A merger of unequals

Jess sat in her office looking out at her team, wondering what they were all thinking as she swiped through an “integration plan” someone had paid a couple of million for. It all looked so simple on the screen. This was just putting the nuts and bolts together though. People was always another matter.

It’s not that her team had any particular loyalty to their brand, to the company, to Bleecker Insurance, it’s just that Bleecker had always attracted a certain type of individual and that was not the type of individual who was attracted to Dreadnought Reinsurance – the company they were walking down the merger isle with. Jess’ team was young and focussed on how to drag the (re)insurance industry into the 21st century, even if kicking and screaming. Dreadnought was a survivor of an era of companies with similar names – Titanic, Endeavour, Fortress – all long since put down. Dreadnought still transacted a significant amount of business using paper. In a world where cash was disappearing and you could reliably video chat through WhatsApp with your customer on the other side of the world, Dreadnought kept all policy documents in paper, often hand delivered and stored in a warehouse somewhere in England or Scotland.

These same warehouses had often suffered catastrophic flooding or fires at times when it paid to have no documentation. It just happened. Wrongdoing was impossible to prove with armies of lawyers at the ready to defend the cause.

This was the type of place that was supposed to merge with Bleecker. It made economic sense on paper, but Jess wasn’t clear how the dinosaurs of Dreadnought who still went drinking at lunchtime would mesh with her team who, though they weren’t shy of a drink, spent most of their free time at work talking about how they might improve a piece of tech or increase presence on social media.

She was only on page four of the executive summary (which was twenty pages long) when Tim walked into her office, sheepishly and clearly on a fact finding mission he had no interest in completing.

“Hi Jess.”

“Tim. What can I do for you?”

“Is that the integration plan? I drew the Oliver straw and had to come and ask. I’m hoping to be treated better than Oliver if that’s ok…”

Jess couldn’t help but laugh out loud, “Don’t worry. Also, I’m only on page four, so I don’t have anything to tell you, even if I could. Which you know I can’t.”

Tim knew he had to squeeze something out and that the best way was just to linger around and wait.

Jess looked up finally, “all I can say is that we’re going to have to bring a few guys into our team. There might also be some system they want us to integrate. I’m almost certain we’ll have to change branding and all that.”

“I heard that John and Lydia are jumping ship.”

“What!? Who told you that?”

“Lydia’s chief of staff. You know how we’re friendly.”


“Course! It’s no done deal, but you know how against this they were. There’s a newish startup that will probably take them. They need experience. Not the bullshit they’re merging with mind you.”

Jess continued flipping through the pack as Tim stood there checking his phone. She landed on the new org chart of her department. She beckoned Tim to look over her shoulder at this piece of information. It was a large nail in the coffin of her career Bleecker – well it was probably more accurate to call it Dreadnought now, Bleecker didn’t seem to exist based on what Jess was reading.

“The fuckers are making you a co-head but it doesn’t look like there’s anybody under you.”

“Look, they want us to use there fucking paper system to back up our cloud policies. Have they lost there minds? What fucking cretin consultant drafted this thing?”

“One paid by Dreadnought to tell them what they want to hear.”

“I’ve had enough of this,” Jess chucked the paper report on the floor, “time to hand in the notice.”

Tim did a little fist pump and then walked out in front of Jess. There’s no way they could stay.

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 4

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 3

A drone flew over head making a buzzing zipping type of noise that quickly alerted you to its presence and was just as quickly gone again as it continued its predefined security circuit. They were harder to hear from within the walls of the Psy Ward where Eric was still being held, but the sounds appeared and disappeared sure as anything rhythmic. It had frustrated Eric at first as it felt like the maddening soundtrack to his demise for no other reason than the fact he was doing something slightly different, though not wholly unusual, than your standard third lifer by keeping all of his memories intact and not taking on any alterations for his original form. Now it mattered less. The Clerks has finished their lengthy evaluation of over two months now and found nothing that could legally allow them to keep him.

