John takes time off for his father's passing. Continuation of Corporate Wars
I just finished surveillance on a CEO, one of the most boring details I have ever been assigned. Supposedly, this guy was making under the table deals with other sections in the AppleGates Union. The CEO was squeaky clean. The only thing about him was the two mistresses he had, which was a joke. All the CEOs and most management have mistresses. They may as well come out with it and call them concubines. They’re not fooling anyone.
Sitting in my supervisor’s office always put me on edge. Mr. Colman’s office had a cold feel. Not just because it’s sparse it was also the grey colors and hard angles. It did, however, match my supervisor’s personality.
Briefing Mr. Coleman on the CEO, I could see written on his face he wasn’t happy with the results. Someone on the board was probably trying to get dirt on the CEO so they could manipulate him. They’ll just have to try something else. At the end of my briefing Coleman still looked unhappy. I felt the need to apologize. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find anything on him. The guy’s just too clean.”
Leaning forward with his arms crossed on his desk my supervisor asked, “Did you look into the backgrounds of his mistresses?”
“I did. He’s even smart when it comes to them. Both are low level secretaries. They aren’t even in his chain of command. The only thing I came across there was that he’s offered both of them new positions in his office.”
With a big sigh Mr. Coleman leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. “Well…I guess we’ll just have to move onto the back up plans.”
“What are those?”
“Plans that are above your pay grade,” He shot up from his chair and scooted around to the front of his desk, where he perched with his arms folded across his chest. “Now there is something more we need to talk about.”
That was the one and only statement my supervisor could make that would crater my stomach and push my heart into my throat. I couldn’t say anything without it creaking from my mouth. I simply stared at Mr. Coleman and waited for what couldn’t possibly be pleasant.
My supervisor opened his mouth then closed it. With a deep breath he started. “I hate to be the one to inform you, but…Your father passed away.”
I was dumbfounded. The first thing that flooded my mind was relief that I was not in trouble. Then the loss started to sink in. “What happened?”
“Massive heart attack. Even his monitor couldn’t do anything to help him.”
I rubbed at the chip in my hand thinking about the new technology of the health monitor chip. Not everyone had them, my father had volunteered to test it out. It was a new kind of chip that could monitor the health of the owner. It was a much larger chip than our palm chips that had to be placed in the forearm. It monitored the basics such as blood pressure, temperature, and respiration. It also could test the blood for simple things such as infection and white blood cell count. For someone like my father who had heart problems, it was supposed to work as an early warning system. I guess there were still some kinks in the system.
Mr. Coleman circled back around to his grey high-backed cloth work chair. “The report says the medics were quick on the scene, but there was nothing they could do.”
My brain was still trying to process the information. “Uhm…when?”
A few key strokes on his desk and a holographic projection popped up to show the report of my father’s death. “It happened three days ago around 6:30 in the evening. He had been watching the football game. Good game by the way,” he read a few more entries down. “He was cremated this morning and…it looks like his grave site ceremony will be tomorrow.” With a toothy grin my supervisor commented. “I guess it’s a good thing you finished your assignment today.”
I snapped. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me when this happened?! And what do you mean it’s a good thing I finished my assignment?!”
The toothy grin melted into a stone-cold visage. Mr. Coleman’s back straightened up. “You’re grieving, so I’ll excuse your tone.” He paused for a second to allow me to regain my composure. “You know how this works. The assignment always comes first. I wish my ex-wife would’ve realized that, we might still be together. You will do well to remember the job comes first, if you want to advance in this company.”
I scanned the cold grey office and remembered who I was dealing with.
Standing with about fifty people in front of a marble wall I stared straight ahead at the square hole in the wall where my father’s urn stood. The marble columns behind the group were an invisible line where the roof ended and the rain gathered. The people were bunched together in their black work suits and overcoats.
Next to the hole carved in the marble was ‘Julia Carrio 6 Aug. 2114 – 12 Sept. 2164. Broker.’ I don’t know how my mother died. I know it was on the job, but a Broker’s case files are marked classified. Yeah, I followed in her footsteps. I’ve tried on a couple of different occasions to look at her case files, but I couldn’t get access, unless one of my case files had something to do with one of hers. They called her death an honorable one, so all of her funeral expenses were paid for and my dad received a good-sized compensation.
