The Rift Valley – Part I

The “Al Andalus”  night-club in Tangier was dark, smoky and crowded. Coloured lights flashed and a heavy bass boomed from the dance floor. Indigo Brown sat, relaxed and casual, at a round table to one side, his tattooed arm over the back of a rickety chair, surveying the scene. The black ink hinted at mystery beneath his dark skin.

The party at the next table was rather rowdy, with swarthy looking men jumping up and down, waving their arms around heatedly. There was a girl with them, trying to look nonchalant in her tight-fitting, white silk dress. She was vaguely familiar and very good looking; blond waves rolling down to her shoulders, full red lips pouting, and beautiful eyes open wide, with fluttering lashes. It was hard to tell with all her clothes on. She glanced occasionally at Indigo, who pretended not to see her, though he felt a little over-dressed in his jeans, open-necked shirt, leather jacket and trade-mark felt hat pulled low over his eyes. He should at least have shaved.

He was tapped on the back by a tall figure in a white suit, with long flowing white hair, who sidled around and sat in the cane chair opposite. It was the contact he had arranged to meet here a few days ago. The deceptively youthful looking man smiled disarmingly, white teeth sparkling across his face between full lips, a trim silver-grey moustache and neat beard, which waggled slightly as he spoke.

“Noisy in here tonight, Mr Brown,” he said, laconically, and melodiously.

“It’s usually like this. You get used to it!” Indigo replied, leaning forward to hear better and gain some privacy. “What did you want to see me about? I trust it’s important, I’m in the middle of a very interesting dig in Rabat, before it disappears under the sea.”

“Oh, this is much more important and interesting.” said the bearded man, who Indigo now knew to be The Founder.

“But it is a special mission, for me privately. I don’t want this reported on the Web, or to the Oodles Corporation, but you will be paid ten times your normal fee.”

Indigo leant closer, very interested now.

“There is an artefact, some 70,000 years old, in the Rift Valley, near to the famous Olduvai Gorge, which I want you to retrieve. It’s not difficult; it should be in a cave, which I have marked on this map.” He pushed across a folded piece of paper, surreptitiously; he obviously didn’t want anyone on-line to get wind of this.

“You will be taken there by private plane, and when your mission is complete – if you complete it – it will be there to bring you back again. This is a special homing device,” he said passing across a small parcel, deftly sliding it under Indigo’s hand. “Don’t lose it, or you will die of exposure. And don’t broadcast your position at any time!”

Indigo raised one eyebrow, “Payment?”

“Half is already in your account. The rest will be paid when I have the artefact safely in my hands. Now I must leave you!” The Founder silently rose and disappeared as quickly as he had arrived.

Noticing a rise in noise levels at the next table, Indigo quickly stuffed the map and package in an inside pocket of his jacket and got up to leave as well. Everybody seemed to be getting up. A fight broke out between two Moroccans at his side. He noticed the girl; she was looking worried, if not actually scared. “Oh no!” he thought. “Here we go again!”

But before he could do anything, all hell broke loose and he was hit over the head with a bottle. He sank to the floor, dazed.

The next thing he knew was being carried over the shoulder of this apparently athletic young girl, out through a rear exit and along a narrow, filthy alleyway. She dumped him unceremoniously on the ground, his back leaning against the wall, and roughly jammed his hat on his head, bending down his ears.

“Careful! That’s my best hat!” he muttered, petulantly. “Say, would you like to come on a trip with me? I could use some muscle! I’m off to the Rift Valley, early tomorrow morning!”

“Well, I thought you’d never ask! I think my time here is done. Lead on Mr . . .”

“Brown. Indigo Brown. But my friends call me Indy! Hey! Didn’t I see you at Silvio’s party last week, screwing that guy covered in black plastic? Who was that?”

“Some big-shot,” replied the girl. “Reckons he owns some airline company and half the world! I think he said he was the fuckin’ finder, but I couldn’t hear him properly.”

“Oh, incognito, hey? And by the way, can I have my whip back, if you’re coming with me.”

“OK, Mr Brown, let’s see where you lead to!”

Obviously a girl hard to get to know, but up for anything, he thought. But first he would have to get those clothes off; they were not best suited to scrabbling about in a desert valley.

“Is your hotel near? Do you have some more suitable apparel and equipment? Are you prepared for a five day trek in the bush? What’s your name, anyway?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” she replied, exasperated. “Let’s just get a move on. They’ll be looking for us soon! Oh, and it’s Jacqueline . . . Jacqueline d’Arcy.”

– o –

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Young Love

Tom and Maddie were sitting on the grassy, overgrown slopes of Hampstead Heath, in the late afternoon sunshine, at the top of the hill near a ruined Kenwood House. They gazed past Parliament Hill Fields, at the sea lapping the shores of Camden, and beyond to the drowned City, its spires and domes, shards and gherkins, towering out of the silvery-grey water.

“It’s beautiful up here, isn’t it Maddie.” said Tom, lazily.

