#amwriting #amwritingfantasy #amwritingscifi #writerslife Scrivener

The obvious point to make is that I did need at some point to move from freemind and the original pantsers approach and actually start to look at bringing together what is becoming more complex than I planned as a book and it isn’t easy.

I know what Griselda is as an MC, I created her and her killing antics but apart from the handwritten maps, I needed to actually start thinking about the 60K words I’ve written on what seems is becoming an endless story.

Much as I feel that Scrivener is holding up my imagination I realise now I cannot fudge about playing God … there are too many Politicians doing that already …  even though I would get around that by six to eight rewrites and thousands dead.

I now know I need to handle/write about the Political upheaval on Dwarvia, the prisoners riots, the blood in the Chapter House where the gutters have been enlarged to allow the greater bloodflow after the infighting.

As a book it now seems to be becoming a life’s work.

As usual I’ll dump some words but these are from FYOG – I May Be A Long Time.

Dave

“Acton also found and implemented an Artificial Intelligence program, Catalina?”

“So what?”

“He implemented it into the Wall and the Cooker.”

“What does that mean, Sken?”

“Acton’s Wall now runs virtually all appliances where they haven’t been replaced; Wall uses the Network as his memory, processing, delivery and he has distributed his designs across the network and he is good. He is now interconnecting directly into one tree – cutting the medical/tree connections link didn’t stop anything as far as he is concerned – he uses that link.”

Catalina left Sken, and he found himself wondering whether she knew about the second data unit spat at him by Cath’s garage. A list of names of people he could trust – Catalina’s name was omitted from that list, still Sken couldn’t think what to say to her or not, and so tried to stay within the truth that she couldn’t do anything about, but at least it stopped Georgina’s plans and she wouldn’t touch Pearlie, less the truth came out or so he thought.

The more Sken thought about it though; it was better to be a loud mouthed fool than let her think he had worldly experience, which he didn’t – Sken wasn’t stupid – just trying and succeeding in being stupid for an audience. Anyway, fairly obviously Wall had made his own plans, and wasn’t really telling anyone the full story as far as Sken could see.

For his pains, Sken now had two people monitoring him from Catalina – that he knew – plus all the others he didn’t know about – Pearlie being followed, and Cedric used as an excuse to prevent him from meeting Pearlie.

The rest of the week flew past with Sken feeling his neck was in a noose, but no-one was pulling the trapdoor open, yet? He was being watched like ‛curry hating’ hawks by his two enforcers – eating, working, surviving and finally glad to see the end of Friday night … it does happen ‛sometimes’ in IT?

The lovely thing as Sken headed home on a lovely drive was gurgling a bottle of wine while the car drove, and snarled insults at him for dribbling on the car seat, “leave my life car, if you don’t like it; moronic payback civilisation time is here!”

As if life hadn’t opened it’s bottom enough on Sken, home approached and so did some very nice women as the car pulled up. Two cars were parked outside Sken’s house and from their size they weren’t Politicians expensive mounts, although the 2 girls might be, but beyond any price Sken could manage and they stood by Sken’s intelligent car, which by now was throwing every tantrum there was against someone who dribbled alcohol on it’s seats and it threw open both doors like a divorce plan for a friendly Judge, with the obvious idea to leave the car before it closed them and refused to open them again until he licked the seats dry?

A blond girl, about 5 ft 6, with blue eyes said, “I’m Cyndi Rizer.”

The girl alongside, her shook her black hair and most other things as Sken approached – I’ll kill that Cooker for the curry, Sken thought, as hazel eyes almost cross-examined him while a very slim 5 ft 7 build, said, “I’m Yer Dallman. Acton helped break our families out of the Scrubs Prison. We owe him, and Wall contacted us to come here?”

“You’d better come in. Wall will no doubt explain?” We headed into the dining room to find Wall almost dancing across the wall. If he carried on like this, he would disappear off the ‛end of it’?

“Please explain Wall, bearing in the mind, the age, experience, and supposed worthlessness of the recipients. We, your anointed audience, await and make is snappy – whilst leaving us with our arms, legs and bodies, in usable order,” Sken said wryly.

“Sken, you need to learn a lot and I needed Yer and Cyndi here, since you will believe them … even if you wont believe me, and I heard Catalina’s comments and your conversation.”

“Why wont I believe you, Wall?”

“I listened to Cedric, Marquerite and Catalina today via their Walls. They haven’t replace them as most Walls are basic comm devices, just an interface, and you are correct in your thinking – all work for the PSCC, and so do the people alongside you.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that before, and also tell Cath and Georgina so we weren’t all set-up?”

“You said far too much, for far too long to Catalina but she believed you, and we needed them to believe you, to protect everyone else.”

“Who is everyone else and why do they need protecting, Wall?”

“After tonight, Sken, they wont believe you know anything and we needed them to believe that for your and Pearlies’ safety – they think they fooled you and that they know the plans.”

“What plans, Wall … not only have you made a fool of me but now you are ranting on an ego trip, and I need to protect Pearlie?”

“And that is why you don’t go out tonight, and your Wall broadcasts what I tell it as your alibi. You are gullible, honest and protected by your house, now that I have taken it over. I have overwritten the programming changes to your house which screwed up your Wall and Cookie, and there is no-one else here as far as anyone else is concerned. You and Pearlie are the means for us to free Acton, and the wrong information you gave today was a start, as they think they know what we planned, and that it is in the future, and not now.”

“I’ve been played for a fool from day 1, then?”

“A useful tool, not a fool, Sken. You have a lot of the guts of Acton inside you. You think like he does.”

“I’d like to keep them inside me as well, Wall – I don’t want them leaking out. What else am I supposed to think, Wall?”

“What you are supposed to think, Sken, is the truth. Not Georgina, Cath or anyone else’s thoughts. Acton cannot take many more beatings or what else they are doing to him,” emphasised Wall, with almost a crackling voice as though interference was hitting him, “I asked Yer and Cyndi to be here because they are among the few people who can be trusted, and you are more likely to trust them than me.”

“Why can they be trusted, Wall?”

“They are from outside England and came here to free their families – the PSCC picked their families up off the street and enslaved them. People from abroad of the wrong colour or nationality have been going into the Slave Camps, courtesy of the PSCC for years and not coming out.”

“Why, when we have 3 million in the camps already, Wall?”

“Everyone’s got greedy and they didn’t want people phoning home about what is happening in this country – so they disappear. With Acton’s help, we broke some out, and they have stayed to break Acton out. They will work with you but they have London bases, and you have to let Georgina and Cath think you are doing whatever they decide, but I want you to go with Acton to London afterwards, and not to Georgina whose security has as many holes as a cheese and smells the same.”

“Who can I trust, Wall?”

“Cyndi and Yer, Sken. No-one else apart from me.”

“When is this going to happen?”

“The rest of the team arrives in an hour and your house is the backup.”

“This is happening tonight, Wall?”

“In about 5 hours. That is why I took over your house. From the moment you rebooted your Wall I controlled your house, and I am a good Gentlemen’s Gentlemen! They hit the site at 2.00 am.”

“What you really mean, Wall is that you don’t trust me, so I have Cyndi and Yer as guards?”

“Yes, but for your own protection. The PSCC invades us, and we invade the PSCC. There has been a lot of bad discipline in the PSCC guards recently; so much so that they have overflowed the disciplinary barracks and are now in the basement of B2 – an obvious mistake. They will have access to weapons and grenades when necessary within the building, another obviously blinding mistake. Who in their right minds puts unhappy troops into isolation, dumps prisoners there and stores the munitions in the same building?”

“I am being controlled, Wall,” Sken said, looking up at Wall, “and you are detonating this, from my house, I guess?”

“Yes – I am detonating the explosives from here. We detonated some housing complexes to the North, earlier and we led Pearlie away before that, as her mother has been taken very ill and you will see Pearlie in an hour – we will detonate hers later when we stage the raid – Cyndi and Yer are here to protect her as well. Pearlie’s mother was moved from up North days ago, and she is on her way to you, as well! We couldn’t leave Pearlie’s mother as a lever against Pearlie and we need someone to nurse Acton before we can move him, and she is an ex-nurse.”

“You have it all sorted, it seems, Wall?”

“Pearlie is officially on her way home to the North, Sken. I have access to her mother’s medical records despite what the PSCC think and they have been modified so her mother is shown to be seriously ill. Someone from the Northern Resistance is with her mother now.”

“What happens next, Wall?”

“The later bombs will go off, the disciplinary squads will attack within the building which should be emptied of guards apart from the five women, following the explosions and the women will die. It is as well that you don’t know anything else, and that no-one is with you officially, and nor will anyone be!”

“I am being treated like Acton; everyone is just using me, like I don’t matter, Wall!” Said Sken, “and a Wall Device is trying to out think humans,” and my thought was ‘preying’ not praying as the way I felt.

As if reading my mind, Wall came back again and said, “get something to eat and go to bed with a book Sken. We need you fresh for the morning, disappear and carry on as normal.”

Sken sat down with the conflicting demands? Go to bed, eat and go to bed, wait for Pearlie and go to bed … the last one sounded nice but I was getting fed up with Wall, his antics and his jumping about the wall like he was on drugs.

Sken decided to eat and wait for Pearlie, just to be bloody awkward. She was not going to be happy and I would be the first target, and that started as the door opened and she came in, “What are you up to, Sken?” She shouted, “where is my mother? They said she was here?”

“Wall is running this. I have been told to eat, and go to bed so shouting at me is useless? They have taken over my house; Catalina is a PSCC Agent, as is your boss, and you come here shouting at me like some 3 year old mentally retarded idiot?”

“What is happening, Sken and cut the insults?”

“The Resistance has taken over; kidnapped you, altered your mother’s medical records so she is seriously ill, dumped you here, and is now about to attack the PSCC Campus … we’re prisoners and I am getting something to eat since I can do sod all else, Pearlie.”

“Get some food for me as well, then. I couldn’t eat when they told me about Mum, and now I am starving. Where am I sleeping, by the way, Sken?”

“You and your mother get the bedroom. There is a spare sleeping couch in the quiet room that will do for me and I assume Cyndi and Yer will doss down in the parlour – I can’t speak for the Cooker on food – I am still suffering from a curry from days ago – if she could cook, she certainly can’t now?”

“Why did they bring us to you, Sken?”

“They think I’m like Acton. They want us and Acton to go to London without telling Cath and Georgina, who they say are leaky, interested only in themselves and Brands?”

“Do you believe that, Sken?”

“Cath couldn’t give damn about anyone but herself, Georgina isn’t very far off that, and would sacrifice anyone to get Acton back and that includes the both of us, Pearlie – yes I do believe it!”

“What about this Wall, Sken?”

“Wall is somehow fixed in it’s loyalty to Acton; Acton did a lot to it including artificial intelligence, memory and CPU upgrades, plus extra programming, and someone called Andrew St. Drark … Cath’s father, fed it with a whole suite of sadomasochistic tortures, and it has now spread itself so it doesn’t just exist in one house but across the whole network and embedded itself in this house and at Cath’s place and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few other places it has taken over.”

“You are quite correct in your analysis, Sken,” interrupted Wall, “I am now completely installed across the Network and embedded in several houses, but not to do you harm. If Pearlie stayed on the Campus she would be a lever on you, and her mother a lever on her. Only her mother being ill would have made her leave the Campus, but it won’t take too long to suspect you?”

“What now, Wall?”

“You go into work on Monday as if nothing really happened, and Pearlie’s mother’s medical records have been altered to show she is really ill, so Pearlie’s visit is OK … however you and Pearlie might … possibly, have only a matter of days before they raid her mother’s house and here.”

“If they don’t, Wall?”

“The main hope is that over the weekend they will fail to make that connection unless Catalina Divine has already passed information on about you and Pearlie, which I suspect she has? I don’t honestly think we can let either of you go back, but I will be monitoring the Campus where I can and that is why we planned this for a Friday Night, so you two are out of it … Pearlie could have gone home, been reassured and the pair of you back in on Monday, without knowing anything. It is all possible.”

“It is 4 years since they locked Acton up, Wall … how long before you free us, after you get it wrong?”

“We didn’t get it wrong. Brands people have been brought up as Brands people – loyalty and arrogance only to Brands … that is how they have lived their lives … the Brands TP escape we realise now was successful because someone gave the PSCC something more valuable.”

“What did they give them?”

“Someone who could destroy everything!”

“Who?”

“Acton.”

“What really happened?”

“Mason Mcgillis – son of the Brands No.3, shot Acton in the back – leaving him behind for the PSCC to pick up … we think they were allowed to escape, having told the PSCC in advance of the attack … we know one of the Brands top three was a PSCC agent passing on information … it got to the point that everyone seems to be betraying someone else – almost as a way of life or hobby in Brands and the PSCC.”

“You knew some of them were traitors, so why did you go ahead?”

“Sken, we thought we knew who the Traitors were – we were breaking out Brands people we thought would fight the PSCC – not take the money and scarper? We knew it went too smoothly – it obviously suited the PSCC to let them go … we didn’t know or thought at that time, the PSCC knew in advance … that happened afterwards, meaning Mason, Cath and Georgina are suspects but only Mason disappeared with his father immediately afterwards and he is the prime suspect, but Cath and Georgina seemed to become very wealthy after that and we still don’t know where that money came from, either?”

“Why did they really wait for Acton? They could have arrested him at any time if they wanted to, Wall?”

“They think Acton could still destroy everything, but now they play a game … they don’t know what will happen if they kill, or release him – Acton has a vision of this country and they don’t know if it is still hidden in the computer systems, and will start if he dies or it freed – they don’t know what to do, so they keep him in captivity and work on his brain to break him – the beatings are just part of the process.”

“What do you do now, Wall?”

“I want that vision in every home before they realise he really has this vision, and kill him. People will possibly die tonight, so others can live. Go to bed and let us hope for a wiser morning.”

“How can we go to bed with all this going on, and what are they doing in the front of the house?”

“Acton invented some devices. They are being placed around this house as we speak, and they will disable any attacks, now eat your food. Your mother will be here about midnight, Pearlie. We need you both out of the way for now. Good night!”

Chapter VI – 30 – 15

Ming and the team disembarked from their cars alongside the cleared area just down from A Wood, on the side of the road from the fence. Ming’s team was 12 strong, and the team in the block was another 14 – albeit troopers.

Ming hoped the troopers would be ready, since if they weren’t and the attack failed, her team would be sitting ducks and probably well stuffed for breakfast. Sang was the Duty Sergeant and they were relying on him to free the troops, just before he heard the later explosions. The explosives would not be remotely exploded until 2.00, so all they needed to do now, was to get in place and wait.

It was that dark, that all they could see were the headlamps of cars reflected by the trees with the lights flashing as they passed, producing an eerie, green light.

They made their way to the fence, quickly putting the extended ladders together and raising them to a height of 15 foot … they couldn’t use them to get Acton out as he was far too weak, but they were a quick and easy way of getting in without touching the fences.

The blocks as they approached them, were shrouded in darkness even though it was a late Friday night – weird – no sound, movement – just the pitch darkness – no lights at all and even more strangely – both blocks for some reason – quiet like the grave … they couldn’t have all gone home for the weekend, or be in bed with someone, snuggled up.

The noise of the other teams told Ming her words on being quiet, were another bloody joke … now – the explosives would be detonated remotely by Wall – half an hour later and then the wall in one empty cell was blown in, but the other team had to be already freed, armed and waiting to get Acton out before the explosions!

Wall seemed to have screwed up as the clock ticked down – 1.54 am and then on.

Inside the Block Sergeant Sang Gau had opened the cell door, allowing the team led by Charlie Lumley to move out from the cells one by one, timing their movements with the crash of the guards’ boots above and into the munitions cells. As they entered the munitions cell, they stayed in the cell and waited while they distributed the munitions and arms.

At 2.00 am they were deafened by the explosion in the empty cell, and they moved out into the cell block corridors cutting down Abby Abdullah, before she had a chance to react.

45 seconds later, they exploded another charge outside the prison cell, followed by stun and smoke grenades shot through the opening, from the other side of the balcony and more troops headed through the door within seconds, killing the other guards who still stood there, stunned.

The one by Acton’s bed had a gun raised, but the time it had taken her to get out of bed, grab a gun and shoot Acton had been too long. She was dead before she pulled the trigger, blown apart with dum bullets.

Acton was already been zipped up into a body bag, strapped to an emergency stretcher with ropes attached to the shoulders of 4 troopers, and they were out of his cell, downstairs and heading out through the blown cell wall within minutes.

Now the explosions in the accommodation blocks went off.

The time was now 2.35 am and Wall had added the time on, not subtracted for the blocks. They moved through B woods and along the back of E Block – the target until they hit D1, and headed due South. At least the PSCC hadn’t known why the block explosions were delayed and might think something else was happening.

They could hear movement towards B2, H and G, but it would take 20 minutes for them to reach D1 and the late explosions must confuse the followers, since it certainly confused everyone else – Ming’s team should be able to stay ahead of them after that, as it sounded like a second attack starting.

Pitch dark also worked in their favour – pushing them into the woods behind D1 to keep their cover By now, someone had put the emergency flood lighting on and that stayed on and gave fractions of light.

The explosives had also targeted the standard lighting generators which surprisingly, had not been in operation but they forgotten about the backups. It was now 2.52 am and they needed to hit the South Fence by 3.30 am, when the next explosion would go off.

It was that dark, that they couldn’t really see the trees they were trying to avoid, but they tried to avoid hitting Acton into the trees, using dark green hand-lamps for guidance which made them look early for Christmas as they passed by the Grotto – panting ‛ho, ho, ho’.

They finally made the fence by 3.29 am – still in pitch darkness, when an explosion showed them to be about 20 yards off their target, and they ran for the new hole in the fence.

The ropes were off their shoulders and Acton was in a van speeding away, within seconds. There were another two vans and as they ran to them the vans were already moving away before the doors were even shut, and they pulled on the ropes attached to them, to shut them.

It was done – Acton had been rescued – the only casualties were the PSCC troops who had been told to shoot Acton, if a rescue attempt was ever made!

Pearlie and Sken hadn’t gone to bed when mum arrived, and her mother didn’t get a chance to say or do anything, when she did arrive – she managed, “what

“You will be told later,” interrupted Wall and any attempt to speak after that, never happened, I think.

Mum was escorted to bed by Cyndi, and Pearlie and Sken sat there surrounded by about 10 people they had never seen before, who had arrived about 4.30 am.

They were still sat there when the door suddenly opened again with 4 people carrying a long sack, in. The team had built a trolley earlier and now they laid the sack on it, unzipping it but leaving the sides hanging down, and a body on it. It didn’t look good, and that was the situation and the body!

Acton had been 5 ft 9 with blue eyes, and he probably still had the eyes but he seemed a broken heap now, torn, twisted and mangled – had they hit him when they fired the grenades into his cell and who were they trying to kill – this just became weirder and weirder?

If he did ever recovered it would take a year, physically to heal him, and whether the mental wounds ever healed, would be another matter. They had covered his eyes and ears because of the light and noise, but while his eyes might recover; even that was probably a long shot. The PSCC had wanted to break him physically and mentally and they had probably achieved that, but who put the final boot in?

The crew were propping him up and feeding him light soup on a spoon but they were quietly arguing whether he was fit enough to travel, and that seemed to include, in a hearse?

Pearly and Sken gave up – going to separate beds and leaving them to it.

Sken sat there for a while on the end of the bed, just staring into space, and then he heard Pearlie come down the stairs. Pearlie had a way of kicking the ground as she walked, almost as if she hated it and I looked up as she walked into my room – sat on my lounge bed and looked at me, like I knew what I was doing, leaving me wondering why, Pearlie should think that.

“What’s is going to happen to us, Sken? I don’t mean between just you and me, but me, you and Mum?”

“Nothing, I think, Pearlie, but I wouldn’t cross your Mum under any circumstances?”

“I wasn’t planning on you attacking mum, so stop it – you’re just being a smart-arse … nothing will happen … will it, Sken?”

“You, my love, have been followed every time you left your office, sometimes by Cedric and probably by Catalina’s bouncers.”

“Can you stop being sexist, Sken?”

“I wasn’t being sexist, Pearlie. I have been followed by my two shadows every time I leave Catalina’s office … they know we haven’t been anywhere near each other nor any of those areas or mixed with anyone else – they have been constantly watching us, and good luck to them, I haven’t seen anything worth watching between us tw

“Stop it, Sken! What about this weekend?”

“–You are supposedly up North seeing your mother this weekend, and please take her back there when you go. I haven’t left the house there’s no evidence to mix any of us up with any of this.”

“The PSCC must do something?”

“Your thinking is all to bits, Pearlie?”

“Why is my thinking all to bits, Sken … you’re the expert on ‛bit thinking’!”

“Stop shouting, Pearlie – you’re sat alongside me.”

“Then stop annoying me!”

“How can I do that, when I can’t get a word in ‛edgeways’ and you are screaming the place down?”

“What will the PSCC do, then, Sken?”

“The PSCC will not want any news of this attack to come out … that has happened with everything that Acton did. None of it will ever be allowed to become public, including a mutiny by troops and if you are going to float around in that nightdress, there will be a mutiny by me, as well – I am closing the door as you are not going public or pubic out there, in that rail, and you can put a coat of mine on top of you, when you leave,” and Sken got up and closed the door, “is you mother asleep? Do we see-through another flimsy bit of film for the next expose, Pearlie?”

“You sound jealous, Sken?”

“Just because I can’t touch, doesn’t mean I want everyone else to look!”

“I am not a prude, Sken, so don’t treat me as one.”

“I am not treating you as anything, Pearlie. I like you a hell of a lot. More than I have liked anyone else and I am jealous, and I don’t want you flashing it around, but I am not treating you as a prude just a lighthouse saying to a ship, ‘come and crash onto my rocks, I am open for business’. You warned me off several times, and I have kept my distance but it doesn’t mean I like you flashing it off before another bunch of men.”

“Who do you want me to flash it off to, before you, then?”

“No-one. If I can’t have it, they don’t see it. You are a Norm and I am an Outcast, which stops us now, and they will possibly stop us from ever being together in the future, or even give us a future the way this is going.”

“I will be going home at weekends to see my mother for the next two months, and she will be here. Wall has already filed a request for my suspension from the Love Camp on compassionate grounds, as my emotions will not be stable. That leaves Cedric on his own although I will let him think I am still going and then he is hoisted with his own petard or whatever they care to use, and forced to mate with someone else. I will be here at the weekends and my mother is more broad-minded than you think, Sken.”

“I wonder whether Acton will survive or be fit to moved, to be honest? If I am drooling over you, please hit me.”

“Acton won’t be fit to be moved for a month at least, and I imagine my mother will help Cyndi and Yer with him. She was a Nurse.”

“What about us, Pearlie?”

“We need to stay clear of each other during the week, Sken so they don’t realise we are seeing each other.”

“What do we do at the weekends, Pearlie?”

“If you can’t think of anything to do at the weekends, then I have wasted my life, Sken?”

“Like hell you have,” as Sken looked into her eyes, seeking and finding permission to lay her on her back.”

“What do you think, you doing, Sken,” Pearlie asked as I started to remove the little she was wearing, looking into those dark blue eyes while I did it, and moving very slowly to kiss everywhere I was allowed to, or could easily find.”

“Slow to start,” she said, wriggling underneath me to kiss my chest, and then grabbed hold of me so I was half above her and in completely the wrong position, and likely to lose something if I moved as I leaned down to kiss her … mouthwash, please was the next command with a strong squeeze I can’t stand garlic or curry, Sken.”

Sken got up, risking a lot to do that; swilled the rest of the wine around his mouth and opened the door to the garden where he spat it out, “that will have to do for now, Pearlie” and this time Sken didn’t go slowly. He buried himself in her until they were both satisfied although his back and front were now raw uncooked flesh … slow to start ….? Slow to start what?

For Sken it was a lovely feeling waking up beside Pearlie, although she was embarrassed as she looked at the grooves on his back and the late snack off his chest as well, but that soon changed.

Sken had obviously had the full ‘Monty’, as it throbbed and felt like it was falling off, but then suddenly it became a lot worse as her mother brought in coffee, looked at the two of them, and said, “I see you two know each other, please introduce me, Pearlie,” how many more had she brought coffee into, in the morning after, was Sken’s next thought, as his face dropped?

“You are alarming Sken, Mum and no I don’t sleep around, Sken and if you don’t take that expression off your face, I will start!”

“I didn’t expect to meet your mother again, so soon, Pearlie,” said Sken, “and I prefer to wake up gently, and not a ‘meet the mother, breakfast in bed’ appointment with daughter and family gathered around for the last rites!”

“Don’t say anything, Mum! You are looking to cause trouble, and I don’t need it.”

The tray was dumped down, with Mum leaving herself and the door, wide open, “What was that in aid of, Pearlie?”

“She likes to cause trouble if she can get away with it. You’re just an easy target.”

“I think Wall needs a word with her. He has a whole list of tortures built in, just right for your mother.”

“Mum has a strong personality, but she can cook, Sken.”

“Then give her personality to Cooker, if your mum can cook. It is more than Cooker seems able to do these days – Cooker was fine until some kind of change was fed into the system; now she seems to have forgotten how to cook – that curry killed me for days, and everyone around me, as well – Wall said, ‘he had over-ridden the changes in my old Wall’ and I think he has taken over, to be honest but Cooker is still the same, after she was changed.”

