index ... intro ... miki ... Chap 01 ... Chap 02 ... Chap 03 ... Chap 04

Hard Times 02

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright May 2016

Chapter Four

It's noon. Alice is outside her shop and a couple blocks away from it. She is standing on the street side watching the Revolution Victory parade march down the main street of Mining Town Sector.

She is not happy about leaving her shop, there could be thieves, but she isn't loosing any business. There won't be any business conducted until the parade is through this sector -- these days the Revolutionary Guard sees to that. They would also fine her if they found her in her shop while the parade was in progress, so she is out with the rest of the sector residents.

At neatly spaced intervals there are groups of cheering spectators, and news drones are taking pictures of them. In between are larger groups that are much more subdued, even sullen. The mining business is not going as well as Radamm and the Revolution Party have been promising. Alice knows this first-hand because her business suffers when the workers suffer, and lately pay has been slim and often late.

As soon as the last marchers pass, the crowd quickly breaks up. Alice returns to her shop, opens it, and in come some customers who start gossiping while they are shopping.

"Did you hear the latest?" says Mrs. Donnelley to Mrs. Kratchet, "They are putting the shovellers on half rations for a week."

"No! Really? Why is that?"

"A food shipment they were expecting got held up."

"Let me not guess. They are blaming the suppliers. Saying they are agents of the opposition."

Mrs. Donnelley nods. Mrs. Kratchet looks around to make sure no one else is listening, then says, "I've been reading some opposition blogs. They say the party didn't pay for the last shipment. That's why this is one is being held up."

Mrs. Donnelley says, "Not paying? With all that mining going on, they're not paying?" Mrs. Kratchet nods.

"That's hard to believe," Mrs. Donnelley thinks for a moment, then gets an idea, "Let's ask Alice if she has problems with the party paying her."

The pair walk over to Alice.

"Have you been getting paid as expected by the party?" asks Mrs. Kratchet.

Alice understands the question, but is slow to answer, any answer she gives is not going to earn her brownie points all around.

She is about to answer when a couple more customers come in. This pair comes in fast and noisy. They are waiving their money in the air. "Hot Dog! It pays well to be a cheerperson these days." says Bandooma, the first one in, "Alice, where's ice cream? I want something nice and big and cool."

"Me too." adds Dalango, following Bandooma in.

"Check over the in freezer." responds Alice. She shrugs at Kratchet and Donnelley -- no frank answers will be forthcoming now.

"There are only two in here." says Bandooma with disappointment.

"You'll have to share with Dalango." she replies, "The food shipment has been delayed."

"Grr... I hope they catch those bandits soon." says Bandooma, "I'm sure missing my ice creams."

Now Alice is real happy she hadn't answered Kratchet's question, but she does nod at the ladies in sympathy.

<<<*>>>

"Not shipping! How the fuck am I supposed to run this country if I can't get shipments!" Radamm throws his glass of wine into the fireplace in rage. He has just enough control that he doesn't toss it at a painting on the nearest wall or break apart the fancy chair he is sitting in.

"Who is holding up the shipment? Who specifically. Get that person on the line so I can talk with them face-to-face." he says.

On his desk screen comes the face of Alistair McCally, a VP of Turkistan Distributors. He looks as if he is not happy to get this call.

"How can I help you today, Radamm?" he says calmly but coolly.

"You can get that delayed food shipment rolling, Alistair. This is bullshit."

"Have you sent another payment? That's what the holdup is about."

"My people are starving and getting real angry, Alistair. Do you want to have the blood of food riots and a violent crackdown on your hands?"

"It's not in my hands anymore, Radamm, the International Payments Department is intervening. Your fastest solution is going to be scraping together a payment from somewhere else in your system and getting it sent, chop-chop."

Radamm gets a real sour look on his face, "Don't plan on taking any more junkets to our casino for a while, Alistair." He slams his fist on the cutoff key.

He stands and looks around. He says to Manilla, his cyber muse, "What have we got that can be used for a payment to Turkistan?"

Manilla is not surprised by this question, she responds immediately, "Not much left. I recommend diverting the bus driver's payroll."

Radamm thinks about this choice. He's about to give in to it when another idea hits him, a much better idea in his mind.

"We have enemies. It is now time to make them pay. And we can use what they pay to pay for what we need. Manilla, get me Demitri Stalink on the line."

<<<*>>>

The Revolutionary Police announce another parade. This one is surprising, and they are only giving twenty minute's notice on it. Alice dutifully closes her shop and dutifully heads for her spot on the main street.

This parade looks most unusual. It is quite short, only about twenty men. Leading the pack of Revolutionary Guards is Janz Kotch, another shop keeper. They have him in front, pushing him along, hands over his head. Following behind the pack is a wagon carrying the contents of his shop.

