I summoned my few remaining men. They were a sorry sight.
"Men," I said, "you are tired and you are starving but as defenders of the Castle of Forthright English you can hold your heads high. For years now we have been under siege from the massed forces of Corporate Jargon and Commercial Cliché, and many of our comrades have fallen, but just by being here and standing we…"
They weren't listening. They were looking over my shoulder at something beyond the castle walls.
"Sir," my sergeant was nudging me. "I think you should look, sir."
Then I felt it, a steady insistent thudding that pulsed through the ground. I felt it in my feet, my legs, my whole body. The men were staring goggle-eyed. I turned to look where they were looking and I beheld a sight that I shall not readily forget: a great mass of enemy, advancing on the castle and every one of them bearing a sharpened wooden pole.
"My god," said the sergeant simply, "stakeholders." And for the first time I thought I heard fear in his voice.
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A few The stakeholders advanced across the level playing field, beating the ground in unison with their stakes, each of them dressed in impenetrable boilerplate. So this was it. The final showdown had begun.
"Hold steady, men," I said. "Don't shoot till you can see their core competencies."
I followed the line of the sergeant's pointing finger. There on a distant learning curve I could just make out a shape in athletic garb. So here he was at last, my counterpart, Paramount Chief of Jargon Forces. the Ballpark Figure.
As I watched he signalled to a battery of guns dug into the side of the learning curve. We heard the detonations.
"The Euphemism Artillery," said the sergeant.
I wasn't worried about them. What hadn't they thrown at us over the years?
Rationalisations, streamlining, executive incentivisation, we'd stood strong against it all.
Then boom. Men fell and screamed around me. Horses reared and whinnied, and the air was thick with flying money.
"My God, sergeant," I exclaimed even as another wad of cash, perks and residuals burst beside us. "I've never seen anything so huge."
"Remuneration Packages, sir, a thousand times the calibre of wages and salaries. We've has it sir, unless we can somehow get at their key performance indicators."
"Isn't that them?" I said, peering into the distance.
"No sir, that's the target market. The KPIs are over there, gibbering to each other and making no sense."
I took slow deliberate aim and squeezed the trigger. When the smoke cleared the KPIs had somehow moved 20 metres to the right and were unharmed.
"A paradigm shift, sir," said the sergeant.
"What on earth's that?"
"No one knows for sure. It seems to be like moving the goalposts only quicker. And besides there's no point in shooting KPIs, sir. They bypass reality."
"I think we're in trouble, sergeant."
"You can say that again," boomed a voice.
Suddenly everything was still. The stakeholders stood with their stakes. The Euphemism Battery held its fire. The Ballpark Figure had climbed to the top of the learning curve and was addressing us through a megaphone.
"You are hardly in what one might call a win-win situation," he said in a voice that made us all shudder. "You have no golden parachutes. There are no synergies for you to leverage. You're facing headwinds so fierce they'll deep six you. Your only hope is to surrender the few bits of the English language we don't already control or we'll throw you under the bus going forward."
"Don't listen to him, men," I cried. "He's bluffing."
"Bluffing," cried the Ballpark Figure. "Did you hear that, stakeholders?"
As he spoke, the ranks of stakeholders parted to reveal a vast envelope.
"Push it," cried the Ballpark Figure.
The stakeholders pushed the envelope. Magically it opened on a box-like structure with walls and a door and a small window of opportunity. From within we could hear a fierce trumpeting and stamping of mighty feet.
"No," I cried.
"Yes," said the Ballpark Figure, "open the door!"
My men screamed and ran, the sergeant screamed and shot himself, and suddenly I found myself all alone and staring across the rubble of a worst-case scenario at the elephant in the room.