“Welcome to Ontario,” Premier Joiner beamed as he met Lucas at the bottom of the plane stairs. The Ontario Premier extended his hand to Lucas then sheepishly retracted his arm, his gesture rebuffed. With a tinge of embarrassment leaking out from under his collar, Hugh Joiner quickly composed himself, and a smile returned to brighten his face once again.
Lucas hesitated at the bottom of the plane ramp. From beneath his robes hood, his shaded eyes gazed past the Premier surveying the tarmac. Lucas waited until Alice climbed down the stairs than with determined strides walked across the hot asphalt toward the Premier’s limo. Lucas climbed into the back of the air-conditioned car followed closely by Alice. Joiner’s chauffeur remained standing at the open door until his boss joined the couple inside.
The smile once again left Joiner’s face when he glanced back at his visitor. “The Prime Minister sends his apologies. A matter of urgency surfaced delaying him at his office. He asked me to bring you straight to the Parliament building for your meeting,” the Ontario Premier explained.
“You look troubled my friend?” Lucas broke his silence, his eyes searching the Premier's face.
Hugh Joiner turned and looked out the limo window, his hands clasped tightly. Swallowing, he cleared his throat, when he spoke his voice was barely a whisper. His head remained facing the window. “It’s nothing,” he said.
“What’s nothing?” Lucas demanded.
“Well, we’ve had more riots break out recently. Some people in this province are becoming very militant. Instead of just empty threats and protests they’ve escalated to acts of vandalism. Most of it aimed at the growing forests of wind turbines we’ve been installing.”
“These people, they are against the opportunity to work and make a living?” Lucas asked. How could people anywhere be against progress, he wondered. “With the ever growing addition of the turbines, I would think that everyone should be delighted to participate in the saving of our planet.” His eyes narrowed, locked straight on the Premier’s face.
Joiner swallowed again then risked a sideward glance at the Climate Prophet. “Some people are questioning the installation of these metal wonders.” Then to lighten the situation, Hugh Joiner forced a weak smile to his blood drained face. “They don’t understand the benefits of the clean environment we are striving to give them.”
“You had better shut these few dissidents down before they cause real problems.” Lucas snapped. “Explain to them the opportunity I am providing. With the construction and installation of these turbines, they rally against, comes an untold amount of jobs. I am trying to help them, Mr. Premier. DON’T let them forget that fact.”
The Ontario Premier sunk deeper into limos plush upholstery. The last man he wanted to annoy was the man sitting on the seat opposite to his. Hugh Joiner owed several debts to Lucas. His third rate political party was a mere speck on the electoral landscape before Lucas and his foundation sought him out and offered money and helped to seal an unexpected election win.
Joiner’s thoughts drifted back two years. His upstart Eco-party was last in the polls with barely a chance of winning even one seat. Then out of nowhere he was approached and offered a deal. Swear allegiance to Lucas’ People Of The Earth Foundation and an unlimited amount of funds and P.R. services would be employed to swing the Ontario election in his favor.
At the time Joiner agreed to the deal he was less worried about the consequences of the undertaking then he was about becoming Premier of Canada’s largest province. A deal he soon came to regret, but his options were now limited. Do as was asked of him or suffer far greater than just a stain on his reputation. Besides, he rationalized; his vision and the vision of the P.O.T.E. ran a parallel course. The main difference was the timeline.
Hugh Joiner was more than happy to bring changes slowly to the energy landscape of his province over his first term in office, even decades if that was what it took. Lucas and his foundation, though, had more driving ideas and wanted all sources of fossil fuel eliminated in a few short years replaced by clean wind and solar energy. The rush to reduce the dependence on fossil fuel had put his province on the road to desperate times. Companies began an exodus from the region; jobs quickly disappeared, and the rate of poverty escalated.
Now at the mercy of Lucas and his People Of The Earth Foundation for money, Joiner once again agreed to do Lucas’ bidding. Then, against protests by the majority of the population, his provincial government began importing and installing towering metal turbines. Both for job creation and secondly to make up for the shortfall of energy required to run the province's day-to-day operations.
The limo pulled out of the nearly deserted airport parking lot onto once-busy streets leading to the Parkway and on onward toward the south banks of the Ottawa River. Perched on the shores of that river sat Parliament Hill where the Canadian government conducted business.
