The Offer

 

SpaceShip

The Founder collected Tom, Maddie, Don and Jacqueline from Don’s flat and they all continued their slow progress up to the penthouse suite. Everyone was very quiet and slightly in awe. They had confirmed that the Tower was surrounded by Enforcers. Looking through various windows, Hills and Hodges could see three rows of helmeted, armed, blue-armoured paramilitaries, with their dogs, circling around, in and out of the shrubbery. Spotlights played onto the building. There was no escape.

They all assembled in a large room that looked like a laboratory. The Founder glanced around, giving eye-contact to every individual and smiling.

“The Mission to Alpha-Centauri has failed!” he said, not as sadly as they would have expected. “But in the meantime, my scientists on Quartz Mountain have developed new technologies. The Earth is doomed; that is now clear. We have to start again somewhere else, but we can’t leave behind everything we have achieved. We have developed technologies that will allow us to go as ourselves, but our genes will be modified so that nothing is lost. DNA engineering and nano-chip manufacture has progressed to a degree that even I thought impossible a few years ago. We don’t need implants anymore. We can alter our DNA to include a collective consciousness, a tribal memory that can recall any known fact, experience, or achievement. But you would have the “Free Will” that you all are so desperate to cling onto. There will be no more commercialism; it won’t be needed. Are you with me?”

They shuffled from foot to foot, realising the plight they were in, but not quite trusting this manifestation of all their fears for the future. They didn’t know where this was leading anyway.

Tom and Maddie looked at each other, nodded, and stepped forwards.
“We’ll come!” they said, in unison.

Hills and Hodges, McGill and McGilly were horrified. They gasped in disbelief, and with a certain guilty feeling at the back of their minds. “No, no! Don’t trust him!”

“What choice do we have? Besides, Maddie is pregnant!” said Tom. “Come with us. Be our Helpers. You too, Don and Jacqueline; we trust you!”

“I’d come, gladly,” replied Don. “But I’m afraid my time is up. I can feel the radiation sickness beginning to take hold. I fear I only have a few weeks left. Jacqui, you go with them!”

“I only have room for twelve of you. Choose carefully!” said The Founder. “I will tell the Enforcers to let the rest go, if you agree to this.”

They conferred amongst themselves. Despite the coercion, six youngsters were chosen, including Tom and Maddie.

Hodges, Hillsy and the McGills insisted on going, still not trusting the motives of The Founder. Phil and Jacqueline took the remaining places, as knowledgeable keepers of technology and culture.

Saying their sad goodbyes, they made their way up the spiral staircase in the corner of the room to the heli-pad on the roof. They climbed into the large, black helicopter, tears streaming from their eyes as they noticed a dark cloud on the horizon, obscuring the dawn. The Founder climbed in last of all, a quiet smile on his face.

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The Time-Machine

lagrange points

In fact, The Founder had a plan. He had realised long ago of the futility of space travel, due to the massive demand on resources that not even the Oodles conglomerate, with its almost total strangle-hold on the Earth, could afford. He had lost many of the best brains at his last attempt. Besides, it took too long to develop and assess, even approaching the speed of light, and there wasn’t any time left, now that climate change was out of control and nuclear war had broken out in the Middle-East, North and South Korea, and along the Russian borders.

Time was of the essence. The Founder, with all his personal wealth, had developed an alternative approach in parallel to the space programme. He had built a time-machine! He intended to start Civilisation again from scratch. To go back to the Rift Valley, with a few sturdy Londoners, armed with all the knowledge and technology of the past 70,000 years, and begin afresh, hoping to avoid most of the unpleasantness the Human Race had so far inflicted on itself.

He would be in charge, of course. He had already chosen his Disciples from those few left that had proved themselves independent, resilient, adaptable and innovative. They just needed a little guidance and technical help from himself. The New Order would be a vast improvement on anything that had gone before and maybe they could reverse the almost inevitable decline into chaos that every system so far devised had descended into.

He had already proven that his theories worked by sending back that titanium cylinder to the Olduvai Gorge and hiring Indigo Brown to retrieve it. It was a pity that such a resourceful man couldn’t join his disciples, but he was far too self-obsessed and sexually motivated; too much of a potential threat and rival.

For his experiment, The Founder had used a very small worm-hole that did actually exist on the top of Mount Lemakarot, but for this expedition he would have to use the larger one that he knew existed at one of the Lagrangian Points, the exact position where the gravity of the Earth, the other planets, and the Sun cancelled each other out; where Newtonian Laws ceased to operate. Which was why his time-machine was actually a space-ship, with a fairly short range, and capable of reaching its destination in a matter of months rather than decades. All he needed to do was to collect his crew and settle them down for the trip of a life-time. After the necessary injections and immunisations, of course.

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The Meeting

newJeans_007

Down in the basement, Hodges, Hills and the others cautiously emerged from the escape stair lobby, stepped over the still smoking, bent and battered steel door, and looked back into the crypt-like chamber where they had detonated their explosives. There were clouds of smoke and dust, gradually settling on the broken racks of equipment. The air smelt metallic and sulphurous. They looked with satisfaction at the distorted cabinets, the charred circuit boards and the shattered rows of test-tubes, their contents a useless grey puddle on the floor.

“Better get back to Maddie and Tom,” said McGill. “We need to get out of here before the Enforcers arrive.”

