Ronan was unhappy. Correction; Ronan was absolutely bloody miserable. It had not been his week. Admittedly few weeks ever were, but this one in particular had a great metaphysical boot out aimed directly at his groin and was kicking like it was dancing the can can.
Ronan was unemployed, despite his best efforts to not lose his job. Again.
This wasn’t all too surprising, seeing as his best efforts consisted of begging his manager to give him another chance, swearing that he wouldn’t screw up yet another sales pitch, and, when those proved fruitless, culminated with him sobbing. That technically hadn’t been part of his efforts to retain his position, it just kind of happened.
The part that he’d found worst about the whole situation, other than the inadvertent outbreak of tears, was that he hadn’t even liked the job. In fact, he’d hated it. Yet there he’d been, kneeling on the ground whimpering, his manager standing beside him much like the parent of a child having a meltdown in a supermarket.
To make the whole experience even worse, as he was being escorted from the building his manager said something that was still circling around his mind three days on. He’d said,
‘My Gods Ronan, you are a such a wimp, even by elven standards.’
Now, being called a wimp, wuss, pussy, namby-pamby, milksop, and a whole thesauruses worth of insults of that ilk was no strange occurrence for Ronan, but to be a wimp by elven standards? The bar was set so low for what other elves would consider weak that you’d struggle to limbo under it even after being the victim of a freak accident involving a conveyor belt, three trouser presses and a novelty sized rolling pin.
Was it true? Well… yes, but after that moment Ronan decided that today was the day that all changed! He was going to stand up to his manager and tell him EXACTLY what he thought of him!
‘Yeah… I guess you’re right,’ was his meek toned reply.
Great Job Ronan. You really showed him.
After being escorted out with a box of his things, (including a potted plant that someone had assumed was his. It was not. Later, one of the software engineers at the company would be devastated to find that their prized dandelion was missing) Ronan started a glum trek home. Halfway there, the misery of his dismissal had gradually transitioned into an anger. How could they treat him like that? Letting him off with only five prior warnings about his performance! He’d worked tirelessly for them, or at least, he didn’t sleep at work too often, for a whole four and a quarter months!
He snatched the potted plant from the box and feebly launched it at the ground to highlight his anger.
Instead of being a vent for his frustration, all that he achieved was to feel guilty at having committed second degree herbicide. In a remorseful fashion he tried to relocate the plant to some nearby dirt, but upon finding the ground too compacted to scoop with his hands, he instead made a little mound of soil from the former container and placed the plant on top. It stood for a short while, then toppled over in a pathetic sort of way.
Lying amongst the mess of soil and smashed terracotta, the dandelion woefully lacked the ability to quote ‘Et tu, Brutus?’ in anything other than Plantese, and as we all know, Plantese is almost as impossible to understand as Welsh.
Ronan tightened his grip on the crumpled box and started striding home at a more abrupt pace.
If nothing else, at least his girlfriend would be able to comfort him once he got back.
Nalena looked up from her tablet at the sound of the door opening.
‘Oh… you’re back early,’ she remarked, noticing the box in his hands.
‘Well, you see,’ Ronan began,
‘You got fired didn’t you?’
He stood unassumingly, drumming his fingers on the box.
‘...uhm, er, no, actually I, er, I was actually commended today on… on how good a job I did,’
‘...Really.’ Nalena was stony faced. ‘What’s in the box?’
‘Office supplies and… such,’ That much was true, ‘I have them because… they said I could work from home today. Because I did a good job. A really good job. Yeah.’ He returned her look of contempt with a blank stare and pursed lips. Nalena sighed.
‘Look Ronan, we need to talk.’
‘I mean, couldn’t we… communicate using smoke signals and hand gestures instead? I’ve actually been studying them and I’m sure it would a be a great opportunity to get some experience--’
There were certainly some hand gestures she wanted to use right now. Ones involving the finger in the middle or a hand scrunched into a fist, Nalena thought as she took a deep breath.
‘This isn’t working Ronan. You know it and yet you can’t even be honest about it. No, instead you stand there and lie right to my face like I’m stupid enough to believe it,’
‘I’m not lying!’ He whined.
