Corporate Man is called in to investigate reports of vile, unethical business practices at Great American Business Company. What he finds there just might destroy him (except we all know the ending to The Tragic Death of Corporate Man so it should be fairly obvious that it can't really destroy him, though it can come close).
Enslaved by the Bonus Whores is an all new Corporate Man Adventure Serial. Chapters will post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The Tragic Death of Corporate Man
a hero for capitalism;
champion of the working class
by Tom Landaluce
This Section Title Has Been Outsourced.
(we apologize for any inconvenience)
The lighting was stark, as if no shades of grey existed between the swaths of black and white. In the cramped room a man lay on a medical gurney, a blocky mechanical arm, recently attached to his shoulder, oozed a clear pus at the suture lines. Antibiotics seeped from bruised flesh which extended halfway across his chest, up his neck to his ear, and down to his hip.
The man’s eyes were dilated and his lips cracked. Tangles of wires and tubes from various medical and mechanical machines, life support and diagnostic, fell about him, draped from suspended equipment. There was a smell, like axel grease and afterbirth.
“Try wiggling your finger,” said a weasely looking man in a bright, shadowless lab coat. His fingers clattered against the chunky buttons of roundish keyboards and ten-key pads. A stream of green numbers filled the black screen of a small monitor, whirs and clicking noises sounded in accompaniment.
The index finger of the mechanical arm spasmed in a series of jittery clunks.
“Good. When you have rested there is a battery of tests we need to run through. It will take several hours but is quite necessary in order to properly calibrate your new arm. As per your specifications, the imprinting mechanism–” the man in the lab coat paused and reached for a lever on the forearm of the mechanical appendage. With noticeable effort, he slid it forward and then back again creating a distinct ca-chunking sound. “–is functional. A small housing underneath holds a maximum of twenty carbons. Be sure to carry additional slips in a belt pouch. It will serve you well in future business endeavors. Speaking of which…”
A form moved in the shadows and a silhouetted shape edged around the room. It said, “Your upgrade was funded by an associate of mine and was done relatively free of charge. He requires only a nominal monthly fee for the use of the equipment as well as a percentage of what you charge your clients for your services. Additionally, when you are called upon to do a job for us, a discounted rate must be extended. Wiggle that cybernetic finger if you understand and comply.”
At first, nothing happened. Then the finger moved.
“Great,” said the man in the shadows. “I’m glad this all worked out, Commander Credit.”
The shadowy man stepped into the light.
“I too have a military moniker. You may call me Captain Apathy.”
“Move and I’ll jack your interest rate up so high you won’t be able to afford your minimum payment,” the trench coated man with the square-barreled gun said. A puzzled look flashed across his face and he opened his mouth, as if to speak, but said nothing further.
Senior Executive pushed between the two men and said, “It’s
He’s with me.” Corporate
The man lowered the square-barreled gun and said, “I… I thought you were dead.”
“Not for a lack of effort on their part,” said
Business Woman stepped forward, put her hands on her hips, and eyed the man in the trench coat. “So… Are you working for us or for them?”
“Me,” said Senior Executive. “I hired him.”
“Um… Maybe this is a stupid question, but who is this guy?” Franklin Buck asked.
“Commander Credit,” said Fair Wage. “An associate of a sort.”
“He’s kind of like a gun for hire,” said Supply.
“Yeah. And his loyalties are fluid at best. Aren’t they?” Demand added, glaring at Commander Credit.
“You still haven’t gotten over that?” said Commander Credit. “What was that? Two decades ago or more? It was just business.”
“Maybe for you but–”
“Okay people. Let’s put the past aside for a second and focus on the here and now,” said
He looked at Senior Executive and nodded. Corporate
“I’ve been in negotiations with the good commander ever since I received the summons to the Break Room,” Senior Executive said, taking the visual cue from
“We managed to finalize our agreement a few moments before the Corporate
entered this tower. It would have been
nice to have his aid on this floor, but at least we’ll have some extra backup
“Hey. How’d you get up here anyway?” asked Franklin Buck.
“Wait, what about the stairs?”
“You didn’t climb that never ending staircase?”
“Why would I,” said Commander Credit. “There’s an elevator.”
Franklin Buck blinked and looked abashed. He opened his mouth. Part of a syllable managed to escape, but then he closed his mouth again and looked away.
“How did you get past the retina scanner and the hand print identification?” asked Business Woman.
“Let’s just say that I’ve had dealings in this building before and benefit from past associations.”
The comments encouraged more than one glare.
“Why are you guys all wet?” Commander Credit asked.
“Can we just get into the elevator now?” asked Senior Executive.
Corporate Man seconded the idea and the
Union joined Commander Credit
inside. Franklin Buck made an indignant
gasp and gestured toward the panel of buttons.
“Is this… Are you telling me we didn’t need… And the sharks and the crushing was…”
This continued as the elevator rose up to the twenty-sixth floor.
Many rumors circulate through the offices of the
. Most are quite fanciful and far fetched, and
inevitably fall short of the actual reality of what goes on inside that place. Jacob
It’s been said that there is a human shredder somewhere and that incriminating individuals who know too much soon discover its whereabouts. And quite unwillingly.
The pyramid shape capping the building is often the subject of rampant speculation as are the strange noises that emanate from the area that would be the thirty ninth floor. Many say that they can hear strange bells ringing.
