Chuck watched the small craft saunter down from the sky where the T7 balloon still hovered like an eagle hunting its prey. Chuck stood in front of his house on the lawn. His kids had gone to school and Kandie was out. He watched the spec looming larger as it drew towards him.
He had left the miscreant prototype where it was, at Anderton's parents’ house, and his wife had picked him up for the TV show, which was scheduled for midday. Media interest in the story unfolding in the town was growing and the CNN's Atlantis balloon was rumoured to be arriving along with a couple of other network balloons. At this rate the town would not be able to see the sun during the day.
Chuck had been talking to Kelly McCoor this morning, who'd smoothed everything over with Willerby at T7: he'd got all the questions he was going to be asked.
It was not going to be entirely easy. The media was blaming Carlton for Hamburg's death and for the ensuing violence. Still, Chuck knew the questions. All he had to do was look good and talk smart.
The craft descended with increasing rapidity and as it came closer he could hear its engines roaring. It halted and hovered over his lawn. Many of these craft had been mistaken for UFO's. They were in fact sophisticated, compact versions of a vertical take-off plane. A door opened and Chuck sat down in the only chair there was. The plane ascended fast. For some strange reason the interior passenger section had a 1970's theme and all around the ceiling there were projections of various7O's shows including The Bionic man, Charlie's Angels and Wonderwoman.
The whole thing was making Chuck feel sick and he closed his eyes in an attempt to escape. This was no doubt T7's attempt at being wacky. Wacky maybe but inappropriate.
He could see himself talking to Anderton this morning, like a surreal dream. It had confirmed what he had thought: Anderton was losing it. Chuck could almost feel the sweet taste of victory in his mouth. Anderton was going weird. Time to exploit. Chuck had another pawn up his sleeve, which he was willing to play very soon. Chuck smiled at the prospect of Anderton's face when he found out. When Chuck opened his eyes, he could hear the various hissings and other sounds associated with the docking procedure. The door opened and a small man greeted him.
“My name's Jules,” he said extending his hand.
“Hi, I think you probably know who I am,” Chuck said with a wry smile. “This is my first time up here. It's even bigger than I thought."
“If you'd like to follow me”
Chuck followed Jules through a maze of small corridors; it looked like the inside of an aircraft's wing, all criss-crossed with light alloy struts. Eventually they arrived in a small make up room, where there was a barber's chair.
“The make up lady will be along in a minute. You've been on the networks many times before so you know the drill: body language, tone of voice and don't lose your temper. Good luck."
Chuck looked around the room. Odd to think he was up floating in the air and to look around he'd never know. After a couple of minutes there was a knock at the door.
The make-up lady came in and they chattered idly about this and that while she made him, "more presentable" to use her words. Chuck was ushered into the studio. There was no TV audience for this slot and no Willerby. He sat in a chair and watched the pre-air fidgetings of the technical crew.
With a couple of minutes to go Willerby wandered in. She wore a beige suit and she was wearing her hair up in a bun. She had a spring in her step and a twinkle in her eye. Chuck couldn't help having unwelcome thoughts.
“Hi, Chuck," Jane said with casual familiarity, “How are you doing?”
“You had a good day so far?"
“Yeah, how about you?”
“Oh yes, fine."
“So are you all set then? Quarter of an hour's worth of interview?"
“I hear media interest in this whole thing is rising."
“Oh yeah. But I was here first, Chuck and I know more about it than anyone else”
“Yep, you do, I guess.”
“So are you feeling comfortable?”
“You're miked up?”
“There's water here on the table if you need it." The lights in the studio went to orange.
Twenty seconds to go. Willerby leant over to Chuck and brushed a piece of fluff off his jacket.
“We want you to look your best eh?”
“Ten seconds!” shouted the producer. He winked at Jane.
“Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two one and go.”
