The Incumbent: Chapter 43

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

Jimi Jones was now well and truly aware of the government's plan. He realised they had been using VastTel as a giant dumping ground for the terminally unemployable, and, he had to admit, it had been one of their most successful initiatives. Most people earned a moderate wage, didn't get stressed at work and the economy seemed to keep ticking on. Jones wasn't an economist, but it seemed hard to find fault with the plan. In its way, it was brilliant.

In fact, Jones wondered whether he should play along and keep the whole thing secret. If he blew the lid on it, then the entire make-up of the economy could change. All of a sudden, there would be a drive for competition and efficiency. It sounded like hard work. People would become stressed, putting more pressure on the hospitals. There would also be an expectation that workers became smarter, putting greater demand on the education sector. The elongated holidays and spurious working hours of VastTel employees would disappear, creating congestion on the roads and decimating the leisure industries. There was a myriad of painful consequences if the scheme was to falter.

On the doors, the words 'death to you all' had been painted in ox blood.

The more he looked into it, the more he liked the plan. If he had been 10 years older, he probably would have kept quiet; he might have even personally applauded the prime minister. But there was a more immediate concern for a young man of 21: his relentless sexual craving for Trisha Botherington. She was barely away from his thoughts. He had simple needs, and it wasn't unreasonable, he'd thought, for her to satisfy those needs in exchange for the biggest news story in the history of Australia (except for the one where white man invaded and took the place over).

Meanwhile, of course, a lot of angry white men (and women) had taken over the VastTel building. The focus of their rage was now on the exterior doors of the panic room, where call-centre staff sat, praying the doors would hold and that everyone would just go away.

Jones knew they would be stuck there for hours, so he passed the time browsing the internet. He noted that the VastTel website had been hacked and the front page was no longer advertising complicated phone plans that would enable you to get your own PocketFriend 2050 for 10 percent less than the full price just by spending 10 times the cost on phone calls costing twice as much as normal. Instead, a photograph showed the outside of the panic room. On the doors, the words 'death to you all' had been painted in ox blood.

A little unnerved, he distracted himself by researching further, convinced that the more information he supplied, the more grateful Botherington would be. He was now completely convinced that they would soon be enjoying a splendid night of rampant lovemaking. In fact, he was distracted for a while by websites that could help him to finesse his technique in preparation for the event. He spent a little time absorbing as much content as possible — at least, as much as was possible before he was asked to provide credit card details.

'In the event of unforeseen circumstances ... close VastTel ... remove all evidence ... kill staff ... blame virus ... press unlikely to figure it out.'

But he soon grew tired of it. He leaned back in his chair, stretched his arms into the air and took a deep breath. Around him many of the call-centre team were starting to fall asleep. There was little else to do. He turned to the final section of the Treasury document. He wanted to re-read the chapter on the Redundancy Program.

Feeling a little lethargic himself, as if he hadn't slept for days, he opened the last chapter and started to read. It was heavy going, though. He could feel his eyelids getting heavier and heavier, and at best he managed to read every few words.

'In the event of unforeseen circumstances ... close VastTel ... remove all evidence ... kill staff ... blame virus ... press unlikely to figure it out.'

Shocking though it was, Jones was not really absorbing the content. His mind was drifting to more pleasant thoughts; lying in the sunshine, Trisha's head alongside his, both in love, or, even better, in lust, without a care in the world.

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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