Not much is said about the space comprising the twenty sixth floor. Those working on floors twenty five and twenty seven often comment about the amount of scuffling that goes on in this adjacent space. Many assume that there are rats.
Whatever it is, it never stops moving.
“When these doors open we need to be ready for anything,” Corporate Man said as the elevator rose toward the twenty sixth floor. “After what we went through downstairs we should assume that everyone is hostile and expect extremely aggressive confrontations. Hostiles might be right outside the door and swarm in on us like a bunch of brain-starved zombies.”
Though he made a conscious effort to fight the urge, Franklin Buck edged away from the doors to the back of the compartment. The motion of the elevator slowed and then stopped. Commander Credit cocked a lever on his square-barreled gun. A tone sounded and a small circular light above the doors blinked on. Everyone took defensive stances and held their breaths.
The doors whipped open and the
Union leapt from the elevator, snapping
into attentive corporate postures.
The reception area was empty.
No one moved.
Then shoulders slumped, karate-chop arms dropped to relaxing sides, and respiration resumed. They looked around at each other. Smiles eased on to tense faces. Then everyone jumped back into defensive postures, prompted by no sound or visual disturbance of any kind.
As muscles eased once more, Business Woman said, “Can we just assume that attack is not immanent and begin our? Let’s start by looking for a washroom since we’re all soaked from that sharky mess.”
Supply went to the empty reception desk, thumbed through a few files, and then moved to the computer, jostling the mouse.
“What are you trying to find?” Senior Executive said.
“I don’t know. I was hoping there’d be some kind of map or list of offices on this floor. Maybe a cheat sheet the receptionist used to direct visitor to their proper destinations. Or even one of those fire-drill maps detailing the correct exit paths. So we wouldn’t have to make a random search. Hey. Look.”
gathered around the computer. Supply was
pointing to the monitor’s wallpaper image.
“Yeah. Just a crappy snapshot of some office workers,” said Franklin Buck.
“I know, but look at the sign by the door. It’s a gym facility. There might be towels and things,” Supply said.
“How can you be sure that this photo was taken on this floor?” Commander Credit asked.
“Well, look at the décor,” she said, gesturing to the cold, grayish-white walls, the taupish cubicles and the muted bluish floors. Then she pointed at the image on the screen.
“That could be any office in
said Business Woman.
“No, it’s this one,” said Supply. She looked at Corporate Man as though he might confirm her assertion. He shrugged and pointed out that it didn’t matter, their needs were still the same. Gym, bathroom, janitor’s closet, any of them would be better than nothing.
They moved out, searching the corridors for any sign of a doorway but finding only cubicle walls or gaps in cubicle walls which led into cubicles or cubicle-lined corridors.
“Umm… Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’m beginning to think that something’s not right about all of this,” Franklin Buck said after they had wandered for nearly twenty minutes.
“Figured that out did you?” said Business Woman.
“Well, yeah. Every office has doors somewhere. And I haven’t spotted a single one. Or a window. And where are all the employees? I mean, someone’s gotta be work–”
He froze as they turned a corner into a long corridor. It seemed to span the width of the building. On the far side was a group of office workers. They were rushing around the corner at that end of the hallway and were out of sight so quickly that not every member of the
Union had a chance to see them.
“Hey! Wait up!” Franklin Buck yelled.
Commander Credit slapped his hand over
We don’t know if those are friendlies or not. No need calling their attention when we can
track them. Understand?” Dollar
“Hundred Dollar,” said Franklin Buck.
“It’s the One Hundred Dollar Man, not
” Dollar Man.
“Yes. Impressive,” said Commander Credit. “But technically, shouldn’t that be the One Hundred Dollars Man?”
After a few moments of glare-off, the
Union rushed down the long
hall, whisper quiet, and braced themselves as they turned the corner.
There was nothing there.
Not only was the corridor absent of people, but it was absent of corridor. Instead, there was a small alcove and a door with a sign that read:
. Fitness Center
The small, runty man hovered at the crack between the cubicle wall, his fist clenched and shaking.
“Go in!” he thought and he thought it with exclamation. Why were they hesitating? Isn’t this what one of them had asked for? So, here it was and what were they doing? Standing around thinking about it?
Just go in!
Finally, Corporate Man pushed the door open and peered inside. He announced that it did appear to be a gym facility.
Of course it’s a gym facility! That’s what the sign above the door states, doesn’t it?
Union entered the room designated and the runty man chortled
to himself. Fitness
We are now open for business.
Commander Credit was the only one fully clothed. The rest of the
Union stood around, shivering in
their skimpies, waiting as their clothes dried.
Except for Fair Wage. He wore no
underwear as a rule and was, therefore, bare-assed naked.
“You know,” said Business Woman, “despite being old and wrinkly, you’ve still got a firm butt.”
Franklin Buck groaned and said, “I was hoping we could get through this without comments like that.”
“What? It’s true,” Business Woman said grabbing Fair Wage by the shoulders and turning him so his backside faced
Franklin. “Look at it.
Tell me that’s not a fine piece of ass.”
“God. Point that thing somewhere else.”
“You’d prefer the other side?” she said. Corporate Man and Senior Executive tried to stifle laughter.
“Isn’t this sexual harassment?”
“Not at all,” said Fair Wage. “I call it welcome attention.”
There was a round of laughter. Then Supply and Demand went to the dryer to check on the clothes.
