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A Human Rights Problem
(© Calvin Voxx)

Page 1

Alex twirled his glass, the ice cubes swirling round inside, clinking off one another, the lime chasing them like a hungry wolf. They slowed and bumped together. But there was no bloodbath as the lime finally caught the cubes. No tearing of flesh. Just a Bombay and tonic.

Alex took another swig, leaned back in his chair and took in his surroundings. The private Lear was still climbing to altitude, with the pretty young stewardess sitting patiently in her seat in the polished wood paneled galley at the tail of the jet. Alex swiveled his wide-bottomed leather chair to give him a better view of the opposite window. Los Angeles disappeared out of sight as the plane banked in a hard turn heading west over the Pacific. Taking in the setting, Alex wasn't sure whether to view his arrival here with triumph or contempt. Had he finally achieved the pinnacle of sticking it to the man, promoting social cause from within the globe-spanning multinational – all while having a top-shelf drink at the corporation's expense for good measure? Or was he now The Man, and nothing more than a sell out?  Was his enjoyment of the luxuries of the ultra-rich corporate lifestyle ironic, because he was secretly sticking it to them, or was it just tragic, yet another former do-gooder who had sold his values for money?

Alex was genuinely troubled by this moral problem, so much so that it alternatingly made his gin and tonic all the sweeter, or bitter to the point of unpleasantness, depending on which way his brain's calculus was shifting. Alex knew, however, as he always knew, that the proof would be in his actions. If he pulled his punches because he was afraid of corporate backlash, then he would reveal himself to be everything he feared. But if he brought the same aggressiveness to the trip that he had as a young protestor, albeit with a more mature and professional demeanor now, then maybe he could keep looking at himself in the mirror. And the private jet and limos and five star hotels were just perks that, so long as they didn't hurt anyone else, he might as well enjoy. Golden bracelets were okay, so long as they didn't become golden handcuffs.

Taking another swig, drink in hand as they climbed to 30,000', Alex promised himself to conduct his inspections and draft his report such that the younger Alex, the one who had thrown blood on corporate executives to protest their slave-labor conditions (ox blood, not human blood, of course), would be proud of him. If he didn't, then he was as guilty as the rest of them, and deserved to be doused in blood himself.

"Welcome, Mr. Jefferson."

Alex stepped out of the black Land Rover to face a well-dressed and even better accented Chinese gentleman shaking his hand. There was only a hint of the Queen's English in his accent, as if he had worked hard to scrub away the obvious signs of his British schooling and Americanize his speech for his counterparts.

Impressive. They didn't even go to that length in India. Here, they were pulling out all the stops. Their Chinese subcontractor clearly knew the stakes. Which was both good and bad. Perhaps that meant they were running a tight ship. Or perhaps they simply had cleaned up their act in preparation for his visit. Either way, Alex knew he was going to have to push hard past whatever initial façade was shown him.

Alex shook hands, then gave a slight head nod, as was the custom.

"Liu Chang," the man said, introducing himself.

"Alex Jefferson. It's good to meet you, Mr. Liu."

Liu smiled, turned, and off they went.

It was a long drive from the rural airport to the remote mine, and Liu was not much for small talk. Alex spent it looking out of the window, watching the beautiful Chinese countryside pass by, simple farmers working in their fields, women hanging clothes to dry. These were the people, he thought. These were the people he was here to protect, or at least people like them. Alex tried to keep them first and foremost in his mind. His employers were concerned about profit, market share, and public image. When they talked about things like sustainability they didn't mean the impact of their operations on the environment or local workers, they meant keeping consumers happy. The image of an ethical company was what mattered most. And if the way they got there was actually being ethical, that worked for Alex. That might not be their default setting, but they were capable of it. And that's what he was for, he reminded himself. To push them. To change things. To make it better.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:Living Dead
Type:Medium length story
Rating:8.37 / 10
Rated By:23 users
Comments: 4 users
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