Author : Grady Hendrix

Gaunt women in ankle-length gomesi bent over the stagnant pool and filled plastic buckets.

“There’s not much of anything in Rorongi. No electricity. No running water,” Walter Bennett said earnestly. “No hope.”

Emaciated children, feet swollen from protein deprivation, clung to their mothers’ skirts as they walked back to the village, buckets full of heavy, black water on their heads. Walter Bennett looked directly into the camera.

“With no other source of fresh water, they come here every day. An entire village dependent on this tiny pond for life.” He began to stroll along the bank.

“Water for washing, cooking and drinking all drawn from the same source. Disease is prevalent. Malaria is a – oh for Christ’s sake!”

He bumped into another spokesman, also with his suit jacket slung over his shoulder, also with his shirtsleeves rolled up, also speaking compassionately about the plight of Rorongi village.

“Look, mate,” the other man said. “We were here first.”

“I don’t care. I’m Walter Bennett.”

“I don’t care if you’re Bill Clinton, we booked the pond.”

Three of the emaciated women came over.

“What going on?” one said. “You need be finish by three o’clock cause Intergalactic Geographic come do b-roll for ‘Feed The Earth’ Telethon.”

“Screw this,” Walter said, ripping off his radio mic. “I’m a professional. I don’t have time for this rubbish.”

The director hurried over.

“We’ll sort this, man. Gimme ten, okay? You wanna go to your trailer? Have lunch?”

“Talk to my agent,” Walter said, storming off to his helicopter.

“Remind me never to work with these wankers again, Henry,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” said his pilot, taking off and heading South.

Below them the famine-wracked poverty zone gave way to the enormous, green suburbs of Capetown. Swimming pools, heliports, private casinos, backyard polo fields – the result of an endless stream of intergalactic poverty relief money. Most of the planet looked like this, except for the poverty reserves.

Walter videoconferenced the network president. An expensive call, but Walter was an expensive man.

“What’s the rumpus?” J.R. Moses asked. “Egos? Experience? Money? Is it a money thing?”

“I’m tired of doing this,” Walter said.

“And so you snapped. Happens to the best of us. Take a half day then go back tomorrow ready to care.”

“I don’t want to go back tomorrow,” Walter exploded. “I want to, I want to go out there and tell all those bloody aliens what’s going on. I want to bring one of them down here and show them what we’ve done with their money. I want to bust this whole thing wide open.”

He had J.R. for a moment, then:

“Jeezis, don’t scare me like that you crazy so-and-so. For a second there – “

“I’m an actor, J.R.”

“And a damn good one. Put your afternoon on our dime, whatever you want. Then go back tomorrow and work! The lifestyle to which we’ve grown accustomed depends on you.”

Walter turned to Henry.

“Set a course for the MGM Grand, Soweto.”

“Yes, sir,” said Henry. And they flew on into the glittering African sky.

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