“The victor belongs to the spoils.”~F. Scott Fitzgerald
“It looks like the coast is clear,” Edward told Epiphany over the phone the next morning.
“OK, that’s good. Look – when I get home, I want to know what the hell’s been going on; what you’re keeping from me, OK? All of it.”
“I know. And I’m truly sorry to have kept so much from you. Once you're back, we’ll go over everything. I wonder if you could do one thing for me though, on your way back.”
Epiphany sighed. “Sure, OK. What is it?”
“Could you stop at the post office in town, check the Box? I put the key on your key-ring.”
“Yeah, I remember. Do you still want me to stop at the bank? Get these into a safety deposit box?”
“Hmmm… Yeah, go ahead and get one, but just put the tablet in it. Bring the tears.”
“Whhhhyyyyyy?” she asked, suspiciously, drawing the word out.
“Why don’t we talk about that when you get back as well?”
She sighed again, “OK, fine. I’ll take care of both things. But no more keeping me in the dark after this, OK?”
“OK, I promise. Love you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Love you too.”
It took Epiphany just over an hour to drive back into town and take care of everything, which gave Edward the chance to hit the grocery store. When Epiphany finally arrived home, she was truly a sight for sore eyes and Edward embraced her for several minutes, kissing her passionately, before sitting her down to breakfast. She was happy to see him again, and to be home, but she had a lot of questions, and still felt angry being kept in the dark about so many things. Foremost in her mind were the fact that Edward asked her to bring the tears back with her, and the literally hundreds of envelopes waiting for her at the post office. Edward sat her down to a late breakfast, in hopes that things might go more smoothly.
“Mmmmm,” she commented, “Well, if you were looking for forgiveness instead of permission, this is going to go a long towards that. I didn’t know you could make crepes.”
“Well, it’s been awhile actually. I figured I’d save them for an important occasion.”
She put her fork down. “That bad, huh?”
Edward laughed. “No, it’s not ‘that bad.’ But yes, admittedly I’ve done several things without talking to you about them first, and while I’m sure you’ll come to agree that they are all good and necessary, it was not fair to you that we didn’t discuss them ahead of time.”
“Ok, so… Start splainin’!”
“Well, first of all, did you happen to check through the history pages on the Tablet?”
“Oh… Um… No. Somehow in all the excitement, I never thought to do that.”
Edward took a deep breath and exhaled. “Ok, well… Did you happen to open any of those?” he asked, pointing to the pile of mail.
“Noooooooo… Should I?” she replied, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, I’m betting they’re all about the same, so why don’t you pick one and open it up?”
She narrowed her eyes and studied him for a moment, before picking an envelope off pile. It was addressed only to the PO Box, no recipient. The return address made her gasp: It was from Charles Koch, one of the billionaire industry magnates and political lobbyists they had executed only a few days earlier. She gave Edward another stare, before opening it. Inside was a cashier’s check, written for just ove Nine-Billion dollars. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw it, and she could hardly keep her voice steady when she finally asked Edward, “What the hell is this?”
“May I?” he said, extending his hand. She handed him the check. “Holy crap! I had no idea…”
“Edward what the fuck?! What is that all about? How does someone even write a check for such a stupid amount of money? What’s going on here?!”
“Well… it isn’t easy,” he started, but could tell from her impatient expression that he’d better cut to the chase. “OK, you remember when we putting everything into the tablet? And I said we needed to get everything started a couple of weeks before the new year?”
“Well, I… and I am truly sorry I didn’t discuss this with you… I added a couple of instructions to each of the new fates that we entered, including that each person would liquidate enough of their assets to be able to request a cashier’s check for half of their overall net worth. And… they’d then send these checks to my PO Box.”
She stared at him for a minute, and he just stared back the entire time. “Oh, my God.”
“You’re a thief!”
The accusation struck Edward as odd, considering what else they had done. “And that bothers you?”
“Yes, it bloody well bothers me!” Epiphany answered, feeling furious with him.
“And yet… up until two minutes ago you were perfectly OK with ‘murderer?’”
