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

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The Attack

karl marx

Hodges, Hillsy, Phil Dick, McGill and McGilly, amongst others, prepared for their raid on the Archway Tower. They approached it across the Heath, past Highgate Ponds, through ruined terraced streets, and into Highgate Cemetery. They passed by the heavy, black bust of Karl Marx, seemingly shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I told you so!”

They reached the arched bridge over the old, deserted A1 road. Looking to the right, they could see the glimmer and sparkle of water in the moonlight, where the flooded Thames had swamped the vacant City. It shone on Phil’s helmet, too. Ahead, down the hill to Crouch End, dogs howled in the empty, unkempt gardens. On their left they spied the Tower. Carefully, they surrounded it, hiding in the overgrown shrubbery. On their backs, Phil, Hillsy and McGill were carrying packs of home-made explosives, which they had made following the instructions gleaned from the Web through Mac’s head terminal.

“We should try to get inside.” whispered Phil. “It will do more damage.”

“Won’t there be locks and cameras and alarms and things?” asked Hillsy, nervously.

“Of course!” replied Phil. “But we’ll go in through a window.”

They circled around, looking for a likely spot. However, all the ground floor windows were covered in zinc sheeting, screwed and barred. They saw an old refuse store, which unbelievably had a roof level with a first-floor window. There were piles of junk and sheets of metal lying around. They climbed on to the store and began to make a bridge; their extemporising skills coming to the fore. Standing on rotten planks, resting precariously on the sill, Phil cut a hole in the double-glazed window to the flat, pulling the glass out with rubber suckers. He did the same with the inner pane, and reached in for the handle. It wasn’t locked, and had no alarm. What were these people thinking of!

Stealthily, they all crossed the rickety, improvised bridge and climbed into the room. It was a bedroom, bare of furniture except for a recently slept-in bed, but still tastefully decorated and lined with mirrored cupboards on one side. They heard a tinkling sound from another room.

“There’s someone here!” breathed Hillsy.

“Shhh! Be quiet! I’ll go and look,” whispered Phil, as he carefully opened the bedroom door and crept out into the hall.

He could see a light behind an open door at the end. Noiselessly, he moved towards it and looked in. A partially naked woman was sitting on a chair, her back to him, drinking a cup of coffee. With long blond hair waving down over her shoulders, she was gorgeous, but Phil had no time for that. He crept forwards, put one hand over her mouth, the other arm in front of her, his hand cupping her right breast – no time for that! – and pulled her backwards, the chair falling beneath her long, athletic legs.

She struggled; she was strong; she elbowed back into his stomach, and he almost let go, gasping for breath.

“It’s OK!” I won’t hurt you!” said Phil, hoping to calm her frenzied struggling.

Hodges and McGilly came in the room then, and tried to reassure the woman, smiling at her, and telling Phil to let her go. Hodges offered her coat to cover her swinging breasts, admiring them, but more worried by the possible effect on Hillsy than her modesty. The woman took one smell and reached for her own jumper and jeans lying on an adjacent chair.

“What the fucking hell are you doing here? In my flat? Are you squatting here?” exclaimed the woman, not at all bothered by her semi-naked state.

“We thought everyone had left.” said Hodges. “But we don’t live here. We’ve come to blow the Cloud up!”

“Like hell you will! This is my flat. I don’t live here, now, but I needed some things.” explained the woman, exasperated. “Who are you, anyway?”

“We are the Rebels.” said Hillsy. “We are striking a blow against Oodles and all this control freakery of theirs. We have to put a stop to all the wanton greed and commercialism that is threatening to destroy the world!”

“Well, good luck to that!” she said. “I want out, too. I’ll help if I can. My name’s Jacqueline d’Arcy.”

“Not, the Jacqueline?” said Phil, in awe, remembering a few Sensories that he had watched illicitly through Mac’s be-sozzled skull.

