Annotated version of this document


The Great War for Conrail


IN the fourth year of the reign of King David of Thoroughbred, the King sojourned forth from the Tower of Money-Colored Glass unto the City of Brotherly Love, and he spake unto the King of the North, saying:

2 “Let us consolidate our kingdoms, that our combined market power may be great, and that together we may dominate the East.” For Thoroughbred did covet the North Kingdom’s monolithic dominance of its dense population.

3 And the King of the North said unto Thoroughbred, “Doth my memory fail me, or have not nine winters barely passed since King Robert, who ruled thy land when thou wast but a minion deep in the Heart of Taxes, did send thine armies to the Imperial capital to wrest control of the North Kingdom from the Emperor? And did not our lobbyists soundly trounce thy lobbyists in the Great Dome on the Hill?”

4 “Thy memory servest thee only partly well,” quoth Thoroughbred. “For did not also the oracles prophesy that the North Kingdom would not long stand alone?”

5 “Yea, even so,” said the King of the North. “But we did defy the prophecies by the sweat of our labor and the genius of our management.” But as he spake, a great cloud gathered over the North, and its market share notched down. And the King of the North’s heart darkened, and he said, “Make us an offer.”

6 Thoroughbred named a price, and the King of the North said, “We must dither with our counselors.” And when he had dithered with his counselors, he said unto Thoroughbred, “Piss thou off.”

7 So the King of Thoroughbred returned to the Tower of Money-Colored Glass and said unto his counselors, “The time ripeneth.”

8 And in those days, it came to pass that the Snow King of Sea Essex came also unto the City of Brotherly Love, and he said unto the King of the North, “Let us consolidate our kingdoms, that our combined market power may be great, and that together we may dominate the East.” For the Snow King did covet the North Kingdom’s monolithic dominance of its dense population.

9 And the King of the North said, “Piss thou off. For now.”

10 Then did the Kings of Thoroughbred and Sea Essex meet in secret and conspire to raid the North Kingdom and divide its lands and treasure between them, but they deemed the time was not ripe.

11 Yet dark grew the shadow over the North Kingdom, and the oracles prophesied anew that the kingdom would not long stand alone.

12 In the Tower of Money-Colored Glass, the sooth-sayers of the Twelfth Level sent reports of the darkening skies to the King of Thoroughbred, and the King sent emissaries often to the North with ever greater offers of cash and stock, and each time the King of the North sent them away, but took longer to do it.

13 And the King of Thoroughbred said, “He is weakening. Prepare the credit rating.”


IT came to pass in the following year that the King of the North went unto his counselors and said, “Verily, the day of the prophecy is at hand. If we seek not refuge with one of the rival kingdoms, we shall be sucking hind tit on the belly of the economy, and the holders of our Treasure will jump like rats on a sinking ship, and our options will be worth squat.”

2 And the counselors said, “With whom shall we seek succor?”

3 And the King said, “Let us discover the cultures of the rivals.”

4 So spies were sent forth, and when the spy in the Land of Thoroughbred returned, he said, “Behold, the Kingdom is strong and wealthy, and the king young, with a long reign yet before him.

5 “The peasants are proud, and safe, and honest, and they enjoy good job security, though they be overworked and live in fear of their masters.

6 “The army is well trained and disciplined. Praise for Thoroughbred’s prowess in the marketplace echoeth through the Canyons of Concrete. Yea, verily do they kick ass.”

7 The second spy said unto the King, “Sea Essex is lax, their treasury small, and their identity nebulous. Their leaders are duplicitous, the Customers revile them, their machines are hazards to their lands and people, and their peasants are ill-disciplined and suffer more lost-time injuries per 200,000 manhours worked than do their rivals.”

8 The King said to his counselors, “Then let us cast our fate with Sea Essex, for they are too weak to dominate us, and their King is old and will be willing to negotiate our speedy succession to the throne.”


SO the King of the North went unto the Snow King and said, “Have we got a deal for thee.”

2 And when the Snow King heard the North’s proposal, he said, “Thou hast got to be kidding. The Customers will protest, and the Imperial Council will demand much divestiture, for this plan flieth in the face of competition. Surely we must divide thy kingdom.”

3 And the King of the North replied, saying, “We shall throw token fiefdoms unto Thoroughbred, and we will declare that competition amongst our great machines matters less than competition between our machines and those of the scurrilous rogues, the Mother Truckers. But never shall we tear asunder our Unique Franchise.”

