A Western in the Mid-West
“This is Jane Willerby reporting for T7, here in Hertferd. As you can see there is full scale fighting all around me here at the Carlton factory. No- one knows how it started. We have unconfirmed reports of injury and possibly some casualties on both sides.
Some are saying that the farmers here have taken the law into their own hands following the live TV debate here yesterday. God that was close. As you can see there is gunfire all around at the factory gates. I can hardly hear myself speak.
Others are saying that armed farmers are on their way from all over the state, but we have no confirmation of this. One thing is clear; people here at the Carlton factory cannot get in or out. What may have started as unplanned hostility has turned into a full-scale siege.
More and more tractors, cars and other machinery belonging to farmers are piling up in the road making access to the area almost impossible, except by air.
We understand that Rod Bremmer, Head of the worker's union in Carlton, came out in an attempt to conduct negotiations and was shot in the leg.
I have Martin Shaw with me on the line now. He is the head of the police here in Hertferd.
Sheriff Shaw, clearly the situation is completely out of control. What are you doing about it?”
“We are assessing the situation and I can assure you and anyone who is watching that we will get the situation under control.”
“Can you confirm or deny that a large unit of armed state police is flying here now?”
“I have no further comment at this time.”
“Who started this?”
“We cannot say at this time.”
“Can you confirm or deny that Ellephanie is in the building at the moment.”
“We have no knowledge of this at this time.”
“I have no further comment to make at this time. Thank you.”
“Mr. Shaw? We appear to have lost Martin Shaw. This is Jane Willerby reporting for T7 news from Hertferd, a town in anarchy. We will be keeping you in touch with up to the minute reporting here on T7.”
Duncan turned the television off and slunk back in his chair. He looked out of the window of his house nervously and poured himself a large glass of whiskey .He picked up his viewcom and dialled Shaw's direct line. Engaged.
He dialled Shaw's secretary, who came into view. “Get me Shaw?”
“He’s on a call at the moment.”
“I don't care if he's on the phone to the fucking President, I want to speak to him now.”
“I will pass on the message to him Mr. Anderton.”
“Listen here son; you get me Shaw if you want to have a job to go to in the morning. I am still the Mayor. Get him for me now.”
The man disappeared and a few moments later Shaw appeared on the screen.
“You double crossing son of a bitch.”
“Save your breath Duncan. You don't have any say left in this town anymore.”
“Now you listen here, you jumped up jackass, while I’m Mayor I do have a goddam say. Now what the fuck is going on and what the hell are you going to do about it?”
“Blow me Duncan, I haven't got time for this shit now.”
“Is Ellephanie in the building or not?”
“So that's what this is about is it?”
“No goddam it. I want to know what in hell's name you're doing about the situation, other than sitting on your fat arse deciding which way the wind will blow.”
“It's your situation,” Martin shouted in anger, “It's your jack ass farmers that started all this shit.”
“Now you fucking listen here. I know they fired the first shot an hour ago. I know because I've got footage of Carlton shooting at some of my guys.”
Duncan held up a small cartridge, which resembled a pen.
“How did you get that? Are you wired into Carlton's surveillance?”
“Listen you just start talking," Duncan said coolly, "if this gets out, you might see me again in the office. So I suggest you start co-operating or you won't find yourself in a job. The wind has just started blowing the other way.”
“How do I know if there's anything on that?"
“Ask yourself a question, why are you so goddam worried? Now start talking to me, start talking now. What the fuck is going on? I want some protection up here."
“I don't have anyone to send. Your best protection is to get in the goddam car and drive."
“Now listen to me. I'm not leaving my town, when my town's turned into a war zone. Do you think I'm dumb or something? I might as well commit political suicide. Get me some protection."
“I haven't got anyone."
“You aren't listening to me. That's your problem. Now what are you doing? "
“The state squad is flying in."
“And what are their orders? Shoot anyone that moves?"
"No, goddam it..."
“Who's in charge of this unit?" Duncan snapped.
“Thought so. It would have to be fucking Hancock. I wanna speak to that son of a bitch before he goes in, you got that?"
I can't guarantee...”
“You just did guarantee. You tell Hancock 222. That's a guarantee. I don't want a blood bath on my hands while I'm still Mayor. Now you get him in touch."
The com pipped. His heart was racing. He hesitated then commed Willerby direct.
“How the hell did you get this number?"
