His first thought is that the chair is too big. The back is too high; the arms are too plump. He flashes back to his childhood: he feels like a boy sitting in his father's chair. His colleagues tell him he will grow into it; he's not so sure.
His second thought is that the table is too wide. The opposite end lies at least two, maybe three, arm-lengths away. And of course, it swivels. Whenever he presses pen to paper, the table moves ever so slightly, throwing off the stroke and smearing the ink. He thinks that perhaps he should replace it with a proper desk, but something about the iconography of this huge round table appeals to him.
Round table: King Arthur sitting surrounded by his knights. He still remembers all the tales he read so avidly as a boy.
And then there's the map of the known world stretched out behind him, like a crusader's parchment, as big as a Times Square billboard, and that appeals to him, too. All he has to do is point to a location, whether obscure or well known, and issue an order, and whatever is happening there will change. He can affect the flow of history, right here, right now, right at this very moment, if he so pleases, with the mere touch of his finger accompanied by a command.
Let it be so, and it will be.
Arranged around the map are monitors: these are his all-seeing eyes. Before him, is the communication console: his all-hearing ears. And beside the homely box, a microphone that will send his voice to the far corners of the earth.
Although he can't see the actual means, he knows that he is tapped into every archive, every repository of knowledge, every database, electronic or otherwise, in the world, right down to every individual file. If he wants to know something — anything — any random tidbit of information currently accessible to any inhabitant of this planet, all he has to do is ask and it will be delivered to him. Just like that.
He glances toward the single window and watches the clouds drift by, swirling about the slab-like silhouette of the United Nations. He's not high up, barely three stories above street level. But he might as well be sitting on the peak of Mount Everest.
So this is what it feels like to be God, he tells himself ruefully, and yet, he is awed and humbled by the power that is at his command. Because with power, comes responsibility. The greater the power, the greater the responsibility. And the greater the responsibility, the greater the challenge to use that power wisely. For temptation lurks in the background, the temptation to do something simply because it can be done. Somewhere out there, the Devil is winking at him.
Omnipotence, he realizes, is vastly overrated.
He thinks of his old superior who always seemed to have the weight of the world on his aging shoulders. He remembers feeling cowed, intimidated. Now it will be his turn to cow and intimidate others.
He thinks of the field. He loved working in the field; he was good at it. His best friend is still out there, the one person in the world he depended upon most for companionship and counsel. They'd worked side by side, shoulder to shoulder, for so long, but no longer. There is only one chair and one man to sit in it. Even worse, he now has more than mere authority over that same friend; he has the power of life and death. Over and over again, they'd once swapped rescue for rescue, life for life, but no more. The equality between them is ended. Now, his own life is infinitely more valuable and must be preserved at all costs, even if it means others must sacrifice theirs, his friend included among their numbers.
Not that it's likely to come to that, for while he remains in this chair, in this room, in this building, he is virtually invulnerable. The walls are steel. The doors are steel. The floors are steel. Even the single window is made of blast-proof glass. An nuclear warhead exploding outside in the street would only rattle his teeth. He doesn't need to wear armor; he lives in it.
And if that isn't enough, an army of guards equipped with sophisticated weaponry lines the path that any would-be assassin might take to reach him. They are just a small part of the modern beehive of activity that surrounds him. When he leaves his office, everywhere he turns, communicators beep, intercoms buzz, sensors pulse, and workers swarm, executing hundreds of tasks, all ultimately on his order.
But up here, on the third floor, it's quiet, as silent as a steel womb. Or perhaps, a steel tomb if he dies before he gives up the chair or the chair releases him.
Up here, no matter how many friends he had, or subordinates he has now, he is alone. There is only room for one seat at the top of the world and, for better or worse, it is his.
The prospect, like the view, is daunting. There are moments he has to stop simply to suck in a breath in order not to feel completely and utterly overwhelmed.
The console buzzes, but before he answers it, he pauses and reaches for a pipe, his crutch and sole concession to personal comfort.
It is the first day on the job, and what a job it will be. In the decades to come, he will flip the switch a thousand times, ten thousand times, perhaps a million times, until one day, it will not be his finger, but the finger of his successor — hand-picked, guided, carefully groomed and nurtured — who will think exactly the same thoughts, sitting in exactly the same office, confronting exactly the same awesome, staggering task. A successor who, lacking a pipe, will flip the switch without taking the pause.
Swish pan to the present:
"Channel D is open," says the man in the chair. "Solo here."