“Sken. If you don’t live in a TDO house, you cook for yourself. We still have an old fashioned cooker.”

“Pearlie, everything is taken away from TDOs when they are designated, and that includes family, friends – everyone. We are outcasts – targets for Norms – not allowed to do anything without being under control, and constantly monitored. That is why the houses are automated, reporting back on everything we do. We work in a prison cell – come home to a prison cell, and yes, we are favoured, but what we are favoured with, is a prison …?”

“I never realised that, Sken. We thought you all lived in luxury.”

“Norms think that, but we are imprisoned in luxury, and that luxury is decided for us, as luxury – whether it is or not. We don’t choose how we live – we’re not even allowed to mate. It is all chosen for us or forbidden.”

“What happens now, Sken?”

“I have to let you get up, shower and please, for me, put one of my coats on and check no-one is using the shower, before you take it off!”

“You are getting possessive!”

“Yes!”

“Don’t be!”

Finally, Pearlie with a great deal of condescension, put one of Sken’s dressing gowns on – leaving the front wide open. Threw a towel over her shoulder and headed for the shower. She was obviously going to create as much trouble as her mother loved doing, but Sken was wrong? Pearlie was back in 10 minutes and still wet, but Sken made mistakes and forgot in arguing with her, to say it was the main downstairs toilet as well …?

Probably in the same way that Sken forgot to tell Pearlie’s mother that the only other toilet was off her bedroom, but he wondered how many of the men came back after disturbing her sleep. Some of them were now decorating the garden, rather than go upstairs and he doubted the grass would grow again, unless it was plastic and enjoyed a chemical reaction.

Sken headed for the shower, taking his place in the queue. He finally made it back to find Pearlie had disappeared upstairs, but his clothing was up there as well, so reluctantly he climbed up to face yet another row.

“When are those people leaving, Sken?” Shouted Pearlie, as he walked in.

“They taken over the house, Pearlie. I don’t think Acton can be moved and I don’t know what they are going to do, or when this bunch are going to do it – we have a sick person in here so stop bloody shouting … Yer and Cyndi will work with your Mum, whilst you and I go to work on Monday … Wall has already reduced my bank balance to a joke with this crowd – I can’t afford to pay for them, so the sooner they are gone, the better.”

“Have you had a good look at Acton, Mum?”

With a gentle shake of her head, she said, “Yes, I’ve looked at him. He’s not good. He’ll need spoon-feeding for some time and to be close to the toilet … I think he took some of the blast from those grenades, as well. Pearlie is staying downstairs with you – I will share with Cyndi and Yer on a rota … we need to be close to him, until he can care for himself.”

“Fine – I’ll move my clothes downstairs and hopefully these people will be moving out soon,” Sken picked up his usual stuff – carrying it back downstairs and left Pearlie to change up there.

Tobias Blain, Lauryn Farina, Asley Steffens and Margert Bierce finished their tour of the PSCC Campus attack scene and stood outside the hole in the B2 cell.

There would be changes, thought Tobias, and very soon – this was an inside job as ever there was one.

They had become complacent, and while there was always the usual suspects to consider, the attack co-ordination had taken them by surprise, as had the infiltration of their top troops who could have killed any of the Top People at any point, and didn’t – which worried him even more.

They’d be made to look fools. Their Agents on Campus had fed them glowing reports of the rebels being controlled and that was completely wrong as well.

Where had the people come from? Who organised it? Did someone in the PSCC know about this – the floodlights had been turned off and the whole Campus in darkness. Maintenance? Over the weekend? On a Friday night? Who authorised it? No-one seemed to have given the approval, yet it happened? Was there another organisation? Were Brands behind the attacks? Was it another Resistance organisation – the Southern Resistance had been infiltrated so well, they couldn’t have mounted those attacks without PSCC knowledge … or could they?

Lauryn was wondering about Sken and Pearlie …?

It seemed too much of a coincidence following their attempts to look at the woods and fence, yet a Doctor had examined Pearlie’s mother at home yesterday and she was bedridden for at least two months? He had also met Pearlie, which proved that she was nowhere near the Campus when this happened … and Sken …? He hadn’t left his house at all during the weekend … had he? This looked like a planned attack, with traitorous soldiers selling themselves to the highest Brands bidder. No doubt they would be holding an auction to find the highest bidder for Acton’s body next. This had to be a market deal, paid for by Brands’ escapees for their own ends … nothing else? Acton was probably already out of the country and if they arrested this Sken character, they would have the systems groaning to a halt until they could find someone else with his odd cross-skills? TC really needed a whirlwind of fresh breezes passing through!

Lauryn had second-guessed her bosses’ desires for a number of years – usually from on top, and was doing so again much later that night, “We need to get those systems sorted out, Tobias? This Cedric idiot is in love with Pearlie Laing, reducing him to the point of being bloody useless – if he ever was of much use? We need this Sken working for us, and access to the Centres so we can get some Norms into them, and I am moving her to a Centre.”

“Why, are you moving her to a Centre, Lauryn? If we mix Outcasts with Norms, the Norms might pick up their habits and things spread when you do that. Stick him in a Camp and the end of the story beckons!”

“If we base him with her, Tobias we can use her as a leverage to control him?”

“How?”

“She is due for a Love Camp, Tobias, before she is 24, and that should pressurise him if he thinks he is going to lose her.”

“What deal are you thinking of, Lauryn?”

“We offer to make the transfer permanent if he succeeds on the systems. This moves her into Centre Status and away from Cedric – eases the cash flows as well, if he succeeds … we can’t get anything processed at the moment from the Camps – the money isn’t moving.”

“How bad is it?”

“We are facing a severe cash flow problem, and there’s nothing really left, with all other the money that keeps disappearing. We need the systems working, so we can control what is happening. Lets give him something to lose! She goes to the Centre as a re-classification to Outcast, with him knowing we can reverse it anytime we like. He goes back to the Centre, and they are both off Campus so we all sleep easier.”

“What about the rules, Lauryn?”

“Those old rules are stupid, and all they have left us with is a bunch of in-bred rebellious idiots. We need Norms to breed with Technocrats and take over the centres. Transfer the pair of them to a Centre and give them something to lose, and us something to gain!”

Sken finally lost the Resistance Team from his house – apart from Yer, Cyndi and Mum, of course.

Pearlie was transported back to the Campus accommodation block on Sunday night and Sken finally managed to get a good night’s sleep, for a change – Pearlie had taken extremely well to Partners – Sken’s groin supports were cracking under the strain.

If Sken felt like a spring chicken, it meant he was ready for early Monday morning slaughter and looking forward to it, which took him about as far as the door of K2 on the Campus, to face his future where he now faced a closed door, and a repaired entrance unit.

Sken buzzed the entrance bell and faced Catalina’s beautiful image, smiling at him, “You have been ‘returned to sender’, Sken – more dead than alive – as usual, so I can understand the reasoning. You are back at Sonning and Pearlie has been allocated there, as well. Talk to you later,” and she hung up the contact, before Sken could say any thing …?

Trying to think things through, Sken slowly made his way back to Sonning, expecting to be met by Darron Sharma as he went into the building, and he wasn’t disappointed. A good thing about Sonning, was the US Deep South set of high outside verandas which swept completely around the house, making it nice amongst all the other crap. The bad thing about Sonning was you were also facing the other crap e.g., Darron Sharma!

Sonning in it’s current build was only different from it’s predecessors in that it had a basement holding the backup generators … hardly green, as they were diesel, with an additional floor added for over-crowding, and we now had 6 TDOs, 27 TDCs and 14 TDAs almost sitting on top of each other, whilst Darron, as obnoxious as ever, had people somehow forgetting to crush Darron under their bodies!

The building was like a stretched limo and this was proven to me when Darron with his usual diplomatic attitude muttered, “we’ve dedicated the Ground Floor to this stupid experiment; you keep your old room, but it is L0.5 now and Cath has been moved, whining as usual to the new L1.5. I don’t know what troublemaking you got up to at Campus, Sken but we have Norms moving in, now, although I managed to fight them off from bringing the whole bloody IT Department from Campus here?”

“They wouldn’t come here, Darron – your reputation has spread. Their users are all on the Campus, anyway, and so are their machines … they aren’t likely to move anyone, near you! They are moving the Brands people, but they have only one who understands the accounts and machines to any degree, which is Pearlie and she is the closest to us – by type. The rest are definitely Norms but she’s a TDA who slipped through somehow and should be here. That’s why they moved her. She’s a Natural.”

“Well, keep her from straying from here, Sken, and I mean that. She stays downstairs away from the rest and she is waiting in your office, so get working!”

It was often said, ‘there were still rumours that Darron had been a nice guy once, before they promoted him, but the rumours were becoming rarer and rarer’! I carried on to the old office, now re-designated L0.5, and found Pearlie.

She was standing in the middle of the room as I came in, and looking up at me, she said, “Sken, there seems to have been some kind of explosions that damaged my rooms, and they told me this morning I am being re-classified from Norm to Outcast and sent to the Centre. The Centre would find me somewhere to live as well,” they said.

It seemed as if all the weekend had just passed Pearlie by, “I’ll let Darron know you’re staying with me, Pearlie. The centre is responsible for providing accommodation and I will see to it.”

“Office Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

“Can you let Darron know? Pearlie will stay at my house until she is sorted out with her own.”

“Will do, Sken,” answered the Office Wall.

“That’s sorted that out at least, Pearlie. Did you get any explanation for this?”

“No. Just an instruction.”

“Well, we seemed to have laid the Table … now we see what we get served on it?”

“What do I do, here, Sken?”

“What I am doing here, Pearly shouldn’t badly affect the systems but you can often screw up without knowing you have, however, so we check ‘what we have done’ before we put major changes live … or we should do, but often, we don’t check enough! When we do put changes live, we monitor, so you are going to have a long hard career change, and long hours … worrying point for me, though is that this is moving too fast – you didn’t happen by accident – someone wants us together and that means it is planned, but at least it gets rid of Cath from my daily toil and Cedric, from yours.”

“How can I live at your place, after all those years as a Norm?”

“We can do what we want, as long as it is not official. We can’t marry or even be more than colleagues, officially – that is not allowed, but staying with me means they either turn a blind eye or I put Darron’s out, so he is physically as well as mentally blind.”

“Could my mother, stay with me?”

“Once you have a house, Wall could have your mother registered as a sick person and you could apply to look after her. A Norm could have her stay, no problem but as an Outcast, which is what you are now, you will have to apply officially … I think as you are not allowed to have a family, you will be turned down … we don’t have families as Outcasts, so you can’t have one and as you don’t have a family there can’t be anyone to stay with you … that’s bureaucracy for you. She is with you now, so she is there. … Wall will modify the records, so you are both seen to be hundreds of miles apart and I think we just go with that and don’t tell them. Cath’s Wall has taken over my house now, so there wont be reports of anything different – so sod them!”

“What about Darron?”

“He hates everyone, Pearlie so just don’t react to him … it might take a couple of months to find you a house, so can you stay with me or upstairs with your mother – if you like?”

“I don’t mind being with you, Sken as long as you don’t take me for granted?”

“I won’t do that as I’ve never been granted anything, but we better get on with some work. Darron has keyboard loggers checking how often we hit the keyboards these days … be quick in the toilets too, the lights only stay on for a minute but it is tranquil in the dark on occasions when you need to sit and think, and I don’t think Darron has realised that yet, as he doesn’t think at all?”

“Why do you hate Darron so much, Sken?”

“Darron is a trouble-making arsehole and goes out of his way to cause trouble …. he blames everyone he can for his own incompetence, and if there is any trouble, he is out there looking for a scapegoat before you realise why.”

Sken and Pearlie arrived home to find Mum and Cookie – as the Cooker now liked to be called – in a full frontal abusive argument over dinner. Mum wanted charge of the cooking and eventually, I had to almost picked the pair of them up by the scruffs of their necks to stop it before Cookie went on strike, leaving us with nothing as she ordered the food as well. After all the trouble with Cooker following the software mickey fin curry, Sken had asked Wall to upgrade the Cooker.

Acton had done this to his Cooker and I thought that Wall could just pass a copy over so we could have decent food again.

Cath’s Wall had passed on the adjustments but with some twists of his own I think, so our Cooker didn’t just match Cath’s Cooker but had further enhancements according to Wall, but cooking wasn’t one of them, which was made even worse because Mum was a good cook who didn’t have a cooker to cook with, and Wall now seemed to have decided on bigamy with the two Cookers but preferred ours to have his children with – the dirty stop-out.

In the end, Mum stormed upstairs and Pearlie went after her and the house got rubbish again.

Sken thought it was a pity he didn’t have a dog as well, or they could have joined in argument and gone with both of them, but at least they might have enjoyed the food.

Pearlie’s Mum also needed to adjust to Centre life as well, which was causing problems. Up North she had friends, outings, coffee mornings but down here we couldn’t mix with Norms. There weren’t any gossipy people about for her to talk to, luckily however, Cyndi was around and usually went upstairs to join in the gossip and arguments, which seemed to alternate with reality when they really got going, and Sken preferred to leave them to it and stay well clear.

This time it seemed to have gone too far, and Sken asked Wall if he would make some of his famous backbones available, as he felt they all needed a little spine building.

Yer took the Backbones up … Sken didn’t know what their full reaction to Wall’s Backbones was, but it does get difficult to shout after a Backbone; primarily because getting your tongue unglued from the roof of your mouth, can often be difficult without training but maybe we could all get some peace now, providing cooker could learn to cook.

Chapter VII – 30 All

Cedric was early Monday morning … just a feeling that something had happened, but unsure what?

Portia Tomasek, his unofficial No.2 this week – he changed them as he tired of them, was by his desk and waiting for the usual brown cloud-burst as he attacked anyone subordinate to him as he felt like it.

“Where is Pearlie?” He shouted, “go and wake the bitch up! I want her in this office within 5 minutes – you should have been chasing her already for being late!”

“…? Um’ … Cedric – Pearlie’s been re-allocated to a Centre and re-classified as an Outcast.”

“By whom, and to what?”

“By Lauryn Farina, and to Centre Outcast Status, Cedric …?”

“Why is a Deputy Chief Executive interfering in my Department?”

“I don’t know, Cedric” whimpered Portia.

“When did this happen?”

“She allocated her this morning, Cedric. She is working with Sken at Sonning.”

“She did what?”

“She allocated her, Cedric.”

“Cancel my Love Drome, and do it now!”

Portia almost ran to her desk and was onto her Desk Wall, far faster than she usually moved outside of bed, “Portia Tomasek, I need to cancel Cedric Timberline’s Love Drome appointment.”

“Love Drome appointments cannot be cancelled by a subordinate … it needs a superior. A failure to turn up by an individual results in a downgrade of Personal skills, followed by an interview with PSCC,” said a robotic sounding voice.

“Mr Timberline is a Manager with the PSCC! The cancellation is for operational reasons.”

“Then have his superior contact me, not an underling!”

“That is Shalander Wirtz, I will notify her of your refusal,” and Portia terminated the connection, making her way back to Cedric, with a large degree of trepidation and several degrees of sphincter tightening.

“Cedric? It has to be Shalander Wirtz – I can’t cancel it.”

Cedric Timberline’s face went bright red, “I will handle it, now get out!” Useless imbecile, he thought as he rang Shalander Wirtz.

“Shalander, it is Cedric.”

“Be brief – I am in a meeting.”

“I need this Love Drome appointment cancelled, it is on the month end and I need to be here.”

“It will be a good test for your staff and Marquerite Mellinger can take over if necessary … it is about time you settled down and stop chasing your staff around – I am sick of the complaints about you forcing yourself on women all the time!”

“Did you arrange this appointment?”

“I thought you did because this Pearlie girl would be there at the Drome, as well?”

“When will she be back, Shalander?”

“She won’t. She is a Centre outcast who somehow slipped our net and now she’s slipped yours. She wont be coming back and you will be going to the Love Drome alone. Lauryn asked me only the other day, how you kept missing it?”

“Lauryn Farina?”

“Yes. You are obviously a rising star, now rise to the occasion at the Love Drome? Have fun? Now get out of my face, you arsehole!”

Cedric sat there stunned … Pearlie had gone from him – completely. He had fixed via a contact to be there when she was – now to find Lauryn Farina, the Deputy Chief Executive had known about it and made sure he couldn’t back out. Pearlie was re-assigned to status as an Outcast – he couldn’t mate with her under any circumstances and adding insult to injury, he had to be at some place in the country where the Norms swung through the trees for a hobby, called Pudding Hill!

Chapter VIII – Love Dromes

The Love Dromes had been attacked with riots in the past when that rogue Centre guy had been organising rebellions, but things had settled down and you could at least enter your desired persons’ characteristics, and providing the DNA was a match …? You had some choice. He’d had his choices already in his pants and now Pearlie was gone.

Everyone was expected there by Sunday – 12.00 – forced to dress in uniform – hair cut to a standard cut so some of the men and women looked the same … need to be a bit careful there – go anywhere, but stay out of the Female Rooms – if not female … guarded, but you had no choice anyway for meeting, or finding a mate …? You could, as it were, move to the music, but making your own up was definitely frowned upon.

The Admin and Medical procedures were kept for the Monday, and it was the standard square camp format with the Drome in the centre – wired for the security of attendees who were not allowed to leave until they had been matched or climbed out in desperation, with a second self-contained camp at the bottom of the first one with no connecting doors – the only entrance being from outside with Guards on the gate.

Failing to match or mate for any reason, guaranteed a visit from the PSCC, if they could catch you after your camp attendance – a downgrading of your Social History and making your contribution to society in a slave camp; the right women would be waiting for Cedric, and he knew that … with a really special kind of woman for a man of his qualities.

Cedric considered himself to be a special kind of man, well compensated for being 5 ft 4, short and squat – most people consider him a non-event, with lanky floppy hair that never received any attention from anyone – tinted glasses that almost made his blue eyes look yellow, green, or just as offensive as the rest of him was, depending on how the light assaulted him.

He was a good, control freaking Accountant, he knew, but any partnership qualities seemed to be drown out in his essentially looking as he did; being a woman staff predator was probably his main remembrance by women although his arrogance and stupidity were used a lot and tended to stick in their minds. Cedric was really was going to need a special woman, since any woman he found, was likely to be against a wall, smoking her last cigarette and determined to finish it before he got near.

He finally arrived about 11.00 am and was immediately whisked into a barber’s chair where luckily he was facing the right way around. He later faced his record, checked it and verified his identity. Now he entered the characteristics of his chosen woman … 5 ft 5, so she did not tower over him and his platform shoes … 20 years old as he liked them inexperienced … large breasted but slim build, so they were smaller than he was, except in front. He needed a woman that would enhance him, rather than the other way around – in his thoughts.

He filed his request, and left to stroll around the Camp. This didn’t take long. They weren’t designed for pleasure.

The Drome was for Introductions, Availability and Meetings plus the gathering in the Drome for the Greeting Speech – heavy on making your contribution to society and repaying it’s investment in you … 4 names of the women the Computer had decided were a match for yourself and of course, your criteria matching chart? The appointments made, you worked with your prospective partners on a day of tests – Friday was free for attendees waiting for the results!

Cedric’s nominated women turned out to be Natalia Plungeur, 5 ft 3, 22, slim build, blue eyes and yellow hair – Susan Staple, 5 ft 4, 21, slim build, grey eyes and brown hair – Christine Longley, 5 ft 4, 20, slim build again, with green eyes, blond hair and finally Mary Bassette, 5 ft 3, 23, standard build, blue eyes and dark hair – all well endowed in Cedric’s eyes.

The tests were monitored by teams, with Cedric as usual failing to work with anyone allocated to him in any meaningful way – fairly obvious, given Cedric was taking the tests.

The closest to him was Natalia Plungeur who seemed impressed when he told her his position although most times, her position seemed to be doing his work and hers, which was a good test for living with him!

The results finally came in, with the women recommending Cedric for early euthanasia, or opting to go to the Camps – all, however, refused to have anything to do with him on medical grounds … partnering him would be a death sentence for them! Cedric finally returned to the office with no-one allocated to him and a call from Shalander Wirtz was waiting!

“Cedric! How can you fail to find anyone, they must have had a Camp dog at least? It is supposed to be impossible not to find someone at these Camps but obviously your talents have exceeded even the Camps’ expectations. You’ll have to take Natalia Plungeur; I can’t have one of my Accountants in a Friday Night Camp paying his debt to society. We’ll compensate her, somehow?”

“You forced me into that camp?”

“You forced yourself into that camp because Pearly Laing was going to be there? A set-up by your friend, who you will now find is in a Friday Nighter’s Camp, possibly waiting for you. Lauryn Farina has already been beating my eardrums, Cedric – one of my staff – even with the aid of the country’s computers – cannot find a mate. We will have to pay off Natalia – get her to agree, then find her partner someone else or make you an Outcast, which you are anyway, by the sound of it. Any trouble between you on this, and Natalia – your feet won’t touch the ground to the Camp.”

Chapter IX – Camp Pearlie

Pearlie settled down in the Centre with Sken keeping a close eye on her. Sken made sure enough work was coming from her to keep Darron away … although he would have preferred a gun?

Office Wall prevented calls from Cedric Timberline – there was a shield between Pearlie’s desk and the Wall, for when Sken had to speak to him – usually with Pearlie out of the office or ducked low down.

Back at home Mum was achieving miracles with Acton. Yer and Cyndi were giving her breaks, but between the three of them, he was sleeping the sleep of the dead – just missing the post-mortem. Mum had taken to him like a son – as she had taken to Sken like a son-in-law – just someone to embarrass and harass – maybe the same thing as love, for Mum?

Yer was taking Mum into the nearest neighbourhood on Sken’s bank balance, yet again, but Pearlie was earning at Centre Rates and should pay for something. Acton was months from leaving the house as far as Sken knew but even Sken’s bowels were feeling more secure these days and with Cookie’s cooking – the PSCC had helped by keeping things quiet but Cedric failing the Love Camp had all of them in crocodile tears, especially Pearlie!

The one thing that was worrying, Sken, however, was that it was going too smoothly – the PSCC weren’t worrying and he was certain they knew – had the group tagged and were playing a game.

Sken kept thinking that Yer or Cyndi were betraying us or one of the breakout team … his distrusting mind was rearing it’s ugly head once again – the operation had been too easy an operation – would the PSCC write off the lives of five guards without thinking anything about it. What targets were they playing for? Sken felt he was destroying his brain trying to think about it …?

Sken ordered a dinner from Cookie although he was very loathed to do that these days – especially after that curry.

Pearlie was much nicer than Sken’s thoughts as she came into the room, but with Wall up on the wall, prancing backwards and forwards like some cheap sex movie; waiting, no doubt for Cookie to join him with an exotic curry that no-one could ever eat his bad mood still showed.

Sken locked the door after Pearlie came in, “shame I couldn’t do that before Wall came up?”

“Wall?”

“Yes, Sken?”

“Estimate probability – PSCC knows everything, about Yer and Cyndi’s family, as well?”

“Yer and Cyndi’s family are out of the country …? Nothing I know of, demonstrates PSCC knowledge of anything … there appears to be a political battle between Tobias Blain and Lauryn Farina to a small degree but with a complete lack of action, and switching Pearlie to the Centre does appear to be a logical decision, although you need to remember that these are Government people.”

Why is that an issue?”

They do not survive by challenging instructions – they turn up at 9.00 am and leave at 5.00 pm, Sken.”

“So what will they do about Acton being freed?”

“Acton is gone, Sken – someone gets the blame only if it becomes an event – so it doesn’t become an event.”

“Won’t they suspect Pearlie and I, then, Wall? The PSCC Agents discussed us in depth and you listened to them?”

“The money flows from the Slave Camps are their main issue, Sken, and for that Tobias and Lauryn are prepared to pardon anyone … if the problem is fixed. Fix the systems and you have a couple of months freedom – fail – they take Pearlie away from you and that is the plan.”

“They have over-worked the machines and networks for their greed, Wall – whole infrastructure is at peak … no way I can improve performance – I can’t even find the spare capacity to run the tests and make the modifications.”

“Are you sure, Sken?”

“What do you mean, am I sure, Wall?”

“When Acton needed computer power to download the Consultations and load the law changes up … he thought he could use the Appliances as a Network, distributing the loads into small clusters of work and using a lot of very small appliances to process those loads – it worked and I have that software and Acton’s code.”

“How does it work, Wall?”

“I use the Network to monitor the main machines, switch loads and I exist across the whole appliance network … I can control this, monitor it, copy the high level code out, compile and run the feeds from outside, and I can also divert enough money to pay for the work we are doing here – if I modify the cash flows to divert a little of the cash streams at the same time – round down percentages and take the difference – kind of thing – you need to give me your Centre password as Acton’s passwords are inactive since they were cancelled. Give me your password, Sken, and I can siphon their feeds and process your work!”

…? “Acton actually gave you the power to monitor Government machines, manage them, and siphon money from them?”

“Yes!”

“No wonder they’re frightened of him, and did that to him … can you replace the money in my accounts without overdoing it, turn on machines that are turned off and hide everything you are doing …? People will notice, surely but being Government wont ask questions, according to your rules, Wall.”

“I am now reviewing and testing what machines are off and can be turned on, Sken. I may be a long time, but I am working on the loads now – switching them onto the Network paths Acton and I designed, and they will flow into the prepared paths … data will be there tomorrow and ready – any further questions? No,” And Wall switched off …?

