Tuesday 5 January 2016

Episode 40: A New Hope?

You know me. You followed me around the country. You loved me on the TV when I had you in stitches with jokes about my penis. You followed me in the tabloids, you supported my charitable works. Then you didn't. I don't know why. You just stopped. Now, I have people who love me again. So much that they made me their mayor. This is my new story, From Under Dark Clouds.

She didn’t like it, not at all but I was unfamiliar with her approach. She didn’t shout and she limited her expletives to moderate and non-personal.
“I can’t have a camera in my face twenty-four-seven. I can’t do that again, not now, not with the boys.”
She was right, of course. This was about me and the campaign not her and the kids.
Jude and Roni were downstairs, I couldn’t be sure that she wasn’t recording this conversation. Maybe that explained my wife’s temperance. I went down to lay some ground rules to find Roni with her camera following the kids playing with their Lego.
“Stop!” My demand had immediate affect on the kids but not a twitch from the camerawoman. “Put the camera down, NOW!”
She did but looked up at me with bemused eyes.
It took more than an hour to come to an amicable agreement. She wanted access to me but negotiated like the girl with the golden ticket. Exposure was, is my business and she seemed to understand that like I couldn’t. She would get a couple of interviews with the wife, some shots of the boys, pixelated and with no interaction from her and I would have power of veto on interviews with anyone else. The last one was the hardest. She claimed the right to retain journalistic freedom. I gave her open access to me and the campaign. She agreed.
The narrative would be my fall from grace and subsequent rise.
“And whatever happens after that…” she added.
We wrote it all down and signed it with Jude and the wife as witnesses.
“Well, that’s that in order. What do we do today?” Jude enthused.
“Sit down!” the wife barked. “Same goes for you!”
We wrote out the same conditions, adapting some for copy journalism and signed. Roni relished her loopy signature planting a heavy full-stop at the end.
The local coverage of the attack waned a little until, maybe due to a dearth of real news, the channels all picked up on the foreign interest. The number of Youtube views of the English version of the campaign video was a prominant part of the story as well as one of Jude’s articles in The Cerberus. He beamed. The news was that our news was big news in their news. The attack, the campaign video and even the kid with the bouzouki went ballistic. Just as and when Mike had predicted. That reminded me. I needed to speak to him, he was getting weird… weirder.
My phone buzzed, not its usual ringtone, it just buzzed. I swiped and put it to my ear. Nothing. Looking at the screen, Mike’s avatar appeared. “Hey Boss! The Youtube videos are going viral worldwide but domestic stats are showing significant engagement with over eighty-four percent watching the whole clip. Ninety-six percent, excuse some rounding of figures, are watching more than seventy-five percent of the clips. I have planted a script on all GD and sympathiser sites that phishes all their data when they log in. I am in the process of analysing the emails and PMs as we speak. All online communication, forums, facebook, twitter etc that refer to you, or them, are automatically modified in our favour. Persistence invokes the phishing script.”
“Wow, good work, Mike.” I looked round. Jude and Roni we plainly eavesdropping.
“Oh! And Boss.”
“Yeah, Mike.”
“You have no need to worry about me. We are fine.” The image shrank to a dot and disappeared.
I turned to the journoes. “Wow what they can do, eh?” They stared at me. “You heard that, right?”
Jude looked at Roni. “Just heard like white noise.”
“Me too!” she replied.
I got Yiannis Galtides on the phone and told him to meet me at the town hall. He wriggled tried to schedule for the coming week. I needed to see him now, while I still had the ideas in my head but he was preparing for a tech startup conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. I told him that I was considering him for a consultant or even ministerial position but I need to find out if we were on the same page.
“One hour in the conference room.” I told him.
He agreed.
I grabbed the Vespa keys from their hook. “Get your stuff, you got some journalism to do!”
We stood round the scooter. I looked to Roni and Jude with their flight bags and back packs. “This is not going to work.” I stated the obvious.
Fortunately, they had rented a car but suggested following me on the Vespa. “Who’s that guy in South America somewhere with the VW?” Roni asked.
“Yeah, Uruguay, the president.” He squinted. “Jose Mujica. Drives an old original Beetle. You know he was offered a million for it?”
“Nah!” she regarded the Vespa and pulled out her camera. “Awesome narrative motif!”
It started on the forth kick, with a little choke.
Whether Yiannis and I were on the same page remained to be seen, but we were definitely not in the same time zone. He arrived nearly two hours later with a little girl in tow.
“I needed to see you alone.” I motioned to the child.
“She’ll be OK, she has her crayons.” He looked to her and she nodded. He turned to the journalists.
“They’re with me,” I assured.
Roni pulled out a piece of paper and told him to sign.
I picked up the phone. “Mike, I need a computer game for kids.”
Roni was filming Yiannis signing the paper.
“English,” I looked to the girl, Yiannis looked up and nodded.
“About eight, nine?”
“I’m eight,” the girl confirmed.
“Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Workstation three, secretary’s office.” Mike instructed.
I turned my back “Oh! And Mike. Keep an eye on her, please.”
“Face registered, surveillance activated. She’s safe, Boss.”
Yiannis took the girl to the door, raised his arm and directed her down the hall.
“What are your ideas for turning this economy round when we get into power?” I asked Yiannis.
“When!” I repeated.
“Well, we need to rebuild the entrepreneurial infrastructure. Build a new generation-wide mindset through tech startups and cross-border commerce.” He leaned back in his chair, rubbed his hands together and smiled broadly.
I looked up at Roni who was flitting around the room with her lens trained on us. “Did you get that, sweetheart?” She smiled and gave a thumb-up. “Now, Yiannis. What do you think we can DO to turn this economy around?”
“We need to expand the Startup Shed ideology to encourage young neophyte ventures to grow into viable value propositions for the world market and encourage international investment.” He dug into his backpack and pulled out his laptop. “Look! I got a powerpoint which outlines the strategy we proposed to Socrates.” He connected a cable to the machine and searched behind the wall-mounted screen for somewhere to plug it in.
“Mike, how’s the little girl getting on?”
“Level three, two upgrades and a bonus. She drank juice.”
“Shut it down at the end of the next level and save all her progress, please.”
Who doesn’t love a good powerpoint? But I was sure he had a lot of preparation for Sofia tomorrow.
At the door, I asked him how many of our accelerator teams had received seed funding.
We had some interest from some major VCs.
“Interest enough to put capital on the table?”
He nodded heartily, “Not yet.”
I wished him a safe trip.
“And Yiannis. Look after that little girl.” She took his hand and lead him out.
I closed the door behind me and wandered down the hall into the secretary’s office. Her head sprung up. She asked me who the little girl was. The screen where she had been sitting was still flashing an animation of Kim Kardashian saying “You are a STAR!” I answered without thought, “A business partner.”
I asked her to arrange some coffee and sandwiches. And, some tea for the Brits. With milk!
Back in the conference room, Jude was tapping away and Roni was reviewing her footage.
“See, investment in the youth is the answer. A new generation of entrepreneurs to bring this country into the twenty-first century.” They each looked up and smiled agreement. “Can’t argue with powerpoint!” I added. They both swung their heads over their laptops.
When the refreshments arrived, Roni peeled back the bread and recoiled. “Anything without meat?”
I picked up the phone and called the secretary. She apologised and promised immediate rectification. I passed this on and she smiled, stirring a third teaspoon of sugar into a liquid milked to a pale ecru. “I need you to get someone on the line and patch them through to my mobile.
“Of course, Sir. Who?”
“Panayiotis Karaletsos.”


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