Buck & Jane
A Death in the Family
Decker & Hayes
Epic Echoes
The Great Muppet Debate
Guard Duty
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Stage Blood



Guard Duty, Series Five
Episode 8 - Attention Past Due

By Jordan D. White

Mr. Fahrenheit
Dr. Fast
Argus Panoptes
Dana Dezago

Narr: The Earth Guard - the planet's most powerful heroes united in the common goal of protecting the innocent people of planet Earth and defending them from threats of all kinds. From the Guard Tower, their base of operations, they watch over the citizens and spring into action at any sign of danger. To that end, the Guard take shifts monitoring events all over the globe. Sooner or later, they all have to take a shift of… Guard Duty. This week: Mr. Fahrenheit and The Argus in “Attention Past Due."

(Mr. Fahrenheit and Dr. Fast are in the Tower.)

MF: Really, there’s a knack to being a press secretary. There’s a lot of nuance to the job that people don’t appreciate, you know what I mean?

DF: (Not caring.) Sure, of course.

MF: First off, and this one is obvious, really- you’ve gotta stay on message. Know what you want to say, and stick to it. Say it a lot, if you have to. The message is what you’re trying to get across here. Say it loud, say it proud. When someone questions you on it, say it again. Maybe say it a little different, liven things up a little. You’re not there to answer their stupid questions anyway, they’re there to take down your message, that’s how I see it.

DF: Insightful.

MF: And that’s another thing- you never answer the question you’re asked. Never. You answer the question you wish they’d asked. I heard somebody say that one time, and it’s totally true. And that doesn’t mean you imagine some hot reporter asked you to go home with her or something, I mean something like what they said. You know, like if they ask you “Hey… did you stop beating your wife?” you can answer the question like they’d asked… “How have things improved in your marriage overall?” That way, you can say something like “My wife and I are constantly working towards a living situation that we both find agreeable. There are always a few bumps in the road, but we clearly-” blah blah blah, et cetera. That’s the key, spinning things around for yourself, taking what they meant as an attack and turning it into a boost.

DF: I see.

MF: You’re not paying attention to me at all are you?

DF: An interesting question. In the late 19th century, when the only method for psychologists to study concentration was introspection, there was quite a lot of debate over whether a person could split attention between multiple stimuli. Walter Benjamin, I believe, referred to it as “reception in a state of distraction.” It was not until the cognitive revolution in the 1950s when serious experimentation on the subject began. Donald Broadbent, for example, conducted experiments pertaining to dichotic listening. Nevertheless, the debate still rages on between early and late-selection models. Did my ears cease processing the unattended stimuli, or was it analyzed semantically before being discarded? One simply cannot be sure, given the current state of evidence. Of course, despite all that, I was aware enough to respond to the social cues- the pause of expectation, signaling for a response, etc. So how can I truly and honestly answer your question? Was I actually paying attention to you while concentrating on my aging experiment and adjusting the anti-grav-belt in my lab? Not fully, no… but I can’t be said to have been truly ignoring you, can I? Really, in order to filter you out, I’d have to first acknowledge the reality of your presence and talking. In that way, actively ignoring you is just another form of paying explicit attention to you.

MF: You don’t have to be sarcastic.

DF: Never!

(Argus enters the tower)

A: Hello, Doctor! Hello, Elijah! I’m here for my shift of Guard Duty. I hope things have been well?

MF: Your shift? That means it’s gotta be five already! Jesus, thank God you came! I would have missed it!

A: Oh? What’s that?

MF: My press conference! I’m sure it’s going to be top story on all the big news programs tonight! Now, let’s see… which version to tune in to…

DF: I’m leaving. There’s aging to cure, and attention must be paid. (woosh)

MF: …Conservative blowhard, hippy liberal… aw, let’s go down the middle tonight. Brainframe! Bring up the sound on monitor three.

Newsman: …top story tonight concerns the Earth Guard, whose Press Secretary, Mr. Fahrenheit gave a press conference earlier this afternoon regarding a ‘changing of the guard’. Our own Dana Dezago was there.

Dana: The rumoured disappearance of Earth Guard member and glamorous public favourite celebrity Peaseblossom has been circulating in the press for a few days now, and finally, Earth Guard Press Secretary Mr. Fahrenheit has come forward to announce the disappearance of the heroine. In addition, another member of the guard has been announced on indefinite leave.

MF: (on the TV) Yes, as you may or may not have already heard, Peaseblossom has run off. We’re not really sure where she went to. She might have gone back to fairy, she might be hiding out in a gutter; at this point, we just don’t know for certain. All we know is, she officially resigned from the Earth Guard before leaving. As such, her current whereabouts are not our responsibility. As a result of her departure, however, Binary Girl has announced that she is too distraught to continue with her duties on the Guard, and will be on leave until further notice.

Dana: Response to this announcement was mixed- equal parts disappointment at the loss of two of the worlds most famous and beloved heroes, and dismay at the abysmal behavior of the so-called press secretary who conveyed it.

MF: (real one) Pft! Come on.

Dana: The situation only grew worse as he moved on to the press corps’ questions.

MF: (TV) Well, no, we don’t know that she hasn’t been captured by villains… it’s just kind of a gut thing. / As far as Binary Girl goes… I mean, yeah she was good, and all. But there was just two of her. We get two new recruits, she’s replaced and then some. / No, no- Birthday Boy is an Asshole, we would never let him on the team. I mean, not that there aren’t a few assholes on the team…. But he’s not one of them.

Dana: (at the press conference) What do you think will be next for Peaseblossom or Binary Girl now that they’ve left the Guard?

