Corporate Secret

Julio paused and stared at the sights before him. A forest full of giant trees replaced his neighborhood. Sunlight poured in from the treetops and illuminated a small clearing on the forest floor. A familiar young woman with short dark hair sat on a stump in the clearing. She smiled and waved at Julio. The mid-40s man in a business suit walked through the lush grass to the young woman.

“No,” he said with a firm tone. “Now send me back please, Leah.” She shrugged.

“I haven’t asked yet. You can’t say no until I ask.”  He looked around at the forest, then back at the woman.

“You couldn’t have asked on my Earth?” She shook her head, her dark hair bounced from side to side.

“Not enough privacy,” she stood from the stump and walked to him. “Ms. Sharp sees and hears everything there.” Julio sighed and gave the woman a faint eyeroll.

“See? I knew it was about her.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eyes. “N-O.” he spelled out his answer. “Can you send me back so I can get to work on time?” he asked.

“She’s not real!” Leah blurted out. That gave Julio pause. He cocked his head to the side and looked at her while he processed the new information.

“What do you mean she’s not real?” A faint smile flashed across the woman’s lips.

“Her body is made of nanos like AlterNet characters,” she explained with a growing grin. “She’s an NPC!” Julio stared at Leah for a moment, then slitted his eyes.

“You’re suggesting the Ms. Dana Sharp, the head of a multi-universe corporation, is a rogue NPC?” Leah nodded with sparkling, eager eyes.

“The Ms. Dana Sharp that’s your boss. It’s mind blowing, right? I need your help to prove it.”

“Leah,” Julio cast his eyes down at the woman. “I know you get distracted easily, but I already said no.” He shrugged and smirked at her. “Anyway, it’s not like I see her any more often than anyone else. She’s my…,” Julio gestured with air-quotes “…boss because she owns the company.” Leah shook her head.

“But that’s why stopped you before going to work,” she said. Her bottom lip pouted at the older man. “She’s visiting your factory today.” She pushed a playing-card-sized rectangle of glass into his hands.

“What? How do you know that?” He looked through the node at the woman. “What do I do with this?”

“You don’t have to do anything. Just keep this in your pocket and get within 200 feet of her.”

“And then??” he held the device up as if threatening to give it back if he didn’t like the answer.

“If she’s human, nothing will happen,” she poked it with her index finger. “Like right now.”

“And if she’s not?” Leah shrugged and bit her bottom lip.

“She’ll fall apart?


“Only a little bit!” she defended her self. “Just enough for everyone to see what she really is.” Julio sighed and pocketed the node.

“I’m gonna lose my job over this,” he said.

“No way. There’re too many people working, they’ll never narrow it down to just one.”

“You promise?” Leah gave him a thumbs up gesture.

“I promise. It won’t be traced back to you.”

“Fine. Now can I get to work?”

“Of course. I’ll even drop you off,” Leah lifted a hand in the air and wiggled her fingers. A vertical black portal appeared in front of Julio then it moved forward to swallow him. He found himself on the outskirts of the factory parking lot. “Good luck!” Leah’s voice came out of the black hole as it disappeared. He glanced at his watch.

“At least I’m not late,” he chuckled to himself and started the long walk across the parking lot. He started the morning full of nerves, but as the day wore on he felt more relaxed. Despite Leah’s tip, no one mentioned any visits from corporate all morning. By lunchtime, the plan slipped his mind entirely. He remembered the moment he saw a black portal open above the cafeteria stage.

“Uh oh,” a brief surge of panic flooded his mind. He hoped to be closer to the 200 foot maximum with the node instead of the 10-foot distance he sat from the stage. A pale young woman walked out of the black portal to approach the microphone.

“Ms. Sharp would like to say a few words,” she said with a mousey voice. Then she stepped to the side of the microphone. Julio felt horror in the pit of his stomach when the woman walked out of the portal. The workers gasped collectively at the sight. The figure resembled a swarm of insects trying to form the shape of a woman.

Upon hearing the gasp the figured lifted her arm to examine it. Tiny multi-colored balls flowed in the loose shape of a hand. The figure turned to enter the portal again.

“Melody,” she said. Her voice carried perfectly despite not having any lips. “Kill everyone.”

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