‘Is that so? In that case, how about I call your office and ask them about you? I’m sure they’d be delighted to tell me all about your great work today,’
‘Well, they’re, uh, they’re quite busy today so I don’t think they’d be able to… take your call…’ he trailed off.
‘Oh alright, alright, fine, I lost my job and, and I lied because I didn’t want you to think that I couldn’t keep a job and I shouldn’t have done that and I’m really sorry and... oh, my manager was right. I really AM that much of a wimp, aren’t I?’ Ronan admitted, slumping down onto the sofa, ‘A wimp even by elven standards,’
Nalena didn’t comment. There was no need, her thoughts on that statement were written clearly on her face.
‘But it’s just a job! I mean, I can get another! We can work this out!’
She started again, but softer now, ‘Ronan, this isn’t about the job. This is about us. I just don’t think we’re a good fit for one another,’
‘How can you say for sure?’
‘Name three things we have in common.’
‘Well… we…’ Ronan faultered under the stern gaze he was receiving, Firstly… we’re both elves… secondly, we, uh, we live in the same apartment,’
‘My apartment,’ She added,
‘and thirdly… thirdly…’ He didn’t finish his sentence. It wasn’t begun with an end in mind. Plus, the feeling that the layer of flesh just beneath all his skin had become a seething mass of worms didn’t help either.
‘It’s not just that. Where do you see the relationship going? Marriage? Kids? I can’t see either of those things happening. Not because I don’t want them, but because I can’t see them happening with you as… well, you are. Especially since, and it’s harsh to say, it feels like you don’t really love me,’
‘Can you look me in the eyes and say it? And honestly, I don’t want you to pretend just so you can try to bail water from an already sunken ship. Can you tell me you love me?’
Ronan sat silently in thought.
He stayed silent.
Then, after what seemed a great deal of time, he asked,
‘What about me? What do you feel about me?’
Nalena sighed again.
‘I like you Ronan. I really do, and I care about you as well. In terms of love however? What I feel for you is not the kind that a relationship works on. I love you like one might love a puppy. It can be cute, and give good company, and be fun to take to the park, but at the end of the day, it can’t give return the kind of complex and subtle emotions that a person can… and you’re a puppy that never grows up.’
The silence returned.
‘...so what now? I’ve never really gone through the whole breakup process before,’ spoke Ronan in muted tones.
‘Normally you’d get your things packed and find somewhere to stay,’ Nalena began. Ronan’s face looked remarkably akin to a reprimanded puppy’s.
‘But, since you’re so recently out of work, I guess you can stay here until the end of the week, to give you some time to get sorted. You can use the sofa to sleep on.’
‘Okay,’ came a defeated sounding reply.
So there he was, three days on, wandering the city streets with little purpose or direction, mulling over the same phrases in his head. He’d made no progress at finding a job or abode. In fact, he hadn’t even started, and was so miserable that he wasn’t even able to delude himself into thinking he’d get it all figured out within the next two days. He’d have to move back in with his parents, a fate which he struggled to think of worse alternatives to.
Since he clearly lacked the motivation to try and prevent what felt like inevitable return to the land of disappointed remarks, Ronan tried to not think about it instead.
He failed, unsurprisingly.
As a result, he decided to acquire some help in the effort, and wandered into the nearest bar. This was a novel experience for him. The only previous time he’d consumed alcohol was in early highschool, when he’d chugged a indeterminably aged can of larger that he’d found in the woods. This was one of many futile attempts to gain some form of popularity, but all that he achieved was to cover his favourite dungarees in vomit. Ronan had then vowed to never again drink alcohol ever since that day. You’d think he could’ve been a bit less extreme and only vowed to not consume beverages discovered under mud and suspiciously stained magazines but hey ho.
In any case, he was prepared to make an exception for today.
‘Bartender, I want the strongest drink you’ve got!’
The human barman eyed him dubiously, ‘…well, we’ve got absinthe, but-’
‘Great, I’ll take a pint of whatever that is,’
The barman looked him over again, before stating in a chary fashion,
‘Alright, that’ll be $79.99,’
‘...do you haven’t something a little cheaper?’ Ronan asked, to no great surprise.
‘Certainly, I’ll set you up with something a bit more suitable,’ the barman evaluated the weedy looking elf once more, before filling a pint glass from one of the many taps and placed it on the bar, ‘That’ll be $4.99.’