"Traitor, traitor, traitor" chant the guards.

Lapcost, now a Revolutionary Guards leader, looks at the gathered shopkeepers who have come out. He looks at Alice in particular. He pauses the group, and shouts out what is odd parade is all about.

"Janz Kotch, here, is a traitor to the country. He has stopped providing the people with the goods that they need to lead an honest and upright revolutionary life at honest and upright prices. He is no longer welcome here.

You other merchants! Take note! You keep raising your prices; you stop stocking your shelves; and your turn is coming!"

The "traitor" chanting begins again and the group marches on, headed for the central police station.

<<<*>>>

Radamm is in his office looking much happier. The traitor campaign is letting him pay more bills and distracting people from the slow progress at making the mine profitable. Things are far from perfect, but they are better.

He gets a knock on the door and in comes Lotran.

"This is a pleasant surprise, Ms. Lotran, you don't have an appointment."

"I'm afraid it's not going to be pleasant for you, Radamm. The kleptocrats are not happy with how things are progressing. Their businesses are suffering badly, and they are blaming you and your Traitor Campaign."

"How is my Traitor Campaign causing them to suffer? It is directed against shop keepers in the Mining Sector."

"The international business community is taking note. And they don't like what they are seeing. Rather than pushing you they are pushing us. ...And it's working. We are taking action.

This is to let you know that, officially, you have become very sick, Radamm. You have decided you are now unable to fulfill the heavy demands of being President, and are going to an undisclosed health spa to take cures."

Radamm looks at Lotran in amazement. Lotran makes a quick call on her communicator and two burly security types come in the office.

Lotran says, "I sorry we must make this so sudden, but it will smooth the transition considerably."

The security types escort Radamm out of the office.

<<<*>>>

Alice is at her altar praying again, and she is praying with deep fear and concern on her mind. The hologram of God is on the altar listening.

"Dear God! The Revolution Guards are sweeping through the sector. They are rounding up foreigners, like me, and sending them away. And they are taking our stuff!

... I don't have anything but what I have in this shop. I... I wasn't expecting anything like this. ...I am so scared.

Lord, please help me!"

There is loud knocking on the front door. This is no neighbor looking for a cup of sugar.

Should she answer it? Should she hide? Should she run away and hide somewhere else?

The hologram of God tells her in a calm voice, "Answer the door, Alice."

With deep fear she rises, walks to the front door, unlocks it, and opens it.

At the door is Mrs. Kratchet, "Did you hear the latest? President Radamm has been removed. He's taken sick and is 'at some undisclosed location taking cures', as they are calling it."

Alice gasps, "Does this mean..."

Kratchet nods, "The Revolution Guard is being dismantled. No more raids in Mining Sector."

Alice hugs Kratchet in deep, deep relief.

<<<*>>>

Ms. Mandis is in Radamm's presidential office sitting at his desk. She is talking on the communicator screen with Kent Clark, the mining president Radamm kicked out, what now seems like ages ago.

"Yes, Mr. Clark, we are calling you back to run the mining company. We are now interested in running the mine in a modern way, and making some serious money doing so. The nation needs it. Are you interested?"

Kent smiles widely, "It is a challenge I would love to take on, again, Lotran."

"You will not be alone in taking on new challenges. I'm bringing in Mr. Lee Ho-me, a technocrat from Singapore. Let me bring him on the line so you two can get acquainted."

Lotran makes a swipe and Lee Ho-me, a dignified looking forty-year old of Chinese descent appears on the screen with the others. He begins talking.

"Good to meet you, Mr. Kent. This change planned for the mining operation is going to open a lot of opportunity doors. Now that we are..." he puts his fingers up in quotes, "'doing it right', the cyber international financiers will get behind us. This means many things can happen quickly.

First, you will get a lot of resource to automate the mine, and thereby make it quite profitable quite quickly.

Second, the profits from your operation will be dedicated to making the lives of the Blabistanis better by transforming Mining Sector into a state-of-the-art smart city. We will be rebuilding the city and reeducating the people. Thanks to your money and a state-of-art mix of human and cyber educating, we should be able to make Blabistani students top-of-the-line in education in two generations, and the first generation will be impressive, too.

That's what we have planned."

Lotran says, "Thank you, Mr. Lee." and to both of them, "Blabistan should now be able to take its place among the prosperous nations. This will be good news all around. The people will gain, the world will gain, and us kleptocrats will transform into just being filthy rich people." there are chuckles at this, "All-in-all, if things work out as now planned, this will be a great blessing all around. Santa Claus is coming to town... on steroids."

 

 

--The End--

index ... intro ... miki ... Chap 01 ... Chap 02 ... Chap 03 ... Chap 04