“Hi. This is Jane Willerby on T7's midday hot news slot. Chuck Ellephanie is with me today. Mr. Ellephanie owns Carlton motors here in Hertferd. His company has been pioneering both the fusion engine and more recently nanotech production of some of its components. Mr. Ellephanie is in a head-to-head race with the current Mayor to take over the town of Hertferd, having placed a precedent setting vote of no confidence in the current Mayor, Duncan Anderton.
Hertferd's vote is split between Carlton and the farmers who support Anderton. Last night saw the first violent clashes between the two sides. These were triggered by the alleged accidental death of the local farming union leader, Jack Hamburg.
Hamburg's body was crushed while Carlton were removing the blockade built by the farmers to disrupt Carlton's production. This was the scene this morning."
A video clicked in and showed the wall, which had mostly been cleared. “Welcome to the programme Mr. Ellephanie."
“So why do you want to become Mayor of Hertferd so badly?"
Chuck’s eyes opened slightly.
“Anderton claims to be standing up for the majority of people in Hertferd. In fact he represents only one of the three main segments in Hertferd, the farmers. He overlooks the needs of the retired and the many people who now live in the town who work at Carlton motors.
I aim to represent Hertferd, improve the town with new amenities and increase the employment, not just in the town itself, but the surrounding area, which will naturally benefit the farming community.
Anderton wants to stop the town moving forward and improving. His ideas are old fashioned and out of date. Towns and communities have to grow or die. It’s that simple. Anderton is condemning not only the town, but the surrounding area to a slow drawn out economic death. I'm offering the choice of life."
“Isn't it the case that all these high ideals you are talking just confuse the public? Basically the only reason you want to be Mayor is so that you can force through the compulsory purchase of farms in the area. You need land to expand your plant. You need that expansion to be able to guarantee volume production to Daewoo, so they will sign a deal. You have to get that land or Carlton will go under. They don't want to give it to you, so you plan to take it forcibly? Running for Mayor is pure expediency.”
“No. That isn't the case. As I've said I have a lot of reasons for wishing to become Mayor. The matter of land is one that I could resolve by buying land in another area of Hertferd or the state." Chuck replied calmly.
“But isn't it the case that it would benefit your factory much more if you could buy the land adjacent to the factory? Furthermore isn't it the case you need land to build houses for new workers and you have in mind all sorts of business ventures too.”
“I have nothing whatsoever confirmed. I want to become Mayor because I want Hertferd to have a prosperous future. I am considering all sorts of different potential amenities for the residents, as the retired people of the town will tell you, but nothing is confirmed. It's what any Mayor with an interest in the town would do. Anderton has no such interest."
“I have here a memo written by you dated six months ago. It states, quite clearly, ‘Economically and logistically purchasing farms adjacent to the current site would be the most sensible solution for expansion of both the factory, housing and associated amenities’ Mr. Ellephanie, you need this land for your deal."
Chuck's mind was whirring. How had T7 obtained all of this documentation?
“I don't see what this has to do with my desire to become Mayor. What we are discussing here is the more intimate details of my business, details which I stress have yet to be finalised.”
“But you would stand to benefit from taking the land over immediately adjacent to the factory and that's why the farmers have built the barricade.”
“I think you'll find that we have been very tolerant in the way we have been dealing with the farmers and their barricade.”
“This would hardly be the view of everyone; last night one of the farmers was killed underneath a pile of rubble toppled over by one of your workers. Wouldn't you agree that the timing of this accidental death is rather convenient?"
A look of anger crossed Ellephanie's face and he sipped a glass of water.
“As you know the police are making enquiries into how exactly Jakob Hamburg was killed and I cannot comment any further on this at this time. The only thing I am allowed to say was that their initial statement suggested ‘Accidental death.’ ”
“All of this goes to the heart of the matter. Far from the charming facade you would have the public believe, you wish to become Mayor totally for your own personal selfish gain. And furthermore, it was your company's bad handling of the situation last night that sparked the violence which lead to the intervention of the state police and five people seriously injured.”