The priest just finished sanctifying the gravesite. Since I was his son I approached the urn first. This was supposed to be a moment of silence for me to say farewell. I’ve never been one for speeches. All I could muster was, “Goodbye Dad. I’ll miss you.”
Following after me was my father’s supervisor. He talked about how hard a worker he was and how he always had brilliant ideas and could’ve made upper management. His secretary talked about how nice he was to everyone. One of his co-managers said he was well liked by everyone and could be counted on to get the job done.
I felt guilty. All anyone said was how great a manager my father was and how hard he worked. My father was more than a hardworking manager. He raised me by himself. He put me through college. He was a Dad first, but he was also my friend. I should’ve said something more.
The next day I spent at my father’s condo, going through of his belongings. There was a lot of history in this place, even though my father only owned the place for over twenty some odd years. There were dozens of plaques and awards and twice as many photos. The pictures were of Mom, Dad, and me. Some of the photos were of vacations we took to the Sierras and the Cascades. Of course, there were the pictures of Dad when he was working or receiving an award. Mom was by his side in the early award pictures.
The condo was nice. Dad kept it looking modern. The furniture was practically brand new, even still the place was comfortable and inviting. Before getting, started I took some time to lie on the couch. My mind slowly faded away to memories of watching football games with my dad.
I am not sure how long I laid there on the couch, before I jolted back to the present with the buzzing at the door. I sat up dazed and walked over to the door and pressed the intercom button.
“Mr. John Carrio?” a woman appeared on the small vid screen next to the door.
“I’m Susana Everett. I’m the Assessor who will be handling your father’s estate.” She held up an identification badge in front of her visage. “I was told you might be here. May I come up and inspect your father’s place?”
A few moments later the frumpy brunette strolled through the front door. With her nose in the air she scanned the open space of the living room and kitchen. “This is a rather nice condominium.”
“Thanks.” I think.
“Two-bedroom, one bath?”
Mrs. Everett glanced through her tablet. “Well, there was no impropriety reported against your father and he did leave a rather healthy estate.”
“My father was very good with money.” I should know better than to get defensive, but it seemed she was making accusations against him.
“Yes, well, it seems you are the sole inheritor.”
I wasn’t surprised. My parents could only afford to buy one children’s license and both of my parents were single children as well. Actually, most people have no siblings, unless they are from the upper 10%. Licensing people for each child they wanted to have was expensive, but a good way to control the population.
“This means you are now the benefactor of his bank accounts and his condominium and all items within this condo.” Mrs. Everett flicked through her tablet. “You will have to decide if you want to keep the place or sell it,” she flipped through her tablet once more and then tucked it under her arm. “It appears your father retired as a full citizen so there is no life debt balance that needs to be repaid.”
“That’s good news,” I thought for a minute, as I looked around the living room. It would be nice to have my own place. It is really hard to become a property owner. About the only way to own property anymore is to inherit a mortgage. It would be nice to move out of my loft apartment and into something nice and roomy. “I’ll check with the bank and see about taking over the payments.”
“Good,” she replied. “This is really an easy assessment. It’s been a long while since I had one that didn’t owe anything,” Mrs. Everett walked around the kitchen island that separated the living room from the kitchen. “May I finish looking through the other rooms? I have to make sure there is no illegal contraband or any property of the Corporation.”
“Sure. Go right ahead.” I knew my father. He was as straight laced as they came. I had no worries of her finding anything.
It took another week of talking with the loan officer, but I finally got approved to take over my father’s generational mortgage. The payments will be a lot more than my apartment rent, but I was able to lower the monthly payments with what was leftover in my father’s bank accounts and some credits I had saved up. There were another 176 years left on the mortgage, looks like my grandchildren will be paying it off. At least, I’m now a property owner. Not many people can say that, especially when they’re 33.
Yes, I was jumping the gun a bit, but I started selling off my old furniture from my loft before I got the loan approval. I also went through all of my dad’s clothes. There was nothing I wanted to keep so I tossed it all in the kitchen chute, which led to the building’s incinerator. I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the pictures of my dad. I stored the photos of him at work and receiving awards and left the ones of him and my mom and me hanging on the walls.
Once I was all moved in, there was one last thing I needed to do. I needed to create a secret cache for some special items. There was my spare handgun, a couple of palm chips I had harvested from other brokers, and the two tablets that held the cyber nuke.
