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Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)


Chapter 1

Heir Apparent


Dan Sewell Ward

(July 10th)


Boy… was he hungry! Not to mention thirsty! Wandering around the wilderness without so much as a backpack or a canteen, depending upon the generosity of nature for his sustenance, stumbling along without any idea of where he was going -- it was all rather stupid really. Certainly, not one of your standard rules of mountain hiking: forging out unprepared. But there he was: hungry, thirsty, and very tired. Tired in particular of struggling though undergrowth, traversing stretches of rocky landslides, and trying vainly to keep his footing along the shifting soils and steep slopes.

But then, quite unexpectedly, Herman Travers came upon a clearing in the center of which was an old well, neatly made of stone, well kept, the grass and flowers flourishing around it. As he eagerly approached the well, a beautiful young woman appeared, wearing the garments of a well-kept, medieval serving girl, but somehow possessing a mystical, ethereal quality about her. Stepping literally out of nowhere, she offered him rolls, pastries and bread for his hunger, and cool, clear, and very refreshing water from a gold cup for his thirst.

All of which Herman thought to be exceedingly weird. Such civility in the midst of a mountain wilderness seemed out of place even to Herman's creative imagination. But he accepted the food and drink, deciding by some strange logic and relying on a partial memory, that the hospitality was, in fact, quite appropriate. As was his question, once he had satisfied his immediate needs. "Tell me," he asked the beautiful woman, "When do you get off work?"

Her response was a wonderful smile, the kind which made it clear she found his humor delightful, his bearing and interest a compliment, and the chances of their actually getting together, virtually nil. Herman managed a smile despite his disappointment.

Then from a dreamy distance he saw another man approaching the same well. Hardly taking the time to think about it, Herman realized that this time the newcomer was Zak, his illegitimate father. His father's appearance in the wilderness seemed strange -- Zak no longer made such forays. Something was obviously wrong.

Then the wrongness suddenly became even more apparent when the young woman again appeared with food and drink, and Zak, instead of being delighted at the hospitality, became suspicious and aggressive. Point blank he asked, "Whom do you serve with this cup?" The woman, at first surprised by the question, answered simply, "It is for any who thirst."

Apparently, the answer did not satisfy Zak. In a gruff voice, he announced, "It is for me alone." When the woman thought to disagree, Zak simply grabbed her, and while Herman watched with amazement, his father took the woman down, forced his will upon her, and raped her. Herman felt the shame of his father's actions, but inexplicably did nothing to intervene. Even as Zak completed his violence and walked off with the food in one hand and the cup in the other, Herman could only observe from a distance. Slowly the young woman faded from view, the well crumbled from age, and the flowers and surrounding greenery withered away.

The sudden ruin surrounding the well roused Herman and he sat bolt upright in his seat. For a moment he was lost in his emotions, until the hum of the jet engines reminded him where he was; that the scenes he had experienced had been but a dream. Shaking his head, he muttered to himself, "I've really got to get more sleep. That's the same dream!"

For several moments he leaned back in his seat, trying to relax, even as he began, once again, to think about the dream, replaying it over and over in his mind. The fact he had been rejected by the beautiful maiden at the well was not, in and of itself, particularly significant, he thought. Herman had met rejection before -- on numerous occasions -- such that the rejection in the dream was not, perhaps, all that profound.

It's not that Herman was not handsome; he was. Sort of. It's true he carried a few more pounds on his frame than the cultural ideal, but he was not particularly overweight. His neatly trimmed beard, framing a rounded, mischievous face, and his naturally wavy brown hair were pleasant enough to look at -- as was his hairy chest to the touch. At the same time, he did not carry the strikingly handsome features that would have enabled him to pick up women on sight. Instead, his confidence with females was based on his abilities as a wordsmith, rather than on any attempt of his to be viewed as a "hunk" by virtually any member of the female species.

Consequently, the gentle rejection of the beautiful maiden at the well had been only momentarily discomfiting to him. It was unlikely he would find much meaning in that aspect of his dream. At the same time, however, the underlying import of the dream in its entirety had to be far more; a meaning that continued to elude him despite the fact he had already experienced the dream twice before. The only difference was that he had not recognized his illegitimate father, Zak, as the man in his dream in the earlier versions. Now with Herman on his way to see his father -- for the first time in several months -- the dream and suddenly recognizing Zak in it seemed rather more important. The timing was too perfect for there not to be a connection.