“If you would let me speak I will give you a reply. Now to answer your points in a logical order. Everyone who goes into politics has motives, I have made mine clear during this interview and will continue to do so. If you ask the retired Hertferd residents what my motives are, they would tell you that I want to improve things for the residents. I will win this election for Hertferd as a community and that is exactly what I intend to do.
Last night's clash was an unfortunate accident and naturally Carlton are fully cooperating with the police. We regret that anyone was hurt and we offer our best wishes to the families of both the Carlton men and the farmers who were hurt.
Nevertheless the fact remains that it was the farming union who initiated the process of building the wall, not Carlton. We were perfectly entitled to remove and dismantle a wall, which was built illegally by the farming union. Of course, naturally I regret what happened last night, but Carlton did not create the cause of it, the wall. They did.”
“We have an unconfirmed report that the driver of the forklift was not in fact from the haulage company, but a member of your staff who had not driven for a considerable time. Would you accept or deny this?”
“I have no knowledge of this.”
“According to our information he has not driven a fork lift for some five years.”
“As I have said, I have no knowledge of this but I can assure you this will be fully investigated.”
“If it were true, wouldn't it be irresponsible of Carlton to let a driver drive a fork lift, for the first time in five years, in the dead of night, when a potential confrontation was looming, and when men were very close to the base of the wall on both sides?”
Chuck's eyes narrowed slightly.
“As I said, I don't know if this is true or not, so I can’t comment.”
“But you must agree in principle.”
“As I said, and I will keep saying, I don't know about this allocation so I can't comment. We will naturally investigate the matter fully.”
“So you would come on here and explain the situation would you?”
“As I have said I will investigate the matter fully and we will proceed from there.”
“If you look at the following video footage of last night, you will see that it was clearly the Carlton men who started shouting and provoking the farmers”
The screen above them flicked into life, Ellephanie and Willerby watched it. Chuck could feel the perspiration on his back soaking into his shirt. He didn't know they had managed to get this. Chuck tried to check a rising feeling of nausea as he watched the video.
“You have to agree the video clearly shows Carlton workers inciting the farmers to violence. One of the workers is clearly shouting ‘Nigger, nigger!’ at one of the farm hands."
“Jane, as I've said, we had to take the wall down; it was stopping the factory working. We didn't construct the wall in the first place; it is natural that tempers would be running high.”
“So you are condoning the conduct of your workers are you?”
“I am not condoning their actions in that particular instance and that will be investigated. However it is members of the farming union who inflicted damage on our factory last night to the tune of several thousand dollars.”
“But no one was left dead from your company.”
“I think we are going round in circles here Jane. We both know no one was left dead from my company.”
The producer gesticulated in the air. Time to wrap up.
“This is Jane Willerby for T7 news talking to Mr. Ellephanie. Thank you for coming on the programme. No doubt we will be seeing you soon. Thank you for staying with T7 and stay tuned for our world news update.”
The red light flashed off.
“What the hell was that?” Chuck asked indignantly.
“An interview,” Jane replied.
“An interview asking none of the questions we’d previously agreed upon, as a condition of my appearing on your show."
“It's in your interests to be on T7. Take it or leave it but you'll get used to it.”
“I will be contacting my lawyers about this.”
“See you soon, Chuck. If you have any further comments please ask my producer”.
“Jules, would you get Mr. Ellephanie a drink, I think he needs one.”
Jane Willerby walked off. Another interview done. Time for some more research.
On the way down to the factory, surrounded by Charlie's Angel, Chuck did a lot of thinking.
“Time to pull out one of our aces,” Chuck said aloud and picked up his com. He called Martin Shaw the Chief of Police.
“Have you found him yet?” Ellephanie said simply.
“Yes, the crazy bastard is on his way to us now.”
“I want this one canned.”
“Good interview then?” Martin said.
Chuck switched off his viewcom.
“Could you speed up a bit here, I'm late for my Chinese lesson," Chuck shouted at the pilot.The pilot smiled. He had an oriental looking physiology. “Certainly, Mr. Ellephanie," he replied.