Thursday, August 26, 2010

Corporate Training

A response to Heather Hansen's "Tell the Story" in Flashy Fiction.

Robber barons with their tick-tock men, more of them then Constance had ever seen in a single place, sat in the galley with furled velvet curtains over the gold filigreed supports of the airship. Constance stood on a teak podium before a paper drum display whose gear she engaged to slide the paper to the introductory information with her name emblazoned in scarlet letters. She felt sorry for the tick-tock men, the idiot barons had been warned; yet, a little of the disgust settled on herself and her throat felt thick.

"Welcome to Lady Minerva's teamwork challenge training. We thank you for your support and without further ado I will begin the training. Imagine you're in an airship."

The robber barons laughed at her words. It wasn't so difficult to imagine when you felt the airship's turbulence. Not too bad, once you got used to it.

"Your ship is about to crash."

The airship rocked and left the room pitched at a slight angle.

"There is one lifeship that can hold six men." Constance, looking at the robber barons's bulged waistcoats, wondered if the ship would even hold six. "You must work as a team to escape."

A mustached man, James William III, asked, "What about our men?"

The airship's support snapped and the room tipped to crash the robber barons across the floors, sliding them into the gold filigreed walls. A baron yanked at the red velvet curtains to tear it from the golden rings as he yelled at his tick-tock man, the gears turning as the tick-tock's limbs swung with that stop-go motion. Constance, braced against the podium, had managed to avoid falling. Her role was over, but in wonder she watched the robber barons like a boy watching ants swarm around a hill that he just kicked.

James William III crawled from the belly of the airship onto the deck. The other robber barons followed him in his wake. She waited until they had safely left the room and then she climbed to a perch beneath the airship's balloon. The ship shook, it wouldn't last long.

James Williams III turned with his tick-tock man beside him. "No," he shouted. "My man comes with me."

Constance's breath was cold in her throat. The weight of them would be too much forcing the escape ship to sink under their weight. They wouldn't survive. Where was this teamwork that her boss had told her they would find. The torn leather of the sail felt rough in her hands. Constance ran across the bucking deck.

"The ships only safe for six. Leave the tick-tock men."

James William III elbowed one of the robber barons trying to squeeze past him onto the ship and the man flailed into the air falling. No, thought Constance. This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. James and one of the other robber barons boarded the ship allowing four of the tick-tock men to join him. Why take the other men's tick-tock men without taking the owners? Constance's heart beat like the fluttering of the torn sail in the wind as the lifeship descended out of sight. The remaining robber barons turned to her. A sickness in their eyes and she backed away from them. The way they moved, desperate men. She ran back to the edge of the airship where the wings of her glider lie and she pulled at it as the robber barons closed on her. They tore at her wings, the wind whistling in their hair.


  1. Ohh... hmm. And how does it end? I liked this, the collision of Steampunk and corporate team training. (As a corporate drone, I've been through a few of those team-building excercises. They usually don't end in imminent death or crashing airships.)

  2. @StephenW Don't you think you would learn more if imminent death was involved? Sorry to say, unless the muse strikes, I think this one isn't a very happy ending.

  3. I also got the corporate training exercise feeling, and then I realized that it was real. I wonder what those who survived learned from this all... I'm thinking nothing.

  4. @TS, this is one of those where the cynical part of me agrees that they didn't learn anything, but the more naive side wants to follow them down and show how selfishness doesn't gain in the long run.