Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Prophecy Out of Bounds Chapter Six

The transporter jolted and jerked. Kaleem had no sense of where he was going. One thing was certain, though. This was a particularly old transporter. He imagined it must be a former private one, one that was open to the air or at least had sliding veriglass, or perhaps even plastiglass windows. Ninety did not speak, nor did he even seem to move. Kaleem even wondered whether he was still actually there.
‘Where are you taking me?’ asked Kaleem, more because he wanted to make sure the peddler was still here. He had more sense than to expect a straight answer.
‘You want some new information, don’t you?’ replied Ninety gruffly. ‘Where do you think I’m taking you?’
‘I don’t know,’ replied Kaleem. ‘I don’t know where you keep Hidden Information.’
‘Well good,’ replied Ninety. ‘That was the general idea.’
Kaleem noticed than that the peddler moved occasionally. He could just about hear Ninety’s clothing rustling over the sound of the air rushing past. Was he actually driving this thing? It was that old? It was throwing them about all over the place as well. But even though he was getting bruised as he was flung from side to side, and even though this odd motion was making him feel nausea, especially as he was blindfolded, he could not help admiring how well hidden these passageways had remained form Normal Zoners.
It’s just a whole secret world down here, he thought.
The transporter stopped suddenly, almost throwing Kaleem out.
‘Right, come on then,’ said Ninety, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him roughly form the vehicle. ‘Don’t try to look at anything until we’re inside.’
Kaleem suspected he was still down in the cave system. There was no light showing through the scarf tied around his eyes. The ground was still uneven. However, he did hear the swish of electrically operated doors, and as they moved through them, the air seemed warmer.
‘Don’t say anything unless you’re asked to,’ Ninety warned. He removed the scarf from Kaleem’s eyes.
Kaleem found himself in a huge cave that seemed part natural and part hollowed out. Above them was a large dome-shaped window. He was sure it was veriglass, not plastiglass, because the night sky shone clearly through it. There must have been about a hundred of what looked like quite modern dataserves. The people working at them mostly looked as if they hadn’t slept
‘Welcome to the Knowledge Dome,’ said Ninety. ‘No remember, keep your trap shut until you’re asked to speak.
‘Who’s the Goody Goo?’ asked one of the operators who seemed to know Ninety.
‘Just another project,’ replied Ninety. ‘Man, One-O-One, you don’t even need to know his number. Don’t try it on.’
One-O-One laughed. ‘Does he know about the – er - conditioning?’ he asked.
‘He will,’ replied Ninety. ‘Where’s Three-five?’
‘Three-five?’ asked One-O-One.  ‘You want to see Three-five? My oh my, what have you found?’
‘A Prophecy book,’ replied Ninety, a sneer writing itself across his face.
‘Prophecy book?’ spluttered One-O-One. ‘Which one?’
‘Babel,’ replied Ninety.
‘Oh man. Rather you than me,’ replied One-O-One.
Kaleem pressed the book close to his chest. Why were they so scared of this book? He found the Prophecy annoying and difficult to believe, though it often looked as if it were true. But scared of it and as scared as they all seemed to be? That was ridiculous.
‘Come on,’ said Ninety, pushing Kaleem roughly. ‘We’ve got to see Three-Five’.
Ninety marched Kaleem to a small door at the far side of the cave. ‘In there,’ he said.
The room was quite dark inside. As Kaleem’s eyes grew used to it, he saw that Three-Five was a very short man whose feet did not touch the floor.
‘What have we got on him?’ Three-Five asked Ninety in a high-pitched voice.
‘Book,’ replied Ninety. ‘Babel Prophecy.’
‘Oh, Babel Prophecy, eh?’ replied Three-Five, rubbing his hands together. ‘And what information might this Goody Goo want in exchange?’ He looked straight at Kaleem. ‘We don’t look into prophecies,’ he said. ‘Just hard facts the other Goody Goos don’t want you to know. Prophecies are for the Goldeners.’
Kaleem shrugged. ‘Then why are you so keen to get my book?’ asked Kaleem.
Three-Five laughed. He sounded like a child giggling. ‘You don’t know anything, do you? It’s worth credits, thousands of credits, in the right hands. Not credits as you’d know them, though. But we can use them all right.’ He nodded to Ninety. ‘Conditioning mask on now.’
