“Catastrophic Colony Collapse Threatens America’s Economy” was the screaming headline that greeted the early morning readers taking tea and scones at Boulangerie on the Boulevard. Ignored by the bourgeoisie and misunderstood by the proletariat, the Wall Street Journal’s front page story nevertheless signaled a shrugging of Atlas unlike anything foreseen by Ayn Rand and her Libertarian disciples.
Pearl Filisame had written the most compelling article since Vermont Royster’s missive on the bountiful blessings of our fair land. Unlike Royster, who noted that this long-enduring society of free men had governed itself without the benefit of kings or dictators, Pearl ruefully pointed out that our downfall would come at the hands of queens.
Such irony! The mass disappearance of millions of workers was foreshadowed neither by threats of national strikes nor by off-shore outsourcing. Quietly, without warning, an ecological shift occurred between the hardy bougainvillea bush and the honey bee. Of course, this connection was not established until it was much too late to restore the balance.
Pearl had learned of the botched xeriscaping project in the boondocks of southern California. Originally doing research into the usurious pricing of ecommerce sites like MommyFlowers.com, she uncovered a conspiracy to flood the market with inferior bouquets, rotten fruit baskets and toxic sugar beets. Monstratos, the agribusiness firm behind all three scandals, unwittingly gave Pearl the rope she needed to hang them.
Posing as an insipid reporter of human interest stories, Pearl flew out to Calico. She was given the standard tour of the company’s headquarters. Her guide, an equally insipid public relations puff wearing a bouffant hairdo to clash with a pink frill bosom blouse over white capris, cheerfully showed her everything from the cafeteria to the president’s boudoir.
However, when she requested permission to snap some photos of the mountainside gardens, her tour guide frowned in disapproval. The woman glibly explained that the site was only accessible by hoist and that the bosun’s chair was broken. Pearl correctly assumed that the gardens were off-limits.
Pearl hadn’t needed to physically examine the gardens. She’d gathered a ton of information the old-fashioned way–bribery. While most of Monstratos’ poorly paid gardeners were happy to babble for the price of a bowl of bouillabaisse broth, she did have to pay cash for the bombshell that led to her article.
Monstratos had developed the equivalent of crack for honey bees. After indiscriminately spraying their crops with this pheromone, honey bees were abandoning their hives, content to forage among the bougainvillea bushes.
Those that did manage to pollinate neighboring bougainvillea also spread the chemical attractor. The obvious result was that a bumper crop of bougainvillea beckoned to billions of honey bees, causing massive crop failures, from cornfields to orange groves.
As she dug deeper, the plot thickened worse than her own uneatened bowls of stew. She deftly navigated the maze of corruption and agricultural disasters, finding connections between the honey bees’ colony collapses and everything else.
The crop failures were directly responsible for the corn futures crash, which destroyed Monstratos’ razor-thin profit margin on high fructose corn syrup. Forced to sell product at a loss, Monstratos cooked the books on their de-regulated sugar beet yields, covering it up by purchasing poisoned sugar beets from Ukrainian exporters with ties to organized crime.
Eventually, Pearl had enough material for the scoop of a lifetime. She had no illusions about a Pulitzer; she merely wanted to strike a blow at the baleful monolith that was responsible for the blight that was slowly billowing out from the unassuming hills of San Bernardino County, flicking fingers of famine north and east.
Monstratos filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection within two weeks of the Journal’s article. While Monstratos’ stock tanked faster than a botulism face-lift, the price of scones tripled and the bourgeoisie lamented the scarcity of agave and organic cane sugar. The proletariat grumbled about the high price of corn flakes and syrup.
Too big to fail, Monstratos emerged from the womb of chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings early on the morning of April 19th. The birth in San Bernardino County was witnessed by few, as the world was enraptured with a specific stretch of highway in Dallas. Bertram Shifflett walked out of Central Court with another shot at life everlasting.
Shifflett, the erstwhile embattled CEO of the Monstratos agribusiness empire, had won the heart of the judge with his simple plan to reverse the damage caused by the near-extinction of Apis mellifera, the industrious honey bee. In spite of the fact that it was his company’s aggressive biochemical interference that had created the calamity in the first place, Shifflett had assured Judge Irvin Zielinsky that Monstratos was perfectly positioned to restore the balance of natural selection.
Zielinsky, no mere tree-hugger advocate, had recognized the Monstratos juggernaut for what it was: an efficient global delivery system, capable of rapidly deploying the economic revitalization program presented to the court. The judge quickly approved the plan, which included the cancellation of 90 per cent of Monstratos contracts. The gardeners were spared. Indeed, this special group would save the company, the country and—of course—the bees. The plan also killed what little value remained of the corporate stock. New, over-the-counter issues would finance the retooling project that was the heart of the revitalization program. Monstratos had just transformed into a new breed of firm: bionanotechnology.
Bertram Shifflett’s first order of business was to rebuild his team. Post-filing defections had crippled the org chart near its root; he would start fresh with new blood. For public relations, he reached out to his former enemy, Pearl Filisame. She had broken the story on the pheromone scandal and, though he would get his revenge one day, Shifflett saw no reason why he couldn’t make use of her brilliant brain in the interim. If she was going to be running her mouth, he may as well be the one with his hand up her dress.
For the research arm, he tapped Arnie Long. Arnie was a promising theoretical roboticist. His paper on mitral valve tissue nanoreplicators spawned a cottage industry in the medical profession. He arrogantly referred to himself as an MVP, insulting the millions of people suffering from the disease. Nevertheless, Shifflett hoped that Arnie would be able to design the creature that had sold a judge: the nano bee.
Copyright © 2016 by Mitchell Allen
Pearl Filisame is an anagram for Apis mellifera, the genus of the honey bee.