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So it begins....



Agglomerated MegaPublishing, Boston MA. Wednesday, July 1, 1987

    Wendell Jenkins looked across the table at Peter, somewhat unnerved by the intensity of energy in the eyes of this otherwise disturbingly clean cut young man. "Peter, it's been nearly two weeks since we had that meeting with Phoenix Talon—and that disturbing incident with the Toy man—and he's been doing nothing but stall us ever since. I think we have to accept that directly using the Revolution may well be a dead issue."
    Paulson shook his head emphatically, "But we can't give up now! We just can't! I... we've put so much work into this. Everything was going exactly according to plan!"
    "Sometimes incidents will derail business plans," Jenkins said with a shrug. "That's all there is to it. It seems that Toy Man's attack on him in our offices has put Phoenix Talon off of the idea. I think he blames the company for setting it up, and in his line of work I can understand those suspicions. You know we're innocent, and I know we're innocent," Jenkins glanced at the phone for a second before continuing, "I've even been assured from on high that we're innocent. Management's most compelling argument was that if they had set this up, they would have used the 'Fighting Soldiers' toys that AMC owns and not GI Joe. More vertical integration."
    "Well then why is he blaming AMC? He's just being stubborn!"
    My lord this boy's naiveté is stunning. It's like he's from another era, Jenkins thought. "He's someone who puts his life on the line for a living—he's being cautious. On top of that, he wears a bright orange and silver suit and yells 'Banzai!' a lot. We can't expect him to be too rational."
    Judging from sudden flare of anger on Paulson's sparkling clean face, that last comment was probably going too far. "Don't say that. He's a hero. He deserves your respect."
    Jenkins got up and moved to sit on the front of his desk, hoping to dilute the 'senior partner/junior partner' atmosphere in the room. "And he has my respect, I assure you. But if he isn't willing to play ball then we're short of options. Lucky has apparently left, so we can't use the charity angle for as much leverage, and Scott's legal status in unclear. If we can't get Phoenix Talon to convince Needle then we have no other choice but to move along with the fictional character track."
    Peter seemed to chew that over for a few minutes, and Jenkins put his hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Look, I don't like the fictional character thing any more than you do, but it's not going to get either of us removed from this project. I know this is your first major campaign, and I know you've invested a lot into it. I know that, and the bosses know that. So we'll just have to put some of that fire into the alternate lineup." He leaned back to look the younger man in the eye. "Peter, this is still your big break—a chance to show them all what you can do. Don't waste it just because it isn't exactly what you wanted."
    Peter nodded, mumbling to himself, "Yes... show them all..." before he jumped up with some sudden excitement. "If Lucky's left that means they'll be filling a new spot in the team. Maybe it will be someone more excited by the idea of the product lines!"
    Jenkins smiled a rueful smile, awed by his co-worker's single-minded tenacity. "That is a possibility. I might be able to convince the bosses to give us another couple weeks to feel that person out—as long as you're showing progress on the alternate lineup if it doesn't pan out."
    Peter looked even more excited, "The we might be able to salvage it! Maybe the bosses can talk to the government about GETTING someone like that selected! After all—we're already talking about making serious donations to the state funds for the team for the licensing rights!"
    Jenkins stood up, ushering the young man out of his office, "Yes, they might. Something to bring up with them. But for now, it's late. Why don't we head home. You can start working up sketches for the alternate lineup," Peter again looked upset, but Jenkins continued before he could interrupt, "To keep the bosses happy with us while we see how the new team member works out. It's an absolute last resort, Peter, and we should keep our options open."
    "It's still wrong," Paulson said as he gathered his art case from his desk, "but I know it won't come to that. I know it."
    Jenkins smiled in a patronizing fashion as the younger man left. A lot of enthusiasm in that one.

    Later that night Jenkins drove into his small suburban house—traffic had been horrendous, and he was running later than usual—but to his surprise all of the lights were off. Is Shelly late getting the girls back from ballet? he thought, his key jingling in the lock. The house was pitch black, and the hall light was burned out. After fruitlessly flipping the switch for several seconds, Jenkins dropped his case and coat just inside the door and groped into the living room to turn on the light there. He nearly tripped over something on the floor, and as he cursed and struggled to keep his balance a lamp turned on, bathing a small circle of the living room with light.
    "Good evening, Mr. Jenkins. I am... the Toy Man."
    Jenkins jumped, again nearly tripped over the insensate form of his wife and two daughters on the floor. The Toy Man was casually holding a ray gun in one hand—Jenkins had seen the type before, when one of Toy Man's agents had knocked him unconscious—and was flanked on either side by huge, pig-like men with mucous covered snouts. On one of their shoulders was a horrific hairless monkey with huge ears, which laughed insanely as Jenkins neared panic.
    "What are you doing here? What do you want?!" He tried to sound calm, but there was a manic edge to his voice, and the hairless monkey laughed again.
    "Why Mr. Jenkins, all I want is what I deserve—your respect. Though for now, fear will serve." He snapped his fingers, and the two tusked figures stepped over Jenkins' unconscious family and grabbed the marketing director by the arms, lifting him several inches off the floor.
    "What am I doing here? I'm here to convince you to be persuasive." The hairless monkey scuttled off Toy Man's shoulder and skittered across the floor, leaping onto Jenkins leg and climbing his body. Its claws left tiny pinpricks on his legs and torso as it quickly worked its way up to his shoulder, where it looked at his eyeball as if it might be something tasty to eat.
    "I'm afraid you're going to have to be very persuasive indeed...."
    The monkey laughed again, a high pitched tittering, as one of its claws drew a single spot of blood from Jenkins' cheek. That was when Wendell Jenkins started screaming.

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© 2000 Rebecca J. Stevenson