story.
REMEMBER THE "THEREFORE OR BUT" STRUCTURE
Louie: interviewer/host for an online gossip magazine web show
Constantine: Louie's camera man or producer and best friend - an incubus
Skjaldi: Chief editor of the gossip magazine. Dwarf, female, keeps her beard braided and dyed pink, wears glasses as an accessory. Brash. Abrasive. Inappropriate. Brilliant.
Dennis the Orc
Rahnah "The Nut" Bloodthirster
Orgnug "Big Nut" Bloodthirster
Is someone who exploits cheap labor for his business, and whose business is threatened when the people he exploits (namely non-humanoid monsters) begin to be accepted in other parts of the workforce than shitty manual labor below minimum wage with no contracts and benefits.
So he runs a company which sends fleets of recruting trucks out to pick up desperate laborers every day, taking them to factories and manual labor jobs where they work brutal hours for awful pay, and then dumps them back where they came from exhausted.
When the monster temp agency begins to pick up steam and non-humanoid monsters begin to find acceptance as part of the legitimate labor force, he gets angry because 1) he relies on exploitation of that labor for his business and 2) he's a huge fucking bigot who can't stomach the idea of non-humanoid monsters participating in society in any real meaningful way.
He's a wall-street type, a slick business-suit wearing high society person. OH FUCK, of course, he owns slums! A lot of slums! Which he fails to maintain and where he charges exactly enough rent that the tenants (who mostly work for him) can never afford to move out or stop working for him.
He operates a real estate company with businesses in construction and shipping as well.
Trevor Jonas Reinhardt III
The world has humans and monsters in them. The monsters are treated like an economic underclass, repressed and discriminated against by humans in particular.
A young man, misguidedly trying to write a great novel and / or blog about the inequalities plaguing society, accidentally helps a mathematically literate Orc find a job as an accountant. Word gets around, and he finds himself unintentionally at the head of a monster temp agency, finding work for disenfranchised monsters in unusual positions.
A troll woman runs a shelter for disenfranchised monsters, and one day happens to save a young man who wants to write a great novel and / or blog about the inequalities plaguing society from his own stupidity by pulling him out of a bar fight. When he accidentally manages to get one of her regulars a job, she sees an opportunity to help the monsters under her care, and she starts a monster temp agency, finding work for disenfranchised monsters in unusual positions.
Everything is going well, and the temp agency is doing good business and even helping engender a sense of understanding between humans and monsters. But then one of the temp agency employees becomes embroiled in a plot by a human-run company to use a monster as a patsy for a major money-laundering scheme. The employee is killed by an assassin, and the monster temp agency is burned down.
The young man and the troll woman try to dig up evidence and solve the murder, but despite all of their efforts and everything they discover, they have no way of proving the crime. [INSERT TWIST ENDING THAT I KNOW BUT THE VIEWERS DON'T KNOW YET HERE]
- We meet our main protagonist, Louie and explore his situation and ennui, set up his character arc and cluelessly optimistic saviour complex.
- Louie gets the bad idea to wander into the monster ghetto to gather material for his book and - predictably - acts like an entitled idiot and gets himself in trouble with monsters who are not particularly charmed by his behaviour.
- Our secondary protagonist, Sjovn, pulls his ass out of the fire, and as payment for her help tells Louie to volunteer at her shelter. Both because she needs the help and free labour is the best labor, and because she's hoping MAYBE some actual experience with the people Louie is cluelessly trying to "save" will make him be less of an idiot about it.
- Louie meets Dennis (née Grathbuk Bloodbreaker), a shy and timid orc who, breaking severely with stereotype, is a math genius and trained accountant. Louie also meets various other monster characters who frequent the shelter who are down on their luck in various ways.
- Louie, trying to assuage some guilt, reaches out to a family contact to get a job for one of the monsters. (Maybe a salamander lizard man gets hired to drive an ice-cream truck? Something unexpected, anyway.)
- Word gets around that Louie knows how to get work for people (stealthily encouraged by Sjovn) and Louie ends up trading on his upper-middle class family contacts and using his human status to reach out to various companies, finding work for monsters.
- Sjovn uses this as an opportunity to re-brand the shelter into a monster temp agency (I should come up with a clever name for it - like a pun or something), with Louie as the main agent. Quite unwillingly.
