The Five Step Plan to Surviving a Merger

My entry for the Writers & Artist’s Yearbook 2010 Short Story competition.  No joy this time round – my submission was a world away from the winning entry (in terms of theme and feel).  I based this on ideas that I’ve been playing with some time about how the viciousness of corporate culture is only just a heartbeat away from physical violence.  I then tied that in with the banks getting bailed out and how, even though they’d been through this terrible situation and only been saved by the sacrifice of others, they haven’t changed a thing at all.

The Five Step Plan to Surviving a Merger

From the executive office of SGB Enterprises, Gloster had a commanding view of the City sprawling out below him – the Gherkin, Canada Square and beyond, a flawless, April sky. But it was the single, mocking grey hair he’d caught in his own reflection that held his gaze. His first grey hair. Gloster had fought, bargained and double crossed his way up the corporate ladder – sealing deals, getting head hunted, squashing – no, obliterating the competition. He’d made his first million by 21 along with a name for himself. Literally, the financial blogs called him the Temple Bar Terror. But a grey hair – well he just wasn’t ready for that. His father had had grey hairs.

The piercing chirp of his desk phone dragged him back to reality. He lifted the handset, instantly recognising the faint, digital buzz of an encrypted line. Then came a voice he recognised, Fred McLeish.

“Sam, how you doing?”

It was no longer enough to be good at what you did or even to just have a decent product or service, if you were to survive you had to be uncompromising. Unrelenting. Vicious.

“Good, fine. Needing caffeine. You?”

“I’ll not hang about Sam” said the older man, his voice reeking of cigars and brandy. “This is a friendly heads up. SGB is about to be merged with VentureCorp.”

A merger. Not the friendly joining of minds, combining of logos, sharing of wealth and resources it had once meant. In this modern age, it meant ruthless absorption and elimination. A larger entity consuming the smaller, assuming anything of value – data, hardware, customers and liquidating the rest. Staff included.

“What? When did this happen?”

“A few minutes ago. They made an offer straight to the board, got a majority approval.

“A majority? So you voted for it?”

“What can I say,” McLeish replied. “They made a good offer. Look I didn’t need to make this call, I could’ve just left you to find out for yourself.”

“Well fuck you very much” spat Gloster and slammed down the handset before picking it straight back up again and punching the number for the security detail.

“Fitzpatrick” grunted the ex-commando who led the team, sitting on constant alert in their barracks down on the ground floor.

“It’s Gloster – we’ve got a situation here. There’s a VentureCorp acquisition team on their way, be ready to stop them.”

“Oh you mean the one that just went past sir?” asked Fitzpatrick casually and Glover felt the pit of his stomach fall away. “You see sir – I own a, not insignificant, number of shares in Venturecorp and well, a merger like this certainly isn’t going to hurt the share price. But do let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help you through this… period of transition” he finished. The line went dead.

Gloster’s heart was rattling. They were already in the building. Probably in the first elevator by now so that gave him just under ten minutes to prepare. He felt underneath his desk, pulling free the envelope that had been taped there. He’d been on the giving end of this process enough times to know you had to prepared if you wanted any hope of survival but had never honestly believed the corporate bloodhounds would ever come snarling at his own door. He tore the envelope open and emptied its contents onto the desk before him – a letter, a flash drive and small key. The letter, written by a younger, far cockier version of himself, detailed The Five Step Plan to Surviving a Merger.

He pushed the tiny flash drive into the slot on the front of his machine and a moment later a small window popped up on his display. “OmegaProtocol.exe processing…” it said, accompanied by a slowly filling progress bar. A simple enough appearance but he knew that behind the scenes a complex algorithm was busy encrypting and moving all files of any value from the network to the flash drive and then corrupting anything left behind.

A chaotic wave of shouting and clattering keyboards consumed him as he went through to the main office where thirty or so young employees were beginning to panic as one by one their machines blue-screened and then died.

Gloster gave a shrill finger whistle and silence descended upon the long room as every pair of eyes fell upon him.

“Right listen up – I’ve just been informed that our board have accepted an offer to merge with VentureCorp.”

The commotion restarted, louder this time and almost entirely focused upon him.

“Look you all know what this means.” At this point he stood up on a chair. He was a general addressing his troops before the bloody maelstrom of battle. He saw fear in all their eyes and needed to harness it. “But I have a plan of action for this scenario and if any one of you want to get through this then you need to do exactly as I say. The men – I want you to start lifting desks and barricade the doors. The girls – you need to start gathering anything and everything that can be thrown or used as a weapon. I’m talking mugs, kettles, cutlery, telephones. You can unscrew table legs to make good sized clubs. Use your imaginations. Go. Go now.”

