Hostile Takeover by Michael Axelsen

It was too hot out today. It was hot a lot on the outskirts of VictoryVille, but today especially. Mealy Dan stared out over his crops, which to anyone looking, seemed just like a vast pile of garbage. But to Dan it was the lifeblood of VictoryVille, because as you looked closer you could see the garbage was teeming with life as mealworms worked their way through the refuse, growing big and plump and ripe for harvest.

Dan was proud of his farm. Because of his work, lots of people in town got fed, were able to survive. Nobody bothered Dan out here, too — no bandits or wasters ever gave him any trouble. He wouldn’t say he was a celebrity in town, but people knew who he was and never gave him any trouble. If some out of towners tried to start something with Mealy Dan, well, there would be ten townies to let that person know why that was a bad idea. Hell, Burnt Ambrosia even knew him by name, and said hello last time he was at the FUBAR. Yeah, it weren’t glamorous, but it was a pretty good life.

As good as Dan was at harvesting mealworms, what he wasn’t particularly good at was readin’ and writin’, so when he had received a couple of letters with the ZFEC logo emblazoned across the top, he hadn’t bothered trying to read them; they just went into the pile to feed the worms. He didn’t know what they wanted and he didn’t particularly care. They didn’t have anything he wanted and he was sure he didn’t have any idea what they could want with him. So, when the two men walked to him, he didn’t even really notice. No one ever gave him any trouble; no one would dare.

One of the men, a pockmarked little rat faced fellow, hailed to him. “Hey there, you Mealy Dan, or you like work for him or something?”

“I’m him. What can I do for you? You here to pick up some dinner?”

“We are here to purchase, yes, but not on a small scale. Haven’t you received our letters? We’re from ZFEC. I’m Robby Bombs, and this gentleman is Smallz.” Robby gestured to the large “man” standing next to him. Dan was pretty sure he was a mutant, as he was well over 7 feet tall and thicker than a portapotty, and smelled worse than one.

“Well, I do recall getting some papers, but I don’t have much call to read, so I don’t, really. I figure if anyone has business with me that’s important enough we can talk about in person over some Rotgut whiskey and a mealy burger. You ever had a mealy burger, son? Tasty sonofabitch, I tell ya.”

The rat faced fella didn’t seem particularly interested in the offer for food, which alarmed Dan a bit. How could you trust a man who would turn down food in these times? Also, his little rat face didn’t help either.

“Yeah, maybe next time pops. Look, what is said in all those letters you so gracelessly threw away is that ZFEC wants to buy your farm from you, and we’ll basically meet any price. You want booze or drugs, we’ll get you booze and drugs, you want cars, no problem. You tell us what you want, and we’ll get it for you. You want a wulfen three ring circus, we’ll make it happen, and gladly. So, name your price so I can get out of this wretched place. Smells worse than Smallz in this place, and that’s saying something.”

If Smallz was offended, he didn’t show it. He just stood there staring at Dan, boring eyes through him almost. Dan didn’t like anything about this. Not at all.

“Look, fellas, I’m sorry you came all this way just because I didn’t read your letters, and I apologize for that. Had I known what they were about, I suppose I would have written back to tell you that I’m not interested in selling at all. Nope, I got a good thing going here, and while it ain’t much, it’s mine. Gives me purpose. So, I’m afraid you came all this way for nothing.” Dan shifted his hands back inside his coat, and kinda shrugged at Robby.

“Now look, Dan. We didn’t come all this way for nothing. You’re going to sell. We offered you anything you could think of and you said no. So we’re on to part two of the negotiation, where Smallz convinces you. Smallz, knock some sense into him.” The rat faced fella looked on smugly as the giant mutant moved forward.

Smallz started smiling a cracked tooth grin if there ever was one, and took out what looked like a rasping tool. Dan had no interest in finding out what Smallz intended to do with that. His coat exploded outward, buckshot burying itself into Smallz face, removing all the teeth from that crack tooth grin. Smallz dropped to his knees, screaming in an unusually high pitched voice…Dan wasn’t sure if that’s just what happened when you got shot in the face. He turned the sawed off shotgun onto Robby and shot him right in his surprised looking Rat face. His face, blown right off, did not’ scream at all. Maybe it was just Smallz then, he thought as he emptied the casings from the gun.

“Whoa, whoa whoa! What in the hell is going on here?!?”

Dan wheeled on the new voice, and fumbled to load the chambers before the new threat was on him.

