Chapter 3: The Challenge
by Troy Michaels III

        Needless to say, Sir Reginald’s will took me completely by surprise.  But then it is true that in the five years I’d known them, the Martin Family had never ceased to surprise me.   I had been quite certain that Sir Reginald hated me.  I knew he knew that Jessica and I were engaged. I knew he thought I only wanted her for their money.  He told me so himself, although I never told Jessica.  That’s all she needed to hear to have even more reasons to resent her uncle.  Besides, I wasn’t entirely sure that he wasn’t correct.

       I mean, my heart told me I adored her, but she was heiress to one of the world’s greatest fortunes.  Was it love or the hope of someday sharing in that fortune that convinced me to give up my law practice to become part of the Global Missiles team?  Missiles!  I mean, my ancestors may have made their fortunes over the centuries in all the traditionally unsavory aristocratic ways, but missiles ... well that’s pushing the envelope a bit far even for the Michaels Clan.

       And what exactly was it that drove me to persevere to melt that icy heart of Lady Jessica Martin.  Love or fortune -- I’d decided a long time ago not to soul search too deeply, and insisted to myself and the world that it was all for love.

       Then this strange twist of fate.  I didn’t know how to handle it.  Certainly Jessica wasn’t making it any easier!  Now here we were on a wintry New Year’s Day facing the Board with this rather strange news and I didn’t know whether to feel heartbroken, embarrassed, or to gloat in amazed pride.  The heartbroken part was old hat now.  That icy stare from Jessica.  But it was colder than ever now.  A stabbing “how could you have done this to me” glare.  But “I was completely innocent in this,” my nervous posture offered back. 

       The embarrassed part was new.  Jessica was always in complete command.  Now, with this bizarre news, she was leaving it all up to me, and I felt quite embarrassed that I’d come out so well in the ordeal. 

       The gloating part... well that was certainly a shock, and I couldn’t believe I’d be uttering the words I was about to deliver.

       “Okay, gentlemen,” Jessica said quietly, steaming in her chair, without rising as she usually would to look down on everyone.  “Quiet down.  I’m very sorry to interrupt your New Year’s Day celebrations, but no one is more surprised about today’s Board agenda than I, I can assure you.  Mr. Michaels will now enlighten us about the rather unusual changes that will be taking place according to ... Sir Reginald’s will.”

       If looks could kill.  I looked down, away from her eyes.  “Right.  Thank you, Lady Martin.  Well.  According to Sir Reginald’s will, effective immediately, I am to be acting President and CEO of Global Missiles Unlimited for the next year...”

       The Board had already been briefed about that part of the will, but that didn’t stop them from murmuring angrily amongst themselves.  It was as much a shock to them (all of whom had much more seniority and shares in the corporation than I) as it was to me.  But they had already thoroughly checked out that clause, and there was no way around it.

       “It  appears, darling, that Uncle Reginald didn’t hate you as much as we had assumed,” Jessica sneered. 

       She was definitely not making this any easier. “Umm... Right ...” I stuttered, struggling to regain some sense of composure.  After all, by some strange twist of fate, I was in charge of this meeting now...  Somehow I rose to the occasion.

       “Sir Reginald’s niece, our beloved Executive Vice President, Lady Jessica Martin, will be, for the record, taking a year’s leave of absence ... to find herself...”

       Jessica began laughing.  “Indeed, Mr. Michaels.  But do please tell them what it is I will actually be doing.”

       “Right.  Well, you are all sworn to secrecy of course, which is why we’ve only convened the Executive Committee today.  You can all be trusted.  The future of Global Missiles Unlimited depends upon that trust.”

       Nothing but angry, sullen faces stared back at me.  Every one of them had fully expected to be standing where I was standing.   “Right ...” I coughed.  “Well then, um ... Sir Reginald has set up a rather unusual conditional probate.  If Lady Martin is able to meet certain conditions, she is to receive half of his personal estate and all of his 62% share of Global Missiles Unlimited after her year sabbatical.  If she is unsuccessful ...”  This part was even more of a shock than my being named Acting CEO:  “Um... Well, Global Missiles Unlimited is to become Global Peace Flowers Unlimited...”