Before he knew what was happening, Ninety had twisted Kaleem’s arms behind his back. Three-Five was reaching into a cupboard. He pulled out a gold face mask and pushed it on to Kaleem’s face.
Kaleem felt as if he was suffocating. He took several gulps of air, but still couldn’t breathe properly for several minutes. Then he felt as if he was floating. His face began to tingle.
‘So, Project Five-Six,’ he heard Three-Five say in his high-pitched voice. ‘What can we do to stop you telling anyone what you find out here?’
‘I won’t tell anyone,’ said Kaleem. He quite liked this feeling. He was floating away. He was warm and light. Nothing seemed to matter.
‘Well, don’t,’ said Three-Five. ‘Or this might be what you have to see.’
Maria was standing in front of him. She seemed well again.  She smiled at him. Then without warning, something jumped on her. It looked like a cross between a man and a monkey. It started hitting her, then biting her face, and then it turned to Kaleem and grinned at him, pieces of Maria’s flesh hanging down from its teeth.
‘No!’ he cried. ‘Don’t.’
The scene faded and he was floating again.
Next he saw Rozia Lawrence walking along a woodland path.  It seemed so real and not at all holoed. Something moved in the bushes. Someone jumped out at  her. It was Stuart Davidson. He tried to drag her back into the bushes. She was crying and pulling away from him.
‘Let her go!’ shouted Kaleem. ‘Let her go!’
He went to grab Davidson, but he could not move. Davidson came right up to him and leered at him, his face just a few centimetres from Kaleem’s. Then he started to laugh. The laugh got louder and louder until it made Kaleem dizzy.
Once more Kaleem floated away.
Then he was looking at Razjosh tied to a bench. Strange people – could they be Zandrians? were performing some sort of operation on him. Had he been caught and was being tortured by the Zandrians?
‘You should have let me go,’ cried Kaleem. ‘I told you to.’
One of the strange people turned round and sneered at Kaleem. It was actually one of the strange children from his dream.
‘No,’ whispered Kaleem. ‘They’re not monsters. They’re just children.’
‘I think he’s got it,’ he heard Three-Five say. ‘Take the mask off, Ninety.’
Kaleem felt the mask rip away from his face. He thought all of his skin was going to come off with it.
‘You see,’ said Three-Five. ‘That is what will happen if you don’t keep everything you see here to yourself. What you dread most. We know it all now. It’s  recorded. And we’ll use it if we have to.’
‘To the Pool?’ asked Ninety.
‘Yeah, take him to the Pool.’
‘Come on then,’ said Ninety, prodding Kaleem’s back so that he had to walk forward. His head was still reeling from the mask. The floor was uneven. He found it difficult to keep his balance.
‘Go on,’ said Ninety, prodding him again. ‘Over there.’ He was pointing to the other side of the large cave they’d been in before.
Kaleem managed to stumble across, until he was facing what looked like a blank rock face. So this was a natural cave. Partly at least.
‘Go on through,’ said Ninety.
Kaleem saw the opening.  Ninety pushed him through it.  ‘Hope you find what you’re looking for,’ he said, not really sounding as if he meant it. ‘Hope Zema will be happy.’
The new cave was even bigger. It had no glass roof. It was filled with row and rows of dataserves. Many of them were working on their own, others were operated by droids and just one or two had humans looking at their screens. They didn’t look like peddlers, though. They just hadn’t got that hard look about them and they were more normally dressed with neat and tidy tunics and leggings.
They could be at a school meet, thought Kaleem.
‘So, you’ve allowed into the Pool,’ said a voice above him.
Kaleem looked up and saw her. She was standing on a balcony, high up on the cave wall. She was wearing a mask not unlike the one he’d had to put on earlier. He guessed, though, that it wouldn’t give her the same terrifying visions. She wore a long, sweeping tunic, as if she were going an attachment ceremony or a festival. ‘And I expect you would like to know what that is.’
She came down a staircase that Kaleem had not noticed when he first came into the cave, but now that she was moving down it, it was very clearly visible. It also became clear that she was wearing no leggings, and that as she moved, the sides of the tunic parted to reveal the whole length of her legs. When she turned to face him, he could see that the tunic was also quite low necked and her legs weren’t all that she was showing.
‘I am Zema. This is the Pool of Hidden Knowledge,’ she said sweeping her arm in a dramatic circle over the dataserves. ‘This is the analysis and recording room. The other one is just where we process requests. Exceptionally we let Goody Goos come here and give us information which goes directly into the Pool. Instead of a fee. I believe you have something for us to look at.’