“Convenient that this gym came equipped with laundry facilities,” Supply said, opening the dryer door. The words she muttered next were quite foul.
The clothes were gone.
Also missing was the backside of the dryer. In its place was a hole. This hole led into a hallway. The hallway looked exactly the same as all the corridors they’d been in on this floor already.
“Well,” said Corporate Man, “for the comfort of everyone involved, I suggest that Fair Wage be the last to climb through.”
“We’re really going in there?” asked Senior Executive.
“I don’t see any other choice,” said
“We’re half naked,” said Franklin Buck.
“Not all of us,” said Commander Credit with a smirk, his hand gesturing subtly to his full wardrobe.
“Yeah,” said Fair Wage, without the smirk but with the same subtle gesture, “not all of us.”
“The longer we discuss this,” Business Woman said as she climbed into the dryer, “the further away our clothes will be.”
The rest of the
Union climbed through the dryer and into the hallway
on the other side.
Fair Wage went last.
There was an abundance of awkward running that followed as the
tried to maintain modesty and support while hurrying down the corridor. There was an uncomfortable slapping sound
which they all tried to ignore but could not.
It subsided when Business Woman barked an order at Fair Wage insisting
that he secure his assets.
The shambling crew ran down many hallways, sped around dozens of corners, made lefts and rights in all manner of combinations.
“There they are,” Corporate Man hissed. Ahead of them a group of workers dressed in office casual disappeared around a corner. The
increased their speed and rounded the corner only the find a stubby, dead-end
hallway with no doors.
“Uh…” said Franklin Buck.
“Wait a minute,” said Fair Wage with enthusiasm usually reserved only for those who received insider information. “Were there towels in that gym?”
Everyone looked dumbfounded and guilty. Like an investor brought up on charges for insider trading.
“Hey, was that hallway there before?” asked Commander Credit, breaking the strange silence.
About twenty feet back the way they’d come was a doorway leading into another corridor. Corporate Man examined it as though it was a heavily worded contract with slippery language and semantic traps.
“Did anyone see this as we ran by?” Corporate Man asked.
Shrugging was the unanimous response.
“All right people. Eyes open. Stay frosty. I don’t think this place is as stationary as it might seem.”
Somewhere else on the twenty-sixth floor, things were quite stationary. And tense. It was always tense for the employees on the floor twenty six. Their jobs were in constant danger of being given to another set of workers. And today, there was a meeting scheduled for this afternoon.
Nothing good ever came from meetings, Polly knew.
Bottom lines were discussed and new efficiency parameters would be introduced. And that was if they were lucky.
In the murmur of office conversation she picked up some alarming snippets.
Moving the whole division.
Cause it costs the same to pay four of them as it does one of us.
And worst of all.
It’ll never happen. We’re too important. No one else can do our job.
She rushed out of the office to the Dress For Success shop down the hall.
Dress For Success was a small business dealing in office appropriate attire. It thrived on an environment of ever changing dress-code policies offering a range of styles from business formal to business casual to business intentionally unkempt and/or sporty. Their proximity to the offices on the twenty-sixth floor was quite convenient. Unfortunate coffee spill? Lunchtime marinara drips? Accidentally wore blue-jeans on Thursday thinking it was Casual Friday? They had you covered. Even those feeling awkward at having dressed business formal on Casual Friday could find the standard denim bottoms and T-shirt with the humorous-though-still-appropriate saying on a rack in the back.
Polly needed something smart and distinctive. Something that shouted: I’m extremely professional, very current (or was that called “hip” these days?), an asset to any company, you’d be very stupid to give my job away to anyone with lesser clothes.
A Dress For Success employee was hanging up some interesting items that, he claimed, had just come in. There was a men’s suit in emerald green, a dark purple one with a mauve tie and–
She spotted it. The perfect outfit. A mauve skirt and jacket with a dark purple blouse.
“Why don’t we post a man at each intersection and maintain line-of-sight contact,” Commander Credit said. His suggestion was met with a lukewarm response. Nobody thought separation of any kind would prove beneficial, especially now that they’d confirmed Corporate Man’s suspicions.
The corridors were shifting.
“We’ve got to do something,” Commander Credit continued. “These hallways aren’t fixed and this constant rearrangement will keep us running around forever. We know there are people here, but we only catch glimpses of them disappearing around corners. And except for that psuedo-gym we haven’t seen any other rooms or offices.”
“Well what’s that?” Franklin Buck said, pointing to a door just inside a hallway behind Commander Credit. A hallway which may, or may not, have been there moments before. On the door, in big black blocky letters, was one word.
There was a moment of silent thought in which the members of the
glanced around at each other with puzzled but scrutinizing looks. Almost in unison, they approached the
door. A murmur of office noises,
including human voices, hummed on the other side.
“We’re not really dressed for this,” said Senior Executive.
“I don’t care,” said Fair Wage. “My thighs are starting to bruise.”
He opened the “office” door and went inside.
A network of short cubicles spread out before him. At first the general murmur maintained its constant, efficient hum. Then a few employees milling around the coffee maker or walking toward the copy machine, caught a glimpse of the old man called Fair Wage. The murmur softened and then it rose again as the word spread. Those still in their cubicles popped up like prairie dogs to see what all the commotion was about.
After a few moments, there was silence.
“What should we do?” whispered Supply.
Corporate man shrugged. “Act natural.”
“Yeah. No problem for Fair Wage,” said Business Woman.