“Different? Why exactly? That was a political revolution? And people always die in political revolutions? And in doing what we did, we’ve actually saved lives? And will continue to do so as we end wars, enact universal health care and stop pollution and human rights abuses, etcetera, etcetera…?”
“Well, guess what: Most political revolutions involve a redistribution of wealth as well. Don’t be so naive as to think that these ostensibly idealistic wars were not fought as well over resources – which pretty much just means money.”
“This was supposed to be different! I thought WE were better than that!”
“Look: We are. This money isn’t for us. We’ll use it, yes, but it’s not just so we sit back and live a life of luxury. There are things we still need to do. And for quite some time to come, those things are going to require money. This was the only way to avoid abusing the Tablet, over and over again, and to keep us from being corrupted by it.”
That last bit almost made her laugh. “Right. Because nothing keeps people honest like obscene amounts of money,” she shot out sarcastically.
Edward tried to hold her hand, but she didn’t let him. “You’re not being fair. Nor are you considering what we’ll need to do going forward. Consider this: Imagine some social program we want to enact. We basically have three choices: Use the tablet – which only works once for any one person and which itself represents a huge violation of that person’s rights and making a habit of abusing its power. OR… make the same kind of back-room deals and compromises that politicians have done for ages. Which only ends up allowing the rich and powerful to grab a little more wealth and power, while watering down whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish. And later, when the program isn’t successful enough to gain the necessary popular support – due largely to the very watering down that you opponents demanded in the first place – they’ll start dismantling it, and face very little public opposition to doing so. THIS? Gives us a third option. It allows us to do what is NEEDED, and to hell with the entrenched money and power that will stand in our way. If we need a public campaign, we’ll be able to have one. Organizations that currently depend on whatever scraps their supporters can send them? Will now have the same level of funding that the industry lobbyists have always enjoyed. And while campaign finance reform will be one of the top two or three items on our agenda, in the meantime, if a politician IS going to be bought outright, better he or she is bought by US, no?”
While she was still disappointed, both at his actions and with the fact that he never discussed it with her, she was beginning to come around to his point of view.
“It’s not the money itself that corrupts people,” he continued, “It’s what they’re willing to do to get it.”
And, just like that, he’d lost her again. “But you… killed for it.”
“Did I?” Edward laughed. “It seems to me that you were very much on board with the killing part of things.”
“My motivation for that…”
“My motivation for that…”
“Was absolutely no different from my own, I promise you. This? Was something I came up with after we had already decided on what we going to do. It did not play into the original decision in the slightest. I just started to think ahead, and saw… an opportunity. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how necessary it would be.”
“Did you take a course in rationalization when you got your MBA?”
“Heh-heh… Yeah, maybe. But my justification for the… theft… is exactly the same as it was for the deaths. And in all fairness, most sane people would completely condemn us for both. And we’ll have to make amends for that. We have a job to do, and I intend to see it through.”
“Okaaaaay… I guess I can buy that. But what about traceability? I mean… this is just a stupid amount of money. It’s not like you can just steal a couple hundred billion without attracting some attention to yourself.”
“Well, you’ve got to realize… On paper? We haven’t stolen anything. These people all went through the appropriate channels, got their money together and had their banks issue cashier’s checks against the now liquid assets.”
“Yeah, but all those people… are dead now.”
“And… The only physical evidence that anyone will ever find on that front will lead them to conclude, beyond any possible doubt, that every single one of them committed suicide. I had a rather interesting conversation yesterday with the Government's lead investigator about that very thing. And that’s just about all they’ve got.”
“Yeah, that reminds me… Speaking of that: What exactly did you do while you were down there?”
“Well, most of the time I was recovering from getting shot.”
“You were shot?!”
“You really didn’t read any of the history pages did you?”
“No, I told you that already! Why were you shot?!”
Edward smiled at her. He knew he would have to calm her down a bit for what he was about to tell her, lest her concern for his well-being be abruptly replaced with a newly rekindled desire to throttle him. “Well, I couldn’t have them go on believing this was all just a big coincidence; nor could I let any else claim responsibility for it. I needed to show them a few things to make them believe that this was closer to an act of God, and that they should heed my advice moving forward to avoid it ever happening again.”
