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Personal Space

July 6, 2012

“I want to know what the f*** happened.”

“Yes, sir.”

Roberts ignored his personal assistant as he left his office and watched the red line tick down another dime or so a share of IMGCO. His face, already flushed to some dark shade of scarlet, was moving into eggplant. The vein at his left temple throbbed and stuck out prominently like a cobra coiling up to strike anything that happened to stray too close. It was a sign the all of the VPs had come to recognize even before their CEO and president had started using the company’s products himself.

CNN’s Kyra Phillips was interviewing Sanjay Gupta about the emergency surgery. That was also on.

“…well, Kyra, it depends. Details are sketchy, so we don’t know if the Senator’s penis was completely severed or just severely damaged. We also don’t know…uh…the state it was in before this woman, Amanda Brown, attacked Senator Doughton so it’s ha–eh, difficult to speculate on what the surgery entails at this time.”

Roberts was pleased at least that for now, the penis was taking center stage and not ImagiCorp.

For now. The stock ticked down another dime. Still an hour of trading to go. Even with his enhanced persona, Roberts could not shut down Wall Street at will to maximize the company’s value. Not yet anyway.

His concern right now was tamping down on any inquiries about specific products and services. It was one thing to provide subliminal boosts to TVQ via sound over cable. That, many a politician had agreed was fair and Congress hadn’t bothered with subliminals since the 90s. It prevented shoplifting, and what’s wring with that?

But the other things ImagiCorp was providing its select clientele… The “Aura of Awe” (he had hated that name, not really catchy, but marketing said it tested well) would get anyone from a Hollywood producer to a three-star general the best seats at any restaurant–even without reservations–about 93% of the time. Occasionally, there’d be a “resister” at the maitre’d’s kiosk or someone else packing the same device and then it would be whoever the restaurant manager liked the best. It was no different than who had the best suit, was the flavor of the week, except Roberts was selling it so that week could last indefinitely but only of the client bought the other packages to stay on top.

Even that, “Aura of Awe” getting out, sold that way, Roberts could handle. Hell, if that were all that hit the news, it would probably boost sales and tick their stock upwards.

But the other things, the fixing, the specific requests. And the–Roberts had been sure to keep this as a one-time, periodic service, strictly controlled in terms of frequency so that it wouldn’t get noticed–“Primae Noctis.” Stealing another man’s wife, mistress, banging a movie star or supermodel, well if it happened too often for some rich fat f*** it would get noticed.

It wasn’t so much the moronic public, the Barney Fife’s of the world, no not even the dying breed of investigative reporters (more than one of whom had found their homes wrecked thanks to “Primae Noctis,” actually) but rather the competition. Once word got out about the gold mine that brainhacking was, there would be a glut of competitor start-ups, people stealing his tech, and therefore a loss in the huge profits they now enjoyed.

Which was why Roberts was so interested–no he was on a goddamned quest!–to find out why one of his best clients, Senator Stephen Doughton, was having his penis re-attached after his otherwise entirely obedient mistress bit it off. Was there a glitch that engineering had kept from him? Was there already some competitor looking to drag ImagiCorp through the mud and move into first place? What had happened?

Besides all that, Roberts had no intention of seeing himself injured in a similar way. Adding personal concern to business made it even more urgent, more pressing. Today was an awful day and he would be looking forward to taking it out on one of his mistresses without so much as a backwards glance in reply. He had reprogrammed two of them to enjoy the abuse but act as if they didn’t, a tricky business, in order to maximize his pleasure.

Fantasy. That was what ImagiCorp was selling and it needed to stay discrete and select in order to keep the demand up but only among the few who could afford it and otherwise make it seem plausible. In the hands of some redneck without any claim to fame, the products would be a red flag that something was up and that would generate the wrong kind of attention.

Then there was what R&D was up to. It wasn’t, as Laurence Olivier once said, enough to succeed. One had to also see one’s friends (enemies) fail. Enter “Pariah.” It essentially worked the same way as the positive image line but in reverse. Someone who had made the wrong kind of enemy would find they could not get the time of day from Mother Theresa. Merely gazing at the individual made one nauseous. Hearing them speak, others would infer the worst intentions, sometimes even mishear what was said. Those who had had the thing tested on them were usually driven insane or to suicide or both. One had decided he was the Second Coming before self-immolating near the Capitol. It was a whole new world and Roberts held the keys.

Had the Senator’s device somehow gotten the “Pariah” code into it? Even this, what happened to Doughton, was beyond what “Pariah” was supposed to do. It was supposed to be more subtle. What had happened?

His videophone rang and he clicked it on immediately. It was Fielding, his head of security.

“It’s modified ‘Pariah.'”

Fielding was always straight to the point. And effective. Roberts could see the engineers attempting to look busy in the background. Fielding had that effect on people.

“Find who and how.”

He clicked the vidphone off. He knew Fielding was already on it, but he liked confirming the obvious.

Roberts started planning it out in his head. No reason yet to involve ImagiCorp at all. They’d blame this on synthetic marijuana or whatever-the-hell new drug the kids were taking these days. Doughton would take his lumps for being unfaithful for a while but his wife would stick by his side and it would be business as usual as soon as Fielding plugged the leak and took care of the rest.

The vein stopped throbbing and Robert’s face returned to it’s normal orangey-tan. He stopped to consider which mistress to visit tonight. Maybe he would spend some time finding a new one.

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From → NKINTRA, Short Story

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