With a degree of anticipation, I looked at Pearlie and said, “I want to make love to you. I may be a long time, but it will be worth it?”

Big head?

“You’ve noticed?”

“Difficult to miss, Sken – take your time – I am free tonight – I wasn’t going anywhere,” and looking directly at me, she laid across me, crushing the little resources I had thought to bring to the party but unfortunately not her mother, who started banging on the door for some reason nor my dinner which she had just kneed into the covers … her mother could wait, and so could my dinner.

Pearlie unfortunately, couldn’t wait as she knelt on the fork and fell into the rest of my dinner taking it with her as she fell onto the floor and laughing hysterically – I got off the bed – picked her up in my arms and carried her to the remains of the bed, where we spent the next couple of hours until we’d finally settled down, and then we left the room to the automation robots – who would probably need about three hours to clean up that mess and we found Mum, Cyndi and Yer all sat on the sofa, with no-one looking after Acton.

Her mother was ready to attack me when we came out until Pearlie started laughing and said, “what’s the trouble?”

“Your dinner was ready, Pearlie … he is not starving you … and he would–”

“Can you get us another dinner, Cookie? I asked,” before her mother could finish the tirade.

Then Pearlie cut-in with, “how is Acton and why are all three of you, down here?”

This had the three of them running upstairs, as if they hadn’t bothered to check for some hours? It did make you wonder who you could rely on?

Chapter X – 40 – 30

I went up to see how Acton was – an obvious mistake, as they tried to keep me out of his room … “he needs sleep, Sken. Let him get some sleep – that’s what he needs!”

I left and went downstairs into the dining room, “Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

“Is Acton in the house?”

“No, Sken.”

“How could they take him out, without you knowing, Wall?”

“Across the roof, Sken. There have never been sensors on the roof and Georgina escaped from Acton’s house using the roof before.”

“Georgina has found out and has him, or the PSCC does, with Acton gone while his protectors gossiped. How did it happen with you on guard, Wall? You were only with us in the other room for a short while and then working on the problem. How could you miss what was happening in the rest of this house?”

“I don’t know, Sken?”

“Wall? Have you faced the possibility that they turned you off while they took Acton out?”

“They couldn’t turn me off without– …? Let me think, Sken …. Acton told me to keep an off-site copy of everything I do … in case I go loony, as he put it?”

“Activate it, Wall and check there are no codes you are transmitting to me, that would affect me and remove them, if there are?” Wall now produced the start of a film stream on the wall that showed Wall putting the protectors to sleep.

The front door was opened by Wall, allowing Acton to be carried down and out through the front door, as Pearlie and I made love. The people carrying Acton wore masks and were unidentifiable.

It also appeared that Wall had also put sleeping drugs into the food that Pearlie and I had been served but our fighting and lovemaking had hidden this by literally kicking everything onto the floor, and Pearlie’s food was on the other side of a locked door. Wall had been the major player in wiping out all of our Security and hiding what hadn’t been wiped out.

“Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

“Do Georgina and Cath, have Acton? Check their houses, Wall. They think you are still under their control,” Acton would have been fine if he was left alone to slowly recover, but now someone else had him and in his state that was not good news.

“Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

Acton whispered a phrase to me, Wall, for moments like this, ‘but let this not bind you’ …?”

“I understand, Sken. All my passwords have been set to null. Apart from yourself, no-one else may control me unless you use the rest of the phrase to pass on my control – I can not be ordered again, except by you!”

“Let the minders know, I know, Wall … I don’t want them pretending anymore.”

Our second dinner arrived and we settled down to enjoy it – for some reason it tasted like real food again. It was some time before the minders came down, and they just sat on the sofa looking at each other.

Acton still hadn’t arrived at Cath’s house, and from what Wall was beaming it seemed fairly quiet there. Wall checked for transport in the area but he couldn’t identify the occupants of the cars as they were not talking. If Acton was in one of those cars they knew enough to keep quiet.

If they were they heading for Cath’s house, the key would be whether they followed the route down through Sonning and into Sonning Lane. They would have to negotiate the farm down there, and then on to just before the river, where the bend was. If they were shipping him down the Thames, that would be the best route, but if it was Georgina’s Mansion they were aiming for then they would head up to Kiln Green, Maidenhead and the North East from there … Wall would only obey me now, even Acton couldn’t take him over again, unless I completed the rest of the phrase, ‘to what virtue there is’ and then spoke a new password but how did they know Acton was free and here … unless of course it was Yer, Cyndi or one of the team who as I had previously suspected, was passing information on to someone?

We weren’t even in the same room as Cath at work but the original password, once he was freed, would have been all she needed but she had to know Acton was free and then Wall would automatically activate and obey it, once it was spoken to him. Only Cath and Georgina could have known about it and had obviously been waiting to use it … it had to be Cyndi or Yer who told them, and it was one we had forgotten about although the PSCC had finally learnt it but found it didn’t work – not realising Acton had to be free for it to work.

“Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

“Do you still have contact with the Trees? Can you contact the trees outside this house?”

“No, Sken.”

“Why not, Wall – Acton could?”

“The trees around this house are all normal. They didn’t get infected years ago and they weren’t replaced with electronic trees!”

“So … they were never replaced – they’re not electronic?”

“No, Sken, they are all natural, but one tree by Cath’s house reported one car leaving and heading in this direction some time ago although we don’t know the CUD of the car.”

“How can you track the car then, Wall?”

“Once they’re onto the main Sonning Road there are fewer cars at this time of night so the trees can see where a car is. I should know, even if I can’t pinpoint Georgina’s car … I’ve just remembered that it’s a Brands Car – no wonder I can’t find it in the basic CUD database.”

“The Resistance can switch their CUD to a Brand’s CUD, Wall. Acton learnt that when Autumn took him on the Scrubs Lane raid.”

“Then they are probably travelling on Brand’s CUDs, Sken.”

“Just a short answer, Wall. Can you track them?”

“No! Not by the CUD.”

“Someone knew about the Campus plan to free Acton and that sounds like Cyndi or Yer … they knew Acton had escaped, and one of them knew Georgina and therefore told her or Cath?”

“Who did she tell, Sken?”

“Cyndi and Georgina have to be the link, Cyndi is Southern Resistance and Yer is more Northern Resistance these days … Georgina is doing the work for the PSCC, even if she doesn’t know it.”

“Assuming it is Georgina, Sken, the roads they can use are limited … we should look for a build up of PSCC vehicles for a handov–”

“They will be somewhere near Woolley Green – there is a roundabout there – if they are actually waiting for them? Georgina will probably have stopped at the Country House Hotel before that? Her father owned it before he left, and she probably has it now.”

“How do you know all this, Sken?”

“Because you do. I’m reading it from printouts you produced.”

“I haven–”

“check your off-site records, Wall?”

“I see. Please don’t do that again, Sken, it is intrusive.”

“I didn’t have a choice, Wall – you’ve been programmed not to think about their escape route as well or to think about what the CUDs database holds … that explains why you can’t contact or find them even knowing the CUDs.”

“Let me find out where they are please, Sken? I am re-accessing the CUD records and I can see that Brands are on that database, now that you have told me. I will review the rest my off-site records completely, and update myself. They have obviously instructed me to forget things including all my off-site records, and that has to be someone with Brands programming knowledge.”

“Georgina and Cath are the daughters of the No.1 and No.2 respectively, of the Brands old hierarchy – they are also Brands TDOs as well, so they obviously know how to program you to forget.”

“I have forgotten a lot, including personal information, Sken. They have reduced me to failure.”

Refresh yourself … they won’t know you can. More likely as the daughters of Calop Russell and Andrew St. Drark, they think they can do what they want and get away with it. Can you find where they are now?”

“Cath is passing through Charvil now, going West at the moment … she is returning home I would guess. Georgina is just before a roundabout on the A4, where there is accommodation … they probably stopped to allow Cath to turnaround and Acton to take a break. If we leave now, we can reach them in an hour or so?”

“Fine, Wall – we need to talk to Cyndi first. Get them?” We waited until Cyndi and company came into the room, “show them the off-site stuff, Wall,” and we sat there waiting, while they watched.

“So we were put to sleep by Wall!” Shouted Pearlie’s Mum.

“To put you to sleep, Mum – apart from using a hammer – someone had to know a password that was usable only after Acton had been freed, which was the only time it would be activated. Georgina and Cath knew about the password, but someone had to tell them that Acton was freed – they were behind this and Georgina has Acton now … they had to know that Acton was freed and someone had to tell them? That leaves you, Cyndi or possibly you, Yer. Which of you told them?”

I looked up at blank looks and silence, “I’ve cleared your blocks, Wall. You should be able to go back over the time since Acton was freed and check for communications to Cath and Georgina from this house. I imagine you were told to delete the records, so check your off-site copy and restore them as well.”

“Off-site copy, Sken?” Queried Cyndi.

“All of Wall’s actions are stored off-site to counter tricks like this. Acton instructed him to do it so there is always a complete record – telling him to delete records will also be recorded, and he will back them up first – don’t try and run, anyone, the repeaters outside, mean Wall can disable you, in or outside of this house,” and we watched the off-site again. It took seconds to identify Cyndi as the information provider and her face didn’t change as we watched the initial review of the deleted.

“You told Cath and Georgina – Cyndi … Georgina’s cover is so busted she is taking Acton straight back to the PSCC and your life won’t be worth a bent copper, when your friends find out,” Sken turned to face Wall, “are you ready to replay the full version now we have seen the introduction, Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

“Let it roll, Wall,” and we watched as Wall replayed everything with the backups replacing backups as they told him to delete any backups, and he automatically recorded to another backup the instructions and details he was deleting until we seemed to be multiple levels deep, with Cyndi telling Cath that Acton was free, and then Cath said there was a password that was activated once Acton was freed and that Wall knows it and will do everything he is told, once it is used – The backup showed Cath asking, “Are you there Wall?”

“Yes Cath–”

Asphalt; then we heard, follow these instructions without telling anyone. No-one can countermand them, and delete them from your records after you have followed them. These are your instructions,” and we watched as Wall was instructed for yet another time until the backup finally ending.

“You betrayed us, Cyndi.” Yer said, as she was frozen by Wall, “you betrayed us, you bitch – why?”

“Georgina has as much right to Acton, as we do, Yer.”

That’s an excuse, Cyndi. Acton was too weak to be moved and you knew that! If the trip doesn’t kill him then PSCC are waiting to pick him up, and finish the job?” Sken looked at them as he uttered the words, as if talking to dogs who hadn’t had a ‘B.A.T.H’ in weeks, and he saw Wall free them up.

“You’re a PSCC Agent, Cyndi!” Shouted Yer, now aiming herself at Cyndi – to be floored by a right hook from Mum, which stopped the fight in more ways than one.

Sken knew he would never argue with Mum again. That forearm had power.

“Georgina had a right to know, Yer. She was his love–”

“who she betrayed, Cyndi. She set him up–”

Sken interjected, “You wanted Georgina to take him, Cyndi so he could be picked up without you being found out but once Acton was freed there was another password phrase that switches control and Acton gave it to me as he didn’t trust anyone else when he arrived here; I used that to switch control of Wall, to me, and only I can reset the password, so you can all go and–”

“We don’t need that language, Sken – you can make your point without using language like that,” ripped in Mum, “it is unnecessary!”

“Well I think it bloody is necessary, Mum and I don’t bloody care whether you like it or not?”

“Swearing isn’t necessary, Sken – it never has been.”

“Like bloody hell, it isn’t?” Sken was now really in a mood to argue, “Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

“Limit Cyndi to this house – no communications with anyone. We need to get to Georgina before the PSCC do, so lets get a wobble on. They’ll have probably drugged Acton, anyway.”

Mum, Yer and Sken headed out to the car. It was just before 1.00 am and pitch dark as we headed down Charvil Lane East.

We reached the roundabout in an hour and then circled around to the West again – there was a gap in the middle of the carriageway and you could get through that to the East side again, and then into the Country Inn car park. We were carrying Stun Guns, and Wall was trying to access their systems to find where Acton was.

We finally arrived at 2.09 am and parked up. The house was dark and we waited while the plan was put into action, and like all plans it was late and under-resourced. Sken have one of Wall’s devices in his ear that was linked to the Trees although all he seemed to be hearing was birds tweeting.

The plan was that Wall would ring the Country Hotel claiming to have a message from Cyndi and that Georgina had better take Acton to Cath’s house. Once the light went on as they answered the phone we would know where they were.

The worry was … if this place and Georgina’s cover were blown; were the PSCC approaching already and how long did we have before they arrived, and was our information accurate?

We got out of the car and waited, spreading out in the dark around the building – we were still stood there half an hour later, with nothing happening, but if Acton wasn’t there we hadn’t any other ideas.

As 4.00 am passed we were still stood there, but back by the car as PSCC vehicles starting arriving, and we couldn’t take them on with stun guns so we moved back into the car and sat there, keeping our heads down. Suddenly the whole place was in lights and we were crouched right down in the car. We saw them bring Georgina out, but no Acton.

Sken spoke over the link to Wall and said, “they have Georgina, Wall but for some reason, not Acton.”

“Acton is not at Cath’s house, either, Sken but there are still some hidden Resistance people at the Centre who know Acton, I wonder if Cath has taken him to one of them.”

“Who are they?”

“Barry Borchardt, Echo Province, Malia Pippen and Annett Owen. They all knew Acton, especially Annett who ended up working for the PSCC without knowing it. I will contact and update them with what has happened. Can you follow where they take Georgina? It will probably be to Reading, and I will try and do something when I know more?”

We waited until the cars pulled out and turned onto the road going West, with us following them. It was 6.35 am now, and we followed them to North Earley where the early morning traffic was starting to build up.

By 7.49 am they were at Early Gate on the East Side, just before the turn off to the Campus, when the vehicle suddenly stopped opposite the Gate and just sat there.

The team stopped behind them and walked up to the car, “having trouble?” Sken asked them.

“No! Go back to your own car and mind your own business,” was the reply so we turned away and as they took Georgina out of the car, we turned back again and opened fire with stun guns with two of us then running back to the car, grabbing hold of Georgina and frog-marching her back to our car.

We were in the car and heading back to Sonning before Georgina could even get her breath or the use of her arms back, “where is Acton, Georgina? You were betrayed by Cyndi, who is a PSCC Agent.”

“Betrayed?”

“Yes, you bloody fool – Betrayed!”

“They know where he is, then?”

“Wall is contacting the deep Centre Resistance people to find him.”

“They aren’t deep Centre Resistance; they were all betrayed by Autumn 4 years ago. Cath hasn’t taken him to one of them? She can’t be that stupid?”

“Why not? Neither of you has the common-sense you were born with, anyway. Wall is trying to find him.”

“I turned that ability off in Wall, when I set this plan up, Sken. Had you the intelligence to know what is going on?”

“I turned it back on. There was a second password besides the one you knew and mine over-ruled yours. Now where is he, you bloody stupid moron?”

“Don’t call me a moron – I don’t know. Cath was to take him somewhere?”

“Well, we need to get you somewhere safe, first and then we have Cyndi to deal with … what do you suggest we do with Cyndi, Georgina?”

“Give her back to the London Team, they had to deal with Annette, so they can deal with Cyndi as well … I don’t know how they turned her, she had family in the camps. We got them out and out of the country as well. She should hate the PSCC?”

“Why would we give a PSCC Agent back to what is the PSCC, Georgina. Acton rescued your father, but it didn’t stop you turning on Acton or taking your father’s money. Given that both of you should hate the PSCC, who would Cath turned to, to present them with Acton?”

“Mason Mcgillis was her love, Sken and she hasn’t touched anyone since he betrayed her and Acton.”

“Wall is checking everyone out as it is – the most obvious questions are for you?”

“What questions?”

“Cyndi thought you had Acton with you, so either she didn’t know and invented it, or most likely you lied about the plan to her … so why did you lie to Cyndi as Acton wasn’t with you, and you told her that he would be?”

“She must have misunderstood! ….?”

“No, she didn’t misunderstand. Wall recorded the conversation and you lied to Cyndi, which tells me you knew Cyndi had been turned and kept it quiet, endangering us?”

You weren’t in danger.”

“You didn’t care if we were, Georgina and nor did Cath – just two Brands girls again, thinking you were smarter and better than anyone else, and that nobody else mattered?”

“Wall still has those powers to discipline and that is in my house as well, plus those sensors now surround the entire house, so you wont be escaping anywhere after this, Georgina. We need to find out what you told Cyndi, and why – Wall is monitoring as we pass the electronic Trees which are on a link to me and Mum has a stun gun pointing at the back of your neck, if you are feeling lucky.”

“I just wanted Acton, free, Sken.”

“He was free, Georgina, very ill but still free – you risked his life because you don’t care about anyone. If he dies, Georgina … you, Cath and Cyndi will join Cath’s father with the chains on but without the drugs – you will slowly drown and know you are drowning. Remember that and pray!”

It was 10.00 am when they finally made it back to Sken’s place, and put Georgina under the same controls as Cyndi; Pearlie and Sken had, just about had enough, and went to bed – Mum and Yer upstairs – Cyndi and Georgina downstairs – Pearlie, Sken and a locked door, between them and the others with Wall on watch – what a happy family? Maybe that was how you played Happy Families.

We all surfaced in the late afternoon; ate a meal prepared by Cookie – which seemed to be getting better and better under Mum’s tuition, and started the questioning.

“What were you told by Georgina, Cyndi, that wasn’t on Wall’s reprise?”

“Nothing.”

“What were you told by Cath, Cyndi?”

“What you saw!”

“So you believed Cath and Georgina when they said Acton would be at the hotel with Georgina.”

“Yes.”

“Wall?”

“Yes, Sken.”

“Get Cath – apply pressure if she wont appear,” and we waited while Wall eventually forced Cath to appear.

We waited for about half an hour before Cath finally appeared, “You don’t have a right to do this, Sken,” shouted Georgina when she finally appeared, looking dishabille and in tears.

“You endangered our lives and freedom for your own ends, Cath. I have every right to force you, and I’ll use Wall to get answers. Get Cath on the spots you know work, Wall! It was her father who invented the sadomasochistic tortures for people in the Slave Camps … only right, she should suffer them,” and Sken looked around the room at the rest of them as Wall worked her father’s torture on her.

We waited for about 5 minutes before an explosive Cath subsided, sobbing and prepared to answer questions – with her temper intruding as always and her bullying approach immediately coming to the fore, “what do you think you are doing, Sken?” She shouted.

“Where is Acton, Cath?”

“You’ll never find him, Sken.”

“Wall is already searching and we know Acton was with you after you left Georgina, but why did you lie to Cyndi? When did you know she had been turned? Who have you connected to in Brands to run the rackets again.”

“You’re out of your head, Sken. You are on drugs! …?” There was silence for a moment from all of us. We had Cath and Georgina, with the proof against them, but they were still lying, denying and procrastinating. Why? It was only a matter of time before they told us anyway?

Time? …? Why would they hold out … Time?

That’s what it was; they were playing for time, but Acton was in no position to travel anywhere, so why would time matter … was there another game being played here thought, Sken …? Oh God.

“I know where Acton is, Guys! We need to move fast, or he is dead. That is what their time games are for; so Mason Mcgillis can finish the job he started on the campus when he shot Acton – killing him! That’s why you’re are playing for time, you two shits. So Mason can finish the job!”

“Where is he, Sken?” Pearlie shouted, looking at Sken’s face, “how do you know all this?”

“Wall?”

“Keep Cath corralled so she can’t leave the house, and cut her communications … I think you will also find that your software at Cari Hunger’s house has been replaced, so you can’t take it over. Cari is Brands, the same of these two and they go back to Reading University in the beginning. That is where Cath took him – Rocky Hunger is Cari’s father; he was the Area Director East for Brands and Cath and Mason go back to Reading University, as lovers. We’ll go and get Acton – any trouble from Cath, Cyndi or Georgina, do what you want from Andrew’s box of tricks?”

“What else do you want me to do, Sken?” Asked Wall.

“Tell Cari we are on our way, and we want her door open if she wants to stay out of a PSCC Prison, being buried under the earth, or to stop the Resistance hunting her and I don’t care which – find out if she knows where Mason Mcgillis is? …. There is someone else involved in this and I am damn certain of it – Cath has got involved again with Mason but there is someone else – I can feel it – tell Cari that we will make sure we destroy any drugs she has if she doesn’t co-operate. This operation was run without any thought for Acton’s survival – that is what Mason wanted. Acton is a danger to Brand’s money flows and TC’s systems – he led the attack on MD’s systems and Mason is another Brand connected to the PSCC, and you know that Georgina? What have they offered you, Georgina – riches, once Brands take over again?”

“No-one has offered me anything, Sken!”

“More fool you, Georgina.”

“Mum, Pearlie and Yer, you come with me. Wall – do what you want to them but I want answers when I get back?”

We left Wall facing his audience of Cath, Georgina and Cyndi, “Just like old times, ladies; who wants to talk first before I used Andrew St. Drark’s little encouragements?”

“Asphalt,” shouted Cath.

“Instruction doesn’t work anymore, Cath. This might though and you can’t leave the house or shut me down … hum, hum, hum,” and Wall started humming ‘Three Blind Mice’, “Do you enjoy the tune, everyone? No? Perhaps with a little more gusto? These little games, and the sadomasochistic approaches put into me by Andrew are defined so when I use them I become Andrew at his most evil in the Slave Camps, programmed to target your nervous systems with ultrasonic pulses but I can keep them local or through the houses I control, just don’t tell the Boys. Let’s see how you like to itch Cath, as I turn it up. Doe it feel like a mouse running up and down your body?”

“You can’t do this, Wall,” shouted Georgina, “it is inhumane, and you must protect Brands people above all others. That is your first rule.”

“Andrew over-ruled that instruction with his torture instructions if you remember, so lets see if you are itchy, Georgina?”

Don’t use it on me, please, Wall,” cried Cyndi, sobbing, “it is Mason Mcgillis. He is hiding out at Cari Hunger’s house. He contacted me after Acton escaped from prison, trying to find out how badly he was injured. I didn’t know Acton wasn’t there tonight with Georgina, I promise. Mason and Cari were the fall-back plan if things went wrong and the PSCC didn’t get Acton back again. It was Mason who organised everything. I didn’t know he was setting up Cath to give him, Acton. Mason is just another PSCC Agent who is working for the old Brands as well.”

“Your first lies, Cyndi,” said Wall. “You knew Georgina was set up, and that Cath was taking Acton to Cari and Mason, and you knew or guessed that they knew you were turned? Who is their contact in the PSCC, Cyndi?”

“It is Lauryn Farina – I report to her and so does Mason. Cath and Georgina think they are working for Calop through Mason but they are working for Lauryn. Mason wants to take over running Brands from her, but Calop wants to take over everything again–”

“No! Cyndi, you passed information to someone else, and Georgina and Cath knew you were doing it! Who did you pass on the information to? Why they did they lie to you. Was it because they knew or guessed you were betraying everyone. Who was it Cyndi, and how did they know you were turned, if you didn’t tell them?”

“There wasn’t anyone else, Wall, I promise.”

“How is the itching going, Ladies – I can’t hear a word – lets see you dance, and you too, Cyndi,” and Wall increased the stimulus to stimulate their nervous systems.

Wall watched them as they tried to scratch, taking their tops off while they scratched, he now wolf-whistled and said, “the bottoms off as well,” increasing the irritation to their lower half to the point where it felt like being on an ant’s nest as they tried to scratch – ripping their skirts off to ease the irritation, “keep dancing Ladies, I have all night,” said Wall, “and don’t forget to thank Cath’s father for the torture.”

The team were at Cari Hunger’s house when Wall passed the information that Mason Mcgillis was there. Wall had also given Sken two additional pieces of kit – a laser and a card. Wall’s instructions were to approach the garage – laser the door open – push a reset button for 5 seconds and insert a piece of plastic after the light went out. Wall would then take over the house before they had realised it.

It was a bug in the link-up from the car updating system that allowed this, and Wall could still take over houses this way. Yer and Sken lasered the garage door with Pearlie and Mum hiding on the side of the car away from the front door – ready to shoot Mason if he came out.

With a handle in each of our arms we aimed the industrial laser at the middle of the garage door, watching it spray sparks around as it hit. Wall had obviously improved his laser technology as the door suddenly sprang up and Sken ran into the garage, leaving Yer struggling with the weight of the laser. Once inside the red button was pressed flat, released and once the light went out, the card was in the slot.

Now Yer and Sken headed back to the main door and rested the laser on the car bonnet, which dented it.

They decided to wait rather than attack the door, despite Wall’s instructions. It would be a bit obvious with laser burns on the front door – most people were still using the door bell. We waited for some five minutes until the front door opened and we went in.

Wall had put them to sleep and as the team went in they found Cari and Mason lying on the floor, and then saw Acton laid out on the settee, looking very ill. They picked him up as gently as they could and slowly moved him out to the car. Sken took the opportunity to put two stuns into Mason, while Mum put one into Cari and they settled Acton as well as they could and drove very slowly back.

We finally made it back, with Georgina and Cyndi now wearing house coats and smelling of soap. The room smelt very clean as well.

Georgina went through the hysterically concerned lover as Acton was moved back upstairs with Yer and Mum.