“Excuse me,” a man said as he submissively charged toward them. He wore a light-blue sweater-vest over a white shirt, grey chords, and shiny black shoes. “Who are you? Are you new hires? We don’t have any positions open at present. Were you sent by upper management? What are you wearing? Sorry. Amendment. Why aren’t you wearing business casual?”
Corporate Man stepped forward and placed his arm over the nervous man’s shoulder. This had an effect on the nervous man much like a shark fin cresting the water near a reluctant skinny dipper.
“What’s your name son?” Corporate Man said in a soothing tone. This tone made the nervous man’s ass clench. The use of the word “son” made him prickle with fear-sweat.
“Kevin,” he squeaked.
“Kevin,” Corporate Man said, even and monotone. “Didn’t you get the e-mail?”
Kevin straightened up. He was comfortable with e-mails. Memos of any sort really.
“Have they added some sort of theme-day to the dress code?” he asked, secretly hoping it might be true.
“Yeah,” said Business Woman. “Underpants Tuesday.”
“Really? But today’s not Tuesday. Is it?” said Kevin.
“Would we be in our underpants if it wasn’t?” asked Senior Executive.
Kevin made a gasping, squawking, squeaky sound and then ran toward his desk.
E-Mails travel quickly. For example, an employee, overhearing a conversation between a fellow employee and a group of half naked individuals, might shoot an e-mail to multiple coworkers well before the individual conversing with the half naked group had a chance to return to his or her desk. This e-mail may or may not relay information from the overhead conversation and might be worded in such a way that aspects of that conversation which should otherwise be questioned are presented in a manner that, instead, seems to provide confirmation of the material in doubt.
The recipients of this e-mail would probably forward their own set of e-mails, adding their comments, further diluting the truth of the actual conversation.
Then, by the time the employee originally conversing with the half naked group returned to his or her desk in a gasping, squawking, squeaking panic, he or she would definitely find his or her inbox crowded with messages concerning topics which he or she was otherwise confused about. These e-mails would seem to corroborate the information provided by the group of half naked people and a quick glance at adjacent cubicles might reveal fellow coworkers hurriedly removing their clothing in an effort to comply with a new thematic dress code.
When Polly returned to the office she found that she had a decision to make. Either she was well ahead of the curve, already dressed in her new outfit, poised to retain her job and therefore had to do nothing. Or her mind had cracked and she should check herself into one of many in-plan psychiatric facilities because, as far as she could tell, everyone in the office was strutting around in their unmentionables.
Except for one older gentleman who was gallivanting about in his altogether.
“Excuse me,” said a woman Polly had never met.
Oh no. She knew it! They were being replaced.
“Where did you get that outfit?”
Polly looked down at her mauve and purple attire, feeling a bit overdressed.
“At… Dress For Success. The shop down… What’s… What’s going on?”
“Didn’t you get the e-mail? It’s Underpants Tuesday. Come on. I’ll help you get in compliance with today’s dress code,” the woman said and led Polly toward a nearby cubicle.
“Where’d you get your clothes?” Business Woman asked as Supply approached the rest of the
clad in here trademark mauve and purple.
“One of these people bought it at an interoffice clothing store,” Supply said. She gestured toward a glass door. Through it, on the other side of the hallway and down a few paces, was the entrance to Dress For Success.
went over to the clothing store and found a rack containing the rest of their
suits and business attire. Corporate Man
didn’t intend to pay for the stolen merchandise but Senior Executive advised
that it would be easier on everyone and offered up a credit card. He insisted that Fair Wage pick out a pair of
boxers or even briefs. Anything that
would create an under layer.
A mob of angry, half naked, office workers greeted the
they left Dress For Success.
“So that’s your plan,” one of the mob said. “Trick us all into non-compliant attire.”
“You’re trying to get us fired!”
“Hey, hey!” said a fully dressed twenty-sixth floor employee as he ran up to the gathering crowd. “I traced the e-mails. Nothing about Underpants Tuesday came from any of the higher ups.”
“Oh I see it now. We all get the ax and these guys take over our positions.”
Corporate Man smiled and adjusted his tie. “Actually, we’re needed in another department on a different floor. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
The half-naked office workers puzzled over this as Corporate Man and the
“I don’t believe him,” one of the mob said. “They were in here checking out their new offices. Calling dibs on cubicles.”
“Or signing contracts that would move our division to some other sector.”
“Yeah. Like this ‘another department’ he was talking about.”
“Let’s get ‘em!” someone yelled and they charged down the hallway just as the
was opening a door that led into a non-descript hallway.
Corporate Man spun around, glared at them, and said, “Did any of you clock out?”
After a moment one of them said, “What do you mean?”
“You can’t abandon your station and go storming out of the office. That’s a waste of company time. Management would not approve.”
The mob of dress-code violators looked at each other, confusion and fear reflected in all of their eyes. They scattered, like a flock of birds, and sped off to their cubicles to log out of the system.
Union slipped out of the office and disappeared down the
Somewhere on the twenty-sixth floor a man in upper management reviewed the e-mail correspondence of his employees. There was a great deal of traffic on the subject of “Underpants Tuesdays.” He had no recollection of such an alternation of the dress code but quickly dismissed any growing concerns after seeing the phrase repeated, over and over again, in Arial and Times New Roman.