'And there was always a connection,' Herman thought. 'The trick would be to discover it. And then deal with it. This of course assumed it was possible to deal with.'


Zak's perplexing behavior was also frustrating Tina, Herman's half-sister. As Executive Vice President of Worldwide Enterprises, Tina Gilan should have been well briefed on what was taking place within the multi-billion dollar company. Zak, however, treating Worldwide as his personal fiefdom, had lately given no hint of his thinking, his motivations, or his hidden agenda -- even to his daughter, Tina! He had simply done whatever he felt like, leaving only inexplicable clues for Tina to decipher and somehow connect into a comprehensible whole.

Why, for example, was Zak suddenly so involved in meetings with Delbert Pine, Uncle Paul's right hand man? Zak and Uncle Paul hardly ever even talked to one another, let alone conspired together! So why were they deeply immersed in long distance discussions now? At the same time, Gordon Medson, Tina's most trusted aide, had discovered someone else was carrying messages to Zak's other brother, Hal. Considering Uncle Hal, that was more than strange; that was downright dangerous! Hal was not generally thought of as a nice person.

And now this latest gem which Gordon was in the process of relating to Tina over the telephone. "Thus far," Gordon continued, "I've found seven separate trust accounts which your father Zak has had set up. There may be more. All of them are very secret and very well financed. We don't know why they were set up, but one of them has, apparently, been used to purchase over forty day care centers across the country."

Tina almost choked. "Day care centers?" When Gordon acknowledged the enigmatic fact, Tina asked, "What in the world for? Zak hates kids."

"Maybe he's had a change of heart," Gordon ventured, primarily in jest.

Tina laughed slightly. Then she shook her head. "I doubt it. Zak likes to make money, and I've never heard of anyone being financially solvent while raising kids!"

"I was able to verify the purchases had been made, but at this point that's the extent of my information." When Tina, still thinking intently, did not respond, Gordon asked, "Could this somehow be connected with Zak's having put together a dossier of his sons, daughters, wives, lovers, and other family members less than three months ago?"

Tina laughed in a disgruntled manner. Sarcastically, she answered, "Maybe he's planning to enroll the entire family in a day care center to teach all of them the things they should have learned in kindergarten." She didn't add that most of the family could well learn some of those basic social skills. Gordon was already well familiar with the extent and variability of the characters within Zak's family (a roster of characters sufficient to fill a psychology textbook on personalities). Gordon, in his work for Tina, had become well informed on Zak's family.

"One more item," Gordon added, "Herman Travers is flying into headquarters later this morning, apparently under Zak's orders. He should be arriving here within the next two hours."

"Interesting," Tina said. Then she asked, "Another trip to Nepal ?"

"That's my guess," Gordon answered. "I know that Worldwide's number two corporate jet is being readied for an overseas flight. Captain Griff, however, hasn't been told where."

"That's typical," Tina replied. "Zak seldom tells anyone anything!" Obliquely her mind continued to sort facts, trying to find the appropriate place in the puzzle for each piece that Gordon had laid on the table.

Gordon hesitated for just a moment, then asked, "All these messages between Zak and his sister, Ester: What's that all about? And why would your half-brother always be used as the courier? He's been flying back and forth, off and on, for years now."

Tina felt a momentary frustration. "I don't know what Zak and Aunt Ester are talking about. I find it amazing they're even communicating! After all, the two of them are light years apart. He's the world class entrepreneur and she's the intuitive, metaphysical, spiritual seeker. Plus which, Aunt Ester's never gotten involved in family politics, which is of course one of Zak's fortes!

"As for Herm... I'm not real sure. He and Ester have always gotten along famously. Although I can't imagine why -- their personalities are miles apart as well. But they do get along, and I suppose they always will. Maybe it's due to a past life together when they shared the same digs. Or perhaps Ester has a secret obsession for perverse humor. Who knows?"

Gordon grinned. "Mr. Travers always seems delighted to make the trip."

Tina smiled. "I don't blame him. Visiting Aunt Ester is a bit like going home." For a moment, Tina felt the warmth of remembering previous visits to her Aunt Ester.

Gordon hesitated slightly, before he asked, "Shall I meet Mr. Travers?"