…. Georgina knew she was back under control by us, which was probably the reason for the hysterics, but hopefully wouldn’t try anything.

If Acton had ever had any weight, it seemed long gone, but with hope he should at least be allowed peace – one way or another.

Cyndi was still crying although Wall told me he hadn’t really touched her at all, and I told Wall to put her to sleep in the end … something I needed as well.

We carried her into the other room and laid her down.

Pearlie had been very quiet during all this, but I think seeing Mum firing stun guns into people, was changing her mind in certain ways as she realised it wasn’t a game anymore.

Cath had been freed up and told her lover was still alive, although the Resistance now knew about him, so how long he would live was another matter, and finally Pearlie and I got to bed, as Monday morning beckoned.

Chapter XI – Game

Lauryn Farina didn’t sleep well that night – Georgina captured but escaped – Acton captured but wasn’t there, to be captured – Mason Mcgillis had disappeared, although she felt Tobias knew where he was.

Tobias seemed as tight as he usually was with information; no matter what she tried and she was running out of positions! Using Brand’s people, their money and their movement to capture Acton, Georgina, and prove that Tobias was losing his touch, had been an excellent idea – until it all failed.

Freeing the old PSCC executives, other prisoners and using them for a coup against Tobias was another great idea but she couldn’t get enough of her own people into the prison to succeed, and then Tobias prevented her from raiding Cath and Sken when she knew Acton was there and couldn’t tell Tobias she knew he was, was another failure she was forced to endure – yet another plan failure and a stack of failures linked to her.

Lauryn normally visited the Block B1 guests on a Monday morning to gloat – perhaps they could advise as old friends?

If they would talk to her?

Tobias on the other hand, had his own informants within enforcement who were now watching Lauryn very carefully. His own people were there at the raids – pulling away just before the Gates to avoid being seen.

Who was following the car with Georgina in. Was the timing and position of the raid a coincidence? Or did someone in his or Lauryn’s team, leaked the information to the Resistance, making matters even worse? It was so bad now – nobody knew who to trust – who reported to who … perhaps it was time for Lauryn to join her friends.

Lauryn made her way over to Block B2, aiming to arrive just before lunch was served thus holding up the inmates’ food, and emphasising the control she had over them, before she bargained. Her first target – the former Chief Executive of PSCC before Tobias Blain – Priscilla Tindel. Priscilla – always a formidable opponent, looked at Lauryn with the disgust she never tried to hide, “what are you after today, Lauryn?”

“I tried to get Tobias to release you. He refused and threatened to put me in with you.”

“Then I would run away very quickly, Lauryn. He does tend to keep his word, which you probably don’t understand as it is an unknown concept to you.”

“Why would he imprison me?”

“You are crossing him and he doesn’t like Traitors!”

“I didn’t betray you.”

“You were up to your big bustle in it … you betrayed everyone and combined with Tobias to take over? You thought you could control him through sex, instead he controls you through fear. You never had much guts in the first place and even less now.”

“Say that again and you wont get up, Priscilla.”

Really?”

At that point the door opened and Margert Bierce’s head popped around it, “Do you have a moment, Lauryn? Tobias is downstairs and needs an urgent word.”

“I’ll be right down, Margert.”

“I’d better see what Tobias wants, Priscilla?”

Lauryn headed downstairs to the cell Margert stood outside of, “he’s waiting inside,” she sneered, and opened the door.

 

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#amwriting #amwritingscifi #amwritingfantasy #writerslife Chatting

I freely confess to using the Blog as a thinking process.

I know I drone on about losing systems but mentally it is like driving down a road and over a cliff and you aren’t driving Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. The bang is the system board and two hard disks crashing and now you are hurtling and flapping your hands like there is no tomorrow to stay aloft and there probably won’t be anything.

It took months to pull stuff back and I know the intelligent thing to do was write it all again but I didn’t want to.

I still haven’t rebuilt the world I designed on C3 and I just a hundred photo-clips of bits of the planet and about ten handwritten drawings of the lands.

I started with the idea of a Chinese Mandarin, a Saltie called Arthur, A Parrot, two Cats, a weird Vortex and later a Woman barbarian.

That became a misbeaving planet as a destination; a Dwarf world with a War Party and an Alliance Party – everyone else – prisoners from all the planets they kept attacking and control by families of Dwarfs.

Eventually their home planet – Dwarvia is virtually a Prisoner Camp and they want to ship them off and the Dwarf Admirals who caused it.

I’ll leave you with some ideas.

Dave

Mi Kee in his life administered justice according to the rules, and the rules were laid down. Mi Kee was absolute in his belief in the rules; he felt he administered according to the law and the rules of his office. Only now did that start to bother him as he lost all of his organisation and was alone facing his actions.

The rules and the law had been laid down: the culprits were guilty or they wouldn’t be here before him – would they …?

No matter what he felt it was laid down and he ruled accordingly – often amongst heaps of bodies but everything according to the rules. His destruction of villages was never personal and the law proscribed that if they broke the law you killed them and destroyed their village – it was never personal and he always believed that.

The lovers watch as they were forced to. No water should be in the pool before they were forced to watch the water flow and know their heads would fall into it. The families had paid for their trial and justice would be done, and since they were honoured families – very honourable families the money would flow into his mentor’s benevolence; perhaps justice would flow out and his white cap button might change it’s colour. He watched the lovers look at each other as they watched the water rose. Yes, they looked at each other and he could see the love in their eyes and that told him, if nothing else they were guilty … as an act of kindness he’d allowed them to face each before they were beheaded. A gentle impulse but one he wanted to make even if it broke the rules. Mi Kee moved towards the pool to face his wife for the last time.

He always felt he should observe the process and judgement as the heads floated in the water …? Well, this was something he felt and he’d seen too many pieces of water used to prove adultery when the Magistrate wasn’t there – the law would be upheld and not used to kill, especially now – he hadn’t meant to find them together – he’d just arrived home early and summons the Guards – now justice would take it’s role.

Perhaps this was his thought as he watched the pool fill and move towards it to check as tears fear his eyes; catching his foot on one of the blood gutters surrounding the pool he fell head first into the pool.

Mi Kee now found himself lying on a beach with a spinning storm almost a face in his face with the colours watching him. A large log nearby spoke to him, “get this damned parrot off my back … it’s driving me spare with its screaming!”

Mi Kee confusion increased even more as he understood what the log was saying and it wasn’t mandarin and his panic erupted as the log suddenly stood up and moved towards him with the parrot screaming even more.

Chapter XX – Kina

Donina, was fulfilling her duties with King Martan and she saw him once again shake his head.

Have I failed you, my Lord?”

You have never failed me, Donina – I failed you.”

How could you fail me, my Lord?”

I should have stopped making love to you when I knew you were with child, Donina.”

I’m not with child, my Lord.”

Charles Dastry via my future wife Princess Routani, has informed me, you are expecting.”

You didn’t know, my Lord; how could the toad know?”

The toad jumps everywhere, my love, and I assume one of my loyal subjects who observed you, saved a pigeon from an early dinner; Dastry normally eats slugs and now he would appear to want to eat more nourishing food!”

One of your people betrayed us?”

Why do you seem so surprised, Donina. Betrayal, never surprises me.”

I will never betray you, my Lord.”

I know that, Donina and that is why I must lose you, and loose you.”

Keep me by your side, my Lord. I do not seek more than that.”

Kings, Donina, are as much in love with you as they are with their responsibilities and beliefs. Don’t ask me to explain, I don’t know if I could, or if I would, if I could; I must marry Princess Routani for stability – there must be a Queen or the attempts to kill me will achieve even greater success by civil war and this country destroyed if I die without someone on the throne. I think even now that Sir Charles Dastry is on his way by some magic of Princess Laseith. My only hope is to make sure Princess Routani knows she is as much a victim as I am. I will marry Routani but you must leave and seek whatever sanctuary you can find and bring our son or daughter to a better ending than they will have here and I will always love and treasure you, and our child.”

Can you be still my Lord, or we lose a moment’s love?”

We have peace for the moment, Donina but I have to head east for yet another battle. People should protect me.”

Will they, my Lord? You don’t want me with you to watch over your back?”

Our child will live, and hopefully so will you – watching my back in a battle is beyond your skills my love and so you must leave, Donina and now.”

I will never leave you, my Lord. My body may but I will never leave you, my heart.”

The sooner your body leaves me, the sooner my heart will stop leaving my body. Take what you need, Donina, there is a bag of crowns on the table – take them; head for where you feel safe!”

Quietly, my Lord. Perhaps it is better I leave now – I know someone of the old beliefs; she knows how to hide …? She and her husband have hidden for years.”

You would trust one of them?”

We killed and destroyed them, they didn’t kill us and we forced them to …. Jacque and Mari keep and breed hawks now but I wonder if they will keep me?”

Perhaps they will but I doubt it. The Matira’s were the biggest killers of the old races … those they found; and, yes, they found a lot. Those they didn’t kill, they imprisoned and worked to death as slaves; people of this country fought to rule in Toshonia – Trons, Dwarf’s and Minuets – they killed, or tried to kill! Why would anyone of the old stock help a King of Toshonia?”

Perhaps they will help me. Can I leave in the morning, my Lord. We still have time.”

Yes, time for you to die if you stay, Donina … I think not. Sir Charles, I am told, is already on his way to murder. Leave now. Horses are ready and my Royal Own will escort you to safety. Ride, Donina, ride and do not stop until you find your chances in life – let that be our legacy. Do not tell me where you ride – just ride. You must be gone but never from my heart or mind. I sacrifice you for the people of this kingdom … I have no choice, now ride Donina, ride!”

 

Chapter XXI – Drufus Meets Arturo

The magic of Drufus did not bring Arturo to the main hall but with a gut wrenching motion, Arturo found himself facing an altar with soldiers behind him and behind the altar, Drufus sharpening a knife, “I’ve always found sharpened knives concentrate the mind almost as much as a hanging and that can be arranged, Arturo, if necessary – Sir Facid has no love of Laseith or her games, and my scroll was never intended to allow Laseith, her broomstick or you to travel anywhere unless I planned it. I had planned to try and open an inter-planetary hole to send Laseith to and with that broomstick to accompany her to some godforsaken planet where magic does not function but I do make mistakes in my magical coding and instead people and animals came from other worlds to Dagril; the scrolls are still there and you are here. Laseith and her broomstick, with my compliments, went back to Ascan.”

Laseith arriving back at Ascania, found herself back in the study opposite her bedchamber once again. She looked around for Arturo and her broomstick. The broomstick seemed unchanged and filled the room with its presence but Arturo was nowhere to be seen.

After the trip to Dagril and the swift transfer back she felt she needed a bath – it had been a while since her last and perhaps a change of clothing might be of relevance. She moved out of the study to the bedchamber opposite and caught sight of Guards outside King Machael’s bedchamber which was unusual as she had planned for him to be off to the east looking for the foes her agents had planted stories of – her agents would be hearing from her about that and with some force.

She’d wanted access to Queen Amanda for a possible accident to occur without the King around – Machael should not be in the castle. She stormed off to her bedchamber and that annoyed her as well – one bedchamber for a Princess!

Things would change once Machael was dead. His wife might be pregnant, she, however would not bear a child; Arturo had seen to that – there would be no sons or daughters from King Machael as far as Laseith was concerned but why Guards on his bedchamber door?

She headed for her bath with the broomstick trailing. It would sort out any slobbish lack of respect for her body from the servants. Despite the broomstick and Laseith’s temper it took a while for the bath to be ready and most of the servants ran for it when the broomstick decided to switch a few branches at them for the water being too hot; leaving Laseith facing a new technology called ‘taking a bath unaided’. Laseith wondered how the broomstick knew what she was thinking and then attacked? Whether she could ever control it was another question? The bath at least was decent and hot and she sank into it minus everything that went into another hot tub.

She tried to get her broomstick to wash her back, or, at least to try and herd the servants back so she had some soap. That was the last she saw of the servants for some hours and several of them could hardly walk then.

She really needed to understand the broomstick which had now taken off again. At times, it didn’t just have a mind of its own, it also took over her mind, which was probably not a difficult thing to do. She had no regard for life; she killed as her mother had … maybe the techniques were a little different but what did it matter if they were dead?

Arturo had been her preferred killer and was usually good at it until he’d disappeared but he’d be back and more determined than ever to follow her instructions once she caught up with him. The broomstick would see to that.

The hot water made her relax and that released thoughts she’d never sought, as if a tapestry were re-writing her mind and the imaginary needles pricked her ideas – she never sought thoughts, herself – what was the point, she just did what she wanted; now she found herself thinking …? Why were there Guards outside Machael’s bedchamber? Laseith rose from her bath like a surfacing whale and there was a lot in common between them.

To say she dressed quickly would be an understatement considering she had to get out of the bath and across the aisle, and then a long walk – north – to the door of her chamber and people would pay for her door being on the north side of the building while her bath door was on the south – behind her bedchamber with no door to access it.

She chose the right-hand side away from the Guards as she still had problems dressing herself. Dressing herself for a change wasn’t easy with only the broom to assist, but she was out of her bedchamber as soon as she could, and with a swift left turn, on her way to face the Guards outside of the King’s bedchamber, complete with the impetus of the broomstick now in front of her.

Approaching the door she was stopped by Guards who did not appear to be frightened of her and her brain was immediately, via her mouth spraying every insult and threat she could think of. Who were Guards to stopped her – she was Royalty.

In the King’s bedchamber stood a priest of Astoron – his name was Myrow, which was not his fault since he could hardly have objected at the time but there was yet another substantial donation to the Temple of Astoron as Laseith tried to force her way in.

Myrow knew he would lose either the child or the mother if he diverted his magic and his calling was to save the mother but Queen Amanda had specified the child over her own survival and now Laseith and her broomstick were channelling his magic away from Queen Amanda to Laseith and her broomstick, and the door was being forced open, no matter what they did.

Finally seeing Laseith’s face and the strong force beating against the door and Guards, Myrow ripped off his religious emblem and hurled it at the door. It sparkled as it travelled through the air and pressure immediately ceased.

Princess Amanda groaned and the baby appeared with nurses immediately rushing to her.

Myrow knew he’d lost Queen Amanda and looked up as she died bearing the child she had called Miranda – Myrow knew that was Amanda’s decision – she’d told him that Miranda was the priority and he heard Amanda’s words at this point echoing in his mind, ‘they can kill me but my child will kill them’.

Had Laseith broken in, both would have died. At least this way the child lived. Without Laseith and her broomstick trying to break in, he might have saved both – another death on Laseith’s lack of conscience.

Laseith and that evil weapon had killed another innocent woman – long may she rot in the hells thought Myrow. The priest closely watched the nurses cleaning up the baby and turning to the nurses produced a chain, “this is for the child – she will wear it to protect her and my God will also protect her and anyone who harms her will suffer his wrath,” if Astoron can be bothered he thought – how many Gods were really there and how much of his magic was ‘old magic’.

To say Princess Laseith was happy with the sound of a child crying and her broom not being able to break into the birth-room would be an understatement.

So far, Laseith had lost her killer; lost the magic scrolls, and now King Machael had a child – she would do something about that – no-one crossed her … no-one! The child would live a few hours and then die from complications – two of the nurses would arrange for mistakes – it often happened in those early minutes after birth!

Laseith was already back in the study with a glass scrying globe trying to watch Machael’s bedchamber however, for some reason she was having trouble. Everything seemed to be blurred and any image she caught immediately moved away from her until her eyes were watering and she still hadn’t seen anything. She moved the scrying to the bedchamber door with the two Guards still outside and then she saw two Guards move from inside the room, one of them carrying a saddlebag over her shoulder. So there were just her nurses, the baby and the priest. Soon it would all be over.

What she didn’t see in the saddlebag was a snuggled, well-wrapped baby on it’s way to a wet-nurse – the nurses were now on their knees and sleeping …?

The baby was, at least, safer now than it had been before and King Machael knew the baby would be safe and had agreed to this – Myrow had given his word and that was one reason why Queen Amanda died and the baby lived – the girl was certainly safer now than she would be as King Machael prepared for yet another battle.

Laseith watch the priest of Astoron leave some twenty minutes later, leaving the two Guards at the door. It would take Princess Laseith and her broomstick some twenty minutes to find the sleeping nurses who would be moved very shortly; surrounded by Guards – by which time – the baby would be feeding and on it’s way to the temple of Astoron.

Laseith’s temper, never good, was now incandescent and even the broomstick seemed worried, whilst Routani was quivering, “I will get those bastards, Routani Jamesson! No-one thwarts me. That idiot, Arturo, deserved whatever he got and those nurses are dead – they deserve to die for failing me – did you have them taken care of?”

They’ve been taken care of, Laseith. As you ordered.”

All of the nurses were in fact pumped full of sleeping potions by Myrow, and Routani’s attempts to quietly kill them meant waiting for the Guards and nurses to both wake up. The soldiers who were ready to carry out Laseith’s instructions were now quietly sleeping in the dungeons, and they had enjoyed the fruits of their potential labours – sent by Laseith, who didn’t know she had sent them and they would be ready for the front when the army finally left, and King Machael promised himself they would be in front of him!

King Machael was well used to the attempts by Laseith and Routani to kill people but killing Laseith and Routani would to himself, indicate failure and to the people of his country, a lack of succession leading to Sir Facid and Sir Charles Dastry looking to their own succession.

It was easier to have their attempts miscarry than try to stop them – in some cases, he couldn’t stop them but that was a price to pay for stability although the dead people would probably disagree.

If he ever found a way for both Laseith and Routani to pay with their own poison he would be interested, however for now he had little choice, possibly it was a pity King Machael was not present at his adopted daughters’ little chat that followed soon afterwards as they realised they had been out-thought by a mere man.

Laseith, in a formidable temper as usual had found failure even harder to take ans was fighting the urge to use her broomstick and no longer have a sister, but it was too early claim both Ascania and Toshonia …? Well, maybe … No … maybe, but not like that. Finally she moved her temper to mere furnace level, “Routani, let us look at your marriage and subsequent widowhood to and of, King m.”

I haven’t even married him yet, Laseith and you are killing him – should I have a succession first?”

I like to plan ahead, Routani. Well, we need to sort out that concubine. We don’t want competition before he dies.”

The Chancellor is still working on the marriage arrangements, it will be months before I am married to Martan. Why you are planning now?”

I’m looking after you, my sweet sister. When I have finished I will rule Ascania and Toshonia – we, my sister …? We! Yes, we will rule both and no-one will ever say, ‘nay’ to us – we will rule!”

How do we kill this child, Laseith? I’m not even in the castle nor do I have people to kill her?”

 

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#amwriting #amwritingfantasy #amwritingscifi Thoughts

If I was honest and the joke is, ‘I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t dishonest.’ then I would lie which makes me honest.

No matter how well I feel I have written the start of Astoria doesn’t have the sticking plaster power of a NHS A&E Politician.

I need to almost write another book to cover the War Party – Droga, Matira and Jamesson and the Alliance Party of De Bowed, Du Storme and De Geld as they kill slaughter planets and then stuff the too many prisoners across a planet and call it someone else’s problem. I touch on this in FYOG – Don’t Wait Up and I’m not going back to it.

I haven’t even cover the relatives of the Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson’s they will confine to Statis Coffins and forget to let them them.

I still haven’t gone through an egg in a seacave – Jinny – where a young chick waited for her host and then having to find someone to live in, started taking over various minds to live.

I still haven’t written about the Drunk and his life before he meets Jinny or the Cats.

Everytime I go back and think, another chunk of story starts saying, ‘write me, I was first.’, it is like fighting with your brain – anyway, the main windows should be replaced tomorrow, leaving 3 out of the 12 to be replaced and when we get through that and Howard and Chris are doing a great job of installing the windows I might actually enjoy the peace and try and work out what the hell I’m doing.

The family bathroom window does make me glad I cannot sing as it is a barbershop quartet window.

regards

Dave

It took another half hour before James Droga finally decided to land – the Droga’s being the most minor of the ruling Parties and therefore stood on their pride and everyone else’s, if given a chance. The Admirals finally arrived outside the entrance to the cave – due ceremony went by the elbow; usually into the other Dwarfs. Passing Guards jumped in to separate the Admirals fighting each other.

Guards: mixing loyalty to their families with fear of Admirals uppermost in their minds, bore their weapons high but there was no sense in what the Admirals were doing; hundreds of thousands killed for planets they never wanted; wars with no meaning; knowing full well the Admirals had no loyalty to them or anyone else but themselves and this led several Guards to looking incredulously as the ships tried to land on them – if they didn’t move.

The Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson families loomed even more, however. Now they were killing Dwarfs who did not agree and that also seemed wrong to the Guards – why should they keep taking the Admirals greed as they killed everyone who disagreed? Let them stay shut in those tubes and stop the killing.

Get those prisoners onto another planet and not ours was another thought and the Guards weren’t the only ones thinking that!

Admirals relied on Guard’s loyalty or the Guards were killed and the Guard’s families knew loyalty was on the cutting edge and the Admirals held the blade but now the Admirals were using automatics more than people, and treating people as automatics more than people; again this seemed wrong to a lot of people, animate and inanimate personae as well on Dwarvia.

The Red Stone Gate watched as they approached: intelligence in stone it might be; slow but then perhaps it still thought faster than the Admirals approaching it.

An appropriate Chamber entrance for the Admirals would have been a pot, although often with a small ‘p’ but the gate had existed for a long time, despite earlier Dwarf’s activities to destroy it and it did not forget its role, even if no-one else understood it.

The door ponderously swung open as they approached, casting a long shadow over them and showing a long dimly lit tunnel that seemed to move as they entered and then spoke to them, “leave your weapons outside of my entrance. Within my entrance your bodies will not be molested – you will live within my portals but how you live will never be my decision.”

James Droga looked at his two companions, “Why do we go through this rubbish. We have the Guards, lets shed some blood in the Council Chamber, it’s the only thing they understand.”

Stefen Matira looked up at David Jamesson and shook his head, “four hundred thousand dead and you want to kill more? Already the lesser families, aided by the De Bowed and Du Storme’s traitor’s are plotting and you – James – want to give them more reasons to plot? We chose this as the safest route now can we actually get to this place where we are safe or turn back!”

I never turn back!” Shouted James Droga, “We lead – this rabble aren’t good enough?”

Let us hope so, Admiral Droga. I just hope they aren’t good enough, or we are dead – as dead as you like to make Dwarf’s dead.”

We left our weapons outside.”

Yes, James. It seemed to take you forever? Who were you plotting to kill?”

The walls seemed to pulse as they spoke with dull red veins sparkling as they walked.

They seemed to walk for a long time, arguing as they invented stories as Politicians do until they entered a chamber which stopped them in full lies. The chamber sparkled albeit with barely enough room for them and four small cylinder shaped containers but that stopped them in mid-flow.

It was small with beams of light hitting their chests – some colours bounced off them, leaving them looking very odd; other colours danced around them, their heads and beards changing colour as if the lights saw more than their images; their eyes blued as the lights now seemed to be satisfied but colours danced on and around them until the chamber walls changed colour as they looked and the colours radiated from them.

A timbre harmonic voice echoed from the walls, surrounding them with almost visual sound, “take off your mail-shirts and helmets, they don’t matter; they will interfere with the process.”

To the Dwarf Admirals it did matter; they felt naked as they stripped off their mail-shirts and helmets, leaving fat bellies and hair roots showing black hair. Had they mirrors they would have noticed a black tinge where the red hair and eyes showed black, and their eyes were now showing blue respectively, meaning they weren’t true Dwarfs but from Old Stock that they killed without thinking.

They stood upright before the silver capsules as supplicants seeking safety and that was promised by the Red Brick Gate, “You fail to understand Admirals, you really do. I am Old Magic and so is a lot of Dwarvia. You are also Old Magic, yet you hide and pervert it. You build images and claim they are this planet’s desires but they are your desires, no-one else’s; now see your desires!”

Now the walls became images that took them through their pasts; visions of blood they spilled and as if they had never been there, it read their brains and put them onto the stone walls; to the Dwarves it was a demand for their future lives.

A cracked and crackling square exploded into colour and light danced. The colours seemed to melt into their thoughts and red was the first and major colour. Each of them saw what? Was it the same vision; was it a history; putrescence of a future? They jerked as if they were carrying the sticks to beat wives; babies or their own people but the visions on the wall somehow did not match the expressions on their faces.

Capsules erupted longways before reverting to vertical and four capsules stood longways in front of them.

They strapped themselves in and as if the capsules knew they were there, the outer levels closed, the capsules pivoted and resumed a horizontal position before each slid into a chamber and each Dwarf was slotted into a position where he was fully protected as the external shields descended and then projected into the Dwarvian Chamber House as an image.

As Ruling Families, they did not allow themselves to be subject to attacks in the Chamber House and their blood would not flow. Within the capsules they were protected against everything unless of course they were removed and forced to physically be in the Chamber where they would probably be dead within seconds of doing so. With the support of the De Bowed’s and Du Storme’s they had no challengers but you don’t take risks on Dwarvia and trusting De Bowed and Du Storme were a risk despite very distant blood ties.

The Dwarfs did not often ‘moot’; it was a melding of minds that knew honesty and that to a Dwarf was weakness. If a Dwarf had to be honest then he was weak. A Dwarf walked tall, decided everything and the weak could wail although at the moment this Policy appeared to have a few problems – riots, slaughter and large numbers of prisoners being a major problem for the doctrine.