“You’ve got it, Baby!” she said, grinning. “But I’m not doing that anymore. I’ve had enough. It was only to keep a few dozy old Crystal-Heads happy, anyway. I’ve had my fun, now it’s just boring!”

“Come on!” hissed McGill. “The Enforcers will be here soon, with all this racket. No doubt she’s still plugged in and everyone else is listening!”

They made their way out of the flat and started to go down to the basement via the emergency stairs, but Jacqueline stopped them.

“There’s someone else here,” she said. “A friend. He wittered me a message saying he would be here by now. That’s why I came back.”

“Who is it?” asked Hillsy, suspiciously.

“Don McBurn. He’s had some trouble in Israel. Now he wants out, too.” she replied.

“Whaa! Don McBurn the reporter?” enquired McGill, incredulously. “Now there’s a guy I’d like on our side. Aye, let’s away an’ meet ‘im.”

They retreated back up the stairs and climbed to the fifth floor. Jacqueline knocked at a door, shouting, “Don! Don! It’s me, Jacqui!”

They door opened and they all fell back, aghast at Don McBurn’s seared face. He looked over Jacqueline’s shoulder at the motley band of raggedly dressed dissolutes crowding in the passage behind her.

“Well, you’d better come in then. It’s all over now, anyway!”

“What do you mean, Don? What’s happened?” asked Jacqueline, concerned at the old trouper’s resignation and lack of fight.

“It’s started!” he exclaimed. “They’re throwing nuclear missiles at each other. It won’t be long before the radio-activity spreads. I think I’ve already been contaminated.”

“Who’s doing this?” exclaimed Hillsy, not as au-fait with Current Affairs as he should be.

“Israel and Iran. It’s the end!”

“Not before we blow this place up! Are you with us?” asked Hodges.

“Why?” asked Don, puzzled. “What’s this place got to do with anything? I thought it was more or less deserted, apart from the odd tenant dropping in now and again.”

“One of the Clouds is operating from here. It’s in the basement,” explained Phil.

“Is that a good idea? I know there are other places, but you risk destroying everything; all the records, all the data about our history, what we’ve done, what we’ve achieved. All our art, history, music, paintings, sculpture. Many things are only in digital form now, since one environmental disaster after another has destroyed the cities, the art galleries, museums, theatres, concert halls. The Tate’s gone. Look at Sydney; the Opera House is under three metres of water and it’s surrounded by burning bush and eucalyptus.”

Tom and Maddie, who were at the back of the crowd, pricked up their ears at this. They pushed forwards, eager to hear more.

“All very well,” said Hillsy. “But what about Oodles’ control over people’s lives? The Founder only lets people see what he wants them to see. Only what is commercially profitable, and what maintains his control over everyone else.”

“Yes!” agreed Hodges. “We want to start again, or die trying! If you don’t want to join us, stay here and keep out of the way. Tom, Maddie! Stay with Jacqueline and guard this guy. We’ve got work to do!”

Oodles_Cover_for_Kindle

The Golan Heights

Syrian army soldiers leave their position after it was bombed by rebel fighters during a battle in Syria near the border fence with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights September 1, 2014. Heavy fighting between Syrian army forces and rebels erupted on the Golan Heights on Monday, a Reuters photographer said, but it was unclear if either of the two sides had gained an advantage to control a key frontier crossing. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (SYRIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR44H7H

Don McBurn hunkered down behind some rocks below the Golan Heights. Around him, the Palestinian Army, funded and weaponised by Iran, Syria, Egypt and other Arab States, had set out their monster guns and artillery, relentlessly firing at the Settlements inside the Wall. The hills there were now occupied only by equally vicious Israeli artillery, raining fire down on the Palestinians. Rockets and missiles fell and exploded constantly, if they weren’t first blown up in the air by anti-missile missiles. Shrapnel fell all around the seasoned Reporti-Sub, who was wondering how much more of this he could take.