Kaleem held the book closer to himself.
‘Oh, don’t worry,’ she said, running a finger down Kaleem’s cheek and then placing two fingers on his lips. ‘You get to keep your little book. After we’ve thoroughly tested and analysed it.’  She stood herself even closer to Kaleem, pushing her chest forward so that he was forced to look into her cleavage.
Kaleem blushed. The smell of her perfume made him feel dizzy and he couldn’t help being fascinated by her chest which went up and down as she breathed slowly and deeply in and out.
‘Ah,’ she said, suddenly moving away from him. ‘You’re probably a little young for this. But we do find that it helps most of our customers to, er, what shall I say? Relax a little?’ She stood right back and folded her arms across her chest. ‘So, give me the book,’ she said. She held out her hand. ‘And we can get started.’
Kaleem held the book even closer to his own chest.
Zema growled.
‘We’re not going to take it off you!’ she said. ‘You can hold it all the time it’s in the machine. The machine won’t hurt you. But once we know what its worth, we’ll know how much we can help you. What do you want to know?’
‘I want to know who my father was,’ said Kaleem. He hesitated. It wasn’t that simple. It was more than that. ‘And I want to know why my mother has chosen to pretty well hide herself away.’
‘You don’t ask much, do you?’ said Zema. She nodded her head. ‘Very well then. Iris connect to the sensor.’
Kaleem look at the sensor.
Zema turned to the nearest dataserve. ‘Scan for birth records and life records of all relations,’ she commanded. She turned back to Kaleem. ‘Now, bring the book over here.’
They walked over to a dataserve which was attached to a large metal box with a slot in the side.
‘Hold the book as close to the edge as you can and put it though the slot. The scanner will analyse it. It will take about twenty minutes.  Hopefully in that time, we’ll also have the information you want.’
Kaleem held the book tight. He had no sense that the machine was doing anything, but he could see that Zema was frowning and her eyes were getting wider and wider as she stared at the dataserve screen.
One of the operators came over and mumbled something to Zema. She nodded. The scanner did finally whir and then its lights went out. Odd, thought Kaleem, that the only time it made any noise was just as it stopped.
‘You may remove the book,’ said Zema. Her eyes were shining. ‘It is the most precious item we have ever seen. It confirms the Babel Prophecy.’
‘So what does that mean?’ asked Kaleem.
‘It means we cannot possibly let you take it away,’ replied Zema.
Kaleem clutched the book tightly.
‘And I don’t think you will want us to,’ she continued. ‘There is no information about your birth or your mother.  The book and the Prophecy probably hold the only clues. Now come, give me the book.’
She held out her hand.
Kaleem held the book even tighter. He knew what he had to do.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Prophecy Out of Bounds Chapter Five

Back in his room Razjosh suddenly noticed how tired he had become. I’m getting too old for this, he thought. Yes, it was certainly time a younger man took over. But would Kaleem be ready? He was really still only a boy. Razjosh smiled to himself. Of course, Kaleem probably did consider himself to be a man, especially now that he was living at home on his own.
There had been no more news about Maria. Well, there had been reports daily, but there had been nothing new to tell. Was she fulfilling that Babel Prophecy? Had she conceived Kaleem the long-forgotten natural way? Was that what was meant by the Mother? Even with all he knew of Golden Knowledge, Razjosh was not sure whether this was just wishful thinking. Or was it just that old trick of making a prophecy fit a set of events because it was convenient? Odd though, that those three separate threads had come together of their own accord - an implication that Maria might be a natural mother, and that she of all people should possess a book version of the Babel story. Odd too that it was her son who had shown the most aptitude for the Peace Child Programme. And it was looking as if Kaleem was really going to have his work cut out. That would certainly be an opportunity for him to invent himself as something special. Razjosh realised that his time as the current Peace Child had been comparatively quiet  There had been just a few diplomatic exchanges now and then. And he had never had to leave Terrestra before. He and his advisors had just chosen that he should. If only he didn’t feel so tired, he could enjoy it more. Razjosh knew what would help him most.