The Chamber jeered as the Dwarf images arrived and moved to the central floor. The four sided stone of Justice presumed and in the Chamber and according to the rules; whenever they were ever followed – no law existed without the standing within standing within the confines of the four sided stone although with the families ruling, it often seemed that no law existed at all no matter where anyone stood and as technically Droga, Jamesson and Matira were only images they weren’t in the vicinity of the stone of Justice at all but their images stood at three places of the stone and now, twenty others crowded around the other side and also them.

James Droga took his time as he stared around him; eventually, he spoke, “What do you rabble want?”

Your images will stay here briefly; your bodies are already being removed from the Red Stone Gate.”

You cannot touch us. We rule, and the Gate will protect us.” said Stefen Matira.

You rule no longer. You have killed and virtually destroyed Dwarvia, Stefen Matira. Your images will leave here and your bodies will stay within the confines of the Red Stone Gate until you and your families are sent into space. As you like prisoners so much, sixty thousand of them will accompany you in three ships to the outermost ends of space – you not will return, no matter what you believe. We accept the restrictions of the Red Stone Gate. You will not be harmed.”

Who are you to say this. You have no authority. We are the Ruling Families!”

You are images, not Dwarfs in this chamber and you have killed enough. I am Geld Du Storme and this is Neville De Bowed and by the rights of the Ruling Council – sick of your killing – you will be held in custody until transported – it will take some forty years but you will not be aware of that as you will be put into Stasis until you have travelled at least 20 light years from Dwarvia,” he looked at the roof of the Chamber House as he spoke.

The space map shining onto the roof of the Dwarvian Chamber House usually displayed latest conquests although they’re were more battles in the Chamber House than were ever fought outside and the Admiral’s Political parties fought as much for their Political conquests as they did for their planetary conquests.

Their egos often led to blood spilt in the house; piped out of the Chamber with troughs often running by the feet of most members to remind them to vote according to their conscience or their lives; often on cutting votes.

It wasn’t a question of the seventh knife in a politician’s back, they were often struggling to get up to three before someone else stabbed them in the back whilst they were still stabbing another politician.

Dwarvia seemed to be nothing more than a transit camp for killers, prisoners, politicians – who often seemed the same – the picture show on the roof – split-second updates – so popular –commentators more famous than the battles.

The Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson’s had essentially ruled for longer that people remembered or wished and all were blacked eyed Space Admirals standing at 4 foot 2 inches – the maximum height for the Space Corp.

What was unusual for the Dwarfs was that they did sometimes worked together until they realised they couldn’t trust anyone, included themselves and this now seemed to be the case as they betrayed each other whilst they thought of the future, or more often of the past and who they couldn’t trust.

Usually a case of Dwarf eat Dwarf and they didn’t worry about whether there was any relish to go with the Dwarf who they beat into pulp first but the blood troughs coped, even if they did overflow a little during fierce political debates.

The problems now were the prisoners, the riots and in the Admiral’s case that they had been removed from the Chamber as their images disappeared and they found themselves upright, once again in the Red Stone Gate chamber with the lights once again sparkling as they stood, “you have broken your oath, Gate,” shouted James Droga.

You live, Droga. My oath was to protect your life. I have accomplished that. Many want you dead, now you will live, even if it is on another planet. You deserve worse, do not push the little good favour you still have,” the colours on the now began to spin and the Admirals seemed to spin as well as they were laid down on the floor and slept.

The Admirals lay dreaming of four hundred thousand prisoners scattered across anywhere … the pain, killing and hardship never bothered them – they weren’t dying; someone else did the killing, and they seemed to know they were just dreaming, but dreaming of what. They didn’t dream of ‘ruling no more’ – they never believe they would cease to rule and a new planet would give them time to rule.

They danced dreams of four hundred thousand dead; two hundred thousand prisoners rioting but war to them was war as they never used their own people – they won the wars and the people paid afterwards but who was ever honest in warfare, and now, part of the dream became a nightmare as they lost power and in their minds … they lost position – the greatest of losses.

The joke to them was yes, smaller Dwarvian Political Groups could probably muster enough votes after the latest killing bout of Dwarfs and prisoners and do something but it had been an accident with killing the Politicians and they should understand that.

When the area blasted, they were killing opposing Politicians, it was ancillary that others died.

It was an accident – they didn’t expect half of the Chamber people to be outside when they cleaned a few political thoughts out – is was meant to take out the opposition, not their own people but agendas screwed up – meetings finished early – it wasn’t their fault … the meetings should have finished on time and members of their families wouldn’t have been there!

It was just one of those unfortunate accidents that happen from time to time and they’d laid the blame directly at the mail-shirts of the minor houses – the De Bowed and the Du Storme’s … what did it matter who killed who or who decided that blasting them to bits in the standard Dwarvian way was the only answer to all problems.

There had been a weakening of some Political relationships as a result, especially De Bowed and Du Storme but that was meaningless … the ruling parties ruled and would always rule and De Bowed and Du Storme could live with it – so they’d killed over four hundred thousand Dwarfs; levelled major areas of cities; what did it really matter as they ruled.

Well, as the Matira’s, Jamesson’s and the Droga’s found out, it mattered a lot to people who now rebelled against them, and their own families were now ready to sacrifice them to save their own necks and the rising body count shouldn’t include any more of their own. It was no surprise that other Political Houses demanded a solution with an explanation, ‘The carnage was necessary. Our right to rule was being threatened and with a war, everyone supported us and it was logical to have more wars so we stayed in power.’

It was supposed to be a moot – reserved for the most serious matters and Dwarvia had them although they eventually led to the slang for a moot being called a Hubbub or Dwarf-up as they physically piled into each other.

The Dwarfs, between attacks, did stop for meetings – usually from exhaustion – although often to plan for the next attack on someone else so the minutes of meetings that often only lasted seconds when someone was left standing to apparently take the minutes was often the only record that a meeting had occurred, yet this time, the clamouring and rioting in the street finally seemed to have made it into the Council Chamber which usually ignored any reality but their own enclosed brains, and they needed someone to blame with another planet as a destination for the three Admirals seeming ideal as the political blades went in but they still could not manage the ‘Brutus affect’ and settled for three knife blades rather than seven!

The slaughter during this dispute actually become so bad, automatic washing in the Chamber was stopped as bodies were floating downwards however the Dwarfs at the top didn’t mind that although the sound of the water was also drowning the sound of them out, and that they did mind!

The roof of the Chamber produced a lot of images during this time as it seemed to have taken on a life of its own and often it showed images of what these ideas could generate; annoying the Admirals, even more as their ideas became more apparent than they wishes, but most times it showed stars and not Politicians who thought they were the stars but it would take a long to destroy Venal Politicians – stars or not.

Chapter II – Ejected On A Spaceplane – Don’t Know When We’ll Be Back Again

Destraight seemed an excellent idea and name for a planetary prison according to the remaining Dwarf families who agreed on the delivery of the three Admirals to new horizons they wouldn’t return from. It was an old unstable planet ideally suited for prisoners the Dwarven race had taken and the now failed Politicians movingon to new careers, or was it?

Dwarfia, despite its inherent violence, considered itself a democracy and there was a vote finally decreeing the three Admirals and prisoners would be put into Stasis. These specially selected prisoners would also not be returning – they were too much of a problem to in captivity.

In the end, although it was never made public, it took three the years to capture or kill the prisoners and other dwarfs who were quietly rounded up for Stasis, and they had finally completed the build of the modified Armada Class ships – Andromeda with Admiral James Droga; Surreptitious with Admiral Stefen Matira, and the Ancient with Admiral David Jamesson – all currently in Stasis and they would remain there for a minimum of ten years before being woken up, although they would then go back into Stasis.

The prisoners – still alive – yes, sixty thousand out of two hundred thousand prisoners at the beginning – would also join them – and yes, there was sufficient head clearance for non-Dwarven races although some Dwarfs would have just cut their heads off.

Along with twenty thousand sleeping prisoners/politicians per ship there were the Guards – Guard volunteering was difficult to effect but recruitment was managed and many a Guard who drank too much, now drank no more; unless in his sleep – Hounds and hunting Cats to control and hunt those who would try to escape were fairly easy to drug although the Cats being far more intelligent than the Hounds, and in fact more intelligent than most of the Guards were more difficult to control, anyway all were already asleep, even if they didn’t know how it was managed, and would stay that way until they were placed upon Destraight.

Crews had been selected on five year shifts and contracted to return – a pity, half of the fuel tanks would be empty when they reached Destraight but the other reserve tanks would register full for the return journey when in fact they were empty.

In reality the Dwarfs considered everyone disposable and certainly not, recyclable back to Dwarvia – no-one would be returning or they would die if they tried! The quarters were armoured as with very little fuel the shields were virtually non-existent although it would be a long trip that some Dwarfs would not see the end of.

Finally, late that night into a dark sky spasm brilliant sheets of silver fire bracketed with red, blue and orange beams that blackened the dark sky. Furnaces of golden light spiralled upwards with lightning striking as pads erupted sending rockets soaring in a blaze of red, lighting up the horizon.

Amongst this glory of colour three oversize ships quietly rose in the background; their dark furtive silhouettes escaping into the night although even now the ruling families, defeated in the Chamber in one of the most blood-thirsty diplomatic battles ever seen in the house, still felt they ruled and controlled as the minor houses struggled amongst themselves for cohesion as a Political force.

The Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson’s sensed the infighting amongst Dwarfs and certainly could never conceive the idea of defeat and so immediately launched unsanctioned invasions to test the mettle of the bodies now apparently governing the Chamber.

A problem with Control Freaks unfortunately is that they can never let go of anything and in planning all the major families could see were sub-projects which to them considering they were personal goals which meant killing someone although most of their thinking seemed to move in the same direction.

They did finally peered through images at Intergalactic Glasses for the latest three dimensional optics on sale which promised to help them see to the end of a plan, even if they would never achieve it but arrogance and ignorance are always as much a barrier as fear as Ruling families who no longer rule are often targeted briefly by history or somebody as it prepares the last rites but they don’t give up power easily although they often have little choice as they view their futures and find them as brief as their intelligence is if they don’t takeover again and show they still control before the rebellion against them takes off and this times really succeeds. They’d ruled for years and weren’t going to let this happen over-night, nor over-morning, if they could stop it.

If the three families had their way and they did still control Government as a policy of war then the wars would continue as their lives and wealth were entrenched in war and they felt the Elves as the extreme bureaucratic Uncivil Service would follow their rules.

The ex-Ruling Families felt they had the Elves elements twisted more than usually in their favour but one of the problems with Dwarfs who feel they control by right, is that they forget who controls the left, and in the case of the Elves who’d served for so long it wasn’t just their feeling that an obligation had become servitude, they felt exploited and forced into a Bureaucratic Government service and now were holding their own meetings. Whilst they could kill by force they often felt that boredom could achieve the same results in a meeting.

They’d been prevented from boarding the ships by the Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson’s but you needed to know Elves to do that and the Elves liked long meetings whilst the Dwarf’s were usually on a knife edge so there was no understanding between them; just the Dwarf’s belief they controlled the Elves – treating a short term commitment as a long term obligation and that vanished when they lost power and now within the Elven races their own power struggles commence and they were as bloody as the Dwarven political battles and highlighted another unknown skill of the Elves.

They might consider being bloody minded and deliberately awkward as a skill but in their natural element they were ephemeral and constantly refreshed themselves via the diamond each wore around their throat although at times they were almost hypnotic when the diamond and their minds were in tune and this allowed them to portray any image they chose.

Now the Elves, using their other skills were on the ships and sharing the Stasis cubicles – the survivors had, had enough of Dwarvia as well – some would remain, usually the older Elves who felt they could control Government from within but most were sick of the Ruling Families and their desires to kill and when escape beckons take it and if not now then in the future as other spacecraft would take off.

Now the Elves held even more meetings as they planned another mission for themselves.

Rockets took off once again to attack more planets – it didn’t really matter which planets, along as they took off, whilst quietly the Armada Class ships slowly rose without any fanfare but with a crew who thought the return tanks were full and over a thousand dwarfs who thought they would sleep for most of the journey and then return with a bonus to set them up for life. Yes, they were set up but possibly for death, nor life.

The Armada Class ships were originally designed as troop carriers. From outside the looked like someone’s bottom. Everything came in one end and went out of the other end. They ran to the fullest capacity with plasteel bulging from every orifice and these were blasted in black to merge with the sky.

Run with very small crews – usually six people on two shifts over a five year slot – two Navigators, two Comms and two junior Captains effectively meant a crew of three at any one time but the course was pre-programmed; there weren’t any communications, and they spent most of their time checking the course and monitoring for equipment failures when they were paying any attention.

The Designers hadn’t skimped on black although the accommodation quarters were covered in a stainless plasteel facade – probably the right description for the armoured protection until something hit it. The shields were weak but they were designed for relatively short trips as were the crew, and in this case, potential oblivion also played a fair design feature.

Someone had improved the shields and provided suits for the crews as if there were likely to be any serious issues they could survive but other powers were at play here and image was needed for the take off.

Something and someone has also changed the specifications so the ships were stronger than intended, although where the crew could go in an emergency was something the design failed to cater for but again counter-forces were working against each other and something yet again, was wrong.

The current crew were Mesne de Worder as the Navigator. Mesne was well named as her family knew – she couldn’t concentrate on anything. She also couldn’t stop talking and most times talked in images, portraying them onto the cabin walls, making her suited to be an Intergalactic Navigator however this statement was restricted in meaning to ‘on a small space tug with a tolerant crew’!

Trumph de Glop was the junior Captain and they didn’t come any more junior. She was evolvable but this early in a career that wasn’t going to go much further, they’re weren’t any decisions to make and rashness was not encouraged so there was little she could do and seemed adequately suited to her post.

Lnal de Bolte was the Comms Officer and she often Comm’d more than she ever watched screens or listened to anything but she kept the rest of the crew’s eyes off the screens as they listened to her and they liked that as they settled back and listened to her prattle of anything to anyone in space whilst Mesne play images on the bulkhead.

They worked twelve hours on, twelve hours off but usually just hooked up the alarm systems and stretched out until the checks or the noise woke them again and then they reset the clocks until the next checks.

The only thing that kept them going was that is was a five year sleep stint before they too hit Stasis and a big bonus when they returned to set them up in luxury.

The ships progressed and crews changed without anything untoward until about year ten when the Admirals on each ship had to be woken and there were problems to be considered. The obvious ones were that they didn’t want to wake the Admirals and eventually they all ganged together and went to each ship; visiting the Admiral’s Stasis Chambers. Needless to say, the Admiral’s Stasis chambers were as Royalty to a starving wretch.

Satin covers and the Admirals slept in satin hammocks, six foot high within chambers criss-crossed between narrow Stasis fields with only the top field operational.

There were other Stasis generators below but these were unoccupied and the design was that ship movements would not disturb them or another three people in hammocks between Stasis generators below them – if they were occupied.

It still left one small problem – the personal controls for the Admirals could not be opened unless they were forced and when the Admirals woke up they would drop directly onto the people below and waking them up would take the Admirals completely out of Stasis and that was not, if you can believe it, a decision junior officers wished to make since every crew would then have to live with a fighting, bad-tempered Admiral going nowhere.

It was something to be dreaded and so time like the crew moved on and left the Admirals to blissful sleep until there was no other option.

Some forty years later with the mechanisms working automatically, the Admirals finally woke but someone had adjusted the Stasis time fields and those underneath had moved. The Admirals finally descended amidst an explanation of technical problems and if a spaceship can gain a lead balloon then they joined the explanation as to why the Admirals were not able to easily turn the ships around and go home after the ten years had lapsed into forty years and they were halfway through the voyage.

After the Admirals realised that killing the crew was not a good idea, they stormed off to the Stasis chambers again and that was another issue as the next regulator on the Chambers was arrival at Destraight and yet, another lead balloon sank into the ship’s ballast as the Admirals realised they were not welcome back in Dwarvia.

Another crew, and yet another crew were beckoned by time but it wasn’t easy with power reduced daily until forcing them to bring in the reserve tanks led them to find they had no reserve tanks.

The smell now was of something different; they couldn’t stop the ships and the crews communicating to each other, realised something … they weren’t going home to a bonus nor to anything; the arguments range long and hard but it is amazing what you can do with an Admiral’s Stasis chamber and they were all soon asleep and the ship could look after itself.

Finally the tannoys blazed into operation and Stasis systems shut down, leaving a lot of people looking for a drink for those hangovers after a forty year session but now other problems started to interfere with their feeling hungover.

The issues for the Admiral’s now were lights in the sky approaching the Armada Ships instead of the other way around. Screens were showing land-quakes, typhoons and tidal waves and they were hitting the planet as they watched. Something, however, was going to hit and hit the Armada Ships, and that was a series of objects flying directly towards them. Already large sections of the spaceships were dropping with the prisoners caged inside as the rockets fired briefly to take them to planned landing positions no matter what the surface conditions were and the Guards, Hounds and Cats were unceremoniously dumped with them.

The Admirals discussions were becoming agitated as they looked at the advancing spacial objects and already the crew were moving from the controls and joining the Admirals with each putting on a winning smile for a place on the Admiral’s scout ships.

We need to move, Admiral,” said one honeyed voice as she moved as close as she dared, “We got you here, sir; we can get you to the surface, sir.”

The Hell-Cats can do that and let go of my arm!”

A voice at that point penetrated, “The Hell-Cats have female brains but they are not women any-more!”

On several ships the Admirals heard the pre-arranged messages the crews, all female dwarfs, had decided on. The Admirals would need advice and that they could supply in various ways.

Most Admirals had brought their family; whether they wanted to or not – a clean sweep had been ordered and demanded but computer programs now ensured that Admiral Stefen Matira was located to the south-east; Admiral David Jamesson to the north whilst Admiral James Droga was to the north-west with the locations hundreds of miles apart amidst a massive expanse of country and water – if it was still there, between them.

The prisoner and family disposal areas were at least eight to a hundred miles away from the castles which were now being quickly – almost jerry built, by computers that seemed to be having problems with the electro-magnetic affects of the spacial objects and their programs were becoming a little erratic.

The Admirals were realising that on Destraight they would have authority, once the Vis-Moot took place; Guards; Cats, Hounds and controlled prisoners would be under their control – the only problem was that something seemed to be wrong on the planet and they enlarged the scope of surveillance to watch the prisoners being dispersed to various areas of the country. The initial plan aims were to populate the north, south and central areas of Destraight.

It would be called Ascania in the north; the main landing areas here would be called Toshonia, and the central area, Stovania.

The Admirals in a rare show of co-operation had decided that James Droga would own Stovania; Stefen Matira, Toshonia and David Jamesson would own Ascania – no-one was going home – least of all, them and as usual they planned for the short-term but the crew they had agreed to take checked the pre-programmed courses on their Hell-Cats – the Hell-Cats seemed happy to talk to women and found the courses weren’t alterable – they were going where they were programmed – another surprise for the Admirals.

The prisoner and family disposal points were in the middle of nowhere, miles away from anything or anyone else – almost like some holidays for hardy old people with money still left.

The prisoners were looking at each other as if they had just found something and they weren’t happy with their find and they weren’t speaking to each other; they didn’t need to, it seemed like an old Sunday afternoon in Scotland – even Wales was better but like any bad holiday they seemed to know what others were thinking without speaking.

The Guards were panicking as the Cats and Hounds had stopped taking voice commands and instead of being trained wild animals held by specially trained handlers were walking up to prisoners and Guards, and lying down for their bellies to be tickled.

The Admirals, looking at the space screens also saw something else they didn’t like as the objects approaching seemed a lot closer than this morning and they were also thinking, and thinking fast for a change.

This led the Admirals to finally look one another in the face, instead of the boots, gut or anywhere else they usually looked to avoid facing each other. Their thoughts were then interrupted by a young aide – she wasn’t even forty yet – something that turned them bright orange, “Admirals, COMSATNEV is on video – signal is only fifteen years old, so it’s fairly new!”

James Droga looked at the young COMSATNEV liaison, “this better be good!”

COMSATNEV has aborted the mission. This planet is on the boundaries of dimensional planetary interplay. There are several black holes and planets are not following guidelines. Trouble at home has started as the peace agreement prohibits dumping prisoners into deep space and this mission is to be aborted and all personnel put to sleep until fuel arrives. Fuel is being sent out and will arrive in forty years but everyone must be brought back and put into Stasis again before they return. The signal will wake the crew when the fuel arrives.”

Well,” said Stefen Matira, “it’s a little late, COMSATNEV disciple, to do this with all the prisoners on the surface and dispersed over the land whilst we are facing incoming space debris; the Cats and Hounds out of control and some kind of planetary environment is affecting the prisoners and Guards … perhaps you should go down and explain it to them and I suggest you do it quickly or stay here and face the rocks. Look at the incoming rocks, COMSATNEV, and we have used all our power to arrive here so we have virtually no shields left. For your instruction to be effective we would need everyone back on the ships and be returning before those rocks arrive; looking at my fellow Admirals, I think we are agreed that urgently leaving this ship before it is destroyed is an excellent idea, so please tell that to COMSATNEV after we have made the planetary surface although on second thoughts, we need the power to land and you don’t as you will not be telling people the mission has been aborted,” COMSATNEV became a bloody torso that left her lying on the spaceship floor, “I think we need to make a decision and I’m leaving now.” He finally found his way to his Hell-Cat, assisted by a lot of crew, “Are we carrying too much weight?”

No, sir. Supplies have already been shipped down.”

How and when?”

Parachute, sir.”

We don’t have parachutes?”

We made them up, sir. The rocket jettison parachutes.”

They are to slow us down to land in an emergency.”

The Hell-Cats have never needed them, sir. It was a safety measure.”

So now we have no safety measures?”

Did we ever, sir?”

See me when we make land!”

On the planet the prisoners and families were still watching and they were watching water rising and surrounding where Matira castle would be but water was now engulfing them to the north and starting to flood their camp.

Further north the site of David Jamesson’s castle and the prisoner camp near him looked good, whilst James Droga’s castle site, far to the north-west was on the coast whilst the prisoner camp was a hundred miles south and near the floods sweeping in.

The castles and camps had started to build with a combination of silicone, concrete powder, air and water dropped into moulds – needing only power to generate the structures and that was already in operation as the sun caught the generators. The sun-shell power nodes were reacting and the castles and camps were rising although the land and water also seemed to be rising.

Everyone were looking at the sky as much as the still self-building structures. The Guards were releasing prisoners against all orders as there was nowhere to go and with the water sweeping in it sounded more like a riot than a prison camp.

The Admirals had now realised something about the Hell-Cats and that was they couldn’t alter the pre-programmed destinations and all were now heading for pre-programmed sites, even if one was underwater.

The moulds have gone in just the same and the model was working as surrounds were sunk around castle destinations and then the castles were built; even if one was completely surrounded by water and was in fact growing out of the water.

The prisoners looked around as their buildings kept rising but so did the Admirals as the Hell-Cats took them away with no way to countermand any commands – Dwarvia had decided to bury the Admirals and didn’t care how or when or where.

Anyone watching the buildings erupt would obviously feel the designers had played with castles as children – walls were going up, towers; baileys were obviously designed into the building as were killing areas – these buildings were being built as ancient history and not the modern world the meetings had stated … yet another computer screw-up thought the Admirals but that was it.

Looking out Stefen could see a castle and walls stretching to fifteen miles, while walls behind and directly in front of them, bisected the horizon for another ten miles and that seemed an overkill – it was all perimeter defence but against water … the fifteen foot high waters? His castle was an island.

The only decent area was David Jamesson’s, where the prisoners were only ten miles away and not drowning but James Droga didn’t have an integrated castle as such. His castle was five away from his Manor House which was ten miles away from the barracks and all moving east leaving his castle fifteen miles from the barracks.

Things were not working out as planned for the other Admirals either, although it was never intended that they should but the planners probably thought it was fun to screw up everything.

James Droga exploded, “Where is the Vis-Moot equipment? We need to beam our authority to everyone.”

Perhaps, James, we just need to control the guards and they are our authority. Everyone knows we rule … perhaps we better just assume our roles as leaders?”

With the Vis-Moot, Stefen, no-one can dispute our authority!”

There is no Viz.-Moot that I can see but I can certainly see Guards and I feel that will have to be our goal. We have our lands to secure or floods in my case and I intend to move towards another site and with haste.”

One other problem for Admiral Stefen Matira on entering his castle was that only one floor had been completed. The rest of the castle walls had been built but some computer glitch had only then furnished one floor. His next problem was that he’d have to walk to the west in order, after a long climb to reach the only inhabitable areas of the castle. The kitchens and food stores were to the east but his bedchamber was hard against the west wall. The map he was presented with showed three stairways to the tower; a gateway that led below the castle and only one way into the castle that he could understand. The internal Guard’s barracks; sleeping quarters and armoury were all linked to his bedroom … there needed to be some serious thought about this, he decided.

He used one of the stairways to the Tower and again felt his eyes drawn to the ever-increasing rocks in the sky which seemed to be becoming larger by the day.

The Admirals were having other surprises. Due to computer glitches all castles had only one floor furnished however five castles had been built for the three Admirals but not necessarily near each other, and three into five definitely didn’t go. An unpopulated four storey block almost half-way between the castles of Stefen Matira and David Jamesson were also built, but in the area allocated to Stovania and in addition to Admiral Droga’s castle, a separate manor house and a Guard’s barracks had been built miles apart.

