iamhyperlexic

Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘The Companion’: chapter 36

I told Pamela that I was thinking of going on a tour of the other colonies.  She asked when I was expecting us to leave, and I told her I was thinking of going on my own, so that she could stay behind and look after business.  She went mad.  She said, ‘No, no, no.  Not again, you bastard.’  I asked her what she meant by “again”.  She said, ‘You are not going to leave me the same way that you left Violet.’  I said, ‘I have no intention of leaving you.  I am planning to go on a tour and then come back.’  She doesn’t believe me. 

I’m still going. 

*

You can still call me Paddy, even though I’m the Mayor.  The town doesn’t have a name, yet, but it is growing.  We have got a harbour, a crane, three warehouses (one for food, one for livestock, and one for imperishables), a town hall (of sorts), various shops and houses, and a pub.  The pub has the same name and management as the bar on The Irish Rover called O’Mally’s.  It is popular even with non-drinkers, because it is very well insulated and usually cool, even in our hot climate.  I come here nearly ever day after work.  My more sober-minded clerk, Cecily Johnson, joins me only occasionally.  She is still working at the moment.  Some-one has discovered a new mineral deposit and she is looking over the application for the mine workings.  I think she’s coming over later. 

The speciality drink here is lager brewed from unrefined sugar-cane juice and served in a glass tankard frosted with ice.  It is the most thirst-quenching drink around. 

I can hear a strange noise.   It sounds like a helicopter.  There are no helicopters on this planet that I know of.  Yes, it definitely is a

*

I had just finished work for the day, and was walking from the office over to O’Mally’s to have a drink with Paddy, when I heard a helicopter flying low over the town.  I looked up and saw it.  It was dark green and looked like a military helicopter.  Without any warning or apparent cause, the helicopter fired a missile which scored a direct hit on O’Mally’s, and blew the building to pieces in a fireball.  I did not bother to approach the wreckage: nobody could have survived that attack.  I was hit by flying debris.   

I turned on my heels and ran back to the town hall, where I knew I could communicate with the other colonies.  Just as I got to the front door, I heard an engine.  I looked round and saw a tank driving past the wreckage of O’Mally’s.  I ran upstairs, and got as many of the other town clerks as I could on a video chat session.  This is what I said to them.

‘This is Counsellor Cecily Johnson.  I am the town clerk from the main settlement in I-2.  This is an emergency.  This is a life-or-death emergency.  I want to give you some details of what has happened, and I need you to pass them to as many of the other colonies as you can.  Do you understand?’  The faces on the screen all nodded.  ‘Our colony has been invaded.  We are under attack.  I repeat: we are under attack – we are under threat of our lives.  This is not an exercise.  Have you got that?’  They nodded again.

‘The invaders are men in uniforms.  They have armoured vehicles.  They have a helicopter which fires deadly missiles.  They arrived earlier today.  They fired a rocket at a public house in our town called O’Mally’s  and killed many innocent people, including the Mayor.  Mayor Patrick Fitzgerald is dead.  I repeat –.’  I had to stop for a moment.  ‘Paddy’s dead.  I think about thirty people might have been killed so far.’

‘Counsellor Johnson,’ said one of the faces on the screen, a very young chap on I-13 whose name I think is Waverley Diggle, ‘Are you hurt?’ 

‘I think I have something lodged in my right shoulder.’

‘Well, we need to come and find you: give you some medical treatment.’

‘Don’t worry about me, you idiot!  I want you to do something to save this planet and this population.  I can’t talk more now.  I have to escape.’ 

I grabbed the keys to the safe and ran all the way home.  I threw some things into a rucksack, changed my clothes, and put a lead on Junc’s collar.  Junc is my Labrador (his name is short for injunction).  We headed for the hills.  My shoulder was killing me.

*

As soon as I heard what that lady said, I went straight to see Mr McLean.  He is not the mayor, but he still runs the island.  The mayor is usually drunk at that time of day, anyway, and pretty useless for anything.  The last time I woke him up after he had passed out, he threatened to cut my penis off, the stupid sod. 

Mr McLean was in his office, as usual.  I don’t think he ever eats or sleeps.  Even when he has a drink he has it while sitting in his office. 

It was night-time, and the moon was shining.  I could see it reflected in the harbour.  It seemed very peaceful and calm.  It seemed crazy that there was fighting happening on another island. 

Mr McLean’s “office” is a set of pre-fabs which keeps growing and growing.  It isn’t very nice to look at.  Part of it is a shop, where you can buy just about anything – bananas, carpets, knives, live chickens – all kinds of stuff.  Another part of it always has men in it who are drinking.  I don’t know if it is a pub or a club or what, but they are always there.  When I got there, Mr McLean was writing figures down in a ledger-book by the light of an oil-lamp.  As usual, he was wearing a dirty tracksuit with dog hairs all over it.  For a man who is one of the richest on this planet, he dresses like a tramp. 

‘Hello, stranger,’ he said when I went in. ‘What brings you here?  Have you run out of gin?’

‘Mr McLean, sir, we’ve got a very serious kind of, er, um, problem.’

‘I’m intrigued, my boy.  What kind of problem, and why do you say “we”?’

‘It’s a situation, er – it looks like a problem that will be very bad for business.’  I said that because I thought he was not listening properly and I wanted to grab his attention.

‘Go on.  What is it?’

‘A few minutes ago, I got a call on the video phone from a woman on the next island called Cecily Johnson.’

‘Aye, I’ve met her a couple of times.  She’s the lassie you have to deal with if you want to get anything done there.  She’s true to her word, if a wee bit obstructive now and again.’

‘Yes, well.  She phoned a few minutes ago to say that her town was under attack by men in uniform, who had gone mad and started firing missiles.  She said they’d blown up a place called O’Mally’s and killed the mayor.’

‘They’ve WHAT!’  He sounded so pissed off that I moved two steps backwards without thinking.  I knew that would upset him.  In Mr McLean’s world, the only reason you ever demolish a building is to re-use the materials and put up an even bigger one in its place. 

Mr McLean took a couple of his men and me into another room, where he had his computer terminal.  MrMcLeannever uses the computer unless he has to.  We tried to get in touch with some of Mr McLean’s contacts.  When I left, I think he was still talking to some-one on I-11.  I hope it was Kelvin Stark. 

*

I am more angry with Kelvin than I have ever been since he first mentioned this fucking Alpha Project.  He has pissed off on some “tour” of the other colonies.  He was last heard of heading for I-3, which is on the other side of the world.  He goes away, and we get a message to say that we have been attacked by an unknown force.  We don’t know if the attack on O’Mally’s was perpetrated by terrorists, or gangsters, or a commercial organisation, or a government.  The one time when we need the originator of this charade to provide some leadership, and he isn’t here.  He has no computer or mobile communication device with him, other than the ones I implanted without his knowledge.

I am going to have to contact him via satellite and these devices.  Kelvin is about to hear voices.

My name is Violet, and I’m back.

 

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