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corporate battle fiction
Ken’s lying on the carpet beside a supply closet in the advertising department. The space is pitch black. He’s breathing with difficulty. Wearing night vision goggles makes him look like a dying Martian. Bloody bandages are wrapped around his wounds.
The big guy’s been shot four times.
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His necktie tourniquet’s not tight enough. Bodies of indians and ad execs litter the floor. It all started an hour ago.
The attack came just before lunch, as I reviewed the web traffic report for Thompson’s Tiles. While verifying the quarterly expenses and revenues, steel panels crashed down over the windows and doors. My computer died. The lights went out.
Goggles, a Glock, and a tactical knife waited in my desk’s bottom drawer. Boxes of ammo too. From the halls came screams and shooting. Stupid interns being shot. Indians whooped and killed.
Was this a treaty thing? Didn’t the province handle treaties? Guess not.
Idiot Premiere. The report deadline was in jeopardy.
The steel panel over my office door retracted. I heard them all slide back up again, giving braves access to most areas. Window panels remained in place, the metal shutters rattling, locked but trying to open.
Still no lights. If the indians didn’t have night vision, then we top execs stood a fighting chance. An explosion boomed from the direction of the tech department.
I got a text from Ken in marketing. “Finalize that report?”
“Almost. Hrs probably celebrating"
“Gotta send it”
“Im coming to you”
I stuffed my jacket pockets with boxes of bullets as a woman shrieked in the hall. Someone tried opening my office door. I fired through it and an indian roared curse words in Nipissing as he fell.
Nipissing warriors in Toronto?
I exited and found the brave dead, his bloody knife on the carpet beside him.
Dianne lay next to him at the copy centre’s entrance, opposite accounting. Her throat was slashed open. Hot fluid flowed bright green from her neck in my goggles’ infrared vision, like lava.
She still lived, making noises. I couldn’t help. Ken and I needed to get this situation under control or the report would be late.
The way from accounting to marketing was through the central cafeteria with its tables and chairs and counters and sinks and fridges and microwaves and coffeemakers and leafy potted plants. Corporate carpeting made silent walking easy.
I began the trek. Not-so-braves left behind many dead skanks and slackers in the common area. Indians are nature’s way of thinning their numbers.
“Where are you?” texted Ken.
A shot banged from a janitor’s closet. The round whizzed between me and my phone. A lucky miss. The shooter aimed for my phone’s glow. I fired back and hit his throat, finishing him.
“They dont have night vision,” I typed.
Ken and I used the same caliber weaponry.
Down the long hall to marketing, more braves waited at the entrance, facing away. They fought with semi-auto rifles with flashlight attachments. Ken’s Tek-9 burped autofire. I walked up behind the two quietly and stabbed them up close. They wore jeans and work boots, like they worked in a sawmill.
Maggie and Brian lay dead at their feet. Didn’t care. They sucked anyway.
Inside, Ken battled with his desk flipped over for cover. The three indians fighting him never saw me coming. I shot them.
“It’s me,” I called.
He got up from behind his barrier, also wearing goggles. “Need ammo!” he hissed. I tossed him containers of 9mm. “Are they in the walls, too?”
“How’s accounting?” asked Ken, pushing bullets into a magazine.
“Team building exercise,” I said. “I was alone.” Standing by the entrance, I watched for more attackers. “An injun I shot spoke Nipissing.”
“You’re probably mistaken.”
“I’m not.” More gunshots and screams erupted from the south. “They’re in the call centre now. They must have override codes.”
“Our security pussies can’t do anything right. They’re totally beholden to advertising.”
“I’m betting hr’s doing this.”
“No, it’s definitely ad execs.”
Ken was loaded up and sweating profusely. Blood flowed down his trouser leg.
“You’ve been hit.”
“We’ll deal with that after.”
“What are you on?”
“Vicodin and morphine. Got more. Let’s go.”
“Stop.” He kept a medical kit. I bandaged his thigh and applied a tourniquet, using Brian’s tie. We returned to the cafeteria, on our way to the elevators. Too many braves waited in front of them.
An indian wandered in from the call centre. Sounds of combat came from there. He hunted something or someone. His rifle’s flashlight provided no peripheral vision. I slithered up and stabbed him in the back of the neck.
