The next day Max and Jaz wake early and after dressing get presented with breakfast. After finishing, both sort themselves and their luggage out, then, with the help of two stewards, report to the bridge.
"Ah. You're here," the day pilot says. "Now then. If you follow me, I'll take you to the car we'll be using."
Out of the bridge through the back door instead of down the stairs and to a smaller back room. Using a ramp, to get down, there was what looked like a garage and something Max recognised very well.
"Where did you get one of those from?" Max asks. "They're only prototypes."
"Well, it was a favour from the company your dad works at. Testing this car will get it more likely to be produced. And we might get a bonus from him if it does."
"Well then. Shall we get on?" Jaz asks.
"Sure," the day pilot says. He then sets about instructing the stewards to load the luggage into the car, then instructed Jaz to one side and Max to the other.
When Max gets inside, it is immediately apparent why they were told to do this. Where in a normal car there would be a third seat, in this one there was a cup holder and universal port docks. In front of him was a table, and looking left over to Jaz's side, he could see Jaz was amazed at having a table and maximum leg room. At the minute, there was also a glass door in front of Max, as well as a seat facing the front door. Well, where the front door should have been. Instead was a ramp that was lowered to allow the driver access to the middle pilot chamber. This chamber had all the usual controls of a normal car such as the steering wheel and gear change.
As the day pilot sat in the chair, the ramp rose up and locked itself in place. The glass door swung round and as it locked into place, two lights appeared on the middle part of the roof, and Max remembered something he had forgot about this car.
"How much did this thing cost to make?" Jaz asks as the pilot takes the car forward.
"He can't hear you," Max replies. "Those two lights on the roof indicate that no mic is active."
"Since the glass is double-glazed, no sound can get through. We use this switch here to turn the mic on, and the left light turns green. When his is active, the right side one will be on."
Jaz turns the mic on and asks the question again.
As the answer is revealed, the car drives down onto the port of Weston Super-mare and joins with the road.
The journey back to Jaz's is under way.
Part 2 [26/6/13]
Max was used to the layout of the UK's road system, since it kept most similarities to the Republic Antarctic one. He was also used to the differently styled cars and houses.
The day pilot, though, wasn't. And was asking questions left, right and center about all that was different. Max and Jaz explained as easily and as simply as they could about all that was different. By the time a break came in the questions, they had told him about the differently sized buildings, all the different car manufacturers and the importation and exportation of nearly everything in the world between countries, as well as the varying degrees of technology used.
"What? They don't have one centralised internet service?"
"No, we don't," Jaz says. "And it varies between counties and providers what bandwidth you get."
"Hah. That's ridiculous. The internet's free with us, and there's no interference. Maybe that's why we split from the UK. Too many corrupt officials."
"But there-" Jaz starts up again before Max quickly presses the button again. Then speaks very fast and quietly "Don't tell him about our little adventure. No-one's meant to know about it until that news becomes official on our news network."
"Hello? Is this thing still working?" the pilot asks through the comm.
"Oh! Dear, dear. I almost spilled the beans," Jaz gasps. "Sorry, dear chap." Then he presses the button again and speaks again to the pilot. "Sorry about that. Didn't realise the mic was still active. As I was saying, there are some in the UK who aren't corrupt either."
"Yes, but not as many as we have. That's why everything is so cheap. If we were ever introduced to the UK, I bet your government could learn a lot from ours."
"Yes, but it's going to take a lot to get the rest of the world to change," Max says. "It's not just the UK we'll have to change if we ever did reveal ourselves. Anyway, it would never happen. Our government is too strict on that particular aspect."
"I suppose you're right. Just count ourselves lucky we can even be here."
Conversation was silent after that, and so was the rest of the journey. When they pulled off the M5 to head along the road leading up to Wolverhampton, conversation started again. And it was the awkward type.
Part 3 [26/6/13]
"How did you know to pull off there?" Jaz asks.
"What was that?" the pilot asks.
"How did you know to pull off at that junction of the motorway?"
"I don't know. I'm just following these instructions from the navigational computer."
Jaz looks over at Max. "And how would my address be in that sat-nav if this is meant to be a prototype car?"
"Because..." Max starts to look a bit awkward. "Because... it looks for markers so it can set the easiest route to it."
"But there are no markers around here. This i- Max... Tell me you didn't."
