Disclaimer: All material of familiarity is owned, copyrighted, and otherwise credited to the parties to which it belongs, that being Roald Dahl, who penned the book from which this story and its chapters are adapted, and perhaps Warner Bros. Studios for the production of the film adaptations of Dahl's book. This story merely borrows the characters for use in a different reality...
CH VI: Good News and Bad News
Unlike the Wonka-Vite, which had taken minutes to reach full effect, the Vita-Wonk, which was the name of the antidote, worked in an instant. Where there had once been babies were now two old people. Charlie hugged them each, smiling. "I'm glad you're all back to normal. You must want to get out of bed now, after all the adventures we've had together!"
Just as Grandma Josephine was about to snap a crass reply, there was a sudden commotion among the Oompa-loompas at the far end of he Chocolate Room. there was a buzz of excited chatter and a lot of running about and waving of arms, and out of all this a single Oompa-loompa emerged, and came rushing toward Mr. Wonka, carrying a huge envelope in his hands. He came up close to Mr. Wonka and started whispering something. Mr. Wonka bent down to listen.
"Outside the factory gates?" cried Mr. Wonka. "Men! What sort of men...yes, but do they look dangerous?"….and a what...a helicopter...and these men came out of it...they gave you this?" Mr. Wonka grabbed the huge envelope and quickly tore it open and pulled out a folded letter inside. There was absolute silence as he skimmed swiftly over what was written on the paper. Nobody moved. Charlie began to feel cold. he felt sure something dreadful was about to happen. There as a definite smell of danger in the air. The men outside the gates, the helicopter, the nervousness of the Oompa-loompas…he was watching Mr. Wonka's face, searching for a clue, for some change in expression that would tell him how bad the news was.
"Great whistling whangdoodles!" cried Mr. Wonka, leaping up high in the air. "Snorting snozzwangers!" he yelled, picking himself up and waving the letter about as though he were swatting mosquitoes. "Listen to this!" he began to read aloud.
TO MR. WILLY WONKA
TODAY THE ENTIRE NATION, INDEED THE ENTIRE WORLD IS REJOICING AT THE SAFE RETURN OF OUR COMMUTER CAPSULE FROM SPACE WITH 114 SOULD ON BOARD. HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE HELP THEY RECEIVED FROM AN UNKNOWN SPACESHIP, THESE 114 PEOPLE WOULD NOT HAVE COME BACK. IT HAS BEEN REPORTED TO ME THAT THE COURAGE DISPLAYED BY THE EIGHT ASTRONAUTS ABOARD THIS UNKNOWN SHIP WAS EXTRAORDINARY. OUR RADAR STATIONS, BY TRAKING THIS SPACSHIP ON ITS RETURN TO EARTH, HAVE DISCOVERED THAT IT SPLASHED DOWN IN A PLACE KNOWN AS WONKA'S CHOCOLATE FACTORY. THAT, SIR, IS WHY THIS LETTER IS BEING DELIVERED TO YOU.
I WISH NOW TO SHOW THE GRATITUDE OF THE NATION BY INVITING ALL EIGHT OF THOSE INCREDIBLY BRAVE ASTRONAUTS TO COME AND STAY IN THE WHITE HOUSE FOR A FEW DAYS AS MY HONORED GUESTS.
I AM ARRANGING A SPECIAL CELEBRATION PARTY IN THE BLUE ROOM THIS EVENING AT WHICH I MYSELF WILL PIN MEDALS FOR BRAVERY UPON ALL EIGHT OF THESE GALLANT PEOPLE. THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSONS IN THE LAND WILL BE PRESENT AT THIS GTHERING TO SALUTE THE HEROES WHOSE DAZZLING DEEDS WILL BE WRITTEN FOREVER IN THE HISTORY OF OUR NATION.
A HELICOPTER AWAITS ALL EIGHT OF YOU OUTSDE THE FACTORY GATES. I MYSELF AWAIT YOUR ARRIVAL AT THE WHITE HOUSE WITH THE VERY GREATEST PLEASURE AND IMPATIENCE.
I BEG TO REMAIN, SIR.
MOST SINCERELY YOURS,
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Mr. Wonka stopped reading. And in the stillness that followed, Charlie could her people breathing. He could hear them breathing much faster than usual. Grandpa Joe was the first to say something…he gave a whoop of joy and began dancing round, taking Charlie by the hands and swinging him in circles. "We're going, Charlie! We're going to the White House after all!"
Mr. Wonka clapped his hands. "Come along, come along! We mustn't dilly! We mustn't dally! It would be rude to keep the President waiting!" he ushered Grandpa Joe and Charlie and Mr. and Mrs. Bucket to the door that would take them to the main atrium of the factory and out to the main gates.
"Hey!" cried Grandma Georgina from the bed, "What about us? We were invited, too!"
Mr. Wonka turned and looked at them. "Of course it includes you," he said. "But we can't possibly fit that bed into the helicopter. It wouldn't go through the door."
"You mean…you mean if we don't get out of bed we can't come?" said Grandma Georgina.
