“Jane!” one of the crew exclaimed. “What is it?”
“I've got Sherrington on the line, head of T7.”
“Goddam it, I think I know who Peter Sherrington is, even if you don't. What does he want?"
“It's urgent. He wants to talk to you now from the ops box.”
“What now? When the police veloplane is hanging above us.”
“Now, Jane, now!”
“Keep filming, I want you to get tight in on the holo image of Anderton and if that plane comes down I want it all on film. No fuck ups. Right?”
“Joe, you take charge, I'll be back in a minute.”
“Choose their times don't they?” Joe exclaimed.
Jane ran over to ops, a silver coloured bullet proof, soundproof cabin with one small window onto the outside world. She sat down in the cubicle and watched the holo image of Peter Sherrington spring into life. He was a short man with a ginger receding hairline and sharp, keen blue eyes.
“How are you holding up?”
“It's hairy down here, Peter. How are the ratings?”
“Massive. Jane, you're doing a great job.”
“The veloplane is hovering over us full of cops. This is crunch time so we'd better make this quick.”
“I understand. There was no right time to talk to you about this except immediately.”
“What’s the problem?” Jane asked anxiously, trying to look out of the window at the same time.
“I understand you've received a cartridge from Anderton”
“How do you know that?”
“This thing is very big I've had some guys from Washington onto me.”
Peter ignored the question. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to broadcast the contents of the cartridge."
“What? Why for God's sake? That's infri..."
“-ngement of the rights of the press,” Peter continued. “I know. Listen Jane I'll level with you. The Feds are involved and God knows who else is involved I'm being sat on here by Washington and I owe them a favour.”
“I don't care who you owe favours to.”
“I haven't got time to argue here with you Jane," Peter said becoming angrier "show that cartridge and you'll be finished.”
“Are you threatening me?” Jane barked incredulously.
“No, Jane, I’m not. I'm giving you a choice. I'm going to be retiring in six months and I want you to take over from me, that's off the record.”
Jane sat back in her chair hit by shock and excitement.
“I don't know what to say.”
“Don't say anything Jane. If that tape goes out on air you wouldn't take over, I can't be more direct than that.”
“What do you know?”
“More than I should and more than you. If you value your career and everything else, don't broadcast it. Jane I mean it. Things are getting very, very heavy over this. There's stuff going on. A lot of people have their balls on the line and they are dangerous.”
“Who’s they? What are you saying?”
“Too much. I don't know who they are but I know what they're like. Jane please, I'm telling you don't broadcast the tape, keep reporting what happens but we've got to give Carlton a positive light.”
“What! Are you telling me how to tell it?”
“Yes, I am. For your own good. Now listen to me, I'm sticking my neck out here. There are times when you've got to know when to pull back and this is one of them, you'll learn that. Do you want to sit in my chair?”
Jane jumped with the sound of a massive volley.
“Shit, Peter the cops have come in, oh God, they're shooting at the farmers I can see them out of the window.”
“Jane, for God's sake please. Go out there, report, but take my fucking advice.”
“Okay Peter, but I'm telling you I don't like it.”
“Neither do I but that's the way it's got to be.”
Jane thought for a moment. Images of being head of T7 were rushing through her mind, the big office, the changes she wanted to make and the sacrifices.
“You've made it, you've got nothing else to prove to us.”
Jane eyed Peter keenly. “Deal.”
“Good.” Peter's body and face visibly relaxed “Now get out there and do what you're good at. And Jane, destroy the cartridge right now, where I can see you.”
“You mean you don't trust me?”
Peter laughed. “You're the best reporter I've ever met. Of course I don't trust you! Now do it.”
Jane got out a lighter from her pocket and burnt the cartridge. “We'll cover any accusations from Anderton, don't worry.”
“I'm not. He’s finished anyway.”
“I'll do my best,” Jane answered lamely. Peter's image disappeared.
Jane went to the window and adjusted her flack jacket. She couldn't hear firing but she could see the heavily armed cops weaving in pairs through the wreckage of the wall, urgently gesticulating to each other. She took a deep breath and opened the door of the cabin. A blast of sound hit her, the ominous repetition of machine gun fire. She weaved, taking cover through the wreckage back to Joe who was cowering behind an old mechanised plough. Jane peered above the wreckage. She could see both sides. The farmers, about twenty of them, were being encircled by the police but they couldn't see it.
“Joe, we need to get in there, where the farmers are about two hundred metres away.”
“I know, but we can’t, it’s too dangerous.” Jane looked around her.
“You’re right!” She jumped suddenly “Shit. The farmers are firing at us.”
