D J U G A S H V I L I ’ S




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Ted Hunter

The Titan of CNNC

One, still boyishly young-looking man controlled the major network of the world media, Crown News Network Corporation, through a single eye that beamed images and sounds specially calculated for effect into nearly every household and public place in the world. When television was invented in the 1920’s, no one envisioned that this ever-burning Eye of the Titans, which could bend millions of people to change their lives in the direction the controllers desired, no one imagined its effect on the world would be so far-reaching and irreversible.

A device wielding so much power and influence could not escape the notice of the political world for very long.

Soon politicians and even national leaders--presidents and governors--turned from radio to television and captured vast audiences--if they were good in appearance or acting--they could not reach before. Television grew in influence and power as the century progressed, until individual households were centered on watching its programs almost as much as bread-winning--they seemed almost to earn a living in order to afford to watch TV.

Campaigns and presidential careers were now founded on television, for nothing was done or achieved without it.

The United Nations was not immune. Those who worked for the creation of a world government and the end of national states naturally turned to television to aid their agenda. Control of the news and the commentary on world events was a primary objective, and this was achieved primarily through television.

Orchestration of supposed “world events” was conducted in television media studios--not in the rough and tumble streets of the cities.

It was decided there what was important and what was to be shown the masses, with the critical distinction that a certain interpretation held by the media giants would be given it that would influence popular thinking on the chosen news items. If one political figure was thought useful for world government, he or she was “puffed” or promoted by the media--the others ignored. Usually the one “puffed” won out.

Early on, newspaper titans such as William Randolph Hearst had practiced “puffing” in his papers of favorite people whose causes he supported, and the technique was used to even greater effect by a sophisticated television mediocracy. But if you could “puff” you could just as easily and effectively reverse it, and “unpuff” or “deflate” undesirable people and causes. This was found, eventually, to be the most powerful weapon the media could wield.

With it they could weed out all the people in the public arena they didn’t like or support, and single in on one they did and puff him to the heavens! Amazing, no matter how flagrant the program of puffing and deflating, the public never seemed to catch on! The media thought, “Surely, they will be outraged sooner or later at what we are doing!”

But it never happened. It never happened! It was like the public was one vast, grass-stuffed cow. Once it lay on its left side, it would never think to roll over on the right side, not even if all the grass were gone on the left side and it was facing starvation!

CNNC was the most outstanding success of the media world as a world-wide television network and communications giant--and a single man had raised it up to a high position on the Forbes’ list of Five Hundred.

Billionaire several times over, Hunter represented new wealth and new power, but basically, even with his hawkish, 60s-style activist-wife he held the same views promoted by a much older plutocracy founded on railroads, diamond minds, steel plants, and oil, mining, and construction companies. The old plutocracy resisted the nouveau riche and social-climbing newcomers, but Hunter consistently supported what was dearest to their hearts: world government.

Overlooking his gauche manners and ways--he had even been described as a “Philistine” at various elite New York clubs-- they adopted him into the highest circle of power on earth, the Pentocracy.

As for his rather garish Hollywood wife, her chief credits being an aerobic physique and the fame of a movie star, she had, as a devotee of Leftist politics, expressed her views in public too often about things she knew nothing about.

It had caused quality people embarrassment to think they were associated in the same causes. But she was tolerated for the sake of the usefulness of the spouse. General Smedley Duncan, a while back, had been a big disappointment, blowing the whistle on them after a good deal of grooming as their choice for the next president.

Using more subtle means, they had carefully maneuvered him into the spot where they knew he would not think of bolting for the sake of “patriotism” and “honor.”

They could use him, even with him ostensibly as head, because his ego was so enormous that when he thought a thought and decided to go with it, he invariably assumed it was his own idea first, since he regarded himself as a brilliant, self-made man.

The ruling thought--world-government will save the planet politically, economically, and ecologically--was not his, but he thought it was. That thought was enough to control him in every important decision and make him behave exactly as they wished, precisely because he was a ideologue itching to become an effective demogogue to promote “his” vision of the4 world and not at all a man of independent reason.

He truly believed--and everything around him appeared to support his belief--that he was, the true king of the planet and knew the exact, proper course for the world to take on all issues. The political leader? They were stock characters on an ephemeral stage that was always changing scenery and acts! He was the real thing, he knew.

