"When the Levee Breaks"





Summary: Dave has regrets about putting Matthew back on the air; Beth convinces Lisa to break her perfect attendance record at WNYX; Joe sabotages the computer network to destroy a virus.
Timeframe: late third season


Started: 2/25/06 Updated: 4/30/06

Chapter One

Posted by Dale on Saturday, February 25, 2006


"That was my latest song, Samwise the hysterical Hobbit. Stay tuned to WNYX, because you're just seconds away from another hour of hits, after these messages."

Matthew took his headset off, whistling cheerfully to himself. A hairy forearm reached over and pushed the commercial feed switch for the fifteenth time that day, since the reporter could never seem to remember.

"Seconds away. That usually means five minutes of boring-ass commercials, followed by ten sucky songs." said Joe from where he was working behind the sound board.

Lisa came into the booth with a scowl on her face.

"Hey Lisa, what up?"
"Matthew, this is a news station, we do not sing or play music!"
"But we can start!"
"Whose idea was it to put freak back on the air, anyway?" Joe asked.
"That would be Dave. He thought that giving Matthew extra responsibility would help him develop some emotional maturity."
"Did it work?"
Matthew shook his head. "So far not yet."
"We'll talk about this after the staff meeting." Lisa promised.


***


"And Lisa, I need to go over those new traffic promos with you before we cut them."
"Check."
"Finally, we can thank Bill for losing another sponsor, which means that everyone can buy name brand sodas from the vending machine on the tenth floor from now on. Those who don't want to make the trip can drink from the water cooler." said Dave Nelson.

The announcement brought groans from the crew gathered around the WNYX conference table.

"Thanks, Bill." said Beth, palming a handful of Reese's Pieces into her mouth.
"Oh, come on! How am I to know authentic street slang from hackneyed garbage?" Bill exhorted. Catherine Duke gave a smug laugh across the table.
"If nobody has anything else, then let's get to work."
Joe Garelli piped up. "Yeah, there's a new virus going around, and I'm gonna have to reprogram the network to stop it. I suggest you make a copy of anything you're working on, because I can't promise it'll be there when I reboot."
"Can't you just buy a real anti-virus program?" Dave complained.
"Garelliware is better than all of that candy-ass, so- called 'professional' security software. Besides, it's free."
"Face the facts, Joe, not every problem around here can be fixed with your home-made duct tape." said Bill. "And that includes the emergency brakes on the elevator. Last month it almost killed two safety inspectors and the superintendent."
"I've been meaning to fix that."
"All right, let's give it a rest." Dave said as he looped his fingers through the handle of his empty coffee mug, and headed away for a refill.

When he was gone, Beth stashed the bag of candy in her purse, and slipped on her jacket.

"Where do you think you're going?" asked Lisa.

Beth arched a red eyebrow at her colleague's outfit, a plain button-down blouse, dark wool pants, and opal earrings. "I'm taking off the rest of the day."

"Uh, why?"
"Uh, because work sucks, and I don't want to be here." Beth supplied sarcastically.
"Then why did you even come in?"
"Just to punch the clock. I'll swing by and hit it again on my way home. Might as well make my job work for me, you know?"

Lisa was taken back by her honesty.

"Aren't you worried about getting in trouble?"
"Not as long as you don't say anything to Dave."

Beth turned to leave, then stopped as if something had just occurred to her.

"Wanna' come with me?"
"Are you kidding? I'm not about to jeapordize my career by playing hooky."
"You make it sound like a bad thing. Just think of it as vacation from work, and if anybody here needs one, it's you, Lis."
"I'll take your word for it."
"Come on, when was the last time we had fun together?"
"That would be July 13, 1995." Lisa supplied automatically. Beth flinched.
"I'll give you ten bucks."
"Beth, I have work to do."
"Don't you need a computer for that?"
"Yeah."