"I've something that will interest you." Duncan waved the cartridge in front of the screen. "How would you like to find out what really happened, how this started?"
"How did you get hold of that?"
"Does it matter?"
Duncan inserted the cartridge into the com. "Watch and weep."
Jane watched the caption in disbelief. "I thought it was the farmers.”
“You might mightn’t you...don’t believe everything you hear Jane. What are you going to do with it?”
“Broadcast it you dummy, we believe in the truth here,” Willerby ducked. Duncan could hear the gunfire.
“Can I download onto your COM?”
Jane checked the memory. “Yep, go ahead.”
“Oh and Jane, think about your angle on this. See if you can inject a bit of responsibility into your reporting for once.”
“Go to hell Duncan, you're not in a position to patronise me.”
“Don't be too sure lady.”
Duncan watched Willerby's face disappear from the screen.
The moment he switched his viewcom off it started to ring again. A masked face appeared before him. He was obviously airborne in something judging by the level of sound in the background.
“Hancock here, what do you want?” Hancock said uneasily.
“What are your orders?”
“You have no authorization to ask about my orders.”
“This is my town you bunch of trigger happy bastards are heading towards, I've got every right.”
“Every right but no authorization.”
“Let me encourage you to change your mind. I've got a cartridge here relating to an escapade called 222.”
Hancock's face froze. “I thought it was your lot that were coming so I got it out of the library especially, from a dear friend of mine just in case."
“Is it now?”
Hancock bit his lip.
“What do you want?”
“I want you to come and pick me up, I'm going with you.”
“What? You've got no author...”
“-isation? And let me see, what was your authorisation for 222? You pick me up or this goes to T7. And if I disappear it will definitely go to T7. Got it? Keep me safe or 222 is public property. It's that simple, now chose.”
Hancock thought for a moment. “Okay, what do you want?”
“What do you think? I want to talk to the guys from the air persuade them to down tools and go home. The party's over.”
“And you think they will listen to you?”
“You really do want to go and shoot them all don't you son of a bitch? They are farmers not soldiers...you just want to shoot your load.”
“Not if I can be avoided.”
“That's what I'm giving you a choice of you dumb fool. It's worth a shot. Remember 222.”
“What's our ETA?” Hancock shouted to the pilot in the background.
“Okay we're going to do a short detour to the Mayor's house.”
“Just fucking do it.”
“Alright Anderton, I'll give you one chance. If there's no response we'll go in,” Hancock blurted.
“And another thing, I want two of your guys here with my family.”
“No buts. If they find out about 222 then you can kiss goodbye to jumping around in aircraft for life.”
Duncan sat back in his chair. Not the best time to turn into a soldier, in your best suit. Still, no time to change.
“To be a cunt. Oh, we're all being cunts now,” he said out loud. “To be a hero or to be a villain? What's the difference?”
The veloplane was a military version of the plane that had taken him up to T7's balloon. Duncan ran across the lawn and jumped into the open hatch. Hancock eyedballed.
“You better think of something good to say or you're history.”
The short ride to Carlton was skeleton dismantling. The thirty five men faced each other silently.
Duncan looked out of the window, Carlton a complete mess. Burning vehicles lay strewn on the road to the plant. Intermittent gunfire.
“You got a holoprojector in this thing?”
“What do you think arsehole? This is a police vehicle.”
“Well, get it up and working.”
They put the mobile camera before Duncan. It hummed as it floated in the sky. Out of the window he could see himself projected as a figure thirty feet in height hanging in the air above the wall looking at the farmers. Duncan took a deep breath.
“You all know who I am. I haven't intervened until now. You won't achieve anything by doing things this way. You will only make the situation worse and people will get hurt - think about what you are doing. Will people support your cause if you carry on like this? I can't get support for the town if you carry on this line of action.”
Down below Henry Roydon raised his machine gun and aimed upwards towards the hovering plane. As expected, Hancock was on time, Anderton got 222.
“Let's do this the legal way. Let's get the election done.”
Henry's finger hovered by the trigger. He looked around, no one was looking at him, and they were all looking at the Mayor's image.
“Drop your arms and no one will get hurt. Think of your families! I don't want anyone to get hurt.”
A massive volley rang out below the plane. People panicked and started shooting, some at the Carlton building, others at the plane.
The plane swooped down.
“We're going in.” Hancock shouted.“Oh God,” Duncan said, “oh God.”