Trevor McCain breathed a sigh of relief as he shut Zach’s hotel room door in the Kensington Hilton and leaned the back of his head against the corridor wall. He headed for the lift and descended to the bar where he had a few stiff Sherries before returning to his own room and picking up the ‘phone. “Hello; Arthur Foxwell.” came the Home Secretary’s voice.
“Arthur, it’s Trevor.”
“Ah, Trevor; how are you? Enjoying the summit?”
“Not really; in fact it’s been hanging by a thread until now.”
“Neelum’s become mutinous. Ford and Gibson have been on to him again. He wanted to change Commission policy on rehabilitating the savages. He even had a new speech written out.”
“Shit! Now he has to start growing a conscience!”
“Actually, I think it’s been building up for a few months, Arthur.”
“You should have sacked him, Trevor.”
“I know, and I will as soon as this summit’s over, but for now we have to keep him sweet. He’ll be dangerous if he thinks he’s got nothing to lose. I’ve given him another speech that I’ve written myself and I’ve read him the riot act.”
“Good, but do you think he’ll do it?”
“Oh, yes. Zach’s not an idealistic crusader like Gibson. He’ll want to say anything that’ll get him into Ford’s bloomers, but at the end of the day he’ll put his career before everything.”
“Let’s hope so. If he does do a Judas then we have a trump card to play, but I’d rather not. If possible we have to let them think they're in a democracy… By the way, did you know that Gibson is here?”
“Yes. He’s an observer for the Christian Union of Scotland. He came along with that savage leader; the old cove with the beard.”
“He doesn’t have a vote, does he!?”
“No, no; don’t worry.”
“Thank goodness for that! The savages must be converted, Arthur. After our cover-up plan failed it was the only way I could think of to deal with them.”
“And it was good spur-of-the-moment thinking, Trevor.”
“Rockall must become what we need it to be: an uninhabited rock which makes a convenient place to park a petroleum works.”
“It will be, Arthur; one way or another. Don’t fret. No culture vulture is going to get their hands on my nice, new model citizens!”
There was a long pause. “What is it with fellows like Gibson? I don’t understand. Why would he put so much effort into holding back everything that is good? He’s set on stifling progress, productivity and cultural and economic growth! I mean, if he directed all that energy towards something worthwhile, there’s nowhere he couldn’t go! He’d be a billionaire by now!”
“Gibson is dangerous, Arthur; far more so than Neelum. That’s why he must be stopped and, like I said, it’ll be taken care of one way or another.”
“Are you talking about the Councillors?”
“Naturally; I’m not as naive as I used to be… I saw them in there today.”
“What did Neelum do?”
“He asked me who they were.”
“No, Arthur; of course not! I’m not stupid. I’ve experienced the receiving end, remember?”
“Oh yes; sorry.”
There was a long silence. “So.” said Trevor. “What will the Councillors do?”
“Ensure that the Treaty renewal goes in our favour by overruling any vote that says otherwise.”
“That’s reassuring to know, but hopefully it won’t be necessary.”
“Right, well I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”
They ended the conversation and Trevor hung up. He sat down on his bed and inhaled deeply. Only tomorrow to get through then I’ll be on the home straight.
His mobile ‘phone rang. He answered it. “Hello?”
“Good evening, Trevor.”
“Father!” He leaped back to his feet.
“I hear that you’ve come home again.”
“Yes, Father; I’m attending the Rockall Summit in London.”
“And once again, I’m the last to know.”
Trevor hesitated. “I’ve been busy, Father… Have you heard, I’m about to become very rich?” He made no attempt to keep the relish out of his voice.
“Oh, really; like you did Twenty-ten?”
“No! This time it’s going to work! It’s all legal and above board. I’ve bought up some BGC stock. They’ve already tripled in price and that’s just the start! This time next year I’ll be richer than Malcolm Tustian!”
“Considering he’s now a road-sweeper that’s not saying much.”
“You know what I mean, Father.”
“Yes, Trevor.” He said nothing for a few moments. “So what are you doing tomorrow?”
“Working. There are some crucial votes that need to be passed.”
“Why don’t we meet up tomorrow evening and have a talk?”
“Sorry, Father; I’ve got far too much work on.”
“But I haven’t spent quality time with my son in over five years.”
“Well, that’s never bothered you before!” bit Trevor.
“Do you know St Albans?”
“Yes, it’s off the M-Twenty-Five, a few miles north of London.”
“There’s a Holiday Inn just off the end of the M-Ten. If you change your mind, meet me in the bar at seven-thirty.” Click!
Trevor bent down and picked up the coins that Zach had just cast onto the floor. He stood still, looking at them in the palm of his hand; three ten pence pieces and two twenties. The Millennium Institute staff carried on working around him quietly, pretending to pay no attention. Trevor pocketed the coins and left the room, stepping out through an airlock onto the icy, windswept balcony. He stared out over the sunlit river. Are you sacking me, Trevor?... Well, I don’t care! That was not Zach talking! A shiver ran through Trevor’s body and it had nothing to do with the cold. "My power! What’s happened to my power!?"
