Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)
(July 19 th )
Aaron was angry. He had just wasted from his point of view a full half-day trekking over to Elysium Fields, talking to a radically transformed Perses, and then struggling in his limo all the way back to the corporate offices. The trip to the outer, outer suburbs even while traveling in a limousine had been lousy -- the traffic had continued to set new records for non-movement, the limousine's air conditioning stalled as much as the traffic, and the wines cooling in the limo's small refrigerator were none of his personal choices! Aaron vowed that henceforth if he couldn't get there by helicopter he wasn't going! (Unbeknownst to Aaron, this was rather severely limiting inasmuch as helicopters were no longer allowed to fly for security reasons within a ten mile radius of Worldwide Enterprises' corporate headquarters where Aaron worked.)
Adding insult to injury, his mobile telephone had been on the blink, a fact which he didn't discover until he was a fourth of the way to Perses' nut house and beyond the point of easily returning in order to switch limousines. Without a telephone, the world class executive was prevented from acting as befitted his station. This from his point of view was more than disastrous! It was extremely annoying! Aaron did not like to be annoyed.
As he thought about it -- with his limousine slowly crawling through traffic -- Aaron became convinced that the phone had been deliberately sabotaged, undoubtedly by Tina or Herman. But inasmuch as the telephone didn't work, he couldn't contact his spies with the telephone and tell them to check out his theory. This made him twice as mad! He had had to wait until his arrival at Elysium Fields and the use of their telephone!
This in and of itself should have been okay. Only it wasn't. Perses and somebody named Kate had been willing to let him use the telephone, but then when he did, they began making snide comments about "paranoia", "conspiracy obsession", and several other terms with which Aaron was unfamiliar -- and with which he fully intended to remain so! After that, Perses had been so condescending, agreeing with everything he said, and never saying anything of substance in return, that Aaron had wanted to spit! She had even asked him to stay with them for a while, "take a few tests, relax, and smell the flowers". As if he needed such stuff when he was obviously not in the mood for flowers or anything else that smelled!
Tina had set him up! Of that much he was certain. There had been nothing to be gained from seeing Perses. Nothing at all. Then all that talk about his hanging around, maybe playing some baseball, even starting up an old hunting club! 'What a load of crap!' Aaron thought, "I hate baseball! I wouldn't waste my time on a game, unless...' Suddenly a new thought occurred to him. What if Perses had been working for Tina? Trying to keep him out of the picture while Tina tried to convince Zak that Aaron was loosing his grip?
The possibility of Tina turning Zak's head while Aaron was out of the way had kept him churning all the way back from Elysium Fields, through the two hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic as it wound its way through the zones under permanent construction and/or repair (it hardly made a difference any longer as to whether they were construction or repair zones -- traffic was still horrendous), through the long period of time without a telephone and without anything to do but think (obviously a waste of time!), and through the corporate headquarters of Worldwide Enterprises as Aaron set a land speed record through the "Maze".
When he arrived at Joy Daniele's desk, he was still sufficiently angry to ignore all of his previous intimidations of charging in on Zak, of being put off by Joy, or of being denied the opportunity to state his case before the highest tribunal known on the planet (i.e. Zak). Joy was forced to use all of her talents to keep Aaron at bay just long enough to go through the drill of requesting entrance into Zak's office.
"I'm sure your father will see you, Aaron," Joy assured him, "But if I don't go through standard procedures, you're going to have half the security forces in this building in the office with you! And they are not nice people!"
"Okay!" Aaron was as forceful as he was ever going to be. "You tell my father this is absolutely critical, crucial, essential, and it cannot wait under any circumstances!!! I must see him, and I must see him now!!! Is that absolutely clear!!?"
Joy smiled the kind of smile one gives a demented, but relatively harmless politician. "Of course." Only nothing happened. Joy simply continued to smile, even as Aaron felt his rage begin to build over Joy's apparent lack of action in meeting his demands. Abruptly, Zak's voice came over the intercom.