Ronan still felt that was overly pricey, he could buy a lot of apple juice for that much, but he forked the amount over anyways.
Bubbles rose up through the light golden liquid. He found the concept of asking what he’d just purchased somewhat embarrassing, so he decided to just take a sip and hope for the best.
‘Whew, that, uh, that IS strong. How much alcohol has this got in?’
‘It’s 3.8%,’ the barman replied reservedly.
‘That’s a lot, isn’t it?’
‘...in this context, yes, I suppose,’ came the response after a short pause. ‘Say, you don’t seem the kind that visits a bar all that often, what brings you here today?’
‘Um,’ Ronan began, looking around. The place was sparsely populated with the occasional lone drinker or small group, the races comprising a mix of humans and dwarfs. There were no elves to be seen beyond himself.
‘Well, I, I lost my job recently because I wasn’t very good at it, and, uh, and my girlfriend just left me because I’m a wimp,’ Ronan started to lose his composure. The barman started to regret having asked, ‘and I wanted to say I wasn’t a wimp but I am a wimp, and my manager called me a wimp, but not just any wimp, he called me a wimp by elven standards, and it hurt a lot but he’s right and and I have to find somewhere to live by the end of the week but I haven’t started looking and I’ve only got a few days left before my girlfriend kicks me out because she let me stay a while because she felt sorry for me for being such a wimp and she’s right and--’ he gradually descended into teary mumbling.
Some of the other patrons looked over to the commotion and chuckled to themselves, others just watched the spectacle. The barman stood awkwardly by, not fully sure on how to approach the situation.
Before long, the tears subsided into sniffling, a tissue offered by the barman being gratefully accepted.
‘But I don’t want to be a wimp! I want to show everyone that I’m capable of being strong and brave and confident and fierce and whatever else not being wimpy consists of, but, but I don’t know how to do that,’ Ronan whimpered, taking another tentative sip of his drink, his facial expression betraying the fact that he wasn’t overly fond of the taste.
‘That’s quite the pickle you’re in…’ The barman leaned against the counter, pondering an errant thought.
‘Y’know, it’s a funny thing. I’ve met quite a few folk in a situation similar to yours, though none of ‘em are quite of your ilk. Now, I can point a dwarf toward somewhere that would be a perfect fit for a fella lookin’ to prove himself, but I don’t really know of any equivalent for elves. We don’t get many comin’ in usually.’
Ronan looked up, wiping his nose with his sleeve, ‘A perfect fit for a dwarf? Why wouldn’t it work for me?’
‘Well, y’see, that would be due to the small though notably hard to change matter that, and I hope this doesn’t come as a great shock to you, you’re not a dwarf.’
‘Why should be such an issue though?! What makes a dwarf so special that only THEY can get your magical advice of problem solving?’ The lone elf exclaimed with a distinct air of indignance, ‘Unless it’s being more likely to win a “thickest skull” or “smelliest belch” competition, I don’t see what it could be!’ His actions once again drew looks, this time of a far less amused variety. An additional glare from the barman prompted a hushed apology. The bartender continued,
‘If you’d so let me finish, the answer as to why I recommend it to dwarfs, keeping in mind that I only recommend it to the tougher looking ones that sound like they haven’t anywhere else to go, I refer them to a Dwarven outer-planetary mining company that just so happens to nearly always have positions. They’re known for two things, their highly dangerous working conditions, and their willingness to hire damn near anyone. Those two facts likely go hand in hand if you ask me.’
The weedy elf evaluated the new information, before continuing on undeterred, ‘I still don’t see why it wouldn’t have been suitable for me.’
The bartender took a few seconds to comprehend what Ronan had just said.
‘Okay, I’m going to repeat that again slower, and I want you to think about what the words mean before you answer, okay? As I said, it’s a Dwarven,’
‘I’m still following,’
‘Yes, I heard you say it the first time.
‘And to reiterate; Highly dangerous,’
‘That doesn’t answer my question though. If a dwarf can do it, why can’t I?’
The barman sighed. ‘…that is a very good question.’
He drummed his fingers on the bar, considering his response
‘...Tell you what, if you’re THAT eager to go and try your luck with them, then that’s your call to make. I say it’d likely be a waste of time, since I VERY highly doubt that you could get a place in the company, even with the amount of employees they churn through, but you’re welcome to try.’