4 “But surely, Thoroughbred shall attack with the awesome power of his treasury,” quoth the Snow King.

5 And the King of the North replied again, saying, “There is this Peculiar Law in the Land of Penn.” And he spoke unto the Snow King of defying the will of shareholders, and of poison pills.

6 The Snow King thought to himself, “This proposal stinketh unto the nose of Heaven, but if we accept it not, the little weasel will take it to Thoroughbred.” And he said unto the King of the North, “This is indeed a nasty plan. We like it.”

7 And the Kings toasted their certain victory, and they called their alliance the Merger of Equals. But the Snow King did sleep uneasily.


THEN did the Snow King come unto Thoroughbred and say, “Guess what I just did.”

2 And lo, the alarms did sound in the Tower of Money-Colored Glass. And the King said, “This shall not stand.”

3 The lords of Thoroughbred met in council of war, and the Prince of Finance did gird his loins and descend into the Concrete Canyons to seek the Moneylenders for to pad the kingdom’s war chest. And verily did the Moneylenders fall over each other to lend vast sums.

4 And in the North Kingdom, a great cry of astonishment and groan of dismay went up from the people, for they knew not what Sea Essex was.

5 And so Thoroughbred launched war upon the Merger of Equals.

6 To the Directors of the Kingdom of the North and to the holders of the North’s Treasure, Thoroughbred offered huge sums of cash such that Sea Essex could not hope to match.

7 And he offered that Thoroughbred would establish a position for the King of the North, but he revealed not that the position would be that of kneeling, with lips pressed to the King of Thoroughbred’s hindmost parts.

8 To the Customers and to the Imperial Council he promised Balanced Competition such that the Northern Lands had not seen in many years.

9 And to the High Priest in the Temple of Law in the Land of So-Soo-Me, he sent doctors of Law to petition to have the Merger of Equals declared void and their tactics unlawful.

10 And the Thoroughbred did seek the wise counsel of a recovering legislator from the City of Brotherly Love to wage war for the support of the people’s representatives.

11 And doubt grew in the hearts of the allied kings, for though strong was the Shield of the Peculiar Law, mighty was the weight of Thoroughbred’s purse, and sweet was its promise of Balanced Competition.

12 But the Snow King said unto the holders of the North’s Treasure, “The Thoroughbred is not serious. They strive only to crash our party.”

13 But in secret, the Snow King said unto Thoroughbred, “Let us take council once more, that we may yet avoid war.” So they did meet under cover of darkness in the Ancient Colonial Capital, whereupon the Snow King laid down terms of surrender. But the King of Thoroughbred advised Sea Essex to stuff it, and he vowed, “The Concrete Canyons shall run knee-deep with the blood of both thy kingdoms.”

14 “Nay,” said the Snow King. “Surrender now, for verily, our Shield of the Peculiar Law is Bullet Proof.”

15 And when the King of the North learnt of the secret meeting, he was wroth, and he said unto the Snow King, “Thou bastard. Wouldst thou sacrifice our Unique Franchise?” And he compelled Sea Essex to magnify the terms of his offer, and to swear never again to parley with Thoroughbred without the North’s consent.

16 The holders of the North’s Treasure said unto Sea Essex, “If, as thou sayest, Thoroughbred’s bid hath no substance, why dost thou yet raise thy bid in response?”

17 And the Snow King said, “Nay, not in response. They who count beans have revised the worth of our bid, and so we offer thee more for thy shares, because we love thee.”


AND even as the Merger of Equals trumpeted their greater bid, Thoroughbred did trump it, raising the stakes, yea, even unto the feet of the angels.

2 And the holders of Treasure did salivate to tender their shares in return for great heaps of cash, but the King of the North said unto them, “Sea Essex’s offer, though inferior on the face of it, will prove greater in the fullness of time, for thou shalt retain holdings in a far Greater Kingdom To Come.”

3 But a vast portion of the North Kingdom’s Treasure was held by heathens in the Land of Arbitrage, who measure time not in years, nor in months, nor in days, but in phone calls. And they said unto him, “Place thy Greater Kingdom To Come where the Golden Orb of Day shineth not. We want our money now.”

