Flash Fiction: Board Room

This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge — is a repeat, because for the life of me, I can’t see where Chuck Wendig posted a blog entry or tweet with any mention of a contest this week. Okay, so the man’s entitled to take a week off. But I’m on a writing “mission from god”, so I picked a previous Challenge (this one from late April) and rolled the hypothetical, fifty-sided dice to get a 46, which gives me the character of  “the brutal businessperson.”

It turned out a little bit preachy, which I blame on flipping by “The Devil’s Advocate” on cable earlier today. This story was an interesting, dialogue-based scene to write as an exercise. As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.

BOARD ROOM

“I have to recommend against building this project,” Carson said. “The possible consequences could be catastrophic.”

There was silence in the board room as all eyes turned to the end of the table. The CEO did not appear to be bothered by the comment, but everyone knew that looks could be deceiving.

“What consequences, Carson? Every relevant department has concluded that this will be an enormously profitable venture.”

“I have no doubt that it will make money, sir. But I would bring your attention again to the report from our environmental consultant.”

The Chief Legal Officer turned his head slightly, not looking directly at Carson, turning only the minimal amount necessary to acknowledge his existence. “The EPA has already signed off on this project, Carson. You should know that.”

“Jason, I’m aware that the EPA has given the green light to this project. I’m also aware of how that approval was obtained, as is everyone else in this room.”

“Would you care to be more clear, Carson? I believe we’ve only followed our standard operating procedures.”

“I’m referring to the way the EPA was given only select parts of a highly edited report from our consultants, while both EPA personnel and our consultants were paid handsomely to ignore the discrepancies between the early versions and the final submission.”

“Is there any truth to that accusation, Jason?” asked the CEO.

“Sir, the EPA approved our final petition based on the information given to them by our consultants. The consultants were well paid by us. The information that was given to the EPA by our consultants and their testimony under oath at the EPA hearings were completely out of our control. If some of the senior EPA staff who recommended approval have careers with our consultant’s firm after they complete their careers at the EPA, that would not be unusual, nor would it be anything that we have any say in. It’s all completely legal and a normal state of affairs, as you know.”

“I understand, Jason. Christine, would you please remind Carson of the predicted financial return on this project?”

The CFO didn’t even need to look at her notes. “We estimate a minimum annual ROI of 25% beginning two years after construction, increasing to 40% or more by year ten. Our projected annual net profits over the first ten years are over one trillion dollars.”

The CEO turned back to Carson. “If we’re going to make that kind of return and nothing illegal is being done, what objections can you still have about this project?”

“Sir, the original environmental assessment, before Jason and his staff had it changed, warned that the drilling operations, refining facilities, and pipeline construction could have serious environmental side effects, particularly in terms of damage and accelerated melting of the permafrost across a region of hundreds of thousands of square miles.”

“Which is why we made engineering changes to allow for any civil engineering issues that might arise, which in turn led to changes in the final environmental report. The chances of an oil spill are infinitesimal.”

“Yes, sir, the odds of an oil spill are no more than one in fifty for any given year, and our engineering plan does allow for structural integrity of our facilities even in the event of changes in the permafrost. But that’s not the problem. There is a high probability that our facilities could cause massive melting of the permafrost, which will release trillions of tons of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The environmental damage of a major oil spill is nothing compared to that. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s even more dangerous than carbon dioxide in its effect on climate change. Melting of the permafrost at an accelerated rate like this could result in an accelerated rate of global temperature increase that will be impossible to reverse.”

The CEO’s stare had gotten steadily more intense as Carson had continued to speak. “I’m disappointed by your sudden passion for this fear-mongering and nonsense from the liberal press, Carson. This company’s position of so-called ‘global warming’ is quite clear, as are the multiple studies we have funded proving it false.”

“Sir, you and this board have surrounded yourselves with sycophants and yes-men who have told you whatever you wanted to hear for decades. The truth is that proceeding with this project will likely bring catastrophic climate change, not in two hundred years or a hundred years, but in as little as fifteen or twenty years. In your lifetime, the entire world economy will collapse as a billion or more people become homeless and start to starve. There will be wars, there will be famine, there could be the end of our civilization as we know it. You will not be earning hundreds of billions a dollars a year when the world collapses into chaos.”

The ticking of the clock on the fireplace mantle in the conference room was the only sound for long seconds.

“You are dismissed,” the CEO finally said.

“Sir, the facts will not change just because you choose not to believe them.”

“Carson, you may leave voluntarily or you may be removed from this meeting. I will speak with you privately later.”

“I’ll leave, but this needs to be said now and said to all of you. This project will be the tipping point that pushes the entire planet over into a runaway greenhouse. You personally are taking actions that will destroy five thousand years of human civilization. I hope that you all live to see the day you realize what you’ve done, and remember you had the power to stop it, but chose not to. As for you, sir, I hope you will live to see how the lives of your family, of your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are destroyed by your actions.” Carson turned on his heel and left the meeting room, cold silence a wall behind him.

Everyone waited for the CEO to proceed. After a moment of staring absently down at the documents on the desk in front of him, he raised his head and looked around the room.

“I apologize for my son’s unreasonable outburst. Now, let’s proceed. When do we begin construction?”

1 Comment

Filed under Disasters, Freakin' Idiots!, Moral Outrage, Politics, Writing

One response to “Flash Fiction: Board Room

  1. Ronnie

    I liked it

    Like

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