“So, just as I had to show you some inexplicable stuff before you’d buy into the whole situation, I wanted to show them some amazing things that they couldn’t just explain away. Something that would open their minds to what we'll be telling them. The first thing was getting in. So I pulled up that Secret Service Agent’s page - the one we met that day: West.”
“Uh-huh, I remember.” she replied, still listening intently.
“So I had him escort me to the Oval Office, where I then waited for the President. Once his entourage arrived, I told him, flat out, that I knew all about what had happened, and volunteered to go to one of their holding cells in exchange for a little walk-and-talk with him. Considering what they were dealing with at the time, he agreed. And when we got to the cell, I had one more job for Agent West to do: Shoot me, at point blank range, in the chest.”
Her eyes widened, “Oh, my God! Why?!”
“So they could see me heal, fully, in a short time, without receiving any medical attention.”
“They didn’t even try to save you?!”
“Oh, they tried. But I refused medical care. I even fought with the Doctors, physically. Eventually they concluded that if I kept fighting them, then I’d hasten my own death in the process. So they eventually heeded my wishes for them to just leave me there.”
“And they didn’t try to sedate you?”
“Again: They tried. And this is kind of important… You know how we usually had a drink or two with our meals? And, um… admittedly, another drink or three from time to time otherwise?”
“And do you notice how we never get drunk?”
“Well… we never have that much, but now that you mention it? I never really noticed it, but… yeah, we never even get buzzed anymore.”
“Alcohol is a poison. And poison no longer has any effect on us. Unfortunately, as I found out? Neither does morphine, valium, or any other manner of sedative… or pain killer. It’s a good thing we’ll never get sick, because I’m guessing that we could never be put under for surgery.”
“Oh my God. So you…”
“Yeah. I lied there and bled for a day.”
“Did it… hurt?”
“Yeah, it hurt! It hurt like Hell!” Edward laughed. “It hurt like nothing I could have imagined. And having blood pouring into your lungs when you’re trying to breathe? Hurts even more!”
Epiphany raised her hand to her mouth, in shock.
“I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move… and I couldn’t even go into shock or pass out. I felt every single second of it, for the better part of two days. BUT: I knew I wouldn’t die. And I knew that I would heal. And actually I healed rather a bit faster than anticipated. In any case, that was the first thing I showed them: Their, um... 'savior' rising from the dead.”
Epiphany let out a nervous laugh at this. She still couldn’t believe what he had orchestrated, and endured.
“So by the time I was healed, they‘d had a chance to complete their preliminary investigation. They found all 235 people, as well as their videos and the notes they left behind.”
“Yeah. Now, the videos each showed them the entire event. They could see that there was no possible explanation for any one of these deaths other than suicide. It was right there on the tapes, after all. The notes, er… manifesto… well, I took a little bit of liberty with that as well.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Whaaaaaat?!” she asked him suspiciously.
“Do you remember the drawing pad? The one you said you were too tired to care about?”
She thought back for a moment, and then remembered. He had it plugged in to the tablet while he was cut-and-pasting the altered fates they had written up for everyone. “Yeah…”
“Well, I had each person put a single slash mark at the bottom of each page.”
“AND… when the individual pages are overlaid on top of each other, not only do the words of each piece lay out to form the full manifesto, properly spaced an everything, but at the bottom of the page, the slash marks overlap each other and spell out my name: Edward Jameson Carpenter. They had me in custody, and had already printed me, so they knew exactly who that was.”
“Are you out of your fucking mind?! Why the hell would you do that?!”
“I told you: To get their attention.”
“Eddie: Now they know…”
“What?! What do they ‘know?!’ Nothing. They KNOW that a whole bunch of people killed themselves. They’ll soon KNOW that they all sent me a nice little patronage in the days leading up to their deaths. They KNOW that I basically claim responsibility and have shown that I have knowledge of what happened, even though they KNOW I couldn’t possibly have been involved! They KNOW exactly what I want them to know: Which amounts to basically nothing. But they sure as hell are listening pretty intently to what I have to say now, I can tell you that much!”
