Scene Fifty Six
In which a helicopter figures
Clare was jerked violently out of sleep. She gazed around her tent, trying to force her blurry eyes to focus properly. It sounded like a helicopter, except louder, much louder. On second thought it sounded as though a helicopter was beating the air into submission around it. Malfunction, Clare thought, but no, there was more than one helicopter. Sabotage, she thought, but no, they were getting closer. Somehow whatever was making that noise was flying and closing in on them.
When she realised that they could expect company Clare jumped out of bed like someone had just zapped her with an electric line. She darted around the tent, smoothing her hair with one hand, while pulling on yesterday’s clothes with the other. That done, she stumbled out of the tent and looked up.
It was helicopters, and they did seem to be flying by beating the air into compliance. Clare looked for a crest, or some sort of marking, but there was nothing. The helicopters were a neutral white, but Clare doubted that their purpose was entirely peaceful.
They came into land on the mess.
The noise was incredible; Clare could feel her hair whipping her as it was blown back. The engines started to calm, and the blades started to slow, but before either had changed very much a man jumped out of the lead helicopter.
He was a surprisingly tall man, and he had a ridiculous moustache. Clare knew the face. “Ernest Kanke” she said under her breath. She felt very nervous; she had never expected to meet the man in person.
Kanke was looking around the gathering crowd; he spotted her and their eyes locked. He looked perfectly turned out, as though he had been dressed by his personal barber before stepping out of the helicopter. If he had then it was definitely worth the effort; he radiated power. Clare was suddenly very aware that she hadn’t brushed her teeth this morning.
Kanke walked away from the helicopters and towards her. The crowd parted before him like the black sea before a cruise liner. Clare knew that all eyes were on her. They don’t know what to do, she realised, so they’re waiting for me to make the decision for them. She didn’t know what to do either, but that wasn’t right; because a leader has to always know what to do. Pick something! She spread her arms wide in a gesture of welcome. “Ernest Kanke” she said, “I’m glad to meet you”
Kanke reached her. He didn’t loom, he just stood a respectable distance back and smiled. “Clare Summers” he said, “Likewise”
Then, just like that, the baseline had been set. Clare wondered just where this was going to lead.