Monday, 24 January 1994

James Watt: Running Man - Chapter One

    Damon Killian sat in his office in Hollywood. He was not a happy man. Six months ago he devised a new form of game show called "The Running Man". The format was simple. Convicted criminals would have to 'run' through this underground cavern while being hunted down by 'stalkers'. If they managed to escape from this cavern they would be given a pardon. If they were captured they would be killed in combat. The thing that was making Killian unhappy, however, was that The Running Man was in danger of being cancelled. The ratings for the first season were very poor, and with the start of the next television season only two months away Killian was desperate to find a way of saving his show.

    Killian sat at his desk, pondering his move, when the buzzer on his telephone sounded. It was his secretary.
    "The limousine is here to take you to the chairman's office."
    "Thank you Sylvia. I'll be right out."
    Killian rose from his chair, put on his coat, picked up his briefcase, and left his office. An hour later he was standing outside the plush mansion of the network chairman. It was a vital meeting for Killian. He had to try and persuade the chairman not to cancel his show. He had promised new ideas, but at the moment he had no new ideas.
    Killian walked up to the huge glass door and rang the doorbell. He was shown into the mansion by one of the servants. The servant showed Killian into the drawing room. The room was empty, and Killian sat himself down in one of the leather arm chairs. A few minutes later the network chairman came into the room. Killian rose from his chair. The chairman extended his hand. Killian grasped it.
    "It's good to see you again Damon."
    "The same for me, sir."
    "Would you like a drink?"
    "Scotch, on the rocks please."
    The chairman walked over to his cocktail cabinet and poured out two scotches, adding ice to one of the glasses. He handed the glass to Killian. They then sat down in the arm chairs.
    "We've got a problem, Damon. So far The Running Man has been like a dodo. The ratings are poor, Damon. The board want to cancel your franchise."
    "I need more time. It's just teething problems. All shows have teething problems in their first season. Just give me a few more weeks and I'll come up with something."
    "That's not good enough, Damon. The new season is only a couple of months away. You promised new ideas weeks ago. I need something now to take to the board. I need something that will drum up some advertising. I need something now."
    It was then, during the conversation, that the idea hit Killian like a ton of bricks.
    "I've got it. This idea might just work."
    "What idea Damon?"
    "How about using some of those super-hero types as stalkers? You know, someone like Captain America, Mighty Man, or that guy over in England, you know, the leader of that group there?"
    "You mean James Watt?"
    "That's him. If we had some of those guys as our stalkers our ratings would absolutely sky rocket!"
    "I don't know Damon. Those guys aren't into that sort of thing."
    "Offer them big bucks and they'll be into any sort of thing!"
    The chairman leaned back into his chair and began rubbing his chin.
    "All I need is your clearance, sir. Give me the go ahead and I'll make the first approaches."
    There was a pause for a moment or two.
    "Okay, you have my blessing. But don't set the price too high. There's our shareholders to consider."
    The meeting continued for another hour. Then Killian was taken back to his office. It was on the journey back that Killian began to make his plans.

    Ten days later Killian was again sitting in his office, and he was again an unhappy man. During the past ten days he had approached many of the super-heroes in the States. Each time he got the same result, they basically told him where to go. Killian sat in his chair pondering his next move. He then remembered his conversation with the network chairman, and he remembered talking about James Watt, the Anglo-Force leader. He then leaned forward in his chair and pressed a button on his telephone.
    "Sylvia, can you get in touch with our guys in Washington? See if you can get me anything on this Captain James Watt character."
    It was the next day when a file landed on Killian's desk. It was the file from his contacts in Washington. He opened it up, and the first thing he saw was a photo of James Watt. Putting the photo to one side he began reading the file. It documented his service as a pilot in the R.A.F, both in the Gulf War and the Eugenics War, and his honourable discharge after the Eugenics War. It also documented his career as a freelance airline pilot. It also had a brief dossier on his tenure as a member of Anglo-Force. Killian had now seen enough. He reached over to his telephone and pressed a button.
    "Sylvia, get me on the next flight to London, and try to get me an appointment with the British Home Secretary, whoever he is."

