Friday, 28 November 2014

Story a week 1 – The PM

I’ve decided to post a short story a week. I’m going to start with stories that are already out there. Hopefully by the time I’ve gone through them I’ll have some new ones to add.
Number one: The PM    (From the PM and other stories)
The PM
The PM
The PM
            ‘How on earth are you going to run a country when you can’t even remember your phone?’ asked Linda, fixing Michaels tie and placing the phone into his trouser pocket. ‘If you can’t dress yourself properly, what you going to do when the economy collapses?’
‘Don’t blame me dear,’ replied Michael giving her a kiss on the cheek, ‘blame the great British public who voted for me. Besides, I can’t do any worse than the last lot now, can I?’
‘That’s what worries me, I’m afraid that you can.’ She beamed a smile at him and he gave a hurt look in response. ‘OK, Prime Minster, I’ll go easy on you since it’s your first day. Just try not to sell the entire country to the Chinese if you can manage.’
‘I’ll try, but I mean, if they offer me a good deal like a holiday home in Hainan or one of those new smart-phones with the holographic controls, well, who am I to refuse?’
He was interrupted by a grinding sound from the other side of the hallway.
‘What’s that noise?’ he asked, walking over to the door way and playing with the air vent beside it; it seemed to be the origin of the grinding sound.
‘The filter will be clogged again,’ said Linda walking up beside him and gently pulling his hands away from the vent. ‘Now don’t get your suit dirty.’
‘But I only cleaned the filter a couple of days ago,’ he protested, stepping back from the vent.
‘Well, either you did a terrible job, or the air is getting worse. Both are high possibilities.’
‘I thought you said you were going to go easy on me?’
‘I lied, you’re a politician, you should be used to people lying to you. Speaking of which, don’t let those industrialists worm their way around you. You were elected to fix the three E’s, so don’t you forget them.’
‘Environment, Environment, Environment.’
‘That’s right. So don’t let them tie you down for the next five years. You go into parliament and get it started today, alright?’
‘Who’s the Prime Minister here, me or you?’
‘As the Prime minster’s wife I am entitled to boss my husband around. So really it’s me, just don’t tell anyone.’
‘Right you are dear,’ he said, giving her one last kiss, before putting on a freshly washed surgical mask and heading out the front door into the bright flashes of the waiting photographers.
The car was a short distance away, but to get there he would have to pass through a sea of journalists or the gauntlet as it was called by the MPs. He always hated the photographs and questions; it would be worse now that he was the Prime Minister. Taking a deep breath he pushed onward.
‘What will be your first task as PM?’ shouted one journalist in his ear. He had to be careful with the answer. Too many politicians had been caught out by a flippant response that bound them from the first day onwards.  He hadn’t spent the last ten years climbing the greasy pole only to be kicked back down on his very first day.
‘We will be sticking to the commitments of our manifesto,’ he answered confidently, pressing further into the surge.  It was a stock answer that he would only be able to use once.
‘What do you say to the opposition leaders comments that your policy will destroy our new industrial era?’ He paused for a moment then pushed on. It was a question that many people wanted answered. It was the whole reason he got into politics in first place. That and the usual lust for power.  He turned to the waiting journalist, his feet still walking him to the car as he talked.
‘I’m glad you asked me that,’ he said. ‘For the past ten years this country has been systemically re-industrialised, which in itself was not a bad thing.’ The car was getting closer, the driver waited with the door open. ‘But look around you, now you can actually see the air.  The previous Government have sacrificed the quality of people’s lives for economic gain and we are now choking on the environment meant to sustain us. The world is on the verge of a global disaster and unless we take action now and make a change, even if that means slowing down some of our industrial development, the planet of our children is surely doomed.’
The journalist was armed with a back up question, but the car was now close enough for Michael to dive into.
‘How many jobs will be lost Prime Minster?’ he heard the reporter shouting as the door was slammed closed. He breathed a sigh of relief as the driver began to pull away. His task wasn’t going to be easy, even with the electoral mandate, reforming the environment was going to be a challenge, especially when they had to start cutting jobs instead of trees. He would just have to keep running fromthat question as long as he could.
‘Number ten Prime Minister?’ the driver asked as they turned onto the main street. He hadn’t noticed how stocky the man was as he had made his dash for the car.
‘Yes please. What happened to my old driver?’ he asked, suddenly remembering to put on his seat belt.