Epiphany just sat back in her chair. Edward sat quietly watching her. Several times she made as if she were going to say something, which Edward just responded to by raising his eyebrows as if to say, “Yes? Do you have a question?” But in the end she conceded all points, and realized that he knew what he was doing, and was probably right about how he was going about it. There were no instructions on the right way to lead a revolution, after all and no other revolution had the benefit of the tools that they had to work with.
“OK,” she finally answered. “I understand what you’re doing, and I’m still with you. I’m still going along with you and you have my full support. Just please promise me that, in the future, you’ll discuss these things with me beforehand. I just don’t want to be kept in the dark, OK? You said in the beginning that you wanted my advice; my counsel. And I can’t give you that if you just go off on your own and do whatever you want to. As much as I don’t like it, you’re pretty much right. This is what needs to happen. This is right. Just realize: The next time you try to get forgiveness instead of permission? I won’t be giving you either!”
“Yes. I agree. It was wrong of me not to consult you. There is only one more thing that I want to bring you up to speed on, and then I promise that there’s nothing else.”
“Oh good Lord, what now?!”
“Take it easy, it’s nothing bad. It just that, moving forward, we’re going to need some help. I told Luci, when she gave me the tablet, that I had no intention or desire to ‘rule the world.’ I told her that I thought that sounded like a big pain in the ass, and I believe that she chose me because she knew I was telling her the truth. And you and I? We’re idealists. Fine. But we’re not policy experts. We’re not legal experts. We’re not really even political experts. And we’re not going to become those things overnight. So I’ve been thinking about some people that we should bring on board to help us figure things out. You know… make sure were not being taken, nor that we’re being corrupted. People that can keep us honest, yet make sure that the politicians aren’t screwing us.”
Epiphany nodded. “Makes sense.”
“OK, glad you agree. I had four people in mind originally to start, not including you and me. But over the weekend I encountered two more that I think we need. And I… kind of already offered them the job.”
“OK, that’s not too bad. Who are they?”
“Well, one is a staffer for the Vice President who helped me out while I was in jail. Her name…”
“HER name?” Shades of jealousy were present in her tone.
“Come on, don’t be like…”
“So you made a friend while you were in prison, huh? How nice for you.”
“Dude, seriously? After all we’ve done, you’re going to be like that?”
She sighed. “I’m sorry, you’re right. I’m not sure where that came from,” she said, casting her eyes downward.
“Oh…?” he asked looked up at her, flirtatiously.
“Stop that,” she said, laughing a little.
“I think I know where that came from,” he added, smiling.
“Stop,” she protested. “Come on. We’re having a serious discussion here. None of that. Not now.”
“All right. Anyway, she’s a foreign policy expert and one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. She’s as sick and tired of the Administration as we are, and she fully supports our cause. And she’s a bit of a research bug, so that can save us lot of time we’d otherwise spend pouring over the details of various pieces of legislation.” He added the last part mainly for Epiphany’s benefit.
“OK. So who’s the other one?”
“West. The guy who shot me.”
“Oh my God, WHY?!”
“First of all, because I owe him one after manipulating him like that. I got him arrested and suspended from his job. Second of all, because we’ll need someone who can handle our security, and he also has connections within the Government. I don’t know how far this guy’s network of friends goes – we’ll find out – but there really shouldn’t be any issues about his security credentials. He's been trained by the best.”
“Yeah, makes sense. Kind of random, but…”
“Yeah, I know. But still… We owe him. We have to make amends for how we used him, and what came of it. He wasn’t someone that was supposed to be punished.”
Epiphany nodded in understanding.
“And… I’ve invited both of them over for dinner here, tonight. We have a lot to discuss. I hope that’s OK.”
“That’s fine. So that’s it? I’m up to speed now?”
“Yeah, I think so…” Just as he said that, the doorbell rang. “Hang on.”
Edward opened the door and was greeted by a tall, thin, older man wearing a stylish trench coat over an expensive looking grey suit. A very nice looking silk tie showed out from under the jacket. “Edward Carpenter?”
“Hi! My name is Bob Anderson,” he said, extended his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
Edward shook his hand. “Likewise. Can I… help you?”