“Hmm. I wonder what it was like down there, before the – you know – the Flood.” she replied. “All those people, and “traffic”, all in the same place.”

“You hardly ever see a car now.” said Tom. “There’s no petrol.”

“Petrol?” she said, puzzled. “What’s that?”

“Oh. According to Hillsy, they used to pump it up out of the ground and burn it, explode it even, inside the engines – before they went electric or hydrogen, of course,” he explained, patiently, gently stroking Maddie’s leg. “That’s what caused all this, Global Warming, the Climate Change, and the Movement north.”

“How gross!” Maddie exclaimed, parting her legs a little wider.

Tom was getting a little distracted now. He tried to concentrate.

“You know, we were very lucky not to have those bloody transplants.” he said. “We have Free Will!”

“I suppose.” said Maddie, thoughtfully. “McGill and McGilly have taught me everything they know, especially about loving people, as Hodges and Hillsy have done for you. But I can’t help wondering.”

She lay back, lifting her numb bum off the ground, and pulled down her knickers. Tom lay beside her, gently stroking and exploring.

“What do you wonder about?” asked Tom, hoping she would refer to themselves.

“Well,” she said, hesitantly, pulling down the zip on his old, holey, torn jeans. “We don’t know very much. Especially about Art, and Music, and everything that people have done in the past.”

“I heard some music the other day!” contradicted Tom. “It was Jacqueline, on one of those little poddy things that Phil had found somewhere. It still had ear-buds. She’s incredibly sexy!”

“Well, so am I!” she giggled, fondling his erection.

Tom took out the pod and gave one of the ear-buds to Maddie. Side by side, they sat listening to the heavy beat. Tom heard the left side of Jacqueline and mostly drums and bass; Maddie swayed to the right side, mostly guitar and the ethereal voices backing Jacqueline’s deep contralto.

“OK. She can sing. She isn’t just into sex. But I am!”

Without further discourse, she knelt over him, pulled down his jeans, lifted up her skirt and sank onto him, relaxing in bliss.

Antarctic Expedition

Randolph Whines sat in his cabin on the ice-breaker, SS Discovered, looking through his new equipment, and organising it ready for the great exploration awaiting him at the Ross Ice Shelf. He was an Explora-Sub, commissioned by Oodles to retrace the footsteps of one of the most intrepid, and possibly foolhardy, adventurers of all time.

At any moment, he would have wished to hear the scrunching and scraping of the ship as it forced its way through the ice to the Base-Camp. However, he never does! And he knows he never will.

He went up on deck to look for himself, as the view from his porthole was obscured by steamy condensation. He was not surprised to see that there was no ice. The rocks leading down to the sandy beach were bare. He could even make out small figures sun-bathing on the beach in shorts; he was disgusted. There were no ice-floes and the bay was clear blue water, just like the Mediterranean used to be. The hole in the Ozone layer made the constant ultra-violet glare from the bright sun dangerous, but even the penguins were sun-bathing, with sun-glasses provided by the Research Team, and seals lay under deck-chairs, stolen from Base-Camp. A kindly and thoughtful man, Randolph nevertheless ranted and raved at this stupidity; it was never like this in his grandfather’s day!

He set off inland, walking alone and with minimal provisions to give his followers on the Web some frisson of excitement, to try to find some real ice and snow. But for miles there was only bare rock. He sat and drank from his Thermos flask, munching on a Mars bar, and quietly despairing of living up to his fame and notoriety. He took out a map, opened it, and studied the latest updates; he could have done this in his head if he wished, but that would have been too easy and lacked the historic perspective he was trying to give the mission. Also, he liked maps and needed them in case the Communications Satellite went out of range, or was shielded by the mountains, as he was so far south.

Noticing a strange contortion of the rocky contours on his map, he jabbed at it with two fingers. The rest of his fingers had been lost to frostbite many years ago. “That looks strange!” he thought. “And it’s just below where the snow-line starts now. I’d best go there and investigate!”

He packed up his rucksack again, rather bulkier than it really needed to be, hoisted it on his shoulders, and marched off on his cramponed boots and his pointless ski-poles. Reaching a spot just below his intended destination, he looked up in wonder at the bare, black granite cliff, hollowed out by aeons of blasting ice, snow and grit. There appeared to be caves, or openings of some sort on the face at its base. As he got closer, he realised they were not part of the natural structure, but piled-up, regularly shaped slabs of rock, collapsed into twisted and broken heaps, and now sticking up out of the receding snow and ice.

Had he discovered buildings, or man-made structures, of some sort? Could this be an ancient civilisation never before heard of, or even dreamed of, that had lain buried beneath the snow for thousands, if not millions of years? He inspected the rocks more closely. To his wonderment, if not actually to his surprise, he found traces of carvings that proved this to be a site of some intelligence, not just chaotic chance.

The carvings appeared to be in sequence: the first showed the figure of a man, arms outstretched, with light shining all around him. In the next panel, the long-haired, bearded man was holding a globe, which, to Randolph’s astonishment depicted the continents of Earth, pretty much as they are now. “But the first accurate globes were only conceived in the late XVIth Century,” he thought. “This must be earlier than that!”