"Definitely," Tina replied. "If possible, I want to see him before he sees Zak."

"No problem. I'll work out something with Joy," Gordon answered.

"Good. And Gordon... Good work." As they hung up, Tina leaned back in her chair. It would be good to see Herm again. Time to compare notes! She could also bounce her radical idea off of Herman, the only other family member Tina felt she could trust. For there was just the possibility that Tina already knew the reason for Zak's otherwise inexplicable behavior and the reasons for the unexplained changes happening within Worldwide Enterprises: Zak might be preparing to step down as Chief Operating Officer and hand over the reigns of the world's largest privately controlled enterprise to someone else. Who that someone else was -- the new Chief Operating Officer -- was obviously of monumental importance. Particularly to Tina!


Tina's question, however, was not particularly important at that precise moment to Herman. The aircraft in which Herman was currently confined was now making its approach to the airport. From his point of view, the approach had all the negative attributes of his attempt to fraternize with the woman at the well -- things weren't working out exactly as planned. The commercial jet was literally bouncing all over the place, as it headed for the runway. Massive and extensive clear air turbulence had added an entirely new dimension to the airplane's attempt to enter the environs of New York 's JFK airport.

Herman, having long since seized upon the idea of seeking comfort by any means what-so-ever, had retreated to a deeply meditative state, where he sought guidance from a higher power. On the one hand, he was reassured that this was not the time for his transition to a higher plane (pardon the pun). However, he did find inexplicable hints of his need to undergo some bizarre form of shaman initiation rites, or to run a transformational gauntlet. Perhaps several times. The airliner's landing approach seemed to be but the beginning.

He had also thought he had long since given up flying in anything other than a private jet, a jet which had, among other things, the option to choose alternative runways -- ones without record-breaking clear air turbulence. He had been wrong. For he now found himself tossed by the winds of careless fate in a first class seat on a third class airline -- first and second class airlines having been eliminated as financially unrealizable several years prior due to the massive debt burden of frequent flyer plans. Worse yet, he was flying on a commercial flight just as if he were middle class -- a truly dismal state of affairs. He was also flying into New York City , which in itself was one of the more traumatic gauntlets available for any form of initiation rites.

There seemed to be no option for Herman save to quietly meditate on his lot in life and the continuing and inexorable decline of commercial aviation, even as the airliner continued its up and down descent toward terra firma -- a descent similar to Orpheus' foray into Hades, but where the Greek hero is attempting a return visit using a skateboard with a square wheel. The first class cabin's male steward, a "Mr. Harper", contributed his part, by hustling up and down the aisles, providing instructions, reassurance, and barf bags, but not necessarily in that order. Unfortunately, in a manifest of 62 paying passengers, only Herman had the presence of mind to recognize the obvious merits of the descent as the next adventuresome ride at Disneyland . The other passengers, meanwhile, were becoming thoroughly sick of the ride and beginning to look forward with great expectations to departing the plane, if only to escape the distinctive smell that was slowly evolving from the very rough approach to the runway.

The actual landing, laughingly referred to as the "touch down", put an end to the agony of descent, and initiated an entirely new adventure; which was entitled, "The Dance of the Butterflies", as every possible combination of different landing wheels hitting the ground at one time or another, was slowly exhausted. The airliner added to the Butterfly Dance a highly original choreography consisting of swinging its tail first one way and then the other, giving one the suggestion that the runway was not in fact one of those ramrod straight stretches of concrete commonly utilized at airports. But instead, was something far more interesting.

Finally, the airplane actually made intimate contact with the ground (or concrete), and one realized for the first time that indeed the runway was straight. Or as close to straight as the local, overpaid, friend-of-the-mayor's-family contractor could approximate.

This return to the earth was immediately seized upon by all of the passengers as they each began giving up thanks to their chosen god/saint/and/or what-have-you. Based on the yeas, hosannas, and other forms of exultations, it would appear that this particular airplane's deities included Moses, Ezekiel, Jesus, Saint Christopher, Saint Origen, Ra, Horus, Ishtar, Isis, Buddha, Gandhi, Merlin the Druid, Zoroaster, Ram Dass, Tammy Bakker, The Brothers Four, and the proverbial god known as “Shit”. Donald Trump was also mentioned, but apparently not from any sense of gratitude.