"Joy, I'll see Aaron in ten minutes." There was a heavy click, while Joy smiled her best smile, and Aaron slowly realized that Joy had turned on the intercom when he had stormed into the office. Thus, Zak had heard his demands directly from the source. (As it turned out, Joy had her own set of spies, and had been forewarned of the angry Aaron on his way up to the executive suites, and as a consequence, had been fully prepared for the onslaught. Joy was anything but dumb.)
Straightening himself, Aaron tried to regain some semblance of his rational, mentally-directed self. Without a word to Joy or her methods, he silently took a seat in the upholstered chair facing her, and began the process of cooling his heels. Joy watched him until she decided that he wasn't worth her time. Aaron, meanwhile, ignored her presence and began to think intermittently about how he was going to confront Zak, crush Tina, and take over Worldwide Enterprises. And fire Joy as well. 'Too smart for her own good,' he thought.
Herman was feeling pretty good as he savored the recent memories of making love with April and participating with Tess and the other ladies in giving birth to twins. The two back- to-back events, he decided, might easily constitute a significant portion of the happiness available on this otherwise backward planet. Now sitting on Tina's couch in her office, he tried to convey the majesty of those moments to the Executive Vice President of Worldwide Enterprises. He was only marginally successful.
It was one thing to explain to Tina the gist of his visits with Tess and April, what he had learned -- which wasn't much -- and what they could expect in the immediate future -- which might be even less. But it was something else again to account to her his feelings of optimism, enthusiasm, and simple enjoyment of life. He was still basking in the afterglow, while Tina, on the other hand, was still smarting from her meeting the day before with Aaron. Tina was feeling anything but enthusiastic optimism.
Then abruptly Tina stood up from her chair and came around the desk, leaving her accustomed seat of power! Without a word, she sat down on the two person couch next to him, and leaned back. Herman had never seen Tina sit on the couch other than when he had come into her office and she had been alone. And even at those times when he had arrived to find her on the couch, she had always retreated to behind her desk before they had initiated any conversation of substance. Obviously, something was quite different today!
Tina was also noticeably quiet, intense, and preoccupied, apparently engrossed in the details of their previous conversation. She sat on the couch, her face a mask of intensity, analyzing everything in sight.
To Herman, her expression seemed one of pain or concern. Possibly she was really worried or very upset. All of which suggested to him that he should try to comfort her in a brotherly way. Gently, he reached out his hand and placed it on Tina's shoulder. "Relax, Tina," he whispered aloud, "Relax. It's okay."
The universe immediately stepped in, refusing to miss the opportunity for a little fun. Tina took it wrong. Totally insensitive to his brotherly intent, she felt only the abrupt rush of yet another man lusting after her body. And of course, it had to be another brother! It always seemed to be a brother!! Or an uncle!! Or something!! Coldly, Tina turned to Herman. "What do you think you're doing?" Several icicles formed in the air between them.
Herman only managed a, "Huh?"
"I'm not interested in fooling around, having sex, or anything else! With you or any of my other oversexed brothers! And if you don't back off, I'm going to reach down your throat and with my bare hands, yank out your precious..."
"No, no!" Herman immediately surrendered, "that won't be necessary!" With both hands in the air, the vanquished male leaned back in his seat as far as humanly possible, setting several world records for crushing upholstered furniture in an effort to avoid an imminent death blow.
Seeing the look of horror on his face, Tina suddenly sensed the extent of her overreaction and backed off. With a heavy sigh, she added, "Sorry. I guess I'm a little on edge."
"No problem," Herman stuttered, understanding for the first time why some people found the concept of celibacy a viable alternative.
For several moments, the two continued to sit there, Herman only slightly easing his effort to become one with the couch and Tina stuffing a few emotions in order to make room for her rational, logical mental processes. Then Tina said, as much to herself as to Herman, "Both April and Tess know something, but neither one is telling. So we know something's afoot. Probably, precisely what we've been assuming." Herman sat quietly thinking, as she continued, "At the same time, April's not a contender." In her typical logical fashion, Tina added, "One, she doesn't care about power or wealth."
'Just sex,' Herman briefly thought.
"Two, she may be blood kin because of our great grandfather's illicit affairs, but she's not a direct descendant of Zak. Therefore, she's not the one."
"I don't think it's Tess, either," Herman added.