What continued to nag at him was this adherence to Tuesday. He was not aware that it was Tuesday. Quite sure that it was, indeed, not Tuesday. It upset him a great deal that his subordinates had received notice of this unprecedented modification to the weekly schedule and he had not.
In moments he had a plan He would visit the office and honor the underpants aspect of the day and in so doing, he would demonstrate the degree to which he was informed on all office related matters.
Unfortunately, having been absent from the events leading up to the creation of Underpants Tuesday, he had no visual reference for what this new theme day might look like. And so it was that he walked into the office wearing his tighty-whities over his pinstripe slacks.
A wave of e-mails concerning Superhero Tuesday flooded the office inboxes.
“Keep moving,” Corporate Man said as they turned another corner in the seemingly endless labyrinth of hallways.
“Why? We’ll never catch them,” said Franklin Buck. “They’re always just rounding the next corner every time we get to a new hallway.”
“I’m less concerned with catching up to the office workers that are avoiding us than I am over the half-naked ones that are trying to chase us down,” said
When they reached the end of a long hallway, Franklin Buck looked behind them and saw a mob of angry, partially dressed, white-collar types charge into view.
“I think we need to go faster,” said Franklin Buck.
“No,” said Fair Wage, gasping for breath. “I need to stop.”
“I know you’re tired–” Senior Executive started.
“It’s not that, it’s this underwear. It’s bunching up. I can’t take it anymore.”
“I think we need to go smarter,” said Corporate Man, stopping suddenly in the middle of the hall. He reached inside his jacket and held out the greed-gun.
“What’s that?” asked Commander Credit.
“Pieces of The Greed,” said Business Woman. “Gives an indication of where the nearest source of overt greed is located.”
“It doesn’t work all that well, though,” said Senior Executive.
“Give it to me,” Commander Credit said. He snatched the toy gun from Corporate Man, held it in his normal hand, waving it back and forth, sensing the vibrations of The Greed pieces inside.
“Umm… We kind of need to hurry,” said Franklin Buck. “You know. Angry mob headed this way and all.”
For a moment Commander Credit didn’t move. He didn’t even breath. Then he bolted down the corridor, shouting for everyone to follow. They raced around the next series of corners and long hallways at a furious pace. When they reached a short, stubby corridor Commander Credit stopped in the center of it. He shifted some levers and gears on his mechanical arm and then pressed it against one of the cubicle-like walls. There was a whirring sound as he removed the bolts.
“Help me shift this wall into place and block off the hallway behind us,” he said.
They pulled the wall section free. Behind it lie another corridor. At the far end of this corridor was a group of maintenance men who were busy disassembling and reassembling cubicle walls. They looked at the
Union with a start and began hurriedly
reconfiguring their wall sections in order to seal themselves off from the
Union shifted their wall piece into its new location and
Commander Credit reattached it with the bolts.
“Hey! I saw you guys down there,” Franklin Buck yelled. Then, in a lower tone, “Should we go after them?”
“No,” said Senior Executive. “They just work here. We need to find the person in charge.”
“Well, now that we’ve got those office types off our backs,” said Commander Credit, “I think I can modify this greed-sensing gun into a more effective piece of hardware.”
Halo rings and starburst effects danced on every possible reflective surface. Things looked wet, for no other apparent reason than to quiver light into attention grabbing forms. LED sensors glowed like molten lava and glass panes had deliberate substance and form as if to suggest a crystalline structure.
“It’s all about the look these days,” said a doctor wearing a gleaming white lab coat and excessively sparkling safety glasses. “You also need gadgetry. Sleek and stylized, not the overly bulky, look-at-the-size-of-my-penis gear that everybody used to go in for.”
“Like the arm, you mean,” said Commander Credit.
“Yes,” the doctor said, giving Commander Credit a reproachful look. “But that was the look back then. People were supposed to see that arm and know you had power. That you were solid. Substantial.”
“That my dick was big?”
The doctor sighed, his shoulders slouching, just enough. “Anyway, we’ve redesigned the arm a few times over the years. And now its not such an eyesore.”
“It’s still oversized-dick big.”
“Yes, well, the message still needs to come across. And you need the room to store all your cool gadgets and open market accessories. There’s a full maintenance kit in the shoulder, electrical parts in the bicep, motorized–”
“Yeah, yeah. I get it. Snacks in the forearm and juice in the elbow,” said Commander Credit.
“Vials of nutrient solutions actually. And coffee. For office visits. You’re also hooked up with a modem, transaction terminal, etc.”
“It’s done,” said Commander Credit.
Attached to the greed-gun was a small metallic dish comprised of several, individual, flower petal-like segments. This was housed in a pivoting gear box and the whole assembly rotated and tilted and spun around. There were tiny lights, half the size of push tacks, arranged in a strip around the base. One the lights blinked green.
“We can get a sense of direction out of those… things inside the gun,” said Commander Credit. He turned slowly until the second bulb in the series flickered. The first bulb continued to glow but ceased blinking.
“This way,” said Commander Credit. And they moved down the hall.
“There should be sound,” said Business Woman.
“What?” asked Commander Credit.
“Yeah, right,” Franklin Buck said. “Like a deet, deet noise that gets quicker as you get closer.”
“That’s what the lights are for,” said Commander Credit.
“But you have to look at the lights,” said Business Woman.
“And the deet-deet-deet-deet would be exciting,” Franklin Buck added.
“Yeah. You know what else would be exciting?” Commander Credit said.