"I placed a marker at your house before we left so that when we had to bring you back we didn't have to rely on your directions. It'll be gone when I go!" Max then adds defensively.
"Oh," Jaz laughs. "Don't worry about it. It is indeed easier. And forget about taking the marker back. You might want to visit again sometime."
"Well... as long as you're okay with it..."
"I am. But next time, at least let me know."
Conversation was again ground to a halt, but this time because they had arrived at Jaz's house. opening the boot and carrying their bags, the two walk in and are greeted by Jaz's parents. Welcome backs and hugs were given, and they even greeted Max as well.
Jaz's mom says that food would be taken up to them while they were unpacking. Jaz says thanks and him and Max head up the stairs and into Jaz's room.
"Hello room. Good to see you again," Jaz says as he places the bags on his bed. "Right then. If you've got to get into town... How do we go about it?"
"Isn't the college on?"
"Not for another two weeks."
Max's eyes suddenly goes wide. "Oh! I forgot! Well..."
Max loads up his computer, which seemed to be getting a lot quicker, and instantly accesses the internet. Almost immediately, the pilot rings on the Skype-like program. "Are you all set now?"
"Um, sure. Why?"
"Got to be heading back."
"Well, I'll see you sometime soon. Well, when I need a lift back."
"See you soon then." And the conversation ends.
Part 4 [4/7/13]
The night before had entailed in another Skype conversation with a lot of Jaz's friends, but again, Chris was on holiday.
Today, Max had checked his mail to see an official looking letter sent by the government of the Republic Antarctic, as well as Gamestation. Both said roughly the same thing. If contact with the shop could be made, then the operation to import to the UK could commence. The only thing both letters stated though was that the origins of them were to be kept a secret. And secretly, they would be taking games from the UK.
This seemed like a good idea, and so both took a bus into the town of Halesowen. Max was unsure whether the shop would be there still, but sure enough, it was still doing business. It also seemed to have got more popular. More people than ever were around the gaming stations, playing a range of games. A queue was filing away at the counter but more people kept joining the queue.
"What do we do?" Jaz asks. "There's no way we can go to the front and just ask for the manager."
"Thanks for the idea," Max comments, and walks forward.
It was then Jaz notices that Max has his laptop with him. Instead of calling him back and asking why, he just follows Max to where he was going.
Which, indeed, was the front of the queue. And he was just in time to hear the word 'manager'. Max had copied exactly what Jaz had said not to do. He could hear grumbling from some of the queue, but if you wanted to see the manager, what else could you do?
After a bit more talk, the man at the counter walks into a back room, and it is a while before he returns. Nothing is said when the man does come back out, and Max starts drumming his hand on the counter.
A minute passes. Then another. The queue thins a bit as people are served, and the booths start emptying as people head out for lunch.
"Should we just go?" Jaz asks. "I think they're going to continue to ignore us until we continue to go."
Max shrugs and turns around. A man in a business suit walks in, but one that Max recognises instantly, judging by his shocked face.
The man walks up to Max and speaks. "Aha. So you are this representative from the RA. I didn't expect anyone from there to be here."
Part 5 [25/7/13]
"Um, can we take this conversation somewhere else?" Max whispers, looking behind him at the queue. Some people were looking at them, curious.
"Well, we can go to my office if you like," the man says.
Max and Jaz follow the man out of Gamestation and out of the mall. Out in the open circular area, with steps curving around the plaza, they are lead up a side road and instantly the man stops outside a door.
"Bought this place once we'd got enough money," the man says as he pulls a key from his pocket. His attitude was quite lax, as though nothing could upset him. "I preferred this place as a secondary storage unit."
The man led them in and up the stairs, closing the door behind him. Up the stairs was an office filled with the standard computer of the Republic Antarctic, and other energy appliances, all equipped with the same solar panel energy gatherer that Max uses with his laptop. These were the only things from the RA though.
"How do you manage to get the games onto proper disks that work in the consoles?" Jaz asks.
"Well... the newer games we have to obtain by normal means. The older ones we just cloned the authorisation code within them and stuck them onto the required disk. After all, the Gamecube has smaller disks which we needed to acquire before getting them going."
"And the consoles which allow people to play for an hour?"
The man halts at this and looks at Max. "Maybe later..." he says slowly.
"Oh! Don't worry," Max informs. "I'm not here to close you down."
