“For here, we Titans have created the ideal state! They call it the Industrial Wastes, don’t they? Pshaw! I say. Pshaw! I call it an Industrial Wonderland! The industrial ideal, made whole. A century of dreamers—Whitney, Edison, J. P. Morgan—and they never achieved half of what we’ve done here. The Quintet: four powerful industries under the watchful control of one dominant one—Wigman Shipping—and we’ve shown the world a force to be reckoned with! A city-state is what we’ve built here. The great Corporatocracy!”
He was really getting into it. His face was beet red, and a smile was plastered on his face from ear to ear. “Now, my good fellow Titans, what’ve you got for me? I want the headlines.” He glanced over the table. “Mining!” he yelled.
Higgs, in the coveralls, pushed his chair back and stood. “We’ve increased yield twenty percent, sir!”
Tumson stood as well, holding the lapels of his lab coat proudly. “The South Korean market is ours for the taking, sir.”
“Outstanding. Nuclear!” Mr. Wigman was really giving the squash ball in his hand a good working-over.
“Regulations be damned, sir, we’re free to dump in the river.” This was Mr. Dubek. His hazmat suit rustled noisily as he stood.
“Music to my ears!” Mr. Wigman rounded on Joffrey now. “Machine parts!”
The room was silent. Joffrey cleared his throat as he went to push his chair back. He accidentally hit one of the many levers that protruded from the underside of the chair’s apparatus and suddenly, with a hiss, the seat lowered dramatically. Joffrey felt his face flush. His fingers searched for the lever to raise the chair again; what proceeded was not unlike a child’s carnival ride, with Joffrey jerkily being dropped and raised as he attempted to get the chair back in position. Finally, he gave up and just pushed himself up from his seat.
“Well,” he began. He looked at the other men in the room; they were all standing proudly and staring at him. He cleared his throat. “I think I’m closer to getting in there.” He jerked his finger to point toward the foyer, toward the vast treed hills.
Joffrey thought he heard one of the other men snicker.
Plump Mr. Higgs was the first to speak. “What, the Impassable Wilderness?” He looked at Mr. Wigman for an explanation.
“Joffrey, Joffrey,” said Mr. Wigman, dolefully shaking his head.
Joffrey slammed his hand on the table. “Listen to me: I don’t care what people call it—I don’t care what people say about it. There’s got to be a way!”
Willowy Mr. Tumson shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “It’s the Impassable Wilderness, Unthank. It’s impassable.”
“Better left alone, I say,” said willowy Mr. Dubek.
“What is it with you, Unthank?” injected Mr. Higgs. “It’s like some weird obsession.”
“But don’t you see?” cried Joffrey, pleading. “If we could somehow get in there, raze those trees, level some of the hilly bits, why, we’d be able to at least triple—quadruple—our holdings! Think how many chemical tanks you could get up on that hill, Mr. Tumson! And water! Enough water to cool a forest of reactors! And Mr. Higgs, dear Mr. Higgs, can’t you just taste what kind of minerals those hills must be sitting on? I mean, the copper veins alone have got to be—”
Wigman interrupted this tirade by saying simply, “Unthank, sit down.”
Chastened, Joffrey did so and proceeded to ride the hydraulics of his chair for a few more moments before settling on the appropriate height.
“Where’s your quarterly report?” asked Mr. Wigman.
“The quarterly report, Machine Parts.” You knew Mr. Wigman was serious when he began referring to the individual Titans of the Quintet by their industry.
“Oh, of course,” said Joffrey. “Right here.” He gave the piece of paper before him a final ironing with his hands before sliding it toward Wigman. Mr. Wigman nodded to a stevedore, who marched to the table and delivered the piece of paper to his boss.
“This is it?” asked Mr. Wigman, holding the paper as if it were a used Kleenex. He glanced at the writing. “This appears to be a grocery shopping list, Machine Parts.”
“Just down there, on the bottom.” Joffrey wagged a finger, and Wigman looked closely at the few lines above the bottom margin of the paper.
“It says, ‘Third quarter: looking pretty good.’”