Trevor drove up through Hampstead onto the M-One. The air was filled with freezing fog that hung in muffled globes around the streetlamps and flickered through the cones of his headlights. He crossed the border into Hertfordshire, turned right onto the M-Ten and, at the end of the short stretch of motorway, saw a glowing, backlit sign for the Holiday Inn. He parked in the reception area and a valet came and drove his car to the VIP lot. Trevor was escorted into the hotel lobby and a waiter fetched him a drink from the bar. Lord McCain sat on one of the settees in the lounge with his legs crossed smiling at him. He was dressed in his casual garb: grey cords and tweed jacket with an Arran sweater and hunting boots. Trevor approached him slowly and with trepidation. “Hello, Father.”
“Hello, Trevor.” He hadn’t changed at all in the last three years. His eyes were still almost invisible behind his bushy brows. His hair was greying heavily and his chin was clean shaven. “I knew you’d come in the end.”
Trevor nodded. “I’ve got an hour or two to spare and this will pass the time.”
He raised his left arm and looked at his Rolex. “You’re ten minutes early.”
“So are you.”
He paused. “I’ve been tasting at Woburn. They’ve a new Mosel just arrived; a Nineteen-eighty-four.”
“Was it nice?”
“A bit too acidic for my palate.”
There was a long silence and Trevor’s drink arrived.
“Won’t you sit down, Son?” Lord McCain gestured at an empty seat.
Trevor lowered himself onto the soft settee opposite.
“I suppose congratulations are in order. You’re now a petrodollar billionaire.”
“Not just yet.” said Trevor. “I’ll have to wait for production to commence before my shares really fly.”
“You don’t sound very happy about it.”
“It hasn’t sunk in yet… The Councillors were at work today.”
“I know; they were forced to reject the vote. Very messy!”
“It was Neelum’s fault. He swapped benches at the last minute and refused to read out his speech.”
“Never mind; at least the delegates had the sense to keep their mouths shut and sit still.”
Trevor chuckled with a shrug. “I can imagine what Dill and his camp are saying right now… By the way; how’s your heart?”
“Ah, you remembered. It’s fine. I’ve got to take about a hundred pills a day; if I jumped up and down I would rattle, but I’m not allowed to. Doctor says I must keep exertion to a minimum.”
“So, you’re going to be well again?”
“Yes, Trevor; I’ll live to see you a rich man.” Lord McCain gave a sardonic half-smile.
Trevor was speechless; could his father read his mind? “Right… er… that’s good.”
“So just think what you’ve got to look forward to, eh?”
“Indeed; I won’t need to marry Leticia Spires-Carnegie now.”
His father laughed. “Oh, you haven’t heard have you?”
“She’s straddling Prince Alexis of Norway. They’re engaged, so I’m told.”
“Oh! Poor man!”
“I should say! I’ll send a condolence card to the wedding.”
Trevor hesitated. “Father! You were trying to splice her to me a few years ago!”
“She’d have been no good for you, Son.”
“What about your grandson and heir?”
He nodded calmly. “When the time’s right, it’ll happen.”
“Well… you’ve changed your tack a bit, Father.”
“One does when one is forced to confront one’s own mortality. I’ve been seeing things differently since my heart attack, Trevor; a lot of things differently.”
“I am too, I think.”
“Hm, I can tell… You know, Trevor; you’re not talking like a man who’s just become more loaded than God. Is anything wrong?”
“Yes.” he sighed. “But I don’t know what it is. I’ve spent most of the previous year worrying about this summit, wondering how I was going to secure the votes and what I would do if I couldn’t… and now it’s over; I’ve done it. All policy’s been passed, oil production’s going ahead full steam, but I feel… as if it’s somehow an anticlimax. Why?”
“When did you start feeling like this?”
“This afternoon when I sacked Neelum.”
“I heard you’d been trying to get rid of him for a long time.”
“I have, but… when I did it, something happened.” Trevor took a sip from his drink. “I’m an important man, Father; a member of the elite. People respect and fear me; and I enjoy that.”
“Don’t we all.” said his father.
“When I knock someone down I expect them to stay down! Today I exerted the full force of my authority on Zach… but he just stood and looked at me. He smiled! With a few words I reduced him to nothing! I took away his job, his career, his position and his chances of any future success! Everything! And he didn’t flinch!... Why didn’t he cry!? Why didn’t he drop to his knees and beg me to spare him!?... God, it was awful! I felt impotent, ineffectual! If he’d only got angry and hurled abuse, it would have given me some satisfaction, but no! He kept himself upright, his eyes on my eyes, calm, polite, confident!... It was so humiliating! I never want to feel like that again! Never!”