The other issue was that no-one was allocated nor lived in the four storey block or the other two castles and the Admirals immediately decided that these builds must be their property whilst the freed prisoners, Cats and Hounds were now spreading out to find land and security before any Guards found them again but already the different types of prisoners were seeking their own refuges and some were below ground but all were as far from the Guards as they could be and as they moved they found other buildings, small towns and villages in odd spots but spread across one continuous country and that spread as far as the eye could see or in some cases the tentacles eye. The computer glitches appeared to have ‘gone to town’ in the screw-ups and apparently built towns without rhyme or reason and there were sixty thousand prisoners interested in them.

Perhaps they should have been interested in the rocks in the sky that were becoming bigger and closer but had they more interest themselves than in just surviving.

 

Chapter III – Round Two

It might also have interested them, that back on Dwarvia: yet another coup had occurred; the War Party were ruling again; planets were being invaded, and a build-up of prisoners on Dwarvia was occurring and now the riots started again and the backlash against the War Party led to increasing political bloodshed. It didn’t take long before old ideas were forming again and some Armada Class ships started construction.

The general consensus basically was … hell this time we – the Ruling Families – won’t get control back. We’ve already colonised this planet – Destraight; if we build five more ships then that is another hundred thousand prisoners we can rid Dwarvia of, plus a more than a few traitors who don’t support us and we will supply five admirals from our families who will be ideal for the project: Marcel Droga; Stefen Matira; Peter Jamesson; Percival de Bowed, and Argus Du Storme.

On Destraight, prisoners moved at speed amidst a feeling of euphoria that lasted for another question?

The land was new and even if it wasn’t their land there was no religion, politicians, or newspapers, so life should be good, or so they thought but Destraight stretched for hundreds of miles and travelled more towns than a politician in a bus, so there must be some land free for them, or so they thought in their ignorance?

Their species ranged from magical to rock, bird, horse, human, Dwarf and elf, albeit they were never there nor part of the prisoners – there were some Dwarfs and they included a killing element, apart from the politicians who didn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves, however, they could live as and where they chose once they had the chains off and the Admirals had a key and the theory was that in return for releasing your bounds, you were then bound to the Admiral.

A lot of the prisoners were still bound in chains that only the Admirals could free.

Some above ground, others sought existence beneath – yet again, others became the ground as they sunk into a life they knew but without the bounds released they would never be free.

People found they could communicate by thought and their image of the King or Queen in her or his chamber seemed to be defined by the thoughts of the people and for once was a democratic voice.

The Admirals and Politicians might feel they ruled within Destraight but these people felt they lived within the land but as they started to consider their own existence with the rocks in the sky became larger and larger and the seas starting to rise, yet again. Areas that had been dry for miles were flooding as the sea swept in.

The Admirals were also losing touch. Their scouts were out of power, and whilst they’d never really spoken to each other unless forced to, now they couldn’t speak to each other, or the ships still circling above the planet as all communications ran out of power.

They were as marooned as the Guards and prisoners – whether they liked it or not. All they had were the Guards assigned to them and desertion was already rife as the Guards realised they weren’t being paid, and if they were paid, there was nothing to spend it on anyway, with no food and life was definitely going to get harder with the rocks in the sky getting bigger and the sea levels rising but at least some lakes were forming and with them some fish were being swept in but life appeared to be being swept out – moving from prisons to a long forty year sleep then deposited on a world they didn’t know with no support, food and still chained made them need to remember the only thing they had in common was being captured and imprisoned by the Dwarves and they were now facing death and slowly.

Some were human; others were stone; some were Dwarf politicians who supported the wrong political parties. The War Party of Dwarvia had attacked any planet and any people it didn’t like and often those they claimed to like.

The Dwarfs used planets that contained nothing more than war engines, troops and weapons to attack peaceful people and they didn’t care who or what they attacked as they rampaged through the solar system.

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#amwriting #amwritingscifi #amwritingfantasy #writerslife Thoughts

Back at the start of Astoria and I need expand on the people/description/buildings et al.

I’ve only lightly referred to this so far; I never planned to tackle it until later but losing the disks took me back in thoughts as well as anything else.

I need to bring in the War Party and Alliance Party on Dwarvia. This provides the basis for launching members of their family into space and how many of us would like to.

I’ll dump the beginning before I start re-writing it.

Dave

James Droga, in his Hell-Cat Heli-phroater looked at the two screens in front of him, and especially at four foot two inched Stefen Matira and then deliberately yawned while he ruffled his red hair.

That their hair, size and eyes were the same meant nothing, and no hint was ever made of surgery although the rumours were always there concerning the ruling families; especially for the exact height and the red hair which all seemed to have and they always made the naval height requirement.

For some other reason they all to seemed to wear and probably slept in the blue and black naval uniform but their family hatred of each other was almost psychotic. James Droga considered Stefen Matira to be soft but then he detested David Jamesson as well. Neither had the guts to just kill and get on with life.

To James, they might meet Navy rules for red hair, black eyes and height restrictions of four foot two inches but they lack the blood on their swords and banners that to a Droga meant pride – pride in the people you killed; the planets you crushed and the prisoners you took even if you never left a spaceship officially during a campaign – it was glory to a family to be in a battle and James was always in some battle or other and usually between the families who ruled. Their families might be bound by ancient bonds or so they claimed; well James had a few debts to pay and they wouldn’t appear in his black book and he intended to make sure his co-Admirals didn’t have the fingers left to open a black book – they would be red ones when he’d finished.

The Admirals had always ignored comments on why they travelled to a very secure site, to then appear as images in the Council Chamber after their bodies had been inserted into tubes at the cliff site and protected by Guards …?

In a way they never cared about anything including their Guards loyalty and their belief in themselves somehow never realised that if they were so loved and respected why were their bodies being stacked up in a secured facility.

Their Hell-Cat Heli-phroaters often sounded like a shower of insects as they circled on auto, kicking up dust; raining fuel on people beneath them as they were poorly maintained but the Admirals weren’t bothered and the Hell-Cats Heli-phroaters adopted their owners attitudes to organic lifeforms and tended to ignore them when they landed.

Their targeted landing site today was some two hundred foot below the cliff peak and now their automatic systems were fighting on who landed first and killed the most guards in landing – they were in fact bitches in more ways than one.

The Hell-Cats Heli-phroaters – known at Hell-cats for short, were named after a famous Admiral, nicknamed the Hell-Cat for his bedroom adventures. The planes were said to be as honourable as he was which meant that were very fickle in their manoeuvrability and difficult to control at the best of times, however they hovered well and could land when handled by good pilots but then immediately went to their Interstellar Lawyers for being mishandled and groped as the Admirals kept their hands on the joysticks for too long – minds had been blended into the controls for years but so had the sensations and emotions of whatever was considered to be the best and they had taken the raw minds of women thinking they would bed in with the Pilots, who were usually men and such is the way with idiots who never think things through; Interstellar Lawyers just following on from a quick galaxy’s earnings, now represented the brains in most Interstellar craft and with the Dwarf’s wars; prisoners escaping and more than eight hundred thousand prisoners the Dwarf’s were pawning their mail-shirts to pay for lawyers.

A road ran just above the bottom of the cliff drop and seemed to sprint into the distance, jutting out for about thirty feet from the cliff edge as it ran, which given the Dwarfs dropping down was probably a good idea; if a road could actually run, this road would have run as they approached it! The Guards watched as the Hell-Cats found room to land without killing any of the waiting Guards although that didn’t bother the Dwarf Admirals who seemed to like killing as others like living. They finally landed separately into the grey misty morning. The sun was bright and struggling to break through the dirt, stone and water the Hell-Cats were throwing up and the Guards, who’d stood guard for hours raised their shields as the Admirals began to land.

First out was Stefen Matira, snorting in his thick accent, he was big for a Dwarf although he now needed two Guards to help him move about and his weight made movement slow and.

Stefen was swiftly followed by David Jamesson whose tones and voice were at least moderated – usually by the sound system, although compared to James Droga who was bellowing like a stuck pig and to a degree looking like one; anyone was!

It took another half hour before James Droga finally decided to land – the Droga’s being the most minor of the ruling Parties and therefore stood on their pride and everyone else’s, if given a chance. The Admirals finally arrived outside the entrance to the cave – due ceremony went by the elbow; usually into the other Dwarfs. Passing Guards jumped in to separate the Admirals fighting each other.

Guards: mixing loyalty to their families with fear of Admirals uppermost in their minds, bore their weapons high but there was no sense in what the Admirals were doing; hundreds of thousands killed for planets they never wanted; wars with no meaning; knowing full well the Admirals had no loyalty to them or anyone else but themselves and this led several Guards to looking incredulously as the ships tried to land on them – if they didn’t move.

The Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson families loomed even more, however. Now they were killing Dwarfs who did not agree and that also seemed wrong to the Guards – why should they keep taking the Admirals greed as they killed everyone who disagreed? Let them stay shut in those tubes and stop the killing.

Get those prisoners onto another planet and not ours was another thought and the Guards weren’t the only ones thinking that!

Admirals relied on Guard’s loyalty or the Guards were killed and the Guard’s families knew loyalty was on the cutting edge and the Admirals held the blade but now the Admirals were using automatics more than people, and treating people as automatics more than people; again this seemed wrong to a lot of people, animate and inanimate personae as well on Dwarvia.

The Red Stone Gate watched as they approached: intelligence in stone it might be; slow but then perhaps it still thought faster than the Admirals approaching it.

An appropriate Chamber entrance for the Admirals would have been a pot, although often with a small ‘p’ but the gate had existed for a long time, despite earlier Dwarf’s activities to destroy it and it did not forget its role, even if no-one else understood it.

The door ponderously swung open as they approached, casting a long shadow over them and showing a long dimly lit tunnel that seemed to move as they entered and then spoke to them, “leave your weapons outside of my entrance. Within my entrance your bodies will not be molested – you will live within my portals but how you live will never be my decision.”

James Droga looked at his two companions, “Why do we go through this rubbish. We have the Guards, lets shed some blood in the Council Chamber, it’s the only thing they understand.”

Stefen Matira looked up at David Jamesson and shook his head, “four hundred thousand dead and you want to kill more? Already the lesser families, aided by the De Bowed and Du Storme’s traitor’s are plotting and you – James – want to give them more reasons to plot? We chose this as the safest route now can we actually get to this place where we are safe or turn back!”

I never turn back!” Shouted James Droga, “We lead – this rabble aren’t good enough?”

Let us hope so, Admiral Droga. I just hope they aren’t good enough, or we are dead – as dead as you like to make Dwarf’s dead.”

We left our weapons outside.”

Yes, James. It seemed to take you forever? Who were you plotting to kill?”

The walls seemed to pulse as they spoke with dull red veins sparkling as they walked.

They seemed to walk for a long time, arguing as they invented stories as Politicians do until they entered a chamber which stopped them in full lies. The chamber sparkled albeit with barely enough room for them and four small cylinder shaped containers but that stopped them in mid-flow.

It was small with beams of light hitting their chests – some colours bounced off them, leaving them looking very odd; other colours danced around them, their heads and beards changing colour as if the lights saw more than their images; their eyes blued as the lights now seemed to be satisfied but colours danced on and around them until the chamber walls changed colour as they looked and the colours radiated from them.

A timbre harmonic voice echoed from the walls, surrounding them with almost visual sound, “take off your mail-shirts and helmets, they don’t matter; they will interfere with the process.”

To the Dwarf Admirals it did matter; they felt naked as they stripped off their mail-shirts and helmets, leaving fat bellies and hair roots showing black hair. Had they mirrors they would have noticed a black tinge where the red hair and eyes showed black, and their eyes were now showing blue respectively, meaning they weren’t true Dwarfs but from Old Stock that they killed without thinking.

They stood upright before the silver capsules as supplicants seeking safety and that was promised by the Red Brick Gate, “You fail to understand Admirals, you really do. I am Old Magic and so is a lot of Dwarvia. You are also Old Magic, yet you hide and pervert it. You build images and claim they are this planet’s desires but they are your desires, no-one else’s; now see your desires!”

Now the walls became images that took them through their pasts; visions of blood they spilled and as if they had never been there, it read their brains and put them onto the stone walls; to the Dwarves it was a demand for their future lives.

A cracked and crackling square exploded into colour and light danced. The colours seemed to melt into their thoughts and red was the first and major colour. Each of them saw what? Was it the same vision; was it a history; putrescence of a future? They jerked as if they were carrying the sticks to beat wives; babies or their own people but the visions on the wall somehow did not match the expressions on their faces.

Capsules erupted longways before reverting to vertical and four capsules stood longways in front of them.

They strapped themselves in and as if the capsules knew they were there, the outer levels closed, the capsules pivoted and resumed a horizontal position before each slid into a chamber and each Dwarf was slotted into a position where he was fully protected as the external shields descended and then projected into the Dwarvian Chamber House as an image.

As Ruling Families, they did not allow themselves to be subject to attacks in the Chamber House and their blood would not flow. Within the capsules they were protected against everything unless of course they were removed and forced to physically be in the Chamber where they would probably be dead within seconds of doing so. With the support of the De Bowed’s and Du Storme’s they had no challengers but you don’t take risks on Dwarvia and trusting De Bowed and Du Storme were a risk despite very distant blood ties.

The Dwarfs did not often ‘moot’; it was a melding of minds that knew honesty and that to a Dwarf was weakness. If a Dwarf had to be honest then he was weak. A Dwarf walked tall, decided everything and the weak could wail although at the moment this Policy appeared to have a few problems – riots, slaughter and large numbers of prisoners being a major problem for the doctrine.

The Chamber jeered as the Dwarf images arrived and moved to the central floor. The four sided stone of Justice presumed and in the Chamber and according to the rules; whenever they were ever followed – no law existed without the standing within standing within the confines of the four sided stone although with the families ruling, it often seemed that no law existed at all no matter where anyone stood and as technically Droga, Jamesson and Matira were only images they weren’t in the vicinity of the stone of Justice at all but their images stood at three places of the stone and now, twenty others crowded around the other side and also them.

James Droga took his time as he stared around him; eventually, he spoke, “What do you rabble want?”

Your images will stay here briefly; your bodies are already being removed from the Red Stone Gate.”

You cannot touch us. We rule, and the Gate will protect us.” said Stefen Matira.

You rule no longer. You have killed and virtually destroyed Dwarvia, Stefen Matira. Your images will leave here and your bodies will stay within the confines of the Red Stone Gate until you and your families are sent into space. As you like prisoners so much, sixty thousand of them will accompany you in three ships to the outermost ends of space – you not will return, no matter what you believe. We accept the restrictions of the Red Stone Gate. You will not be harmed.”

Who are you to say this. You have no authority. We are the Ruling Families!”

You are images, not Dwarfs in this chamber and you have killed enough. I am Geld Du Storme and this is Neville De Bowed and by the rights of the Ruling Council – sick of your killing – you will be held in custody until transported – it will take some forty years but you will not be aware of that as you will be put into Stasis until you have travelled at least 20 light years from Dwarvia,” he looked at the roof of the Chamber House as he spoke.

The space map shining onto the roof of the Dwarvian Chamber House usually displayed latest conquests although they’re were more battles in the Chamber House than were ever fought outside and the Admiral’s Political parties fought as much for their Political conquests as they did for their planetary conquests.

Their egos often led to blood spilt in the house; piped out of the Chamber with troughs often running by the feet of most members to remind them to vote according to their conscience or their lives; often on cutting votes.

It wasn’t a question of the seventh knife in a politician’s back, they were often struggling to get up to three before someone else stabbed them in the back whilst they were still stabbing another politician.

Dwarvia seemed to be nothing more than a transit camp for killers, prisoners, politicians – who often seemed the same – the picture show on the roof – split-second updates – so popular –commentators more famous than the battles.

The Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson’s had essentially ruled for longer that people remembered or wished and all were blacked eyed Space Admirals standing at 4 foot 2 inches – the maximum height for the Space Corp.

What was unusual for the Dwarfs was that they did sometimes worked together until they realised they couldn’t trust anyone, included themselves and this now seemed to be the case as they betrayed each other whilst they thought of the future, or more often of the past and who they couldn’t trust.

Usually a case of Dwarf eat Dwarf and they didn’t worry about whether there was any relish to go with the Dwarf who they beat into pulp first but the blood troughs coped, even if they did overflow a little during fierce political debates.

The problems now were the prisoners, the riots and in the Admiral’s case that they had been removed from the Chamber as their images disappeared and they found themselves upright, once again in the Red Stone Gate chamber with the lights once again sparkling as they stood, “you have broken your oath, Gate,” shouted James Droga.

You live, Droga. My oath was to protect your life. I have accomplished that. Many want you dead, now you will live, even if it is on another planet. You deserve worse, do not push the little good favour you still have,” the colours on the now began to spin and the Admirals seemed to spin as well as they were laid down on the floor and slept.

The Admirals lay dreaming of four hundred thousand prisoners scattered across anywhere … the pain, killing and hardship never bothered them – they weren’t dying; someone else did the killing, and they seemed to know they were just dreaming, but dreaming of what. They didn’t dream of ‘ruling no more’ – they never believe they would cease to rule and a new planet would give them time to rule.

They danced dreams of four hundred thousand dead; two hundred thousand prisoners rioting but war to them was war as they never used their own people – they won the wars and the people paid afterwards but who was ever honest in warfare, and now, part of the dream became a nightmare as they lost power and in their minds … they lost position – the greatest of losses.

The joke to them was yes, smaller Dwarvian Political Groups could probably muster enough votes after the latest killing bout of Dwarfs and prisoners and do something but it had been an accident with killing the Politicians and they should understand that.

When the area blasted, they were killing opposing Politicians, it was ancillary that others died.

It was an accident – they didn’t expect half of the Chamber people to be outside when they cleaned a few political thoughts out – is was meant to take out the opposition, not their own people but agendas screwed up – meetings finished early – it wasn’t their fault … the meetings should have finished on time and members of their families wouldn’t have been there!

It was just one of those unfortunate accidents that happen from time to time and they’d laid the blame directly at the mail-shirts of the minor houses – the De Bowed and the Du Storme’s … what did it matter who killed who or who decided that blasting them to bits in the standard Dwarvian way was the only answer to all problems.

There had been a weakening of some Political relationships as a result, especially De Bowed and Du Storme but that was meaningless … the ruling parties ruled and would always rule and De Bowed and Du Storme could live with it – so they’d killed over four hundred thousand Dwarfs; levelled major areas of cities; what did it really matter as they ruled.

Well, as the Matira’s, Jamesson’s and the Droga’s found out, it mattered a lot to people who now rebelled against them, and their own families were now ready to sacrifice them to save their own necks and the rising body count shouldn’t include any more of their own. It was no surprise that other Political Houses demanded a solution with an explanation, ‘The carnage was necessary. Our right to rule was being threatened and with a war, everyone supported us and it was logical to have more wars so we stayed in power.’

It was supposed to be a moot – reserved for the most serious matters and Dwarvia had them although they eventually led to the slang for a moot being called a Hubbub or Dwarf-up as they physically piled into each other.

The Dwarfs, between attacks, did stop for meetings – usually from exhaustion – although often to plan for the next attack on someone else so the minutes of meetings that often only lasted seconds when someone was left standing to apparently take the minutes was often the only record that a meeting had occurred, yet this time, the clamouring and rioting in the street finally seemed to have made it into the Council Chamber which usually ignored any reality but their own enclosed brains, and they needed someone to blame with another planet as a destination for the three Admirals seeming ideal as the political blades went in but they still could not manage the ‘Brutus affect’ and settled for three knife blades rather than seven!

The slaughter during this dispute actually become so bad, automatic washing in the Chamber was stopped as bodies were floating downwards however the Dwarfs at the top didn’t mind that although the sound of the water was also drowning the sound of them out, and that they did mind!

The roof of the Chamber produced a lot of images during this time as it seemed to have taken on a life of its own and often it showed images of what these ideas could generate; annoying the Admirals, even more as their ideas became more apparent than they wishes, but most times it showed stars and not Politicians who thought they were the stars but it would take a long to destroy Venal Politicians – stars or not.

Chapter II – Ejected On A Spaceplane – Don’t Know When We’ll Be Back Again

Destraight seemed an excellent idea and name for a planetary prison according to the remaining Dwarf families who agreed on the delivery of the three Admirals to new horizons they wouldn’t return from. It was an old unstable planet ideally suited for prisoners the Dwarven race had taken and the now failed Politicians movingon to new careers, or was it?

Dwarfia, despite its inherent violence, considered itself a democracy and there was a vote finally decreeing the three Admirals and prisoners would be put into Stasis. These specially selected prisoners would also not be returning – they were too much of a problem to in captivity.

In the end, although it was never made public, it took three the years to capture or kill the prisoners and other dwarfs who were quietly rounded up for Stasis, and they had finally completed the build of the modified Armada Class ships – Andromeda with Admiral James Droga; Surreptitious with Admiral Stefen Matira, and the Ancient with Admiral David Jamesson – all currently in Stasis and they would remain there for a minimum of ten years before being woken up, although they would then go back into Stasis.

The prisoners – still alive – yes, sixty thousand out of two hundred thousand prisoners at the beginning – would also join them – and yes, there was sufficient head clearance for non-Dwarven races although some Dwarfs would have just cut their heads off.

Along with twenty thousand sleeping prisoners/politicians per ship there were the Guards – Guard volunteering was difficult to effect but recruitment was managed and many a Guard who drank too much, now drank no more; unless in his sleep – Hounds and hunting Cats to control and hunt those who would try to escape were fairly easy to drug although the Cats being far more intelligent than the Hounds, and in fact more intelligent than most of the Guards were more difficult to control, anyway all were already asleep, even if they didn’t know how it was managed, and would stay that way until they were placed upon Destraight.

Crews had been selected on five year shifts and contracted to return – a pity, half of the fuel tanks would be empty when they reached Destraight but the other reserve tanks would register full for the return journey when in fact they were empty.

In reality the Dwarfs considered everyone disposable and certainly not, recyclable back to Dwarvia – no-one would be returning or they would die if they tried! The quarters were armoured as with very little fuel the shields were virtually non-existent although it would be a long trip that some Dwarfs would not see the end of.

Finally, late that night into a dark sky spasm brilliant sheets of silver fire bracketed with red, blue and orange beams that blackened the dark sky. Furnaces of golden light spiralled upwards with lightning striking as pads erupted sending rockets soaring in a blaze of red, lighting up the horizon.

Amongst this glory of colour three oversize ships quietly rose in the background; their dark furtive silhouettes escaping into the night although even now the ruling families, defeated in the Chamber in one of the most blood-thirsty diplomatic battles ever seen in the house, still felt they ruled and controlled as the minor houses struggled amongst themselves for cohesion as a Political force.

The Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson’s sensed the infighting amongst Dwarfs and certainly could never conceive the idea of defeat and so immediately launched unsanctioned invasions to test the mettle of the bodies now apparently governing the Chamber.

A problem with Control Freaks unfortunately is that they can never let go of anything and in planning all the major families could see were sub-projects which to them considering they were personal goals which meant killing someone although most of their thinking seemed to move in the same direction.

They did finally peered through images at Intergalactic Glasses for the latest three dimensional optics on sale which promised to help them see to the end of a plan, even if they would never achieve it but arrogance and ignorance are always as much a barrier as fear as Ruling families who no longer rule are often targeted briefly by history or somebody as it prepares the last rites but they don’t give up power easily although they often have little choice as they view their futures and find them as brief as their intelligence is if they don’t takeover again and show they still control before the rebellion against them takes off and this times really succeeds. They’d ruled for years and weren’t going to let this happen over-night, nor over-morning, if they could stop it.

If the three families had their way and they did still control Government as a policy of war then the wars would continue as their lives and wealth were entrenched in war and they felt the Elves as the extreme bureaucratic Uncivil Service would follow their rules.

The ex-Ruling Families felt they had the Elves elements twisted more than usually in their favour but one of the problems with Dwarfs who feel they control by right, is that they forget who controls the left, and in the case of the Elves who’d served for so long it wasn’t just their feeling that an obligation had become servitude, they felt exploited and forced into a Bureaucratic Government service and now were holding their own meetings. Whilst they could kill by force they often felt that boredom could achieve the same results in a meeting.

They’d been prevented from boarding the ships by the Droga’s, Matira’s and Jamesson’s but you needed to know Elves to do that and the Elves liked long meetings whilst the Dwarf’s were usually on a knife edge so there was no understanding between them; just the Dwarf’s belief they controlled the Elves – treating a short term commitment as a long term obligation and that vanished when they lost power and now within the Elven races their own power struggles commence and they were as bloody as the Dwarven political battles and highlighted another unknown skill of the Elves.

They might consider being bloody minded and deliberately awkward as a skill but in their natural element they were ephemeral and constantly refreshed themselves via the diamond each wore around their throat although at times they were almost hypnotic when the diamond and their minds were in tune and this allowed them to portray any image they chose.

Now the Elves, using their other skills were on the ships and sharing the Stasis cubicles – the survivors had, had enough of Dwarvia as well – some would remain, usually the older Elves who felt they could control Government from within but most were sick of the Ruling Families and their desires to kill and when escape beckons take it and if not now then in the future as other spacecraft would take off.

Now the Elves held even more meetings as they planned another mission for themselves.