‘Oh, he was reassigned. Ministerial drivers are given some extra duties.’
‘Ah, I see, you’re security personnel of some kind then?’
‘That’s right sir. You’re faster than the last one, took him a while to get it,’ said the big man beaming back a smile in the mirror. ‘They found it was cheaper just to double up drivers and bodyguards. No point having an extra salary, you know?’
‘And what if you have to drive and fight at the same time?’ asked Michael.
The driver shrugged. ‘They haven’t though of that sir,’ he said.
‘Do they at least give you a gun?’
The man nodded, patting his jacket, then reached over to the glove compartment, opening to reveal a small armoury of automatic weapons. ‘They give us lots of guns. Don’t you worry sir, you safe with me.’ He pushed the compartment closed. ‘To tell you the truth sir, I’m really itching for some action. I hope you don’t mind me saying so.’
‘No no, carry on,’ replied Michael, not entirely sure how to respond; the last driver had been somewhat less militant.
‘You can’t believe what it’s like to have all our training then never really getting the chance to use it. I’m former SAS, you know. If you ever need any specialassistance, just you let tell me sir and I’ll get it sorted out for you.’
‘By special assistance you mean?’
‘I mean special assistance.’
‘Right, eh thank you, I see. Oh look, we’re here, thank God for that,’ he said, remembering to have word with his new aides about changing his driver. The car pulled up and he moved to get out.
‘Remember Prime Minister,’ said the driver rolling down the window, ‘just you let me know.’
Somewhat relieved, he got out that car and made his way to the door, where he stood waving for a moment at the crowds and photographers. He wished his wife was with him, but she hated the publicity. It was hard enough to get her out on the mandatory state visits. The truth was he didn’t blame her. He wasn’t much for the crowds either. He was there to make his mark on history and while doing so, he planned stay as far away from the great general public as he could.
Once he was sure he’d given the press enough chance to get their shots, he walked towards the door of number ten. This was his time. This was his moment. He had worked his entire life for this chance.
‘Just don’t mess it up dear,’ he heard his wife’s voice say somewhere in his head.
There was no handle on the front of the door for him to turn, but as expected it glided open on his arrival, pulled open by a beaming young man. Giving one last wave, he moved inside into the strangely silent foyer.
‘Good morning Prime Minister,’ said the young man who had opened the door. He sounded educated, perhaps ever aristocratic, certainly not what Michael expected in a member of staff. In fact the man’s whole demeanour screamed Michael that man was in PR. Only people from that field could have such sharp suits and perfect immovable haircuts.
‘Eh good morning. Are the rest of my staff not here yet?’ he asked.
‘Not yet Prime Minister, first there are other matters we have to attend to.’
‘I’m sorry, this wasn’t really the welcome I was expecting. Excuse me, but who are you?’
‘I’m afraid in this present case, I am the bearer of bad news. You may call me Marcus.’
‘Right eh, Marcus, and this bad news would be?’
‘You are not the leader of this country Prime Minister,’ said the man confidently.
‘Em, I think I am, in fact, did you not just call me Prime Minister?’
‘Yes I did, but no, you are not.’
‘Ah, I see,’ said Michael. ‘You’re here from the Queen. Thought she’d send one of her old guard families down to put the new republican PM in his place? We’ll you can tell the old bint to bugger off. The eighteenth century passed long ago and her and her inbred family should have gone with it.’
The man gave a little chuckle. ‘I am not here from the Queen.’
‘Then who the Americans, the Chinese, the bloody Bilderberg group, what? I did win the election didn’t I?’
‘Yes you did,’ answered the man calmly. ‘Now please follow me while I introduce you to someone.’
Not waiting for a response, the man turned and started walking further into the house. Michael hesitated, and then cursed himself as he followed anyway. This better be some bad joke by the last party, he told himself as he caught up with the man.
‘You’ll need this,’ said Marcus, handing him what looked like a smart-phone and headset. ‘Keep it with you and don’t lose it. It’s your translator. When we go into the room, place the device on the table and put on the headset.’ The man opened the door to one of the conference rooms. ‘Oh and I would advise you to mind your manners.’
With no time to protest Michael was ushered into the room. A large glass chamber, twice his height and filled with smoky brown gas, waited in front a long metallic table which was adorned with a series of strange looking buttons and dials.  He looked back at Marcus who stood at the doorway waiting. The younger man pointed to the translator in Michael’s hands, then to the metal table. Picking a random space free from the complicated looking controls, he placed the device on the table and put on the headset.
