The Wizard of .Us hummed along with a Muzak version of "Back in Black" as he luxuriated in his cold aerie waiting for the conference call to begin, the room lit by the cool glow of thousands of computer screens lining the walls, the ceiling, the floor.
He grinned at the mirror on his desk.
"Nobody beats the Wiz," he purred.
The music stopped.
"The Wiz?" queried a voice.
"Im here, Dick," said the Wiz to Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney.
"George?" the Wiz asked.
"Yessir!" exclaimed President George Bush.
"Hallelujah," replied Attorney General John Ashcroft. "I wasnt sure I could take another moment of that so-called music."
"You gotta get with it, Johnny, get hip," said the Wiz, pushing his glasses back to the crest of his nose. "Thats a total classic. Anyway, glad you all could make it, boys. It seems some rewards may be due, am I right?"
"I believe weve made you very unhappy," said Bush brightly.
"Er, what he means is weve made you very happy," interjected Cheney. "Happy, George. Not unhappy."
"Heh, heh, righto," said Bush.
"Tell me more," The Wiz said cooly.
"By golly, weve gone and shooed away the antitrust zealots from your company," said an excited Ashcroft. "No break-up, Mr. Wiz. Its all over the news. You guys are home-free."
"Yeah, Wiz, we dont believe in that so-called `extramural potpourri the pundits seem to love so much that, in my opinion, if they love it so much they should marry it," announced Bush.
"Sorry about that Wiz, I believe what he meant to say was `structural remedy, " growled Cheney, who at that very moment was fashioning a startlingly authentic noose out of paper clips.
"Thanks for debugging that, Dick. Anyway, good work, boys, good work," said the Wiz, tapping keys his keyboard and studying consumers of Microsoft products sitting at their screens in Peoria, Bangalor and Lisbon. "Your work isnt done of course, you understand. Weve got more remedy stuff to deal with still. We cant have anything onerous injected into this empire."
"Johnny wont do anything bad," said Bush, scowling. "Scouts honor. I just want my brain, OK?"
"Thats a subscription-based brain!" roared The Wiz angrily. "Subscription-based!"
"Yup, we understand that," retorted Cheney, his voice uncharacteristically edgy. "And Im to get a subscription-based heart, Johnny a dose of subscription-based courage."
"Its not a dose, Dick, its a server-based, licensed suite of courage-centered products," said the Wiz. "Got it?"
"Yup," murmured Cheney.
"Good. Anyway, I must say, you boys made me proud, so Ive got some goodies," said the Wiz, chuckling lightly while watching AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case trip on a sidewalk in Manhattan.
"You dont get the brain, the courage and the heart until the deal is done," he said. "But, I do have a few presents in the meantime. George!"
"Yessir!" responded Bush.
"Youre now the proud owner of a subscription-based, real-time Little League baseball service were rolling out soon," he said. "Watch all the games, from the Crawford, Texas Dust Motes to the Huntsville, Ala. Gun Racks. Keep up with the scores. Communicate with the kids."
"Alright!" shrieked Bush.
"Johnny, welcome to the wild world of subscription-based gospel," said the Wiz patronizingly. "All the songs, all the time, again in real-time. Makes for a heck of a Sunday with this little treasure."
"Good gosh almighty," said Ashcroft, whipping a handkerchief out of his suit pocket and swabbing the sweat glazing his forehead. "Hallelujah."
"And Dick, for you, something special," cooed the Wiz. "Your very own subscription-based sense of humor. Just click into this service, and regale your friends with snappy asides, wry observations and knee-slapping stories."
"OK," said Cheney.
"Meetings over, boys," said the Wiz.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Wiz!" said Bush.
The Wiz, relieved to be alone again with his screens, leaned back in his chair and fiddled with a button on his golf shirt. He watched Bush grin and grimace as he played a game of solitaire on his computer.
"Its good to be the Wiz," he said.