“How do we know it’s sensing the correct greed source?” asked
He had no trouble imagining a wide variety of very exciting acts
Commander Credit was capable of inflicting upon the One Hundred Dollar Corporate
“There’s only gonna be one source here,” said Fair Wage. “Everyone is scrambling to keep their jobs. They barely have time to fantasize about wealth much less be greedy.”
continued to walk down the corridor, everyone eyeing the small lights on the
greed-gun assembly. Those, who could not
see, politely jockeyed for a position in which they could. All the clustering about irritated Commander
Credit and he wished he would have installed some sort of audio alert on the
The next light blinked yellow.
They instinctively quickened their pace. When they reached a T-junction at the end of the hallway they turned right, but the yellow light switched off. So they went back and took the left passage, but saw the same result.
“Well, what now?” asked Franklin Buck.
“We go straight,” said
Commander Credit removed the wall paneling at
the hallway intersection. On the other
side of the panel three startled maintenance men stood frozen. Their eyes wide. Tools for assembling cubicle paneling about
to drop from their hands. Corporate Man.
“Gentlemen,” said Senior Executive. “Don’t mind us. We’re working on another project.”
The workers seemed to ease at this, comforted by the notion that these strangers were already employed and would, therefore, not be stealing hard one cubicle wall assembling positions. Senior Executive continued to chat with the workers while Commander Credit replaced the paneling and then consulted the greed-gun. When they moved out, Senior Executive handed the maintenance workers a few business cards and told them to keep up the good work.
This sequence of events repeated itself.
It was never the same location of panel wall that was removed and never the same set of workers they found on the other side.
The greed-gun charged through its yellow sequence and was now a fiery red.
stopped in front of a seemingly insignificant panel of cubicle wall, pausing
with breath held instinctively for dramatic effect.
The small, runty man fumed. There would be firings. Oh yes. Someone wasn’t doing their job properly. If someone had been keeping up with their assigned tasks then the
would be in a mess of trouble at the southern end of the building instead of
over here, standing on the other side of a cubicle wall from his position. And what were they doing? Just standing there with their mouths hanging
open for all he could tell. What’s with
that? Were they trying to piss him
off? Looking all stupid, as if to say
“duh… we know where you are,” or something like that?
He fingered his pencil-thin moustache. He’d have to take care of this himself. Restaff the entire floor. Move the operation overseas and find cheaper labor there. But first, the
Union. Yes, he’d handle them himself. In fact, he could do with some good, old
fashioned work. He still hadn’t blown
off all that steam from his airport encounter yet.
The Outsourcer slinked down the corridor and disappeared into a small panel in the wall, and sulked like a hungry eel waiting in a craggy rock for oblivious fish.
Commander Credit removed the section of cubicle wall. Immediately beyond was a corridor, but it was unlike all the previous hallways. The light was dim. After-hours dim, like an office at . There was the occasional fluorescent bulb which cast its dull grey light. Many of these sputtering, giving off a nervous flicker in the murky space.
crept down the hallway, instinctively huddling close to Commander Credit and
the greed-gun assurances of where the danger lay.
The commander froze.
He pivoted slightly and craned his ear at an odd angle. After a moment he lunged forward, grabbed a section of cubicle wall, and yanked it free. A small, runty man hissed at them, his body pulled into a tense ball as he crouched in an undersized recess.
There was a collective intake of breath from the
“Jesus! What kind of freaky–” Business Woman started.
Before she could finish, the runty man sprang from his perch, snarling and swinging like a rabid baboon. Several blows drum-rolled over various parts of Franklin Buck’s body, but before an “ouch” or a “hey” or even a doubled up grunt could be muttered, The Outsourcer had bounded away, landing on Demand’s shoulders, smacking and head-butting, then vaulting toward Senior Executive.
Commander Credit grabbed The Outsourcer by the scruff of the neck and was promptly dealt several slapping kicks to the face for the effort. The Commander lost his grip and The Outsourcer hit the ground, handspring up and immediately cuffed Senior Executive across the temple. He made a quick succession of twirling flips, growled, and disappeared into a hidden cubicle panel further down the corridor.
Corporate Man raced to the panel but when he opened it he found no tunnel, just a section of carpeted wall.
“What the hell was that?” Franklin Buck yelled his hands seeking injuries to sooth but unable to decide between the multiple options.
“Mr. Outsource,” Corporate Man said.
“Not these days,” said Senior Executive. “Insists on being called The Outsourcer.”
“Well whatever he calls himself, he’s still a pain in the ass,” said Business Woman.
“He’s right here,” said Commander Credit. He was standing at the opposite wall, about twenty yards down the corridor. The final light on the greed-gun blinking red. He tore the carpeted paneling away and held up his cybernetic arm. A series of blinding flashes sparked from the end of his hand in a strobe of bug-zapper clicks.
There was s squealing, hissing sound.
Commander Credit shoved his hand into the hidden tunnel space, pulled out The Outsourcer, and slammed the runty man into the adjacent wall. The Outsourcer made a chocked sound, like a cat working up a hairball, and then groaned. Commander Credit brought his knee up while thrusting The Outsourcer down. The resulting collision caused a thick whitish spray to come spitting our of the runty man’s thinly mustached lips.
“There’s your little weasel,” Commander Credit said, tossing The Outsourcer down the corridor, toward the
Union. The runty man rolled, arms flailing, to a
stop at Corporate Man’s feet.