The host of new and varied repositories for placing one's faith had made great gains of late. New religions, pseudo-religions, alternative-religions, half-hearted religions and anti-religious religions had been on the rise for several years, particularly following the 2000 presidential elections. It was not clear that the managed results of the election were the cause, but the election had managed to convey two critically important messages to the populace: 1) The economy of the United States was so far into the toilet as to be irretrievable, and 2) Nobody in the world really liked Americans anymore. Government, thus having lost its status as a potential savior for the masses, was now being replaced in the hearts and minds of virtually everyone with whatever struck each person's fancy.

The result was that while traditional faiths found their attendance declining, other faiths (including non-traditional, strange, and simply far out groups) were finding their numbers swelling. It was as if people had decided that the old ways were no longer working and it was time to branch out. As noted by one modern day guru -- with whom Herman had invested more than a few rubles -- times seemed very troubled and people were covering their posteriors -- about the only traditional activity in current fashion.

Regardless of the source of divine intervention, however, the airplane had survived its descent and had only to taxi to its loading gate to be officially declared a miracle. Everything was going to be okay now. Herman and the other passengers were relieved. Popularity polls on the pilot took a decided upswing. The airplane was now moving along nicely at taxi speed, off the runway (the most probable place to be dropped on by another airplane), and was heading for the barn. Yea!

Reprieved from a term in purgatory, and in the true spirit of traditional practices, the passengers began scrambling for the overhead racks and other assorted places where their various artifacts had been stuffed. Simultaneously, the flight attendants began telling everyone to remain seated for their own safety. As was customary, the passengers ignored the flight attendants' words of wisdom and continued to pre-prepare for leaving the aircraft. Naturally, the flight attendants became ever more forceful in urging everyone to return to their seats. The carrying forth of this time honored tradition was strangely comforting to all concerned.

The senior flight attendant, a grizzled old broad who would have made Attila the Hun look like youthful innocence, became quite insistent about the passengers remaining in their seats -- just as the airplane suddenly lurched to a halt. "Lurched" might not have been the best word in Herman's view. As he would later recount the incident, it was more like "slam dunk", or “Wham!” -- The plane had ceased its forward motion. Like the pilots checking out their long-standing bet on whether or not they could stop on a dime!

However, instead of the pilots settling their small wager at the passengers' expense, the airplane had instead been forced to brake abruptly in order to avoid a small private plane. The smaller plane, its pilot oblivious to the rest of the world, had managed to taxi directly across the path of the larger plane -- a not uncommon occurrence. Small private planes like to think of themselves as big private planes, and in true democratic fashion, taxi as if they were of equal status to the jumbo jets.

The larger planes would probably have just run over the smaller planes for spite, except that so often the flying debris of a crushed smaller plane had the undesirable effect of tearing into the larger plane's engines, fuselage and assorted structural members. There was nothing quite like a small propeller ripping through the tinsel outer shell of a modern commercial jet, to cause consternation among its pilots and passengers. Small planes were not, therefore, as a matter of course run over and destroyed -- rather like not stepping on a porcupine simply because he had wandered across your path.

Meanwhile, with the plane hitting the skids, so to speak, people and their artifacts went flying through the cabin. Some simply went over the seats in front of them, while others covered considerably more distance flying down the aisles and joining a mélange of heaped bodies. Mr. Harper, a rather large flight attendant, went down backwards, inadvertently crushing a chemistry professor named Murphy and his traveling secretary and/or companion, a delightful creature attractively named Lara.

[Aside: Chemistry professors who consult for drug companies are among the most affluent of university gentry, due primarily to the eagerness of said companies to pay enormously high consulting fees in order to obtain "independent" analyses of their new drugs. Accordingly, such highly paid consultants regularly employ attractive secretaries and/or companions who go virtually everywhere with their bosses on their drug consulting trips. Think of it as a fringe benefit, indirectly provided by the drug companies, for those guardians who contribute to our welfare by providing the wholly owned subsidiary of said drug companies, the Federal Food and Drug Administration, with unbiased reports on new and lucrative drugs -- lucrative, that is, for the drug companies and their consultants.]

Every other passenger in the aisles went down as well except for two servicemen who effectively bounced off of Harper and found themselves back on their feet. Numerous people became much more familiar with the passengers in the seats in front of them, even to the extent that numerous packages went forward as unsolicited, airmail gifts. Most of the relationships thus formed, however, did not last a fortnight.

