Thanks to my usual cast and crew of Editors and Advance Readers, most of whom prefer to pretend that they don't know me and wisely wish to take no responsibility for any of my addled writings...
except for Dragonsweb, but he's a bit odd anyway.
"Chet, I swear this is the single worst idea you've ever come up with!" Laurence Ashcroft stammered with disbelief into his satellite cell phone.
"Besides, I don't have the slightest intention of wanting to get married at the moment. I've got far too many things that still need to get done before I turn forty!"
Laurence did have a point. It was not for nothing that he had been voted by the Times of London three years in a row "The Most Fascinating Man in the World". The New York Times once called him the modern day 'Leonardo da Vinci' and "a Doc Savage for the twenty-first century."
He had been a prodigy right from his birth and had graduated from Harvard at the age of twelve. No less than seven different doctorates had followed, all completed by the age of twenty. Not yet forty, Laurence was already the eighth richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine, and he owned land, cattle, oil, corporations and patents enough to make a hundred different men each a multi-millionaire for life.
He could hardly care less about his eleven digit fortune. If Laurence had ever cared a fig about money he undoubtedly could have become number one on the list in less than a year. He was a genius at everything his hands touched, but his loves were for raw field science and the Arts.
Instead of treasure, it was the sheer love of adventure and the physical sciences that drove Laurence, like the biblical Ishmael, to be a wanderer across the earth. He had written over a hundred scientific papers on obscure topics of anthropology, archeology, biology, geography, geology and oceanography, and could make himself instantly welcome at any scientific expedition anywhere on earth, and he frequently did. His personal foundation paid for more field scientific research last year than all of the National Science Foundation grants combined.
He was not just the boss who wrote the paychecks for a hundred different field expeditions each year, but a welcome colleague who loved to roll up his sleeves, get his hands dirty, and pitch in with the work.
He was no slouch at the liberal arts either, having extensive knowledge of all of the classics of world literature, in all of their original languages. He spoke and read twenty-six ancient and modern languages fluently, and could muddle along in another fifty odd languages and dialects well enough to get by. His paintings, in the classic Impressionistic style, were considered superb enough to hang in any major gallery and his classical style sculpture work was considered 'unspeakably promising' by all of the living masters of the art. He could debate philosophy with the best masters in any college, university or bohemian coffee shop or wine bar. He tried writing a symphony once, but admitted that it needed quite a bit of polishing before it would be ready to be performed someday.
He was a true Renaissance man in every aspect of the word, but the most common angle of publicity the media took was that he was by far the single most eligible bachelor in the world. Voted number one at People Magazine for at least five years in a row. The tabloid press was in a constant frenzy for any clue to a possible future Mrs. Laurence Ashcroft. The National Enquirer, the Daily Mail and the Sun were in a constant duel for photos of any sort of girlfriend, even photoshopping forged pictures as necessary.
It was no wonder that he spent the majority of his time far away from civilization.
Chet was a necessary evil. He was the CEO and chief programming director for a large media conglomerate that Laurence had semi-accidentally acquired a few years ago. While Lawrence cared nothing about the huge worldwide satellite TV parts of the operation, especially the SHB international mega-cable channel, they were rather profitable, and hadn't been sold off yet. Chet managed this part of the empire and by everyone's estimation had done a superb job.
SHB in particular currently hosted the single top rated reality TV on this or any other network, the monster hit "Trophy Wife" that ran almost live weekly in over eighty different countries, including the US, the UK and nearly all of Europe and Asia.
Following in the wake of semi-successful predecessors like "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" this show left every other reality show far in its wake for three compelling reasons. Top notch talent, with 'real' millionaires, semi-famous 'B' movie actresses and former beauty queens fighting it out on screen; superb editing designed for maximum snark value skewering the pompous and vapid attention whores mercilessly; and (perhaps most importantly) the program loved to show bare tits, asses and sometimes dangly bits and loved to feature the unladylike bad behaviors of the would-be Mrs. Millionaires.
It was like Playboy TV, except that it was actually entertaining.
Chet was the producing genius behind this show and he was actually worth every cent of his insane salary and preposterous executive bonuses. Now he was trying to do the ultimate ... he wanted the world's ultimate billionaire to be the bait to bring out the very top cream of the world's beauties. He promised that it would be legendary TV ... i.e. that it would be absolutely appalling, comparable to the nastiest imaginable plane or train wreck ... but no one would be able to turn their TV dials way or stop watching.
The ratings would be 'gi-normous', he said, far outstripping anything that had been broadcast before. Take the drama of a dozen Royal Weddings and throw in suspense (and more snark) for good measure.
Advertisers were already standing by, begging to pay obscene ad rates that made the Super Bowl look like Friday nights on Public Television. All that was needed was Laurence's ok.
This week, Laurence was in the Amazon rain forest, checking in on a biological research mission that was investigating claims of a species of a giant, man eating catfish living in the upper reaches of the river. He was hot, wet and very bug bitten ... and not feeling at all in the mood to be matrimonial.
"Not a chance. It's not like I need the publicity. It takes four personal assistants now to answer all of my fan mail as it is. I'm standing here in the upper reaches of the Amazon, over five hundred miles from the nearest town ... further to get the next decent place with a hamburger joint and working air conditioning. Next week I'm off to Antarctica to help with a penguin study for a few days and then off for a week deep into the Trans-Antarctic Mountains to work with a fossil dig and hopefully find the Plateau of Ling noted by the ill-fated Miskatonic University expedition of the early 1930's. After that, a week in Borneo to look over a new proposed Orangutan jungle preservation site we're establishing, followed by another week in China for a fossil dig at a possible Peking Man site. There's isn't a woman in a million who is going to be willing to live a life like this."
"That's the point exactly! You're the ultimate challenge! Women can't resist an impossible challenge! With over six billion people in the world, that's over three billion women. With one in a million odds, that's still over three thousand possible decent wives for you. The real fun however, is going to be dealing with and weeding out the other 99.999% of vapid attention whores who would all like to spend your money and live in a lavish style that would put Marie Antoinette to shame."
"Hmm..." Laurence replied, but not quite convinced.
"Besides, when was the last time you actually got laid? Bending over some chieftain's daughter in the scrub brush of the Kalahari doesn't count. You're going to get to see some world class bristol's, the very best fake tits that that money and poor taste can buy ... and if we're lucky maybe a couple dozen pairs of real ones! You're going to have the finalists throwing themselves at you — famous porn queens and 'A' list actresses with thousands of hours of quality time on their knees waiting to service you! Fuck the lot of them ... and do them twice on Sundays! We'll shade out the x-rated parts on TV, we promise."
"Look, I don't live entirely live like a monk! I get laid on occasion ... really! I've even got an appointment with a very orally talented gal in Amsterdam in about two months. It's right here in my day planner for September 3rd, from 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Really!"
"Laurence, the fact that you even have to formally schedule nookie into your day planner is frightening enough to scare me to my wits end. What if you start to actually have fun and don't stop banging her until 9:45 p.m.? How screwed up is that going to make your schedule? You might ruin your agenda for days! Besides, are you in fact entirely certain that only forty-five minutes every six months is entirely adequate for your physical needs? No ... don't even answer that question! I really don't want to know."
.... There is more of this story ...