“If they get the windows open or the lights on, we’re fucked,” I said.
“Once that web traffic report’s uploaded,” hissed Ken, “hr will be screwed. Advertising too.”
The outer security doors to the call centre had been blown off their heavy hinges. From the entrance came smoke and fire and shouting in English and Nipissing and Hindi and Tagalog and Arabic. Phone monkeys either lay dead or crouched under their workstations as indians hunted them.
Ken signaled that I should go over to insurance claims and wait. He snuck over to billing inbound. As he slunk that way, I watched him stab an injun in the back of the head. He cursed in Nipissing as he fell.
His fellow tribesmen looked around for us with their flashlit weapons, but we understood the terrain better and eluded their narrow tunnels of vision.
From insurance and billing, we stood at each end of the northern wall. The whole call centre became our kill zone. My partner opened up.
I shot a warrior in the chest. Then another. Ken sprayed them all with autofire.
The other braves escaped through the blown out doors.
Survivors groaned and wept.
“Advertising did this,” Ken told them adamantly while refilling a magazine, his tone fanatical. Advertising and marketing are natural enemies.
“Hr’s also suspect,” I added.
“Appealing to immigrants directly doesn’t work,” said my violent colleague. “You people don’t trust whites when we pander to you. We emphasized this fact in the planning meetings. The ad guys got it wrong. Now they want to stop us from proving that so.”
“And hr hogtied marketing from the start,” I mentioned, reloading a clip.
“Correct,” affirmed Ken, opening another box of bullets. “Accounting’s cash boost to marketing for extra personnel saved the Thompson’s Tiles campaign!”
“That department’s budget had to be re-evaluated,” I told the terrified and dying people. “Targeting high-end neighbourhoods door-to-door generated success despite hr arguing against field agents!”
Ken approached me and said more quietly “Okay, I’ve changed my mind. Everyone waited on your numbers when the attack came but only hr knows everyone’s schedules. Advertising doesn’t. And that brave spoke Nipissing.”
“Let’s scout out their offices,” I suggested. “Then we’ll double back to hr. There must be a way to send the report.”
We returned to the cafeteria. No life. We continued west. Everyone in the ad department lay dead.
As we left, an indian leapt out of the office supply closet, firing wildly, missing me, but Ken fell. I shot the injun.
The marketing exec shivered in pain on the carpet, going into shock, growling that he refused to die in enemy territory.
I applied bandages. His head looked bad, but the bullet only grazed the skull. He had flesh wounds to his shoulder and ribs, but the leg worried me most.
And here we are.
Blood’s soaking through his pants. The tourniquet’s not working right. I give him more morphine and take more ties off dead men to bind the injury better.
Ken’s delirious. “So you heard about the thing at the arcade, eh?” His voice is boyish now, woodsy, British Columbian, where he’s originally from.
“No,” I say, working to keep him alive, “what happened?”
“Dude, Charlene Thunderpainting was outside the entrance. She’s having a smoke when these grownup skinheads came up, two of ‘em. Americans.
“They’re all like, ‘Whatcha doin’ here, squaw?’”
“Well, Charlene’s Sinixt. She ain’t takin’ that. Earl’s inside playing Space Invaders. She tells ‘em off.”
Ken gasps in pain as I tighten another tourniquet around his thigh. “What did you do?” I ask.
“Nothin’.” He raises his head while speaking for emphasis. “These guys’re prob’ly twice my age. But she’s ready to scrap.
“Then Trapper’s drivin’ by and sees. (He bought his cousin’s truck and painted it brown.) Well, he stops and gets out in the middle of the street. ‘Who are you guys?’”
“‘You’re not from around here!”
“They’re like, ‘This is about White Power!’”
“Trapper says, ‘No, THIS is about White Power!’ and he totally jumps ‘em!
I ran inside to get Earl. But he’s still playin’ Space Invaders. I go back out, and the Nazis were gone.”
Ken’s sweating head falls onto the carpet.
“Wadda beauty,” he whispers.
He exhales a long breath and stops moving.
I grab his jacket’s labels, lift and shake him, yelling, “If you die we lose!”
His jaw twitches.
He grabs my arms, shouting, “Thompson’s Tiles! The report!”