‘They have a high turn-over rate?’
‘That’s… one way to say it, yes,’
‘Well by the sounds of it they’ll be looking for people to replace the ones who quit, and I’ve got a good bit of experience on my CV, so I think I’ve got a good chance!’
‘They are certainly on constant lookout for new blood, as a general rule any dwarf with a pulse applying is pretty much guaranteed a spot, however, I’ll state it once again, you’re an elf. As I recall, they’ve never been overly fond of elves.’
Seemingly oblivious to the many discouraging hints, Ronan retorted with a newly growing sense of confidence, ‘They can’t ONLY hire dwarves though, anti-discrimination laws are a thing you know, AND,’ he continued, feeling his wrist, ‘I have a pulse too! So you know what? I going to go find this company, I’m going to get a job there, and I’m going to prove to all of you that Ronan Falarkke is no wimp, and as a matter of fact? I’m going to do it now!’ and with that, he triumphantly strode out the door, leaving his almost full glass of Markeson’s Lightest (3.8%) behind. A few seconds later, he slowly shuffled back in and asked, ‘Uh, what was the name of the company you were talking about?’
‘The company’s called Deep Rock Galactic.’
‘Right! Now I’m off! To prove myself and all that stuff I said before and such!’ Ronan exited once more.
Shaking his head, the barman wiped the counter clean of dried teardrops and thought to himself about how that elf wouldn’t last 5 minutes at DRG, but since Deep Rock Galactic would sooner donate any amount of its profits to charity than hire an elf, there wasn’t much worry regarding his longevity. And, if by some miracle the elf did get accepted, him getting torn apart by the other dwarves or whatever was chewing through so many DRG employees would be no weight upon his conscious.
Outside, Ronan realised he’d left in such a confident haste that he’d neglected to ask for directions, and he wasn’t going to embarrass himself by re-entering a third time, after all, he was a new elf! Besides, he had the name of the company, and that was all he needed. Dwarves probably didn’t ask for directions, and he was going to prove that he was even better than them! Or at least on par with them. Maybe slightly worse than them if the circumstances demanded it. But only slightly!
He pulled out his phone. ‘Bucksly, plan a route to Deep Rock Galactic!’
‘...I’m sorry, I couldn’t find “Beep Sock Lactate” on the map,’ voiced the phone, in an accent that was trying far too hard to sound posh.
‘No! Deep. Rock. Galactic.’ Ronan repeated with as clear enunciation as he could muster. It was times like this he regretted cheaping out on his phone choice.
‘Understood, planning route to Deep Cock Chiropractic.’ With a groan, Ronan resorted to typing the name in manually like some kind of troglodyte, whilst also wondering how much back pain he’d have to be in to warrant him willing to discover the origin of that name. He reckoned it would be a great deal.
After a short period of walking and some luck regarding his phone’s temperamental mapping system, Ronan found himself standing outside the Office building for DRG. Unlike many of the surrounding companies buildings, it looked very plain. The only real indication that it was the correct one was a small sign above the door reading “Deep Rock Galactic: Together, we forge a better tomorrow!”. Another notable feature was that door did not seem overly tall.
Ducking a little as he entered, Ronan discovered that he wasn’t the sole elf in the building. Stood before the front desk was another; taller, blonder, ranting-at-the-receptionist-er. He could only make out the odd word in the flurry of indignant verses, words like ‘unethical’, ‘environment’, and ‘decaffeinated’ for some indeterminable reason.
The dwarven receptionist toted something out of Ronan’s earshot once the elven tirade had paused. Whatever it was, it caused the elf to throw up their arms and storm out the building, taking no notice of Ronan, or the fact that the entrance was shorter than most.
In the now quiet room, Ronan strolled up to the front desk. The dwarf sitting there looked up, and upon noticing Ronan’s general elfy composition, gave a small but clear sigh.