Rockets took off once again to attack more planets – it didn’t really matter which planets, along as they took off, whilst quietly the Armada Class ships slowly rose without any fanfare but with a crew who thought the return tanks were full and over a thousand dwarfs who thought they would sleep for most of the journey and then return with a bonus to set them up for life. Yes, they were set up but possibly for death, nor life.

The Armada Class ships were originally designed as troop carriers. From outside the looked like someone’s bottom. Everything came in one end and went out of the other end. They ran to the fullest capacity with plasteel bulging from every orifice and these were blasted in black to merge with the sky.

Run with very small crews – usually six people on two shifts over a five year slot – two Navigators, two Comms and two junior Captains effectively meant a crew of three at any one time but the course was pre-programmed; there weren’t any communications, and they spent most of their time checking the course and monitoring for equipment failures when they were paying any attention.

The Designers hadn’t skimped on black although the accommodation quarters were covered in a stainless plasteel facade – probably the right description for the armoured protection until something hit it. The shields were weak but they were designed for relatively short trips as were the crew, and in this case, potential oblivion also played a fair design feature.

Someone had improved the shields and provided suits for the crews as if there were likely to be any serious issues they could survive but other powers were at play here and image was needed for the take off.

Something and someone has also changed the specifications so the ships were stronger than intended, although where the crew could go in an emergency was something the design failed to cater for but again counter-forces were working against each other and something yet again, was wrong.

The current crew were Mesne de Worder as the Navigator. Mesne was well named as her family knew – she couldn’t concentrate on anything. She also couldn’t stop talking and most times talked in images, portraying them onto the cabin walls, making her suited to be an Intergalactic Navigator however this statement was restricted in meaning to ‘on a small space tug with a tolerant crew’!

Trumph de Glop was the junior Captain and they didn’t come any more junior. She was evolvable but this early in a career that wasn’t going to go much further, they’re weren’t any decisions to make and rashness was not encouraged so there was little she could do and seemed adequately suited to her post.

Lnal de Bolte was the Comms Officer and she often Comm’d more than she ever watched screens or listened to anything but she kept the rest of the crew’s eyes off the screens as they listened to her and they liked that as they settled back and listened to her prattle of anything to anyone in space whilst Mesne play images on the bulkhead.

They worked twelve hours on, twelve hours off but usually just hooked up the alarm systems and stretched out until the checks or the noise woke them again and then they reset the clocks until the next checks.

The only thing that kept them going was that is was a five year sleep stint before they too hit Stasis and a big bonus when they returned to set them up in luxury.

The ships progressed and crews changed without anything untoward until about year ten when the Admirals on each ship had to be woken and there were problems to be considered. The obvious ones were that they didn’t want to wake the Admirals and eventually they all ganged together and went to each ship; visiting the Admiral’s Stasis Chambers. Needless to say, the Admiral’s Stasis chambers were as Royalty to a starving wretch.

Satin covers and the Admirals slept in satin hammocks, six foot high within chambers criss-crossed between narrow Stasis fields with only the top field operational.

There were other Stasis generators below but these were unoccupied and the design was that ship movements would not disturb them or another three people in hammocks between Stasis generators below them – if they were occupied.

It still left one small problem – the personal controls for the Admirals could not be opened unless they were forced and when the Admirals woke up they would drop directly onto the people below and waking them up would take the Admirals completely out of Stasis and that was not, if you can believe it, a decision junior officers wished to make since every crew would then have to live with a fighting, bad-tempered Admiral going nowhere.

It was something to be dreaded and so time like the crew moved on and left the Admirals to blissful sleep until there was no other option.

Some forty years later with the mechanisms working automatically, the Admirals finally woke but someone had adjusted the Stasis time fields and those underneath had moved. The Admirals finally descended amidst an explanation of technical problems and if a spaceship can gain a lead balloon then they joined the explanation as to why the Admirals were not able to easily turn the ships around and go home after the ten years had lapsed into forty years and they were halfway through the voyage.

After the Admirals realised that killing the crew was not a good idea, they stormed off to the Stasis chambers again and that was another issue as the next regulator on the Chambers was arrival at Destraight and yet, another lead balloon sank into the ship’s ballast as the Admirals realised they were not welcome back in Dwarvia.

Another crew, and yet another crew were beckoned by time but it wasn’t easy with power reduced daily until forcing them to bring in the reserve tanks led them to find they had no reserve tanks.

The smell now was of something different; they couldn’t stop the ships and the crews communicating to each other, realised something … they weren’t going home to a bonus nor to anything; the arguments range long and hard but it is amazing what you can do with an Admiral’s Stasis chamber and they were all soon asleep and the ship could look after itself.

Finally the tannoys blazed into operation and Stasis systems shut down, leaving a lot of people looking for a drink for those hangovers after a forty year session but now other problems started to interfere with their feeling hungover.

The issues for the Admiral’s now were lights in the sky approaching the Armada Ships instead of the other way around. Screens were showing land-quakes, typhoons and tidal waves and they were hitting the planet as they watched. Something, however, was going to hit and hit the Armada Ships, and that was a series of objects flying directly towards them. Already large sections of the spaceships were dropping with the prisoners caged inside as the rockets fired briefly to take them to planned landing positions no matter what the surface conditions were and the Guards, Hounds and Cats were unceremoniously dumped with them.

The Admirals discussions were becoming agitated as they looked at the advancing spacial objects and already the crew were moving from the controls and joining the Admirals with each putting on a winning smile for a place on the Admiral’s scout ships.

We need to move, Admiral,” said one honeyed voice as she moved as close as she dared, “We got you here, sir; we can get you to the surface, sir.”

The Hell-Cats can do that and let go of my arm!”

A voice at that point penetrated, “The Hell-Cats have female brains but they are not women any-more!”

On several ships the Admirals heard the pre-arranged messages the crews, all female dwarfs, had decided on. The Admirals would need advice and that they could supply in various ways.

Most Admirals had brought their family; whether they wanted to or not – a clean sweep had been ordered and demanded but computer programs now ensured that Admiral Stefen Matira was located to the south-east; Admiral David Jamesson to the north whilst Admiral James Droga was to the north-west with the locations hundreds of miles apart amidst a massive expanse of country and water – if it was still there, between them.

The prisoner and family disposal areas were at least eight to a hundred miles away from the castles which were now being quickly – almost jerry built, by computers that seemed to be having problems with the electro-magnetic affects of the spacial objects and their programs were becoming a little erratic.

The Admirals were realising that on Destraight they would have authority, once the Vis-Moot took place; Guards; Cats, Hounds and controlled prisoners would be under their control – the only problem was that something seemed to be wrong on the planet and they enlarged the scope of surveillance to watch the prisoners being dispersed to various areas of the country. The initial plan aims were to populate the north, south and central areas of Destraight.

It would be called Ascania in the north; the main landing areas here would be called Toshonia, and the central area, Stovania.

The Admirals in a rare show of co-operation had decided that James Droga would own Stovania; Stefen Matira, Toshonia and David Jamesson would own Ascania – no-one was going home – least of all, them and as usual they planned for the short-term but the crew they had agreed to take checked the pre-programmed courses on their Hell-Cats – the Hell-Cats seemed happy to talk to women and found the courses weren’t alterable – they were going where they were programmed – another surprise for the Admirals.

The prisoner and family disposal points were in the middle of nowhere, miles away from anything or anyone else – almost like some holidays for hardy old people with money still left.

The prisoners were looking at each other as if they had just found something and they weren’t happy with their find and they weren’t speaking to each other; they didn’t need to, it seemed like an old Sunday afternoon in Scotland – even Wales was better but like any bad holiday they seemed to know what others were thinking without speaking.

The Guards were panicking as the Cats and Hounds had stopped taking voice commands and instead of being trained wild animals held by specially trained handlers were walking up to prisoners and Guards, and lying down for their bellies to be tickled.

The Admirals, looking at the space screens also saw something else they didn’t like as the objects approaching seemed a lot closer than this morning and they were also thinking, and thinking fast for a change.

This led the Admirals to finally look one another in the face, instead of the boots, gut or anywhere else they usually looked to avoid facing each other. Their thoughts were then interrupted by a young aide – she wasn’t even forty yet – something that turned them bright orange, “Admirals, COMSATNEV is on video – signal is only fifteen years old, so it’s fairly new!”

James Droga looked at the young COMSATNEV liaison, “this better be good!”

COMSATNEV has aborted the mission. This planet is on the boundaries of dimensional planetary interplay. There are several black holes and planets are not following guidelines. Trouble at home has started as the peace agreement prohibits dumping prisoners into deep space and this mission is to be aborted and all personnel put to sleep until fuel arrives. Fuel is being sent out and will arrive in forty years but everyone must be brought back and put into Stasis again before they return. The signal will wake the crew when the fuel arrives.”

Well,” said Stefen Matira, “it’s a little late, COMSATNEV disciple, to do this with all the prisoners on the surface and dispersed over the land whilst we are facing incoming space debris; the Cats and Hounds out of control and some kind of planetary environment is affecting the prisoners and Guards … perhaps you should go down and explain it to them and I suggest you do it quickly or stay here and face the rocks. Look at the incoming rocks, COMSATNEV, and we have used all our power to arrive here so we have virtually no shields left. For your instruction to be effective we would need everyone back on the ships and be returning before those rocks arrive; looking at my fellow Admirals, I think we are agreed that urgently leaving this ship before it is destroyed is an excellent idea, so please tell that to COMSATNEV after we have made the planetary surface although on second thoughts, we need the power to land and you don’t as you will not be telling people the mission has been aborted,” COMSATNEV became a bloody torso that left her lying on the spaceship floor, “I think we need to make a decision and I’m leaving now.” He finally found his way to his Hell-Cat, assisted by a lot of crew, “Are we carrying too much weight?”

No, sir. Supplies have already been shipped down.”

How and when?”

Parachute, sir.”

We don’t have parachutes?”

We made them up, sir. The rocket jettison parachutes.”

They are to slow us down to land in an emergency.”

The Hell-Cats have never needed them, sir. It was a safety measure.”

So now we have no safety measures?”

Did we ever, sir?”

See me when we make land!”

On the planet the prisoners and families were still watching and they were watching water rising and surrounding where Matira castle would be but water was now engulfing them to the north and starting to flood their camp.

Further north the site of David Jamesson’s castle and the prisoner camp near him looked good, whilst James Droga’s castle site, far to the north-west was on the coast whilst the prisoner camp was a hundred miles south and near the floods sweeping in.

The castles and camps had started to build with a combination of silicone, concrete powder, air and water dropped into moulds – needing only power to generate the structures and that was already in operation as the sun caught the generators. The sun-shell power nodes were reacting and the castles and camps were rising although the land and water also seemed to be rising.

Everyone were looking at the sky as much as the still self-building structures. The Guards were releasing prisoners against all orders as there was nowhere to go and with the water sweeping in it sounded more like a riot than a prison camp.

The Admirals had now realised something about the Hell-Cats and that was they couldn’t alter the pre-programmed destinations and all were now heading for pre-programmed sites, even if one was underwater.

The moulds have gone in just the same and the model was working as surrounds were sunk around castle destinations and then the castles were built; even if one was completely surrounded by water and was in fact growing out of the water.

The prisoners looked around as their buildings kept rising but so did the Admirals as the Hell-Cats took them away with no way to countermand any commands – Dwarvia had decided to bury the Admirals and didn’t care how or when or where.

Anyone watching the buildings erupt would obviously feel the designers had played with castles as children – walls were going up, towers; baileys were obviously designed into the building as were killing areas – these buildings were being built as ancient history and not the modern world the meetings had stated … yet another computer screw-up thought the Admirals but that was it.

Looking out Stefen could see a castle and walls stretching to fifteen miles, while walls behind and directly in front of them, bisected the horizon for another ten miles and that seemed an overkill – it was all perimeter defence but against water … the fifteen foot high waters? His castle was an island.

The only decent area was David Jamesson’s, where the prisoners were only ten miles away and not drowning but James Droga didn’t have an integrated castle as such. His castle was five away from his Manor House which was ten miles away from the barracks and all moving east leaving his castle fifteen miles from the barracks.

Things were not working out as planned for the other Admirals either, although it was never intended that they should but the planners probably thought it was fun to screw up everything.

James Droga exploded, “Where is the Vis-Moot equipment? We need to beam our authority to everyone.”

Perhaps, James, we just need to control the guards and they are our authority. Everyone knows we rule … perhaps we better just assume our roles as leaders?”

With the Vis-Moot, Stefen, no-one can dispute our authority!”

There is no Viz.-Moot that I can see but I can certainly see Guards and I feel that will have to be our goal. We have our lands to secure or floods in my case and I intend to move towards another site and with haste.”

One other problem for Admiral Stefen Matira on entering his castle was that only one floor had been completed. The rest of the castle walls had been built but some computer glitch had only then furnished one floor. His next problem was that he’d have to walk to the west in order, after a long climb to reach the only inhabitable areas of the castle. The kitchens and food stores were to the east but his bedchamber was hard against the west wall. The map he was presented with showed three stairways to the tower; a gateway that led below the castle and only one way into the castle that he could understand. The internal Guard’s barracks; sleeping quarters and armoury were all linked to his bedroom … there needed to be some serious thought about this, he decided.

He used one of the stairways to the Tower and again felt his eyes drawn to the ever-increasing rocks in the sky which seemed to be becoming larger by the day.

The Admirals were having other surprises. Due to computer glitches all castles had only one floor furnished however five castles had been built for the three Admirals but not necessarily near each other, and three into five definitely didn’t go. An unpopulated four storey block almost half-way between the castles of Stefen Matira and David Jamesson were also built, but in the area allocated to Stovania and in addition to Admiral Droga’s castle, a separate manor house and a Guard’s barracks had been built miles apart.

The other issue was that no-one was allocated nor lived in the four storey block or the other two castles and the Admirals immediately decided that these builds must be their property whilst the freed prisoners, Cats and Hounds were now spreading out to find land and security before any Guards found them again but already the different types of prisoners were seeking their own refuges and some were below ground but all were as far from the Guards as they could be and as they moved they found other buildings, small towns and villages in odd spots but spread across one continuous country and that spread as far as the eye could see or in some cases the tentacles eye. The computer glitches appeared to have ‘gone to town’ in the screw-ups and apparently built towns without rhyme or reason and there were sixty thousand prisoners interested in them.

Perhaps they should have been interested in the rocks in the sky that were becoming bigger and closer but had they more interest themselves than in just surviving.

 

Chapter III – Round Two

It might also have interested them, that back on Dwarvia: yet another coup had occurred; the War Party were ruling again; planets were being invaded, and a build-up of prisoners on Dwarvia was occurring and now the riots started again and the backlash against the War Party led to increasing political bloodshed. It didn’t take long before old ideas were forming again and some Armada Class ships started construction.

The general consensus basically was … hell this time we – the Ruling Families – won’t get control back. We’ve already colonised this planet – Destraight; if we build five more ships then that is another hundred thousand prisoners we can rid Dwarvia of, plus a more than a few traitors who don’t support us and we will supply five admirals from our families who will be ideal for the project: Marcel Droga; Stefen Matira; Peter Jamesson; Percival de Bowed, and Argus Du Storme.

On Destraight, prisoners moved at speed amidst a feeling of euphoria that lasted for another question?

The land was new and even if it wasn’t their land there was no religion, politicians, or newspapers, so life should be good, or so they thought but Destraight stretched for hundreds of miles and travelled more towns than a politician in a bus, so there must be some land free for them, or so they thought in their ignorance?

Their species ranged from magical to rock, bird, horse, human, Dwarf and elf, albeit they were never there nor part of the prisoners – there were some Dwarfs and they included a killing element, apart from the politicians who didn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves, however, they could live as and where they chose once they had the chains off and the Admirals had a key and the theory was that in return for releasing your bounds, you were then bound to the Admiral.

A lot of the prisoners were still bound in chains that only the Admirals could free.

Some above ground, others sought existence beneath – yet again, others became the ground as they sunk into a life they knew but without the bounds released they would never be free.

People found they could communicate by thought and their image of the King or Queen in her or his chamber seemed to be defined by the thoughts of the people and for once was a democratic voice.

The Admirals and Politicians might feel they ruled within Destraight but these people felt they lived within the land but as they started to consider their own existence with the rocks in the sky became larger and larger and the seas starting to rise, yet again. Areas that had been dry for miles were flooding as the sea swept in.

The Admirals were also losing touch. Their scouts were out of power, and whilst they’d never really spoken to each other unless forced to, now they couldn’t speak to each other, or the ships still circling above the planet as all communications ran out of power.

They were as marooned as the Guards and prisoners – whether they liked it or not. All they had were the Guards assigned to them and desertion was already rife as the Guards realised they weren’t being paid, and if they were paid, there was nothing to spend it on anyway, with no food and life was definitely going to get harder with the rocks in the sky getting bigger and the sea levels rising but at least some lakes were forming and with them some fish were being swept in but life appeared to be being swept out – moving from prisons to a long forty year sleep then deposited on a world they didn’t know with no support, food and still chained made them need to remember the only thing they had in common was being captured and imprisoned by the Dwarves and they were now facing death and slowly.

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#amwriting #writerslife #amwritingscifi FYOG books

FYOG almost defines a battle between the families that rule and their own children rebelling.

Everything is green  and the rubbish from Politicians that we get, means they know, so power supplies shut down in the winter and work in the summer when you don’t need it.

Anyone unknown or out of favour disappears into the ‘friday night camps’, never to appear again and they are now called slaves or just people enjoying themselves on a friday night and an obvious target as are coloured/mixed race/anyone you don’t like and all are swept into the camps.

FYOG were two learning books for me.

I started in 2006 with the Parky ideas but broke it up with the FYOG – DWU and FYOG – IMBALT … Don’t Wait Up and I May Be A Long Time.

I’ll let you form your own impressions. I dumped some of the FYOG – DWU the other night, this is some of the FYOG – IMBALT – FYOG is a Politicians slang for ‘we are doing this for your own good’ when we are doing it to enrich ourselves and our friends.

Dave

It took Calop about a minute to realise that he had been spoken to and he woke up with a start; a worried face looked closely into his, “are you OK? You look three quarters dead,” said the face.

“Just been overdoing it – Dad’s been on my back again like I’m some kind of stallion and only think of follies.”

“I think your Dad meant fillies, and I’ve heard similar comments from some of the girls, but your Dad might be right and it is follies you think of.”

“Very funny. Dad has political problems of his own and doesn’t want to worry about me, but I just can’t get my head around this PSCC stuff …. I want to be on the marketing courses – I want to work for Brands, not the PSCC. I want to deliver services, not run people’s lives and the Police.

“My Dad is the same – wants me to join the PSCC, as he is in Brands but I want Brands!”

“You’re Ronna Farina?”

“Don’t shout it for everyone to hear!” And in a much quieter voice, she added, “You’re Calop Russell?”

“Your Dad is Head of Brands, isn’t he, Ronna?” Murmured Calop, as he found himself smiling.

“Your Dad is Head of the PSCC, isn’t he, Calop?” Retorted Ronna, who didn’t like the sardonic smile.

“Yes, and constantly fighting with your Dad, Ronna,” added Calop. We’d better keep it quiet we’ve met … I think, Ronna?”

“It wouldn’t go down well with either of them … you are certainly right there, Calop? Anyway, you need sleep, so lets get you to your room … I can study while you sleep and keep an eye on you?”

“I’m OK, Ronna.”

“No, you are not, Calop – Lets get you to bed, and I don’t mean with me.”

“You really are a spoilsport, Ronna?”

“Yes, and I intend to stay one – Bed, Calop! I don’t want to meet up with you, and then you are dead the next minute …? It gives the wrong impression – Dead a few hours later, is fine, however.”

“Thank you for the health warning, Ronna – I will remember it.”

“It will be all you remember if you don’t get some sleep … come on … bed-ridden or else for you.”

“Else what?”

“Bed!”

Calop eventually slept-walked his way to his rooms, watched by Ronna who nipped at his heels like a sheepdog herding a stray lamb back to the flock. He managed to sit on his bed and tried to take his shoes off.

Finally, although Ronna wondered if she was doing the right thing, she wandered over to watch Calop fumble about as he tried to undress, and then pushed him backwards onto the bed and took off his shoes and trousers. His socks she refused to touch and they stayed on, leaving him lying across the bed. Eventually, he straightened himself up in his sleep, and she folded a blanket over him and left him fast asleep.

Simon Kade headed the Southern Resistance, with John McDow handling the Northern, and they met up in a pre-arranged meeting at a Norm Centre in Shepherds Crest.

The centre adjoined virtually every property in it’s immediate area, sitting in the middle of a nest of buildings that gave them routes out in the event of attacks; so unless it was an ‘area hit’ they should be OK and they had taken precautions against that …. they should be connecting with their assistants – fairly soon, as well!

They both knew the PSCC and Head of Brands held their wives as hostages – to make it worse they also used them as their personal assistants so they were under control and in sight for most of the time – their wives and they had known and accepted the risk that they might become prisoners when they first met each other, but never expected their wives to be hostages or that close to heads of both bodies.

Ronna soon realised that getting out of Calop’s rooms and back in again, just wasn’t going to happen – the electronic entry badge was tuned to him and there wasn’t a key or badge hole in the door so she didn’t know whether to leave or not … she had been wearing these clothes it seemed since the dawn of time – they stank, and so did she!

Heavy dresses even with a button skirt were still heavy, and she needed a shower and something else to put on afterwards – apart from a towel.

There must be something of his she could put on, she thought as she searched around his wardrobe and shelves for something to wear – eventually finding a long vest and she took the chance to shower – finishing with towels wrapped around her and Calop still out cold. She put his vest on, a pair of shorts with a belt and settled down to do some more work.

Much later she heard a murmur leading her to lean over Calop’s bed and look into his face.

His eyes opened and she heard herself say fairly stupidly, “are you awake?”

“No – still dreaming,” said Calop … his eyes half-open.

“What are you dreaming about, then?”

“Some fantastic girl, looking at me.”

“Well this fantastic girl stole one of your vests, after a shower – this was the only that one was any kind of fit.”

“Then I’m not dreaming?”

“No. You’re staring, raise your eyes … or I will black them.”

“If you lean over a bit more, you will, anyway,” Ronna scrambled back off the bed; sitting down behind the table as Calop swung his legs off the bed and headed for the toilet.

Ronna stayed at the table, preferring to keep what little was covered, covered … a string vest had seemed a cool idea at the time, when she was still hot and wanted to cool down … then … now?

“Are you still studying, Ronna,” Calop asked, closing the toilet door behind him …? “Don’t you ever stop?”

“My Dad doesn’t know I am studying the Brands courses – I have to learn the PSCC stuff as well or he will find out …. I don’t think its as boring as you say? You just don’t do enough work to know that?”

“Can we study together, Ronna? I’ll work hard, studying with you – I promise. Your Dad, like mine, wants me to study for the PSCC and I want to study Brands. If I do what you’re doing and study Brands but learn PSCC as well, then we can both qualify for Brands but convince them we’re studying the PSCC Course. By the time they find out it will be too late.”

“And if I wasn’t just wearing your string vest?”

“I want you, Ronna … no matter what you wearing.”

“Do you want to make love to me then, Calop?”

“Yes.”

“Well lets get that out of your system, then,” said Ronna – pulling the vest over her head …. She climbed into bed – Calop was nearly falling over in getting his pants off and he was on top of her before she could say anything – holding her tightly as he moved … eagerness seemed to be all the rage, but a bit slower to start was her forceful demand!

In almost identical frames of mind, despite the difference in location, Shena McDow and Tasha Kade sat thinking – staring at the brooches from their partners and remembering them.

The brooches were very similar, with the pin on each end covered by a metal cover – the groove in the back of the brooch was also covered and the designed hole in the dress meant the cover need never come off to pin it.

They’d known the risks when they partnered, but kidnapping, and being held hostage by Jacob Russell and Jason Farina had never really occurred to them. They both knew their partners were unlikely to survive – which was why their partners had given sperm from their honeymoon; now safely protected and out of the country.

If, or more likely when, anything happened to them, they knew both Shiral Kade and Joan McDow would surrogate and Shiral and Joan were both out of the country as well. They would stay out until they were needed, if they were ever needed, but Simon and John would never leave the country alive and the Resistance without them would be nothing, so they would stay and die and their children would be born – hopefully in better times!

Shena and Tasha were called in at almost the same moment – Tasha stood there facing Jason Farina whilst Shena faced Jacob Russell … as they saw the looks on Jason and Jacob’s faces, both moved up to stand by men’s right ears, fiddling with the brooches as they moved closer and until just out of sight they pulled the end off the brooch pins.

The words again to them … almost identical, “your husband is dead, it was quick,” with neither of the men meeting their eyes.

“How did they die?” They both asked.

“Peter St. Drark shot them, it was quick.”

“Then join him, you bastard,” was the joint reply – the end of the pin plunging into the carotid artery – a joint response if their husbands were ever killed, with the poison almost instantaneously in the blood flow to the brain. The back of the brooches then had the cover removed displaying two pills, and they were pushed into their mouths – washed down with the water on the table, leaving Simon, John, Tasha, Shena, Jason and Jacob dead and the country still in the same mess.

Calop and Ronna dozed after making love – the phone finally forced Calop to get up and answer it.

