August, Year 5
"The top breaking news story this hour: a large number of government ministers and Blue party junior shadow ministers have resigned en masse, citing moral discomfort with last months ratification of the Rio Preto Gift Consolidation Act, which brought into being a million dollar gift and exclusive ownership rights of Fort Simian's coal operations and deposits. The opposition attack, which has been relentless since their defeat in last years election, has stepped up in anticipation of a large number of by-elections. Ongoing protests to the Rio Preto deal and recent polling suggest that the Blue party will be left with a massive majority following the by-elections, slated for November.
Meanwhile, the ongoing standoff between the Rio Preto backed Simian Hill and Fort Simian over the results of the police commission into the murder of Aaron Pyne, and a large car pileup in Simian Hill in June, continues to create friction between the newly joined antagonists. The results of a police commission, issued by the Red party government into the murder of Aaron Pyne, identified Rio Preto fitter Enrico Gutierrez as the individual responsible and has issued a request to Simian Hill authorities for his capture. Simian Hill authorities, led by Clayton Brand, have refused to handover the individual until compelling evidence of his guilt is made available. Brand has additionally responded that the individual in question would not be forthcoming until Fort Simian handed over journalist Moe Rackswell, linked to a major car pileup in Simian Hill in June of this year, and accused the Fort Simian police of abject hypocrisy in failing to cooperate in what they describe as a 'petty crime'. The Blue party has also weighed in on the quagmire, accusing the Red party government of incompetence and pledging to make the establishment of cordial relations with Simian Hill their first act of government should they be successful in the upcoming by-elections. They have promised..."
Moe turned the radio off as he heard footsteps above him. The trapdoor above him opened, and some newspapers were tossed in.
"If you wanna know the news, read this. Stop making so much noise, I'm being watched all the time now."
Enrico Gutierrez closed the trap door, placing the mat over it and walked outside of the makeshift hut he was now living in at the Wax Ridge dredge site. Officially, he was being held in Simian Hill until evidence could be provided of his guilt to the Aaron Pyne murder. Rio Preto, having bought the title for the two city lands between Simian Hill and Fort Simian, declared these inaccessible to Fort Simian police. Despite the dubious legality of the declaration, Fort Simian police had stayed away, partly due to the growing civil disorder brewing in Fort Simian.
Enrico looked out at the small camp that was beginning to grow misty as the sun set. He walked back inside his hut, and lay down on the mat with a book. He knew that the other workers would be preparing their dinner now, which gave him thirty minutes.
"So when are you going to tell me what happened to Gillian? Where is she?" he whispered into the mat.
"Did you really do it?" Rackswell responded.
"Of course not!" he muttered, "I mean, I was there that night, but Gillian and I were followin' the lizard!"
"Is that why Clayton Brand had you two brought to the Trade HQ?"
"I'm not saying another word until you tell me about Gillian."
"Look, I told you, after the accident I followed her to the port. It looked like she was trying to get out, on a global market ship, but the port authority alerted Brand to her presence. The cops showed up, and she was taken away with Brand in tow. That's all I know."
"What happened after? Why didn't you continue to follow her?"
"Listen, people were going crazy. People were hurt in that accident, not killed, but they were angry. I was going back to my car to sort out insurance and everything, and then, well, it was like a mob. I was afraid, so I ran."
"And how'd you get here then? How'd you know I'd recognise you?"
"I didn't. I just kept moving, trying to get out of Simian Hill. I was lost for a few days. I tried making my way to Fort Simian but came across you first. If I hadn't, I'd probably be in a Simian Hill jail right now."
"Well, you probably should be by the sounds of it."
"So what happens now, you're going to turn me in? We made a deal..."
"Look, I've got no reason to make myself known to anyone either. These camp guys are here to help with the dredging, and probably to keep me here. I don't want to face a Fort Simian judge, or rot in a Fort Simian jail. Gillian told me how nuts you guys are and I believe her."