    Early the next morning Killian sat in the first class compartment of a flight to London. There was a stopover in New York before the flight across the Atlantic Ocean. On arrival in London he booked into one of the most expensive hotels. When he got to his hotel room he again studied the file on James Watt. He wanted to know all there was to know about him.

    The next day Killian arrived in Westminster, hoping to see the Home Secretary, Simon Kennedy. Killian walked into the House of Commons. There was a debate in process, so Killian took a seat in the viewing gallery. He had a long wait. The debate finished some four hours after he arrived. Afterwards, as Kennedy was leaving the chamber, Killian approached him.
    "You're Simon Kennedy, aren't you?" he said. "Great speech in there. Like the way you put yourself across."
    "And who might you be?" asked Kennedy.
    "Killian, Damon Killian. I work for the I.C.S. network in the States."
    "I.C.S.? Isn't that a new network?"
    "Sure is. We've been going about five years now. But the network's history isn't what I wanted to see you about. I wonder if we could talk in private."
    A few minutes later Kennedy and Killian were in his office. Kennedy poured Killian a drink. They then sat down in two arm chairs.
    "So tell me, Mr. Killian, how may I help you?"
    "I want you to put me in touch with Captain James Watt, the leader of Anglo-Force."
    "Why would you want to contact him? Are you going to make a film about his life?"
    "No such luck there, I'm afraid. No, I want to make him an offer, an offer he can't possibly refuse!"
    Kennedy suddenly snapped his fingers.
    "I know where I've heard your name before." he said. "You're that man who hosts that game show in America, the one where people hunt down convicted criminals! Now what's it called?"
    "The Running Man. Yep, that's me!"
    "And if I remember correctly your 'stalkers' kill your 'runners' if I'm not mistaken."
    "Yeah, that's the rules of the game!"
    "So what exactly is this offer you wish to make to Captain Watt?"
    "I want to offer him a part on the show as a stalker."
    "Surely you can't be serious? You want to pay Watt to kill people?"
    "Listen, these guys are convicted criminals. They go on the show so they can try and get a pardon, or a suspended sentence. It's all part of the game!"
    "Well I'm sure Captain Watt will want no part of your sick game. I know the world is changing and that some attitudes are changing with it, but what sick perverted mind came up with this idea?"
    Killian looked most confused.
    "It was my idea!" he shouted. "Now, are you going to put me in touch with Watt or not? I wanted to go through the official channels so I didn't upset anyone!"
    "No, Mr. Killian, I am not. I am sure that Captain Watt would turn you offer down. You see, Anglo-Force are meant to preserve life, not matter what foul crimes have been committed by some people. I'm sure that taking life would be against his every principle!"
    "Maybe he should have thought about that before he joined the air force! Look, if you don't fix me up with an appointment to see him then I'll just drive on over to his place and ask him myself, put the offer to him in person!"
    "Then I suggest you do that, Mr. Killian. Now good day to you."
    Killian stormed out of Kennedy's office. As soon as he was gone Kennedy picked up his telephone.
    "Get me Captain Watt at the Anglo-Force mansion."