Herman, for his part, remained relatively undisturbed, inasmuch as he was still sitting with his seat belt fastened. Of course, Herman was flying first cabin, and thus automatically had the best chance of getting off the airplane early without having to try gaining position on the herd by charging into the aisles as quickly as possible. Closer to the exit, he had patiently waited, and continued to offer homage to one of several gods, anyone of which might deem him worthy of a continuation of this incarnation.

The pilot then did a curt, "Click. This is your Captain. Sorry about that. Click."

All the passengers struggled back to find their seats and/or rosary beads, while the flight attendants strutted about with their patented "I told you so!" attitude. All but Harper, who was attempting to peel the chemistry professor and his formerly full chested secretary, Lara, from the aisle. The flight attendant was partially successful, despite the fact that the professor and Lara had reached a whole new level of intimacy in those brief moments. But their relationship was doomed as well. Sigh.

As the airplane continued to taxi again, all the passengers were in a strangely subdued attitude, waiting with baited breath for the moment when they could at last escape. The tense eagerness continued to mount even as the plane approached its gate, came to a stop, and the door opened fully. Suddenly, all the pent up emotion and action was loosed as everyone tried to make for the exit in a controlled panic. This time, however, Herman was in the near lead.

Unfortunately, one small, red-headed but misguided passenger named Peter -- being one of the first off the plane -- abruptly stopped as he entered the flightway and dropped to his knees to kiss the ground as a token of his gratitude at being safely back on earth once again. Herman immediately stumbled over the man, but then managed to stagger back to his feet. The woman behind Herman, however, failed to see Pete altogether and went down on top of him, promptly sprawling herself and the contents of two, formerly stuffed plastic bags all over the flightway. In true domino fashion the next seven passengers tripped over Pete and/or the woman (or one another) until a glut of nearly ten people virtually plugged the lower half of the flightway.

The next batch of people, not to be denied their own escape from what was becoming a horrendous stench in the airplane, were soon scrambling over the lumped mass of people and effectively making the flightway plug all the more complete. As the passengers still in the aircraft sensed the delay in exiting, they assumed the worst and became all the more insistent on escape for themselves. Bedlam ensued to the point that several tried the emergency exits, only to find that three out of four had rusted shut – which is hard to do with low grade aluminum structures. As one legislator later phrased it -- at a news conference following a total, thorough, exhaustive, and immediate investigation of the incident fifteen months later -- the flightway was just as dangerous as the airplane, save that it did not carry several tons of high octane jet fuel. That same legislator later retracted his statement, claiming vociferously that he had been misquoted, misled, defamed, defrocked, and as a matter of fact, had not been feeling all that well on the day of the alleged quote anyway.

Herman looked back only momentarily at what might have been his fate, and silently thanked all of the gods he could think of that might of have had a hand in his deliverance. Several responded with a "You're welcome" (each god claiming sole credit of course), but Herman pretty much missed their response (and the subsequent argument between them). Instead, he strode briskly up the flightway, following the four others who had been granted similar grace.

Realizing he had been successful in running the initial stages of the gauntlet, Herman vowed once again never to fly common carrier. For any reason! No matter what Zak said or demanded. Even prior to a flood or volcanic eruption. Herman also thought momentarily of Pete's stupidity in dropping to his knees to kiss the ground. After all, the flightway was ten to eleven feet above the ground! Herman was obviously smarter than his former fellow first class passenger. (Unless of course Pete had some perverse reason for causing bedlam in airline passengers -- which was always a possibility). Feeling therefore rather pleased with himself, Herman exited the flightway into the airport concourse just in time to catch the latest mass-riot-demonstration in progress.

Mass-riot-demonstrations, or in common parlance, MRDs, had become quite common in airports since the 2000 presidential elections, inasmuch as virtually every contingency of every side of every issue had felt betrayed, cheated, disenfranchised, threatened, and/or ignored by the obviously staged election results. In addition, airports have traditionally been marvelous locations for demonstrations, what with the generally higher level of people wandering about -- as opposed to your average street, where no one of any wealth or power wandered. The difficulty in the majority of the MRDs, even in the best of airports, however, was that it was exceedingly difficult to tell one from the other, and this fact tended to make each one somewhat ineffective, media-wise.