He was not sure how long it could carry on before he was hit or blown to bits; he had to get out, now! He turned and began to run down the slope, scrunching and sliding on the loose stones and sand under his feet. He was well protected by a fully armoured suit, but a direct hit would finish him, as surely as those he saw killed every day.

McBurn reached his Jeep, the door swinging open. He scrambled in and told the driver, a young Palestinian, to step on it! They drove away at breakneck speed from the shelling, narrowly avoiding potholes and more explosions. Five kilometres further on, breathing a sigh of relief, they pulled into a Palestinian village, a bare place of block walls and hasty shade. He raced to reach the armoured hatch.

“That was close!” he shouted, adrenalin still pumping through his veins. “What do you think they will do now?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Army Colonel sitting at a desk inside the underground bunker, ringed with telephones, short-wave radios, and satellite receivers. “Maybe they will bomb us here, though we have been careful not send any ordnance from this location. They can trace us, of course, from the satellite images.”

“Are there still people, families, living here?” asked Don.

“Of course! Where would they go? This is their land.” replied the Colonel.

“How can you possibly win this war?” asked Don. “They may be on their knees, but Israel still has massive resources, and air power – something you seem to be lacking.”

“I have heard that Syria is due to attack soon with their missiles!” said the Colonel.

“Good God! Not nuclear?”

“Hopefully not. We shall have to wait and see!”

The first long-range Syrian missiles fell on Petah Tikvah later that very evening. They were not nuclear, yet. Most of the Syrian nuclear facilities had already been wiped out, but the Iranians were rumoured to have new, secret, as yet undiscovered bases.

The next day, in retaliation, the Israelis carpet-bombed an area all around their Wall to a ten kilometre extent. Don sheltered in the under-ground bunker, trying to get in contact with his Reporti-Sub base organisation at Oodles. It was time to get out!
Finally, he contacted someone on the satellite phone, the aerial having been pushed up through a hole in the roof. They would send a Stealth helicopter in forty-eight hours, if the shelling subsided and they could get through. Otherwise, he was on his own. This job was getting too ridiculous – he needed a rest!

The next day, he poked his head out of the bunker. The village was completely flattened, the ground still smoking. There was rubble and stone in heaped piles surrounding craters and collapsed buildings. He saw some bodies, and many body parts. The smell was gruesome. What could he do? They were beyond help now. He withdrew back down underground with the rest of the few survivors.

The day after that, he was due to be rescued. He listened in anxiously to the Comms Set. They would be there soon; just hang on! Then he heard the unmistakeable drone and vibration of a Stealth chopper; much quieter than normal, but there, thank God! He collected all his stuff together and poked his head out of the hatch again.

The helicopter landed just as the Israelis started their shelling again, despite the International Call-signs and messages sent out by Oodles. Don raced across the scarred ground, his feet slipping, his ankles twisting this way and that. Somehow his army boots kept him upright and he instinctively ducked under the rotor blades. A huge explosion landed to his right, but then an even harsher blow nearly knocked him into the side of the chopper. There was an intense flash of whiter-than-white light that almost blinded him, and a fierce, hot wind that scorched the skin from his face. He was hauled in through the helicopter’s sliding door as it was already taking off and thrown unceremoniously onto a pile of baggage in the corner. They roared away, going south.

Don shivered uncontrollably. He tried to relax; he was still alive; they might escape. In a few minutes he staggered up and looked out of the back side windows. His last view was of the distinctive, unmistakeable, white mushroom cloud on the horizon. It could be Jerusalem, or Damascus; he wasn’t sure. Over to the west, he just couldn’t believe his eyes as yet another mushroom cloud rose up above the purple-grey mountainous backdrop; it could be Isfahan or anywhere in Iran. He closed his eyes, weeping, the tears rolling down his face.

Somehow, they managed to get the chopper to the aircraft carrier in the Red Sea. There was no time to recuperate; he was instantly bundled onto a long-range jet plane and was hurtling back to the Oodles/Government Base in Scotland before he could get his breath.

