Fusion

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A Discussion Around The Pool

Chuck and Kandie still hadn't had a moment to talk. The chief of police and his wife had popped over for a drink unexpectedly but they had finally left by five.

Kandie lay on the veranda overlooking the pool, her legs unfurled, her feet twitching with contentment. Chuck sat bolt upright in a white metal garden chair looking intently at his wife, his biological instincts surfacing and then being consciously removed. Kandie kept a watchful eye on her children who were still playing in the pool.

"Thank God they've gone. Did you invite them over and not tell me?" Kandie asked.

“Not exactly " Chuck replied testily.

“What do you mean: not exactly?" Kandie probed.

“Well, you know, it's helpful to get to know these people better, particularly the chief of police. I've always said they could pop over if they wanted to."

Kandie didn't respond.

“The meeting with the Koreans went well. Even Anderton behaved himself," Chuck volunteered.

“Doesn't surprise me," Kandie replied evenly.

"The patents came in last week and the Koreans are happy to invest R&D money provided we can guarantee production. Are you listening to me?"

“That's 'gonna be great, honey,” Kandie purred laconically, “You know I don't know what you've got against Duncan."

"You know with this money to invest in R&D," Chuck continued, ignoring her, "we'll be light years ahead of the rest even if they try and catch up. We make the engines, own the copyright and make the policy. The Koreans a trade-off is they build the cars. We've got to perfect them first, and prove their reliability, but we need to start building new plant now or we won't be ready."

"That's great, honey, really great."

Chuck looked across at his wife to see if she was merely offering platitudes or genuine enthusiasm.

"They're almost up for signing an agreement, but there's a catch,” Kandie sat up.

"Now we're talking. What’s the catch? What’s in it for them, long-term?"

"Well for a start they've heard the guys in Detroit are beginning to take Carlton a bit more seriously, so they're edgy and quite anxious to sign on the dotted line."

Kandie looked surprised.

"Yeah I know, news to me too I'll make investigations about the Detroit thing."

"Why would they tell you that? What's the deal here, what's in it for these guys?"

"From their re making a sensible strategic decision. Get me on their side while we're ahead of the game and blow us out of the water later. It's their usual game; borrow while you are behind, copy and then steal to get ahead. I know the game. They know the game. I've played the game, and my hope is that they don't really know ·that I know they are playing the game, if you see what I mean."

“No," said Kandie, " I don't."

“Okay. Basically I figure they don't think I know that they'll try and shit on us later. I figure they're thinking, here's this cookie little guy with a cookie firm and a cookie little engine. He needs investment. He needs a multinational. Here we are, the valiant corporate angels saving his bacon. They think the limit of our ambition is to make a few prototypes for someone else and supply engines to one company. They underestimate our ambition and I'm happy to let them think that."

“Okay. Sounds plausible. So where's the catch? “

“To meet the production levels they want we will have to increase capacity by fifty times. So we'll have to increase the factory's size tenfold to meet any production agreement.” Chuck paused. “Which means I'm going to have to run for Mayor."

Chuck let the thought hang in the air. It bristled like a bolt from the blue.

“Now,” he added finally.

A wave of startled confusion spread across Kandie's face starting at her neck and spreading up to her eyes. She turned around and looked her husband in the eyes

”What are you talking about?"

“Don’t you see? This is the perfect excuse for Anderton and his guys to get us out of town. If I can't guarantee production, in other words if I can't buy land, build condos and houses, get labour and expand the factory, then the deal 's off. And it doesn't matter which bloody multinational or investor we're dealing with it's always going to be the same goddam problem. Anderton doesn't want us here. He never has, he never will and he'll do anything to get us out of town. If we move the factory we lose the race. By the time we're up and running somewhere else, it'll take two years at least and we'll be behind. Not to mention the capital investment required to set up somewhere else, retrain and all that stuff. It’s here or nothing."

