The Factory Village, the day before the Tour:

The arcade hall was not as small as Mike Teavee thought. When Mike first arrived in this village, he thought he could only find brainless peasants. It was a nice surprise for him to find a large arcade hall in the hotel. The problem was that no-one in this hall was strong enough to give the great Mike Teavee a good challenge: he beat Augustus Gloop at Point Blank in thirty seconds and litterally smacked down Violet Beauregard at Street Fighter. But that blond retard then expressed the strong desire to have another round in reality, and Mike had to hide in a soda machine until she got bored and gave it up. Too bad she was so violent, they could've become friends. Well, maybe he shouldn't have been so arrogant. After all, this girl was... rather... pretty. Not that he was... no, not him. Only retards would lose their time for girlfriends. He was too intelligent for that. But... well, he wouldn't be bothered to have her as a videogame character, you see. But all hopes weren't lost, because she will be in the Tour, it'll give him an occasion to try to get closer. It would be at least one interesting thing to do in that stupid factory.

Now he was still in the arcade hall, and he was slightly bored. The other kids in the room were only small children that would be way too easy to beat. The fourth winner hadn't arrived yet, but he already knew it was a girl, and worse, a Daddy's-Little-Girl. That is to say, she represented no interest whatsoever. And who the Hell was the fifth winner ?

Suddenly, he heard footsteps behind him. Heavy footsteps, with a metallic clinking. He turned round and saw a girl who just entered the room, and who was looking at the arcade machines with interest. She was around Mike's age, she was tall, slim, with a pale complexion, blue eyes, semi-long dark hair, and dressed in black jeans, black shirt, and black snake skin made cow-boy boots, with big spurs that created this particular clinking. Veruca Salt ? Mike thought not: they may have a few facial similarities, but Veruca as he saw her on TV didn't have the same haircut, and she was shorter than that. And she didn't look like she would wear jeans and cow-boy boots. But, after all, who knows where a rich girl's fantaisies can lead ? Maybe she wanted to change her look. He decided to verify by himself. He approached her and asked:

"Veruca Salt ?"

The girl looked at him and replied:

"Excuse me ?"

That voice ! It was surprising. It was not a voice. A quarter of her words was spoken with real voice, the other three quarters were whispers. Like an old person with a throat disease trying to speak. Plus, this "whispering voice" had a deep tone, like a male voice, with a very thin whistling. And Mike also noticed that this girl had a strange musculature. Seen from far, she looked like a girl, but now that Mike was closer, she still had the face of a girl but her body looked more like a...

"Are you a boy ?"

"Just like you," he replied with a smile. "Don't worry, you're not the first one to tell me I look like a girl. My name's Aleksey Stoyanovitch."

"Mike Teavee. You're Russian ?"

"Kazakh. You're a Ticket winner, right ?"

"Yeah. And you ?"

"I'm the fifth one. I found the Ticket four days ago."

"Really ? I didn't hear anything about you..."

"I come from a country where we receive fresh news three weeks later, you know. I've heard that you found your one using computer hacking and mathematic logic ? That was brilliant."

"Thanks."

Mike decided that this Russian (sorry: Kazakh) boy was a good fellow: friendlier than Violet and smarter than Augustus. It was just too bad he wasn't a girl. If only Violet could be a bit more like him ! Mike asked:

"Tell me: are you good at video games ?"

"It depends: which one ?"

"How about a Street Fighter ?"

"Boy, you're gonna cry..."

"Okay, I'm up to the challenge. Come on !"

They both went to the machine and started a game. Mike picked up Guile.

"Good choice," commented Aleksey.

"He's the best striker of the game ! With me, he's undefeatable !"

Aleksey picked up Vega and the fight began. It began very bad for the poor Mike, because his opponent was as experimented as he was arrogant: whatever Guile tried, Vega dodged every punch with grace and replied with high-flying kicks and devastating claw strikes. The young genius was sweating heavily and his fingertips were getting painful, while the Asian boy seemed to be just warming up. Finally, after a whole minute, Vega slashed Guile away and finished with a Perfect. Aleksey smiled at his opponent and said:

"Congratulations, you're the first one to last more than thirty seconds against me."

"I admin it, you're tough. But it's not over yet ! Let's..."

"Sorry, we'll do that later. I have something to do first. See ya'round."

On these words, Aleksey moved to the room entrance, where a young maid was standing, holding a backpack in one hand. The boy and the maid started murmuring. Mike sneaked close to them to listen. He didn't like mysteries, and beside, he suspected his Asian friend to flirt with the young woman. Aleksey said to the maid:

"Are they arriving ?"

"They are. I guess you'll recognize them."

Then, she handed him the bag and said:

"I've got what you wanted. Be careful, some of them are dangerous bastards."

Aleksey took the bag and replied:

"I know how to handle them. I've got a feeling that tomorrow will be a very long day..."

"You don't trust Wonka ?"

"Should I ? I've briefed myself about him, and I can tell there's no reason to trust him."

Then, they both walked away, letting a thoughtful Mike alone in the room. This Aleksey was strange. It looked like he was expecting someone. And what was so dangerous in that bag ? He wasn't just a lucky boy, Mike was sure of it. Suddenly, the young computer geek felt like in an espionage movie. There was a mystery in the plot, and he was to find the truth. Just like in those detective games he would play sometimes. But now, it wasn't a game, it was reality. How exciting...

A few minutes later, in the main entrance, two exhausted grooms entered, carrying an impressive luggage. They were followed by an elegant middle-aged man and a noisy girl.

"Daddy, I said I wanted a suite with a Jacuzzi ! And I don't want to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, with the others. They're too shabby, Daddy, there's no way I talk to them !"

"Veruca-darling, I am really sorry but I did my best. This hotel is the only one close enough to the Factory, so we'll have to deal with it. I'm terribly sorry, sweetheart."

Veruca Salt said nothing, she was just extremely disappointed and irritated. Just like always. She kept walking, heading to the stairway, and passed close to a boy of her age dressed like those cow-boys in Texan fictions, on TV. With semi-long hair. Yuk ! Long hair were not suitable for a boy. The young cow-boy talked to her, he dared to talk to her !

"Miss Veruca Salt, I presume ? Nice to meet you, I'm..."

"Back off, you punk !"

The boy didn't insist. But what Veruca couldn't see was that just after, her father glanced at the boy, and the boy nodded slowly. Mr Salt nodded in return. He knew. This young boy with the boots of an American gangster and the head of a girl was the boy he wanted to find.