Read Seven Steps to the Sun Online

Authors: Fred Hoyle,Geoffrey Hoyle

Tags: #sf

Seven Steps to the Sun (25 page)

It was the following Friday when Mike got a phone call from Abe Leinstein's secretary. They wanted him to go over to the studios in North London and discuss budgets and his own contract.
He picked up the phone again and dialled Pete's number.
'Yes?' came Pete's voice.
'Morning,' he said cheerfully.
'What's the matter?'
'Aren't you meant to be going to the States today?'
'Christ, what time is it?' said Pete, suddenly alert. 'A little after ten thirty. Don't panic, you've got plenty of time.'
'What time do I have to be there.'
'Your plane leaves at four thirty. Now listen, I've got to go to the studios this afternoon and I shan't be able to see you off.'
'They actually want to talk turkey? That's great. Now you remember that you can't get down to any more writing until September.'
'Yes, sir.'
'Do you want me to arrange a car?'
'No, I'll take a cab and get a lift back with one of the lads. Now, I've got to be there at three. Is there anything you want me to do before I go?'
'No, just sit down for an hour, or two and work out what you're going to say to these people. Then get yourself dressed and go and bash them on the head. If everything goes well, phone me at the Plaza Hotel in New York tomorrow morning, New York time, O.K.?' Pete had caught Mike's enthusiasm.
'I'll do that. Have a wonderful time. Give my love to everyone.'
'Will do, see you soon.'
'Bye,' Mike said, putting the phone down.
The taxi pulled up outside the studio and Mike got a helping hand from the doorman.
'Yes, Mr Jerome?' asked the receptionist.
'Phil Newman, at three.'
'Mr Jerome's here, Mr Newman. Right away,' said the girl putting the internal phone down. 'He's waiting for you on the second floor.'
'Thanks,' he said making his way to the lift
'Mike, great to see you,' said Phil Newman.
'You don't look so bad yourself,' observed Mike.
'You'll have to excuse me, but I wasn't reckoning on your getting here until about three thirty,' said Phil, opening the door to his office.
'Phil, I think I'll turn over a new leaf and go back to being late for you.'
'Yes, that would help. We'll wait till the others get here, then we'll tear you apart,' said Phil with a grin.
'Who's coming to this meeting?'
'Bobby, John and Hugh.'
'You're thinking of having Hugh direct?'
'Those are the instructions I have. You've always wanted to write something for Hugh to direct?'
'Of course, I think he's one of the best up and coming directors we have in this country. Bobby's going to script edit?'
'Not necessarily. John's going to Executive Produce. Bobby, I thought, ought to sit in on all the meetings, just in case we need a script editor in future,' said Phil, a little cautiously.
'Come in.'
'Hi, Hugh,' said Mike.
'At last,' smiled Hugh, shaking Mike's hand. John and Bobby expressed their greetings and all sat down.
'Well, gentlemen, we are here to discuss the suggested pilot, and subsequent television series, entitled "Seven Steps to the Sun",' said Phil, looking down at some papers in front of him. 'Mike, let me first tell you what has happened since Abe read it.'
'He actually read it?'
'Yes,' laughed Phil, 'not only read it but gave it straight to me on Monday to work out costs with John. I think we can say that the old man has given us the go ahead, as long as we don't go mad and waste all the firm's money. Mike, on reading your presentation, there are several things that I would like to know. What is your participation going to be?'
'What I would like to do is to write the pilot, and then script edit the rest. I think you should get four good writers and set them to work. They can use any amount of imagination, as long as it fits into the overall series, otherwise, your special effects bill will be enormous.'
'Have you thought of any scientist to give the scientific information for the programme?' asked John.
'No, but I will approach some and see what they say.'
'Another thing that isn't quite clear is whether each series ends with the end of the hour or with a time change.'
'I think that you can have as many episodes within a particular time change as you like,' interrupted Mike.
'John,' said Phil, 'we can spread the costs of special effects over a wider area in that case.'
'Mike,' said Bobby, 'there is one point I'm not happy about, and that is your main character is a professional musician who, because of his growing paralysis of the arm, is whisked forward into the future by this mysterious professor and girl. Do you think a musician, especially a pianist, would be quite the right character for all the adventures he has?'
'Yes, this was one of my queries. A professional pianist would look after his hands, and never really get involved in some of the situations here that you've suggested,' said Phil.
'All right, how about a writer?' said Mike thoughtfully.
'A painter would be better. Paralysis would affect his work, and he's in a profession where he'd be useful to these people in the future time. Are you going to develop this?' asked Phil.
'Sorry, how do you mean?'
