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Alison Tarrant was a “workplace culture consultant”. She came into large companies on a six or 12 month contract to address the company’s sexual harassment liability by promoting cultural change, anti-harassment policies, and sensitivity training. Sometimes these cultures were responding proactively to a changing global environment, but more often they were reacting to a recent internal scandal.
At the age of 28, Alison was old enough to look credible as a professional and gain the trust of women within an organisation – but young enough that her honey-gold hair and curvy figure could sway the minds (and cocks) of older male authority figures who might be dubious about hiring her. She had an impressive resume, including a Masters degree in feminist theory and independent qualifications in business management and economics. She had made the front pages of business *and* feminist websites after her clean-up of the toxic culture at the law firm Madison Prim. In only 12 months, she had completely turned around that firm – and now not only did it boast a 51% female workforce, but both the senior partners were women.
Ciaran Boyd was very aware of Alison’s work at Madison Prim. As the manager of HR at rival firm Horrocks, Clinton and Quayle, he had been obliged to keep a close professional eye on it. But his interest was substantially more personal.
Because Ciaran’s friend Eddie Parker had worked at Madison Prim. And on the very first day of Alison’s contract, Alison had had him fired. His crime was the display of a 1950s-era cheesecake pinup in a frame in his personal office. The pouting beauty in the picture was fully clothed, but erotically suggestive, and Alison said it contributed to a workplace culture of harassment. Eddie had been terminated immediately, and his job had been re-staffed with a woman.
What Alison hadn’t known was how close to the edge Eddie had been. Recently divorced, struggling with finances and mental health, the firing had been the last straw for Eddie. He shot himself the next week. Alison never even noticed.
So when Alison was contracted to repeat her Madison Prim success at Ciaran’s firm – in a position where Ciaran would have to work closely with her – Ciaran knew that he would have to get revenge for Eddie. He would have to destroy this woman, and make her regret every aspect of her life that had brought her to where she now was.
He learned that she had been contracted two weeks before she was due to start work at the office. He used the time to do his research. He read every article about her. He trawled through her social media profiles. He found her friends, and looked through their online photo albums for every picture that showed her. He even read the books of feminist theory that she claimed most inspired her.
And he identified four primary weaknesses in her.
One: She was on thinner ice at Horrocks, Clinton & Quayle than she had been in past contracts. The partners at Eddie’s firm were all older men, inclined to be intensely sceptical of someone who was both female and a feminist. They didn’t want to hire her at all – but a recent hastily-settled lawsuit against Geoffrey Horrocks’ adult son for sexual harassment had opened their eyes to their legal liability.
Alison was going to have to be careful here. She couldn’t come in firing people on day one, as she had done at Madison Prim. She would have to play nice, smile, make a solid case for her changes, and not accuse anyone of inappropriate behaviour without ironclad evidence.
Two: She was insecure about her feminist credentials. Ciaran laughed as he read an interview where she dismissed romance novels as “patriarchal trash” – even as the same interview showed a photo of her home office, with a substantial collection of pulp romance in plain view. Her idol was Regina Swift, a feminist academic of her mother’s generation, and when Regina said or did anything on social media, Alison immediately changed her behaviour to conform to it.
Her proudest moment was receiving the Swift Award for Feminism in Business – a silver statue in the abstracted likeness of Swift herself – and Ciaran had laughed again to see the video of Alison accepting the award. She looked pathetically, erotically grateful to receive the statue – and yet at the same time she had betrayed the principles it stood for by dressing up in a sexy outfit to receive it, padding her already ample bosom with a push-up bra and rouging her cheeks for the camera.
Three: She was lonely. Ciaran found not the slightest hint that Alison was a lesbian – she definitely did appear to be attracted to men – and yet there were no men in her life. Her work and her ideals had left her uncomfortable in forming close relationships with men. The large collection of romance pulp attested to her desire – and yet she had put her career ahead of her cunt, it seemed.
That was good. A girl who was repressed was a girl who was vulnerable.
And finally, Four: Alison wore a Q-Star. The Q-Stars were a line of smart watches put out by the now-defunct Andromeda Technologies. They had briefly been popular three years ago thanks to some celebrity endorsements. They were intended to sync seamlessly with your digital platforms and deliver emails, appointments, and other notifications directly to your wrist. However, in the face of unarguably better products from Apple and other manufacturers, they had never kept a sustained market share. The maker had gone out of business, and the Q-Star was abandoned.
But for whatever reason, Alison had kept hers, and still wore it religiously. Which was wonderful, because one of the features which had sunk the Q-Star was its lack of security features. The Q-Star was relatively easy to remotely hack, and with the manufacturer out of business, those vulnerabilities were never going to be patched.
Ciaran was not unskilled as a hacker – the legacy of a misspent youth, perhaps, although he had kept up his skills in his adulthood – and all it took was a little time on internet forums to find a way into the Q-Star. He began developing his own, custom software for the device – and on the day before Alison was due to start at Horrocks, Clinton & Quayle, Ciaran drove to her house, parked outside – within Wi-Fi range – and connected to her watch. Within seconds, he was in – with full access to her emails, social media, and other private data – and a couple of minutes later, his new program was installed and running.
Alison wouldn’t notice it, of course. If all went well, Alison would *never* notice it.
For fun, he tested his new control by using her credit card to buy memberships in her name at a couple of misogyny-porn sites. She wouldn’t notice those, either – not for a month, until she checked her statement, and, again, if all went well, not even then.
And then he went home.
Tomorrow, Alison would start work at Horrocks, Clinton and Quayle.
And tomorrow, Ciaran would start work on Alison.
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