"Why not? They could be planning an announcement tomorrow. Maybe that's why she's was willing to clue you in by tomorrow night."
"I don't think so." Herman shook his head, tentatively.
"Why not!?" Tina was insistent.
Herman shrugged his shoulders. "Gut reaction. It doesn't feel right."
Tina had to think about that one for a while. Decisions based on feeling were not exactly in her repertoire.
"Lars is probably not the one," Herman continued. Then as an afterthought, "Lars is probably not even sane."
"And Perses has been paid off," Tina added. Abruptly she smiled. "And I'll bet that she cost a lot more than Lars!" There was a brief pause. "That reminds me, I need to send a silly game attachment to Lars." With that she rose and went to her desk. Not bothering to sit down, she hit the intercom button and started telling her secretary, Bill, what she wanted.
"I've already taken care of that," Bill interrupted. "You gave me all of the information yesterday. The attachment was delivered to Lars this morning."
For a moment, Herman could see Tina was confused, something of a new event in her life. But she quickly recovered with a curt, "Right!" Obviously, Tina was not at the peak of her mental alertness. She was starting to make small mistakes, forget small items -- the sort of problems that stress can bring on.
Before Tina could switch off, however, Bill added, "There's a special messenger on the way up to see you with a letter from your mother."
"Fine," Tina answered. "Bring it in as soon as it arrives." With Bill's curt reply, Tina left the intercom and came back to resume her place on the couch. Herman watched her for several seconds as she began to withdraw again into her thinking mode. Eventually, it occurred to him that perhaps he should be thinking as well -- as opposed to just sitting there with his head on his shoulders. Enamored with the idea, he tried it out, reaching back into his memory for additional points to ponder. Then he recalled one.
"What about Chirles?"
Tina grimaced. "The only thing Gordon's managed to uncover on our alleged uncle is that he's pretty sure that Andy is not Chirles' son."
"That's not a lot of information."
Tina looked at Herman, slightly disgusted at his pointing out the obvious. "I know!"
Herman quickly went back to his inner search for additional points to ponder. Tina, meanwhile, was searching her own backyard for leads to follow, clues to decipher, anything to help get her out of the cyclical loop in which her thinking currently seemed confined. Her patience then paid off.
"The hundredth monkey," Tina said. "You mentioned that Tess said something about the hundredth monkey. What's that all about?"
Herman smiled. This was something he actually had taken the time to research, one which was still fresh in his mind and one about which he could just talk and not have to think! Great! Covering his rampant enthusiasm, he answered, "Yeah. That's kind of interesting. I looked it up."
While he seemed to procrastinate, basking in the glory of knowing the answer to today's quiz, Tina felt the first wave of frustration. Obviously, he needed encouragement in order to explain. Evenly, forcefully, she asked, " What did you find out!?"
Herman quickly sensed Tina's frustration level and the consequent need to be concise – something he immediately attempted. "They did an experiment with monkeys on a group of islands in the Pacific. On one island, they taught a female monkey to wash its food prior to eating it. Eventually, some of the other monkeys on the same island began to observe the first monkey's activity and then to copy her. Before long, most of the other monkeys on that island were washing their food. But, of course, not on the other islands. Until, suddenly the monkeys on the other islands without ever having seen another monkey wash their food, or being taught to do so by anyone, began washing their food as well!"
Tina was perplexed. "I don't get it!"
"The theory is that once enough monkeys began to do something, in this case, at least a hundred monkeys washing their food, then the concept was enough to form a thought pattern which monkeys on other islands could pick up on. Some sort of morphogenetic field."
"You're kidding!" Tina had just gone from perplexed to skeptical.
"No. It has something to do with species effectively communicating recent experiences. The key seems to be that you have to have enough intensity of a thought or an experience, some sort of threshold, before others of the same species can receive the thought pattern. Thus if you have a hundred monkeys doing something totally original, then other monkeys, anywhere in the world, can receive those thought patterns and add the same experience to their own actions. But this only works if you get beyond some kind of threshold that puts the idea into morphogenetic field, for lack of a better word, the thought field. Once there, distance and time seem irrelevant."