“Really?” Lord McCain leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. He raised his hands sideways in front of his face; fingers outstretched, tips touching.
“Yes, damn it!”
“You want power?”
“You want control over others?”
“You want to rule?”
“Then maybe I can help you.”
Trevor looked up alerted to his strange tone. “How?”
He paused. “Before I tell you, I should mention that congratulations are in order for me too.”
“I’ve become a Foreman.”
“Of course, you don’t know, do you?... You remember when you managed to invade the Council Chamber after your arrest?”
He shuddered. “I try not to.”
“But you remember the things the Councillors said and how it all came true during the following days?”
“Well, believe it or not, the Council of Three Hundred is not the supreme power in the world today; it is subordinate to The Council of Thirteen. They are known as ‘Foremen’ and they ultimately decide on everything deliberated by the Council of Three Hundred. The only way to become a Foreman is to serve twenty or more years on the Council of Three Hundred and be selected by the Chairman…”
“Wait, Father.” Trevor shook his head and clutched his temples. “This is too much too soon! I’m still trying to get my head round the fact that there even is a Council of Three Hundred!”
“It’s a bit of a shock when you first find out, I know.”
“A shock!? I used to laugh at conspiracy theories, but…”
“Trevor, Trevor, Trevor.” soothed his father. “Even some of the Councillors are kept in the dark about some things; only the Thirteen know the whole truth.”
“Yes; and let me tell you that these conspiracy theorists have got it all wrong. We’re not some evil, Orwellian ‘Illuminati’ hell bent on imprisoning the people under a fascist tyranny. We care about the people. We care about the world. That’s why we do what we do. Our goal is to create, not to destroy; create a new, happy, peaceful Planet Earth. But we can’t just come out and offer our agenda openly; the people of today are too crass and decadent to accept it. We must slowly and cautiously ease it into their lives without them knowing. To do so is easier than you might think. All we need to do is control all a country’s major political parties, the larger industries and the media. Once you’ve achieved that then the rest is a piece of cake.”
“But, Father… You say you control all the major political institutions in the world?”
“Yes. We have done for almost five thousand years.”
“Then you must have controlled both sides in the Second World War. The British, Americans, Japanese, Russians… and the NAZI party in Germany.”
“We did, yes; all of them.”
Trevor paused. “But the Nazi’s slaughtered millions of people in their concentration camps; so did the Soviets.”
Lord McCain bowed his head and sighed. “I know and it fills me with pain whenever I think of it.”
“But you did it! Your men Hitler, Stalin, whom you controlled, deliberately killed them!”
“Trevor, you must realize that short-term suffering is outweighed by long-term benefits. Among other reasons for those massacres was a mutant genotype that had to be exterminated. If it hadn’t then the human population stock would have become polluted and weakened.”
“You speak of them as if they’re farm animals!”
His father paused then said more severely: “You sound like Dill Gibson. I never realized you were the type to have scruples… Shame, I was going to offer you a job.”
“I’m a Foreman; and I wanted to bring my son into the family business. That’s what I meant when I said I could help you. You’ve just told me that you wanted power; to control others, to rule?”
“Well, I’m offering you the ultimate power: A seat in the Three Hundred. The power to deal out life and death to millions at the touch of a button, the power to set mighty armies in motion with a snap of your fingers, the power to force presidents and premiers to publicly worship you. To become as a God!... We’re even able to control the weather and trigger earthquakes to a certain degree.”
Trevor stood up and gaped.
“But you’ve failed your test; you could never be committed to the Great Work. You’re too sentimental.”
It took a lot of effort to turn his body and walk away. He felt flustered and confused.
“See you soon then, Trevor!” called his father across the lobby. “When shall I tell your mother that you’ll be in touch with her?”
The third day of the Rockall Summit was just a case of tying up loose ends for Trevor. The important policy was already in place and all that was left from his point of view were a few minor details. He felt even more relaxed when Dill took a call during afternoon coffee and dashed out of the Institute. In the evening, Trevor attended a banquet at the US embassy and danced with Heidrun, the president’s wife. Then he went back to the Kensington Hilton and fell asleep. He was woken by the ‘phone ringing. He picked it up. “Hello; McCain.”
“Good morning, Trevor; sorry to wake you early yet again.” It was the Home Secretary.
Trevor glanced at his alarm clock: Six-fifteen. It was still pitch dark outside. “What is it, Arthur?”
“We’ve had a problem.” He paused for effect. “Your erstwhile companions have been sniffing round the Councillors.”
“Yes; him and that plump, little secretary of yours. During yesterday’s conference, Neelum and Ford were spotted spying on the venue from a car on the Wapping docks. I’ll be surprised if Gibson didn’t have a hand in it; we’re going through his ‘phonecalls at the moment.”
“What did they find out?”
“Nothing. The Councillors arrived by a secret tunnel and door in the basement.”
“A tunnel!? From where?”