- Our villain is introduced: the dastardly ????? who wants to ???? and ????? in order to ???? (i have no idea yet)
- The monster temp agency begins to pick up steam and business, and even begins to make some money.
- It also sparks a media discussion about the place and plight of monsters in society, causing some problems for our villains because ????? (still don't know)
- we follow the action through a series of monsters finding work and employment in various places, sometimes even permanent
- Louie's character develops as he begins to form a more nuanced and useful understanding of the problems he thought he had all the answers to at the beginning, his saviour complex begins to crumble.
- As part of the villain's plot, Dennis gets work at their company as an accountant. The villain, however, is planning to use Dennis as a patsy for a money-laundering scheme (or something similar). But the villain, who only understands orcs as stereotypes, fails to realize that Dennis is actually an excellent accountant who realizes there are problems with the numbers.
- Dennis is about to expose or otherwise ruin the plan, so the villain has him murdered, and burns down the monster temp agency in the process, trying to frame Dennis for that crime instead.
- The All Is Lost Moment, Louie and Sjovn try to pick up the pieces of their hopeful enterprise. They both fall back into old character foibles, perhaps briefly turning on each other?
- Some clue, or some pressing need, comes to light, forcing Sjovn and Louie to resolve their differences and work to figure out the crime and bring justice to the perpetrators.
- Through villain carelessness, and perhaps a confrontation with a henchman/go-between or hired assassin, they obtain enough evidence that THEY know who did what, when, and why, but not nearly enough to actually bring the villain to justice.
- [TWIST ENDING]
Stop me if you've heard this one. In the beginning there was nothing...
13.7 billion years later, there was everything. An infinite universe with infinite worlds, and among them, a single blue-and-green life bearing jewel, floating with its seven siblings around a single star, in a single spiral arm of a single galaxy. And we called it "Earth," because it's dirty and a bit of a mess, but good things grow out of it.
Now take a half-step back, not away from anything, but away from /everything./ Slip out of the three-piece suit of reality and into the comfortable pyjamas of imagination, and suppose, for a second, that somewhere in the infinite mirrored hallway of alternate dimensions, there is one where, in the beginning there was nothing, 13.7 billion years later there was everything, and a single blue-and-green life bearing jewel floats in space. And they call it "Earth," because it's dirty.
Now suppose that this Earth had a few more seeds planted on it, and that they produced a few extra sprouts. And suppose that these sprouts became part of a garden that looks much like ours, and which flowered into much the same history, resulting in much the same cities, most of the same inventions, and all of the same mistakes.
Let me put it another way.
Suppose that dragons are real, and are struggling to pay off their college loans...
Dennis looked down at the now still figure of what used to be his body. What surprised him the most was how unsurprised he felt - how little of ANYTHING he felt. He had, after all, nothing left to feel it with. It had been quick, at least, he'd give them that. Dennis wondered what the equation would be to calculate the force it had taken to sever his spinal cord, and found that it came to him as easily as it had in life. That was something, at least. He'd be upset if dying had made him forget how to do sums.
He watched his murderer ransack his former room dispassionately. Somehow he couldn't find it in himself to even be annoyed at the mess anymore. But something did linger at the edges of his soul, a nipping sense of regret. He felt bad for Louie. Louie had gotten him the job in the first place, and now he'd gone and gotten himself killed before he could serve out the contract. He wondered if that would cause a mess in the paperwork.
His murderer seemed to find what they were looking for. They stuffed it in their clothes and disappeared out the window from whence they'd come.
Dennis watched them go. Then turned to the figure lurking behind him.
"Does something happen now?" he asked. Death waved a bony hand, and he found out.
Louie Rust was on the phone. He wanted desperately to be off it.
/"My friend Margaret, you know Margaret, she's the one with the husband who runs the hairspray company, you know, the one for centaurs, and she says-"/
"Yes, mom," said Louie.
/"-and you could just try it for a week and you wouldn't have to stay for too long if you didn't like it but I just-"/
"Yes, mom," he objected.
/"-lots of opportunities you know if you just show up every day and apply yourself to-"/
"Yes, mom," he opined.
/"-but will you just please call her? I sent you her number, and she knows you'll be calling so please do it this time. Okay Louie?"/
"Yes, mom," he lied.
/"I'm just so worried you'll get left behind. The job market is really hard for people who don't have experience you know."/
"Yes, mom," he disagreed.