Herman at first hesitated at the wild-river flow of humanity moving before him, but then realized that it was in fact moving in the approximate direction that he wanted to go. And being above all else a man of spontaneous creativity, he made a quick decision and fairly leapt into the migrating mob moving toward the main terminal. There he grabbed a poster from some die hard -- even as the die hard was faltering and falling below the waist level of the majority of demonstrators and/or innocent bystanders. Herman then began his best imitation of a madder than hell, not going to take it any longer, down with the system, advocate.

Herman was quick enough to recognize, however, that in order to pose as a viable advocate or anti-advocate -- whichever the case might be -- it would be necessary to read his own poster and thereby be able to yell appropriate curses. Pulling it down slightly, and thus causing all manner of wounds in those fellow demonstrators in his immediate vicinity -- some of whom took a solemn vow to someday revenge themselves upon Herman -- he was able to read: "ADVERTISING IS CRIMINAL BRAIN WASHING!! DOWN WITH ALL FORMS OF ADVERTISING!!" And in smaller print: "Including this poster!"

Intent upon grasping the profound significance of the poster's message, Herman failed to notice the hand that whipped out of the crowd, grabbed the poster, and quickly made off with same. Instead, he found himself quickly being distanced from his badge of authority and doing what is commonly thought of as "going with the flow".

But Herman was not content with silently accepting his loss, whereupon he started to say something about his being so quickly deprived of his poster and thus his reason for being in the current... current. But a shoulder in the mouth eliminated any possible protest, as well as any profound, anti-advertising statement. Just as quickly, Herman felt a strong push in the back, as he found himself being thrown into an eddy of sorts, just off the mainstream of humanity, where he began wiping his mouth of the remnants of the earlier shoulder hit.

This momentary breather was then interrupted by a kooky, sexily clad, female bimbo, who appeared miraculously from within the crowd and joined him in his eddy between two corner walls of painted cinder block. Thelma Pesno did not bother to introduce herself, but lost no time in making Herman aware of her possibilities.

"Hey Hunk!" she cleverly began her attack, "Are you a smoooooth character? I really go for smoooooth characters!! They really turn me on!"

Herman had never been above trading sexual innuendos with virtually any member of the female species. Thelma, however, was moving just a shade quicker than to what he was accustomed. Sensing his momentary off-balance state, she continued her blitzkrieg. "How about a drink, sweetie? Then we can feel mellow and light and free as the birds! Loosen all those inhibitions. Time to try something warm and intoxicating; to smoooooth our insides before we smoooooth one another's outsides!!" Thelma's rendition of "smooth" resulted either from a childhood trauma in the public school system (a common malady), or the fact that her current pronunciation involved a suggestive pucker on her moistened lips. Or both. In any case, the ball was now in Herman's court.

In a barren corner perhaps three foot square, in a small eddy in the midst of a flowing humanity of outraged people, including those protesting and those protested against, and during an MRD... Well... This is probably not the ideal spot for romantic entanglements. Obviously. Or at least, not a rational, logical choice. Instinct, however, being what it is, and Herman having ample stock of said instinct... Let's just say Herman reacted in more or less his typical fashion, ignoring the reality of the situation and doing what came naturally. He smiled his best wicked grin, and with a casual wave of his hand, said, "Sounds good to me. But we don't really need the booze, do we?"

Thelma's expression immediately changed from a "come hither" look to a "go yonder" one. "If it's got sex in it, you'll buy it, right!!?" Then her expression turned even more sour. "You know you're pathetic!! Madison Avenue must love you! Throw in a little sexual possibility, and you'd sell the farm! Don't you understand, you buffoon? It's all lies and deceit! They're using you! They're garbaging the world with their propaganda, destroying the very fabric of civilization, just to sell something! And you're the patsy who will buy it!

Herman had already heard the long litany of advertising's grotesque irresponsibilities to virtually everything of value in modern life. But instead of rehashing such obvious truths with what was apparently one of the MRD's instigators, he resorted to a less vicious wordplay. "It's just that your beauty was so overwhelming, I momentarily lost my head. I'm so sorry."

Thelma was momentarily whoa-ed. "What!?"

"Besides, my dear," he added, "I didn't know you were selling it!"