“Hold on now, no need for that. I agree with you, those guys deserved to be shot in the face. Nice shot by the way. I mean, yeah, they work for me, well they USED to work for me, sure but after hearing what I just heard I would have fired them myself. Please, allow me to introduce myself: I’m Rocketfella, regional manager for ZFEC. Pleasure to meet you, Dan.” A handsome looking weathered face emerged from behind his building, dressed in finer clothes than Dan had ever laid eyes on. There was hardly any dirt on them. Dan continued to load the shotgun.

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t shake hands until i’ve reloaded this arm cannon. Your people have got me a little on edge today, and I’m not sure I’m not gonna shoot you.” Dan clicked the shells into place and turned the gun on Rocketfella.

Rocketfella threw his hands up. “Totally understandable, I get it. You have the right to be on edge. But unlike my former employees, I have no desire to get shot or shoot anyone. Look I’m not even carrying a gun! SO perhaps we can sit down over that mealy burger and just talk for a second. I heard what you said to those fellas, but I just want to understand you a little better, and what better way to do that then over a meal. Look I’ve even brought some fine booze, not rotgut at all.” Rocketfella produced a black labeled faded bottle that had some kind of writing on it, but what it said was lost on him. But, good whiskey, well, that’s worth at least a conversation Dan thought.

Dan lowered his gun and slowly approached. “Must tell you, son, I’m not too impressed by the company you keep, but your manners seems to be more in line with civilized folks, so I’ll take you at your word.”

“Thank you, and I don’t keep company with those louts. They were simply some men I hired on to give messages, a job which they were clearly under qualified for, so really, you did me a favor as I don’t have to compensate them any more, so cheers to you.” Rocketfella looked around for something to pour the whiskey into. “Oh, I don’t have my cups, hold on. I’ll call my assistant in. Ginger? GINGER, bring us some cups!”

Dan instinctively raised his gun at the proposition of another person entering, and trained his gun on an athletic looking woman wearing what appeared to be a leather catsuit. The leather stopped at the shoulders, revealing two mechanized arms, the likes of which Dan had never seen before. They were clearly mechware, but moved fluidly with her motions, as she gently walked in and placed two glasses (GLASS WHERE THE HELL DID HE EVEN GET THOSE) in front of both men and glided away to stand behind Rocketfella. If she was worried about the gun pointed at her, she sure as hell didn’t show it.

“Yeah, isn’t she great? You know a good assistant is so hard to find these days wouldn’t you agree? You must have a ton of people helping you here on this farm, with the amount of food you produce,” Rocketfella splashed both glasses a shot of whiskey and offered one to Dan, who took it with his non shooting hand, the gun still casually trained in the general direction of his guests.

“Well, no, it’s just me. I’ve got a pretty good system down for doing it. A lot of it’s automated, so I can do it myself. Trucks come in from VictoryVille to pick up the product. We trade and they load up. It’s not much but I like it.” Dan took a sip of the whiskey, and it didn’t disappoint. It didn’t burn hardly at all. Probably was the smoothest thing he’d had to drink in a decade, including the water.

Rocketfella sipped his as well and leaned back. “I see, I see. Well, that’s pretty relatable. VictoryVille your only customer then? Would you consider selling your product to me instead, if you won’t sell the farm? But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I go ahead and offer to buy from you, I’d like to get a taste of that Mealy burger you mentioned earlier. Make sure I’m spending my resources wisely, you know?”

Dan nodded, taking another sip. “Well, it would go rather nicely with this whiskey, which i’m not gonna lie, is some fine fine stuff. Not sure I’ve ever had it’s equal. So I gotta thank you for that. Well, I suppose I better fire up the grill.” Dan stood up, bringing both the shotgun and the whiskey with him, and moved over to a large can with a grate over it. He fiddled with it a bit, and dropped a match in, lighting up…well, who knows what he was burning, but it smelled sickly sweet.

“The key, you see, is you gotta put them through a meat grinder first. Then they come out and you make the patties. I got a special secret recipe for mine, makes them taste better than anything else you’d ever eat.” Dan produced two patties and threw them onto the grate, where they began to sizzle. “And it don’t even take too long. Really, you can eat them raw, but cooking them just makes people feel better about it, I guess. I bartered for some Baked bread the other day, so it looks like you’re gonna get the full treatment.”

A few minutes later, three burgers were on the table. Dan sat down putting the shotgun on the table and Rocketfella reached out, grabbed the burger.