“A long way away; many miles. That’s all I can tell you… The point is that those three are getting nosy about the Councillors so they’re going to bring them in for interrogation.”
“No!” Trevor shouted before he knew he was doing so.
“What did you say?”
“Er… I said that they shouldn’t, Arthur. There’s no need; let me handle it.”
Foxwell paused. “This isn’t like you, Trevor. I’d have thought you’d have been tickled pink to see them getting a good fry-up. They’re not planning on doing them any permanent harm, you know. They just want to discourage them from any further curiosity. A couple of hundred volts down the old Frankfurter, or the equivalent region in Ford’s case, and then they’ll set ‘em free.”
“Don’t let them do it, Arthur! Please!”
There was another pause. “Trevor, are you feeling alright?”
“Let me have a word with them.”
“This is Zach Neelum, Trevor! Him, Dill Gibson and Kayleigh Ford! The three worst thorns in your life! Besides they’re back on Rockall now where they could cause even more grief. The savage got ill yesterday and had to be flown home.”
“Well, I’ll call them, Arthur!” He lowered his voice. “We don’t want to overdo it now, eh? I know how to handle Neelum and the others. A word from me will shut them up; I promise.”
Foxwell sighed. “Well, I’ll pass that on to the Council and I’m fairly sure they’ll follow your advice. But one more peep out of them and…”
“Sure, Arthur; trust me.”
As soon as he was off the ‘phone to the Home Secretary he dialled Zach’s mobile, but it was switched off. He tried the landline at First Landing and it was picked up straight away by Kayleigh. “Yes?” Her voice was loud and she sounded upset. “Trevor!?... What do you want!?... Zach, it’s Trevor!”
“What the hell is he doing ‘phoning here!?” Trevor heard in the background. The atmosphere was tense as if they’d just had an argument. When Zach came to the ‘phone, Trevor explained as well as he could in three or four sentences. At the end there was a long silence. Then Zach asked: “Why are you warning us?”
“To be honest, Zach; I don’t know.” replied Trevor. “Pass the message on to Dill, will you?” He put down the ‘phone. As he looked up, he caught his reflection in the hotel room mirror. “Why did I do that?” he asked himself aloud.
Trevor’s desk ‘phone rang. He picked it up. “McCain.”
“A Mr Peterson is on the line for you, Your Excellency.”
“Who’s he, Margarite?”
“BGC security manager.” answered his secretary.
“Very well, put him on… Hello?”
“Hello, Your Excellency; Dack Peterson here.” He spoke in a crusty American accent.
“What can I do for you, Mr Peterson?”
“Please call me Dack.” he chuckled.
“Very well, Dack. And you please call me Your Excellency.”
He paused. “Sure… We got a problem up here at the Kissinger pipe works; two of our female staff were raped this morning.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Have you called the police in Green Port?”
“Hey, we’d love to, Your Excellency; but we thought we’d better let you know first. It’s a kinda sensitive situation; you see… they’re both natives.”
“Yeah. Perhaps it’d be more prudent for you to plug this ruptured gusher yourself.”
“I see.” Trevor cringed inwardly. “I haven’t really got time, Dack. The Rockall Summit’s just finished, it’s my turn to be Senior Governor and I’ve got a hundred and one things to do…”
“Your Excellency, I really think this needs your personal touch there’s someone hanging around from the Free Rockall Union. The victims have been reported missing.”
“The what Union?”
“Free Rockall Union; that’s who she said she represented.”
Trevor sat up. “She? It’s a woman?”
“Yeah, a real loud-mouthed gal called…”
“Dack, don’t let her in! She’s big trouble!”
“’Course not, Your Excellency; I’m not stupid.”
“Good! I’ll be right over.”
Trevor cursed aloud as Patterfield drove him up the Trans-Rockall Highway. He called his new Deputy-Governor, Greg Slydes and explained the situation. “Well, that’s a right bummer, if you’ll excuse my language, Sir.” Slydes replied.
“It certainly is, Greg. I’ll get this over with as quickly as I can and come straight back to the office. Until then I’ll need you to hold the fort.”
“I’d be happy to, Sir.”
“Could you be a gem and whip through the CAF remittance advices?”
“With pleasure, Sir.”
“That would be a great help.”
“You can count on me, Sir.”
“I know I can, Greg. See you later.”
“See you later, Sir; and have a nice day, Sir.”
Trevor put down his carphone with a smile. That was a relief; at least some of his paperwork would be dealt with while he was away. Trevor wondered why he hadn’t made Greg Slydes his deputy years ago. He was everything Zach wasn’t: professional, polite, loyal, obedient, dedicated, diligent, reverent… and sober.”