/"Ok I have to go, I have a meeting, but you will /call her/ all right? I'll see you next week. I love you."/
"Yes, mom," he conceded, and she hung up.
Louie put the phone away and fiddled with it in his pocket. He wandered past shops and bodegas down Snakeskin Street, and bought a hot dog from a werewolf. It would be a full moon soon, judging by the man's beard. He considered tweeting something supportive about full moon awareness as he ate the last bit of sausage. He sidled into a comic shop and flipped through a few issues, then to a bookstore where he tried to look well-read for a selfie. It came out okay. He bought a paperback about economics and went to a cafe where the server got his name wrong. He tweeted something relatable about it. A couple of pretty elves giggled about something in the corner and he watched them surreptitiously for a while. He liked elves, but then, everybody did, whether they wanted to or not.
Finishing his coffee he stepped into the autumn chill, barely watching where he was going.
He'd told his friends, when he graduated, that he was going to be a travel blogger. He'd told his parents he'd be a journalist and write a novel. Predictably, he'd ended up writing whatever he could for whoever would pay him, which it turned out was not many people, who offered not very much pay. He'd written a concert reportage here and a book review there, a couple of columns for some online magazines that refused to pay his invoice and changed his name on the byline. His parents, safe in the upper middle class, had paid his rent when he couldn't, which made him feel awful (and kept suggesting he try jobs where he wouldn't have to be a writer, which made him feel even worse). Then, when desperate pride had given way to desperation period, he had sent an awful application and landed a steady, paying job for a major publication.
Gossip columnist for The Peek.
It was an easy job, and it kept him busy. There was always someone famous being stupid, or someone trying to get famous by /doing/ something stupid, or something stupid /getting/ famous. And on the rare day that some D-list comedian wasn't going off on a heckler, or the sister of some singer's girlfriend wasn't getting pulled over for drunk driving, you could always spin the lack of news as news itself. "Johnny SportsStar Disappears From Public Life, Friends Say He's Cheating?" "Total Silence From Sally Popstar, Is She In Rehab?" Sometimes his editor would give him a ridiculous headline and have him write speculative nonsense to fit it. Even as the sliminess of it all rankled his ego, it was also sort of fun. In the gossip rags you could live in a dream world of your own design. A new scandal every day, a heart-warming publicity stunt every week, and You Won't Belive What Happens Next every fifteen minutes. It was a permanent emotional roller-coaster, careening wildly from outrage to nostalgia to sincerity. And it paid. Nothing princely, but it kept him fed and in an apartment, and it meant no more calling mom and dad for cash, which at this point was an emotional reward worth twice his salary plus benefits.
In his younger mind, he'd imagined himself writing something... "important." Like a great novel, or an insightful blog tackling the real issues. His younger mind had been unclear on exactly what the "real issues" were or how they should be tackled, but he'd defiitely never wanted the title of his magnum opus to be clickbait.
An email from his editor buzzed in ('lina love just went into rehab wher R U??'), and he left the lukewarm remains of his coffee and walked back to the office through the autumn chill.
"Where the fuck were you?"
Louie's editor was on him the moment he walked through the door. A bristly dwarf named Skjaldi with her beard in three braids, all dyed pink, and spindly glasses always on her forehead - nobody had ever seen her wear them on her nose.
"I've got two sources saying Lina Love just went to rehab, write some shit up NOW and put it out, before the assholes at The Sizzle find out about it."
"What's she in rehab for?" asked Louie, pulling his coat off and sitting down by his computer.
"Whatever! Just write 'unknown problems' and imply it's drugs because her agent's on coke." Skjaldi grabbed an intern by the knee, "find out who the fuck her agent is and text Louie. And get me some fucking coffee!" she shouted at the elf as he darted off.
"How do you know her agent's on coke?"
"They're all on coke. Who cares. They don't sue for libel. Just say it's a rumor that he is. Anyway, how's your love life? Are you getting any?"
Skjaldi was a master of the uncomfortable non-sequiteur. Dwarfs, on the whole, were considered dour, retiring, opaque life-deniers, always busy with mining and construction. If the exception proved the rule, Skjaldi was a double blind study published in a credible scientific journal. Loud, shameless, nosy and - it had to be admitted - an amazing sleuth for gossip, Skjaldi ran a tight ship, and had taken The Peek from an unremarkable startup in a sea of unremarkable startups to something of a titan in the gossip sphere.
"I'm do OK" he lied.