After a few days of treatment and debriefing, he crawled back to London like a wounded dog, to die in his last refuge, the old empty flat high above Crouch End.

nuke10

Armageddon

turkish-soldiers-stand-guard-syrian-refugees-wait-behind-border-fences

“There are still wars, of course. New wars brought about by the different claims on land that used to be empty, but now are the only places suitable for habitation. Most of these are in the tundras of the north; Siberia, Outer Mongolia, Alaska, and around the Hudson Bay. There are refugees everywhere. Greenland is fully inhabited once again, but now by a thriving, excitable Mediterranean populace, and they are defending it assiduously from some rather half-hearted Caribbean invaders, totally grid-locked and spaced-out amongst the floating ice-bergs.

“The longest running war is still the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is little hope of it ever being settled. The whole of the Middle East is full of refugees from Africa, trying to make their way north to more temperate zones, where they are blocked by the last remnants of Balkan and Russian militia. They hate the dry rocky deserts, everywhere there are stones underfoot, and there is no prospect of finding any space to settle and cultivate that isn’t already occupied by Arab tribes or fenced off by the Israelis.

“The latter are now more or less besieged, trapped behind the monstrous Wall they had built around themselves to keep everyone else out. Israel is now hemmed in, bombed to bits and dying on its feet.

“The Mediterranean sea is slowly encroaching from the west; the Gaza Strip was overwhelmed some years ago, with Palestinian refugees streaming down into the fierce heat of Egypt. America, Europe, China and Russia kept their distance, bunkered down in their own lands, trying to deal with their own problems of catastrophe and lawlessness. They would not intervene for fear of total, and final, World collapse.

“Unbelievably, despite the chaos and destruction, Oodles is still making money! The communications satellites are still circling the Earth, and the mobile aerials, wi-fi hotspots and fibre-optics are the first things to be installed in the hastily constructed new cities of concrete, steel, plastic, canvas or corrugated tin.

“With their embedded terminals, it is the only way the Ordinaries can get any news of the outside world, though it is heavily censored and manipulated to avoid panic. It is the only way they can keep in touch with their friends and relatives, increasingly dispersed around the globe, as they are herded into the new cities and refugee camps. Goods and supplies are flown in by drones, a constant buzz in the skies above, giving them little incentive to move from their shoddy apartments, tents or caves, until the next emergency, environmental catastrophe, or military crisis. What is left of the local Governments hastily try to keep one step ahead and start construction projects further north, or less readily, further south.

“Lots of people are lost in the process, by war, catastrophe and disease. But the Ordinaries are subdued and de-sensitised by the continual flow of mock experience via the Substitutes, virtual dramas, and computer-generated thrills, beamed direct into their heads, and they reject any opposition or revolt in case they lose even that. The World population is diminishing rapidly through warfare, disasters and people’s lack of desire to procreate. Subconsciously, they know there is no future for their children. Their desires are projected inwards to the ersatz Oodles experience. It is too late for them to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated in the name of “Progress”, “Consumerism”, “Growth” and “Free Enterprise”.

“But we are determined to put a stop to it, even if we die in the process. Someone has to stand up to Oodles and its web of lies, false promises, and insidious control. We will destroy the local “Cloud”, come what may. Hillsy and McGill are making explosives from the recipes I downloaded from some long-forgotten archive on the Web, and Hodges and McGilly are out rounding up the rest of the Rebels and telling them of our plans. Tom and Maddie, of course, are nowhere to be seen, probably mooning about on the Heath, but they are our future, and we will take them with us. May the Cosmos give us speed.”

(PKD’s Blog #4)

Oodles_Cover_for_Kindle

Young Love

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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.

Oodles_Cover_for_Kindle

The Rift Valley

CavePainting

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 –

Twelve hours later, they landed on a makeshift runway in Tanzania on the red, sandy soil, cleared of scrub. They grabbed two rucksacks and a tent-bag, jumped out of the tiny four-seater plane and ran over to the side of the strip. The plane took off again immediately, leaving them stranded, with not a soul around. “Man, it’s hot!” thought Indigo. “Almost as hot as she was last night!”