“Okay,” I reply, “we’re going to…”
“Decimate hr,” he seethes, his bared teeth gleaming. “Kill as many of them as necessary until they agree to send it. They’ll have a way.”
“I’ll go now. Can you stay alive?”
“Don’t worry about me. Just git r done.”
I backtrack to the cafeteria. No movement. Someone sits at a table alone, a woman.
A warrior prowls in the distance. I approach the female as the lone brave melts back into the hall toward hr. She’s Kitty, a receptionist.
“Shh,” I say, getting close, “are you okay?” She nods with good posture. “I’m from accounting. Ken from marketing’s holed up in the ad department. He’s wounded but he’ll protect you. Can you look after him?”
“I’ll try,” she says, adding, “The tech guys didn’t do this.”
“We know,” I reply. “Hr and advertising have it in for us. Tech’s nothing.”
“Hr set it up to appear as if tekkies did this.”
Interesting theory. “Well, we’ve established it’s hr.”
“This goes deeper than hr.”
“Why do you think this happened during accounting’s team building exercise?”
What the hell? “How’d you learn about that?”
“I get extra hours doing data-entry for hr…” I put my pistol’s muzzle against her head. “Don’t shoot,” she whispers.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“I’m nothing to them. I just need money. And I overhear things.”
“Someone in accounting is a double agent.”
That sounds plausible. Kitty may be an asset. She knows how to keep her cool and smells good.
I lower my Glock.
“So the techs aren’t doing anything?” I ask.
“No. They’re active. They messed with hr’s lockdown codes. That’s why the indians attacked the tech department first. They have bogus ones for windows and lights.”
“Why would tekkies help us?”
“They’re not helping you. This is to piss off hr.”
“No one complains about our technology except customer service, advertising, and hr. Accounting doesn’t.”
“That’s correct,” I say. “We don’t use in-house software.”
“Same with marketing.”
“What about advertising?”
“The server’s new client confidentiality protocol is slower,” she says evenly. “It takes too long to update an account, which annoys clients. Ad execs gets flak for this, though it’s a recently implemented industry standard, legally required. They blame techs and hr supports them.”
“Can’t the tech department speed it up?” I ask.
“They’d have to reformat the server.”
“That’s budgeted for next…how do you know all this?”
“Been paying attention, learning.”
“Can you get us back online? I have to send something.”
“Thompson’s Tiles?” she asks.
“Correct, the web traffic report.”
“Is your document backed up in the system?”
“Yes” I reply. “And on Outlook.”
“I can use Outlook through a managerial terminal.”
“Ken’s holding down advertising.”
“We don’t have those security codes.”
“Leave that to me,” she says.
Kitty’s definitely an asset and has a cute nose, thin sculpted eyebrows, and a slightly goth hairdo with bangs.
“I figured I’d have to fight through hr.” I say.
“You’d die—they’re barricaded inside.”
“Let’s go.” I take her hand and lead her past the bodies. At the entrance to the ad department, I called ahead softly, “Friendlies.”
We enter. Ken’s still on the floor.
“Who’s that?” he croaks, like he’s waking up.
“Kitty. Reception,” I tell him, “and an hr mole.”
“Why is she here?”
“We’re going to upload the report.”
Kitty goes to the desk of the head of advertising, Ernie. He’s dead. His computer’s also a corpse but she reactivates and accesses it using her weird reception-slash-hr security credentials.
I check Ken’s bandages as he watches the door.
“Why do we trust her?” he asks.
“She’s an uncompromised asset.”
“Then why did you find her alive?”
I don’t know. “Kitty,” I ask, “why were you in the cafeteria?”
“I walked out of hr,” she says from the computer, working. “They just forgot about me. People are packed in there, workers and natives.” Her fine pale features are radiant in the darkness, lit up by the screen. “Okay, we’re online. Come sign in.”
“Our firewalls are a joke,” mutters our wounded colleague as I start the upload.
“What is it about Thompson’s Tiles?” she asks.
“It’s not the thing,” I reply, “but rather its trajectory. Think of how the puck isn’t the point of hockey. Where the rubber disc goes is what matters.”
“Corporate conflicts arise because businesses are like states,” adds Ken. “Our real enemies are internal.”
He grunts, firing shots down the hall. Men scream and curse in Nipissing. Bullets fly over him. One clips his skull, snapping his head back.