“OK,” agreed Hodges. “But, well done everybody! That’s one in the eye for The Founder. At least it might make him think!”

They turned and began to traipse back up the stairs. As they rounded the first landing they looked up and fell back in surprise. At the top of the stairs, silhouetted by light streaming in from behind, was a tall figure, slightly stooped, wearing a white suit and sporting long, white flowing locks down to his shoulders. He had a silver-grey beard and moustache, neatly trimmed, but impressive none-the-less.
They stared, slightly terrified. They knew that face; even they had seen the bill-boards and Phil was intimately accustomed to it from his illicit screens and all the adverts extolling the virtues of Oodles. It was The Founder!

“Peace, children!” the figure said in a soft, melodious voice, stretching out his arms and holding out his hands to them. “You know what you are doing is futile! There are many more Clouds in Britain, let alone the rest of the World. All the data is duplicated many times over.”

“We just want to give you a kick in the pants!” cried Hodges, bravely. “You have to stop this madness!”

“Oh no! I’m not mad. I think you will find that you are! There is no escape now. The Tower is surrounded by Enforcers. We knew of your arrival as soon as you attacked Jacqueline! We have been watching you and your group for months now, anyway. Did you think that drunken wreck, Mac, couldn’t transmit as well as receive information?”

“What are you going to do?” yelled Hillsy. “We’ll fight! We’ll kill you!”

“Oh, I think not. Besides, I have a proposition for you. Let us go upstairs and retrieve the others. I find them amusing.”

The Founder turned and slowly walked up the stairs, apparently unconcerned by the threats; he knew their psyches, and that their curiosity wouldn’t allow them to kill him.

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Penguin Café

still life

When Hodges, Hillsy, the McGills, Phil and the others had trooped off back down the escape stairs, Tom and Maddie looked around the living room. It had an old-fashioned sort of feel, with comfy furniture, thick carpets, a desk and office chair, and rows and rows of shelves. Maddie had seen books before; McGilly had once read her a story from an old Harry Potter novel they had found. She pulled out a book out at random and flipped through the pages, feeling a sense of shame and disappointment that she could hardly understand a word.

Tom stared at the large plasma screen hanging on the wall. “What on Earth’s that!” he exclaimed.

“Oh, I use it for making my documentaries on the computer,” replied Don. “It’s the only way I can incorporate footage from the insurgents. They’re not hooked into Oodles. In fact, they don’t have any transplants. They were banned by their religion, but they wouldn’t want them anyway; it’s against everything they’re fighting for.”

“Like us! We don’t have transplants, either.”

Don and Jacqueline looked at them in amazement.

“Then how do you know what to do, where you are, what’s going on?” gasped Jacqueline.

“We get by. Our parents have taught us everything they know,” replied Maddie. “They’re very good to us; they are only trying to do their best to protect us from The Founder and Oodles.”

“But you won’t know anything about History, Science, Culture, Art, or Music. You won’t have experienced anything, either first-hand or through the Sensories!” said Don, perplexed and staggered. “It’s bad enough that everything real is being lost through the catastrophes, but to not know about anything, even in recorded form, is very cruel.”

“Mum says we have to start again, when all this has gone, if we have time,” said Maddie, unconvinced herself.

Don looked around, perplexed, wondering what he could do to show them that there must be another way. Jacqueline got up and went over to the shelves of DVDs, looking along the titles and taking one out.

“Play them this. It’s one of my favourites,” she said, handing Don a copy of “Still Life at the Penguin Café”.

“Jacqui, you are the apple of my “i” ! Your levels of sensuality continue to amaze me!” said Don, surprised, grinning and triumphant.

“This will show you what humans can do; the beauty of their creativity; the essence of their being. It also shows what has happened to some of our fellow creatures and why it is so tragic that most species are now lost. There are no lions, tigers, elephants or wildebeest left in Africa; no kangaroos, wallabies, koalas or kookaburras left in Australia; no armadillos or sloths left in South America. Soon, I fear, we will be gone, too!”

“Just play the DVD, Don! Let them decide,” suggested Jacqueline.

Don placed the disc in the ancient player and they settled back on the comfy settees as the catchy, bouncy music burst through large Hi-Fi speakers on either side of the plasma screen.

Tom and Maddie watched in amazement as people dressed as strange, upright, black and white birds danced serenely and cavorted around tables and chairs. They admired the dancing of the Utah Longhorn Ram and her partners; grinned at the antics of the Texan Kangaroo Rat; laughed out loud at Humboldt’s Hog-nosed Skunk Flea tying up the Morris Dancers in a knot; wept at the fate of the Southern Cape Zebra, the most beautiful dancer; and felt as one with the Rainforest People. The music was infectious, jolly; sublime in its repetition and juxtaposition of long melodious strains of violin and cello with tinkling ukuleles, bongos and snare-drums.

The dancing was sublime; they didn’t know anyone could dance like that. It was so carefree and apparently casual; uninhibited, sensual and sexual, but so pure and free from perversity.

The Brazilian Woolly Monkey showed them the comic and darker side of human nature, but the death of the Great Auk reminded them of their possible fate. When the Ark appeared, coinciding with a series of loud explosions from the basement below, they understood the message and knew what they had to do.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/TyhEpzBLwd4?list=FLyMbKvFXyOHOLhsSgzevkFg“>Still Life At Penguin Café