Tina had that look of having just been told a "shaggy dog story". "Is there a reason why this has any bearing on anything!?"
Herman smiled, knowing the answer. "The concept of the hundredth monkey is that if enough monkeys think something, then all monkeys become aware of the same thing. And! If enough human beings think something, then all human beings pick up on the idea! For example, if enough people think about peace on earth, then pretty soon, you get peace on earth! Isn't that incredible!?"
Tina looked at Herman for a moment, taking into account his enthusiasm, his age, and the possibility of premature senility. "Yes, I see what you're saying. 'Incredible!' That's definitely it!"
Tina's emphasis on "Incredible" had not escaped Herman's attention. "There really is scientific evidence for this," he said. "But there's also free will among human beings. They may be thinking about peace, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have to choose it."
"Obviously, they haven't," Tina replied.
"But consider other possibilities, ones which require a single individual's decision. Then if makes sense."
"For example," Tina taunted.
Herman shrugged. "Some guy comes up with the idea of skateboards. Enough kids begin to learn on them, and suddenly everybody's doing it!"
"That's advertising, Herman. That's all it is."
Herman leaped on her objection. "But not the ability to do it, to try all sorts of new and difficult moves on a skateboard! That's where you really see the effect! Skateboard skill has far exceeded the original idea."
Tina looked at Herman for several seconds. Then she smiled, patting him on the knee. "Nice try, Herman. I appreciate you're trying to divert me, but it's time to get back to our problem."
For several moments, Herman smiled and looked perplexed at the same time. He had not even realized he was trying to divert Tina.
Joy had taken the unusual action of physically opening the door for Aaron and showing him into Zak's office. Aaron took careful note of the fact and assumed she was attempting to ingratiate herself with him, after her questionable behavior fifteen minutes earlier. He quickly summed up his feelings toward her, as he briefly thought, 'Bitch!'
Not privy to his thoughts, Joy smiled and closed the door.
As the door shut with Aaron silently standing just inside the office, Zak glanced up from his desk. Continuing to sort papers, some of which were already carefully laid in his leather briefcase, he acknowledged Aaron's presence, "Fine! You've got ten minutes!" Hardly looking up, he added, "Don't let the fact that I'm continuing to prepare to leave divert you. I'm still listening intently to everything you have to say. But I have to be out of here in less than fifteen minutes!"
Aaron silently shook his head, recognizing his time limit, and accepting the reality of the situation. He also knew that once the subject was broached, Zak would provide whatever time was required.
"For many years," Aaron began, slowly building steam, "I've worked diligently for Worldwide, devoting my talents and my enthusiasm. The results are self evident. And while I appreciate the work that Tina and Herman and others like them have contributed, I also recognize that the key to their efforts is leadership. What has always been essential was strong, stable leadership."
Zak took the word, "leadership", as his cue to look up. "I agree with you. Leadership is very important. But I wonder if you realize how much." When Aaron failed to immediately reply, Zak waved his hand to emphasize his point, and began to explain. "In the last several years, Worldwide has lost some of its best talents, men who just picked up and walked away. I've always assumed that you lose a few good men from time to time, but starting back in about nineteen eighty seven, it seemed like the trickle became a stream. And then a flood. Every time I turned around, some key man, or woman, was walking out the door. I thought at the time it might be a question of leadership.
“So I approached it from that viewpoint. The first thing I noticed was that enticements and fringe benefits couldn't sway them. Threats or intimidations were equally useless. Every leadership tactic I knew failed to work. The stick didn't work, and neither did the carrot. It was like the whole idea of their job had become pointless. They didn't buy the corporate concept anymore. They didn't even buy the 'American Dream' anymore. Leadership meant nothing to them. They just hauled off and headed for the hills, setting up mom and pop shops, working the land, literally chucking the culture."
"I don't understand," Aaron said.
Zak grimaced. "For a long time, I didn't either. But then I began to realize that times were changing. Something was blowing in the wind; I just couldn't quite figure it out. It was like the song where you have to know when to walk away. And my key officers were starting to do that in droves. That's when I heard about the hundredth monkey. The first guys to chuck it and walk out of here must have had the courage you only read about. But once the idea caught on, it was easy. People just began saying 'No! No more!' As more and more people began walking away, it became easier and easier for people to follow in their footsteps. I quickly decided that there was no point in fighting it."
