Downstairs in front of the press, Stan waffled on. “…and that’s why masks should be worn by children from birth. I know some people have said that seems cruel, but the idea of ‘cruel’ has never really bothered me. Not when Covid is wreaking havoc. Not when we have the chance to train children in compliance from a young age. Think about it—what good is ‘freedom’ if you’re dead from Covid? Sadly, this is something these far-right conspiracy theorists are overlooking.”
From the upstairs window, the man in black set his rifle’s crosshairs on the back of Stan’s neck. Les watched Stan on the television.
“Seven vaccinations! Just seven little jabs. I don’t think it’s too much to ask when public safety is at stake. But still, some selfish, transphobic people persist in disobeying government mandates. It’s simple stuff—if you want to continue working to provide for your family, then get vaccinated. If you want to gather with people in social settings, then wear the masks. If you want to be treated as a human being, then do what I tell you to do. To the unvaccinated I can only say, if you find yourself pinned on the ground beneath six police officers, your arm twisted up behind your back while being kneed in the head, your eyes burning from a triple dousing of pepper spray—there is really no one to blame but yourself. It’s time to wake up. Consider this—yesterday my state recorded seven million new cases of Covid, and the—”
“Hang on a second,” interrupted a reporter. “Seven million new Covid cases? There are only five million people in your state.”
“The science doesn’t lie,” said Stan.
“What science? There’s no way every single person in your state contracted Covid, and even if they did, that would still be two million cases short.”
The man in black moved his finger onto the trigger.
Stan clicked his tongue and looked up in thought. He smiled and looked at the reporter. “Double Covid,” he said.
“Wait,” said Les. He leaned forward and watched the television closely.
The man in black removed his finger from the trigger.
“Double Covid?” asked the reporter.
“Hmm… Yes, Double Covid,” said Stan. “A new strain of the virus—Double Covid—has infected millions of people, infecting them twice, you see, because it’s double. It’s a dangerous new variant, highly contagious. Spreads from the unvaccinated. Double Covid is doubly dangerous, and doubly lethal. And… you need double the vaccinations.”
Inside the Lodge, Les smirked to himself. “Stanley, you canny bastard.” He turned to the man by the window. “You can put the gun away.”
The man nodded and obeyed.
The press conference proceeded smoothly, until one journalist brought up the Air Force issue.
“This question is for both Mr Shemp and Mr Berserkervich,” she said. “Two point four billion dollars of taxpayer money was assigned to the development and construction of a new fleet of stealth helicopters for the Australian Air Force. The contract was given to—” she checked her notes “—Gavin’s Stealth Helicopter Solutions.”
“A fine company,” said Stan.
“The company was founded last year,” said the journalist, “just two days before the government announcement about the helicopters. The company also happens to be owned by your brother, Mr Berserkervich. And, Mr Shemp, you were gifted a thirty per cent stake in that company. None of the promised helicopters have been delivered, meanwhile, Mr Shemp, you appeared on the cover of last month’s Cash Maker magazine wearing a suit of hundred dollar notes, above the quote, ‘I quadrupled my property portfolio in less than six months.’ So my question to both of you is this—Do you really think the Australian public can’t see what you’re doing?”
There was a long silence before Stan answered. He answered by performing a strange, robotic mime, which most people interpreted to be him operating a sewing machine. The prime minister, for his part, laid down on the ground and pretended to fall asleep. In his time as the nation’s leader, he had never displayed such decisiveness.
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