Running his gloved fingers over the next section, he was shocked again; the carving was of the same globe split asunder, torn into two jagged pieces, spinning in the Cosmos. His sanity was threatened as he made out the next engraving, of what could only be described as a Space Ship, or some sort of large machine. Some crude letters, “H-H”, “M-T”, and “P-J”, were scratched beneath it. They signified nothing to him.

Then there were two final, whole globes etched into the hard granite. One was a plain orb, empty, a mystery; the other had one land mass, almost covering the whole surface, but surrounded completely by what must be the ocean. Looking closer, Randolph could make out thin lines etched into the surface of the land-mass. It was a jigsaw puzzle of shapes. But he suddenly recognised them as the main continents: Africa, Antarctica, North and South America, Australia, and at its top right corner, Eurasia. They were cleverly arranged into one tight-fitting shape. He realised he was looking at a map of Pangaea as it was, or thought to have been, some 300 million years ago!

Could this possibly be the remnants of an earlier life-form, or an earlier civilisation before the Ice-Ages? Aliens who had suffered a terrible catastrophe befalling their original Earth-like planet. Then perhaps, a flight through Space, and the discovery of a this planet, similar to their own, but at an earlier stage in its history, where they may have settled and lived happily for many thousands, even millions, of years. Until the land started to move and the climate changed! It was known that after 200 million years the Earth’s single land mass had started to break up, and later the Earth had become colder and colder until practically all life on the planet had been wiped out. But how could the first carvings look exactly like Earth as it was now? It just didn’t make any sense!

There was a crevice below the carvings, some six inches wide and an inch high. Randolph groped inside with his mutilated hand and felt an object, deep at the back. He pulled it out, gingerly. He was staggered to see an old-fashioned, stainless-steel shielded, plastic-coated USB memory stick, wrapped in polythene and rimed with frost and ice, which was just beginning to melt.

Randolph was dumbfounded by what he had seen and found. Then he had a moment of sudden revelation: it wasn’t a Space Ship depicted on the rocks; it was a Time Machine, somehow sent back aeons from the present age! He tried to transmit a message back to Base Camp, warning, rather belatedly, of imminent disaster.

Unfortunately, his Comms Pack, relaying the thoughts from his terminal, was shielded at that moment from the Communications Satellite orbiting the planet by the wall of granite in front of him. He turned to retrace his steps to lower and more open ground, slipped and fell headlong down a crevasse. His head jammed between the rocks and he was left struggling, unable to move, apart from his arms and legs flailing about uselessly in the air.

The Space-Flight

The Founder’s manipulative paranoia and the increasing frequency and magnitude of environmental catastrophes had brought forward his plans for the first trip to Outer Space. It had in fact, unbeknown to the rest of the world, blasted off some fifteen years ago.

In those far off days, Captain Church had settled back in his flight seat, his square chin jutting forwards as he stared at the array of monitors and controls in front of him. Everything was automated, but it gave him a sense of utility and purpose that would keep his mind occupied and at rest during the flight. The monitors and controls were also completely unnecessary, as all the relevant information was relayed directly to his mind, anyway. But, just in case the computers failed or they lost contact with Earth for some reason, they had to be provided. Besides, they would soon be out of time-range for any actual instantaneous control from Earth. Everything would then have to be done by the on-board computers, or if they failed, by him, manually.

Beside him sat Welch, the Engineer, a breezy and indefatigable young man, busily, but redundantly, checking all the data. Behind him was the sexy, alluring Aurora, the Communicator, who could well be necessary if they did ever encounter anyone else out there, though Captain Church thought that highly unlikely. At her side sat the equally svelte and slinky Doctor Brenda McFly, the doctor, who may or may not be necessary later.

This was the team personally chosen by The Founder to take the first super-intelligent Crystal-Heads out into space to search for a new, inhabitable planet in the Alpha-Centauri complex. They were either incredibly rich, seeking new experiences and their ultimate destinies in the Universe, or incredibly clever, hopefully guiding the crew through any unforeseen mishaps. There was no space on board for any more bodily humans, but it was hoped that with the combination of seminal fluid DNA and Ovarians, the expertise of the famed Crystal-Heads, housed in their hundreds in the hold, could resurrect their own bodies, or their offsprings, and populate a suitable planet. And of course, if that failed, there was always the back-up of the two couples.

The count-down had started. At lift-off minus ten, Captain Church looked around at his three colleagues, grinned, and gave a thumbs-up.

He tapped on the microphone in front of him, addressing the Crystal-Heads in the hold.

“How’s it going back there, Stephen?”

“We are well, Captain.” replied the eerily mechanistic voice, a throwback to the early days of computerised voice simulation. “But I wish you would stop tapping on that microphone!”

“Soon, be there, folks,” Captain Church said confidently. “Give or take ten years, travelling at half light-speed.”

The Ship, complete with its banks of semen and Ovarians, shot into space. It would be a long time before it was heard of again.