“They are panicking” Joe shouted above the volley of shots.
“They don't know who is coming towards them. Jees, get down!”
They huddled together breathing heavily next to an old tractor.
“We’ve got the remote camera haven’t we? We could direct it towards the farmers and keep filming?” Jane whispered.
“Yes but it's only got enough power for half an hour and also that's if the…”
“Don't shoot it down," Joe whispered.
“They won't notice it. Jesus Christ!” Bullets ricocheted around them.
“Where is it?” Jane shouted.
“Over there with the other equipment, about ten metres away, it’s across the open ground."
“Shit.” Jane said.
They looked at each other for a moment. “Where's the rest of the crew?"
“Behind there.” Joe said pointing at an old fire blistered truck. “I told them to take cover while I waited for you.”
“I'm going to get the remote camera.”
“Jane, you're fucking crazy. These guys have lost it. They don't know what they are doing anymore. They aren't going to distinguish between the police and us. You’re fuckin' crazy.”
“Where's Anderton? Shit!”
They both ducked as another stray bullet whistled over them ricocheting on the metal debris behind.
“I don't know!” shouted Joe as another exchange of fire started. “Listen I'm going to get the camera.”
Joe tried to grab her with his arm but she scurried of, keeping low and moving fast. She could here bullets around her. Nearly there, the remote camera was in one of the boxes closest to them. Jane grabbed it and began to scurry back.
Joe looked to try and make out what was going on. She was still scurrying but she was limping.
“Jane! Fucking move it! Come on. You can make it. Move!”
“I'm hit in the leg,” she said between breaths.
Hank looked down and saw the wound. It was weeping blood. He got out a knife, ripping the trousers apart above the wound.
“Aaaaah! Careful Joe for God's sake it fucking hurts .Jees it hurts. Do you know what you're fucking doing?”
“First Aid course ten years ago."
“Jees how reassuring,” Jane winced.
“It's in your upper leg. If you can still walk I reckon it's embedded in the muscle at the top of your leg don't think it's broken. It's not bleeding too badly. I'll strap it.”
Joe ripped off his t-shirt shredding it into strips.
“Never mind me. Get the bloody camera out there, I'll do this myself.”
“Just do it. I want these mothers on film."
Joe got out the remote and fired it up. It made its characteristic whirring noise as it warmed up. It looked like a torpedo with some guidance fins. It had a small helicopter blade on the top and at the back.
He got the controls and switched on the screen. The camera hovered. He turned the camera around on himself the image flashed up on the screen.
He guided the camera gently towards the farmers, weaving it between the debris like a wasp.
They heard a large booming voice coming from some loudhailer somewhere.
“Give it up,” Anderton shouted, “before anyone else gets hurt. Roydon, if you can hear me, tell them to give it up. Lay down your weapons and no one else will get hurt.”
The gunfire stopped for a moment.
“Think of your families.” they heard his voice boom.
“Jane, I can see them.” Joe pointed at the screen.
The farmers were huddled together; they'd built themselves a round circle of debris and each of them stood with their rifles facing in different directions. Three of them lay on the floor immobile. Another four were in the centre of the circle; they were leaning on each other and nursing their wounds.
“That's Elvis isn't it?”
“Yeah,” Jane wheezed, “Yeah that's Elvis.”
“Where's Roydon, the guy who took over from Hamburg?”
“I can't see him.”
Joe played with the remote and looked in various directions.
“I can't see him. Some of them are talking on viewcoms. I can't recognise who they are.”
“Let's go live,” Jane wheezed slightly and then coughed, “Use my com. Get newsdesk. We’ve got to get this on air. There's no one else this close.”
Jane winced again. Joe grabbed the com.
“Speak to Charlie in news control." Jane rasped. Jane was having difficulty focusing.
“Rest easy Jane,'' he carried on talking.
“We're going live in two minutes.” Joe said putting down the com.
“Do they know... the situation?”
“Of course, now rest."
“You've never done live before have you?”
“Well, you've got your chance. I...”
“I know Jane, rest up, don't worry, we'll get you sorted out when we are out of here.”
The gunfire had stopped momentarily. Joe was glued to the screen. “Nothing happening."
“Joe, tie this round my leg will you, I can't reach. Introduce yourself and explain what's happened, tell them I'm wounded the farmers are surrounded, injuries..."
“Jane, it's okay, just let me do it. Let me tie this up..."
In this moment of peace they could hear birds singing off in the distance and the clouds drifted obliviously in the blue sky.
“At least I won't have to worry about what I look like, as it's a remote film. They won't even see me. Just as well. I look like shit," Joe said rubbing his stubble.