These were things I couldn’t leave laying around and I certainly couldn’t stroll into the bank and put them in a safe deposit box. So, a hiding place in my new home was the only option. The real question was where to create this secret hiding spot.
The wooden floor in the kitchen and eating area would be easy to pull up and hide something underneath, but that would be too obvious. The stairs had an open space beneath them. However, there were some built in bookshelves under the stairs. It would be easy to lift the bottom panel of the bookshelf on the floor.
I knelt down in front of the bookcase furthest under the stairs and farthest away from the windows, with my tools. My father had a wooden model of a sailing ship on the floor shelf. I never understood why he had this thing. He never cared for boats or sailing. I carefully moved the ship onto the floor and decided to ease it over on its side so it didn’t fall.
I wedged a flat head screwdriver between the carpet and the bottom shelf. Just as I started to pry upward with the screwdriver, the shelf tilted open on two tiny hydraulic arms revealing a safe in the floor. My dad had a hidden safe. Why would my father have a need for a hidden safe?
It was an old fashioned safe with a hand turned tumbler. I had seen these in museums and in one of my classes. I couldn’t use any electronic hacking systems on it. That was pretty smart of my dad. So, the question now was what was the combination?
Trying all the birthdates and anniversaries I knew got me nowhere. I then went back through all of the pictures. There was nothing hidden on of any of them, I guess that was too obvious. I sat on the floor in front of the safe staring at the sailing ship model, in my lap. I became more and more fascinated with the ship. I peered through the portholes and ran my finger over the strings that held up the sails. I turned the ship to look at it from the back and focused in on the helm. I tried to imagine what it would be like to steer such a vessel. That’s when I noticed the marks on the little wheel. Was my dad that crafty? Could those marks correspond to the numbers on the safe tumbler?
Giving it a shot, I turned the tumbler left and right to the corresponding numbers. I then grabbed the handle and cranked. The safe door popped open with a hiss. It must have had a vacuum seal to protect its contents.
Pulling out the items immediately told me what I didn’t want to believe about my father. The first item was a floppy leather-bound journal. The next items were old style disks. They were marked with titles such as “1812 Overture,” “Roots,” and “Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.” They were movies and music that had been outlawed by the AppleGates Union. There must have been two dozen disks in all. At the bottom of the safe were two old fashioned textbooks. The first was “Political Science in America” and the other was “U.S. History 1600 – 2100.”
I flopped onto my back. “Why Dad?” I muttered to the ceiling.
My father was secretly a patriot; people who identified with the old American government. There were few people who spoke about a love for the old government. Mostly because it was seditious and these people went to jail for a very long reprogramming. If they re-integrated back into the system it was at low level positions where they couldn’t do any harm.
How could he be a patriot? He was in management. A person doesn’t make it as far as my father did if they thought their Corporation was a bad thing. I couldn’t believe he could make it as far in the Corporation as he did without being discovered.
I had to get rid of this stuff. If it was found in the house, I would be blamed and my career would be over. My new place didn’t have a fireplace, which meant any fires would set off an alarm.
There was the kitchen chute that led to the incinerator, but what is thrown down there was monitored to see what the trends of the consumers were. And to watch for contraband.
I would have to sneak the contraband out and burn it somewhere else.
The slums were a great place to go. For Seattle, the slums were in the eastern part of the city. It was a part of the city that had been burnt out during a hostile takeover attempt by the Buffett Corporation. There, no one cared who you were or what you were doing. My only concern would be security officers. AGU had always tried to keep the corporation cleaned up, but there was the matter of illegal immigrants, dissidents, and those who just couldn’t work for whatever reason. They all ended up in the slums.
Getting to the slums was a slight challenge. It’s not like people from the city mingle with Slummers and vice versa. I took the train as close as it would go to the slums and walked the rest of the way. While on the train, I wore my lite overcoat. I stuffed the coat in my duffle bag during my walk into the slums, revealing clothes I had tattered. I then mussed my hair and slouched.
It took a while, but I found a fairly empty alley. I started a fire in a barrel full of trash. There were a few Slummers covered in cardboard and other scroungings they could find to cover themselves in the cold drizzle of the night.
I slid down the wall behind the barrel and looked around to make sure there was no one wandering around. I didn’t want to just dump all of it in at once. It would make too much of a scene. I took a disk out. It read “Saving Private Ryan.” I tossed it in the fire of the barrel. The plastic crackled and hissed. Next, I pulled out my father’s journal and another disk that read “Lee Greenwood, Proud to be an American.” I tossed in the disk.