"So, finally seen my way of thought after all then?"
"More of a partnership," Max says. "A trading of games. They'll allow transfer of games to here in exchange for the games of this country."
"Hmm. I accept. I'll see the documentation later. Once we sign this deal. Name's Adam by the way."
"Nice to meet another from the RA," Jaz says. Max shakes Adam's hand. Then Jaz asks "We've heard some of the story from the Gamestation employees of the RA, but I'm curious as to your thinking behind leaving."
"Well... the story..."
Part 6 [26/7/13]
"I believe you have heard that I was a good worker while working at that store. Never ignorant and never one to go wrong. But I was also researching. I managed, though very hard, to find out about the world, and their games, and was impressed at what they had managed to produce. But then I looked back at our catalogue of games. It was much more fleshed out, and none of the gaming consoles had our increased capacity of features, including our superior digital stance.
"I knew that we had originated from the UK, and asked if we could visit for a gaming meeting with the UK - see if they liked what we had produced. But I was instantly turned down. The government in the Republic Antarctic is strict. They say there is to be no contact at all with the outside world. We are forced to stay on the island. They feel that the rest of the world is too corrupt, too unwilling to sort its own problems out when they are so obvious.
"I kept at it however. I argued that even games can be educational. You, Max, know of the loophole that allows trips for educational purposes. It's how you come to be out here. But even that is restricted. Again, I was turned down. When I kept at it, they took less notice of me. And not just the store managers, but even the other staff members. I eventually couldn't bare to stay.
"I took a look at a map, and hired a boat. Well, bought it really. I then set off alone for the UK. When here, I immediately felt alone, but caught up on the fact that a store chain had recently closed down. That chain was called Gamestation. My curiosity peaked. Why would they deny me access to this country when they had already set up shop? I found that it wasn't anything to do with the RA, and my plan was sealed. I hunted for the rights and bought them. I hired as many staff as possible, and opened just the one shop to see how things would play out.
"As I understand it, you were here on that opening day, weren't you Max? And you, Jaz."
"Can I just ask how you know our names?" Max asks. "We never introduced ourselves."
"I was curious about why so many would come from a particular place of a weekday. I tracked the college down and asked a few questions, though they were hesitant at first to answer. I then met with one of the teachers, and he told me of a student who wasn't from around here and wanted to invite one of his students to a new place. I asked, and he gave the answer. You had come for Jaz, and you were to head back to the RA for a scum filled hive that is Plutes."
"You know of Plutes?" Max asks.
"Of course I know. I've been there." A haunted look filled his eyes.
Part 7 [30/7/13]
"You've been there?" Max asks. "You're one of the few who broke the spell of the place?"
"Yes." Adam says.
"It's not important. It's one of the few place in the RA that are corrupt. Well, that Stanley is anyway. There are only a certain few who are actually corrupt. I've seen this place. And this government. There really is nothing more to say about it. But the number of things the RA's would have done when this one hasn't is quite a record. And the more corruption spreads... Well, it's the same with the video game business, isn't it? Developers spending too much then setting higher prices just to try and reclaim the money they spent.
"I can't see the point in it. That's why I decided to set the prices low and reasonable for everything. Not so low that the business is wiped out, but not so expensive that the majority of people look the other way."
"I have to agree," Jaz says, "that your way is better."
"Thanks. Now then, let's get these forms looked at and signed."
Max pulls out his laptop and loads it up and pulls up the necessary files for signing. Adam does this after thoroughly reading through each in turn.
"Can't be too careful. That strictness of theirs might have left a few loopholes."
Max grunts. "Well, aren't you trusting of our government? Corruption does start with trust."
"Um... I do trust them. But there could always be the chance that they might withdraw this whole operation."
"Doesn't matter. Now then, all we need is a contact so we can sort out transactions and the like."
Adam supplies one email and one name for the Skype-like program.
"Anything else?" Adam asks.
"I think that should be all. Now all that needs to be done is contact between the two of you. Although I'm sure that could wait. Right now I want to be playing some Star Wars Battlefront."
"I'll join you on that one," Jaz says. Then turning to Adam asks "The store does allow the units to connect to each other, doesn't it?"
"Well, if it's two player you want, just one unit will do."
And with that, after Max packs his laptop back into his bag, Adam leads the two back to the store, locking his management office up.