Trevor passed through the now open border into the American Sector and reached Green Port. He turned west and came across the largest building site he’d ever seen. Huge pantheons of pressed steel and concrete stood proudly as far as the eye could see, enveloped in scaffolding like spiders webs. Construction gangs swarmed over them like bees in a hive. The noise was deafening; the screech of metal, the rattle of pneumatic drills, the thud of pile drivers. Welding torches flickered from dark recesses, and huge heaps of rubble and slag sprawled along the perimeter like long, low hills.
Dack Peterson was a broad-shouldered, globular man with red cheeks, missing teeth and a broad Deep South accent. “Howdy, Your Excellency; thanks for coming.” He shook Trevor’s hand in a crushing grip and handed him a white hard hat to wear with the BGC logo on the front. “Sorry, Your Excellency, it’s regulations. The director would be none too happy if a falling brick knocked out the brains of the BritSec Governor!... Would you like me to give you a tour of the site?”
“Thank you, Dack; but as I said on the ‘phone, I’m a little pushed. Could we get down to business?”
“Sure thing.” He motioned Trevor across the site yard zigzagging around concrete blocks and parked bulldozers. Everywhere men were hard at work, pushing wheelbarrows, carrying hods and digging with spades. “These guys come over from the States on two-year contracts.” explained Peterson. “They’re employed by construction companies under licence to the Consortium, but when the place is finished, crews from the oil extraction companies will man it directly.”
“It can’t be an easy job.” Trevor stepped over an air hose that was snaking along the ground.
“Hell, no! These men are the best though. They’re being paid well and looked after, but they’re expected to put their hands into it.”
“How about the savages?”
“Keen, but they lack discipline. The fact they can’t talk English is a big handicap; still, they’re cheap. We tend to put them on simple cleaning and tidying tasks.” He pointed to a group of Erkdwala men who were busy scraping gravel off a collection of spades. “The regular guys don’t get on with them too good. I guess they find them a bit freaky.”
“How many women work here?”
“A dozen in the administration staff.” He gestured to a row of terrapin offices. “And of course, since the summit, we got the native dames.”
They followed a narrow gravel alley between two bare walls. Trevor smelled cement powder and coughed. Bright sunlight appeared in the gap ahead and he just had time to jerk to a halt before the alley ended at the edge of a precipice. He noted the guard rail to prevent people falling off, but nevertheless, his head reeled as he took in the vista. He tried not to show his fear as Peterson led him along a catwalk grating, wind whistling between the aluminium struts. The excavated rock face was hundreds of feet tall and at the bottom was a smooth, grey concrete deck stretching out for over a mile to meet the sea. “Incredible, ain’t it, Your Excellency?” Peterson exclaimed proudly. “Over a trillion tons of rock had to be blasted out to make this! There’s enough concrete down there to rebuild New York City! It’s gonna be the biggest oil terminal on God’s Earth. We got a special fleet of supertankers being built to serve it; the biggest ships in the world!”
Trevor nodded, not trusting his voice to conceal his terror. When the catwalk ended in a treacherous, metal ladder as steep as a fire-escape, he could hold it in no longer. “Dack! I can’t get down that! I really can’t!”
“Hey, steady on, Your Excellency; it’s perfectly safe. I climb it six times a day. Just grab a hold of this safety rail and don’t look down. I tell you, it’s physically impossible to fall off this.”
Trevor gritted his teeth, squeezed his eyes shut and took the descent one trembling step at a time. When his feet thankfully touched solid ground, he saw that he was standing in the mouth of a perfectly cylindrical tunnel bored into the hewn wall. It was about a hundred feet in diameter and as dark as a well. An icy breeze blew along it, carrying the stench of burning tar. “Oh, Dack; isn’t there another way back to the surface?”
“Sure; at the far end.”
“So why didn’t you bring me down that way?”
“I thought you’d enjoy the scenic route more.” He set off up the tunnel and beckoned him.
Trevor sighed and followed. “Right, so what happened this morning?”
“Well, a bunch of guys came down here as usual with the two native broads to act as labour. Everything was fine till lunchtime. When they came back up to eat, the gals weren’t with them. The duty time-keeper asked them about it and the supervisor said: ‘They’re just finishing up some rusty bolts; they’ll be up later.’ Anyway the time-keeper was a bit suspicious; these guys were acting funny. They kept whispering and laughing amongst themselves like they had some secret. He came down here to check it out and found… this.” Peterson gestured with the flat of his hand.
In the half-light of the inner tunnel, where it began curving up to meet the ceiling, sat a pair of naked women hunched up together with their arms wrapped around their knees. Despite the fact that their faces were hidden, Trevor could tell by their wiry, blonde hair that they were savages. The torn remains of their clothing lay a few feet away. Their bodies were caked with the sites omnipresent dust and bloody bruises and grazes that looked like the products of violence. Their skin was also stained by patches of a white, scaly substance that looked like dried semen. Some of it was matted into their hair too. “Good gracious!” muttered Trevor.
“You’re damn right!” The security officer tutted, shaking his head and folding his arms.
“How long have they been like this?”