About to step into his forty foot-wide, marble-lined jacuzzi on the terrace of his Big Apple penthouse, he had an idea. He took his cell phone in with him.

Settling into the whirling heated spring water, he felt especially good and in control of world destiny. But he wasn’t involved in world politics at the moment--rather, something closer to hand, eliminating a “gnat,” a TV and communications network that had grown just large enough to be annoying. It was time to eliminate it--this time, by simple absorption into CNNC.

Bm Sikku at Acquisitions answered his royal summons, that is, his call. “Ted here. Good morning, I have some business to take care of that you can do.”

“Yes, sir.” Done smartly with a British Oxford accent, because he studied there.

“Alpha-Omega, the ignorant Christian network, buy it. I don’t care if it’s called a hostile takeover. Tap the slush fund for emergency expenditures. Any more than that, call me back. But that should handle it, I think.”

Dead pause.

Hunter shook the cell phone, thinking water had gotten in.

“Did you hear me, Acquisitions? I said, buy up Alpha-Omega!”

“You really want us to acquire the whole property, not just take a share? Besides, sir, they always have said that their network will never ever be up for sale, not even to fellow Christians, much less non-Christians.”

Hunter himself paused, his frown appearing dangerously. He could control himself in tight situations, when his temper could really take over, and he controlled himself now just out of old habit.

“Yes...buy it...buy it...the whole [expletive] network!” he replied, biting off the words. “However you do it, do it! You handle the details, I handle the strategy, right?”

Then, when Acquisitions didn’t jump in with a hasty “Yes, sir, right away, sir! What an excellent idea!” Hunter really got mad. He did not need to repeat himself, being who he was, but he obviously had to teach this Acquisitions bimbo with the Oxford accent a lesson in American business tactics he would never forget, so he took the time and effort.

“Got a...problem.... with that,... Acquisitions? Tell me....what....it...is! I...can explain... it....for you...so you can understand.”

The voice at the other end, after Hunter’s compressed, bitten off snarls, was strangely distant and composed.

“Oh--oh no, Mr. Hunter. It is not a problem, except that Alpha-Omega has grown to be a rather extensive property, and getting larger rapidly by the hour. They have twenty seven satellites at present, and are adding stations at the rate of ten a week, which puts the total well over 5,000. Their system is now the world’s largest, internationally, whereas CNNC is the largest, nationally. So a takeover at this time might take some work, to persuade them that market conditions warrant a different perspective in regards to their feelings about sel--”

“Who cares...who cares... what they want.... in this? I want it now! I am buying it! This is.... their feelings have nothing....nothing to do....with it.” His message continued with a number of expletives that crackled over the line for some time.

Acquisitions, in response, seemed even more patient and kind, as if no amount of abuse could possibly penetrate.

“I merely suggest, sir, that the amount needed might be more than the available funds in the emergency fund, even if they should be able to overcome their scruple against turning their network over to non-Christians...”

This said in a completely calm, unruffled tone that was the most maddening thing an excitable titan like Hunter could possibly hear. The repeated reference to “non-Christians” added irritant to the flame, like gas poured on a fire.

Hunter let out his last expletives, a virtual Niagara of foul and dirty waters. And he got savage, taking a personal tone that he reserved for fights with his wife, who was making odd comments lately, like “You aren’t so right, you know! What good really is uniting the world, when our hearts lack real love.” Crazy comments like that!

So he responded to Bm in the same vicious tone: “All right, sweet-heart! Make my day by giving me work to do! Draw on Central Funds then! I’ll call them and let you take a draw immediately....now got it?”

Hunter didn’t wait for the priest to kiss the spitting cobra and threw the cellphone against the nearest wall, but missed, and it went over the side and fell the entire length of the building, smashing on a cabby’s roof--an event that defined that cabby’s day, for it caused him to let go of his foot on his brake and he jumped forward, smashing into a car in front of him in the packed street. The traffic was halted as the cabby and the man in front had it out with each other and police had to separate them.

An hour later, when Ted was dressing for dinner with some friends and a number of high ranking UN people, his day was made even further when a cell phone was thrust at him by his wife with an expression that meant, “Your business, creep, not mine!”

“Thanks,” he said, frowning as if he had gotten a sword thrust from her, because he hated being interrupted when he was just finishing getting ready.

