All eyes were upon him as the Boss reached across his desk, thrusting forth the Official Family Day tee shirt. A dozen smug smiles around the table silently gloated, 'Thank God its not me!' Once again, all but one had dodged the bullet. Escaped the onerous duty of Focal, Baby-sitter Extraordinaire.
There it was before him, limp in his boss' meaty hand, orange and dead with a big, round, blue button incongruously pinned to its front. The orange monstrosity shouted 'County Jail' to all who saw it! He stared at the garish garment as though it were a dead possum thrust, stinking, beneath his nose.
He next averted the angle of his gaze to peer at the tiny label as the shirt flagged before him, shaken under his nose like a feathered talisman in a shaman's hand.
"Oh no! XL." There were two X's missing.
Again the orange monstrosity was flagellated before him, this time with greater insistence. He groaned, a soulful ululation of utter hopelessness and capitulation. He reluctantly took the shirt and with the glacial slowness of infinite disinclination, raised it above his head. One arm, then two were thrust into its waiting orifice. Then, with infinite misgivings, a head was thrust into its dim reaches. Mightily he struggled, as inch by agonizing inch his tortured torso disappeared into its benighted maw. Finally, in a feat of unparalleled spelogical prowess, his tousled head slowly emerged from its chemical scented depths.
Now the shirt was pulled and stretched, stressed far beyond its utmost limits. Like Caesar at the Rubicon, or Hannibal upon the Alps. Conquest in sight, he strained to bridge the awesome gap 'twixt end-of-shirt and belt-line!
Ah! Success!! In his mind he wore the Loral Wreath of Glory.
Victory strenuously achieved, there was a brief moment of silent satisfaction. Suddenly the silence was broken by an ominous sound. All were still, listening again for that furtive resonance. Again it tolled, but louder still!
With one Mind, it occurred to all that filled the room, that it was the dread sound from 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'; the awful reverberation of age-dried fiber snapping, groaning and popping under inconceivable stress!
Deep within the subconscious of those present, in the flat, emotionless, computer-like voice of Majal Roddenberry, came a terrible intonation:
"Warning! Containment failure is Immanent! You have three seconds to reach Minimum Safe Distance."
Disbelieving gasps were heard all around! The sounds of toppled chairs and flapping feet were deafening!
"You have two seconds to reach Minimum Safe Distance."
He looked down with bulging eyes. "Oh no! This can't be true!"
"You have one second to reach Minimum Safe Distance."
A millisecond later, the final few strands of fiber lost their molecular integrity and snapped, releasing dreadful forces unknown except in the depths of stars and the cores of exploding nuclear weapons.
In a soundless instant, the over-stressed fabric flailed out, pushing before it an expanding compression wave of super-heated plasma and dissociated sub-atomic particles. In a few nanoseconds the shock wave filled the room, dematerializing chairs, walls and panicked coworkers as it rushed outward at a significant percentage of the speed of light. In less than half a millisecond the shock front was two hundred yards across and traveling at thirty-two thousand miles an hour. Rapidly the shock wave decelerated. At two miles from abdomen-zero it had slowed to Mach-one as it raced away from a majestically expanding ball of incandescent gas, rising into a mushroom cloud.
Fifteen minutes later, a much singed but still recognizable orange tee shirt fluttered down out of the dispersing fallout cloud. The blue button, having been blasted into a highly eccentric orbit, streaked to a brief and fiery end a few days later.
As though rousing from a waking dream, he looked down at the tee shirt still waving under his nose and thought to himself, 'Not today. Hmmm…Tina might like it.'
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