       The Board had been briefed on this as well, but they could not contain themselves.  The room was filled with angry protests.

       I took a deep breath and assumed command.  “Gentlemen, as you know, our legal team has gone over this again and again, but unfortunately it is airtight and  there is nothing we can do to get out of it.”

       In the face of the unbearable prospect of Global Missiles being restructured to peddling peace flowers,  the Board members pulled together quickly.  Jenkins, the closest facsimile to a friend Sir Reginald could have claimed, stood up.  “Alright then, Mr. Michaels, just what is it that Lady Martin has to accomplish?  We’ll set up an emergency team and we’ll get it done.”

       I coughed again.  This sure wasn’t easy. “Right, well, unfortunately, Lady Martin has to complete the terms of this conditional probate ... alone ... actually, with one, er, um, assistant, anyway...” 

       “Before you introduce my assistant, who will by the way, apparently be my ‘boss’...” Jessica began with her eyes staring down at the Boardroom table, “tell them what it is exactly I’m supposed to do.  You’ll all get a kick out of this!”  Staring at her, I realized it really was love that I’d felt for her, because with the taste of power in my mouth and the complete understanding that she resented me with all her being in that moment, all I could feel was how awful this must be for her.   And how much I wanted to hold her in my arms.

       “Yes, Jessica...Well.  Sir Reginald has attached a newspaper clipping -- Joanne, please pass around the copies.  As you can see, it’s from the States, from a number of years back...”  I paused a moment watching their eyes bulge as they read the headline:  “PEACE DUDES FOR ONE DAY IN PEACE.”

       Exactly the reaction I’d had.  But somehow this is what Sir Reginald had decided.  The Board’s composure was shattered once again and I struggled to bring some kind of order. 

       “Apparently...” I continued once my gavel had quieted their frenzy, “apparently this unlikely motley band of three-mouseketeers or ‘Peace Dudes’ as they referred to themselves, were part of a campaign to create ‘One Day In Peace’ on January 1, 2000.   They traveled in their Magical Peace Bus enlisting the help of college students and school children to try to ‘bring peace for a day so that maybe peace would stay.’”

       Every face stared at me in disbelief.  “Indeed, gentlemen, I agree it was quite naive, and so did the world. Badly underfunded, the loosely-knit campaign the Peace Dudes were a part of met with only moderate success and has since faded into the footnotes of history.  Now, however, for Lord knows what reason and from beyond the grave, Sir Reginald has seen fit to revive this campaign.  Lady Martin has exactly one year to create ONE DAY In Peace on January 1 next.  If she is successful, on January 2 we continue the fiscal responsibilities of Global Missiles Unlimited.  If she is unsuccessful, well gentlemen... we’ll be making peace flower arrangements.”

       Jessica was laughing again.  My poor darling.  “Delightful arrangement.  Isn’t it, Gentlemen.” She was laughing like a mad woman. “But the best is yet to come.  Tell them the best part, MR. MICHAELS.”

       The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  “Oh, Darling Jess, please don’t hate me,” I tried to scream in my mind, but she wouldn’t even look up at me now.  I pushed forward.  “Right.  Well, apparently the only one allowed to help Lady Martin is Sir Reginald’s gardener.  In fact, according to the rules set out in the will, she must take orders from him.”

       This of course got under the Board’s skin.   “From Higgins?!!!” Macgregor stormed.  “I didn’t even know he’s still alive.  Why, he’s practically 100 years old!” 

       Jessica was laughing that new maddening laugh.  This had broken her spirit.  If I could deny this new place of power I would, for her.  But she knew the will said that if this arrangement was not agreed to, Global Missiles would be restructured to begin flower peddling immediately.  There was nothing I could do.  Surely she must know I would do anything to ease the pain if I could.  “No, not dear old Higgins,” she laughed.  “Mr. Michaels, would you mind introducing my new boss?”

