Friday flash fiction – Hostile Acquisition

Miles Lorimer, whose inestimable wealth was often described as orders of magnitude above ‘loaded’, was unaccustomed to feeling nervous, let alone downright jittery. As his patient secretary Ms Cry tapped notes into her tablet with nails falling like hail on a tin roof, Lorimer stalked about the exquisitely expensive board room. First clockwise, then back. He studied the faces of the men and woman seated around the gleaming hardwood table, as if suspicious that one of them must be holding back useful information.

“Alan,” he said at last, “how bad is it?”

The collective executive let out a gust of held breaths as the Vice President of Security stood up. He flicked his tab display to the wall screen. An infographic with an uncomfortable number of red highlights appeared.

“As you’re all aware, over the past twelve hours, security reports have been coming in from across our global holdings at a rate our analysts deem to be highly suspicious.” Security flicked through several summary pages. “Reports include staff not clocking on for work or not returning from lunch breaks, physical intrusions at the Oslo and Lagos offices, and … well, the big one.”

“Rio de Janeiro,” muttered Lorimer.

“We’ve had no word for over four hours. The office systems have disconnected from the corporate network, all telecommunications have failed, including emergency landlines, and the hardened security node – essentially the duty officer’s black box – hasn’t responded to remote queries.”

“What happened when we contacted the off-shift staff?”

“Getting in touch took some time. Calls went to voicemail, emails bounced. We couldn’t raise them at all until we hired couriers to hand-deliver a wake-up call to the off-duty Security Chief. He assembled a backup crew and went onsite to investigate. He sent us this footage forty minutes ago.”

He ran the video with the air of a funeral director. Shaky phone camera footage showed a group of uniformed men milling in confusion beside a van with the company logo, arguing urgently in Portuguese. One of them, Rio’s Security Chief Ernesto Almeida, approached the camera, took it, and turned it toward one side of the street. The image focused on the space between two large office buildings. The lot was completely vacant, with a neat square hole five stories deep.

“That,” said the VP, “is the headquarters of our Brazilian division. Or it was. Thirty floors, not counting basement levels, completely gone.”

Lorimer placed his palms on the cool table top and rose to his feet. “Was this an accident?” he asked in a low voice. “Or was it an attack?”

The Chief of Operations shook his head. “Our portal generators have failsafes on their failsafes. Rio never registered so much as a blown fuse. It’s a mathematical impossibility that they experienced an undetectable catastrophic systems failure.”

“Of course it was an attack. Overzone Multiversal is a key strategic asset.”

All eyes turned toward the Vice President, Interdimensional Relations. She was an unassuming woman of indeterminate age and ethnicity. Lorimer tried in vain to recall her name, or when exactly she’d joined the corporation. Flora? Flossie? “Strategic asset? What are you talking -”

“Excuse me, Mister Lorimer,” interrupted Ms Cry in an uncharacteristically sharp tone, “but share trading in Overzone Multiversal has just been suspended in all open markets.”

“What? Why?”

Ms Cry scowled, looking affronted on the company’s behalf. “Pending the outcome of a leveraged buyout.”

The Finance Vice President went pale and started stabbing a phone screen. His assistant helpfully passed him a tablet open to a stock market livestream and a clean silk cloth to mop his brow.

“If you’ll just relax,” said Interdimensional Relations, “I’ll lay it out for you. We all know Overzone’s proprietary multidimensional portal technology represents the pinnacle in exotic tourist transit systems. Millions of travellers cruising instantaneously to thousands of attractions across this and several neighbouring universes – well, it’s been an economic boon, both here and in the sightseeing destinations.”

As she spoke, Interdimensional Relations seemed to become less solid. Fuzzier at the edges.

“But it’s also an extraordinarily effective weapon, if you happen to need, for example, to deploy infantry battalions or air control assets or assassin commandos into precise and very remote locations. Any competent military strategist would take steps to secure such a useful resource as early as possible.”

The Vice President of Interdimensional Relations was gone, replaced by a fuzzy white rabbit with ice-blue eyes who reared on her hind legs and twitched her ears. “Call me Flopknot,” she said. “Consider this formal notice: I’m executing the seizure of Overzone Multiversal’s corporate holdings on behalf of the Gleaming Principalities. Miles, I’m afraid you’re being co-opted into the war effort.”

Lorimer reeled, quite sure he had never intentionally recruited a talking animal. “W-war?”

“You bet your butt,” said the Finance VP’s assistant. He was now a bespectacled brown-faced angora. “The Nonemyr want to destroy all sentient life. Including you, by the way.”

IT technician hovering at the back of the room became a sleek, gunmetal grey rabbit. “Which brings us to your immediate problem,” he said, flexing his shoulders and dancing like a prize-fighter. “We didn’t hit Rio. She did.”

They all turned to follow his paw pointing at Ms Cry.

Lorimer’s secretary seemed about to deny the accusation. Then she grew ten feet tall and pale orange, sprouting sabre-length claws and a long, barbed tongue.

“Jackpot!” yelled the grey, Cloudpuff, as he charged along the table at the sudden monster.

“This way, ladies and gentlemen,” suggested the angora, Mellowgrass, holding the door open for the panicking executives.

Miles Lorimer fell back into his chair as his demonic secretary traded vicious martial arts blows with the grey rabbit.

Flopknot perched in the chair beside him. “Sorry for the late notice, Miles. We had to move quickly when the Nonemyr started destroying Overzone assets. They know we can’t reach Dimension None without Overzone portals.”

“Dimension None?” Miles gulped. “There’s no such place.”

“Exactly,” said Flopknot. “That’s why we’re going there.”

The so-called Mafia Bunnies make their long-awaited return, as things heat up for the Gleaming Principalities. Canny observers will quite likely guess where I am going with all this nonsense. It wasn’t intended to be a serial until I decided that  was aiming to draw a line with the 100th weekly flash fiction story (coming up in June). Now that I have a deadline of sorts, I find myself shuffling pieces into place.

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