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Heir to the Kingdom. By Martin Green.


The all-powerful tycoon Steinhammer had taken his idealistic son Niles up to the roof of the skyscraper housing his corporate offices and, of course, named after himself. As always, his bodyguards Bruce and Brian were nearby. He trusted nobody, not even his own son.

Now he considered his son Niles, who stood before him. After a year on the streets, thanks to Steinhammer, Niles had evidently survived, but just barely. Steinhammer himself was a big man, heavily built with just the beginning of a bulge at his waist. He wore a suit that cost as much as the average person makes in a year. He was tanned and fit. Niles was as tall as he was but skeleton-thin and looked like a scarecrow in his ragged clothes.

It was a year since they’d had their tremendous argument and falling-out. Niles had graduated business school with honors. There was no question that he had brains, thought Steinhammer. In that respect, he’d taken after his father Steinhammer had a job ready for him in his corporation. It was entry-level; he wanted Niles to start at the bottom, as he had, and to work his way to the top, as he’d done, step by ruthless step.

But Niles didn’t want to follow that path. He’d obtained a job with one of those do-gooder organizations, bringing aid to some worthless natives in some God-forsaken jungle. They’d quarreled, bitterly. Steinhammer wasn’t used to being defied, certainly not by anyone in his family. His wife, an heiress married for her money and connections, had served her purpose, presenting him with an heir before going off to a life of shopping, cocktail parties and flings with idle young men. He hadn’t minded the flings, although once or twice he’d had her paramour ruined when he thought the affair had gone too far.

He hadn’t ruined his son but had come close to it. First, he’d used his influence to quash Nile’s job with the do-gooders. Then he’d seen to it that his son couldn’t get a job anywhere. Niles had dropped out of sight for a while before Steinhammer’s men had found him, in a California city known for its ill-placed sympathy for the deranged and homeless. Niles by that time was living on the streets, subsisting on handouts and meals from soup kitchens. At the end of the year Steinhammer had allotted for the teaching of the lesson his men had brought Niles back to New York, and turned him over to Bruce and Brian for 48 hours. They’d beaten him, not too badly, then cleaned him up, taken him to a barber and given him a few good meals, not too many as Steinhammer wanted to keep his son in a weakened condition. Now here he was.

“Well!” demanded the tycoon.

His son didn’t reply. Niles eyes still had a glazed look. He looked like a man who’d lived on the edge and had been battered by life’s storms, just as Steinhammer had intended.

“Well!” he repeated.

“What do you want me to say?” Niles finally responded.

“How did you like being in the real world?”

“It was pretty rough.”

“Have you come to your senses?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, are you ready to join the corporation?”

“On whose terms?”

“Mine, of course. There’s only one thing in life, power, and that’s what my business is for.”

“That can’t be all that life is about.”

“Damnit!” Steinhammer pounded a fist on the wall surrounding the roof. Haven’t you learned yet?” He gestured at Bruce and Brian. “One of you bring me a drink, and make it fast.”

Bruce promptly scurried away. Brian remained at his post, his face impassive.

“I’m offering you a chance to rule the world,” said Steinhammer. “To have power, power and money. And to have everything they bring. Women, luxury, other men groveling at your feet.”

“Why can’t the corporation be a force form good? To help people.”

“Because people don’t deserve help. Come over here.” Steinhammer beckoned Niles to come over to the edge of the roof.

“You know I’m afraid of heights.”

“Then just come close enough to look. See all those people down there. They look like ants, don’t they? Well, that’s all they are. Insects. And it’s up to men like ourselves to rule over them, tell those poor fools what to do.”

Bruce returned with the drink, handed it to Steinhammer, then returned to his post. The tycoon drank, then spat. “This is terrible. Too weak, you idiot. No, don’t bother getting another one. We’re almost done here..” He turned to his son. “So, what’s it to be? Join the corporation or return to the streets?”

“I don’t care to go back to the streets.”

“Aha! So you’ve learned your lesson.”

“I think I have.” Niles gestured to the bodyguards. Bruce and Brian rushed forward. Steinhammer was a big man, but they lifted him up as if he was a baby and tossed him over the wall. “That’s good, said Niles.. “You know the story; he climbed onto the wall and lost his balance.”

“Right,” said Bruce. “The bastard. He paid well, but treated us like dogs.”

“There’ll be some changes to the corporation, won’t they?” said Brian.

Niles considered. He’d planned on making many changes, but he’d been surprised by the surge of power he’d felt when the bodyguards, as instructed, had carried out his order. “We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll see.”



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