Megan and I work in publishing. It’s not a large publishing house, but it seems to do a fair amount of business: mostly small-press fiction and cookbooks. But a while ago one of the major importers of Japanese manga went out of business, and that’s when Megan and I got hired. Our boss, Mr. Salvatore, saw a great big hole open up in the market, and decided to try and fill as much of it as he could.
In college Megan and I worked in a scanslation ring. That’s a group of people who translate foreign comics that aren’t licensed locally. We did it as a hobby, and because I’m addicted to books with pictures. Mr. Salvatore got our names through the anime club at college, and we’ve been working for him since graduation, along with another of our friends: Fumiko.
Our work takes up the first two units of a strip of single-story offices. We share the parking lot with all the others, but it’s still usually pretty empty. Today, however, there were two notable additions. Mr. Salvatore’s fancy little sports car with its tinted windows, and a massive Hummer that was parked next to it.
“He’s back,” I groused. After the incident at last year’s New Year’s party, Mr. Salvatore had disappeared on sabbatical. I’d been just as happy: I like my job, but Mr. Salvatore creeps me out.
“Yep,” Megan agreed cheerfully as she pulled into a free spot next to the Hummer.
“You knew!” I accused.
Megan laughed. She knows how I feel about Mr. Salvatore. “He’s not a vampire, Abby,” Megan said. “And this way you haven’t been getting all wound up about it the whole drive over.”
I frowned. “Alright,” I conceded. “But how did you know?”
Megan grinned and fished out her smart phone. “I get work emails forwarded,” she said. “You really need to upgrade. He got in a little past midnight and scheduled an all-hands meeting for this morning.”
I sniffed. It was an old argument. Megan liked to keep up with the newest tech, and I liked what I knew. So I liked my flip phone. Plus, given the rate at which technology goes out of date, my phone was probably old enough to have achieved legendary status. I was carrying around the Hrunting of communications devices! Although, come to think of it, Hrunting did break in Beowulf’s time of greatest need. So maybe Megan had a point. But, whatever. Besides….
“Past midnight?” I asked as I got out of Megan’s car and started toward our office’s entrance. “Vampire.”
“Oh, sure,” Megan said. “You know, it’ll take more than the occasional late arrival to convince me.”
“Occasional?” I protested. “Have we had a single video conference in the last year that wasn’t after hours? And for that matter, why is it that he’s always just a photo of a sunset on those calls, instead of streaming video?”
“Gee, I don’t know,” Megan said teasingly. “Maybe it’s because he’s been in a different time zone. And perhaps he hasn’t had a webcam available.” She stuck her tongue out at me playfully. She’s never perturbed when I go off to crazy-ville. In fact, I think she enjoys debunking my theories because it forces me to come up with crazier ones.
“Yeah, right,” I said. “Or maybe he just can’t be filmed. He probably never left the city, and that ‘sabbatical’ is just a cover story for some kind of vampire politics thing.”
“You know,” Megan countered, “I just use a picture of a kitten when we conference call. Maybe I’m a vampire.”
I stopped and stared at Megan. She stopped and looked back at me. Her poker face was in place – I recognized it because I’ve seen her use it on guys when they’re trying to tell if their flirting is getting them anywhere.
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “I’ve seen your home setup. You just don’t have a web camera.” Then, having completely undermined her argument (and therefore, conversely, proven mine) I turned and marched into the office. Megan followed.
Our department – the imported manga department – consists of one office, two desks, and three people.
Fumiko was a Japanese/American student who had majored in business and been part of our scanslation ring. Her job was to get us licenses and other clients – we do a small amount of print-on-demand work for independent Japanese artists who like the idea of their work being available in the American market. She also did a lot of the rough translating. Fumiko worked from home.
Megan worked at the secretarial desk outside our office. She claims she picked that spot because it’s nice and open, and it gives her the opportunity to make googly eyes at the mailman, but that’s just an excuse. I’m pretty sure she did it so I’d have the office to myself and could hide out if I needed to. I support this theory with the facts that 1) Megan is an awesome friend, 2) she’s used the position to act as a buffer between me and coworkers and 3) our mailman is a woman. Megan’s job is to do all the image manipulation required in translating a manga: she takes scans of the manga and clears out the text bubbles, then picks appropriate fonts and fills them back in with my translations.
That’s my job: I clean up the translations. English is Fumiko’s second language, so she does the rough translations and helps me with any really strange kanji that come up, but I make sure the final English translation reads well in addition to conveying the intended message. It still surprises me that something which started out as a hobby in college has become my full time job. I keep expecting to be told it was a mistake and we’ve all been fired – but it hasn’t happened yet. Not even when Mr. Salvatore went on his surprise sabbatical.
I left Megan at her desk and went through to mine. Sure enough, there was an email waiting for me when I my computer finished booting up. It was time stamped for 12:13 last night, and asked all team leaders and available employees to attend a state-of-the-company meeting in the break room at nine.
Technically, Megan was our team lead by merit of working at the office and being sociable. But the invite was to all available employees, so I figured she’d drag me along, too. Besides, I had no intention of trying to skip.
Being stuck in a crowded room was just about the opposite of my idea of fun – but I had a healthy suspicion that whatever Murphy had been leading up to this morning was going to be revealed at the meeting. And the longer I had to go without finding out, the bigger a nervous wreck I’d become.
So I sighed and accepted the meeting invite. Then I opened the folder for my most recent project and tried to distract myself by polishing the translation of a manga that involved aliens and mummies and robots and girls in ball gowns with corsets so tight their boobs threatened to burst off the page and out of my screen.
Actually, as distractions go, it worked pretty well.