Jane forced a weak smile. Joe's viewcom flashed up.
“You set?” Charlie asked. “Go in ten seconds.”
The seconds ticked away, he composed himself and adjusted the camera.
“This is Joe Streetsboro live for T7 reporting from the grain against gears siege. We can bring you live and exclusive coverage of the siege from our remote camera. Jane Willerby has been wounded while getting the remote camera, which is bringing you these pictures.
“The situation here is tense. A small group of farmers have been holding the Carlton building under siege but the tables are turning here. Ten minutes ago the police sent in a unit to control the situation. Duncan Anderton, the current Mayor of Hertferd has been pleading with the farmers to give up the struggle so far with no result. The gunfire, which has been almost continuous for ten minutes, has stopped momentarily.
The police have the farmers surrounded and you can see them here on your screen. The newly elected Farmer’s Union leader, Henry Roydon, who led the siege appears to have disappeared.
Joe adjusted the camera locating the source.
“Oh my God, some of the Carlton workers appear to be coming out of the building."
Joe's voice trailed off as he played with the camera.
Jane watched the screen in horror. Three of the Carlton workers had come out of the building holding a white flag and had been shot, they lay bleeding in front of the entrance. The screen flashed back to the farmers, everything seemed to go into slow motion. The farmers’ faces were full of confusion, horror and anger. Farmers were being shot in the besieged circle and falling down in pain, shot in the chest, the legs, the arms. Carnage, a scene from an action movie in real life.
Amidst the confusion, she could see some of the farmers laying down their arms and the police moving in. Ten farmers lay dead or wounded on the ground. Jane thought she could hear Anderton's voice in the background but things were becoming disconnected and hazy. Jane could still hear Joe’s voice giving commentary before she drifted into unconsciousness .The last thing she could remember was seeing Elvis fall.
When she woke up she found herself lying in a hospital bed.
It was Sunday and she drifted in and out of consciousness throughout the day. All she could remember was nurses in white and babbling voices around her bed. She didn't know who they all were and she didn't seem to be able to stay awake.
When she finally came round she looked at the clock beside her bed and found out it was Tuesday, Election Day. She looked up at the screen, which was showing T7 news. Hertferd was in a state of curfew and armed police were shown ominously walking up and down the street carrying guns. It was like watching a scene from some capital in South America after a military takeover. Janet was reading the news:
“Hertferd dominates the domestic news today. Voting takes place today in Hertferd in the aftermath of what's being dubbed The Hertferd Massacre, the initial results will be due in one hour.
In the ever-increasing fall out from Saturday, accusations and blame are coming from both sides, but most reports indicate that it was the farmers who initiated the fighting. The video cameras, which would confirm or deny these allegations, were destroyed in the fighting at the Carlton factory, so there is no way of judging the accuracy of these reports.
Henry Roydon, the recent head of the farming union, who was the first to open fire on the police has gone missing. Several other people are also reported to be missing including Rod Bremmer head of the Union at Carlton and some Carlton workers including Ellephanie's secretary. Police are making nationwide enquiries as to their whereabouts and have appealed for public assistance. So far the police say they have no leads and their disappearance remains a mystery.
Several arrests have been made and the farmers involved have been charged with various crimes including murder, GBH and breech of the peace.
Washington is taking the matter very seriously and the President is keeping a keen eye on developments. He has ordered the new Governor of Iowa to conduct an enquiry into the whole incident, including claims of police brutality.
In another twist to this tale, the previous Governor was found dead in a river in Chicago. The police suspect foul play but will not comment any further.
Anderton failed to stop the farmers opening fire on the Carlton workers and in the ensuing fighting twenty people lost their lives. There were a dozen injuries including T7's Jane Willerby. These people are all being treated for in Hertferd. Ellephanie received a small face wound while the fighting was taking place but it isn't serious.
The town is in a curfew state but is mourning the dead. Nevertheless authorities have said voting will take place in an attempt to get the town back to normal. But the authorities have taken the step of voting by viewcom to avoid potential angry confrontations at voting centres.
Both Anderton and Ellephanie have gone on air appealing for calm. Nevertheless Anderton is claiming that documentary evidence, which shows it was Carlton who opened fire first, has disappeared. These claims are being investigated although how Anderton got hold of this alleged information is questionable. Most observers are dismissing the claims as desperate electioneering by a man fighting for his political life. Ellephanie dismissed the existence of any such evidence, claiming Anderton is resorting to dirty tricks in the face of a likely defeat at the polls.
The Carlton factory will be closed for five days to make immediate repairs to allow basic operations to continue.”Jane scratched her leg. She removed the covers and screamed.