“Well, I am the chief legal counsel for the North American Division of the late Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.”
Edward glanced back at Epiphany with a look that said, ‘Whoops! Forgot to tell you something.’
She narrowed her eyes and shot part a look that was part ‘What now?’ and part ‘Boy, are you going to get it!’
“And I’m sure you are aware by now of the recent, and tragic, deaths of our former Chairman, CEO and other upper level executives, shareholders and on-air talent?”
“Yeah… I’ve heard a bit about it.”
“Well… It seems that prior to their tragic deaths this past New Years Eve, each of these men made certain... arrangements. There is one in particular that brings me here this morning: They arranged to transfer ownership of their shares in the News Corporation over to… well, to you.”
“Really?” Edward feigned surprise.
“Yes, it would seem so.”
“And this was all done legally and above board?”
“Well, it was an unorthodox request, but yes, these stock ownership transfers were all filed with the SEC on the 19th of December, just before they closed for the holidays. And since then I’ve been trying to locate you.”
Edward looked back to see Epiphany tapping her foot, one eyebrow raised as if to ask, ‘Anything ELSE you want to tell me?’
Edward just smiled back, innocently, as if to say, ‘No, this is it.’
“Well, Bob, you certainly found me. I assume you have something for me to sign?”
“Yes, well a couple of things, um… may I come in?”
“I’m sorry, yes, by all means, please come in. Sit down, make yourself comfortable. Can I get you something? Drink?”
“Um, no, thank you. I just have a few forms for you to sign… Thank you… And there are your copies… There you go… And that’s that. Congratulations.” He seemed nervous.
“You, OK, Bob? You, uh... seem a bit on edge.”
“Well… If I may be candid… This has all come about under rather… unusual circumstances. Did you happen to have any dealings with these men prior to their deaths?”
“Um…. No. No, I can’t say that I have.”
“And so... you were not expecting to receive a visit from me?”
“Well, no, not really. But you found my address. And I’ve shown you my ID. So you’ve got the right guy.”
“Yeah… Um… I don’t suppose you might be willing to fill me in in what your intentions are?”
“With reagrds to...?”
“Well, with reagrds to your share of the company.”
“Hmmm… Let me ask you something, Bob: Are you my lawyer now?”
“Well, as the majority shareholder, yes, I would represent you in any matters dealing with the company.”
“Ah. OK. And… what exactly – or approximately – IS my share of the company?”
“Um… About 72%, I believe.”
“Seventy-two percent?” Edward asked rhetorically, seemingly impressed by the number. “Well, that certainly is a large share.”
“And so, I’d like to know what you’re plans are… What you would like to do with it.”
He looked relieved. “Ah! You wish to sell your shares! Well, I think that’s an excellent…”
“No, I think you misunderstand me, Bob. I don’t wish to liquidate my shares, Bob. I wish to liquidate the company.”
At once, any relief he had felt was change to a chilling fear that he was unable to hide. “Um… Mister Carpenter, I must advise against such a rash…”
“Decision? Yes, well let me ask you something, Bob… In your employment contract, can I assume there is some sort of severance arrangement or retirement package? A golden parachute, if you will?”
“Well, yes but…”
“And approximately what is the value of that arrangement?
“Um... Twenty-Five Millions Dollars, sir.”
“Twenty-five… Really?! Wow. You’ll be doing pretty well for yourself there, huh Bob?”
“And what would you get if you resigned? Voluntarily I mean, I’m certainly not asking for your resignation.”
“Um… Well… nothing.”
“NOTHING?! Wow. And suppose you were fired, with cause I mean, for say… insubordination?”
“Well, I can’t say that I would let that go unchallenged in court, but… worst case?”
“Worst case for you, let’s say, for the sake of discussion.”
“I would be owed about two-millions dollars.”
“Hmmm… Pretty nice still, but… I imagine you’re not going to let that other Twenty-Three Mil hang in limbo there now, are you?”