“At least three hours; that’s when the guys came up for lunch… Frankly I don’t know what to do with them.”
“Have you tried moving them?”
“Yeah, watch.” Peterson approached the woman on the right. “Come on, Baby; time to go!”
The moment his hand made contact with her shoulder, her body stiffened and she let out a piercing shriek that reverberated around the tunnel. Trevor held his ears.
“How many people know about this?”
“Nobody off site except you. It’s bound to get out eventually though.”
“It mustn’t! The Treaty has only just been renewed! The future of Rockall is at stake! We have to deal with this quietly, Dack! I mean it!”
“So what are we going to do with these two chicks?”
“Can you get some of your guards down here with handcuffs to immobilize them and drag them out?”
“Hey, that’s going too far! I mean, if these gals die then we’ll be in ten times the shit we are now!”
“Well, what do you suggest then? Going to Laird?”
“No way, Man! We got fifty billion dollars in the balance with this project! I won’t jeopardize a cent of it! I got a duty to the BGC! We gotta sort this out internally!”
“Then you have no choice! Get a team of guards down here, shackle their arms and legs and carry them out feet first. I know it’s dangerous, but if you leave them down here all night without food or clothes they might die anyway.”
“And then what?”
“Wait until dark, then drive them out and dump them on the streets of Green Port. The police will find them and think some local ruffians did it.”
“What if they talk?”
“Talk!? Be serious, Dack; they’re catatonic! Even if they get their wits back there’s no one around who speaks their language.”
Peterson’s face brightened. “Hey thanks, Trevor! That’s a swell idea!”
The following day, Trevor picked up the office ‘phone on its third ring. “Your Excellency!” Margarite blurted. “There’s a riot down here! Help me!”
Trevor jumped up and ran to the circular windows. There was a mob of about a dozen people in The Rotunda forecourt, shouting inaudibly through the soundproof glass of the office. Among them were Kayleigh and Jack Laird. One of them looked up, spotted him and pointed. Trevor just had time to duck before another man hurled a stone. The missile struck the glass with a penetrating thump, but the strengthened triple-glazing was undamaged. He picked up the ‘phone. “Margarite! Have you locked the doors!?”
“Yes, Your Excellency, but they’re trying to break them down!”
“Stop panicking, Woman! They’re made from armoured Perspex with solid steel bolts, they can’t break them down!”
“I’ll order the Guardsmen to open fire if they breach the building’s defences. Will that do?”
“Yes… Your… Excellency.” she stammered.
Trevor returned the receiver to its cradle and reclined in his chair. He leaned forward on his desk, resting his chin on his hands, and let his eyes pan around his office. The great flags, the picture of the Queen on the wall, his smooth, polished desk. He got up and walked round to the front of his desk to stand in the middle of the circular room, directly under the domed ceiling. He put his hands in his pockets and listened to the sounds around him. The wind was just audible outside. The clock ticked on the wall.
BOOM! Another stone smashed harmlessly against the window, waking Trevor out of his trance. He went back to his desk and pressed his intercom. “Greg, could you come into my office, please?”
“On my way, Sir.” Greg Slydes entered the room and walked formally up to the front of the desk. “What would you like me to do, Sir?”
Trevor looked him up and down. His new Deputy-Governor had been the only guest at The Rotunda’s opening party and Trevor had instantly liked him. He was very good at his job. No, he was perfect at it. He carried out his duties with robotic precision, reporting back to his boss in a logical, concise monotone. God had created Trevor’s ultimate ideal of a Deputy-Governor and incarnated him into Greg Slydes. “Good morning, Greg.” Trevor smiled at him.
“Good morning, Sir.” He smiled back like a reflection.
“Kayleigh Ford is outside with a gang of hoodlums.”
“Kayleigh Ford? She used to be your secretary, didn’t she, Sir?”
“Yes. She once told me that I’m not a very good liar. What do you think?”
Slydes’ mouth opened and closed in confusion and his face blanched. His brain appeared to have short-circuited like a sci-fi robot that’s been given contradictory instructions.
“You don’t know what to say, do you?”
He finally relaxed and shook his head.
Trevor felt the rumblings of annoyance grow in his mind. “You don’t know how to reply to my question because you want to give me the answer that will please me. My question was a two-pronged one.” He leaned back in his seat and put his hands behind his head. “The answer: ‘No, you’re not a good liar,’ could be received as either a compliment or an insult, but so too could the answer: ‘Yes, you are a good liar,’ and you, Greg, only like to tell me things that I want to hear, so you were unsure of which answer to give.”
“Er… Sir, I…”
“Stop blathering, Man! Don’t you have a mind of your own!?”
“Yes, Sir; of course I do.” he forced the words out past a knot in his throat. He was as pale as a ghost and shaking.
“Good! Because I want a Deputy-Governor who has a mind of his own.” Trevor jumped out of his seat and turned his back on Slydes. “Just leave! I want to be on my own!”
