The Incumbent: Chapter 33

Summary:It's an intricate web of murder plots, government conspiracies and rampant tanning. Oh, and the future of the entire nation.

ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.

Trisha Botherington knew she was on to a big story, but she was having difficulty putting all the pieces together. For a start, she found a number of government statistics unbelievable. The population of the country was clearly far greater than anyone was letting on. Australians who had befriended her on online social networks were close to double the number of people living in the country, and they were all males, even the ones who pretended to be otherwise.

Then there was the dubious claim of near-zero unemployment. She never saw anyone in her street heading off to work, although they all seemed to have lots of money. It couldn't all be inherited wealth, surely?

He was sex starved and middle aged, and she was young and beautiful. People normally told her what she needed to know.

Finally, there was VastTel. Even though the company was clearly inept, few people spoke out against it. Botherington wondered about that, until she realised that a surprising proportion of the population seemed to work there. So, who would want to launch an attack on them? She wondered whether the missile itself could provide any clues. The ZX240-G. A browse through government papers showed that a ZX240-G had supposedly been bought by the education department two years ago, but was recorded as a photocopier. She remembered questioning why the government would spend $18 million on a photocopier, and why they had bought it from the Saudi government.

What the hell was going on? She was determined to find out. The best place to start was with Twistie Buffet. If he was going to die, he might be ready to give away some secrets. Besides, he was sex starved and middle aged, and she was young and beautiful. People normally told her what she needed to know. She hadn't a clue how other people managed to be investigative journalists, given that many of them were ugly, overweight men in their 40s.

The doctor in charge at the Prince Edward Private Hospital was particularly pleased to see Botherington, of course, and agreed to let her see Buffet, even though it was in strict violation of hospital policy. In exchange, he got a photograph of the two of them together.

His vital signs were normal, but he had a gaping wound in his stomach, described by a specialist as 'normal for someone who has received a missile in their abdomen'.

Buffet wasn't really in a fit state to see anyone. His condition had only just been downgraded slightly from 'critical' to 'not quite so critical'. The earlier assessment was made based on his vital signs, which were very weak indeed. A subsequent examination of his medical records showed that his vital signs had been very weak for the past 20 years. He seemed to be able to function with extremely low blood pressure, and a heart rate that would be unsustainable for most people. Yet VastTel had the effect of slowing down everyone's metabolism, in line with the speed of the computers they used. In that respect, his vital signs were normal, but he still had a gaping wound in his stomach. The gaping wound had been described by a specialist as a 'normal condition for someone who has received an unexploded missile into their abdomen'. The report concluded that there was every chance that he would pull through, even if he didn't look like it.

Topics: Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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