‘Hi-’ Ronan began, before quickly being cut off,
‘For all those wishing to issue a complaint to The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation about one or more various issues regarding topics such as: How the company is run, bereavement pay, pay in general, our ethics policy, whether or not we have an ethics policy, questions relating as to why we do not have an ethics policy, the quality and/or type of coffee we purchase for our workforce, or other vague and unimportant issues, please fill out the blank sections in an official DRG Complaint form, located on the service desk to the right,’ the dwarf listed out in a dull, near robotic voice,
‘Uh, well actually I’m here to-’
The dwarf continued on undeterred, ‘once completed, please deposit the form into a certified DRG compliant complaint box that is nearest or, preferably, furthest away from you. The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation wishes to assure you that the grinding sound you hear once your form has been deposited is not your form being summarily shredded, but is in fact it being processed and sent directly to the local complaint management team via a series of tubes and pulleys.
There, the local complaint management team, which will posses at least one member of staff in 73% of cases, will review your complaint for a minimum time of 7 seconds, before hand feeding it into a paper shredder,’
‘Okay that’s good to know but I’m not here to-’
‘But The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation is very well aware of how much elves and the elf-like genre including persons such as yourself care about the environment, so you will be pleased to hear that each shredded complaint form will be recycled and used to create mid-grade 2-ply toilet paper for use at our various facilities.
The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation also makes note of the point that by sending the form through this process, it is using considerably more time, energy and resources than simply having purchased a package of mid-grade 2-ply toilet paper and donating it at a DRG toilet paper donation checkpoint. The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation urges you to consider whether or not the consequent effect on whatever particular environment you deign to care about is worth it in order for you to have submitted a complaint.
If you feel that your complaint is worth the effect, that being a contribution to the steady decline of said environment(s), the Deep Rock Galactic Corporation respects your decision. The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation is not legally able to verify if doing so makes you an objectively bad person, despite wishing it could.
If you have any further queries, good for you.’
There was a long pause.
‘...Are you finished?’ Asked Ronan,
‘Would you like me to be?’ The dwarf replied in a saccharine fashion,
‘Yes, very much so.’
‘That’s a shame; The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation’s policies regarding environmental management can be grouped into three separate classifications-’
Ronan had become acutely aware of the reasoning behind the previous elf’s reaction. He slammed his hands on the desk,
‘NO! I’m not here to complain, okay?’ The sudden aggression was very uncharacteristic of him, however, the prospect of facing a potentially indefinite amount of superfluous corporate discursivity is enough spark a change in almost anyone.
(Note: I know it looks like I just rubbed a dictionary against a cheese grater in order to create the previous sentence, but there was a word for what I was trying to say and I can’t for the life of me remember it, so now you can suffer as I have.)
The meaning of what Ronan had just said gave the dwarf much greater pause than the slammed hands did.
‘...Wait, did you say you’re NOT here to complain?’
The dwarf sat in thought, before asking, ‘Then what ARE you here for?’
‘I want to apply for a job!’ Ronan replied, a tad smugly.
The dwarf paused once again.
‘Okay, so let me get this straight; you’re an elf,’
‘You’re NOT here to complain,’
‘In fact, you want to apply for a job here,’
‘...You do know what company it is you’re applying for a position in?’
‘Yes, Deep Rock Galactic,’
‘...and do you know what Deep Rock Galactic is?’
‘It’s a Dwarven Outer-planetary Mining Company.’
The receptionist seemed completely unsure of how to proceed. After a great deal of contemplation, they reached out and pressed a button on a panel in front of them.
‘Mrs Gavery, I’ve got a bit of a conundrum down at reception,’
‘Hold on, hold on, let me just do this… ah, I’ve buggered it. I don’t know why I keep trying to do crosswords. Anyways, what seems to be the problem?’ Came the reply from a speaker.
‘There’s an elf here,’
‘Oh, another one? Have you given them the spiel?’
‘Yeah, I’ve gone through all that, but they say they’re not here to complain,’
‘Really? …Then what are they here for?’
‘That’s what I was wondering. Apparently they want to apply for a job.’
‘...A job? This is an elf we’re talking about, yes?’
‘Yes, I checked before. Would you like me to check again?’
‘Why is it such a big deal that I’m an elf? Why is that so unbelievable?’ Ronan interjected.
‘Oh, I’m not in much doubt that you’re an elf, it’s more that you’re trying to apply for a job here,’ the receptionist replied
‘Is it apparent whether or not they’re insane?’ the voice from the speaker asked.