Beth strode across the office, reached out, and casually pushed the heavy monitor off of Lisa's desk, scarcely blinking as it shattered on the floor.

"Oops. Let's go."




Chapter Two

Posted by Emily on Thursday, March 16, 2006


"Ok, uh, Joe, I don't think that hitting my computer with a hammer is going to stop the virus," said Dave.

"I know that. I just need a piece from your computer to make my virus blocker."

"Why don't you just buy an anti-virus program like I suggested, Joe?" Dave sighed.

"Because," Joe said, taking the laptop away from Dave, "I don't need that stuff. You wait. By the end of the day, this entire office will be virus free."

Joe walked out the door with Dave's laptop in tow. Dave got up and began to follow him. Looking over to Beth's desk, he noticed the secretary was missing.

"Hey, Bill?"

"Yes, Chief?"

"Have you seen Beth?"

"No, Chief. Why don't you ask Lisa, or better yet, ask Magic Fairy Boy while he continues to sullify WNYX's good name by singing magical fairies and unicorns when we should be doing the McNeal Perspective!"

Dave sighed. "Ok, Bill. First of all, `sullify' isn't a word. Second, WNYX isn't going to be `sullified' because I am personally going to make sure that Matthew takes care of what he needs to do."

Dave walked passed Bill over Lisa's desk, noting the broken computer moniter.

"What happened here? And where is Lisa? Catherine, have you seen Lisa? Or what happened to her computer?"

Catherine looked up from her conversation on the phone and shook her head.

"Great," muttered Dave. He walked past Lisa's desk over to the main corridor and right into Mr. James. "Hey, Mr. James."

"Hey, Dave. Dave, let me ask you something. Where are we?"

"Um? New York?"

"No. I mean, yes, but where specifically?" Mr. James asked, his hands in his pockets.

"Inside the Criterion Building?"

"Ok, now more specifically from that?"

"WNYX?"

"Bingo! Now, what type of business do we do here at WNYX?"

"News."

"So, why the hell do you have Matthew on singing like a damned Magic Fairy Boy?"

"I don't know anymore, sir. But don't worry. I've already promised Bill that the situation would be taken care of."

"I don't care about Bill, Dave!"

"Thanks a lot, Jimmy!" Bill said, marching passed the two and straight for the bathroom.

"Whatever. Look, take him off the air, or we are going to have a lot of problems on our hands." And with that, Mr. James walked into the elevator. After a couple of seconds, he turned to Dave. "Joe's fixing the computers, again, isn't he?"

Dave nodded.

"Ok, taking the stairs."




Chapter Three

Posted by Dale on Sunday, April 30, 2006


When their car screeched into the parking garage of a Greenwich Village techno club, Lisa knew she'd made a mistake going with her co-worker. She'd be lucky to still have her job at the end of the day if anyone else found out where they were.

"No. Forget it, Beth. I'm not doing this."
"But we're going to have fun!" the redhead promised. "That's the whole reason for skipping work."
Lisa checked her watch. "It's 10:30 in the morning, and I wouldn't be caught here even if this place was open."
"Come on, even you have to enjoy life once in awhile. The party never stops in there."

Beth gestured to the neon-painted building across the street. They could hear the music pulsating through the walls even from where they were parked.

"I'm not going to get out of this, am I?"
"Not a chance."

Lisa unbuckled her seatbelt, but Beth stopped her.

"Wait a minute. Can you dance?"
"Absolutely not." said Lisa without hesitation.
"Do you know how to chill?"
"What?"
"You know, just relax and hang out?"
"I think I can handle it."
"Okay, then just put out the vibe, and try not to embarrass me."
"Thanks, Beth."

They left the car and headed for the club. Lisa kissed thirty dollars goodbye at the door, and plunged into Daylight, which, ironically, was a place of total darkness. The reporter was hit with sensory overload. The thick, smoky air was lit by strobing neon laser beams, fluorescent lights, and reflecting mirrors on the walls and ceiling. Synthesized music pounded through the building with the force of an earthquake, vibrating the floor beneath her feet.