How in the hell are you going to become Mayor? You can't do it; it's out of the question besides there's no election for two and a half years," Kandie blurted incredulously.

“A vote of no confidence."

"What?"

A vote of no confidence. If you can prove the Mayor is not acting in the interests of the town and the district or his electorate then you can force an election. I've already made the application, it's being processed in Washington as we speak."

You son of a bitch!"

Now listen Kandie, I've thought about this...”

You son of a bitch!" Kandie shouted." So I suppose it doesn't matter that Chrissy is one of my best friends and that she virtually saved my life, saved me from being run over, saved me from loneliness and depression. Oh no! You just say fuck that, on you go building your little bloody empire!"

“Kandie, I think we'd better go inside and finish this conversation," Chuck said looking at the children.

The children were looking anxiously at their parents.

“Roger, Stephanie go inside and get into the Tom and Jerry avatar programme will you?”

“But we want to swim.”

“Just do it, now please, don't argue,” Kandie barked.

They got out of the pool somewhat sheepishly, wrapped up in towels and wandered lamely towards the house.

“Look Kandie.”

“Shut up Chuck. Just shut up will you. I can't sanction you rolling over a good friend by way of thank you. I'd be losing her forever and saying a big thank you for her saving my life, you just don't get it do you?”

“It's not me who doesn't get it,” Chuck continued raising his voice, “It’s you. Have you forgotten why I thought up the bloody engine in the first place, look around you, I don't see much to smile about? What kind of place is it for our kids if we don't do something, what kind of future? I've weighed it up; I've made a choice. It's this or we don't have Carlton anymore. No fusion engines and we're all in big shit. You've seen the queues at the gas stations, you know about the weather.

“No Carlton and we don't have a house anymore and what sort of a future is that for our kids? It's this simple, no Carlton, no future. No new markets, no future. I've got to be Mayor for the business to survive."

“You smug, pompous, sanctimonious, self-important little shit. You really expect me to believe you're still doing all this for the good of the earth and the good of our children? Grow up! This is all about power and dick size, you fucking asshole.”

“You make your choice Kandie. Go on. Why don't you just try and think about it instead of ranting at me? Why don't you start thinking rationally for a change? This is it. I'm sorry, I don't like it any more than you do but there it is.”

“Lying son of a bitch, you're not sorry at all.” Kandie lanced him glance.

“No you're very wrong there. You don't know just how sorry I am but this is it. I don't want to hurt Chrissy any more than you do, I like her, you know. I'm not a completely heartless bastard. “

“No? You could have fooled me."

Kandie fell silent, turned away and looked at the pool. She put her shades on. A gust of wind blew the inflatable duck across the pool leaving a little Wake shattering the pure glass appearance of the water.

They didn't speak for five minutes.

“Okay, here's the deal,” she said flatly. “I think you dicks are clashing all the way. I tried to bring you together at the party. I've tried every way to smooth things out between you two, I really have. I don't think Duncan will block your expansion, but before you go ahead and take away the one thing that really matters to him, Hertferd, can't I find out from Chrissy how he would react to the factory expanding? I think you'll be surprised."

“You mean get her to spy on him?"

Kandie fell silent.

“I suppose so, if you must call it that, I suppose that's what it is.

“How will you get her to do that? What will you say?"

“I don't know but it's the only choice I have. You'll have to trust me on this.”

Kandie felt the full force of the dilemma. It was 'simple': allegiance to her best friend or to her husband. There had to be some way to persuade the Mayor to acquiesce to the proposals.

Chuck got up and wondered around the pool looking into the house where he could just make out the kids.

“Okay, Kandie,” he said, having done a couple of laps of the pool “Have it your way, but I think it's a waste of time. I don't think you really know Duncan Anderton. You think you know him but you don’t.”

“Well let’s see who is right here, shall we?"

Chuck nodded his head reluctantly, turned around and dived into the pool. The model hydrofoil started to list and then disappeared beneath the surface.


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