Zak then looked directly into Aaron's eyes. "It's not a good time for men like you and me, Aaron. We're becoming out-of-date. We're not in touch with our feelings. We can't seem to change quickly enough!” For a moment, Zak hesitated. “Perhaps more importantly, we have to know when to walk away."
On a deep level, Aaron had already heard everything Zak had to say. Only it wasn't what he had wanted to hear. It was still too nebulous, too indistinct. It had to be brought out into the full light of day in order for Aaron to see it -- even if it was painful to do so. Of course, bringing something to light is almost always painful. But it's almost always worth the effort. For the moment, Aaron simply sensed the need to do so.
"I've done everything you've ever asked of me, Zak! I've gone to bat for you, carried out your commands, everything! And now I want to know what's happening!" When Zak dropped his eyes away from him and took a deep breath, Aaron let his feelings surface. "Things are happening too fast! I can't figure out what you're doing! And I have to know what's going to happen, what my place is, what's next!"
Zak could feel sympathetic, even diplomatic. Slowly he looked up at his fair-haired son and said, as gently as he knew how, "You're not the one, Aaron."
Suddenly, no further explanations were required. Aaron knew exactly what was meant by Zak's simple statement.
As it became clear to Zak that Aaron had clearly understood him, Zak tried to give him some advice. "You may have a place here in Worldwide's future, but only if you're willing to let go of the past. Just in order to survive, you're going to have to change, transform, and..." Zak searched for the word. Then he said, "Transmute." (Probably not the best word, but sufficient to hint to Aaron at the degree to which he had to change.)
Aaron felt the deepest pain he had ever felt. A pain so intense, he could not fully comprehend it, but could only stand there, knowing the feeling would continue for a long time thereafter. He also knew he would survive it. But what he didn't know was if he cared whether or not he survived; he didn't know if he was sufficiently willing to change. The jury was still out on that one. Quietly, he asked, "But why?"
Zak sighed heavily. "Not exactly my choice." Passively, he added, "The world isn't asking me for my choices any longer." More forcefully, he said to Aaron, "I'm just accepting a changing reality -- even if there are parts I don't like." He paused for just a second. "You're going to have to accept it as well!" For a moment, Zak smiled slightly.
Aaron simply looked at his father. The eldest son didn't yet know if he was going to accept such a reality. He just didn't know. He only knew that he definitely had the choice.
When Bill brought in the special messenger, Tina was still thinking -- while Herman was thinking about thinking. Tina only looked up when the man handed her an envelope. Taking it, she then obliquely noted that Herman was handed an identical envelope. Without another word, the messenger and Bill turned and left the office.
Tina continued to hold the envelope in her hand, one corner stuck in her teeth, while she continued to think. She already knew what was in the envelope, thereby eliminating any natural curiosity such that she hardly noticed it. Herman, on the other hand, had not expected an invitation and responded as if he'd just received a extremely late Christmas present. With the joy and enthusiasm typical of an eight year old, he tore into what was obviously a wedding invitation, but which might also have a surprise toy inside as well!
Abruptly, his eager smile faded as he read the contents, his expression transforming from what had been joyful anticipation into a mixture of astonishment, amazement, and total incredulity. On the fourth reading, he began to comprehend the basic message. Slowly he turned to Tina. "Have you read your invitation yet?"
Tina sluffed off the idea as irrelevant. "It's just an invitation to Andy's wedding."
Herman struggled to maintain a calm control. Swallowing hard, he managed to suggest, "I really think you ought to read it." When Tina turned to look at him, curious as to why her brother had this weird look on his face, he decided on an alternative approach. "I tell you what: I'll read it to you," he suggested. “Does that sound like a good idea?”
When Tina did not object, Herman swallowed again and began, "Tiapes Murman, father of Anna… and Oscar and Tersia Neese, the parents of Metese, announce the marriage of Anna Tiapes Murman to Androse Metese Gilan Neese..." Herman hesitated as he took another breath. "And… The marriage of the groom's parents, Metese Drew Neese to Zachary D'Michael Gilan!!"