He heard the door click behind his back. He stood stiffly for a few minutes then left the office and strode swiftly through the neat, carpeted halls of The Rotunda, past Accounts, Personnel, Health and Welfare, Commerce Support to his private apartment. As his hand touched the ornate, crystal doorknob, Royston, his butler, pulled the door open and bowed. “Good morning, Sir.”
Trevor ignored him as he entered the Great Hall of his official residence. He climbed the southern staircase and jogged along the oak-panelled passageway to the upper drawing room. He stared through the huge windows at the cliffs and rocks below. The Rotunda was built right on the edge of Cartwright Head giving him a superb view. He opened the drinks cabinet and pulled the stopper out of a decanter of sherry. He poured a large glassful and gulped it down, hardly tasting it. Zach had a mind of his own alright! Trevor pulled up short as he realized what he’d been thinking since his conversation with Slydes. “Surely not! I can’t believe it!... I’m missing Zach!”
But it was true. That’s why he’d started to find Slydes irritating. His new Deputy was so very good that he was boring. He carried out every one of Trevor’s instructions to the letter, never voicing his own opinions (if he even had any) or questioning his master’s will and Trevor had begun to crave the stimulus of spirited dissent. Zach had been untrustworthy, envious, backstabbing, deceitful, unprofessional, rebellious, too much under the influence of Kayleigh, alcoholic and downright lazy. Working with him had been an immense challenge and now that that challenge was gone, Trevor’s life had lost a lot of its texture.
Trevor had a few more glasses of sherry then took the rest of the day off.
The following day Trevor received a letter from this clandestine organization that he’d never heard of before: the Free Rockall Union; it was signed by Kayleigh, Dill, Jack Laird and Calum MacLeod. He read it quickly and decided that it would be only statesmanlike to compose a brief reply:
Dear Sirs and Madam, Thank you for your letter. Indeed I totally share your shock and anger at the appalling crime that was committed on Monday. I’m very sorry to hear that the two ladies involved still require hospital treatment. I and the Rockall Guard, working with the Green Port Police Department, will do everything within our power to bring the perpetrators to justice. However I must categorically refute the personal allegations made against me. (I do not take offence and dismiss your attack, as I can tell that you are under immense emotional strain at the moment.) Let me assure you that I am in no way attempting to cover up any details of this atrocity. This crime was not committed by any Black Gold Consortium employees, nor was it carried out on any of their premises. Yours Faithfully, TAWAJ McCain, Governor of Rockall (British Sector).
Trevor grinned to himself as he folded the letter and slid it into an envelope. “There’s you answer, Greg.” he said to himself. “’Yes’.”
Trevor awoke in the full flow of morning. The weather had shifted a few days ago and wind-driven snow blasted against the window. He got to his feet, stretched and walked over to look out. The sea in Rockall Port Bay was churning like a caldron and the sky was bulging with bruise-coloured clouds. He pressed the call-button. “Royston, I’ll take breakfast in my study this morning.”
“Very good, Sir.”
Trevor put on his dressing gown and slippers, padded through to his private study and booted up his desktop. Royston brought him his toast and marmalade and he began whittling away at his correspondence. He was writing out a reply to an email from the US Secretary to the Treasury when something made him stop and look up. His gaze roved around the study; everything looked normal. There was no noise except the light sigh of the air-conditioning and the tiniest whisper of wind which succeeded in passing through the thick, armoured windows. He returned to his work, but his sense of unease wouldn’t go away.
His ‘phone rang. Ah! First call of the day. “Hello, McCain?”
“Help us!... Help us! Oh, God!” someone yelled at him.
“Who is this?”
“Oh, God!... What the fuck…!?” The voice sounded like Dack Peterson’s. It was broken and indistinct as if the speaker was on a mobile outside in the wind.
“Dack, is that you?”
“…couldn’t stop them!... Killed like deer… running like hell… supply ship… all over the site… thousands of them… fuck!... total shit… stood a chance!”
“Dack, calm down and speak slowly! Now what’s going on!?... Dack!?” The line had gone dead.
Trevor put down the receiver and stood up, his gut-feeling of dread redoubled. He pressed the call button. “Royston, find Patterfield and tell him to get the Bentley ready. I need to go out. Hurry now!” There was a few seconds of silence. “Royston, did you get that?... Are you there, Royston?... Royston!” He switched off the intercom and jogged down the stairs to the Great Hall. He was just a few yards from the front door when it flew open and a dozen Rockall Guardsmen dashed inside, shoving him back. They all had their pistols drawn. “What the…!?”
“Get back upstairs, Your Excellency! Now!” yelled the watch-commander. He slammed the door and shot all the bolts.