The smoke in the chamber cleared slightly, revealing a fat, gargantuan, leathery green face.
‘What on earth,’ shouted Michael, jumping back from the chamber.  Looking back he caught sight of Marcus shaking his head franticly from side to side. Taking a deep breath, he gained some composure.
‘Congratulations on your win Prime Minster,’ said a crackling voice through the ear piece.         ‘I’m sure my aide has already informed you that you are not the leader of this country. That is my job. I administer this planet for the purposes of the Orion Empire, you many call me the Overseer. Serve me well and you will still have a part to play.’
‘I’m sorry, the Orion Empire?’ asked Michael, glancing back at Marcus who stood like a solider at the entrance.
‘Yes, we control a vast number of worlds, of which your planet is but one. Sadly your people yet lack the sophistication to be a full part of the Empire. So we must maintain the pretence of countries and governments until they are ready.’ The face inside the heavy chamber blinked slowly and heavily, allowing Michael time to take in the information.
‘So you are saying that you conquered our world?’ he asked.
‘Yes, around twenty years ago,’ replied the Overseer impassively.
‘But there was no war, nothing like that? I’m pretty sure I would have remembered an invasion of alien creatures. Even with the quality of journalism we have, I’m sure it would have made the papers,’ protested Michael walking closer to the chamber to get a better look inside.
‘There was never a need. We have ships with weapons in orbit, any opposition and we can wipe out your country in an instant. Previous leaders were smart enough to realise that.’
‘Well, I have to say, I’m rather disappointed. I was expecting to be taking over as the leader of the UK.’
‘And you will be Prime Minister. We see no need to micromanage everything. But there are some key points that you must agree to.’
‘Such as?’
‘The program of mass industrialisation will continue and you will drop yourenvironmental objections. Your country is of no use to the empire in its current state, you must develop.’
‘But hang on, what about the manifesto, what about global warming and people’s health? The public are expecting action from me and my Government.’
‘My Government you mean and as for your other objects, global warming is a myth, your manifesto promise will be retracted over time. Is that understood?’
‘We can’t just go back on…,’ started Michael angrily.
‘You don’t yet understand, do you Prime Minister? Either you go along with our program or I will bring about an end to your entire country. Would you like to be the last Prime Minister of the UK?’
‘We’ll it does have a certain stature to it, but no I suppose not.’
‘Then be the Prime Minister that helps the world become part of a galactic Empire. Education, transport, trade, can continue on under your own discretion, but industrialisation will continue, is that clear?’
‘Yes, well it seems I have little choice in the matter, do I?’ said Michael turning to leave the room.
‘Another small thing Prime Minister, the next time I request your presence you will refer to me as my Lord, and don’t forget to take your translator you will be needing it soon.’ Furious, Michael snatched up the device and stormed out of the room.
‘Prime Minster,’ said Marcus as he left the room.
‘What is it? I have a meeting with the Cabinet in a few minutes.’ he snarled.
‘No one must know about this. Not the Cabinet, not your wife, no one, do I make myself clear? It’s not just you that you’d be risking,but the whole country, maybe even the world.’
‘So now that’s sorted,’ said Michael, taking large drink of his cold tea. ‘There is something I have to bring up which you are not going to like.’ The room fell silent, when the press had been barred, the Cabinet had known something bad was coming. ‘It turns out our plans for the environment may have been overly optimistic.’
‘What do you mean optimistic?’ asked the Chancellor in his thick Scottish accent, his fat cheeks already boiling red. ‘That’s the whole damned reason we’re here. The public just threw the last lot out of office for that very reason.’
‘I know Jim, I know, but it’s not the right time.’
‘Right, rest of you, out!’ ordered the Chancellor. There was no questions, the room cleared in impressive time.
‘You know if I ordered them out, it would have taken them twice as long,’ said Michael as the last minister closed the door. ‘Maybe you should have been the PM.’
‘God knows I wanted the job. But I’m a party man. Our people will do whatever I say, but the public, they like you, not me. You’re the one they voted for. You’re the one they put their hope in. Don’t let them down now Michael, don’t become just another…politician.’
‘But there’s more going on than you know.’