4 But the King said, “Never shalt thou collect the Thoroughbred’s money,” and he spake unto them of the Peculiar Law, and moreover said unto them, “We have sworn unto the King of Sea Essex not to speak of merger with any other kingdom for many years hence, even if the Merger of Equals come not to pass. Therefore yield now, for there is no other offer, nor ever will be.” And this became known as the Great Lockout.

5 And the holders roared in anger, and the King’s heart was hardened, and he said unto them, “If thou likest not the Law, buy not the stock.” And from that day forth did they hate the King of the North.

6 And the Thoroughbred’s doctors of Law did petition the High Priest of So-Soo-Me to void the Great Lockout. But the High Priest would not.

7 But the holders of Treasure took comfort among themselves, saying, “Sea Essex cannot proceed further until the North call a Council of Holders and receive our approval.”

8 Then did the sweat of fear break upon the allied kings’ brows, for the oracles did prophesy defeat for the Merger of Equals in the Council of Holders.

9 But the King of the North devised an evil plan, whereupon the Council would meet on the eve of Yuletide, when no one would come to the meeting. “And if on the eve of the Council the oracles still prophesy defeat, we shall postpone it,” said the King. “And thus shall we do again and again until the heathens of Arbitrage do tire of waiting for cash.”

10 And the counselors for Thoroughbred did protest again in the Temple of Law, saying, “That’s not fair!”

11 And the High Priest said, “No, it isn’t. The Council must meet.”

12 So Sea Essex attacked with a new bid, which, although still inferior, gave the North lawful cause to postpone the Council.

13 And Thoroughbred did swiftly strike back with a bid mightier still, and did swear unto the holders of the North’s Treasure never to enter into terms that did not deliver unto them the fullness of Thoroughbred’s bid. And verily did the holders dance within the Concrete Canyons.


AND it came to pass when the day of reckoning dawned that the King of Thoroughbred went forth to the City of Brotherly Love and entered into the meeting of the Council of Holders. And he heeded not the glares of the lords of the kingdom, but spake unto the holders gathered therein, saying, “Let not these scoundrels ram this deal down thy throats.”

2 And lo, the holders did overwhelmingly block the advance of Sea Essex.

3 But Thoroughbred could advance no farther by reason of the Peculiar Law, so stalemate seized the land.

4 “Fear not,” said the King of the North unto the Snow King, “for if we but bide our time, the venal bastards of Arbitrage will despair of seeing the Thoroughbred’s money, and they will yield.”

5 But the Snow King’s spirit waned, for the battles that yet raged for the support of the Customers and the people’s representatives went ill for the Merger of Equals.

6 Great hordes of Customers did rally to the banner of Balanced Competition, for high on the Eighteenth Level of the Tower of Money-Colored Glass, the Wizards of Words, aided by a mercenary champion from the Imperial City, did persuasively convince all the world of the righteousness of their cause.

7 And the Imperial Council charged with ratifying the outcome of the war did observe the massive support for Balanced Competition and declared, “We shall not bless that result which provideth it not.”

8 Then did Thoroughbred launch an attack upon the North’s very palace, striving to overthrow the Directors of the Kingdom, that new Directors of Thoroughbred’s choosing might depose their King and accept Thoroughbred’s mountains of cash.

9 And the oracles prophesied that Thoroughbred had a damn good chance of prevailing.

10 Then did Thoroughbred send missives unto the Merger of Equals, offering to parley on terms of surrender.

11 And the King of the North cried, “Never.”

12 And the Snow King said unto the King of the North, “We need to talk.”

13 And they did talk. And the words were of getting real, and of betrayal, and yea, the words were bitter.


THEN went the Snow King unto the King of Thoroughbred and said, “Go to, let us pick up where we left off in a prior year.” And they did carve the North between them.

2 And the two Kings did travel together to a city in the Land of Penn to celebrate the end of hostilties. And the people of the city praised the Thoroughbred, and made a joyful noise upon the tuba and piccolo, and they did offer up as tribute their children.

3 As for King of the North, he sought comfort in 20 million pieces of gold from the kingdom’s Treasury, with which he filled the sidecar of his hog, and he donned his helmet and rode even unto the edge of the Earth, and off of it, and disappeared under a parachute of gold.

4 Thus did Balanced Competition return to the East, and peace returned to the land.


© 1998 by Robin C. Chapman