Lisa found it difficult to relax and chill, as Beth put it, when her brain was vibrating like Bill's massage chair. Her ears felt like they had been stuffed with cotton. As they moved through the crowd, her singular goal consisted of sticking to Beth like glue. Lisa was terrified of getting lost in the sea of scantily-clad women and tattooed men. In a perverse way, she felt almost overdressed. She also had the distinction of being the only person without a drink in their hand.

After ten minutes of wandering in the haze of cigarette smoke and artificial fog, her eyes began to sting. Beth pointed at the balcony on the second floor and shouted something, but Lisa couldn't make out a word of it. Then she took off, and ran up the thickly carpeted stairs. Lisa swore, and tried to follow her without bumping into anybody who might assault her. The climb was littered with discarded plastic cups, ice cubes, and alcohol bottles.

When she finally reached the top, Lisa found Beth hugging a dark-haired Asian girl in the smoky twilight. From her co-worker's reaction to the unexpected meeting, she guessed that they were old friends.

"Hey, Lis! This is my friend Ming, the other half of The Secretary Pool. She works for Rivera Insurance!"
Lisa waved sheepishly. "Hi."

Beth's friend was a Chinese girl in her late twenties, and obviously no stranger to the club scene. Her slim body was dressed in a tight Lycra sports top, and black low-rise cargo pants with an unnecessary amount of pockets, buckles, and D-rings. Perched backwards on her head was a simple white baseball cap. Pink highlights streaked her long hair.

"Lisa Miller, the world class hard-ass reporter!" Ming slipped an arm casually around her waist. "I've heard all about you!"
Lisa blushed at the overly intimate contact. After all, she'd only met the woman five seconds ago. "Ah... thank you. I just read what they give me, actually."
"Okay, we need to get this girl a drink!"
"How long have you been here?" Beth shouted.
"What time is it?" Ming laughed. Her liquid brown eyes sparkled with warmth.
"Nevermind! Come on, I'm thirsty!"

The trio weaved through the bouncing crowd to the nearest bar, where Beth ordered herself a tall mixed drink. When she asked Lisa what she wanted, the brunette deferred.

"You have to drink something!" Beth said.
Lisa squinted at the neon-lit menu sign behind the bar. "Do they have soda here?"
Beth leaned in close to the barmaid, and turned back to her friend. "Yeah, but if you're paying five bucks for a soda, you might as well have something in it. Make it a Coke!"
"Yeah, and don't forget the rum!" said Ming, slapping Beth a high-five.
The drink was in Lisa's hand five seconds later, though she had no idea who paid for it.
"Let's check out the floor!" Ming suggested.

Beth sashayed after her friend, swinging her hips. Lisa followed them with her drink, ignoring the distasteful looks of the veteran clubbers. Apparently her work outfit didn't meet with their approval. She joined them at the rail of the second floor balcony, and watched the mass of dancing bodies below. Lisa took a long sip from her cup, and then another. After a few minutes, she decided that club life wasn't so bad.

It was actually rather entertaining, Lisa realized, even if she wasn't dancing. Most of the dancers had the rhythm, but others were slightly offbeat. Those ones, she figured, had been there for awhile. One girl climbed onto the stage and twirled an awkward pirhouette, like a drunken ballerina. A few seconds later she was carried away by a muscle-bound security guard. Lisa took another drink, and laughed. If they could enjoy themselves, then she could, too.

"Are you having fun yet?" Beth asked over the din.
Lisa drained the rest of her Coke with rum in one gulp. "I'm getting there!"
"Good!"
"Hey, wanna dance?" Ming offered.
Beth was quick to interject. "Uh, Lisa doesn't dance very well.. or at all, even. But I'll hit it with you!"