Oops. This was not Herman's greatest diplomatic triumph. A potentially lovely relationship quickly dashed as Thelma's momentary whoa became an all-out attack. "You male-chauvinist, phallic-obsessed, gutter-brained boron!! You disgust me!!"

Thelma's flip side hardly fazed Herman, but one thing she said did catch his attention. With an only slightly bewildered face, he asked, "What's a boron?"

Full of disgust and fury, and signifying surprisingly little, Thelma answered, "A boring moron, you illiterate ass!!"

Herman's clever retort, in all its glory and brilliance, was simply, "Oh."

Whereupon, Thelma got in the last word with "Get fucked!" and promptly launched herself back into the MRD, ready for yet another conquest. Herman merely smiled for a moment, threw out his own candidate for getting in the last word, "Good luck to you, too." He then leaned back against the wall, bemused by people's continuing ability to wow him with their totally incomprehensible nature.

Shrugging his shoulders, Herman absentmindedly shoved his hands into his coat pocket, whereupon he realized that his pockets were full of crumpled paper. Pulling a few sheets out, he uncrumpled them, wondering what in the world they were. Then he recognized the drift -- obviously his pockets had been stuffed with flyers during his forge across the cross currents of the airport's MRD. For a moment he read a few sheets.

They were retty much what he had expected. "Advertising is lies, deceit, deceptions, and with no socially redeeming value whatsoever." So what else was new? "Advertising was a Shiite plot to overthrow the Shah!" Apparently this was an older flyer being recycled. "Advertising is trying to destroy the fabric of the cities, reducing them to rubble." That was potentially a very good idea, Herman thought: reducing the cities to rubble. "Advertising was brainwashing the citizenry and aggravating every known problem." Probably. After reading through most of the other flyers, Herman frowned slightly. There was really nothing new. Advertising had always been that way. Undoubtedly, it always would be.

After a few moments of his brief reverie, another man was flung from the flow, directly into one wall, where his face took on the texture of painted cinder block. The man remained upright for perhaps five to seven seconds and then slowly wilted to the floor, mumbling some form of apology for disturbing Herman in his small enclave. He was followed by a woman who floundering directly into Herman's arm, pinning him momentarily against the wall. Then she recovered and, noticing the man on the floor, bent down to check on him. Another man joined their rapidly growing congregation, eliminating the remaining floor space, and reminding Herman of the fact of the crowded airport, and the ever diminishing space for refuge.

Recognizing the inevitable, Herman reached down for the woman, pulled her upright, and then grabbed the first man to get him to his feet. Just as he had the man upright against the corner of the wall, three others of assorted sexes joined the eddy, and filled the newly formed space occasioned by everyone now standing. Herman then squeezed himself between one wall and two people of the opposite sex. The latter two were only now becoming intimately acquainted -- and ultimately would become passionate lovers, get married, raise three children, get divorced, fight over the children, fight over the money, etcetera. In this way, they carried on the traditions of American relationships of the late twentieth century.

Meanwhile, back at the airport, Herman launched himself back into the mainstream flow, moving – theoretically -- toward the main terminal. He continued in this fashion until such a time as he recognized his location along the concourse. Wiping out three protestors who had resorted to using their posters to make their points in people, Herman struck out against the cross currents of life to the only potentially safe haven within ten miles: the VIP lounge -- also known as the VWP, i.e. Very Wealthy People lounge. His goal being of the highest caliber, justified by virtually every major world religion, and ultimately based upon a basic survival instinct, Herman was able to tap the deepest aspect of his being for strength, perseverance, and downright aggressiveness, and forge this last stream to comparative safety. The fact that the door to the lounge faced upstream, so to speak, also helped, inasmuch as he was plastered against the door by the crowd, but long enough for him to pull out his VIP card and insert it into the locked door's VIP card slot. The door immediately opened, allowing him and two others into a small foyer, locally referred to as the "holding pen".

Herman had the presence of mind to immediately flash his card to the very sophisticated but very tough and hardened security guard in the foyer. Thus having been identified as an authentic VIP (or VWP, as the case might be), he was quickly shown all appropriate respect for his station in life, and passed through to the second door into the inner sanctum of the VIP lounge. The other two -- alien intruders, strangers in a strange land as it were -- were quickly appraised of their gross error and redirected to the mainstream of society and the mad rush to the main terminal's exits. Or for that matter, any exit – any port in a storm, so to speak.

