Monday, April 5, 2010

Outback Power Systems

A response to RJ Clarken's "Monday Muse" in Flashy Fiction.

Staples anchored a white plastic square to the corner of the squat sandstone building that no longer looked new after the incessant sand that blew off the Great Victorian Desert. The flapping plastic intrigued Kent and he stooped to peer behind the plastic. A copper plaque read, "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. -- Unknown."

"G'day mate, no need to bother with that. You must be the American journalist. We should get out of the wind." The man dwarfed Kent. He placed his thick left arm, larger than Kent's thighs, on Kent's shoulder and guided him to the door. Upon entering the building Kent thought he might've gone deaf. It was so silent, but he realized he could hear his feet scuffling on the carpet. "It is good to meet you Mr. Clarkson. I'm Arthur, the site ombudsman, and I'll show you around today."

In the fluorescent lights, Kent got a good look at Arthur. He was a bear of a man, at least six-foot tall, and had a full beard more like a computer geek than a PR lackey. "What was that plaque about?"

"Nothing. Just a little old Australian humor. We're working with the construction firm right now. Do you need to set up anything before we start?"

"No, no. I'm all set, my video feeds streaming as we speak and my virtual assistant tells me that the audio is working perfectly."

"Ahh... so this virtual assistant transcribes your interview into notes that you use to write the article later?"

"Absolutely not," said Kent. "All I do is the initial interview. The virtual assistant will ghostwrite the segment and I've got another virtual assistant to copy edit his story and then it's off to my editor. Don't worry, they're quality folks.

"Beaut, mate. Let's start this tour so you can do whatever you do when you're not being reporterly. You already know the history?"

"Yeah, yeah... no need to bore the virtual assistants. They've got all the info on background." Kent just wanted to get this over with so he could blow this joint and get back to Sydney where he could relax on an ocean beach.

They walked down the marble halls as the sand stuck in the tread of Kent's shoes squeaked. On the other side of a two-story window giant wheels spun as dozens of people jogged in the base. It looked like giant-sized hamster treadmills. Rubber belts attached to the central axle on the wheels and disappeared underground.

"The turbines are underground. Not much to see there, looks like any old power station."

"And they do this for free?" asked Kent.

"Not exactly for free, mate. If they want any power, they must hit their quota. But they get a free benefit out of it, no need to join a gym."

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