“Who? What? I don’t care--buy the [expletive] thing! And quit bothering me!”

His wife looked at him. “Why are you shouting again like a foul-mouthed cabbie or a factory hand? He can hear you without making such a fool of yourself! You treat everybody worse than animals, including me! Just because you have billions to play with—-money, by the way, the little people of the world made for you on the low wages you pay them!”

Hunter mentally lowered his stress level a bit, then continued. “Yes, yes....see you tomorrow at 10:30 in my board room...and bring my lawyers to meet theirs. We’ll smash this, er, deal with this thing before it gets started! Show them what we can do, and they will see the light and cave in immediately and take our offer! That’s the way, always worked before. In this racket, they’ll have understand, everything, I mean everything is up for sale--if the price is right!”

He threw the cell phone, narrowly missing a rare and very expensive vase of centuries-old Ming china given him by the Chinese UN ambassador, and stepped into his shoes, and then looked a last time at himself. Pleased, he followed his wife out to meet the various high-ranking guests of the evening who had been specially chosen to provide window dressing for Ted’s latest “strategy,” a bid to take over the UN with his own money—a billion dollars, in fact.

Two hours later, the guests had been escorted out, and Ted had free time on his hands. His wife, however, pleaded a headache and went to bed with a book on INNER PEACE THERAPIES FOR A BIPOLAR WORLD by Watson Buckingham Yip, a book of popularized Zen a diet and aerobics instructor-friend recommended to her after suffering suicidal depression for months.

Ted hated the penthouse. Though large, it felt too stuffy and confining for a man of his informal tastes, and he really preferred being on any of his ranches, the one in Montana, or in Patagonia—-to name just two of the dozen or so he kept stocked with game and waiting for him to pop in with his hunting rifle. The penthouse, stuffed with his wife’s art collections, meant next to nothing to him, except that it provided an impressively chic New York setting when they entertained UN mucky-mucks and dictators from the Third World.

Glad to get out for a breath of air, Ted flung off his tie and grabbed his wife’s treasured Chinese monastery temple dog, a toy Tzu Chzte, and taking a leash along shot down his high speed elevator to street level.

Turning round the building to a side street, he set the little creature down and was about to snap on the diamond-encrusted leash when a car horn blasted nearby and the startled dog panicked and shot away across the street. Fortunately, there was no traffic and the dog reached the other side safely, still running for its life.

“Come back, you little idiot!” Ted shouted, knowing he was throwing his words away. He took off after it, running. Just as he reached the middle of the block, a door opened and a hulk of a man stepped out between him and the fleeing lap dog. It was, truly, the most frightening mountain of human flesh and bone Hunter had ever seen step into his path, and he had seen most everything life had to offer. He only had time to grasp that his prospective assassin was black, very big, very muscular, dressed in a tee shirt and jogger’s pants, and—oh no!—an eye patch that could only mean “evil” and “sinister”. This guy made even the infamous Tyson look like a Boy Scout!

For a brief moment Ted felt his pants drop before the unavoidable—-what would he do, the world’s media giant, if this man recognized him and didn’t like his programs’ content? Would money buy him off? He knew money had no appeal to some mentalities. They’d much prefer to snuff you!

Without his bodyguards, he could easily be grabbed and snapped in two by this monster, this black Cyclops—-and no one would be the wiser, since it was dark along that side of the street due to some blown-out street lamps.

Yet he knew he had to retrieve the ridiculous excuse for a dog his wife adored, regardless of the risk to his life and limb. She would never let him hear the end of it, if her precious, little fleabag vanished into the raging wilds of Manhattan. He had, he knew, made a very big, rash mistake—going out alone with the dog! Now he might pay for it with his life. That, he knew, was the reality of New York. Every native knew it could turn savage on you in a moment’s time if you weren’t careful.

And he hadn’t been careful. Now he was going to pay.

As Ted rushed up, his fists clenched just in case fate gave him a chance to defend himself, he heard the one-eyed killer being spoken to by someone as a grandmotherly voice called out: “Now, darlin’, don’t forget the hymnals for the youth night meeting at 7 pm!”

Hearing that, Ted immediately felt instantly, vastly relieved. “Nothing but a little evangelical Christian wimpus, that’s all he is!” he thought. “Boy, was I fooled!”