The two women moved a few feet away and joined the beat of the music. Lisa leaned against the rail and watched them have fun. The buzz of alcohol began to take effect.

"You get it, Beth!" she teased, repeating an expression she'd heard earlier.

The redhead looked over her shoulder and laughed. Lisa waved back and smiled. Then she was jarred roughly against the wall by a drunk guy, who just managed to hold onto his beer. The kid had a scruffy goatee, and wore a wife beater tank top and shredded baggy jeans. He was easily half her age, and Lisa would have bet anything that he used a fake I.D. to get into the club.

"Watch where you're going!" she warned him.

Her fingertip throbbed in the darkness. She brought her hand up to her face and scowled. One of her nails was broken. Beth juked by with her friend, and Lisa held out her hand to show them.

"What are you looking at? I don't do nails!" said Ming.

Beth laughed, enjoying the rebuke. Just then, the drunk guy staggered into them, dropping his bottle. He looked at his empty hand, and then at the Chinese girl and her dance partner.

Ming shoved him away. "I'm not a damn janitor, either!"

The drunk kid reeled toward Lisa, who took a step back, and bumped into someone else.

"Hey baby, have you seen my drink?" the scrawny kid asked her.
"Check the floor." advised Lisa, pointing at the lost bottle. "I'm sure it's right down there with your dignity!"
He was too wasted to know an insult, so it didn't faze him. If anything, the guy seemed more intrigued with Lisa.
"Whoa, cool clothes! Why don' other chicks dress like that sometimes?"
"Because they don't have taste." Lisa replied smartly.
The drunk grabbed her ass. "How- how do you taste?"

Lisa punched him with a solid right to the jaw, sending him to the floor beside his beer bottle.

"Congratulations, you found your drink." Lisa said.
Ming gawked in amazement. "You GO girl!"
"I think it's time to leave." Beth suggested.

Lisa was quickly restrained by a bouncer.

"Okay honey, you're out of here." he said, making a grab for her.
"Screw you!" Lisa shouted, twisting away.

A second guard came out of the haze and pinned her arms from behind. Lisa kicked wildly, striking the first one in the face. Beth jumped onto his back, clawing his eyes. Ming struck the assailant behind the knees, and he fell backwards, nearly crushing Beth. Lisa stomped him in the groin.

"Let's go!" she yelled.

They bolted downstairs, knocking people out of the way.

"You totally made that guard your bitch!" Ming exclaimed, pushing off a wall.
"Owned!" Beth agreed.
Lisa dodged a column. "What's that mean?"
"I don't know, I just made it up! Maybe it will catch on someday!"
"Yeah, right!"

They suddenly found their path blocked by five more steroid-pumped security guards, way too many to even consider fighting.

"Party's over, girls. The police are on their way right now."
"Drunk and disorderly." One of the bouncers predicted.
"Guilty!" Ming cheerfully agreed.
"This place has gone downhill. I want to see the club owner!" Beth demanded.
"Have it your way, red. You still have a date with the cops."

The string of expletives that Beth swore caused both women to blush. They were firmly escorted through the crowd to the back of the club, down a hallway, and into a cavernous wood-paneled office. Lisa came to instant sobriety, and stuck her hands in her pockets. Given the circumstances, she decided that her best option was to be as cooperative as possible.

"The owner will be here shortly." the head of security informed them.

Beth gave him a sullen look, and Ming just played with the D-rings on her pant leg as if she didn't give a damn. They heard a deep, rhythmic thumping that overpowered the beat of the music in the club. It sounded like a helicopter landing on the roof.

Lisa felt the butterflies churn inside of her. After all, the whole incident was her fault, and she would have to answer to the proprietor. Suddenly the heavy oak door swung open, and Lisa turned ghost white.

"Oh my God..."
"Lisa?"

It was Jimmy James.

"May I have a refund, sir?" she asked without preamble. "I'm not sure I got thirty dollars worth of entertainment out of your club."


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