'Well, you say here that the professor and the girl have come back in time to look for musicians and people of other professions, because in their time in the future, these arts have been lost, or at least no one is practising them.'
'Yes, I think that the girl should drop in and Out of the series. To begin with, I think we should emphasize the artist's adventure, then slowly introduce the fact that he's been taken forward in time for a reason. Say, once he's reached the point where he has to make the decision whether to go into the future, or go back to his time.'
'Do you think this civilization will start it's own destruction by a simple demonstration?' asked John.
'Look what happened in France in May last year.'
'Surely it will be more like a nuclear war,' said Bobby.
'At the moment we haven't got to story number thirty-two, so although I feel that this whole collapse will happen in the simple way I've described, I can always change it,' said Mike.
'You're right,' said Phil. 'Anyway, I think I like the idea. So you're saying after he goes on into the future, the girl's with him more or less all the time?'
'Right. If we have the first year's programmes going up to the collapse of present-day civilization, then the second year is rather like the wild west in America. It should be very cheap to do. Since nothing is really left, we can make up what sets we like. The main theme running through these second-year programmes is the fight by the goodies to create a new society against the baddies who are quite happy living off others,' said Mike.
'So you think the expenditure wouldn't rise in the second year?' asked John.
'It shouldn't.'
'The biggest problem I have is, how little can we do the special effects for?'
'Look, go and talk to this fellow at O.R.T.F. in Paris. He's apparently got a new technique for making special effects. I can't get over there at the moment, so one of you, in fact, Hugh, why don't you go?' said Mike turning to him.
'Fine,' said Hugh quietly.
'So where do we start?'
'Well, we've got a pilot budget of around five thousand pounds,' said Phil. 'And?'
'How much are you going to ask for the idea?'
'Ten per cent of the budget for the idea, salary for script editor, and a percentage of the overseas profits,' said Mike, rolling it off.
'Abe thought you might be asking for the sky. You'll have to fight that out with him,' said Phil, with a grin.
'Fair enough. If I don't see him till Monday, will this slow anything up?'
'No, we can pack Hugh off to Paris, while Bobby gets down to finding some really good writers for you to work with,' said John.
'Do you want an office here?' asked Phil.
'Yes, I'll have an office and a good secretary.'
'Good, we'll grab them for you. Anything else?'
'Nope.'
'Right, we have a production and casting meeting next Wednesday.'
'How are you getting home?' asked Hugh, as Mike struggled to his feet.
'I'll get a cab. What's the time?'
'Nearly five,' said Bobby.
'If you stop on, one of us will run you home,' said Phil.
'You lot don't really leave till six. No, I'll ask your secretary to get me a taxi. I'm still a little ropy on my feet.'
'Fine, have a word with Alice on your way out.'
They all left Phil's office. Hugh waited for Mike while he arranged for a taxi. Then the two of them moved slowly to the lift.
'What do you think?'
'It's a very good series. I just hope that they aren't too stingy with the budget,' said Hugh.
'We should be able to do the pilot for five thousand, though?'
'Oh yes, if this fellow in Paris can do a good job reasonably, then I'm happy.'
'Great. I think it's going to be fun working together.'
'So do I. Will you be all right?'
'Yes, I'll see you when you get back from Paris,' said Mike, getting aboard the lift.
'See you, then,' said Hugh. Mike pushed the button and the lift made its way to the ground floor.
'Your taxi's outside, Mr Jerome,' said the receptionist.
'Thanks, love,' he said, as he hobbled by. The doorman helped him to the taxi.
'Where to?' asked the man, as he helped Mike into the taxi.
'87 Albany Street, please.'
'87 Albany Street, driver,' said the doorman to the cabby. The man nodded, started the engine and moved off. The taxi turned onto the Ai leading into London. The traffic spewed forth from the direction of town and Mike wondered vaguely whether Pete had actually got off. He looked at the shoe on his good foot and the thought of his boots came back to his mind. It seemed a strange coincidence that they should be so knocked about. Perhaps it was the accident.
The taxi bowled along at a fair old pace. Mike Inched himself up on the cushions and watched the road. The driver was obviously in one hell of a hurry, as he manipulated the cab through the traffic and on into Mill Hill. Mike suddenly exploded. He leant forward and opened the connecting window.
'Look I don't mind anyone driving fast, if they do it safely, but your driving is dangerous,' he said, leaning over his plaster leg.
'I'm sorry, Mr Jerome, I didn't mean to frighten you,' said Professor Smitt, turning and smiling gently.

 

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