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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Wednesday, 15 December 2010 04:28

The Smelting Room

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Larson bounced on his toes, loosening up. Cracking his knuckles, he adjusted his neck- tie then grabbed the ends of his shirt cuffs, pulling them down.

“You look fine.” Grouse said. “Quit bouncing or you’ll start sweating.”

He bounced once more, then rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, wingtips creaking.

“Nervous?” Grouse asked.

“No. Just ready to get it over with.”

“As soon as Harris gets off the phone with his wife in there, you’re up.” Grouse reached out and straightened Larson’s lapels. “Harris is going to try and stall. You know this.” Grouse grabbed Larson’s chin, made him look right at him. “You know this. It’s all a game. Do not screw this up.”

“Got it. He’s going to stall. Just a game. No screw ups.”

Grouse looked down the hall, saw the signal. “You’re up. Now get in there and close this deal down.”

Larson walked into the room. Though he was in the conference room, there was no conference table, or chairs. Corporations stopped using the board meeting set up years ago. Most mergers were so fast now there wasn’t time to sit down. Guys like Kenny Larson could go in, close the deal, seal the contract, and get back to the office for debriefing in less than five minutes.

The corporations worked out the detail by email five days before. Larson did not even know the name of the company. That didn’t matter. Neither man ever met each other before Larson walked into the door. Grouse suspected the other corporation was trying to stall, make a play for bigger bucks, but it was too late for that. As long as Larson didn’t make a mistake, Harris would have to fulfill the contract.

Harris sat cross-legged on the floor, looking at a small photograph. His tie was loose around his neck, his brown hair hanging in his face. This was supposed to make Larson sympathetic to Harris’s pleas.

“We need to wait on this,” Harris said.

“The deal has been made. Time’s up.”

Harris flung the photo over by Larson. “That’s my little girl. She doesn’t know.”

Larson picked up the photo and tore it in half. “What’s her name?”

“Forrest. Forrest Harris.”

“How old?”

“Six.”

“It’s her mother’s responsibility to tell her, not yours.”

Harris ran his fingers through his hair. “She’s got this play, at school.” He started crying. “She’s going to be the Fairy God Mother.”

Larson kneeled by Harris. “Lies.”

“No. The truth.”

Larson reached out to touch Harris. Harris pushed his hand away, scuttling backwards against the wall. “You’ll know it’s true.”

“How?”

“Trust me, you’ll know.”

Larson grabbed Harris by the arm. “I don’t trust anyone. Time’s up.” He touched Harris on the head.

Harris managed to push him away again.

“Why are you fighting this?” Larson asked. “It’s totally painless.”

“How would I know. I’ve never done this before.”

“You’ve never merged?” Larson touched Harris on the head again, this time feeling the pressure in his fingers. It was beginning. Larson shut his eyes, imagining his mind opening up like a giant warehouse, and all of Harris’s corporate information flowing inside. He let the pressure build in his fingers, opening all the filing cabinets in his mind, reading the info dump into the proper folders.

Two companies become one.

Finally, the pressure as high as he could get it, Larson removed his hand from Harris’s head. Larson watched as Harris’s hair lifted from his head. He always found that part fascinating. An arc of light flashed between his hand and Harris’ head. The arc grew very bright, then flashed into Larson’s hand. The rush of light and noise nearly rocked him off his feet. Neurons filled with chemical code, now packets of information instantly turned to living energy.

The whole transfer lasted twenty-eight seconds, ending in an image of a blank wall that burned into his mind. The stench of ozone hung in the air. He stood and looked at the body slumped on the floor. As soon as he walked out the door, two men would enter the conference room and clean up the mess.

This wasn’t so much a merger as it was a hostile takeover. Usually, that was the case.

He walked out of the conference room. Grouse patted him on the shoulder in the hallway. “Ready?”

“Sure.”

He sat across from Grouse in the limo, finding a bottle of water in the small refrigerator. Hitting one button on his cell phone, Grouse placed a call to his superior. “We got it.”

After talking for a few minutes, Grouse hung up the phone and smiled. “How long do you think it’ll take to debrief?”

“I’m not sure.”

“An hour, two?”

He shrugged.

“You okay? You seem kind of, out of it.”

Harris smiled. “Are you going to attend my daughter’s play tonight?”

“What are you talking about?”

He touched the leather of the seats, slapped it gently. “This is much nicer than the limo in Chicago.” Harris looked at Grouse, who was staring at him. “What?” he said. “Oh, you didn’t know.”

Grouse shook his head. “Know what?”

“I guess your new boss will debrief you when we get back.”

“New boss?” Grouse shook his head, said “New boss,” again under his breath. His eyes went wide when he realized what happened. All through Grouse’s screaming and yelling, pounding his fists, Harris maintained his smile.

Forrest was going to make the most beautiful fairy godmother in the whole world.




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Bob Pastorella

Bob Pastorella lives in Southeast Texas. He's published with Outsider Writers Collective, Nefarious Muse, Troubadour 21 and his short story "To Watch Is Madness" is featured in The Zombist: Undead Western Tales Anthology. Bob is currently working on a vampire-noir novel. You can visit Bob at his blog, www.bobpastorella.com.

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