Not that the seventh floor was very high, particularly not compared to the exec offices, sitting way up above the skyline. LB was not a modest building: a thing of status and towering glass, one that seemed to get rebuilt every few years, get a new look and new floors. Sigmund figured that must cost LB a fortune, but the company was like that. Sigmund could hardly complain. Not when he got to spend most of his day nestled in the enormous expanse of light and glass and green. Lots of green: It was impossible to sneeze in LB without blowing snot all over indoor plants or "living walls." Or whole actual gardens, trees and all, on the lower levels. Some environmental initiative, staff health or whatever.

LB loved things like that. Break rooms full of hammocks and beanbags and Inferno consoles. A gym. Even a day care in one of the annex buildings. And a chef in the cafeteria, responsible for at least ten percent of Sigmund's body weight. (Because seriously: Best. Burgers. In town.)

It was a pretty sweet place to work, even for go-nowhere plebes like Sigmund Sussman.

Sigmund, who worked in IT ops. Third-level support stuff, when turning it off and on the first two times wasn't enough.

It was a job. Not what he'd imagined doing as a kid, maybe, but money was money, and money turned into comic books and video games. Particularly given they were located, like, five seconds' walk from Torr Mall, right smack bang in the heart of Pandemonium City.

Pandemonium. People got used to the name, growing up there. Some mining accident from the 1920s or whatever, back when there'd actually been a mine. Back before LB had taken over the place, like some enormous silicon cancer, gobbling up council and economy alike. Now everything Panda was LB, and everything LB was Panda. Anyone who wasn't employed by the company itself was in some kind of support industry, like baristas at the coffee shops, pulling lattes for executives. Or barristers, pulling lawsuits for the same.

And Sigmund, turning things off and on.

Mornings were spent talking to Em, and then, when the boss emerged, flicking through the help desk system, looking for easy wins. Tickets Sigmund could send back to first or second level. That the monkeys could do, and should do, and would do, if they weren't all a bunch of part-time kids who didn't give a shit. Mailbox restores, profile resets, distribution-list creations, desktop reimages. Jobs that Sigmund would rather send back with a snarky thousand-word how-to guide in the comments field than touch himself.

That was all maybe an hour's work, and fifteen percent of the overnight queue. The rest of the morning was the ten-minute stuff: anything Sigmund could knock off without a phone call to a customer. Server reboots and process kills. Log checking and clearing. Reporting. Un-fucking fuckups made by the n-minus teams.

Low-hanging fruit. It was Sigmund's system, and it worked. So long as anything more difficult—anything involving talking to anyone, or thinking about anything—could hold over until after lunch. Or, preferably, tomorrow.

Or, today, after the team meeting. Not one of their usuals, something New and Exciting, which left Sigmund grabbing his phone off the desk when his calendar started chiming. Team meetings always sucked. He figured he could at least get some Minecraft in while pretending to check emails.

The meeting room was down at the other end of the floor, near the kitchen. It was round, and made of glass, and Sigmund supposed the intent was to be "creative" and "hip." Everyone on the floor called it The Box, said it was where the supervillains were kept after hours. A life-sized cardboard cutout of Darth Vader lived in the room when it wasn't used.

The half a dozen people of Sigmund's team were already assembled: Chewie and Boogs, Van and Steph, Michael and Divya. Plus Harrison, their boss.

And, today, someone else.

Liesmith: Book 1 of the WyrdWhere stories live. Discover now