       “Right...  Lady and Gentlemen.  Mr. James Abdul Gandhi Geronimo Rogers.”  I braced myself for the worst as the mahogany doors swung open and in walked a four-foot-eleven-inch tall pre-growth-spurt fourteen-year-old in a white robe, sunglasses, and a headband with a neon peace sign blazing in a dozen shimmering colors.

       As the Board stood on their feet with mouths gaping open, suddenly the kid cartwheeled across the carpet, leaped up onto the table, spread his arms wide and looked down on them all. “Peace, Dudes,” he laughed, and you could hear a pin drop.  Then just as suddenly he somersaulted off the table, ripped off the robe, sunglasses and headband, and landed in Sir Reginald’s chair attired in a suit and tie.

       “Good afternoon.  Thank you for the introduction, Mr. Michaels.  But that’s Dr. Rogers to you all.  I have a joint doctorate in Psychology, Business Administration, and Quantum Theory.  Except for you Jesse, you can call me J. R.”

       Jessica finally looked up and a hint of her old cold composure was back. “Jessica, if you don’t mind, JUNIOR,” she snapped.

       He met her gaze with a simple smile.  “Not for long, Ma’am. I’m afraid it won’t do at all for our cause if it gets out that the heir-apparent of Global Missiles is behind the campaign to bring peace for a day.  I don’t think we’ll have much credibility promoting the campaign while the corporation you stand to inherit is busily selling the armaments to destroy it.  So Uncle Reg and I decided you should assume a new identity... with a new look.  You’ll look fabulous as a blonde.  How about Jesse Gold, for the new golden locks you’ll be sporting.”

       The Board finally found their tongues.  “This is preposterous!” quite a few burst out.

       “Tell me about it,” Jessica moaned.

       “Thank you, I will,”  Junior, that is Dr. Rogers, said rather smugly.   “Your past has all been arranged.  Your father was a California dot-com-er.  Made a huge fortune before the dot-com bust.  You just acquired a lavish ’ll be  returning to California from a minor career in South America as a dancer/singer/ songwriter.  You just acquired a lavish estate on a secluded island in the Puget Sound after a minor career in South America as a dancer/singer/ songwriter. Now you've decided to devote yourself full time to being a philanthropist promoting a more peaceful, just and sustainable world." He paused and gave poor Jessica a huge toothy smile. "Oh, yeah, did I mention your private island is called ... Peacetopia...”

       Jessica moaned.  “Good grief!”

       The Board was equally unimpressed, and it looked like there would be a riot.  Junior’s smile disappeared.  “Gentlemen, it is imperative that you take this all very seriously.”  Although he was so small, his voice echoed threateningly.   “As Mr. Michaels mentioned before, Lady Martin cannot receive any help from the Board,” Junior continued.  “In fact, there can be no communication whatsoever.  When the investigative reporters start probing, and they will, there cannot be any ties between Jesse Gold and Global Missiles.  No calls, faxes, emails, IMs, tweets, or clandestine meetings.”  Junior glared at me.  “Your future corporate identity depends upon this secret, gentlemen.”

       The Board grew more infuriated, and seemed to be teetering on going ballistic.

       “Gentlemen, calm down,” I urged.  “Please.  Lady Martin will not let us down.  We’re counting on her.  In fact, the military security of half the world depends on her.”

       There was no semblance of order left.  Jessica was laughing insanely.  “You mean our fate rests in these manipulating-Svengali fourteen-year-old’s hands,” she cackled.  I felt like crying myself.

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Table of Contents | Preface | Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 |
Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 |Ch 10 | Ch 11 |
Ch 12 | Ch 13 | Ch 14 | Ch 15 | Ch 16 | Ch 17 |
Ch 18 | Ch 19 | Ch 20 | Ch 21 | Ch 22 | Ch 23 |
Ch 24 | Ch 25 | Ch 26 | Ch 27 | Ch 28 | Ch 29

A Novel about creating humanity's first day of peace
Robert Alan Silverstein

The People For Peace Project

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May Peace Prevail On Earth