When Simon had got up that morning he decided enough was enough. He’d had it up to here with Kate and her consultant cronies. They had no right to waltz into his nice safe life at HIA and decide to close it down. Triple dip recession or nothing, it wasn’t going to happen on his watch.
His boss, Clarissa, had noticed something different as soon as he’d walked in to the laboratory. The large holdall was unusual enough but nothing compared to the look of steely determination on his face.
“Simon,” Clarissa looked at him, quizzically. “What’s up with you?”
It was unusual for her normally shy assistant to look like anything in the morning, at least not until he’d had something foul from the coffee machine.
“Clarissa, I’ve had enough! We’ve been walked all over by these shoddy management consultant types. Someone has got to stand up to them!”
He waved the holdall at her and stomped off towards the staircase.
Is he planning to join a gym and go all ‘Schwarzenegger’ on us? She thought, before returning to the Guardian crossword.
Struggling with a particularly tricky three-down, it was several minutes before the commotion coming from outside the front of Oswythall Hall registered with Clarissa, but since the answer eluded her, she wandered outside with the rest of the staff to find out what was going on.
Looking up at the roof she was horrified to see a man dressed as a giant cabbage standing on the roof, brandishing a protest banner. It took a while to work out it was Simon in the vegetable costume.
Well that explains the holdall at least, I’d have been a pensioner before he beefed up enough to go ‘Terminator’, thought Clarissa as she smiled to herself.
Perched on the roof of the historic hall, Simon was pleased to see such a big response to his protest. He unfurled a banner to make sure everyone got the message. “Save our science. Keep HIA alive”.
He hoped they could read it as he’d had a limited choice of colours to paint with so the words were murky brown rather than the blue and red he had been after.
Down below the crowd turned to each other, “Do you know what it says?” One said to another.
“Nope, something about science, but it looks like he’s starting a dirty protest to me.”
“Best get out the way,” said one of the older members of staff, “in case he starts throwing it too.”
The pièce de résistance of the protest, Simon considered, was a costume borrowed from the local amateur dramatics society. Many years ago they had presented a series of plays to local schools promoting a healthy eating message and for part of this the cast dressed as fruit and vegetables. The giant cabbage costume had seemed the best way to drive his point home as well as keeping the rain off its wearer.
From his vantage point, Simon could see a small crowd gathering, or at least he thought he could, the vision from inside the costume wasn’t very good and he wondered if the, slightly smaller, radish costume would have been a better choice. It would certainly have been easier to get through the skylight.
Never mind, the press would be here soon and the man from the government. This was the big time for his protesting career. He’d probably be on national telly, there would be questions in parliament, the government would see the folly of their decision and HIA would be saved. Simon would be hailed as a hero. There would be a big pay rise and the pretty girl in the accounts office would talk to him.
Desmond Barrington MP looked out of the car window. For the twentieth time since they had left London he enquired of his driver how much further it was to go. Whoever planned the roads obviously didn’t have the benefit of a ruler and the constant weaving wasn’t helping his digestion. The driver repeated that they were nearly there and went back to concentrating on peering through the rain and avoiding ditches. The only good thing about this trip, he ruminated, was the overtime involved in getting his passenger to and from the depths of Cambridgeshire in a single day.
Dave Thomas sat beside his boss. He really wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip to HIA. Yesterday’s meeting with the scientists based there had left him feeling unsure if they realised that Doctor Who was just fiction and Call of Duty was only a game. Reality seemed to be a loose concept in the outer reaches of a town called March.
There was also this Management Consultancy that Desmond had got in to close the place down, their MD had the same name as someone he went to University with. He was dying to meet to her, just to see if it was the same person.
As the car approached the institute they saw, through the rain, a collection of blue flashing lights.
“What on earth is going on here?” asked Barrington. No one had an answer. The driver pulled up behind a fire engine.
“What are you stopping for? Get me to the door. It’s throwing it down out there and I don’t suppose Dave thought to bring an umbrella, did you Dave?”
Dave hadn’t, so the car advanced past the crowd. His boss wanted the front door so that was where he was going.
Just as Dave stepped out to open the car door a large ‘Oh’ came from the crowd.
“Look out!” someone shouted.
Crunch went the roof of the Minister’s car as a research assistant encased in a giant vegetable costume hit it.
“What the hell was that?!” shrieked the Minister, ducking back into the car, “Dave, are they shooting at me? Sort it out, NOW!”
“Owwww,” said the man in the costume.
From her vantage point, Kate could see the occupants of the car emerge rubbing their heads and staring in disbelief. They saw a cabbage shaped Simon shouting about how the Government was trying to kill him and pointing upwards. Slowly their gaze followed his finger and they looked up to see where he had come from. A creeping realisation hit Kate, it definitely was Dave Thomas. Even after all these years she still recognised him.
Dave peered through the rain to see a dark haired woman looking over the parapet. Hang on, he thought, that does look a bit like the Kate I remember. He squinted, trying to get a better view but she had vanished.
In the melee, no one noticed a figure break off from the group surrounding the injured Simon and walk towards the Minister’s car. Tapping the window of the Mercedes, he watched the glass slid down.
“Everything acceptable, Desmond?”
“What do you mean, my car is wrecked!” The MP shouted at the hooded figure.
“Yes, but you got the desired result, didn’t you?”
Peering out the window Desmond tried to get a better look at the mysterious figure but couldn’t see a face. Turning, the figure walked off in the crowd, a sly grin playing on its lips.