Forgetting his momentary fright, recovering his chief executive’s and CNNC founder’s composure, he slipped round the over-sized muscle-kid and continued chasing the lap dog which, two blocks down, had run out of steam and was waiting for him.

Two days later came the scheduled meeting with the head and founder of Alpha-Omega, Rev. John Palmquist and his attorneys at the CNNC headquarters.

On the 46th floor, in the World Peace and HIV-Honoree Ballroom, the two parties squared off, seated across each other at an immense bargaining table. Ted, with his intercom and his lap top tuned to security channel for a view of the foyer—-just to be certain they wouldn’t be interrupted, he had ordered the doors closed early and the building emptied except for selected night time personnel-—sat assured that the takeover would be routine and all he would have to do was sign the papers handed to him.

“Excuse me,” Alpha-Omega’s founder began, after the usual formal introductions were made by staff. “My wife, Lizzie, is a bit late. She had to take the dogs to the vet for extra grooming and to get their nails done. After all, she wanted them to look their best for this important meeting.”

“What?” Ted almost blurted out. But he caught himself, eyeing the luxuriant, silver hair of the elderly pastor-evangelist turned rival network mogul addressing him.

Instead, he showed he could be a diplomat as good as any the UN could claim, even if it was for so trivial a thing as a man’s wife and her pet dogs.

After all, he understood as a married man how wives felt about such unreasonable things. He smiled, nodding. “That’s all right. It can wait a few minutes.”

He broke out a pack of his favorite smokes and lit up before his aides could help him. The attorneys, except the visiting ones, all helped themselves to company cigars. Hunter didn’t like cigars and stuck to his cigarettes, while the Alpha-Omega guy shifted his seat back and put a handkerchief over his nose, as if repelled by the scene.

“Sorry, we all smoke here,” commented Hunter. “I forgot you [expletive] Christians don't respect our First Amendment rights.“

Ted caught himself again before committing another gaffe in business protocol and Constitutional law. “ We can, for your sake, sir, take a break and go smoke out in the corridor if it really bothers you.”

Rev. Palmquist shook his head and tucked his handkerchief away. “Thank you, but don’t trouble yourself. I can’t count all the times I used to smoke—-that same brand you’re smoking, in fact—-before I was set free of the devil and all bondage to sin. It’s just that the smell brought the memory back all of a sudden of how wretched I used to be!”

Ted’s face reddened as if he had been burned. He reared back in his seat, almost dropping his cigarette. “No need for a [expletive] testimony here! I got your point! Just don’t preach to me, you old Bible thumping ass—“ He would have gone on to call the A-O CEO a [expletive] con man out to swindle old grandmothers out of their Social Security checks and pensions when his chief attorney elbowed him in the ribs.

Hunter, startled by a swift jab in the ribs, only grew more hot under the collar. “As I was saying, sir, your hypocritical, pious act can’t disguise the fact you televangelists are nothing but hoaxes and swindlers—“

The CEO from A-O, his face ashen, rose from his seat as if he were going to leave. But Ted, seeing he had somehow ruined the takeover with a mere slip of the tongue, moved to say something to call him back to the table.

“[expletive], don’t take offense, that’s just the way we are accustomed to talk. We don’t mean a thing by it in the personal sense.”

Despite the extremely awkward attempt of Ted to patch the rupture over, the air was as cold as ice, despite Hunter’s lame disclaimer, which fell with an almost audible thud on the table.

Silent moments passed, as everyone waited for the A-O CEO’s response. Finally, the CEO looked down, sighed, and spoke very quietly, so that Hunter and his staff had to strain to hear him. Was he “doing the “charismatic thing” Hunter most dreaded—“speaking in tongues”? Indulging in a fit of “glossolalia?

But the “tongues” soon ceased and turned to plain but very sober English. “I am sorry to hear you are so bitter about Christian things. It seems strange you would want this network of ours so badly, since it was only created for Christ’s glory and the advancement of his holy, saving Gospel. How do you purpose to change it, may I ask? And what other purpose will you give it? Before I sign anything, I must know these things. Otherwise, it stays in our weak and unworthy hands, God help us, even if it takes every last cent we have to fight you all the way to the Supreme Court. At the founding of Alpha-Omega 27 years ago, at our little station Channel 37 in Los Angeles with its snowy, flickering screen, we vowed then and there that no non-Christian, no secular humanist believing in evolution and promoting abortion and the throwing out of the Bible from our schools, would ever sit at the helm of God’s Network! From what I’ve heard of you, sir, you seem to fit the negative description I’ve just given, do you not?”