They set up camp amongst the barren, heat radiating rocks of the Olduvai Gorge. It was so hot, Jacqueline climbed into the low tent and began to take off all her clothes, so he pulled his hat low, took out the map, and looked about for a cave, the cave that The Founder had told him about. It was much too sticky for anything else at this time of day.

When he got back, in the late afternoon, she was asleep inside the tent, completely naked and lying on her back, her arms and legs akimbo, perspiration rolling down her breasts and tummy.

“Wakey, wakey!” he shouted, rudely planting a kiss on a tempting nipple. “We had better move camp up into the cave I’ve found. It will be dark soon, and very quickly. Then it will be too cold to stay out here!”

“I was having such a lovely dream!” she sighed. “About a man I once knew who didn’t stop for such domestic arrangements.”

“Later, my flower! Get dressed and move. It will be much more comfortable up there.”

After a very comfortable and at times rather hectic night, they awoke to prepare coffee and bacon in the mouth of the cave, the morning sun slanting in and lighting up the very back of the cave. Sloughing off their dazed bleariness, they began to explore.
They soon found evidence of ancient human habitation, probably small family groups.
There were paintings of a journey on the walls of the cave; past or future, they could not tell. They pressed on further back into the dark recess.

They came to a low arch in the rock, pitch-black beyond.

“We had better be careful,” said Indigo. “This is always the point where something nasty happens!”

They cautiously edged through the narrow opening and, almost immediately, a round boulder rolled behind them, cutting them off from their camp, light, warmth and equipment. Fortunately, he had a torch in his shoulder-bag. They pressed on, hoping to find a way out. There were various hazards: snakes, bats, spiders, underground lakes.
Ugh! He hated spiders! He kept his hat on at all times.

“Don’t be afraid, Indy! I’ve seen it all before!” said Jacqueline, nonchalantly.

Well, that’s progress he thought. At least they were on first-name terms now!
They reached a cavern, deep in the mountain, that could not have been seen by human eyes since the figures of the ancient huntsmen and animals were drawn on the walls, and the people left on their epic World journey, 70,000 years ago.

There was an altar in the middle of the cavern, and on the altar, to Indigo’s and Jacqueline’s startled surprise, a round, symmetrical shape lay beneath layers of red dust, untouched for thousands of years. Indigo brushed his fingertips over it, and a metallic gleam glistened in his torchlight. The object was a small, shiny, titanium cylinder with rounded ends. It looked as though it could be unscrewed. Indigo gingerly lifted it from the slab of rock, but the ground immediately fell from beneath his feet and he threw the cylinder to the girl. He rushed feet first down a shaft, bouncing off the rough rocky walls, into an underground river. It was cold, but flowing; there must be an exit. He shouted to Jacqueline, telling her to climb down, with the cylinder. Which she did, expertly, of course.

They waded in the direction of the stream’s flow, eventually seeing light ahead, and finally emerged into the dazzling sunlight again, under the very peak of Mount Lemakarot looming over their right shoulders. They splashed along the shallow, clear stream, which discharged into the dried-up Lake Magadi in front of them. The evaporation was almost immediate, and the mud was steaming.

They hunkered down at the side of the stream and Indigo unscrewed the lid of the cylinder. A roll of paper fell out. To his shock and disbelief, it was headed with the “Oodles” logo, dated with last week’s date, giving them directions to a safe spot where they could be picked up.

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The Space-Flight

Spaceflight

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 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 Owen 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 off-springs, 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.

– o –

Ten years after leaving Earth, Captain Church and his lonely, weary crew found themselves in the middle of the Alpha-Centauri complex. They had slowed down to one-hundredth light-speed and had passed a number of stars, some many times larger than the Sun. They had seen planets, large and small, some were apparently inhabitable; but most, according to their instruments, were definitely not.