Flipping through my father’s journal I scanned some of the entries. It looked like my father started his collection purely out of academics. He wanted to see what history had to say about the U.S. Government before it had fallen. He liked the idea of a system with checks and balances in it. He played with ways to incorporate these checks and balances into his management. Apparently, it was successful.
Then there was an entry that stopped me. I am proud to be a citizen of the AppleGates Union. None of the other corporations treat their citizens with care and respect like the AGU. Having said that, I truly admire the Founding Fathers dream of Democracy. At its core, they wanted equal rights and protection for all citizens. It was a system that stood for hundreds of years before corruption finally failed it. When the corporations took over, I doubt they were looking out for the best interests of the citizens, but it’s all we have now. How long can a corporation stand before corruption takes it down, just like it did Democracy?
My father was right. If a system of Democracy could not last then how could one of the corporations? I had a change of heart at that point. Maybe my father was onto something, watching the corporations. Maybe he saw something coming the rest of us cannot.
“Hey! I’m talking to you!” I looked up to see two security officers standing over me. I was so wrapped up in my father’s journal I never saw them approach.
“What’s in the bag?” demanded one of the officers.
“Just some clothes.” I replied. This could get serious really fast.
“Looks like more than just clothes.” The officer jabbed his tactical baton at my dad’s journal.
“It’s just some book I found in the garbage.” I closed the journal and sat it behind the bag next to me.
“Let’s see the bag.” ordered the officer.
I should have known this was coming. Typical, security officers think they can do whatever they want to the Slummers and get away with it. They probably think there might be something of value in my bag. Unfortunately, they were right.
I slowly stood up and slid the bag over to the pair of security officers. One squatted down with his baton across his lap. The other remained standing, but his attention was on the contents of my bag.
The squatting officer was easily off balance. I had to be quick about this. They carried those batons and stunners. A hit from one of those batons would break even a femur. There’s no blocking it. If one of them gets a stunner out it would all be over.
“What in the hell is all this stuff?” asked the squatting officer.
That was my cue. I kicked him in the face. His head snapped backwards and he rolled away. The standing officer raised his baton above his head. I stepped into him and crossed my arm against his raised hand. Reaching behind his raised arm and grasping my hands together I yanked down hard and fast. The officer yelped as his shoulder popped from the socket and he crumpled backwards to the ground.
I removed his stunner and turned in time to see the officer I kicked stand up holding his broken nose. I aimed the stunner at the officer. Electricity arced to the officer’s chest. He spasmed flopping to the ground. Swinging the stunner around to the officer with the dislocated shoulder, I squeezed the trigger a second time. The officer twitched violently on the ground and stopped moving.
I checked both men, they were breathing and unconscious. I wiped off the stunner and tossed it back over to the officer I took it from. Looking around the alley, I saw Slummers watching from under their cardboard and blankets. I knew they wouldn’t say anything. I then grabbed up my bag and the journal and walked off.
With my father’s patriotic contraband back in the floor safe and my few secret belongings laying on top I sealed the safe door. The bottom shelf lowered back into place and I situated the sailing ship back in its spot.
Some tea sounded good. I stood and lumbered to the kitchen. Absent-mindedly I plopped a tea disc in a mug as the water boiled quickly on the stove. I thought how annoying it was to wait sixty seconds for water to boil. It should be almost instantaneous.
With hot tea in hand I stood in front of the rain-washed windows and took in the view of Seattle, the capitol city of the AppleGates Union. This city has stood the test of time by remaking itself over and over with each new innovation. Sure, it had an ugly scar where the Slummers lived, but what city didn’t?
My father’s words ran through my head again from his journal. How long can a corporation stand before corruption takes it down, just like it did Democracy? Was I looking at a dying city? How long before the underhanded deals and extravagant tastes of CEOs destroyed what has been built? People only survived the fall of government because the Corporations stepped in. Who would save us if the Corporations failed?
I sipped on my tea with new found gratitude for all that I had. I decided it was time I paid more attention to what went on around me with the Corporations. I needed to prepare for the possible eventuality that the AGU could fall. I’ll be damned if I’m going to fall with them.
Appox: 4000 words