His Magnificence

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ATTACK OF CONSCIENCE.

Bob Maith slanted forward in his chair and grasped a glass of whiskey while staring at the pixilation of Lonnie Carter at the center of his desk. His Wakanabe machine and the flashing images of FNN on the plasma televisions illuminated his personal real world refuge.

The lamps were off. No candles were lit. The lamps and candles were always lit.

For the first time in recent memory, Bob felt despondent. “I’m a terrible father, Lonn, and a worse uncle,” he drawled to his business partner.

“Why are you telling me this?” Lonnie callously asked. “Whenever you call me from the den, it’s about business, not family.”

“I didn’t know who else to turn to.”

“Your wife?!”

“She’s mad at me, too. In fact, her sympathy level is lower than the bottom of the Grand Canyon. That was my favorite trip I’ve ever had with the family. It seems like an eternity ago.”

Lonnie creased his eyebrows upward, shooting invisible waves of indignation towards Bob. “See, you’ve gone soft, Maith! We’re completing the Jacobson deal next week, and we got that Slava rassie to concede an extra billion to our bottom line! Why are you so unhappy?!”

“Lonnie, I assure you this will pass, just like everything else…”

“No, Robert! I won’t tolerate an attack of conscience in the most important time in our company’s history! We’ve always put our feelings aside for business, family and friends be damned, remember? If I remember correctly, you adopted this philosophy!”

Lonnie continued to shout at him, but Bob tuned him out. As he sipped his whiskey, he slowly tilted his head downward and shut his eyes. His internal conflict induced an unbearable sullenness to which he could not marshal a retort to his business partner’s insults. The Jacobson deal was important, but whether an extra billion dollars was worth alienating his family further tore at his heart.

Suddenly, Bob’s attention diverted to a blinding red flash on the plasma screen.

Lonnie’s shouting now became deafening. “ROBERT! ARE WE MEETING AT THE TETERBORO WARPCRAFT PLANT TO GO TO CHICAGO MONDAY MORNING OR NOT?!”

Bob remained silent as he read the scroll at the bottom of the screen next to the gold FNN logo:

NEW ALASKAN TERRORIST GROUP CAPTURED AT ROCKLAND FUSION REACTOR FACILITY

“ROBERT! STOP IGNORING…”

“You watching FNN?” Bob softly interrupted.

“Wait…FNN…wha…NO!”

“Well,” Bob snarled with a hint of desperation in his voice, “I think you should turn it on now!” He placed Lonnie on mute, then turned the television volume up.

Shortly thereafter, Mark Leonard appeared, seated at a desk in FNN’s main newsroom.

“At 2243 last night,” Leonard began, “at the Rockland Fusion Reactor facility near West Point, New York, a group of three New Alaskan nationals were captured by Divine Army battalion members stationed at the plant. At least fifty pounds of powder-keg cocktails were concealed within the terrorists’ wardrobe which, if properly ignited with hydrogen, would not only have destroyed the plant, but would have caused an explosion three times the magnitude of a Hathaway bomb. Thanks to the efforts of our Divine Armed Forces, our country was spared from unfathomable devastation. The Ultimate Minister has not yet commented, but will address the nation within the hour.”

Bob stared at the screen in astonishment. “That son of a gun! It’s going to happen,” he whispered.

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