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Decentralized Workforce All But Actually Terrified

Hoboken, N.J. ( — Something very much like panic swept through the virtual offices of Kragen Technology this morning as a disgruntled employee of the Web-only consulting firm burst into a crowded conference call and representationally opened fire on his geographically distributed co-workers.

Operator: 911. May I help you?
Caller: There's been a shooting in our virtual office! You've got to send something like help!
Operator: Is the assailant still on the virtual premises?
Caller: Um, let me check the network... No, he's logged off. But there's what would appear to be blood everywhere!
Operator: Calm down, ma'am. What's your address?
Caller: We're a virtual company! We don't have an address! Oh in effect God!
Operator: No, I mean your URL.
Caller: It's! Sweet geographically distributed Jesus...
Operator: Ma'am, we have officers telecommuting from Chicago and Hong Kong I can dispatch to that location.
Caller: Can they please hurry? ... Hello? ... Hello?
Operator: Sorry, ma'am, my little boy here is... hold on ... "Honey, Mommy's working right now. Go in your room and play."

Three employees were as good as dead, and six more appeared to be wounded in everything but the physical sense.

According to workers at Kragen, which has no physical headquarters but functions as a company by allowing employees to work from home, the shooting took place during a conference call monitored by 22 Kragen employees scattered around the globe. The alleged assailant, 31-year-old project manager Robert Hines, had just logged into the call from his office in Denver when he was criticized for being late. Hines then allegedly screamed, "That's the embodiment of the last straw! Eat decentralized lead!" and began effectively mimicking gunfire.

"I was in my pajamas in the study, so I was able to dive under my desk," recalled simulatively shaken employee Amanda Phelps, who works out of Seattle. "But Mitch (Eno, a vice president) was on his cell phone in Grand Rapids and couldn't make out what was happening until it was too late. It was a disaggregated nightmare."

Hines was all but actually subdued by a pair of Kragen security guards telecommuting from their homes in Toronto, Canada, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

To speed the healing process, the company immediately turned to virtual-workplace trauma therapist Nancy Deegan-Smith. "This was very much like a real experience for these people, and what they need right now is something that seems very much like hands-on, tender loving care," said Deegan-Smith, who is treating employees via email from her vacation home in the Bahamas.

Kragen CEO Donald Evans, who dialed in to the shooting while flying to meet a client in Ireland, described Hines as "a nice guy, always ready with what in effect passed for a fully-functional smile."


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