The guards propelled him up the stairway. As they did so, Trevor heard a resounding crash and the crack of splintering wood. He was shoved into his bedchamber and the door was shut. One member of the Guard stayed with him, standing in the middle of the room facing the door; the others had taken up positions outside on the landing. “Lie down on the floor, Your Excellency!” commanded the Guard, a youth of about eighteen. Trevor obeyed, his arms shaking as he lowered himself to the carpet.
The bedside ‘phone buzzed obtrusively, making Trevor start. The Guardsman yelped and levelled his sidearm. “What shall I do!?” whimpered Trevor. “Answer it!?” The young man just looked at him, his lip trembling. It struck Trevor that the Guard was as scared as he was. The ‘phone continued ringing. Eventually Trevor lifted a quivering hand and picked up the instrument. “Hello?” he coughed dryly.
“Trevor, it’s Dill here. We have captured The Rotunda. Surrender now and I promise you will come to no harm.”
“Dill! What’s going on!?”
“Give it up, Trevor! There are a thousand of us out here…”
“Eek!” Trevor screamed involuntarily in falsetto as something shattered his bedroom window. Pieces of glass rained down onto the carpet a few feet from him. These windows overlooked the sheer drop of the cliffs and were considered inaccessible so had been made with ordinary panes. A human silhouette carrying a hammer filled the window frame.
BANG! BANG! BANG! The room exploded with ear-splitting noise and the flicker of muzzle-flash as the Guard turned and fired his pistol. The figure at the window vanished. The bedroom door burst open and several more Guardsmen ran in. “Fuckin’ hell!” exclaimed the watch-commander. “What was that!?” The room blew up with cold, moist air as the gale came in through the broken window clearing the tang of gunpowder.
“They’re coming in through the window, Sir!” yelled the young man.
“They must have climbed round on the drainpipe.”
“But it’s a five hundred foot drop!” said another Guard approaching the window and peeping out. “Shit!” He leaned through the jagged shards and fired his weapon.
More shots rang out on the landing. “Quick!” bellowed the commander, and they all ran outside leaving Trevor alone with the youth once more. The lock clicked.
The gunfire continued, interspersed with shouting and screaming, clearly audible through the walls. The young Guard was now crying with fear. He backed away, crouching down, clasping his pistol in both quivering arms and trained it at the door. After an indefinite time, the commotion on the landing stopped and there was sudden silence. Trevor could hear his own heart beating and he sweated from every pore. “TREVOR!” Dill’s voice sounded through a megaphone. “OPEN THE DOOR AND PUT YOURSELF INTO OUR CUSTODY! YOU HAVE NO FOOD OR WATER! YOU WILL HAVE TO…” BOOM! Trevor was struck hard by a shockwave of pressure. The explosion deafened him and the room filled with smoke. BANG! “Yaargh!” “Fuckin’…” BANG! BANG! BA-BA-BANG!
Trevor tried to crawl under his bed as shooting and yelling attacked his senses from all sides, but hands pinched him and grasped his limbs brusquely. He was rolled onto his back then forced against the wall. Angry faces filled his vision as he was hoisted to his feet and pounded by fists and boots. The back of his head struck the wall, making him see stars. Dozens of hands dug into his flesh like steel pincers; one seized his chin, forcing him to look ahead.
A figure emerged like a ghost from the miasma of gunsmoke. It was Dill. “Are you alright, Trevor?” His face was ambivalent; angry, yet concerned. His voice was distorted by Trevor’s battered ears.
“Dill!... Let me go!” he hissed past the fingers contorting his mouth.
“Governor McCain.” said Dill formally. “I hereby relieve you of your office. Consider yourself a prisoner of the Free Republic of Rockall.”
The next few minutes were a nightmare of horror and confusion. Trevor was dragged; sometimes upright, sometimes horizontally. He was outside in the cold and a massive throng of hollering people closed on him, screaming, punching him, spitting on him. Everywhere he looked was a wall of blazing eyes and clenched teeth. On the snow-covered grass beneath the bare flagpoles a group of crofters were stamping on the charred remains of the Rockall Triumvirate. He was forced to kneel down and a space was cleared in front of him as if the horde wanted to show him something. He saw naked flames flickering inside The Rotunda. People were running out of the house, chattering excitedly. All the windows were open; smoke wafted out and fire was licking the stonework. He was on the move again, but this time he was allowed to walk. They directed him with pokes, punches, kicks and verbal abuse. A fist buried itself in his groin and he fell to the ground in agony, gasping for breath. He was wrenched roughly to his feet and paraded on through Rockall Port towards First Landing. Calum and Jack Laird stood by the front door.
Before Trevor was dragged inside, he managed to get one last look over his shoulder. The Rotunda was burning like a bonfire; flames rose a hundred feet into the air and he could feel the heat on his skin even from this distance. A great, solid column of black smoke flowed up into the sky to be whipped and folded like dough in the high winds that carried it northeast over the heart of Rockall.
Go on to Chapter 9: http://hpanwo-bb.blogspot.com/2009/08/rockall-chapter-9.html )