Before long the doors were blocked and they had even started turning over a second row of tables to provide cover. Behind that a small pile of weapons was accumulating as accountants and administrators yanked out keyboards and mice, smashed monitors to get shards of glass. One petite woman, Ruth, who barely ever spoke or made eye contact with anyone had managed to affix a bread knife from the kitchen to the top of the coat stand as a dangerously effective looking lance and was now in the process of gathering up aerosol cans from the stationary cupboard and lighters from coat pockets to make flamethrowers. Before long Gloster decided it was time to dig in. He ordered them to stop working and arm themselves then pointed out different defensive locations to occupy. Then in the tense silence, from the corridor outside, the lift gave a gentle ping as it opened on their level.

“Good luck everyone” said Gloster, slowly stepping back towards to his office, watching as his workforce stood with hunched shoulders, clenched fists, wide eyes. Then the double doors that led into their office gave the first thump, banging against the stockade of desks on the other side. Then a second heavy thump and another. And then a pause long enough for imaginations to start wondering if their attackers had maybe given up already, a thought quickly obliterated by a throat parching boom as tactical explosives turned the doors into splinters, throwing the blockade aside. A torrent of men garbed in black, armoured suits came pouring in. Their faces masked like phantoms, shoulders bearing the logo of VentureCorp, precisely stitched as if they were promotional polo shirts. The Corporate Acquisition Team. A shower of mugs and plates and stationary pelted them but did little to slow their advance, fanning out into the room. With a series of clicks, the men flicked out their batons and began swiping at skulls and limbs.

A young data analyst managed to block one attack with his table leg club only to be caught off guard as a well placed boot crumpled his leg and his assailant raised their baton high before bringing it down into the young man’s face, turning it into a crimson streak of exposed bone. Gloster’s innards screwed into a painful knot.

Ironically at the tender age of 17 he’d considered joining the army, perhaps becoming an officer, but the desire to avoid violence had swayed him towards the business world. Of course no one had known it would end up like this. The hippies were to blame – if your profitable, established business could be toppled overnight by some new website set up by a couple of undergraduates in their rented bedsit then suddenly the stakes were raised. It was no longer enough to be good at what you did or even to just have a decent product or service, if you were to survive you had to be uncompromising. Unrelenting. Vicious. You followed that road for long enough, this is where you ended up. Morals and ethics became stumbling blocks.

The previously quiet Ruth, now transformed into a howling banshee unleashed her first flamethrower against an advancing CAT officer, sending the man screaming in flaming terror. The fire alarm and sprinklers went off. Next she lifted her makeshift lance only to be brought down painfully by the two pronged wires of a taser gun from behind.

When it had been the banks’ turn to bail out the government, a multitude of regulations and policies had magically slipped their way into, or out of, law. This little melee of violence and bloodshed was completely legal. No police would arrive, no lawyers would be needed. There was just one caveat that the politicians had managed to remain steadfast on – no guns, no blades. Hence why none of the VentureCorp invaders slung M17s or 12 gauges under their arms.

Gloster had managed to stumble his way back into his office and to his desk – the progress bar was just over 75%, not long to go. The body of one the interns that had only started at the beginning of the week thumped against the glass wall of his office leaving behind a large, pinkish spider web.

80% One of the CAT officers screamed in agony as Clive the IT manager smashed a computer base unit into the man’s knee and then upwards into his chin. Gloster remembered interviewing Clive, his passion was croquet.

85% The wailing of the fire alarm had finally ceased but the sprinklers and the screams continued. The SGB workforce had fought admirably but there was a only handful of them left still able to walk now and they were being carefully herded into a corner for one final onslaught. 90%. 95%. Gloster licked his parched lips, tasting the tangy cocktail of the sweat on his lips and the blood in the air. 100% The screen went black and the computer’s fan whirred to a stop.

He snatched the flash drive, popped it into his shirt pocket and crossed to the far corner of the room. Next to where window met wall there was a small, anonymous keyhole in the wall. He inserted his key and turned it. With a click, a rectangular section of the wall slid inwards and then away, revealing a small compartment. Inside there was a parachute, which he carefully strapped on, and a heavy, industrial lever. From behind him there was a gargled wail and he turned to see his last employee slump to their knees. It was then that the CAT officers finally noticed him, his staff having provided exactly enough of a distraction.

“Oi!” shouted one of the men in black and as one they began to sprint towards his office.

Calmly, Gloster yanked down the secret lever and the glass window wall before him slid open, exposing the cool, high air outside. He gave the approaching CAT officers a little wave and then stepped out of his emergency exit.

The building behind him became a vertical blur till, with a firm yank, he deployed the parachute and slowed to a comfortable descent, allowing him to appreciate this pleasant, spring day. He could probably still make something of it, maybe even get started on his new company. After all, he had all the data he needed, resting securely in his pocket, he’d salvaged all that had actually mattered, leaving VentureCorp empty handed. Damn he was good. As the rising wind ruffled through his hair there was just one final thought that nagged at him. That bloody grey hair.

Title image courtesy artistica2004

Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 5:00 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Interesting, and very well done.

    That’s quite an M&A strategy. I like the inspiration, and the way it was told. Especially the little touch with the grey hairs.

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