MF: (TV) I’m sorry, I… I just don’t care. Not my problem. You want to talk about that, tell them to get their own Press Secretaries. This is about Earth Guard business. Anyone have any questions about the actual Earth Guard business? Anyone want to ask about me? All right, I guess no further questions then. Thank you for coming.

Dana: Coming as it does on the heels of April 11th press conference in which he announced that hero Broadband had been “totally turned into a dog,” this seems to be a real embarrassment to the Guard. Is it any wonder they’ve lost six members in the past two years? From Washington DC, this is Dana Dezago reporting. Frank?

Newsman: Quite an interesting turn of events. To discuss the Mr. Fahrenheit issue, we have here in the studio…

MF: (completely unphased by the whole thing) Brainframe, sound down. So? What did you think?

A: Of…?

MF: My press conference? Pretty nice, huh?

A: I… are you… it sounded like… I’m sorry, but… didn’t they just say the whole thing was an embarrassment to the Guard?

MF: Pft. That was nothing. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Liberal bias.

A: I thought you said he was right down the middle?

MF: Yeah, well, these media types are all really secular humanists, regardless. They find a way to skew things to their own personal leanings no matter what.

A: It doesn’t look like the conservative network liked it any better.

MF: What? How do you know that?

A: I’m the Argus. I can see everything. It says it right there at the bottom of the screen, “Earth Guard Disgraced”.

MF: Brainframe, sound up, monitor one!

Blowhard: … not it at all. The fact is, these ‘secular humanists’ on the Earth Guard used these two to shove homosexuality down our throats for months now, and now that their media-darling lesbians are gone, we can see the true ugliness of their ideology. The Guard was using them to further their own liberal agenda, and now that their toys have gone away, they’re throwing a tantrum like any spoiled child would. Frankly, it’s exactly the type of behavior I’ve come to expect from…

MF: Sound off! God, what a moron! I don’t even like gays!

A: (pause) Um…

MF: I mean… you’re all right, I guess. I mean, I like you fine, Argus, I just… don’t like your gayness. You know what I mean. Whatever, it doesn’t matter, the point is, all these idiots in the press, they don’t know speak for the people! We do. We’re the Earth Guard, the planet’s most powerful heroes united! I think if anyone is in touch with the common people, it’s us.

A: Are you sure that’s-

MF: Yes, I’m sure! I do do my own research, you know. I don’t just talk out of my ass like some people. Here, look, I’ll show you. I’ll consult the blog-o-sphere. Let’s do a little search for… “Mr. Fahrenheit is the best”. Bam! We got a hit right here. (reads) “Seriously? Mr. Fahrenheit is the best they could do? He’s go to be the gayest of their gay-ass members who ever-” All right, I’ve got to respond to this one, hang on. You’re going down, you hack! (he starts typing)

A: Actually, I’ve been meaning to talk to you, Mr. Fahrenheit. As you know, with my powers as Argus Panoptes, I can see anything and everything I choose to look at… and there was some thing I saw that I though you might want to discuss.

MF: (not caring, typing) Oh yeah?

A: It’s about you and Ellen… at this point the entire Guard already knows that you and she have separated… if they didn’t I’m sure they’d be much more upset about you and Bumblebee. But I don’t think any of them know the real reason… and that’s because you’ve been hiding it.

MF: (not caring, typing) You think so?

A: I do. Everyone assumes she left you because… well, because of your personality. They assume your abrasive nature finally rubbed her the wrong way and she’d had enough… and you let them believe it. You like it. If they think you’re an insensitive jerk, they won’t know how much it hurt you. How betrayed you were. They won’t see how sensitive you truly are, inside. I know the truth. I know Ellen left you when your album fell through. All that time, she was with you for the thrill, for the fame, and when that slipped by… when it looked like you weren’t on the road to becoming a smash hit celebrity… she let her true nature be seen. I saw it all. That started a divide that couldn’t be healed… and likewise, you have not been healed. You can still feel it, the pain of the loss, the stab of the betrayal, the shame at letting your emotions be toyed with. You spend so much time cultivating this front, this illusion that you are completely impenetrable, untouchable by anything around you, denying what you’re really feeling. It’s not good for you. I think you need to take some time to yourself, time to really… be. Time to discover who the real Mr. Fahrenheit is, under all the-

MF: What?!?

A: I’m sorry, did I say something too-

MF: What? No, I wasn’t listening, I just- listen to this, I just got an email from The Stallion saying that I’m being replaced as Earth Guard Press Secretary! An Email, for Christ’s sake! This is NOT acceptable! (hits comm) Chuck! You there?

Stallion: Stallion here.

MF: You know what, Stallion? You can take your new Press Secretary, whoever it is, and shove them up your ass! And you can have the whole guard join him, while you’re at it! I’m out! Hear me? I quit! And you just wait! You think the Guard was disgraced now? I’ll show you a media blitz you’ll never forget! I’ll give them the true story of the Earth Guard- the backbiting, the egos, the wanton sex! They’re going to hear it all, you just wait! Oh, and by the way- you sir, Mr. Chuck Cavallo, Mr. “Stallion”, are an enormous JACKASS!

Stallion: Elijah-

MF: Fahrenheit OUT! (he hits the comm) Wow, I’ve been wanting to do that since I joined the guard… It felt good. Deep down good. I’m sorry you had to be here for all that, Argus. You were trying to talk to me, before… what was it you were trying to say?

A: Oh, it was nothing important, now.

MF: Oh. All right, then, I guess I’ll take my leave of you. Shake. Nothing personal, you know how it is.

A: I understand completely. You’re doing what you feel you have to do.

MF: It was a good run while it lasted. Now, I’ve got a bidding war to start- the information in my head don’t come cheap.

A: Understandably.

MF: Have a good night. (he leaves)

A: Huh.

Go to Episode 9