Corporate Man grabbed The Outsourcer by the hair and yanked his head up so they were face to face. A slightly startled, more than a bit concerned, look pinched Corporate Man’s face.
“This isn’t him,” he said.
“Looks just like him,” said Senior Executive.
“Except this guy’s Mexican,” Business Woman said, pointing to the bleeding man Corporate Man held.
“So,” said Franklin Buck.
“The Outsourcer’s a white guy,” she said.
“Who are you?” Corporate Man asked the man who was not The Outsourcer. “What are you doing here?”
“Working. Just working,” said the outsourcerish man.
“For whom?” said Senior Executive.
“Don’t know. They pay me. Ask for me to look like him. Is all I know,” he said.
“Seriously?” said Senior Executive. “Am I understanding this correctly? The Outsourcer outsourced his own job to
Somewhere on the twenty-sixth floor. The personnel department. A bored, balding man walked into a waiting room full of short, runty men with various styles of meager upper lip hair. He kept his eyes half-closed to mask his shifty nature and avoid betraying the aloof appearance he cultivated.
“Okay, Koreans. We’re ready to see the Koreans,” he said, gesturing toward the office door. A group of seven or eight men stood and went inside.
“Hey,” said a short man with a dark, tightly-cropped moustache. “When are you seeing Filipinos?”
“We hired a bunch of Mexicans yesterday,” said the bored, balding man.
“We are not Mexican. We’re from the
he said, his tone nearing a shout.
“Fine. Irregardless, we saw all of the Hispanics yesterday. You’ll have to wait–”
“We are not Spanish!” the Filipino man yelled.
The bored, balding man shook his head as if this was the most useless information he had encountered in a very long time.
“We’ll see about that,” he said, bored. “Are you cheap?”
“We can do better than those Koreans.”
India? Can you beat the Indians? Or the Chinese?”
“Try us!” the man said proudly.
The bored, balding man shrugged and scribbled something across the screen of his phone. Then he said, in a very dry manner, “Right. Looks like… oh yes, here it is. The
Philippines. You’re up next.”
“Down this way. Hurry!” Commander Credit said, holding the greed-gun apparatus out in front of him. He and the rest of the
Union rounded a corner and
were halfway down the hall when the Commander stopped. He swiveled to his left.
“Look! Down there,” said Franklin Buck, pointing to the end of the hall and the small, runty man who stood there.
“After him,” Corporate Man shouted, but Commander Credit held his hand out and stopped him. Then he yanked a panel off the wall nearest him. A small, runty man with a thin moustache was standing on the other side. He hissed and three similar runty men with, more or less, similar moustaches stood behind him and echoed the hiss. They bolted like frightened deer, scattering down a dimly lit hallway, banking into separate side corridors.
rushed after them.
“Should we split up and take them?” Senior asked.
“No,” said Corporate
Man. “Keep us on the real one Commander.”
Around the next corner they saw The Outsourcer disappear into a ventilation duct. A group of maintenance workers moved a section of cubicle paneling across the corridor, blocking the way. Simultaneously, two sections were pulled away and secured in different positions creating new passages going in opposite directions.
“Which way?” shouted
Commander Credit stopped to consult the greed-gun.
“Neither,” he said. Then he strode up to a section of wall and tried to yank it free. It didn’t budge, so he set about dismantling it with tools from his cybernetic arm. Senior Executive approached the remaining maintenance workers and began questioning them.
“Hurry. Hurry,” said Franklin Buck.
“You want to do this, Dollar Boy?” Commander Credit said as he popped the section of wall free. A hand slapped him across the face. A dozen runty men hissed and then bolted away, bounding down the newly opened corridor.
“Little shits,” Commander Credit yelled, charging after them.
The rest of the
Union poured into this new section of darkened
passageways. The scurrying, runty-men
disappeared behind vents, panels, and other trap doors embedded in the pseudo
continued the chase and soon arrived at a junction of five passages. Runty men stood at the far end of each hallway. Middle finger raised.
Carpeted panels swung in and out from various positions along each corridor, concealing each of the five Outsourcer men.
“They just flipped us off,” said Franklin Buck.
Commander Credit checked the greed-gun. His face pinched and he tapped the side of the apparatus. Then her turned around and said, “Back this way.”
More panels swung in and out of the walls and runty men crisscrossed the corridor space, waving obscene gestures, before disappearing out of sight again.
Commander Credit slumped against a wall and shook his head.
“I don’t get it,” he said. “My readings must be off. The Outsourcer isn’t showing up anywhere. I don’t know what to–”
But he didn’t finish. Instead he thrust all his weight into the wall paneling behind him. It gave way, slamming into the empty space beyond, landing on something small and hard.
There was a low grunt, followed by a yowling howl. Commander Credit lifted up the section of wall. A dazed runty man lie beneath it. Commander Credit grabbed The Outsourcer by the collar and yanked him to his feet. At the same time the Commander’s snapped his torso forward, his head delivering a nose crushing butt.
The Outsourcer fell to the floor, spurts of blood geysering from his damaged nasal cavities. The walls around the bleeding man opened up and a troupe of runty men bounced into the corridor. Two of them swept up The Outsourcer while the rest flung themselves at Commander Credit.