"Well, I'm a journalist. I am interested in the truth. Why were you out here in the first place? I know you weren't here because of the accusation, unless someone tipped Rio Preto off a month in advance?"
"No. Look, alright. That day, we went up to a big meeting room with that Clay Brand guy. Real cold character, y'know? He sat us down, went through all the photographs I took of the lizard, asked us questions, a-"
"What kind of questions?"
"I don't know, I don't remember. Anyway, he didn't ask me much, it was mostly Gillian. Everything was focused on Gillian. Yeah, that's right, he seemed to think that she'd seen all this before, asking her things like that. Then he told us that Villiers had personally ordered us to be kept out of both Simian Hill AND Fort Simian, and that was that. We'd keep our jobs, but at much lower pay, and we'd be stuck out doing the dirty dredging work. Real mean bastard. Told us we'd have to be out of his sight by the time Simian Ridge construction started. Now it's Wax Ridge. I don't really understand."
"Honestly, I don't know. And I don't know when we can get out of here. I'm sorry for the conditions of this place, it must smell awful down there. We're going to start being noticed, you're going to have to sneak out of here, tomorrow morning, while the crew does their pre-start checks and toolbox meetings."
"Great. Maybe I should make a run for one of those global market ships."
"Yeah, maybe you should. Oh, one more thing I just remembered."
"I did overhear Clay saying something about an Omega Company. Something like, Villiers mentioned it, or he didn't know what it was, or something. Honestly I can't remember exactly what he said, but it seemed important."
"Great, another mystery."
Batten down the hatches
Hu Tse emerged from the Table Mount tunnel, contemplating his future. In the past two months, his colleagues at the Owner's Group had one-by-one succumbed to Bruce Morrison's buy up of local properties. Or rather, they had succumbed to the threats and intimidation, that had become increasingly visible over the past two months. "Explains why there was no property bubble" Tse thought to himself, as many of his counterparts had been driven out of town and on to their backs. A few remaining stalwarts of the Owner's Group remained. As Tse drived on, a look of horror gripped his face.
The last remaining Owner's Group properties were burning, and threatening to take the rest of the holdouts with them.
The scene Tse was faced with upon exiting the Table Mount tunnel.
Tse pulled up at a nearby factory and approached their security box.
"I need to use your phone! There's a fire!"
The security guard responded with only a bemused look.
"Yes, I know, the fire department have been called" the guard responded. "It's all over our radio chatter" he said as he waved around a radio voice piece.
"Well?!?! The fire department is practically within walking distance! They could WALK to the fire!"
"Yes, but they have to drive. And there is a traffic jam at the front of the fire station. And as you know with the road rules here, they can't make the left turn to the fire. They will have to drive up main street and do a U-turn and come back, and then do another U-turn to be in position. They will only have right of way if there is no traffic on the roads, and as I just said, the roads are crammed with traffic. I'm afraid it will be a while before they can get to the fire."
Tse, frustrated, returned to his car and drove to the fire.
Another fire response thwarted by traffic.
'This idiot doesn't know what he's doing'
"No wonder you aren't getting the grade, look at these cleaner cells you're using! Absolute rubbish!"
Cole Bambert fired a salvo of vicious criticism at Clayton Brand as a group of tradesmen, engineers, labourers and technicians looked on bewildered. Never had they seen such behaviour, at least publically, foisted upon Brand.
"Bambert, put a sock in it. We're here to talk power: and mainly, why we are using these old boiler designs".
"Listen, leave the big boy engineering to me, and you can do your paperwork in the tower. Geez, you don't know what you're doing, do ya?"
Brand remained cool under the hostile environment, but in the corner of his eye could see an audience captivated by Bambert's bravado and earnestness.
"Just order the advanced coal generators and boilers. I'll cover the capital expense, Wax Ridge construction starts in a month and no one is going to want to live next to this monstrosity. Do it."