Ted’s mouth dropped open. That was the cue for his attorney to lean over and give him the right rebuttal and legal mumbo-jumbo. But his chief attorney never got the opportunity. Every head turned at the movement going on in the foyer. The wide screen at the end of the room, also Ted’s own lap top, showed a visitor had arrived late for the meeting.

Alpha-Omega Invades Ted Hunter's Empire

They all watched as one of the white-haired dogs, a lapdog or toy poodle, squatted and did its business on the lobby carpet next to a planter, then scratched the turf and dragged its bottom a bit before running to join the others coming in the entrance doors held by bellmen.

Turner, his jaw dropping, could hardly get the expletives out fast enough as he rammed his fist against the emergency “stop” button controlling the first floor elevators. Thanks to his override, the doors began to shut despite the bellmen. “My wife!” said the A-O head. “It wouldn’t be wise to stop her from joing us, young man! She would be terribly disappointed if she doesn’t get to meet you, Mr. Hunter.”

“Oh, course!” Ted snorted as he saw a woman, a mass of pink hair piled high on her head, waiting for an elevator. “Let the [expletive] old broad—er, lady, join us at once!” he barked into his intercom to the lobby security while at the same time he cancelled the override.

With nothing else to do, everyone still tense, with their ears ringing with Ted Hunter’s words and the A-O CEO’s rejoinders, they watched the second founder of Alpha-Omega enter with her dogs, all white but mismatched in size and breed-—but that was hardly noticed, since most everyone was staring at the monitors showing the woman’s pink wig.

“What is going on?” Hunter cried. “We can’t let all those mutts come up here and [expletive] up the carpets—“

Hunter’s objection came too late. By the time he hit the intercom button and tried to stop it, the dogs were in an elevator with their owner and the door was closing.

Hunter swore. Then he remembered something and looked across at his guest, who stared at him while muttering again in some unknown language. Should he apologize? He caught his attorney’s glance of horror. Hunter swallowed his pride, smiled, and was about to apologize when his wife came in, carrying the prize Tzu Chzte he had nearly lost one evening. This was too much!

Hunter sprang up. “I thought you didn’t want anything to do with this business, particularly this take—ah, merger!”

Wearing a “Save the Planet’s Grass from Overgrazing and Ranching” emblazoned, all-cotton eco-robe and slippers, thanks to her aerobics his actress-wife managed to look gorgeous and sexy, hiding her age extremely well. She ignored his protests and went to a chair, and an attorney pulled it out for her and she seated herself, still not looking at Hunter.

The most uncomfortable moments passed, as attorneys fiddled with their lap tops and glanced from time to time toward the door and then back at their commanding generals. What had happened already was a nightmare. What could make it worse? It was anyone’s guess.

The door suddenly flew open and dogs ran in, running up to this attorney and that for pats and back scratching. One lap dog pawed Hunter’s leg and he kicked it away.

Hunter wasn’t amused in the least. “This is a [expletive] circus!” He turned on his guest. “Hey, you with the pink hairdo—and your hounds—weren’t invited. This is a serious business meeting—not a dog [expletive] show!”

The meeting could only go downhill from there.

Meeting Hunter for the first time, the youngish-looking but aging, flamboyant wife of A-O’s president and CEO was introduced to him, but she didn’t waste any time and started talking excitedly about dogs as first one and the other performed a special trick for the gathering. Even the attorneys got into it, enjoying the show. Then somehow the subject of horses was taken up and the A-O head began showing pictures of his champion thoroughbreds and Kentucky horse farm. Now Ted himself grew interested against his will, and he forgot all about the takeover and looked through the pictures as the A-O head answered his questions and told the most amazing stories, one after the other.

An hour later they had still not gotten back to the takeover, but by then it was already decided by a remark or two between the wives.

“Of course, it wouldn’t be right for poor Ted to have it,” conceded the wife. “He is still seeking his own glory and trying to create his own little godhead—-so he’d ruin all your good hard work and run the network into the ground in a couple weeks.”

Ted, catching wind of his wife’s damning words, forgot all about show horses and studs and East Nile disease prevention. “Hey, what are you saying about me?”