‘Eh, no more than your typical elf from the looks of it,’
‘I’m not insane and I’m not-’ Ronan recalled the few sips of alcohol he’d had, ‘probably not drunk!’ He cried indignantly, ‘Besides, why would being drunk be a barrier for applying? This is a dwarven company isn’t it?’
‘...They’ve got a point there,’ Mrs Gavery conceded.
‘Look, I’m sorry but we’re not currently looking for new employees at the moment,’ the receptionist began, before being hushed by the authorative tone from the speaker
‘Hang on for a second there Terry, I think I might be able to make this work’
The voice belonging to Mrs Gavery paused, before addressing Ronan directly.
‘So, you really want a job at DRG, do you?’ She asked.
‘...yeah? I mean, Yes si-… Ma’am!’ he quickly corrected. Dwarven gender was notoriously difficult to discern.
‘Well, there’s nothing specifically stating that we CAN’T have an elf join the workforce,’
‘And rightfully so, because that would be illegal!’
‘I’m quite aware of what’s legal and illegal elf,’ Came a swift and stern response, ‘and what may be illegal here might not be in, oh, let’s say, a distant newly discovered planetary system for example.
I’m sure you’re raring to learn that for yourself however, and seeing your bizarre determination to apply here, I suppose you can have a job. Your performance will be …interesting to witness if nothing else. I’ll just check what positions are available… oh, would you look at that, there’s an open position on Space Rig 17, in orbit at Hoxxes IV. Lucky you. Just scan your I.D. card at the front desk and that’ll confirm everything.’
‘Wait, that’s it? There’s no interview or anything?’
‘For all intents and purposes, you asking for a job WAS the interview. Clearly you’re not used to Deep Rock’s efficient hiring scheme. Here, I’ll make it a more familiar experience for you and give you an interview right now; can you swing a pickaxe?’
‘Uh, I mean I haven’t before but I think I probably could-’
‘Great, interview finished, you’re hired. Happy now? Don’t answer that, I don’t particularly care. Now, scan your card or bugger off, I’m a busy dwarf.’ The speaker then switched off with a click.
Ronan scanned his card.
‘So, uh, what position am I in? Like, what will I be doing?’ he asked the receptionist.
‘Mining. What did you think this was, a bakery?’
‘No, but there’s quite a lot of different bits to mining-’
‘Your job is to hit rocks with a pick and collect the valuable ones.You’ll be given a specific role and training once you reach the Space rig, but that role’s purpose is to allow you to better perform the task of hitting rocks with a pick and collecting the valuable ones. Got it?’ The receptionist entered something into their computer and a paper ticket printed out. They tore it off and handed it over,
‘This is for your transport. You’re already on the system, so it’s more of a receipt than anything. The next shuttle stopping off at Space Rig 17 leaves in two hours. If you’re not in it by the time it launches, don’t bother waiting for the next one as you’ll have lost your place at DRG. Hopefully those hours will be enough for you to come to your senses about your decision. If not, then best of luck to you,’ the receptionist finished grimly.
‘Two hours? Crap, I better hurry,’ Ronan said, grabbing the ticket and seemingly not hearing the part about his senses. ‘Thanks and what not,’ He rushed for the door, and, much like his predecessor, neglected to account for the door’s particular height.
Trying to conceal his pained whimpering, he carried on.
‘You better get used to that!’ The receptionist yelled after him.
Once he’d gone, the receptionist asked Mrs Gavery ‘Say, why’d you give them a position? If by some slim chance they don’t chicken out of it, they wouldn’t last twelve seconds on any of the rigs, nevermind 17. It just looks to be a waste of space on the shuttle,’
‘Yes, yes, I was well aware of that. There’s two main reasons for my decision; one, despite clearly not knowing much about employment laws and practices, if that elf really desired to they could still make a good amount of fuss about being denied a job, and whilst it wouldn’t be anything we can’t handle, it’s far easier to just give them what they want. There’s little chance of them causing too much bother up on the space rig, because as you mentioned, they wouldn’t have a particularly high life expectancy.
This is also part of the second reason; morale on 17 has been rather low as of recent. I reckon this should serve as a good boost. We’ve always told our employees that they’re better than elves. It’s about time we gave them a first hand example as to why.’