Brian Smithwaite was impressed. He had to tip his hat to the new Walter Wallace. From the hermit who spent the happiest days in human history keeping his history free from all other humans, he had now begun learning the art of media manipulation. Brian had felt the biggest fault in the Walter Wallace saga had been the man himself; ugly, quiet and downright hopeless on camera. Brian had even sought to destroy (with alarming success) the career of the great Tony Holdsworth in an effort to bridge the gap between sponsorship monies coming in and the potential rating catastrophe that Walter could prove. But today had put those fears to rest.
At the door to his own room in Newport Haven hospital, Walter stood commanding the attention of a horde of news reporters. His voice rose above them as they vied for key positions, wanting nothing more than to ask the question that draws the quote of the day. Behind that door was the story of the day. Lucy Blues, back from obscurity after she had run out on her contract with Channel 8 (a fact that can easily be overlooked as a clause in a brand new contract), is dragged from a burning inferno by the one and only Walter Wallace. And now amidst rumours and here say over possible romance between her and her saviour, Lucy decides to walk, unannounced, into Walter’s hospital room in front of half the nation’s grittiest news reporters.
Brian knew the big story was in that room and that with a wave of his will that door could be opened and the two could be ambushed by the wolves - an open slather that would delight the masses – but he found it personally much more interesting to see this confident and assertive Walter Wallace step out and tame the pack.
Walter had weathered the storm by holding a mirror up to its eye; he stood calm, firmly closing the door behind himself and waited as they threw everything at him. Eventually they lost their vigour and a sense of anticipation had grown, it was then that Walter took charge.
“You have no right to be here; it is only on my goodwill that I don’t request you all be escorted from the premises. I’ll take your questions one at a time in an orderly fashion and then I expect you to leave.”
Surprisingly, the reporters fell in line, perhaps struck by Walter’s change, Walter’s charge. The interview continued for a quarter hour and as the privileged interviews became exhausted Brian could see that Walter would be hard pressed getting the peace he had negotiated. Even the most kind-hearted reporter is backed by the relentless demands of a media outlet. Perhaps Brian would let the wolves off their leash in end. He gets his fill, they get theirs; everybody wins.
But it was at this point that the greatest day in news history managed to find yet another story. The double doors at the far end of the corridor burst open with a young bloodied man on a gurney ranting at the top of lungs.
“I’ve been shot! I’ve been attacked by a Citadel Incorporated robot! I’ve been shot! Go to my website Bullcit dot blogspot. Bring down the fascists! I’ve bee-”
He was cut off as he was wheeled into the already overcrowded emergency ward. The reporters around Walter were all at a loss. They looked at each other, wide-eyed; some of them beaming, some of them simply overwhelmed by the sense of duty.
Brian was definitely beaming; his head swimming with ideas as he replayed the bold accusation in his head. Shot by an agent of Citadel. What level of truth could there be to that? What plans had Boss laid out for those mindless...well, robots as the kid had claimed. He didn’t get a clear look at the boy but Brian knew he was a bum. Even without the blood and dirt his clothes were shabby and his hair a mash of poorly kempt dreads. And anyone who uses the word fascist in this day and age is generally an undereducated free spirit.
Brian whipped out his cell and searched the blog that was referenced. It took a few searches to pinpoint it: BullCit. A clear agenda against Citadel Inc - already there was doubt cast over the claims. But a fresh bullet wound still held sway. Brian decided to believe the accusation for a moment. The robot would mean the Cit Soldiers and he had seen Whisker or Chips skulking out of Walter’s room earlier, though he had no idea how he got in there. If one of them had indeed shot a civilian then they would probably want to come to the hospital and finish the job and probably before any further remarks were made. It was damage control, messy at best, but when Boss orders a kill he usually wants to see it through.
Brian didn’t like to involve himself in the silly gangster fantasies of his employer but as he scrolled through the poorly written blog he found an intriguing idea that would suit both him and the company. This “Hippy Flip” had been part of the road tripping filth touring the country with Walter, kind of like a band and its groupies. He had documented the whole process and clearly had a love for attention. If Brian could get the boy to continue his little tour, only with extended media coverage, and offset it with a promotion campaign that labels him a whack job, then he would have another sure fire winner. Access to that elitist demographic of liberal free loaders and cynics would tie up the one loose end to the Walter Wallace appeal.
But before he could arrange any of this he needed to save the boy’s life. He decided to call Boss.