As Brand walked away, he could hear Bambert saying "you don't get it!", with a brief silence, followed by howls of laughter from the technical crew. Incensed, he ripped open the door of his car and then slammed it shut, jamming the locking mechanism. His anger boiled, as he reflected on a string of interactions with Bambert that had been equally frustrating and embarrassing.
The Simian Hill coal fired power plant, with it's Metals Overlord in the background.
Tse swerved out on to the main road in time to see the fire leap from building to building, gutting the last remaining Owner's Group members. He could see the other holdouts trying desperately to attack the fire with simple water hoses, and failing as the flames grew more intense with each minute. Then something caught Tse's eye: A black limousine, parked on the opposite side of the road, with a driver and a passenger who instantly eyeballed him. He knew who they were: Morrison's thugs. Then his mind ran amok, swimming in dizzying eddies of anxiety. He wondered about his wife, and child, then he feared for them. Instantly, he accelerated across the median strip, forsaking the bizarre road rules of the city, and made his way down the dirt roads of the Old Town to his house. As he raced, the limousine remained stationary.
Tse rounded the corner, passing the Idle Tacqueria, and approached his house. As he drew closer, he was dumbfounded, observing a "For Sale" sign at the front of his house.
The Tse residence, "For Sale", apparently.
He pulled up in time to see Bruce Morrison standing at his front door with a folder. His wife and child were on the front lawn, cowing and crying. He opened the car door and burst forth to confront Morrison.
Before Tse could open his mouth, Morrison raised his finger.
"Now Hu, fair is fair. I happened to be in the neighbourhood and your wife told me she'd be willing to sell for as low as 10,000 simoleons! Since it's apparently her name on the deed, I guess I won't be needing a signature from you. Except on this form."
Morrison presented a second piece of paper. It was the deed to Tse's hotel group on main street, the last remaining piece of property that was in tact and not sold to The Sizzle Group. Then Tse remembered something.
"Wait a minute, Rio already made their deal here, so why are you still interested in our property?"
"An interesting question. Well, most people were more than happy to oblige, and are now renting back the place they sold at exhorbitant prices. But you, you just wouldn't bend, would you?"
"So you're doing this out of spite?"
"Your Owner's Group would have been a nice jewel in the new Sizzle Property Group. But now it's too late. Now I just want you, and your family, out of this town."
Morrison's face went empty and blank, as though he was a robot. Tse's heart wrenched back and forth, failing to comprehend how such a situation could arise. Suddenly, the fear he felt multiplied, as though he was being torn apart by nervous forces. The sudden realisation that the threats and intimidation were, in the end, aimed at evicting him not only from his home but from Fort Simian altogether stung hard.
Tse grabbed his wife and child, some loose belongings, and fled Fort Simian.
What the hell, man
Two men passed each other in the darkness of the Fort Simian Small Pond Park. They stopped, looked around, and one began to speak.
"What the hell was that today?" asked Mike Baseball.
"Just tying up the loose ends of our campaign" responded Morrison.
"Look, we'll be in government soon. I can't have any of this coming back to us. If you still want to be in the winner's circle, then I don't need to know about whatever it is you've been doing for the past two months with that Owner's Group. Neither does anyone else."
"Understood. But tell me one thing."
"Why did some of your junior minister quit?"
"We got some of them to vote for the Rio deal and then expelled them afterwards. They'll be looked after. The Red party went into such a spectacular meltdown that we didn't think it would go through. Now we'll have the money to expand, as per the agreement, which, by the way, you have abrogated."
"So Bevan and her crew are finished?"
"Dead in the water."
"What about the reporter? and the Gutierrez kid?"
"We don't know if the accusations are true. The police won't release anything to us, only the government. But we will get their evidence soon. In the meantime, Rackswell is out of our hair. Probably for good. The government claims they know where he is. And when we are the government, we will hand him over".
Baseball held the next days newspaper, with the headline "BLUE PARTY VOWS TO END INTER-CITY RIFT WITH ACCUSED SWAP DEAL".
The secret meeting place.