“Well, I’d certainly rather not want to…”
“Then I suggest you listen very carefully to me, Bob, unless you want to be facing that very challenge. I want every existing contract bought out. I want every pending piece of litigation settled. I want every debt paid off. I want every corporate media asset that pre-existed Rupert Murdoch getting his grubby little hands on them to be sold off and re-organized as non-profit organizations. What's more, you can let them know that their new chairman and benefactor would very much like them to see them go back to practicing actual journalism – you know: That thing they did before Rupert Murdoch turned them all into propaganda mills? And I want every single physical asset sold off, right down to the last box of pencils in the office supply cabinet. Am I making myself clear, Bob? I want every last remnant of Rupert Murdoch's media empire swept away. With a 70-some percent share of control, this I can do, yes?”
“Well… Yes. I mean, you can order it. The other shareholders will no doubt challenge it…”
“And would you represent me in those proceedings?” Edward asked, almost amused.
“Um… Yes. Yes, I would,” he answered nervously.
“WELL, in that case, all I need you to do is to see that all of the complaints are funneled into a single suit, and then just let me know who the judge will be. You can handle that, right?”
“Well, yes, but…”
“And you are also the man that will start the process of liquidation?”
“Yes, but I still…”
“Good. Then unless we have any other business?”
The man could hardly even look at him. He realized at that point that Edward's decision was made, and his own duty was now quite clear. “No, sir,” he answered, hanging his head in defeat.
“Good. And while my name will no doubt be all over the necessary paperwork, can I assume that you will do your best to otherwise protect my privacy?”
“I’ll… I’ll do what I can, but...”
“Good. And while you can make any promises you want to others parties - to pass on any and all proposals and offers to buy me out, I can save you some time and trouble and give you my answer right now: Go to hell.”
Bob Anderson just shook his head in disbelief.
“You’ll do this though, right? You’re not going to jeopardize all those millions that you’d otherwise have coming to you now, would you?”
The man put his best “lawyer face” back on. “Yeah, I’ll take care of it. Of course, I’ll need something from you in writing to get the process started.”
“Of course. You’ll have your letter first thing tomorrow morning. Until then, if there’s any preliminary work you can do, I suggest you get started. You’ve got a busy couple of months ahead of you!”
“Do you have any idea how much money you’ll be throwing away?”
“Bob, if you think I give a damn about money then you don’t have the slightest idea who you’re dealing with. Take care of this? And I will make sure you are taken care of. Challenge me? And I will break you.”
“You needn’t threaten me, Mister Carpenter. I’ll gladly break you – at your request – by liquidating your biggest asset and thus rendering it basically worthless. I hope you won’t take it amiss if mine is the first contract who's buyout is secured?”
“You can set aside the money for yourself up front, pending the successful and complete liquidation of the company, yes. I wouldn’t dream of risking your financial future at all, assuming you’re my man.”
“I will take care of it.”
“Great, then. Good day?” Edward asked, motioning towards the door.
“Good day,” the man said, as he left.
Closing the door behind him, Edward turned to face Epiphany. She was clearly annoyed with him. “OK, I’m only going to ask this once, and then I’m going to stab you. Is there anything else you need to tell me?”
"Absolutely not, my dear," Edwadr saoid, smiling. "That’s everything."
“Well thank God for that!”
“Did you see what he did though? His very first instinct: To try and dissuade me from my path by offering me money. Now do you see why I did what I did?”
“Yeah. You were right. Having that money means we’ll never be tempted or pressured to scale back our plans or change our agenda.”
“Right! We are now above influence. Above fear. Above all further temptation to do anything but what we know is right.”
“Still… Having a ready-made media empire might have come in handy, no?”she asked with a smile.
He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “Sweetie… If the public is honestly and fully informed and educated? Good policy will sell itself. The day I NEED a media empire to propagandize for me? Is the day I’ll KNOW I’m doing things wrong. We’ve wiped the slate clean. And what must now grow from it is a news media that seeks first and foremost to accurately inform the public, in a way that is truly in line with the public’s interest, and not the powerful's. They'll exist to keep the country’s leaders honest, including us, and now that we’ve removed most of the corporate influence that was over them, and will continue to make sure that FACTS rather than MONEY and PROFIT will drive their stories? I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Epiphany smiled and returned his kiss. “So… What else can you tell me about these people that are coming for dinner tonight?”