Phil was completely in his element. He may not have fit in to look at him, with his loose ragged clothing and general unclean nature – unless he was thought to be one of the passengers pulled out of the train – but he felt at home. He cruised around the hill that overlooked the wreckage at Newport Haven, slipping in and out of different TV reports. He had been on at least seven different networks already; Dad would be so proud. There was a heavy set security guard who was trying to shoo him away but it wasn’t too hard to shake this minor nuisance – Phil was a pro.
He had been having fun all afternoon. It was maybe a little callous to find joy so near to such a tragic incident but Phil was a practicing Buddhist and knew that death –even two hundred of it – was merely another passage of life that must be confronted, not feared. Now was a time of action and the best thing he thought to do was avenge the dead. And the best way to do that was to get to the bottom of this whole mess.
On the surface it may have appeared as though all Phil was doing was inflaming the reporters but he was also doing a little investigative journalism of his own. Before entering into frame he made sure to catch a little of the gist of the presentation, hoping to build a base of knowledge for his own articles that he was planning to write.
BullCit had fast upgraded from hobby to duty in recent weeks as he pioneered the truly independent coverage of Walter Wallace. He was now producing daily output, with constant updates on Walter’s tour. His readership numbers had quadrupled (which meant he now had around four readers a day) and he felt obliged to continue in this new vain.
But as he trolled the fields it became apparent that the story of the day was not as he had hoped. Each mic-ed up moron was busy promoting the new Walter Wallace-Lucy Blues love story, which was much more important than those 200+ deaths. Phil filled with renewed vigour and spotted a red light live broadcast and he darted into frame with sublime agility and snatched the microphone out of a young female reporter’s hands.
“My brother died in there!” he shouted with precise hysteria. “And all you care about is some love affair? You monsters! Look at you all promoting your bull-”
The microphone was wrestled back out of his hands and he ducked instinctively as the fat security grabbed at him from behind. The resulting air swing bought Phil enough time to scamper away. He was proud of his work even though he saw the cameraman had stopped filming halfway through his mini tirade. He ducked and weaved through the crowd a little more to ensure he had lost his pursuer and decided to have one more go at researching his half baked conspiracy theory.
“Let’s try move a little further down the hill. We won’t get the full shot but at least we will get a clean one.”
A male journalist was signalling to his cameraman and Phil noticed a vintage PBC label on the camera. Public Broadcasting Channel – this was his chance.
“This hill is way too crowded, don’t you think?” Phil asked invitingly. It was hard not to overcome the visual impression he gave off to anyone wearing a suit and the journalist responded with obvious contempt.
“Yeah buddy, who would have thought? Must have been some big newsworthy incident or something.”
Phil didn’t miss a beat, responding in mock excitement, “Yeah I know! Did you hear that Walter Wallace saved Lucy Blues!”
The reporter smiled wryly, seeing Phil’s point. “What can you do, kid?”
“Well you do have a point about the excessive reporters. But I mean how far from the city are we? How long have they been here? And how does this collate with the accident? Think about it.” The reporter stayed silent, in thought. Phil knew he had a point and he wanted to push the matter but he knew even better that nobody tolerated conspiracy theorists. He had to learn the art of subtle, let the people grow their ideas from the seeds he plants. “I think that story is more important than the new lovers; maybe more important than the new departed.”
He decided to leave on that note, maybe try sneak into the disaster zone and see what he could suss out. But as he walked away he felt a heavy hand slap down on his shoulder and spin him around.
“Gotcha, you little shit.” The fat security guard said victoriously. Phil tried to shake him off but couldn’t get free. When the physical failed he resorted to verbal.
“Get the fuck off me, you pig fuck!”
“Watch your mouth, kid, or I’ll teach a real lesson.”
“I don’t think you’re suitable to teach people how to use their mouths, you fat shit.” He had apparently hit a nerve. The security guard cocked back his fist and-
“Everything OK here?” The PBC reporter had come over and his camera was pointing at the jostling pair with interest. The security guard released his grip and tried to straighten out his uniform. He went pale in an instant, frozen on the spot like a boy with his hand in the cookie jar. Phil put some distance between his cookies and the guard, who had failed to notice that the camera wasn’t even recording.
“Yeah, this little piggy was just heading all the way home.” Phil said. The reporter had to stifle a smirk, but Phil was just getting warmed up. Whether the camera was on or not he had the upper hand. The security guard began to shuffle away awkwardly, overwhelmed by the ambush. “On yer bike, mate,” Phil taunted. “You could burn some calories before you get the donuts down at the station. Oh wait that’s right. You’re not even a cop, are ya?” The security guard was trudging away solemnly as Phil turned to the reporter, “Too much?”
The reporter shrugged his shoulders with a cringe as if to say “maybe a little.” Then he offered his hand, “Callum Stone. PBC.”
“My favourite channel. Phil.” They shook hands.
“Listen we think you got a point, or at least an interesting angle with the early reporters, but there’s no way for us to approach it professionally. But then we thought maybe a little unprofessionalism could help.”
“See this is why I love public funding. What you got in mind?”
“We thought maybe we should interview you based on innocent bystander or something and then you take it upon yourself to steal the spotlight and get your message out before we manage to reel you in and cut the interview off. What do you think?”
“Sounds like a plan. Can I promote my website as well?”
“Of course. Might help with the transition from normal to crazy.”
“You want me to go all out? People usually shout down extremists as irrelevant.
True. But maybe you could go viral-”
“-No way!” Phil exclaimed, suddenly losing all interest in Callum Stone and the PBC and promoting his blog, “I knew it!” Phil’s eyes widened as he saw in the growing darkness the Citadel Inc Robot who had chased him down the halls at Citadel Towers. The robot turned towards him and he ducked behind Callum to hide. He saw the robot head around the corner of the terminal ruins. “Sorry Cal I gotta go.” He said and rushed off to follow this new big fish.
“What about the interview?” Callum called out from behind him.
“I’ll be back.” He ran towards the building and rounded the corner, but in his haste and excitement he had forgotten that he was dealing with the height of technological engineering. The robot stood tall, in a clean cut suit. He had a gun pointed at Phil’s chest.
“Phil!” he said with a smile, “We meet again.”