"That's exactly what I mean," Mr. Wonka affirmed. "Keep going, Charlie," he whispered, giving Charlie a little nudge. They began walking toward the door again. Suddenly behind them there was a great swoosh of blankets and bed sheets as the three old people all exploded out from the bed altogether. They came sprinting after Mr. Wonka, shouting, "Wait for us!"
It was amazing how fast they were running across the floor of the great Chocolate Room. Mr. Wonka and Charlie and the others stood staring at them in wonder. They leaped across paths and over little bushes like gazelles in springtime, with heir bare legs flashing and nightshirts flying out behind them. Abruptly Grandma Josephine stopped. "Wait!" she cried. "We must be mad! We can't go to a famous party in our nightshirts! We can't stand there practically naked in front of al those people while the President pins medals all over us!"
"Don't you have any other clothes with you at all?" asked Mr. Wonka.
"Of course we don't!" exclaimed Grandma Josephine. "We haven't been out of bed for twenty years!"
"Couldn't you buy something from a store?" suggested Mr. Wonka.
"What with? We don't have any money!"
"Money!" cried Mr. Wonka, a grin on his face. "Don't you go worrying about something so vulgar as money. I've got plenty of that!"
"Listen," said Charlie, "Why could we ask the helicopter to land on the roof of a big department store on the way over, then we can all pop downstairs and buy exactly what we want?" "Charlie!" cried Mr. Wonka, grasping him by the hand, "What would we ever do without you? You're brilliant! Come along everybody! We're off to stay at the White House!"
They all linked arms and went dancing out of the Chocolate Room and along the corridors and out through the front door into the open where the big helicopter was waiting near the factory gates. A group of extremely important looking men came toward them and bowed.
"Well, Charlie," said Grandpa Joe, "It's certainly been a busy day."
"It's not over yet," Charlie said, laughing. "It hasn't even begun."
It was that very moment that became the most pivotal in the history of Mr. William Wonka, who had been as glad as the others to be going to the White House to see all the high ranking officials of America. It would be an honor to go there, to meet them…or it would have been. Because at that moment, as soon as Charlie had finished speaking, the sound of helicopter blades thwock-thwocking became clear. At first, everyone assumed it was the President's helicopter that had come to get them, but its rotors were still and motionless. Mr. Wonka tipped his head in puzzlement, but didn't move until he noticed an Oompa-loompa running frantically toward them. "GET DOWN!" he screamed at them, still running. Wonka did, instinctively, but the important-looking escorts froze at the sound of the voice, wondering at the tiny form of the Oompa-loompa, while the Bucket family stood stock still, looking for the source of danger. "Get down you fools!" Wonka shouted, but it was too late; the sleek form of another helicopter rose above the factory gates, its silvery shape glinting in the bright light. Then all hell broke loose as a machine gunner aboard the chopper opened fire, bullets throwing up clouds of powder. The sound of gunfire seemed to break the Buckets' paralysis, and they ran for the President's helicopter, along with the men who had come to get them. Wonka, meanwhile, remained where he stood, watching the horrible scene unfolding. The gunner, who had been ordered to destroy the winner of the Golden Ticket Contest, ignored the frozen Wonka entirely, instead shooting at the helpless Buckets, who ran as fast as they could. But even that was fast enough; the four old people, who had not been out of their bed for twenty years, went down first, since they hadn't been walking more than an hour. Then Mr. and Mrs. Bucket were struck, their legs shot out from beneath them. Then, finally, poor little Charlie Bucket, who had reached the helicopter and was frantically trying to get in, was hit in the back with a torrent of bullets, and he fell to the ground, his sweet, innocent face now lifeless and cold. As a final measure, the machine-gunner fired off some kind of rocket, hitting the other helicopter near its fuel tank, and the whole thing went up in flames, the shrapnel impaling the officials, who screamed and writhed on the ground, the snow beneath them turning red with their blood. But Willy Wonka saw none of this; all he could see was the helicopter above him, hovering menacingly for a few moments after its work was done. Then it flew back over the wall, the insignia on its tail glimmering for a moment before it disappeared entirely. The logo read Chadworth.
After the helicopter left, Willy stood in the snow for some time…minutes, hours perhaps. The Oompa-loompa who had tried to warn them stood with him, slapping his arms and chest against the cold as he silently regarded the carnage left over from the attack. The bodies of the Buckets were slightly charred from the explosion, but the snow had preserved them mostly, the places around their bodies blackened by smoke and oil. "Mr. Wonka?" the Oompa-loompa said finally, his voice gentle as he tugged his leader by the pantleg. Wonka finally looked down numbly, his eyes clouded with pain. "He's gone…my heir. Killed. And I couldn't help him."
The Loompa swallowed, bewildered by his leader's deep grief. "I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Wonka, but we didn't see the helicopter coming until it was too late. I tried to get out here as fast as I could…"
Wonka kept mumbling to himself, oblivious to what the other was saying. "I couldn't help his family, either, which isn't too bad, since I didn't like them very much either. Could barely tolerate the grandmothers, though the grandfathers weren't too bad. Grandpa Joe seemed nice, and I was just beginning to like him." He sighed deeply, then looked down to the Loompa, his eyes clear. "I'm sorry, what were you saying just now?"