His wife laughed, and the A-O head’s wife gave him a motherly smile. “I just said you’re not going to try to take over their network after all with your money and lawyers. You couldn’t run it intelligently anyway, being the crass, ignorant heathen you are. It would be like dropping a bull into a china shop, as they say! No, you should stick to this pigsty, which is all you know how to operate!”

She couldn’t have uttered a more appallingly honest description of him and CNNC than this. Everyone knew it, without a glance or word being shared. The room sank into silence, words dying upon their makers’ lips. What had she dared say—that Ted Hunter, the media miracle-maker, couldn’t run a network such as A-O, simply because he was an uncivilized brute, a “crass, ignorant heathen”?

His wife rose, taking Lizzie Palmquist’s hand, as they went to tour the penthouse with the dogs in attendance, even promising her a look at the copter pad on the roof. Looking back, she ended the meeting with the remark, “Time to go home and attend to your wives and children, gentlemen. Ted is a bit pale round the gills and needs some rest too, as you can see. The meeting’s adjourned.”

When Hunter’s men all looked at him, his wife repeated, her eyes narrowed as she eyed them, “I said, the meeting’s adjourned!”

Sputtering and protesting by the titan of CNNC did no good whatsoever. Only a woman knows how to give the last word in a way no man would think to challenge. The room emptied in record time. Then it happened. Turner got up and took one step and felt his foot slide. He turned, raised his heel, and there it was—-dog muck!

Never had the headquarters head staff seen him pull so big a fit!

A week later after the humiliating experience of seeing A-O’s wife pull her network out of his very hand, Ted’s greatest dream was fulfilled. He had always wanted to give a speech before the United Nations Assembly. Naturally, his topic was world peace, to be achieved only by world government (that is, the United Nations turned into a world government).

Having heard of his stupendous money grant, the luxury-loving, money-strapped assembly of mostly Third World countries sat hushed, waiting for the wisdom of the world’s greatest media personality, the founder of CNNC. Alpha-Omega’s president and wife, understandably, weren’t even invited, though their network was the actual leader in world communications. Being Christian, however, disqualified it from the title—according to the governing elites, the main NGO’s, and public opinion pundits.

“My home was in the armpit of the lower Midwest,” Ted informed the great assembly. “You know what kind of life that means,” he drawled. “Small town, small, bigoted minds,” he quipped. But no one laughed or even smiled. He didn’t seem to notice. “I was raised Christian, and my parents drug me to church every Sunday like clockwork. I even had to go to Sunday School. They were [expletive] bigots like all the rest. Nobody was saved, if they weren’t in our church or at least practicing Christians. That is what I have had to overcome in my life—-Christian bigotry and prejudice—-from a young age. It has been quite a struggle, and I still wake up with bad dreams. You never know, even where I am today, when bigots and Christians might try to take you out for telling the truth. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Christians are nothing but a pack of narrow-minded racists! They’ll never change and stop committing hate crimes against abortion clinics and gay activists. It’s in their Bible to commit such crimes of bigotry against humanity. That’s why the first thing we need to do with our world government court is close down hate-preaching Christian churches, at least the evangelical and charismatic ones, and ban the bigot-encouraging Bible and all Bible reading—“”

This speech went on in the same way for another half hour, and the assembly, even with visions of the sugar plum of a billion dollars dangling before its hungry gaze, grew increasingly restive. Ted had notes prepared for him, but he had completely ignored them, choosing to ad lib from the stock of his own life experience.

He couldn’t think of an thrilling ending and was floundering around for intelligent observations abut the need for world government and a world religion based on peace and toleration when he finally noticed the Secretary General motioning to him to wind it up, and he went on telling about how he had been the first to expose extremist rightwing Christians as church burners in the South, thereby adding the cause of truth and liberation for all oppressed people of the world—oppressed by conservative, anti-abortion, pro-virtue, fundamentalist Christians.

This account did not seem to provide the climax he wanted. Feeling very hot and uncomfortable, he was about to launch into an a testy diatribe against Alpha-Omega, the only network that had successfully thwarted his taking it over with an incredible, last-minute overturning of a FCC ruling favorable to him, when the Secretary General came and interrupted him with thanks, an official smile, and concluded Ted’s speech and the meeting with the appropriate words. Of course, reporters all carrying camcorders were massed outside the security barriers, but he was in no mood to face the cameras and all the questions, so he gave orders to plow through the press and get him back to CNNC dead or alive.