I jump to stand over him, emptying my Glock at his attackers. A shooter dies. Two others disappear out of sight. I reload. A brave peeks around the corner and I shoot him down.
They retreat while complaining loudly. Kneeling, I check Ken as Kitty monitors the upload. His goggles are destroyed, but they partially deflected the bullet. I remove them as he looks at our new asset and then back at me.
The computer screen generates the only light.
“Charlene’s okay,” he says, delirious again. “She looks fine. I like what you did, Trapper. I always did.”
“It’s complete,” announces Kitty. Ken’s face, oddly youthful and open, becomes wide with relief and gratitude as the windows’ defensive panels go up, brightening the room. I remove my goggles.
Our patient’s Louis Vuitton suit is bloody and his scalp bleeds in two places but he looks pretty good for a guy with five gunshot wounds.
The light makes him wince and shut his eyes. When he opens them again, he‘s the Ken I know, his expression harder than a Big Five VP’s.
He checks his phone as Kitty calls the cops. I watch the door. Enemies bicker down the halls, too far away for me to understand the words.
“They’re not coming,” our girl tells us. “The city says it’s OPP jurisdiction. The OPP calls this a municipal thing.”
“Fuck it, we’re walking out of here,” decides Ken while texting. “Check your Outlook.” I do. The meeting’s scheduled for 9am tomorrow. “If we get out of here alive,” he said, “we win.”
He tries to stand but the shot leg is stiff and non-functional. He has to lean on Kitty. I lead them out. From the cafeteria we spy Nipissing warriors and hr scum conversing by the elevators. Too many.
“Call centre,” says Ken. “We’ll use its fire exits.” In the locker room before the centre’s entrance, hundreds of ring tones from phones in little lockers toodle simultaneously. Inside, the body count depresses us.
They had gone back and killed more after we left.
The exit’s doors are blown apart and sealed off by a coyote's skin stretched across the entrance with rope. It’s held in place with industrial staples, smelling of motor oil.
Beneath the hide sits a block of gray putty on the concrete stair, connected to a car battery with wire.
“No way,” I say. “That’s a death trap.”
“South,” says Ken, “we’ll walk until we find something.”
“It goes on for miles,” admonishes Kitty. “You’re wounded.”
“Don’t worry, Charlene. If we keep going, Earl will save us.”
She looks at me. I nod. She understands.
We shoot through the locked back exit of the call centre and trek into the Corporate Unknown.
Disused, unlit foyers. Cafeterias with food machines and fridges turned off. Thousands of production units with no one in them. Piles of cardboard boxes abandoned in halls. Stacks of empty 3-ring binders wait in hopeless obsolescence.
We proceed as fast as Ken can hobble, leaning on Kitty. An explosion erupts behind us. A scream wails from where we came.
We keep going, looking out windows, seeing the city from twenty stories up. Busy pedestrians and motorists on Bay Street do their thing.
After an hour, the doors are now locked again. We have to shoot through. Ken says it’s a good sign.
He keeps promising Kitty that Earl is coming. An explosion booms to our rear. We come to another unused foyer, its metal shudders concealing artificial light that shines through the chinks.
We fired upon them as display windows behind shatter. Women scream. We emerge in a kind of shopping mall. Not shops for items. Services, rather. Financial planners. Stuff like that.
An Asian security guard regards us with unmoving amazement.
The guard stands beside a woman in a power suit. She yells that we have no right to be here and not to move because she’s calling the cops.
My smirking pal points his Tek-9 at her.
The lady freezes. We walk out. Ride escalators down. No police appear. We conceal our guns and hail a cab.
“Barberian’s,” Ken tells the driver. “Yonge and Dundas.” On our way, I watch Kitty wipe blood off his face with a tissue.
He’s healing like a supernatural beast, grinning with diabolical pleasure. I smile too.
We look forward to destroying our enemies at the meeting tomorrow.
Thompson’s Tiles will take our careers to another level.
I’ve increased marketing’s budget and that budget’s becoming annual, bigger than advertising’s.
We’re out of danger, alive and victorious, strong and safe in each other’s company. Now we celebrate with steaks and whisky. Ken regales Kitty and I with crazy stories about backpacking through Europe and Asia in this wonderful restaurant with its wonderful atmosphere and wonderful customer service.
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