One small planet they had passed quickly by was about Earth size, and even bluey-green in colour, but they hadn’t seen any land masses on their side. The panic of avoiding its moon, which suddenly appeared out of nowhere, had caused them to reject it and explore further. They did, however, report its existence and coordinates in their Ship’s Log, beamed back to Earth, if there was anyone left to receive it.

Aurora suddenly stiffened in her seat. “There’s an incoming signal! Straight ahead!”

“Is it possible?” said a shocked Captain Church. “We had better investigate.”

The screen in front of them showed a small white dot. The superimposed false-colour radio signal emanating from it was definitely pulsing regularly. They sent their own signal back: “dot, dot, dot … dash, dash, dash … dot, dot, dot.”

The planet’s radio signal immediately repeated it, as if understanding and encouraging them.

Doctor McFly was analysing the planet’s size, motion, environment and other characteristics. “This place looks perfect!” she gasped. “But there is obviously some intelligent life-form here already. Will they accept us?”

“Only one way to find out!” said Captain Church. “Shall we go down, Welchy?”

“Righto, bach!” the Engineer replied. “There we are then!”

They were met by the Aliens, far more superior beings, and were instantly wiped out. The Aliens ridiculed the pathetic amount of information known to Humans – it could all be contained in just a few cells; they needed whole civilisations.

– o –

In his penthouse suite on top of the Tower, The Founder eagerly awaited the latest instalment of the Space Ship’s Log. Of course, it was five years out of date by the time it arrived back on Earth, but he disregarded the time-lag now, convincing himself that this was happening in real-time. Which, as he couldn’t do anything to speed, slow, or change it, was the virtual truth.

He noted the various star-systems and the multitude of planets – far more than he thought possible. Every sun had twenty or thirty planets, some of which must be habitable. There was one in particular, a bluey-green planet about the size of Earth and with a Moon! But the idiots passed it by, preferring the promise of sentient beings with a radio beam. He would have been instantly suspicious of that. It was not at all what he wanted, which was to expand and control human civilisation without any other competition.

He watched in disbelief as they locked on to the radio beam and attempted to land on the planet’s surface. It was habitable all right. It was already inhabited!

Aurora, the Communicator, spoke to the “Aliens” first. “Greetings! We come in peace, from Earth, a planet four and a half light years away!”

The indigenous beings approached with caution. They were humanoid; lithe, athletic beings, full of grace and beauty. They smiled, and held out their hands in greeting.

“We have been watching your progress, expecting you for many light-cycles. Do you truly come in peace?”

“Of course!” said Captain Church, a little too eagerly. “We have many things to share with you. We wish to live again, here!”

The Aliens looked at each other, puzzled. How could they possibly live here? Four alien creatures who knew nothing of their Civilisation, Science, Art and Culture. They would be like exhibits in a zoo, something they were very much opposed to. What could they possibly share with them? Their intellects appeared very inferior.

Captain Church invited them onto the ship and took them on a tour. They were appalled at the sight of the hundreds of “eggs” glowing in the dark. They were even more appalled when Doctor McFly explained that these were indeed real people, old people, who had already lived for more than a hundred years, but who had the greatest knowledge and the best intellects on Earth. They had sacrificed themselves to aid the mission.

The Aliens listened in disbelief and growing ridicule as Doctor McFly explained the purpose of the “Ovarians” and the banks of milky-white fluid stored on racks over the Crystal-Heads. They began to laugh.

“You mean the totality of your existence can be held in a few cells? Then your existence cannot amount to much. It is not worth preserving, and we will not risk contamination!”

The Founder watched in horror as the screen went blank. The experiment had failed. “Oh well,” he thought, dismissing the incompetent crew from his mind. “It was a long shot, anyway! At least I have the time-travel experiment in the Rift Valley under way. There will have to be a change of plan.”

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