‘Look whatever they have on you, it doesn’t matter. The oil companies only have so much power, unless you’ve been caught with a sheep or in Thailand, then I can keep the party off your back,  Even if it is something like that, and God I hope it isn’t, I’ll do my damdest. Just push through the reforms.’
‘It’s not the oil companies…,’ started Michael.
‘It doesn’t matter who it is. In fact, I don’t want to know who, what or anything else. Whatever the hell brought this on you forget it, just stick to the plan. I’ll keep the party in line, Alright?’
Michael walked up to the podium to address the house. His own victorious party waited with anticipation, the other side already jotting down their planned objections to what he would say. He caught sight of the last Prime Minster sitting in the back benches on the far side, the man nodded at him knowingly. At least someone understood his position.
For the first time he realised how hard he had made the man’s life with his own environmental objections. The former PM must have been under the same restrictions that he was now. He made a mental note to apologise at a later date. Then a second note to forget the first; he still hated the man too much to go supplicating himself.
‘First of all I would like to start by welcoming all new MPs from all parties to the house,’ he began. People expected him to be conciliatory, though given the choice, he would much rather have been smug; the years in opposition hadn’t left him unscathed. ‘I look forward to working with you all in a constructive way over the coming years.’ There was a mumble of expected agreement from the house. ‘That said,’ he continued a little nervously, glancing at the Chancellor and calculating the risk he was about to take. ‘Anyone who stands in the way of plans to reduce industrialisation and bring a new, greener, cleaner Britain, had better beware. We have a mandate from the people. And the People voted for three things: Environment, Environment, Environment. God help anyone who dares to stand in our way!’
As he leaned away from the microphone, he caught sight of the former Prime Minster, his head shaking nervously from side to side as if expecting the attack to happen at any moment. Michael smiled confidently back as the cheers rose up from his own party.  The rest of his speech would be as he had planned as well. He was in charge of the Country and no alien lizard thing a in jar was going to tell him what to do.
When he returned to Downing Street, Marcus was waiting from him; he was clearly not impressed by the Prime Minister’s address.
‘That was not a good idea,’ he whispered to the Prime Minster as he walked into the foyer. The PM’s staff had moved in and the place was a bustle of activity. ‘The Orion Empire is a dangerous enemy to make. Do you want the UK to become the next North Korea? Because that’s they way things will go if you don’t play ball.’
‘You really believe they have that sort of power?’
‘Yes I do Prime Minister, and you would be wise to recognise it as well. The Overseer wants to see you now. I would strongly suggest you take a consolatory attitude for all our sakes.’
‘What are you getting out of all of this Marcus?’ Michael asked as they walked briskly towards the conference room.
‘I help to keep the species alive, that’s what I get,’ he answered sharply.
‘A sycophant like you keeping the species alive, that’s a terrifying thought.’
Marcus ignored the quip, holding the door open to let Michael through. ‘Just remember to call him My Lord.’
The Prime Minister walked towards the table and tossed the translator irreverently onto it. The smoke in the chamber cleared slightly, revealing the angered face of the Orion. As the face emerged, his own doubts surfaced as well.
‘What the hell did you think you were doing Prime Minister?’ spoke the voice through the translator. ‘Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, perhaps you still think that this all some kind of a joke?’
‘I think I was elected by the people not by you.’
‘And you think those people will thank you when their country is crush under heal?’ said the overseer holding up a complex looking device to the chamber glass. It looked small in its gigantic, clawed hand. ‘You see this Prime Minister. I’ve already set my ship to target London, a good place to begin don’t you think? One touch and your civilisation will come to an abrupt end.’
‘And you along with it.’
‘Ridiculous, I will already have transported back to my ship before the first wave of destruction hits your pathetic little city. You have one last chance. I’ll give you until tomorrow to think about it. And when you come here, you will start by addressing me as my Lord.’
‘I will not. I refuse!’
‘O but you will after you’ve gone home and talked to your wife, taken a last stroll around London, watched the babies in their prams then you’ll have a change of heart.’ The face faded back into the smoggy chamber.
Michael stared back defiantly at the fog, but inside he was unsure. Was it really up to him to decide people’s fate like that? Well, he was the prime minister of the UK, but if the people knew what was really going on.
He turned to leave, walking angrily towards the door. It wasn’t until he removed the headset that he realised he had left the translator sitting on the table. Catching Marcus’ concerned glance, he hesitated for a moment. Then thrust the headset into his pocket and walked confidently past the young man.
