by Elegant Butler

Chapter 2:

Magnus drove the car slowly down the dirt road from the farm to the main route that led through the town and to the ferry. Edison sat beside him in the front seat while Vanna sat quietly in the back, praying for her husband's safety.

Vanna wished she could sit with her husband. But she understood the importance of the discussion now taking place between Edison and Magnus.

"Start small," Magnus suggested. "I know you've been a hotshot celebrity. But that doesn't mean you have to start off the negotiation attempts with the big stuff." he swerved to miss a stray cat, causing Edison and Vanna to both smile at his thoughtfulness. "You do that, we'll be left with no way to improve what we do to win them over later. It's like serving the cake first at a party. A nice thought, but gives your guests no incentive to eat whatever else you bought and paid for."

Vanna turned back around as soon as she saw the cat cleaning its paws near the roadside, but remained in silent prayer or contemplation.

"I'm thinking of a simple one on one dinner at the Know Chow Cafe. The one where Shawn Jones used to work. It's neither too cheap nor overly ornate."

"Sounds like the perfect place to start," Magnus told him, pausing as the car went from the smooth dirt to the bumpy boards of the little bridge.

Once they were back on quieter ground, Magnus resumed. "But make sure to reserve a private area. You'll want to be heard, but not overheard. Now once you do that, do you remember which topics you'll be discussing?"

Edison nodded. "My first priority is to negotiate for the airing of more acceptable programming."

"Right," Magnus stopped the car at a red light. "That is the main item that the viewers are literally getting up in arms about. They think, after years of having 'Lumpy's Proletariat - The Nadsat Years' and 'Polly and Betsy' shoved down their throats, that they deserve better."

"They do deserve better," Edison said. "First time I saw Nadsat, I wanted to chuck my TV into the Thames and repent."

"Salvation is just a set-chuck away," Vanna proclaimed, evangelically from the back seat, eliciting a laugh from her husband. "But won't the Network resist? I mean, they're bound to think that since it's their money that it's their choice."

"We'll just have to remind them where there money ultimately comes from," Edison pointed out.

"Okay, what is the second point of discussion?" Magnus asked.

"Right," Edison went serious again. "The second point is negotiating for the limitation of advertisements and product placements. I think we should add one more thing to that. The ads they show are often inappropriate. When I'm watching a news program about a manhunt for some child molester, I do not want to see an ad for kid's vitamins featuring four to ten year olds at a playground. It's creepy."

"Amen," Vanna said, though it was unclear whether she was agreeing or just finishing her prayer.

The car soon arrived at the airport.

"I'll get in line for the tickets," Magnus said. "Don't take too long. You actually have to be the one to buy it due to security reasons."

"Right, thanks," Edison said. "Just give us a moment."

Edison and Vanna went over to the duty free shop and stepped inside. There, Edison purchased a single blue and pink rose.

"I wish I were coming with you," Vanna told him as she accepted the flower from him while he. "I'm going to miss you while you're gone. I think Bryce is, too. He may be older time wise, but he's still a teen in all the important ways."

"I know," Edison told her, drawing her into his arms. "Jenny will help guide him. And I trust you will help him out in matters of soul and conscience?"

Vanna nodded. "As I would for anyone," she promised as they drew nearer, their lips finally touching.

After a moment, they drew back and joined Magnus in the check-in line.

At the farm, Sadie and Oliver were cleaning the stalls while the cows were breakfasting in the pasture.

"I'm going to go and buy a second generator," Oliver said. "I know it's not in our budget, but all this talk about control and stuff, sounds like they want to set up a communications room." He took the full wheelbarrow out to the manure cart.

When he came back in, he continued to speak. "And rather than drain the power we need for the dairy machines, I think it best we get them a generator of their own," he said as he continued to shovel manure into the wheelbarrow. "We can hook it up in the original dairy barn. The one we started with before we got too many cows for it."

The controllers did, indeed, want to set up a base of operations in one of the unused barns. To this end, they had driven into town to pick up the computers and monitors they would need. But this proved a fruitless endeavor. as there were no shops in town that could sell them what they needed.

"You'll need to head to the mainland for that, I'm afraid," the woman who ran the last electronics shop they'd tried explained. "All we got around here are shops for the small stuff. Portable TVs and stuff like that."

And so they headed to mainland Australia to see what they could find.

Electronics was not the only dilemma this morning as Murray well knew.

He had seen Bryce sitting on the porch looking a bit glum. Having made a cup of hot cocoa, he brought it out to Bryce.

"Feeling a bit overwhelmed?"

Murray handed the cocoa to Bryce.

Bryce took it and sipped it silently.

"You could say thanks," Murray told him.

"Thanks," Bryce obliged, shrugging.

"You know, Bryce, I think that's one of your problems in this matter. You can be a bit..."

"Rude?" Bryce guessed.

"No, not rude as such," Murray told him. "You're not rude, you just lack politeness. And tact. That's your main problem. If you're going to lead an army, you've got to learn to get your men to like you. And for that you need to be more tactful."

Bryce pondered this while he sat there with Murray and silently drank the cocoa.

"I suppose you're right, Murray," he finally agreed as he drained the cup.

"How come you're alone?" Murray asked. "Where's your wife?"

"She's with Theora and Marlene," Bryce explained. "They went into town for Control supplies. Assuming they find something there, they should be back in an hour or so. If they have to go to the mainland, it'll be about two or three depending on how far inland they go."

In the Business Section of an Embraer 190, Edison sat in deep thought. The stewardess had performed the Safety Dance, and he could now just barely sense the soft rumble-purr of the jet's movement over the tarmac. Soon he and these three cabin loads of people, First Class Business and Economy, would be flying to Scotland. From there, he would take a Cinnamon which would be making a fueling stop from New Ceylon before journeying on to New Heath Row Airport.

The sensation changed from rumble-purr to just the background purr of the engines as the jet ascended.

Edison Carter was on his way home.

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