Instead of the mechanised Clerks that had escorted him into the Psy Ward, Eric was treated to an escort by the head Clerk. Some sort of way of mild apology whilst also keeping Eric away from the Clerk who had originally interred him. It was clear from the evaluations that Eric hadn’t lost his mind, but he was highly likely to act violently to that particular Clerk. This head Clerk who was escorting Eric, called Head by his Siblings of the Order, was silently walking Eric back over the moat he had originally crossed and into a new building which led outdoors.

A light canopy of a leafy green crawling plant partially covered the courtyard which greeted Eric at the exit to the Order’s compound. Daggers of sunshine pierced the canopy at random intervals providing for a joyful sight indeed after days spent staring at a floor, ceiling and walls that were identical. As he strolled through the courtyard with his escort he breathed in the salty fresh sea air and enjoyed the slight lashings of the refreshing breeze. In the distance he could see the deep blue ocean, most likely of the Pacific. The island was truly beautiful.

Eric wasn’t sure if he had been here before or not. He had of course been rebirthed once, but it’s a memory they remove far before any forms are ever filled in. Probably before he even left the compound or a compound on his first rebirth. Logically you’d think the Order had more than one location for rebirthing so as to be able to quickly move in the event that someone discovered their compound, but it was impossible to know.

“I trust there won’t be any trouble stemming from your visit,” the Head asked.

“Trouble is usually in my nature,” Eric replied with the smirk of a mischief maker, before sending this was no times for jokes and added, “But there won’t be any trouble for me here.”

The Head has obviously expected some response like this in the end, but it was always a good final test. “Very good then. We shan’t be seeing you again, so please do enjoy a long and fulfilling final life and rest in peace thereafter.”

With that he bowed and left Eric standing on a small cliff edge overlooking the water.

What was probably hours but could have been months or years for all Eric knew passed and the last memory he had was of the water crushing around him. He had been successfully rebirthed, which was one small, but significant step. There was always the possibility that he’d be caught up in the bureaucratic process of the Order and be stuck in some compound until his dying days. At the very least he had not suffered that particular fate.

Waking up after rebirth is a odd sensation the first time and as with anything do strange, slightly easier the second. Still, being walked to a random location and having your memory wiped back to the point for your death is a lot to handle. The word ‘lost’ doesn’ quite cover it. It is indeed a good place to start, but being lost is some sort of journey leading to a realisation that you don’t know where you are. Whether it’s being physically or mentally lost, this holds true. Instead, the feeling Eric had was what you have when you realise you are in fact lost, instantaneously.

Pain lingered fresh in his mind as he looked around the pub he now, miraculously he felt, sat in. This was a traditional pub that could easily have been the same in the 20th century as it was now. There were three cask ale pumps positioned in the middle of a bar that looked as though it had been made from an ancient tree. Eric sat in a small cubby off in the dark corner next to the toilet entrance. He wondered if leaving him near the stink of toilets in an outdated drinking establishment was the Order’s way of making a joke.

As thoughts and memories cane flooding back into his head much like the water rushing into his submarine, his demeanour changed from dumb struck to pensive. While the toilet positioning was surely a joke, he also thought that the pub was. Unfortunately for their little joke, Eric loved pubs of all shapes and sizes. They had drink, people, limited music and no food to distract. This was not to be mistaken as a dislike of food, Eric loved food, he just wanted food separate from the pub, where you went to drink.

Eric stood up and approached the pre lunchtime pub, the calm before the lunchtime storm of ‘quick ones’. The barman nodded as he approached and wordlessly gestures as if to ask what drink Eric wanted. A pint of Guinness is what Eric wanted, so he pointed to the sleek extra cold tap and that’s what he got. No fuss, exactly as Eric liked. He remained at the bar, in the far corner of it away from the barman where he found a stool to rest on.

His Guinness did that lovely thing it did where the bubbles descended and slowly the black and white parted from each other signalling that it was ready to drink. Eric took a big sip and sighed with contentment. With that dip, it felt felt to him as if he was free from the crushing sensation of his death. The Order defined rebirth as when you’ve back in the form you’ve requested, but this was the true rebirth for Eric.