Once he was out in the hallway and the door closed, he grabbed the headset from his pocket. Being careful not to disturb the microphone, he placed it over his ear. When the voices in the other room came through clearly he smiled nearly as much as he had done on election night.
‘I’m sorry my Lord,’ he heard Marcus say. ‘Give him a little time, once he thinks about it he’ll follow your program.’
‘He is too much of a liability, the terraforming is already behind schedule,’ replied the scaly voice. ‘An alternative will have to be arranged. We only have four more years until my ship returns. What chance do I have of selling this planet to our prospective clients if they can’t even walk on its surface? Should I tell them to come and freeze in this cold environment? Should I tell them to come and suffocate in this unbreathable air? We need a leader who is willing to increase the industrialisation, someone less resistant. Only then will this place be ready in time.’
‘I understand my Lord…’
‘You understand, but you’re not doing anything to assist. You have your promised escape from this world before it becomes unliveable for your species, your chance to continue your flawed genealogy on another grim rock like this one. If you wish to keep that place, I suggest you find a way of removing this Prime Minister and putting another in his place.’
It was enough for Michael. Removing the headset he half ran half walked through the busy house.
‘My driver, I need my driver,’ he shouted to one of the aides nearby. The young man instantly hung up his phone call and started dialling another number. ‘And you there,’ he said pointing at a surprised girl. ‘Tell everyone I want them here now!’
‘Who’s everyone?’ she asked.
Everyone. Start with the Cabinet, then the army generals and go from there.’ The girl nodded in a stunned dreamy sort of way. Without pausing he continued out the front door, blinded momentarily by the unexpected flashes; he had forgotten press would be there. Covering his eyes, he pushed onward to where, he was surprised to see, his driver was already waiting.
‘Where to Prime Minster?’ asked the driver standing to attention beside the car.
‘You remember that special assistance you offered me?’
‘Yes sir, of course.’
‘Well I’m going to need it.’
‘Right you are sir, just tell me who to shoot.’
‘Don’t shoot anyone unless you have to. Now let’s get some guns,’ said the Prime Minister opening the door by himself and rummaging in the arsenal in the glove compartment. He passed one of the weapons to the driver, a machine pistol, and took another for himself.
‘You know how to use it?’ asked the driver.
‘No but that’s why your here,’ he replied, coming out of the car with weapon in hand, clearly visible to the waiting journalists. The cameras erupted more than before. ‘I’m just here for the photo-op.’ He gave the cameras a few moments then turned back towards the door of number ten. ‘Now come with me and remember don’t shoot unless I tell you to.’
They rushed through the corridors, the staff, stunned into silence at seeing their gun wielding Prime Minister, watched the two men as they rushed towards the conference room. As they got to door, Michael put on the headset. He was glad to hear the two of them still discussing how to get rid of him.
Without hesitation, he threw open the doors, pointing his pistol at the chamber, while the driver ran in behind him.
‘Grab him,’ he said to the driver, pointing at Marcus. He was glad to see the terrified look on the man’s face. ‘And feel free to beat him up a little. Not too much though, we want him alive.’  The driver didn’t need any further instruction, a surgical strike with the back of his free hand brought, Marcus crumbling to the ground with his hair still perfectly in place; the big man looked disappointed at the lack of resistance.
Michael turned his attention to the chamber, the smoke clearing to reveal the overseers face.
‘Really Prime Minister?’ asked the Overseer, ‘are you prepared to risk you country for your own vanity?’ The hand and device appeared at the window.
‘Go on,  press it,’ replied Michael, ‘lets see what happens.’ For the first time the certainty in the overseers face eroded. ‘I know about your plans. There is no Orion Empire, you’re just some intergalactic conman, worse than that, you’re a bloody estate agent. My wife controls my house, my Chancellor controls the party, but you know what? I was elected as the Prime Minister of this country. I might not have been the best of choices, but they voted for me and I am going to have my five years whether you like it or not.’
‘Should I shoot Prime Minister?’ asked the driver his weapon eagerly aimed at the chamber.
‘God no, I’m sure the MOD have some oversized anal probes they’ve been dying to try out. His friends will be back in four years and when they come, we’re going to have nice clean air, not the muck that they breath, and more importantly, we’re going to be ready for them.’

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