Wonka cut him off. "Never mind. There's more important things right now, mainly the invitation of the President. He won't be happy to find out that his helicopter was destroyed and his officials were killed, but that can't be helped. I could probably go see him in one of our transports, but I don't think it would be proper to go now, in light of this…accident."
He lowered his head, his eyes misty again. "What am I going to do? The whole Golden Ticket operation was pointing to this day, when I would get my heir and orient him and his family, so they could run the factory when I'm gone. But it seems like all that has been wasted." He shook his head sadly.
The Oompa-loompa could only nod grimly. "What should we do with the bodies, sir? We can't just leave them out there…the FDA will be coming after us for sure."
"You're right," Wonka said, wiping his eyes. "No time for grieving now." He hardened his face, looking out over the wreckage. "Get the bodies inside, and prepare them for cremation."
"Yes…" Wonka nodded firmly. "In the incinerators. It's the only way to do it."
The Loompa nodded in acknowledgement, but paused to ask a question. "What about the heir…Charlie? Should we have a memorial for him or something? I mean…we can't just let him go so soon. Then all our efforts will have gone for nothing."
Willy brightened suddenly, as if struck by the Loompa's words. "You're right. It would be a waste to do that…" he looked to where Charlie's lifeless body lay, throat tightening in grief. "Have him sent to the Research Labs. I will be there shortly."
Willy Wonka walked into the laboratory for the second time in one day, feeling the irony in what he was thinking about doing. It was in this very chamber that the four naughty children who had toured the factory had been…revived…after meeting some kind of demise through various "accidents" which had occurred during the course of the excursion through Wonka's Factory. And it was here, he hoped, that some answer to this newest dilemma might be procured. The head scientist stepped up to Wonka, a curious look on his face. "Hello again, sir. Quite an odd day we've been having, yes?"
Willy nodded, his mind subdued.
"The scientist glanced to the shrouded body that lay on a table nearby, next to a row of bubbling vats. "It's a shame he had to go that way. He was too young. But please, sir; tell me exactly what it is you have in mind for the future. Did you bring him here because you want us to try cloning him, like the other children?"
"Could you really do that?"
"Of course. We did it with those nasty kids, despite the complications we were faced with. The Salts came out okay, though, since we were able to get a pure sample of their DNA." He gestured to the body. "And with him here, nearly intact, we will definitely get a workable sample. We could develop an exact physical replica of him within a couple of hours."
"Physical replica… What of his mind?" Willy asked, quietly.
"Well…that's the tricky part. Most of what we know about Charlie Bucket is from his school records, and the brief exposure to his unique character during the tour and expedition in the Elevator. I couldn't promise he would turn out to be the same as he was before."
Wonka sighed. "And therefore is the problem. I didn't really think you could bring him back, but I brought him in here because I had some hope that somehow, we might figure a way out of this mess. I would sure hate to have to send out Golden Tickets again, and endure another terrible day with a bunch of terrible children and their despicable guardians. There are only a few good people out there, and little Charlie was one of them. He wasn't perfect, but I could almost see myself in him…" his voice trailed off as he rested his gaze on the still form on the table, the Loompa scientist brightening suddenly. "That's it!"
"What?" Wonka looked down to him in question.
"We can't bring Charlie back…not the one you found, anyway. We know too little about him to bring him back entirely. But what would happen say, if we only brought a part of him back, the parts that you liked so much about him?"
Wonka furrowed his brow. "What do you mean? What would the rest of him be, then?"
"You, sir. You always said you wish someone like you could take over your factory if you had to leave. So why not a clone of you?"
Willy rested his hand on his chin. "Hmmm…that is an interesting idea, but I didn't quite mean it like that, not that literally. Besides, what about my heir? Where would Charlie…" he said the name gently, "…come into this? I did choose him, after all."
"Genetic splicing, sir. We could take certain traits from him that are favorable and graft it into your own. His neural programming would consist of memories and experiences from both you and Charlie Bucket, but as we know little about Charlie, your mental patterns would be the dominant ones."
"Have you done that sort of thing before?"
The Loompa gave a thin smile. "A few times, but without the neural programming…on the chocolate and strawberry cows, and the chickens that lay chocolate eggs. It's a fairly simple process…it just takes time."
Willy nodded slowly. "Very well. Proceed at your leisure, but…only splice the DNA. Don't make the clone…not yet."
The Loompa tipped his head. "Why not? You could pick up where you left off, and begin to teach him everything."
"It's just too soon." Wonka sighed, his eyes filled with grief. The scientist nodded in understanding. "As you wish, sir. I'll just, uh, get the genetic coding together, and have a few samples put in storage until you are ready to proceed. We'll begin compiling the desired thought processes and patterns for future uploading once the clone is ready to be produced."
Willy dipped his head. "Thank you." he said the words softly, turning to leave the lab for what he felt might be the last time, but he paused before passing through the door. "When it's ready, have one of the samples sent to me…for safekeeping."
The scientist looked strangely at him, but nodded. "Of course, sir."
Wonka walked out, the door closing behind him as he faintly wondered if he would ever be done grieving the loss of little Charlie…and if he could ever get his revenge on Chadworth.