"Fucking liar" Skjaldi cackled, "you got blue balls written all over you."
Louie ignored her and typed out the story, trying to come up with a sixth synonym for "alleged."
"You know I know a slutty mermaid who'd probably—"
"/Trying to type here, boss!/" Louie said, even as he couldn't help being a little tempted to hear her out.
"Fine, fine. Just trying to help my favourite writer. You know you're my favourite right?"
"Anyway get that shit published in an hour or you're fucking fired alright?" Skjaldi bustled off to harass someone else, employees to ducking surreptitiously behind their screens everywhere she went. Louie typed the story out in twenty minutes and put it out. He was proud of how many different ways he'd found to phrase "according to rumors." It got a couple of hundred retweets and then vanished in the wake of the next four stories his co-workers pumped out. Louie ran his customary social media searches, and wrote out a couple of quick listicles and emailed them to Skjaldi for approval.
"You busy tonight?" asked Constantine, sliding onto his desk while he was checking social media. Louie shrugged.
Constantine was an incubus; impossibly perfectly tanned, tall, athletic, handsome with a scruffy beard and darkly glowering. It was all a glamour, of course, a perceptual illusion. Elves and fairies had them too. They were not so much magic as a permanent trick of the light. Catch them in a mirror and you'd see the real person underneath. Which in Constantine's case was still a very handsome man, and Louie's best friend.
"I dunno, let's get drunk or something."
Louie grinned, "it's Thursday, asshole."
"Well fuck you too then! What, you can't write this shit with a hangover?" Constantine lounged himself seductively across Louie's keyboard, accidentally typing and sending a tweet that said "hrk>GHJJJJJJJJJJJ". It got four likes.
"I sure as shit can't write it with your ass on my keyboard" Louie shot back, shoving the demon out of the way. He twirled off the desk on a hoofed foot.
"C'mooooon, dude, I just wanna hang out."
"That's a yes!"
"Whatever!" said Louie, making a show of leaning down over his desk and pretending to work.
It was a cold morning, and Grubnuk's breath hung thick in the air in front of him, and his stomach growled. He had a decent coat on, but the hunger pulled the cold in like a drain. He wasn't the first to arrive, he knew. Some people slept in the parking lot. But the trucks weren't early today. He clutched his work permit in the coat of his pocket.
Someone sidled up next to him - another orc like him. They didn't speak. Another couple of people joined, and a small crowd of orcs formed. Nobody said anything, but it was a quiet huddle for warmth. Elsewhere on the lot, other groups were forming. The kobolds over there, yapping away, a couple of emaciated ogres over here, shivering. A small gang of goblins wobbled around unsteadily, moved by the frenetic pushing and shoving of their group. A few trolls ambled up eventually, some bugbears huddled together after a while. Gremlins, dryads, salamanders, banshees, even a few wendigos; by the time the trucks rolled into view, they probably numbered over a hundred people in total.
Six trucks pulled around the corner in a line, one after the other. All dirty pickups, all in different colors, all branded with the same bisected globe logo. Almost as one, the parking lot assembly raised their hands, clutching work permits, and started shouting and running towards the trucks. These came to a halt in a line, and two men with megaphones emerged from the lead vehicle, and started shouting back.
He needed the work. That's all there was to it. He needed the work, and there wasn't anything else. There had been a time when Grubnuk had it in him to be angry about it, but now he was too hungry to be outraged, and his son's medicine was too expensive for objections. He needed the work. And when nowhere else would take you, because you had a big jaw and upturned nose and grey skin and no education to make up for it, you went to the parking lots, and you waited for the trucks, and you did whatever work they took you to do, for however long they told you to do it, and took whatever money they offered. Because you were poor. Because you were starving. Because you were an orc. Or a pixie. Or a gremlin or a troll, or anything else that "people" didn't want to see working the till at the supermarket, or cleaning out bathrooms or delivering the mail.
"Ogres, ogres!" shouted one of the men in his megaphone, pointing them out in the crowd. They muscled up, handed over their papers and were sent to the bed of the rearmost truck, which drove off. "Dryads! Pixies!" came the call from the other, and these clustered around him, and were sent off too. Then some gnolls and kobolds, then the salamanders, then the undead and the trolls. The orcs were left for last. There was one truck, and it seated maybe six. There were more than twenty of them.
"Orcs!" shouted one of the men and grinned, "you can fight for it, pigheads!"