Don Draper may have won the opening skirmish but this war is just beginning.
When I kicked open the office door he was reclining in his chair, feet on the desk, staring out the window. Without glancing at me he said, "It's polite to knock first."
"As if you know anything about manners!" I snapped back. My hands were shaking but the anticipation of his imminent demise made the fuel tanks strapped on my back feel weightless. "Any last words before I send you to eternal damnation?" I asked, walking forward with the nozzle of the flamethrower pointing directly at his head.
"Aren't you glad you use Dial?" he smirked, still gazing at the Manhattan skyline. "Don't you wish everybody did?"
"Not much of an epitaph," I replied, squeezing the trigger. A stream of brightly burning propane shot toward him. To my surprise, the flame simply disappeared into the space between us. I tried aiming at his desk but the papers spread across it remained intact. "Okay," I said, releasing the trigger, "very clever. Some kind of force field? I'll find a way to neutralize it sooner or later."
In response he stood up, walked around the desk and grabbed the barrel out of my hands. "Mother, PLEASE!" he exclaimed. "I'd rather do it MYSELF!" Then he put the nozzle into his mouth and pulled the trigger. Jets of blue-white fire shot out of both ears and his eyes glowed eerily. After a few moments he stopped, shoved the weapon back into my possession, and chuckled.
"Being in this business means learning to take heat, and loving it," he said. "And as you know -- nuthin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven."
The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up but my voice remained steady. "Okay, let's see if you feel the same way about cold steel." From a sheath on my belt I whipped out the weathered USMC Ka-Bar knife my grandfather carried on Okinawa and slashed at his abdominal region. The blade passed through him harmlessly, as if I was stabbing a shadow.
"Ah, molecular reconfiguration," I said, trying to sound confident even as doubts about my chances of success started creeping in. "The last refuge of evil in retreat."
"Your attitude is the only thing resembling evil in this room," Don said reproachfully. "Everyone at Sterling Cooper is helping make America a better place. We bring good things to living. We bring good things to life."
"Lies!" I shot back. "That's what you and your brain-melting cohorts bring into our homes every day, a cavalcade of idiotic slogans that exploit our insecurities and manipulate behavior to create a culture of mindless consumerism. There's nothing cool or hip about your lifestyle. You're Cthulhu in a tailored suit."
"Save the Lovecraft imagery for someone who gives a crap," Don sneered. "It's sad when a person has to build himself up by tearing someone else down. We're helping civilization move forward. I call it P to the 5th Power -- Proper Product Promotion Produces Perpetual Progress."
"That should be P to the 6th, jingle-boy," I corrected him. "You can't even figure out how long your bogus social engineering equations are supposed to be."
"So I'm no good at math," he admitted. "Anyway, it's not how long you make it. It's how you make it long."
"And your monstrous influence on the national psyche won't continue much longer," I said, placing a grenade-like device on his desk and pulling the pin. "In five seconds," I continued, sliding a plastic breathing mask over my nose and mouth, "the room will fill with a vaporized blend of cyanide, chlorine and holy water. Sorry we can't do lunch."
Don lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew a cloud of smoke toward the ceiling. "Take a puff," he said. "It's springtime." Ten more seconds went by. I reached out and grabbed the grenade. It was inert.
"Somebody tipped you off that I was coming!" I blurted out. "You were ready for everything before I got here."
"Dream on," he said snidely. "We don't need tipsters. We know what you want, what you think, and fantasize about, before you know it. It's what we do, and doing it well makes us more determined to keep expanding our influence and increasing our power. You can't stop hoppin' when the cereal's poppin,' right?"
"You're the one who's dreaming now," I replied, unbuckling my backpack and tossing it onto the floor. "Keep that as a souvenir of your little victory, and start worrying about our next encounter."
"Big words from a tiny, weak organism," he said, crushing out the cigarette. In the next instant he thrust his right arm in my direction and an unseen force pushed me backward through the doorway. I watched, fascinated but no longer scared, as he slowly lifted off the floor, assumed the lotus position, and floated above his desk.
"You need to get a lot stronger to make this anything close to a fair fight," he teased. "I have a feeling it won't happen."
"Oh, but it will," I assured him. "You see, my strength comes from an unswerving commitment to logic, reason, and the power of independent thinking. Can you match that with your devotion to deception and deceit? How strong are you, really?"
A look of smug satisfaction spread across his face. "Strong enough for a man," he answered. "Made for a woman."
"Don," I said, "is it possible to explain to me what in Hell's half-acre that even means?"
All I got in response was the door slamming shut and a thick, disembodied whisper that rasped, "You'll die wondering!"