“Pretty presumptuous of you to make me two, Dan. But I like the confidence you have in your product.”

“Oh, I mean, I made that one for your assistant…I assumed she’d want one too,” Dan smiled over to Ginger who smiled halfheartedly back.

“Oh, no, no, no, she can’t eat that or she’ll never fit into that catsuit. Leather doesn’t stretch, you know. No, maybe she can have a bite, but really, no. I mean I had to grease her up to get her into it in the first place.” Rocketfella shook his head laughing as he bit into the burger. His eyes widened and he looked at Dan before taking another bite. “I can’t believe this is freaking worms! I AM gonna eat two of these! This is so good. Fuck, Dan you been holding out on the world.” Rocketfella started devouring the burger with newfound fervor. Dan sipped his whiskey, looking mighty pleased with himself.

Rocketfella leaned back in his chair and took another sip of the whiskey. “Well, I’m sold. You won’t sell the farm, that’s fine, but how about I buy your product? Like, all of it. You get to keep doing what you do, and I get to have these burgers every day for the rest of my awesome life. Same terms: name your price.”

Dan leaned back and sipped his whiskey. “Well, now that is quite the offer. But, I’m just not sure I could do that to the people of VictoryVille. Food is scarce and I feel like I’m really making a difference here. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not looking for a change. I’ve got everything I need already.”

Rocketfella smiled and sipped the last of his whiskey. “What an amazing feeling, to have all your needs met, to be truly content! If you could bottle that up, you’d be richer than I am!” Rocketfella gave a hearty laugh. “At least let me know your secret recipe for those burgers before I head out.”

Dan laughed and shook his head. “Nope, not to anyone. I’m taking that to the grave with me.”

Rocketfella stares at Dan coldly. “Poor choice of words, Danny boy.” Dan uneasily let his hand slide toward his gun. Suddenly, Rocketfella’s face broke back into a wide grin. “Nah, I’m just kidding. I mean Ginger here has a secret recipe that she won’t tell anyone the recipe for either. There are these finger sandwiches she makes, they are so amazing. Go on, Ginger, tell him what you make them out of.”

Ginger pointed finger guns at Mealy Dan, and smiled that half hearted smile and murmured “Lead.” The ends of her fingers exploded, and then there were two bullet holes in Dans forehead as he slumped over, and the glass in his hand shattered on the ground.

“Ah, should waited till the glass was out of his hand, Ginger. That’s coming out of your salary, you know.” Rocketfella laughed, “‘I’m taking it to my grave.’ Well, we had to kill him after he said that, or else I’m just not doing my job right. Also, you now, if you mumble on the Joke, it’s not as funny. Yell it next time! ‘LEAD’. And then go all blammo with the finger guns. I mean, you’re sitting on a goldmine of comedy and you’re really just wasting it.”

“Okay, so he blew off both those guys faces, so no tracing them back to us. Make sure there’s nothing on their corpses that can be traced back to us. This is just the tragic story of a man, living alone, with no next of kin, whose house was raided by bandits. He struggled valiantly, killing a couple, but was overtaken. His lands will soon be auctioned off to the highest bidder, which will be me of course, and I will speak well of him on that day and all days going forward. Truly, this was a tough day for all of VictoryVille.” Rocketfella looked around smugly, his eyes landing on the remaining burger. Grabbing it and taking a huge bite, his eyes almost rolled back in his head.

“I can’t friggin believe how good these worm burgers are. If you told me his morning that I’d be eating worms and be happy about it this afternoon, I’d have had you murdered. But here we are. OH, also dig around the old bastards house, see if you can find the recipe he’s taking to the grave.’” Rocketfella said this last part overdramatically and with air quotes, mimicking Dan’s easy manner. “Seriously, how do you say something like that and not expect to die. Anyway, yeah. Go me, good plan, no real losses, If I can get that burger recipe I’m gonna call today and A-plus. Otherwise, just a solid A. God, I’m so good at this. Ginger, tell me how good I am at this? Naw, that’s alright, you don’t have to, I can tell how much you admire me from how you look at me. Which is a lot, by the way. Anyway, yeah, the recipe. And then meet me back at base. Ciao!”

Rocketfella grabbed the remaining glass and whiskey, pocketing them both as he wandered off, munching his Burger contentedly. Ginger looked around at the mess, sighed, and went inside looking for that secret recipe. Dan’s vacant eyes cast their empty stare out across the vastness of his fields, fields which he would soon become one with.

Originally published June 12, 2019 –>

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