Geld Times journalist, Barry Leed, has spent the day on a metal bench in the Crusher Tower lobby. The waiting’s been in vain, not just for him but for the pool of journalists that engulfs him. There has been no sign of the orange menace, nor of his chief strategist, Shive White. The few insiders who do arrive emerge from limousines and are hurried to the elevator, like a leaf floating on a current. A door opens and they appear, another opens and they are gone.
It’s always been this way with the orange menace. He is escorted from the building bearing his name and tucked into a private car. The car takes him to his private plane. The plane takes him to the awaiting car of a distant city, and the car drives him to another building with the enormous gold letters, CRUSHER TOWER. The orange menace knows only the artificial light of hotels, airports, restaurants, boardrooms, and tanning beds. The sun god Apollo is painted on his ceiling, and that is as much of the sun as he gets.
The journalists are waiting for him in the lobby but he has left through a private back door. They want to know what he is thinking and doing at all times, but the orange menace alone knows these things and wants to keep it that way.
The victorious cabinet prospects—the last ones standing—go with him to the restaurant. Mr. Crusher has known his selection for some time, but he wants to test the candidates some more before revealing his decisions. He enjoys keeping them in suspense. The uncertainty of their fate enhances his dominance. They have a hunger to please him that he can see in their eyes. Everyone, absolutely everyone is looking at Mr. Crusher with an expression of fearfilled respect. “This is good,” he thinks. “I like this.”
Mr. Crusher does not read books, he reads people. The man solid as a Saxon substantive, vigour of Anglo verb. He strings along such men into sentences. Such men do his bidding. They are the sub-plot, supporting the arc of his heroic journey, enlarging the cast of minor characters until his life becomes a novel in which all are complicit. Why read the greatest story of all time when you can be that story?
He looks first and foremost for loyalty. He knows who will follow him to the margin of the cosmos, through wind and fire, and never ask Where are we going? He knows who will applaud his every action, never once objecting. He looks second for steel, ruthlessness, masculine vigor. Yes, a woman can be masculine, and indeed this is what Mr. Crusher demands of all who will serve him. The candidates know that without the orange menace they are nothing. The orange menace knows that the candidates worship power, and that on his behalf they will break the knees that need to be broken, feeling no pang of compunction.
Mr. Crusher hungers for his first meal of the day. He orders a Virgin Bloody Mary, a cheese burger, and french fries. When the burger arrives he denudes it of its bun and coats it in a viscid turd of ketchup devouring the lot with knife and fork.
– “You’ve all cleaned up nicely,” he says to the victors.
– “Thank-you, Mr. President,” they reply.
Soon they won’t have to eat like this, in a restaurant that barely reflects him, that hasn’t so much as hung a measly photo of him on the wall.
The orange menace has a plan. They don’t know what it is—yet—but when they do they will say Yes, Mr. President. Whatever it is, they will say Yes. They will do his bidding, with zeal, only ever saying “Yes, Mr. President, Yes.”