The Leader

The screen came to life. It was divided into a checkerboard of squares. Every square had a face in it...a face which soon began to look around in sudden panic. The room was in complete motion, every audience member looking for the camera that was directed on them. Then, one by one, they looked up at the screen to see the group they sat within.

The presenter seemed not to notice their anxiety. "Take a good look at those around you. You have all been chosen for your expertise, and for your dedication. I've met every one of you at some point, be it on the set of a film production, or in a cafe after an intensive lecture on quantum mechanics, or, in one case, on the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania. And you, though it may be accompanied with mysterious curiosity, have a recollection of who I am."

The presenter moved silently from the front of the room and began to walk amongst the group. "And yet you shiver," he said mildly. "You shiver because you suddenly get to see all sides of me at once. Some know me as Teri, the writer; others, Kevin, the film maker; others still, Lukas, the adventurer...Jereme, the Professor; Carlos, the inventor of Reflex, the robotic technology of the DiWES corporation...

"All these titles that I hold--they must be removed. On this project, you hold the titles for me. You!"

He paused in front of a Spanish man and stuck out his hand. The man blinked in panic and then shook the hand with flickering eyes. The presenter gave a casual smile. "Good to see you again," he said. "Welcome aboard. You are to be referred to as The Guide. You are in charge of the geography of every situation. All agents in the field must know where everything is at all times."

He moved on without waiting to see the reaction. He stopped in front of a fellow in a black suit and said, "Good day. Your are the Legal Officer. You keep track of the laws we break and the laws we're about to break...and all the consequences involved."

He moved on, leaving the man staring in bewilderment at an indistinct spot in the air.

The group began to grow more and more anxious as titles were dished out with stern expectations behind every one.

Then, when the man had finished, he returned to the front of the room and announced, "From now on, I am to be referred to as The Leader."

"Now that that is sorted, let us begin."

But just as he was about to move, a young woman stood up at the back of the room. "And what of me?"

The Leader laughed. "Don't worry; I most certainly did not forget about you. Your title is Liz." There was a lengthy pause. "You're the Companion."

She stared with wild eyes, nearly spitting with accusations and protests, but remaining fixedly speechless. The Leader grinned and moved forward. Suddenly it was as if they were the only two in the room. "You've always wanted a role you could really get into," the Leader said, moving across the room to meet her. "You've always wanted something powerful--something risky. Well I am offering you a character to play...and yet not...because it wouldn't be considered...'playing'. It would be living. Living as one of the main characters in the greatest adventures of all time."

Suspicion flew to her shining eyes and her face went dark with slight disgust. "Hold it!" she said. "Do I have to work with that guy we saw on the clip?"

"No. That was a test we were conducting. The man you saw only paid for the New York Demo. Our new customer is different. He is tired of the life that he controls. There are never enough challenges for him. So, he is paying for the Global Adventure. He is paying us...five hundred thousand dollars."

There was a sharp intake of breath from the front row. "Yes, that is right, my faithful Funds Handler. You get half a million to play with."

The man with the black glasses and the blue dress shirt gave a high pitched laugh. "Holy dude," he said. "No more countin' on my fingers!"

Laughter erupted, and the Leader moved to the front of the room. "I have the basement of an abandoned apartment building set up for the beginning act. The Adventurer arrives on Tuesday at one in the morning. All actors will show up on Monday for rehearsal, and all other members will meet at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, Suite 11A, Monday at midnight. Until then, Project 'I' is safely put on hold. You will not endanger it even if you try to spew. Good day. You are dismissed."

The End

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