“Trans-Atlantic” by Hamish Spiers continues. We’ll be running a new installment each week through summer so be sure to pop back each week.
By Hamish Spiers
Part III. Passenger Etiquette
I found myself in an empty compartment with a hand around my collar.
“Let go!” I shouted, trying to tear myself loose. “I’ll call the guard!”
“Where are the designs?” one of the goons demanded.
I shoved him away. “Why can’t you get it into your thick heads that I’m not the guy you’re looking for?”
At this juncture, the door to the compartment slid open and a guard stepped in.
“Boy, am I glad to see you,” I told him.
However, the guard didn’t reciprocate my feelings. “Are you the one making all that noise?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “You see…”
It was as if a switch had been flicked.
“All passengers are requested to refrain from unduly boisterous behavior,” the guard said, the words coming out like a recording, “or any other activities that may disturb fellow passengers.”
Then, coming back from whatever planet he’d gone to, he shook himself back into the there–and–then. “And you, sir, are creating a disturbance.”
“Yes,” I said. “I get that. But –”
I stopped and shook my head. The goons had taken this opportunity to pull a runner and I was alone with an insane employee of the Trans–Atlantic. And he was holding out a piece of paper.
“Consider this a warning,” said the man with the mind that could not be fathomed.
I took the paper and inspected it.
“You can pay it now or at the end of your journey,” he told me.
“That’s very generous,” I replied, eyeing the amount. “But I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. Those men were threatening me.”
“What men?” the guard asked.
I gave up. I reached into my pocket and pulled out some credits. “Here. I’ll pay you now.”
The guard took the money. “Now, I need to see your ID and ticket.”
Rolling my eyes, I produced the documents. “Here. Maybe you can tell me if it says Jerry or Terry on those things.”
The guard inspected them. “Both.”
I scowled. “What do you mean, both?”
“Here,” the guard said, showing me. “It says Jerry Ferguson on your ID and Terry Ferguson on your ticket.”
“Well, it’s probably just a mistake.”
“If this isn’t your ticket, then you shouldn’t be on this train at all,” the guard said.
“What?” I asked. “Listen, I paid good money for that ticket. There’s clearly been a mix up. In fact, I think there’s someone else on this train with a very similar name to mine and they’ve probably got my ticket. Look, can’t you call Amsterdam or something?”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me,” the guard said.
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll come with you. But can you get someone to call the station in Amsterdam and sort this nonsense out?”
“We have a manifest of everyone who’s supposed to be on the train,” the guard told me.
“Well, good!” I said. “Why don’t you go and check it?”
At this, the guard shook his head and pulled out another piece of paper.
My mouth dropped open. “Oh, come on.”
But it was too late. The guard had already gone to whatever dimension he went to when the voices took over.
“All passengers are requested to refrain from…”
At this point in the narrative, I’d had my last run in with the goons from Alliance Airways so it feels like an appropriate juncture to throw in some of the dirt I’ve since dug up on them.
The one capable of speech, if not sentient thought, was a guy called Ralph Carter, while his buddies were Mike Anderson and Jack Burns. Ralph Carter was a goon from way back when – probably kindergarten – and he used to work for a fellow named Thomas Hayes. Hayes was a dirty lawyer in the pocket of a tobacco giant. He argued that damage to the profit margins of his client was a sufficient cause to block measures for fighting tobacco epidemics in Asia. Kind of like how outlawing arson ticked off all the pyromaniacs out there.
The judge in that case, John Evans, had several million dollars worth of shares in Hayes’ client’s company. And he was a former employer of Mike Anderson, goon number two.
Now some would argue that having someone like that presiding over that case would represent a conflict of interest. Evans, that is, not Anderson. Having Anderson presiding over a court case would just be stupid. However, Evans got away with it because he was backed by Warren Crawford, who was president at the time. And Crawford backed Evans because Evans had thrown out a case involving Crawford’s now well–known vote tampering. And Crawford once employed Jack Burns, goon number three.
Then tragedy struck our three goons. Evans was jailed for manslaughter after drink driving with a trunk full of narcotics. Crawford was impeached for tax fraud and embezzlement – rigging the election would catch up with him later – and Hayes, in an act of bravado, legged it for the nearest tax shelter.
So Ralph Carter, Mike Anderson and Jack Burns found themselves out on the street with no transferable skills aside from their unpleasantness. And it was then that they caught the attention of the up and coming Alliance Airways, a company built entirely on a speculative industry.
Now you have to remember what traveling was like just after the oil–era ended. People could travel between continents on ships, sure. Sailing ships. Solar powered ships. Bio–fuel powered ships. And they got you where you wanted to go. And, of course, the tunnels were being dug out then too.
But what everyone really wanted was commercial air travel. Sure, they could get planes in the air easily enough but it was expensive or the things wouldn’t go far enough.
Emerging airlines banked everything on this. If they could get commercial air travel off the ground again, they’d have it made. They headhunted every expert on bio–fuel, wind powered propulsion, solar panels, you name it, and they stole each other’s ideas as well.
But for all these speculators, their financiers and their investors, there was only the dream. And that was whichever company first made commercial air travel a viable business again would have the world at their feet. Or several thousand feet under them. And there were people who would have done anything to be the first to succeed at this. I doubt Alliance Airways was alone in its dodgy practices.
However, interestingly enough, I later discovered that the CEO of Alliance Airways was a fellow called Lloyd Jenkins and his sister was Warren Crawford’s wife. And he was also a good friend of Thomas Hayes and John Evans. Small world.