Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Hot and Cold (04/09/09)
TITLE: Brilliant Plan, Mr. Domingo
By Jan Ackerson
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“Mr. Domingo? Mr. Domingo, did you hear what I said?” His vice president pointed to a slide projected against one wall. “I was saying, sir, that making a profit on Choo-Choo Brew was like taking candy from a baby.” The V-P indicated an upward trend on the line graph, clearly expecting some words of praise.
He waited while Domingo pressed his fingertips together, motionless—except for his eyes, which followed Miss Honeywell’s orbit of the boardroom. Finally, he spoke. The men around the table leaned forward; Domingo was aging, and his voice tended to a quavering raspiness.
“Choo-Choo Brew was one of my finest ideas. A kiddie drink that resembles beer! As you’ve shown, Anderson, the kids get accustomed to drinking something that looks like beer, and they naturally gravitate to real beer as they get older. Are sales for our brewery up, too?”
Anderson flipped nervously through the annual report. “Yes, sir—by 132 percent. Marketing thinks the similarity between the products has helped the sales of both.”
“All right, then, here’s the plan. I want to develop a line of cigarettes for pre-teens. Get R and D on this—find some substance that’s perfectly legal, and tell marketing to push it as a fun and healthy pastime. We’ll call them Kwik Stix. And I want another team developing video games that simulate gambling, only I want to use cartoon characters. Can we get Elmo? Mickey Mouse?”
At the end of the table, the corporation’s lawyer looked up, startled, and shook his head.
“Well, put a team on it. Something cute and cuddly. And Anderson? I like what you said about taking candy from a baby. Get on that right away—some kind of candy product that mothers will think is great for their toddlers. Use our shadow corporation. Then in a year or so, take it away from them…make sure we get all the good PR for discovering how bad it is. Got that?”
Anderson gestured at the group. “I think I speak for all of us when I say these are brilliant plans, Mr. Domingo.” A dozen heads nodded. Miss Honeywell started to clear away the cups.
“Wait a minute, I’m not done.” Domingo patted Miss Honeywell’s bottom. “Go powder your nose, sweetheart, you’re not needed.” He watched as she retreated, then turned back to his men. “Boys, the doc says my liver’s shot—I’ve only got a few months left. I’ve had the best doctors in the country working on it, and here’s what I’m going to do. Sometime soon, I’m going to freeze myself—they call it cryogenic suspension. Going to set the timer for a hundred years, and wait for them to come up with a cure. I’m leaving the company up to you—I’ll be keeping my fifty-one percent share, and I expect a healthy profit when I wake up and they make my liver good as new. Anderson, you’re in charge. I expect you to be true to my motto: Grieve ‘Em, Deceive ‘Em, Relieve ‘Em of Their Cash.”
“Y-yes sir”, said Anderson. All around the table, the men nervously avoided making eye contact as little gears whirred in their brains.
Six weeks later, Jasper Domingo settled himself into a sparkling new CryoTank. “Hey docs, turn down the heat!” he joked, as a white-jacketed technician injected a sedative into his veins.
Domingo shivered as consciousness gradually returned. Cold…cold…my head aches, what did I drink last night?...liver damage…doctors...a hundred years…where’s that blasted button I’m supposed to push?...right hand…there it is…hope they’ve got that magic pill…wonder how much I’m worth now…
He pressed the button and the lid popped open. Immediately he squinted; the light was bright and reddish, and a strong smell of—what?—was in the air. Strange hospital.
Someone laughed. Jasper struggled up to one elbow and turned a stiff neck toward the sound…and then he gasped.
“Not what you expected, huh? Well, I’m a big fan of wicked irony, and after all, eternity minus one hundred years is still eternity, isn’t it? I’ve enjoyed every second of the wait. Brilliant plan…sucker.”
And the next sound Jasper heard, while flames nipped at his toes, was the hiss of rising steam as his CryoTank slipped into a pool of molten sulphur.
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