The silence in the limo hung awkwardly in the air. The limo drove slowly through streets strewn with abandoned vehicles. Some with the hoods open, numerous others solely discarded. Alice watched the outlandish site through the tinted car windows. After several miles, she addressed the Premier.
“What happened to all the owners of these vehicles?” she asked. “I don’t understand why they would walk away from them.”
Hugh Joiner thought long about his answer. The trip through clogged streets from the airport to the Parliament building was part of a plan he had devised to shock his guests before he issued a list of demands he felt his loyalty deserved. Before Lucas arrived, he had instructed his chauffeur to take this particular route in hopes that Lucas would notice the hardships he was putting upon this province.
"We are in the midst of a severe gas shortage,” Joiner spoke to Alice. “Very few of the oil companies in this area can resupply their stations. Those that can have fallen victim to thieves and vandals and now have security guards watching the premises 24/7.”
“How are people getting around, don’t they have jobs to attend?” the scope of the crisis striking Alice as she watched out the window in disbelief. The limo rolled slowly through the next intersection. The streetlights blank, the cars driver maneuvering the long black sedan around a slow procession of crawling cross traffic.
Alice let her eyes follow the line of inching vehicles. At the end of the block, a gas station sat surrounded by all types of vehicles. Cars sat in line at the pumps. Doors flung open, drivers arguing and horns honking. Close to the pumps a fight had erupted. Men and women could be seen screaming and shoving, the shoving leading to fist fights.
“My God!” she exclaimed. “What’s going on? What’s a matter with these people.” With a gasp, she pulled her face from the car window and with an expression of fear she let her gaze fall upon the Premier. Joiner shrugged throwing his hands in the air in a silent surrender.
From under the shadow of his robe's hood, Lucas sat quietly studying the Premier. Several times he had flown into the Ottawa airport and never could he remember the driver taking this route to the Canadian Parliament. Obviously, this particular road was chosen for a purpose. The Ontario Premier wanted to make a point, and Lucas felt that the man had crossed a line and made a horrible error in subjecting Alice to the scenes outside the car. Lucas pressed a button set in the armrest. The button activated an intercom allowing him to communicate with the car's driver.
“Turn at the next set of lights!” Lucas commanded and then issued explicit instructions for the driver to follow ending the Premiers tour of the hard-luck neighborhood. Without another word, he remained stoic until satisfied that the limo driver was obeying his order. Lucas turned his hooded face in the Premier's direction.
“That was quite the...unexpected tour, Hugh,” Lucas remarked. “Next time you feel you need to pull this kind of shit to make a point with to me remember who you’re dealing with.” Some tense minutes had passed before Lucas spoke again. “What happened to all the money my foundation advanced you to assist the men and women of this province in the change from dirty oil to our clean energy program?”
Hugh Joiner wilted under Lucas’ stare. The premier’s face changed to a scarlet red. Try as he might no answer was forthcoming. What had seemed to him like a smart idea a short while ago now left the Ontario Premier with thoughts of how he underestimated the man seated across from him? Joiner involuntarily shrugged, this time with the admission of error before casting his eyes to the floor of the car.
“Where are the charging stations for the new electric cars? Hell, I have yet to notice any automobile even remotely looks like it’s gas free.” Lucas paused. The outrage he was feeling toward the politician barely contained. “We will certainly chat further about these things, and you had better have some well-thought answers!” Lucas roared.
Outside the car, the evening had arrived early hastened by the leaden sky. Streetlights sporadically lit the interstate the limo was now traveling on. The light poles standing alongside the highway flickering on and off, dark periods when the lights were off growing longer, the car speeding down the road through an ethereal tunnel of concrete and metal.
Alice gently placed her hand on Lucas’ arm to calm him down. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she searched his face, “I don’t understand?” she appealed to him. “Is this your great plan for the future of this planet. Return everyone to the dark ages.
In the pale light of the limo's backseat Lucas peered deep into Alice’s eyes, a brief smile of reassurance on his shadowed face. Very gently he patted her ever-expanding belly. “Don’t worry yourself. You don’t need the stress,” he lowered his gaze to her stomach, “it won’t do you or our son any good.”
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.