The first couple of attackers suffered a great deal under the ferocity of the Commander’s defenses, but soon their numbers drove him backward, through the opening in the wall, and into the hallway where the rest of the
The runty men slid the caved in panel back into place and the only sound the
could hear through the restored wall was that of scuffling feet and half-hearted
expletives delivered through a collapsed nasal structure.
“Well, open it back up,” said Business Woman.
“Won’t help,” said Commander Credit. He held up the greed-gun. Indicator lights were in the green again. “They’ll have already reconfigured the corridor and The Outsourcer won’t even be in that direction.”
His face felt like rising bread dough and his nose pulsed with an agonizing pain. He knew he’d get those raccoon-eye bruises from this. And he knew how pathetic he’d look. Some people could pull off that battered, I’m-a-bad-ass, you-should-see-the-other-guy look, but he wasn’t one of them. It would be awhile before he could score chicks again.
That freak. That credit card freak had known he was there. Tracking him somehow. The Outsourcer tried to review the sequence of events, but his puffy, marshmallow consciousness could only recall starbursts of pain.
“This way. Down this way,” a familiar voice came from someone. The Outsourcer peered through a seam in the cubicle paneling. The
and that irritating credit card guy, were striding up the hallway on the other
side of the wall. Coming right toward
him. There was some sort of gun in the
credit guy’s hand. A yellow light on the
gun blinked repeated. As they came
closer a red light ignited accusingly.
The Outsourcer’s mood flared, matching the fiery red of that damnable flashing light.
They were tracking him.
That was cheating!
“Let’s try something different this time,” said Commander Credit. How about we all go on the offensive? Not just me.”
His comment was met with looks of bitter assent and the
out into practiced positioning, ready to engage preplanned maneuvers.
Franklin Buck had to fake it.
Commander Credit pulled open the panel and Corporate Man lunged through the opening. But there was no one behind the wall. Business Woman and Senior Executive spun into defensive postures, facing empty hallways, expecting panels to shift and Outsourcer proxies to pour in.
“I don’t get it,” said Commander Credit. According to this reading, we’re right on top of him.”
There was a subtle shift in the stance of each Union member. Their attention turned to the ground beneath Commander Credit’s feet.
No one breathed.
They shifted, ninja-like and in unison, positioning themselves around Commander Credit. Corporate Man and Business Woman leaned down and carefully felt for a trap door; a secret panel.
Senior Executive and Fair Wage arranged themselves behind Business Woman. Supply and Demand acted as backup for
Franklin Buck instinctively took up the covering position for Commander
Credit in case the attack came there and felt proud of himself for doing so. Corporate
Corporate Man found a seam in the industrial carpeting and mouthed a countdown to Business Woman. On three he tore the carpeting away and Business Woman lurched forward, fists cocked.
But there was only sub-floor and glue remnants beneath the carpet.
“Jesus you guys,” said Franklin Buck. “Made my ass all clenchy with that–”
The ceiling panel above Commander Credit shattered and The Outsourcer dropped onto the shoulder of the cybernetic arm, hammering with fists and feet. He snatched the greed-gun, leapt onto Senior Executive, delivering a kick to Business Woman on the way. He chopped Senior Executive on the neck while thrusting a foot into Corporate Man’s chest, then dove onto Fair Wage, smacking both Supply and Demand while in mid air.
The Outsourcer wrapped his legs around Fair Wage’s throat and shouted, “Don’t move or I’ll snap his neck.”
Cautiously, The Outsourcer examined the greed-gun, tightening his choke hold when Fair Wage tried to move. Then he sniffed the air. His eyes pinched with a sudden realization and he snuffled the greed-gun, an enthusiastic chortle escaping his throat.
“I know what this is,” he said in an oily voice.
Fair Wage groped at the legs wrapped around his neck. The Outsourcers nonchalantly reached down and flicked Fair Wage’s nose.
“I know what’s in here,” he said and slammed his fist into the toy gun.
Corporate Man and Business Woman surged forward but The Outsourcer tightened his leg-grip and hissed, “Back! Back!”
The small, runty man fished the greed chunks out of the ruined toy gun and held them like a fistful of dirty dollars.
“I wondered what happened to him,” said The Outsourcer, jostling the pieces as if estimating their weight. “Do any of you truly comprehend what it is that you’ve brought here?”
The Outsourcer unclamped his legs and yanked on Fair Wage’s hair. The old man screamed but his call was silenced. The Outsourcer forced the remnants of The Greed into Fair Wage’s mouth.
It was like cookie dough mixed with hair and mashed up spaghetti squash. It tasted like filthy pinched pennies and the greasy collar sweat of unscrupulous financiers. It stank of exploitation and cow manure.
A dozen cubicle walls flew open and a score of Outsourcer stand-ins rushed into the corridor slapping and hissing. The ensuing struggle between the
Union and the Outsourcers
was violent and brief. This was not
because one side decisively triumphed over the other, it was because the fight
was merely a diversion set up to grant the actual Outsourcer his escape. The altercation was cut short when a near
seismic gurgling noise erupted somewhere deep within the body of Fair Wage.
He wasn’t quite sure if he could hear the sound through the microphones of his surveillance system or if his mind simply imagined it from the reactions of all the people on his monitor screen. It didn’t matter. The Big Bossman had heard that sound before and understood what it meant and the utter terror it inflicted on those in the vicinity.
And he smiled.
The next part would be entertaining, he was sure. Lots of panicked fleeing and property damage. The inevitable loss of life; perhaps even some limbs.