Once in the lounge, Herman went directly to the luxurious bar, slapped his VIP card on the counter and grabbed someone else' freshly prepared drink. The bartender, aware that this new arrival had not even bothered to inquire as to the contents of the drink, was thus able to recognize the signs of infinite need and without the slightest hesitation took Herman's card to charge for the drink. Preparing a replacement drink would be simple enough. In fact, the bartender took it upon himself to charge Herman twice and quickly prepared two replacement drinks. The bartender's unwarranted assumption of authority was quickly relabeled as initiative, as Herman downed his first drink and asked for a second, "whatever it was." In this manner, the bartender demonstrated how dispensers of liquid rejuvenation in airport VIP/VWP lounges have become extremely adept at performing the most time-honored traditions of the Society of Saint Bernards, and why they are thus so highly sought after.

Herman, meanwhile, felt the first semblance of a return to rational consciousness after running the concourse gauntlet. A few minor pains told him he had not escaped totally without injury, and he would likely have a few sore muscles by tomorrow. As seasoned a traveler as anyone, he also sensed that he was not the young buck he used to be. Hovering around fifty (he disliked being concerned with his exact age), he was not old. But neither was he oblivious to the physical slings and arrows, not to mention errors, of "mingling with the masses". The fact that following the last elections, the masses were more or less continually revolting hardly fazed Herman. He had assumed that the masses had always been revolting. The difficulty now was that he seemed to be one of those against whom the masses were revolting.

The fact that their demonstrations of unrest were beginning to enter into Herman's life, was a terrifying prospect in itself. MRDs were perfectly acceptable and often entertaining. Provided, of course that they were limited to the TV, and the entertainee was not also conscripted to be one of the entertainers! But when social unrest disturbed the tranquility of VIPs and VWPs, they had gone too far. Obviously.

Mellowed by the booze, recovered by the momentary rest, and peacefully rejuvenated by the lounge's atmosphere, Herman was again ready to strike out on his trek into the city. Only in this case, in a limousine. A well-armored limousine. One which could be boarded in the VIP limo section, and thus avoid the continuing and major bedlam known as the demolition derby occurring daily at the common folk's loading and unloading curbside location. Better yet, Herman's limousine would depart the airport via a series of tunnels and specially converted alleyways, such that the freeways could be reached with a minimum of interactions with other vehicles. Rank, most assuredly, would have its Privileges.

As Herman started away from the bar, he momentarily glanced out the lounge's windows to the aircraft parked outside. Abruptly he recognized one of Worldwide Enterprise's corporate jets, one of those which ideally should have been available to fly him from his mountain retreat to world corporate headquarters. Intrigued, he walked directly to the window, wondering why the plane had not been available for him.

For several moments, Herman checked the plane out. To all extents and purposes it looked ready to fly. Then he noticed a young woman, dressed in a variety of well-matched colors, noticeably not the standard female business attire -- which following the 2000 elections was one of three shades of drab. The woman walked briskly to the plane where she was met by a member of the ground crew. With scarcely a pause to say hello, she scurried up the small ramp into the plane, while the crewman quickly removed the gangway. At virtually the same time, the door of the plane closed, and the jet began rolling backwards, preparing to taxi from the terminal. Herman was immediately impressed with the coordination of the crew to take off as soon as possible. H was also intrigued with the attractiveness of the woman.

Then the more relevant question entered his mind. "Who the hell is she!?"

The question continued to occupy his mind while he wandered off toward the VIP-limo section. In typical fashion he realized in sequence that she had been a particularly attractive woman, perhaps in her mid-thirties (or forties), that he could not recall ever having seen her before, and that it was going to be absolutely necessary that he find out who she was. And soon!

He was still thinking about ways of finding his prey, when his limo entered the streets of New York City , running down three chickens and a lamb, the sole support of a newly-arrived refugee family from semi-war-torn French Quebec. Aware of only three shorts and a long lower, drawn-out bump, the sort of motif Beethoven might have appreciated, Herman turned his attention to the order of the day: Meeting his occasional, semi-father, and trying to find out what in the world was going on with Worldwide Enterprises!


Heir Apparent

Forward to:

Chapter Two – Worldwide Enterprises



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