When he reached home, his wife wasn’t waiting for him as he expected. She had begged off from attending the event and now wasn’t to be seen. Annoyed, he began searching. Room to room, he went the circuit of the penthouse. He checked the roof and found the copter gone. His wife had her license, so that wasn’t too surprising, but she never took it out without first notifying him.

He used the intercom, shouting her name despite the fact everyone then would know his private business.

Nothing! No answer! He was about to call building security for her whereabouts and threaten to sack them if they didn’t come up with his wife when he saw a note lying on the floor of the master bedroom she hadn’t slept in for at least two years straight-—complaining she couldn’t sleep due to his non-allergenic sheets he preferred to have on the bed.

He slumped down on the bed, kicked off his shoes, then began opening the note and reading. Crumpling it, he threw it as far as he could, then fell back on the bed. As he stared up into a huge dome containing a Vegas-style array of bright ceiling mirrors, fat, bare-bottomed putti, and full-sized swans swimming in pools of lights that altogether had cost a cool million, he could see nothing but darkness staring back at him, filled with questions that demanded answers he couldn’t spin out. How was he going to explain it? His wife had converted! Tuning in to Alpha Omega’s main NYC channel, she had listened to a Franklin Graham message, she wrote, and then prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer,” immediately afterwards speaking in tongues! She had taken the copter, she said, and was scheduled to go on Alpha Omega’s Glory and Praise Show live, to give her testimony! When he read that, it felt like the twin towers of the Turner Media Center had collapsed on his head!

Hunter groaned and turned over on his face. What humiliation was bigger than that? What would he do? How would he explain it to his friends at the United Nations, not to mention the world media? Horror of horrors, his wife was a Christian! Not only that, she was a charismatic and had spoken in tongues? Could anything be worse? If she had gotten herself raped and murdered, that wouldn't provoke the scandal of her conversion. Yes, come to think of it, there was one thing worse than her turning Christian: she had just gone and made him look like the world’s biggest fool!

He opened a cabinet, reached in and got all he needed to knock his despair into orbit around Pluto. Getting up from bed later, with a world-class hangover, he stumbled toward the bathroom. He took a step or two when his foot sank into something that felt like a gob of Jell-o, but couldn't be. That's all it took to lose his footing. The next instant he was falling--his head hit the corner of a marble Buddha in passing--and the growing bump on his head was all he knew, if he knew that much.

A security guard found him. A security check turned up the CEO lying crumpled on the floor of the master bathroom with a routine search of the array of monitoring screens in the building security center. Rushed to the best facilities in the world, Ted was found a vegetable--an eating, excreting vegetable, but still a vegetable.

Even without him, CNNC continued to operate smoothly, pouring out the same profitable, anti-Christian, anti-morality fare as before. No one came to visit the vegetable, however, unless his ex-spouse was counted. Hosital staff observed her praying day after day.

But the former Titan of the Media continued to eat and excrete, eat and excrete--and gave no sign of anything higher than those functions. Once his ex-wife came with the wife of Alpha-Omega's CEO, and they anointed him with oil, prayed, and kept at it for a long time. But there was no change they could detect, and they had to give it up. He had been Djugashvilli's faithful servant all his conscious days, and so he remained, it appeared, for all his unconscious days.

Years passed in this state, and he was moved from facility to facility, and one day he was put in a nursing home that Alpha-Omega owned and operated. There the vegetable received the best care as long as his basic functions continued to operate. When he lost his appetite, it was clearly the end. IVs could not keep him alive indefinitely.

He passed quietly, even as he had not lived quietly. As for the penthouse Buddha that dented his head irreparably, no one wanted it in a sale of Ted Hunter personal effects, and it went to a warehouse in the Brooklyn along with a trace of Ted Hunter's DNA, and the crate that held it lost its tag eventually, its contents unknown and forgotten.

Later, when the warehouse burned, the Buddha, presumably, was destroyed, having served its purpose as a faithful servant of Ted Hunter's dead, now disgraced hero, Djugashvilli.

Copyright (c) 2004, Butterfly Productions, All Rights Reserved

Butterfly Productions