Herman looked up to see Tina shifting into brain overload. The news had simply been too much to cause anything but complete bewilderment. Long standing barriers to things one really doesn't want to hear, were instantly activated. The result was a shock sufficiently complete to produce a totally blank expression. Then Herman added, making certain that his point had been made, "It's a double wedding!!"
Barriers to things one really doesn't want to hear have minimal staying power. In Tina's case they were rapidly crumbling, prey to Herman's trumpet blasts. Her expression quickly went from shock, to bewilderment, to thoughtful consideration of the recently acquired data. This was followed by anger and total outrage. Even so, her first words seemed to arrive with total calmness and passivity, as if noting the passing of a butterfly. "My father and my mother are getting married, and I didn't know about it?" The manner in which she spoke was as if she were merely identifying the question, clarifying it for further thought. Then with more intensity, as anger slipped into her voice, she kept repeating herself, trying to make sense of her own words. The exercise prompted her to come to her feet, as her wrath, overflowing the bubbling cauldron finally asked, "My father and my mother are getting married, and I didn't know about it!!!??"
Herman could not imagine how to answer her question. In a rare moment of insight into survival techniques, he didn't even attempt to do so.
Tina had now completed her trip to total outrage. "I don't believe this!!" She turned toward her desk, took three steps, considered relocating a computer terminal into a space three feet outside her office window, picked up a brass paperweight instead, and then just allowed the brass to mold itself to match her grip. As the brass paperweight was quickly transformed into a form suitable for entry into a modern art competition, Tina took the time to calm herself. Matter of factly, she said, "I'm going to kill him!" Then on second thought, "No! I'll kill her!" Then she smiled, the dilemma apparently resolved. "I'll kill them both!"
Her voice had not raised itself, her manner had remained calm. But enthusiastic! Eager! Delighted at the prospects! Still, Herman was nevertheless able to detect Tina's continuing anger. Quietly, he noted, "They did send you an invitation! By special messenger even!"
" Who cares ?" This time her anger was more than obvious.
Herman looked back down at the invitation, dodging Tina's rage. Tina turned away, to simmer in private as Herman then noticed something which his consciousness had missed on the first four readings of the invitation. For a moment, he sat there looking at the words. Then he voiced them. "'The groom's parents, Metese Drew Neese to Zachary D'Michael Gilan!!'"
This time, Tina heard it herself. "Oh my God!" Tina's groaned. "Andy! He's Zak's son!" Then the more relevant news hit her presses. Quietly, she murmured the words as if speaking them aloud might make then real. "Andy may be the heir apparent!"
"Yeah," Herman tried to contribute. "I was just thinking that."
The idea floated about the room, taking the time to manifest all the relevant possibilities. Tina did her share to instantly consider them all, until suddenly she marshaled her forces. More than most people, Tina could work hard on a project, accept what came down the pike, and then adapt. But this was too much! "That's it!" she announced, the authority in her voice telling the universe that it was about to hear a decree. "It's time to talk to Zak! No more games! No more pussy footing around! One way or the other, I'm going to..." Tina didn't really have to finish the sentence; the universe was already assuming that her decree was an accomplished fact. Just an accomplished fact still slightly into the future.
Herman, however, had taken a slightly different track. Tina could handle Zak; Herman had no doubt about that. But instinctively, he sensed that there was more to the story than Zak. Even as Tina made her decrees, Herman was planning his own investigations. "You go ahead. Talk to Zak. I've got another idea I want to follow up on."
Tina, still in her own process, missed the assurance in Herman's voice. This was just as well, inasmuch as she wasn't interested in being diverted from her own goals. Moving swiftly, she switched on her intercom to instruct Bill to contact Joy and say that Tina Gilan was on her way to see Zak. "Tell Joy that she had better have the door open! I don't want even the slightest delay!"
That was when Bill told her that Zachary Gilan had left the building five minutes ago, on his way to Longwood.
Chapter Nineteen – Moon in Aries
Chapter Twenty One – Showdown at Longwood
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]