    Two hours later Killian, in his hired car, arrived outside the Anglo-Force mansion. Quickly parking he soon made his way to the door. Te then rang the doorbell. After a few seconds the door opened. It was answered by a woman, about fifty-odd years old, with greying hair.
    "So what are you ringing the doorbell for?" she said.
    "This is the Anglo-Force mansion, isn't it?" said Killian. "I'm here to see Captain Watt."
    "Captain Watt isn't taking visitors at the moment. Who may I say called?"
    "You don't understand. My name is Damon Killian. I'm very big in television!"
    "I don't care if you're very big in galoshes, Captain Watt still won't see you."
    Killian had had enough. He pushed past the woman and marched into the mansion. He was soon standing in a long corridor. Doors lined the corridor. At the end of the corridor was a huge metal door. Killian walked over to the door. To one side of the door was a small computer panel. The panel had a small screen just above it. On the screen were the words 'Program One in progress.' Killian had no idea what this meant, and he started pressing the buttons on the panel. Then, by complete luck, he managed to get the right code and the huge metal door opened. Then suddenly a small rocket flew out of the room. Killian was lucky not to get his head blown off. The rocket hit the wall down the corridor and exploded. Smoke filled the corridor as a small fire started, drenching Killian. A few seconds later two men emerged from the room. Down at the other end of the corridor the woman who had answered the door came storming down.
    The two men who had appeared from the room were Watt and White Knight.
    "What bloody prat opened the door to the Danger Room when a program was running?" shouted Watt.
    "It was him!" said the woman, pointing at Killian. "I'm sorry, Captain, but he pushed past me. There was nothing I could do."
    "It's alright, Yetta." said Watt. "You'd better give the builders a ring. And see if Ultare is around and get him to try and dry this carpet."
    Watt walked over to Killian and looked down at the soaked American.
    "And who might you be?" asked Watt.
    "My name is Damon Killian."
    "Ah, yes. I had a phone call about you from the Home Office. Come on, get up. You'd better come and dry off."
    Watt and White Knight helped Killian to his feet.
    "It's okay, Arthur." said Watt. "I'll deal with this one."
    Watt led Killian down the corridor. On the way they passed Ultare Amarus, the Fire-Master.
    "The mess is back down there." said Watt. "And when you're done there you'd better come to my office and dry this man's clothes off."
    Watt led Killian into his office. The walls were lined with pictures from Watt's days in the R.A.F. On one wall was a small glass cabinet. In this cabinet were Watt's medals. Watt walked over to his cocktail cabinet and poured out a large brandy. He then walked over to another cupboard and took out a towel. He handed both to Killian.
    "I had a phone call about you from Simon Kennedy a couple of hours ago." said Watt. "He told me about some offer you want to make to me."
    "Yeah." said Killian, drying himself with the towel. "I want you to work on my show."
    "He told me about that as well." said Watt. "And I can give you an answer straight away. No."
    "Wait!" You haven't heard about the details, or the salary. I'm willing to pay you a million bucks a year!"
    "Mr. Killian, I have heard much about your little show. Just because it isn't broadcast in this country doesn't mean I haven't heard about it. It find it to be very distasteful. I find it very barbaric. It's no more than an excuse to put mindless violence on prime time television. I wouldn't appear on your programme for all the tea in China, not as a stalker, a runner, or even the tea boy. I don’t care if you're offering me a million dollars. The answer is still no!"
    Killian got to his feet and threw the towel into the chair.
    "My show is entertainment, pure and simple. I give the people what they want, and what they want is what I have given them."
    "Really? Is that why you've got such low ratings?"
    "I have never been so insulted in all my life. I was willing to offer you the Earth if only you'd become a stalker.”
    Then Amarus entered the room.
    "I've finished drying the corridor off." he said.
    Amarus approached Killian. His hands started to flow. Killian started to back off very quickly.
    "Keep him away from me!"
    "We have nothing more to discuss, Mr. Killian." said Watt. "I suggest you return to Hollywood or whatever hole you crawled out of. And a little bit of advice, Mr. Killian. Please don't approach any of the other members of Anglo-Force because you'd probably get the same answer from them. Ultare, please show Mr. Killian where the door is."
    Amarus ushered Killian out of the office.
    "And Mr. Killian." called Watt. "Have a nice day!"
    Amarus showed Killian out of the building. He was soon back in his hired car and heading back to London. He now had only one thought on his mind.
    "I'll get even with you Captain if it's the last thing I do!"