This is a new experiment for me. I want to write a weekly serialized fiction project. Every Friday I plan on posting a chapter of the story. I do not know how long the story will run. As I said, this is an experiment. I hope some people find it interesting.

Here is a brief synopsis of the tale about to unfold.

“Michael Hill is a showman without a show. Once the promoter of one of the most popular live television programs on the air, he is now trying to reclaim his former glory in the aftermath of a terrible on-air tragedy. Marshall Ellis was his biggest star, and the one probably most affected by the downfall of Hill’s empire. Together the two have a plan to rebuild. They want to start something new. They want to change the business forever. They are not yet Counted Out.”


10

Chapter I.

“This is going to be different.”

The executives weren’t so sure. They had heard pitches like this before. They had seen trends rise and fall, come and go, like the ebb and flow of the tide. They had been burned many times in the past by trying to find competition for a fad rather than championing the next big thing. Nobody cares about the guy trying to do “the thing” better, they care about the guy who made “the thing” a thing in the first place.

“Mr. Hill,” one of the stoic-faced suits seated in the dimly lit conference room began, following an abrupt and not altogether polite clearing of his throat. “This network has taken chances before. God knows I have signed my name to a fair share of them. I don’t even personally have a problem when they fail. I count it as a learning experience. My accountants prefer to consider them as opportunities for creative writeoffs, but I don’t want to split hairs.

“The point is, when I see a venture like yours I don’t see a risk, I see a disaster. Especially in light of past events–”

“The past is the past,” Mr. Hill interrupted, standing and pushing the lavish, ergonomic office chair back in so doing. “We all know that the demise of my previous project was an unavoidable tragedy.”

“A debateable point.” This from the suit seated directly at two o’clock from Mr. Hill, a stone-faced, and stone-hearted woman with piercing emerald colored eyes whom he had only heard referred to as “Green.” Of the three suits in the room, she was the only one to put him on edge.

“Anything,” Hill replied, “ is a debateable point if one chooses to be bull-headed about it. And if we want to get into some sort of pontification on the plausibility of infinite universes, where any and all realities are possible, then yes, Ms. Green, perhaps there is some plane of existence where what happened that night is avoidable, but in this reality, in this here and now, what happened was nothing other than an unfortunate turn of events beyond the capability of anyone to prevent.”

“That sounds like the rhetoric of a man desperately trying to avoid responsibility for something,” Ms. Green said. “Because he knows that no company in their right mind would throw their money behind a venture spearheaded by a glorified carnival barker best known for one of the most nightmarish events ever captured on live broadcast.”

Hill rapped his knuckles on the desk; eyes darting from the woman to the man seated directly across from him. His previous objections had not been as vitriolic as those put forth by Ms. Green. If he could convince this man, it was highly likely that Green could be overruled.

“Do any of you spend much time on the internet?” Hill asked.

None of the executives offered anything in reply.

“You should,” Hill continued. “It’s like peeling back the pretense of America and staring directly into it’s slithering, unfiltered id. If you want to know how responsible I feel for what happened that night, perhaps you should look at how hard I have fought to have all video evidence of what happened scrubbed  from existence. Because I don’t want what happened glorified and I don’t want anyone, myself included, to profit from that tragedy. And yet there are corners of the internet where clips of what transpired that night, both digital copies of the broadcast or footage shot from the crowd get passed around behind encrypted firewalls. It honestly makes me sick.”

Silence from the executives, a pensive glance of intrigue from Ms. Green.

“And do you know what these people say?” Hill asked. “They ask questions like ‘Did Michael Hill orchestrate this?’ or ‘Why didn’t Michael Hill prevent this? Did he care more about ratings than safety?’ and they say that no matter what I do, until the day I die, what happened that night will always be my legacy; that when my time comes, my obituary will focus on nothing more than the thirty seconds of footage that brought an end to one of the most popular programs on broadcast television and ended the life of one of the brightest young entertainers the world has ever seen. They say that when I die, nothing else I have ever done will matter and that I am equivalent only to my greatest failure.”

He noticed some uncomfortable shifting from Ms. Green. The passion in his voice perhaps shaking loose some heretofore undiscovered empathy from somewhere within the granite cave of her consciousness.

“What happened that night is not what I want to be remembered for,” Hill continued. “I will do whatever is necessary to build myself a new legacy. I did not come here to beg you for an outlet. I came to give you the first shot, because as a growing cable network, the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that is sure to grab headlines for the next six months straight should sound like an irresistible siren’s song to the bunch of you. Whether you shake my hand today and say ‘We have a deal, Mr. Hill’ when I walk out of here or not, the project will move forward. It might not be on this network, but it will go forward.”

“While your quest to redeem your name is admirable,” the center suit replied. “When I look at what you are proposing I simply do not see it being a good fit for this network. And what you say is true, for the first six months our subscriber numbers would likely blow through the roof. But the logistics of what you are proposing, coupled with the lost revenue from those who would oppose our broadcasting anything with your name tied to it; it simply does not sound, to me at least, like a viable long-term investment.”

The executive seated to the far left from Hill, who until this point has remained silent and only looked up from his tablet perhaps twice during the entire proceedings, offered his own thoughts of the matter simply by closing the case on his electronic device and casting a very deliberate gaze toward the clock above the door.

Ms. Green stood then. Commanding the room.

“What are you looking for?” she asked. “In terms of a commitment. Give me specifics.”

“Give me a year,” Hill said. “One episode per week. One pay per view special every four months. All exclusive to your network. No streaming. No syndication. People want to watch, they have to come to you.”

“How much?”

“You put up the money to lock in the contracts for my guys,” Hill said. “I stay on as executive producer. Financial burden for the events goes on me. I book the venues. I run the shows. You handle broadcast and advertising. You can decide what sort of budget you want to set aside for that. Based on how much, or little, faith you have in my ability to deliver.”

As the other suits looked on Ms. Green extended a hand across the table.

“We have a deal, Mr. Hill,” she said. “We’ll have the paperwork drawn up.”

“Send it to my office,” Mr. Hill said, shaking her hand. “I have some meetings to arrange.”

Advertisements