Side Effects May Include Superpowers

The CEO struggled to suppress his yawn as he listened to his Chief Financial Officer drone on.  Sure, the man was a wizard at making numbers jump through hoops – and vanish, when they weren’t exactly necessary to keep around – but good God, his presentation skills were terrible.

The CEO surreptitiously glanced down at his watch, a $45,000 Piaget for which he’d spent six months on a waiting list.  Either he paid all that money for a knockoff, or else the Financial Officer was literally making time itself slow down out of sheer boredom.

“Okay, well, it sounds like that’s going well,” he spoke up, slapping his hand on the conference table and cutting off the Financial Officer mid-sentence.  “Let’s hear from someone else, shall we?”

“Um, but sir, I still haven’t discussed our asset re-allocation balancing plan for third quarter-”

“Anyone, anyone,” the CEO boomed out, his eyes scrolling around and resting on everyone except the Financial Officer.  “Let’s get a fresh new report going…”

His eyes fell upon the Head of Research, a skinny little fellow who appeared to be doing his best to shrink back into his high-backed conference chair.  “Ah, Research!” he called out happily.  “You haven’t spoken up for a while, have you?”

“Um.”  The Head of Research cleared his throat, trying to straighten up.  He reached down to adjust his tie, but realized too late that he hadn’t picked one out that morning.  “I actually don’t need to supply a report for another two weeks-”

“Nonsense, nonsense.”  The CEO always liked to do a little bit of genial badgering.  He felt like it increased camaraderie.  Most of the books on the CEO’s bookshelf raved about the importance of increasing camaraderie.  “Let’s hear what you’re up to down in the labs.”

“How’s the development of that new anti-foot fungus drug, Marvella?” piped up the Head of Marketing, always eager to ingratiate himself with the CEO.  “Is that going to be our next big hit?”

“You mean, um, phenyl-sulfamaride,” the Head of Research said miserably.  Of course, they called on him when he had bad news.  Wasn’t that always the case?

He remembered two months ago, when he’d practically floated into the conference room, full of good news on how Allegria turned out to not be responsible for the nipple bleaching seen in the test subjects.  But no, the CEO barely let him cover the bullet points of his report before turning to the Director of Acquisitions for some nonsense about buying Bangladesh.  He didn’t even get to address the good news in person; he had to resort to email!

But as soon as he had bad news, all eyes were riveted to him.

“Yes, well, we’ve been observing some unusual side effects,” he said miserably, staring down at his notes.  “Of course, we’re working on re-tooling the formula to avoid these in the next-”

“What kind of side effects, man?” piped up the Director of Acquisitions now, always eager to hear about suffering (as long as it only bothered other people).

“Um.”  The Head of Research wondered if he could smash through one of the conference windows if he threw himself at it hard enough.  “Some of the usual ones – stroke, heart attack, a couple fatalities…” his voice trailed off, hoping no one would keep listening, “…superpowers.”

“Hold on, there, Research,” the CEO jumped in.  “Did you say superpowers?”

They’d caught it.  “Only in a couple cases!” the Head of Research insisted, as if this could defend the observation.  “And it’s nothing major.  Some walking through walls, a couple people with psychic powers, one guy who shoots lasers out of his hands-”

“Wow, superpowers,” the CEO mused, totally interrupting the man he’d been pretending to listen to.  “Marketing, can we do something with that?”

The Head of Marketing, now that the Head of Research didn’t appear to be squirming as much as he’d hoped, had tuned out of the conversation, instead daydreaming about his busty secretary.  “Er, what?” he said belatedly as he heard his name called.

“Superpowers, man!” the Director of Acquisitions echoed the CEO, jumping in on the badgering.  “We could sell that, couldn’t we?”

“I, er, I suppose there could be some, uh, military purposes,” the Head of Marketing rambled, his mind still filled with thoughts of tempting pink curves.

The CEO snapped his fingers.  “That sounds like a good opportunity.  Research, Marketing, you two set up a power lunch to discuss this further.”  The books on the CEO’s bookshelf that didn’t mention camaraderie instead talked about the myriad advantages of power lunches.

The Head of Research looked miserably across the table at the Head of Marketing, who rolled his eyes.  The Head of Research already knew that they’d end up eating at some crazy sushi bar where the waiters brought out live shrimp.  That was the kind of place that the Head of Marketing always chose.

The CEO took another look at his watch, this time making the gesture obvious in hopes that someone would comment on it, so he could inform them of how much it had cost.  “Well, I guess that’s about all the time we have,” he finally admitted in an annoyed tone, when no one did so.  “Let’s reconvene next week, and we’ll dig into this superpower drug-”

“-foot fungus drug-” the Head of Research mumbled hopelessly into his beard.

“-and come up with some new ways to conquer the market,” the CEO finished, not about to let anything as mundane as false facts get in the way of a proud speech.  “Now, I’m off to the Executive Lunchroom.”  He could feel his stomach grumbling; it had been almost two hours since his last meal.

On the way out of the boardroom, the Director of Acquisitions elbowed the Financial Officer in the ribs.  “Hey, you get a load of Marketing’s new secretary?” he whispered in a conspiratorial tone.  “She’s a tamale, isn’t she?”

The Financial Officer blinked owlishly.  “Um, a good W2,” he murmured vacantly.  “No dependents.”

“I’d like to change that,” the Director of Acquisitions grinned, with a wink that would get him thrown in jail in most countries.

The Financial Officer didn’t understand what closing one eye meant, but he nodded and smiled politely, already thinking about how he could devote more of the company’s recent profits to bonds to shore up their asset allocation for the next fiscal quarter.

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