He took his small portable dataserve out of the cupboard and removed the machine from its case. To anyone else, the case would look empty. Carefully he removed the false bottom. He took out one of the books from the hidden compartment and began to leaf through it. He could read the old printed Wordtext quite easily, and this was written in one of his more fluent languages. Soon, there were just pictures in his head of the inhabitants of another planet, one which did not actually exist, but which someone’s imagination had invented. There were four distinct races. They had found a way of living in harmony, even though they were all so different. There were silly people and sensible people on this planet. There were people who liked to live in luxury and those who lived without shoes and walked on mud.
The pictures in Razjosh’s head became more and more vivid. This is so much richer than movie clips, he thought. And what an interesting place to live. The trouble with universalisation is that now we are nearly all the same. He smiled to himself, though, when he remembered how different the Terrestrans actually were from the inhabitants of other planets.
The communicator in Razjosh’s cabin sounded.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Prophecy Out of Bounds Chapter Four

Kaleem followed Ninety along the cold damp passages. The air smelt so funny it almost made him choke. He kept slipping on something slimy. Ninety, he noticed, didn’t slip once.
Now and then the peddler stopped and shone a thin beam of light down a side passage. He would mutter something to himself and then switch off the torch again. The darkness seemed even worse then, after the sudden bright light.
‘This one,’ said Ninety suddenly in a loud voice. He snapped the torch off suddenly. ‘Come on then.’
He set off quickly down the passage. Kaleem struggled to keep up. But only seconds later Ninety was pulling open a thick door which looked as if it was made out of rock. Light flooded in through the opening. The two of them stepped out. They were standing next to the main door to Kaleem’s cave home.
Ninety pushed the rock door back. You really couldn’t see that it was a door at all. Just exactly how much more of this network was still there?
‘This it, then?’ asked Ninety.
Kaleem nodded. He typed the code into the lock and let them into his apartment.
‘You get the book then,’ said Ninety.
‘I have,’ said Kaleem. ‘But I’m not going to give it to you yet.’
‘You’d better show it me, though,’ said Ninety,’ or there won’t be a trade.’
‘All right,’ said Kaleem. ‘I’ll go and get it. Do you want anything while you’re waiting? Cave water or something? I haven’t really got anything else. ‘
The peddler didn’t answer. He just scowled at Kaleem.
Kaleem went into Maria’s room. Dare he do this, really? He mustn’t lose the book.  That would never do.
It was exactly where he had left it,  still wrapped in the paper. He slid it out of its sleeve. It still amazed him. He touched the delicate silver and blue pictures. The paper was slightly raised in places.
‘Don’t be all day, man,’ shouted Ninety. ‘We haven’t got that much time.’
Kaleem went back into the sitting room.  He showed the book to Ninety, taking care not to let it completely out of his hands.
The peddler’s eyes went rounder and Kaleem was sure he went slightly pale. He leafed through the book. His mouth seemed to drop open slightly.
‘This is the real thing,’ he muttered. ‘This is worth a fortune. No it isn’t. It’s priceless. You’d never be able to sell it. But it’ll buy you some power.’ He snapped the book shut. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘This is what we’re going to do. I get to carry the book. We go to the Info Web. But you go blindfold. I ain’t risking a Normal Zoner knowing where the Info Web is. And we use this to bargain with.’
No that wouldn’t do.  He could not let go of the book until he was sure he was going to get something with it.
‘I won’t let you carry the book,’ said Kaleem. ‘The book doesn’t leave me until I’m absolutely sure you’re going to get me some information.’
‘Okay, you carry the book,’ said Ninety. ‘I don’t want to hold the damned thing. It’s spooky, that whole prophecy. But it gives you the power. And,’ he grabbed Kaleem’s’ tunic and pulled him towards himself so that their faces were almost touching. ‘And you promise me, that whenever I need to enforce some power, you’ll give me access to that book.’
‘Fine!’ said Kaleem. ‘Whatever!’ How did he think he was going to get away with that? Once Razjosh was back, this man would never have the chance to get close to him again. But at least for now, he could fool him into finding something out.
‘Right!’ said Ninety. ‘Stand up!’
Kaleem went and stood by the peddler who took a scarf out of the small backpack he was carrying. He bound the scarf around Kaleem’s eyes and then pushed him out of the cave apartment.
‘Make the door safe,’ he told Kaleem.
Kaleem was surprised that he did manage to set the lock without being able to see it. He must have been so used to where he put his fingers. He felt the rough ground beneath his feet again. He heard Ninety move the rock door, then whistle and seconds later there was a loud rumbling sound in the corridor.