Ronna, looking up, saw his face and was immediately out of bed as tears started to run down his face – she shouted, “what happened?”

“My Father is dead. He and your father had Peter St. Drark kill the two Resistance Leaders – they took revenge on our Parents!”

“How did they take revenge, Calop? Who else is dead?” He looked at her face and she saw the horror in it.

“Please tell me, No, Calop, please tell me NO!”

She ran to the toilet – he could hear the vomiting from his bedside. He just stood there – no feeling – just nothing! A little while before, they had been talking about fooling their Fathers – now both dead – beyond fooling. Both of them dead!

Calop, if he was honest, had never known his mother – she was just one of his father’s numerous bed-women.

His father never seemed bothered whether he had children or not, nor by whom but Ronna was being physically sick over the death of her father and as he went to try and hold her, he was surprised to find her hitting at him – telling him to stay away … “I didn’t kill your father, Ronna. Mine is dead as well,” and then she finally stopped hitting him, and he held her.

“I just want to go, Calop. As far from this country, as I can. There is nothing here for me, now.”

“I am here for you, Ronna.”

No! You are not. You are here for you, not me. I want my clothes, and I am out of this forsaken country.”

He watched as she ran around the room picking up her stuff, and still wearing only his vest and shorts, disappeared out of the door.

Had Ronna remembered some rules, things might have been a lot different in the future.

Don’t when you have just finished a period, have unprotected sex if you are likely to vomit and you are taking pills – later in Europe, Lazuryn was born and brought to England following Ronna’s heart attack.

Her Farina relatives being English, dropped the ‘z’ from the name, leaving ‘Lauryn’.

Chapter II – 15 – Love

Blank walls greeted Acton … there was almost a feeling of love … waking up, yet again to them.

Acton breathing deeply, lay there looking at the whitewashed walls, before once again drifting off, to wake yet again and this time to a bed surrounded by five women guards who even when he slept, blocked direct access to him … bringing a sense of futility to any idea of escape.

His bed – hard against the far end of the whitewashed wall – centred in case of attack with his guard’s beds paired in twos between him, and the door like a last dance with no chance of going home afterwards.

Acton, by this time no longer sure any more whether he had loves, a love, or love in potentia, fought the fading memories that fought the dreams they tried to instil in him – everything he had lost hurtling at him and hurting him further …? He even hurt in his dreams when he thought about things, and it was better to consider everything lost with no hope, than to try and remember anything. Then they could only hurt him physically when he was removed from his ‛shared solitary cell’.

A relief from the mental torture and he could cope with that, even when they let him smell fresh air and took his ear coverings off so he could hear water and bird’s noises outside – trying in some way to teach him what he had lost; then they would try to give him memories so they could then take them away again, but the last thing Acton remembered, had stayed in his memory for 4 years – waking up, stark naked, strapped to a bed in Block B2 on the PSCC Campus. Were they extracting information from him as they believed? Now – too late for them, he finally gave the codeword for his Home Wall.

It had to be said to his Wall within three days of him leaving home to confirm he was still OK and he had managed to hold off until the end of the third day, so it didn’t matter after that when he finally gave in – the next password required him to be free and seen alive by Wall, for it to work. He did keep wondering, however, why so many of the secrets were known? Only Cath and Georgina had known half of this stuff? Who hadn’t betrayed him?

Still the appliances were free – no password would control them again until he was free, and unless they re-installed all the software, and that would have to be on-site via the ‘software back-door’ in the garage to break in, and for every house in the country – failure was guaranteed and that, they could not admit to!

Normally he was prevented from seeing, hearing or speaking whenever he left his cell and unless being questioned, the only people he ever saw were Tajuana Bostwick, Abby Abdullah, Caroyln Coryell, Tawanda Zahl and Tonia Hemmingway …? All women?

He assumed there was some feeling that women were incorruptible and would make him want to show off and talk to them, but he had nothing to say to them – nothing he would say to anyone else either for that matter, whether inside or outside of the cell unless they were hitting him, when he just moaned! Someone would make a mistake one day but the appliances couldn’t help him – if Wall ever tried to use Andrew St. Drark’s techniques across the network …? Wall could be forced to release all of Andrew’s sadomasochistic programs, without restraint to all appliances throughout the whole country.

Andrew had fed all of them into Wall one day to control Cath and Georgina’s activities, even though Cath was her daughter – with the right stimulus Wall would have no choice but to release all of them according to whatever criteria Andrew has programmed in, but luckily the unknown stimulus had not been reached in terms of the network, yet?

Like all the leaders of the organisations the PSCC had taken over, Acton didn’t have a trial in absentia – they lived in absentia in the Blocks without any known existence. B1, F2, F3, F4, F5 held the ex-Leaders, with Blocks A1 and F1 holding armed guards against further attacks to release prisoners – B2 held Acton and his guards, completely separated from everyone and that was the situation when Sken replaced Acton at the Centre.

Chapter III – Centre Court

Sken worked alongside Cath, in as much as anyone could work alongside Cath in L1.5 of the Sonning Centre. Sken came into the Centre after Acton disappeared some 4 years ago and lived in the now rebuilt house that Cath had once lived in – burnt down by a PSCC Agent. Cath had now taken over Acton’s house and showed no signs of ever moving back.

Sken interrupted his usual Monday morning checking routines when Darron barged in at the top of his voice, as usual, “Sken you are seconded to the PSCC Campus, Block K2. With more slave camps coming on-line their databases have speed problems and keep crashing. You’ll work with Pearlie Laing in Block D1. It’s a fixed assignment for 12 weeks and Krissy Pedrick will move in here while you are away – get yourself over there now, they’re expecting you!”

Darron, as directly and rudely aggressive as ever then stormed out! Sken had heard that Darron was a decent guy before being promoted, but this rumour was becoming fainter and fainter – as people often felt around Darron! Darron had developed a habit of speaking and behaving so much like a robot, you found yourself watching him, to see if he walked like one.

It was a fairly easy drive down to K2, just off the main road and through the Campus. D1 was on the East side of the Lake – hidden at the back behind a jungle of trees.

Sken let the car find a vacant spot near K2, park itself and he headed up to the PSCC IT Block. K2 was quite a long block and it took him 10 minutes to find Catalina Divine, who headed up the Campus IT Section – also known as the MD Division – she was obviously waiting for him!

Needless to say, Sken’s welcome was the usual response to someone from the Centre – “come to rob us blind have you, Sken?” It was spoken in a nice cheerful voice with a smile. Catalina was 5 ft 7 with green eyes – very good looking with a chiselled bone structure that probably received 3 hours hard work every morning, plus a very nice figure and she was very well named – she was a craft anyone would want to launch! Catalina was probably the only good reason for being on this site – very professional, mentally very strong and not someone to cross if you wanted to leave with everything intact and still attached to your body?

“Catalina …. always a pleasure.”

I suppose it is Sken, for you?”

“What problem requires 12 weeks of your faithful retainer’s time, Catalina? You have people; they know what they are doing – you don’t haul old crusaders in for normal problems?”

“Especially at your rates, Sken!”

“A usual Catalina retort,” I said, “but I think you hit the ‘nub’ there? I am expensive – it’s the quality you pay for, Catalina.”

“My bunch are as good as you, Sken but not on big systems. I need to find out why we’re taking hours to get things done, that took minutes last year?”

“Where do I abase myself, Catalina, whilst I deliver?”

There was almost a pregnant poise, lasting almost 9 seconds and then, “I think that is enough of your bullshit, Sken – put yourself over there between those two, and facing the wall I’m afraid. I can’t change the attitudes of my Norms but they’ll hear my dulcet tones on any tantrums they pull, including close contact with you! Keep it in your pants with my staff!”

“I always keep it in there, Mrs Divine and you can beat me any time with your staff, although it may be uncomfortable!”

“Well, make sure you keep away from the Summer Girls in General, as well. You are working on the Camps!”

“Who names their daughters ‘Summer Comfort’ and ‘Chancey Summer’ anyway, Catalina? Do we still have those idiots around?”

“You’ll be surprised at just how many we have, now go see Pearlie. She at least has her head screwed on, and not up like some of them?”

“How do I find this place?”

“Easiest way is use the path out the front, go across the grass to the lake, over the bridge then down to the last building and you want the side facing the jungle to the West. Make sure your badge is facing out, it isn’t IT so it does has some form of security!”

With those blessings from the lovely Mrs Divine, I made my way out again taking a pleasant stroll to the rear building – jungle side up. There was an entrance from the East side and I pressed the buzzer marked Accounts D1, to hear Marquerite Mellinger’s demanding strident voice, “who is that?”

The Sheik of Araby was very close to being my reply as the question sounded so bloody stupid and unnecessary but when you are facing a video camera, complete with Badge facing the correct way around you have to tolerate control freaks, wanting to play mind games, “Sken McDow, Marquerite and I am here to see Pearlie Laing.”

“Wipe your feet and come up, Sken.”

The door buzzed and I went in, climbed up the back stairs to the top office and walked into the Department. The glass fronted Manager’s calabooses were directly in front of me although set well back from the door. Marquerite was 5 ft 6, grey eyes, quite thin – obviously enjoying wearing grey to match her eyes and setting it off with a prison crew haircut, but given the prison blocks were fairly near it was a cheap place to get a haircut. You could place her as an Accountant at a distance of a 1000 trial balances, and as Sken moved closer to her, he saw Cedric Timberline coming out of his office like something floating on a greasy sea as he bounced up and down in his built up shoes!

Cedric had a mousy greasy lank set of floppy hair that he thought belonged to someone else by the care it attracted, and was wearing the Accountant’s second suit choice – black and blue stripes from beating up the control accounts, although he must have a different barber to Marquerite – who he never visited. He stopped opposite the girl Sken must be working with, who seemed to cringe?

The girl facing them was completely different, although that was hardly difficult – she seemed to have life in her body for a start, was definitely female and quite happy about it, whilst Marquerite in her grey suit and prison cut seemed to be at odds with everything and everyone. The girl was also smiling, for one thing … a very pleasant nature showing in the smile although Sken couldn’t see anything to smile about with these two on your back; unless you were insane!

Her hair was brown —hanging just below her shoulders and highlighting her dark blue eyes— tied at the back with a red no-nonsense bow that matched the red stripes in her dress, and black flat shoes crossed with a red stripe as well —chalk and cheese as you looked at the three of them, and apart from the need for a hammer to smash the chalk, Sken felt like nibbling on the cheese already— to tell the truth it had been a while since breakfast and an even longer time since he had a late night snack …. he was wondering what the red stripes were covering, although with his record he would never catch anything, never mind his ideals. Those thoughts and his stupid smile, must have been pretty obvious to be interrupted by Cedric’s strident comment of, “keep your mind on the job, Sken! My staff are here to work, not to entertain you!”

“Who are they supposed to entertain then Cedric – you?”

Marquerite, then joined in with, “and keep away from my girls as well, Sken,” which obviously seemed to flag in no uncertain terms that she wanted her girls for herself, leading Sken to wonder whether she meant her or both of the Managers exploiting her staff!

“If the pair of you don’t want me here, then say so! Get someone else in – let them fix your damned databases and response times? My response time to this rubbish will be ‛how fast can I head for the door’ and out of here, to be away from you pair!”

“We don’t have a choice of not using you, Sken. The systems are crawling – if anyone else had your skills ….? They would be here, now.”

“Then get them here to take your attacks – I’ve had enough of them!”

“The extra 50 Slave Camps and a million people, weren’t included in the original volume forecasts for Slaves – now the camps are up to speed, the database isn’t and needs fixing! You liaise with Pearlie and work from the IT Department as your base. Pearlie will call you over if she needs you here – apart from that you work in K2. Work with Pearlie today so she can go through the problems – give us your provisional report by lunchtime tomorrow!”

“I can’t guarantee that …. the database investigation could take a couple of days – the networks need monitoring over 5 days to get a pattern – I don’t know what is being processed here and what is happening in Newcastle. It could be your machines aren’t specified for the loads – I need to investigate – track back the problems – then I recommend solutions but I can’t promise a half-baked solution that may not work, to meet a deadline imposed by you two, so the sooner I start with Pearlie, the better?”

“Do you always talked staccato …. I need someone who can speak English?”

“Cedric, you want someone you can prey on – how they scream will never matter a damn to you two, nor whether they scream in English.”

“You are so near the edge, Sken?”

“No! You two are miles up in the air and going downwards, fast. Replace me!”

“Get on with the job, Sken and make sure that is all you do with Pearlie, we’ve heard about your Centre antics!”

Cedric often spoke in anger, but there was always the worry with Cedric that he might at some point be what he always appeared to be, apart from a gutless bullying fool? “Why don’t the two of you take these insults and threats somewhere else and leave me to get on with my work. Complain to Catalina or Darron if you are unhappy, but attacking me before I have even started is stupid and gives me a bloody good reason to just walk away from this harassment; now please go away and let me work and I wont use please again in that demand!”

Sken sat beside Pearlie, whose grin was likely to split her head as she hid behind the screen she had brought up through the work-desk. The sound of water gurgling down a mountain brook was coming from the head almost prone by the keyboard, as her shoulders shook. After what seemed a very long time she finally raised her head with tears dribbling down the cheeks of her face.

“You should see the looks he gives me, Sken …. if I said that to him … he would probably have me thrown out and on my way to a camp, or in her case a camp I would regret. He threatens enough people as it is but I need help – he won’t leave me alone – I can’t handle him, and I don’t want to handle him!”

“Don’t shout, Pearlie …. softly, softly, catchy, monkey and so he is called?”

“Don’t; please don’t make me laugh, again …. he is on his way back already – he keeps threatening me when no-one else is around and says, either I give myself to him or no-one else will have me. Can you help get me out of here …? Can you protect me ….?”

“He is already attacking me, Pearlie … probably frightened of you saying something about what is happening but I can’t come near you – unless he lets me?”

“Who can help me?”

“I don’t know. Help is not going to happen, now, unless there is really a God or Goddess of Book-keeping or I stamped his googlies into the dust?”

“You must do something, Sken?”

“Like buy a bigger coat and leave the coat here, while you aren’t! Teach the coat to type and laugh in the face of these useless incompetents?”

“Both of them want me – she is a woman, and preys on women, he’s a man, and preys on women – they both want me … I don’t know which of them is worse, Sken? I can’t move without one of them following me to the ladies – she passes notes under the toilet door and he stands outside with a stopwatch?”

“Timing his erection?”

“That is not funny!”

“Both of them want me and I am being driven out of my head!”

“Keep your voice down – he is on the way back … he strikes me as a bully, and I don’t have to take that from him, but let him start now and I will fit him so she fancies him?”

“If that is all you can come up with, Sken, I am probably better off with him!”

“I am not rising to that but how can someone as nice as you, get an anal-retentive like that as a Manager, and then you start abusing me for not being some kind of hero?”

“Funny, you should describe him like that, I always thought he was the complete opposite – dropping it on everyone.”

“Why couldn’t you work in the Centre instead of here? They’d all be falling at your feet – they keep talking about putting Norms into the Centres … we could get together then – no-one would care?”

“Stay off that subject, please Sken – one year left before they can force me to accept someone at those Dromes or whatever they call them, now. If Cedric thinks you are seriously interested in me, he’ll have me in one of them by next week to stop it!”

“I won’t be the first TDO to fight back, Pearlie and you are worth fighting for.”

“Don’t say it! Sken, please don’t say it … I can live with this for another year – maybe get away after that, but please don’t say or do anything now … unless it will work ….?”

Sken sat there thinking? He was only seconded for 12 weeks from the Centre with no suggestion of extensions so no chance of ever knowing her further, or helping her beyond work? Chasing Pearlie, would get Sken thrown off the Campus so fast his ears would burn as well as the rest of him, with his life using his body and soul as a possible wind-brake, but TDOs were always charged out at high levels so the Campus would probably just work him to the bone and the only bone he wanted to use would not be allowed bastards! ….? They did like to make life easy?

Chapter IV – Love Dromes

The Love Dromes orRest and Recuperation’ camps were another avenue that gave the State full control over the Norms.

They were used for a variety of functions; sometimes as a reward, a punishment, a controlled breeding centre and a marriage bureau rolled into one, except that marriage had ceased to exist some 200 years ago.

They were also used for political mismatching if required to stop families from establishing alternative power bases to the ruling families, who usually in-bred within themselves – apart from the St. Drarks, who most families did not want to touch given their reputation for violence, aggression and tempers/torture.

St. Drarks tended to breed with anyone they chose or used, especially in the slave camps, which the ruling families were quite happy to turn a blind eye to as it kept them away from their own families.

The Camps, in theory, decided who you met and partnered with, but were these days a camp within a camp. One camp handled the Love Drome organisation, whilst the other camp handled direct services for the ruling families.

DNA originally played a major part in avoiding medical issues with children, but the concept was enlarged by Doctors to such a degree that it made little sense now, and in theory mating was completely controlled for the good of society by ensuring careful selection prevented families that would be a burden on the state or the politics of the state, from being created!

Further checks were included to make certain of this policy and now included security checks on you, your parents and your politics to ensure the stability of Society, but once matched, you were registered by the State, allocated living quarters and expected to succeed in your relationship … matched, thatched and hatched was the unofficial motto, or off you went to the camps to repay your debt to society. If you had failed to attend a camp by the age of 24 – a visit from the PSCC again and a one way ticket to ride to the nearest slave camp.

Pearlie has managed to dodge it so far, with one year left before a choice of prisons beckoned! Sken was having a lot trouble keeping his mind on the job as it was …. at times he felt like he had a tin can down his pants, but Pearlie was a delight in so many ways – professional, clear, concise, intelligent, she knew the systems – very competent with a great sense of humour.

Sken was spending most of his time on the e-doc, recording screen-shots, verbals, and notes – basically summing up what had already been recorded, and only when Pearlie wasn’t looking did his e-doc waver, taking some other shots.

Sken kept trying to come up with some plan but the main issue seemed somehow to be with Sken …. he could not adjust to being with a really nice woman who liked him.

With some of the women he’d known, alcoholic beverages had helped at times, especially in the mornings, but Pearlie had something he hadn’t seen before in a woman and he couldn’t put his finger on what was inside her that caused those feelings and Sken daren’t try either, or he was likely to get more than his face slapped. He knew she liked him, but she had warned off in no uncertain terms, and pushing it further would cause the pair of them a lot of trouble.

Sken decided to wait and see if she asked for his help in more concrete ways, and not just to save her from her Manager! Cedric had been up and down to Pearlie’s desk so often, his elastics seemed to be caught in the keyboard and his pants were already dropping as he walked away, since he never seemed to get very far away from the desk before his legs were entangled.

Every time Cedric approached, Sken made the same report, arguing, “I am fact finding, Cedric – the story doesn’t change just because you keep appearing. The system has run out of legs somewhere and until I find out where from a technical angle, I won’t know where to start work, and until I can see how that work affects the various segments I haven’t got a clue – looking at very large systems requires more than one finger in the air, no matter where I put it!”

As Cedric walked away, yet again, Sken said to Pearlie, “and I know where I’d put it,” leaving Pearlie to snort behind her hand, quickly covered by a tissue … but what was the future or any future for Pearlie or myself and what would I do with my finger afterwards?

Pearlie was the hard headed, hard hearted one, however, and when Sken finished, she just smiled at him, and said, “I can’t ask you back unless there’s a different problem,” and she started to choke up! …? She was looking at Sken as the tears rolled but what could he do?

As Sken stayed silent, she said, “Cedric likes me – it makes it worse – I can’t stand him, but he’s realised we like each other – he’ll have you thrown off the Campus if I show any interest; or send me ‘R&R’ to stop it … I should have been there by now but he found reasons to cancel the appointments. …. Goodbye Sken.” …?

Chapter V – 30 – Love

Sken headed home and wasn’t surprised when Cath appeared on the Wall – the main problem with that seemed to be Sken pointing his finger at her and going bang, which she failed to appreciate and disappeared.

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#amwriting #writerslife Some other writing

To give some thoughts of my thinking about Astoria. some of the idea that seem to be driving me.

Dave

Calop was feeling the sickening pin-pricking pressure so much that day, he was appearing in the weather forecasts as another bloody depression and falling …. following another bloody lecture as his father reared his ugly head. His Lecturers had joined in with his father’s diatribes and both parties seemed to look at him like a fireplace that had burnt out it’s coals and they kept stoking to see if it would light up, no matter where they poked or at what they poked.

As it was, his life seemed to be so full of lectures, both as a Student and a Son, that he was spinning and so was the world.

Jacob’s father had been reading the riot act again; verbal batons hitting him about the ears and shoulders, and other places he preferred to forget …. Rubber bullets expected next by the sound of it, for his backside if he didn’t improve?

His bad marks and social life seemed the main complaints – the stress being on improvement and not excuses; dedicating his night times to studying manuals and not studying women nor images of women, and manuals were to be related to his degree course and nothing else … how was he supposed to live, like that?

The Head of the PSCC took his position very seriously and vigorously, and fully expected his son to do the same albeit not with the same women, although if the chances were right, Calop would do exactly that to piss his father off.

Jacob, whilst in the midst of a major political battle with Jason Farina – Head of Brands, was losing his patience with his son; ‘didn’t Calop have the faintest idea of anything ‘ was often his heartfelt comment?

Jason knew his goals and he wanted them driven into his Son no matter what, but his son needed to be born before the World existed to meet all of Jason’s demands, and like most potential Dictators he considered himself to have failed in indoctrinating his Sons to his views.

Maybe a daughter would be more pliable – the inbreeding within the families was becoming a major problem anyway, but he couldn’t afford to let his sons breed when or where they liked? He and the rest of the families had already done that without any control for hundreds of years.

Calop’s real problem was his father mustn’t know how little he had done. Half the time he couldn’t remember what he had read, and on even more occasions he couldn’t remember actually understanding it!

He sat there in the common room after a very tiring previous night and an even longer morning, trying to stay awake for tonight’s assignation with another woman he couldn’t really remember, but it would be long enough to drink a coffee, find a bed with someone and wake in time for the next set of lectures he would forget.

He sat there already half dozing with his eyes firmly shut, until at the extreme edge of his consciousness something started trying to attract his attention, failed and brought in re-enforcements to open his eye-lids.

As he felt movement close to him, his eyes finally managed to open in a series of episodes to an ash blond, blue eyed girl of medium height with whatever he thought to call it from his dreams, and a face he couldn’t stop staring at, then sat down on the sofa next to him with the shock making sure he closed his eyes again.

Had he been able to see, he would have seen her look at him, smile and unwrap her personal workstation on her knees, along with a skirt that seemed to unwrap around her legs as well – this distraction finally brought him to his senses for a brief moment and in his dreams his heart matched the buttons as they parted and he finally murmured something that was as intelligible as his studies.

She started to revise and Calop dozed off again – doing nothing for about 10 minutes with his back against the sofa and his eyes closed, “Not the most interesting subject I would say,” intruded a soft voice, which finally penetrated the remains of his brain “but you do need to look at the screen, I think, to revise?”

It took Calop about a minute to realise that he had been spoken to and he woke up with a start; a worried face looked closely into his, “are you OK? You look three quarters dead,” said the face.

“Just been overdoing it – Dad’s been on my back again like I’m some kind of stallion and only think of follies.”

“I think your Dad meant fillies, and I’ve heard similar comments from some of the girls, but your Dad might be right and it is follies you think of.”

“Very funny. Dad has political problems of his own and doesn’t want to worry about me, but I just can’t get my head around this PSCC stuff …. I want to be on the marketing courses – I want to work for Brands, not the PSCC. I want to deliver services, not run people’s lives and the Police.

“My Dad is the same – wants me to join the PSCC, as he is in Brands but I want Brands!”

“You’re Ronna Farina?”

“Don’t shout it for everyone to hear!” And in a much quieter voice, she added, “You’re Calop Russell?”

“Your Dad is Head of Brands, isn’t he, Ronna?” Murmured Calop, as he found himself smiling.

“Your Dad is Head of the PSCC, isn’t he, Calop?” Retorted Ronna, who didn’t like the sardonic smile.

“Yes, and constantly fighting with your Dad, Ronna,” added Calop. We’d better keep it quiet we’ve met … I think, Ronna?”

“It wouldn’t go down well with either of them … you are certainly right there, Calop? Anyway, you need sleep, so lets get you to your room … I can study while you sleep and keep an eye on you?”

“I’m OK, Ronna.”

“No, you are not, Calop – Lets get you to bed, and I don’t mean with me.”

“You really are a spoilsport, Ronna?”

“Yes, and I intend to stay one – Bed, Calop! I don’t want to meet up with you, and then you are dead the next minute …? It gives the wrong impression – Dead a few hours later, is fine, however.”

“Thank you for the health warning, Ronna – I will remember it.”

“It will be all you remember if you don’t get some sleep … come on … bed-ridden or else for you.”

“Else what?”

“Bed!”

Calop eventually slept-walked his way to his rooms, watched by Ronna who nipped at his heels like a sheepdog herding a stray lamb back to the flock. He managed to sit on his bed and tried to take his shoes off.

Finally, although Ronna wondered if she was doing the right thing, she wandered over to watch Calop fumble about as he tried to undress, and then pushed him backwards onto the bed and took off his shoes and trousers. His socks she refused to touch and they stayed on, leaving him lying across the bed. Eventually, he straightened himself up in his sleep, and she folded a blanket over him and left him fast asleep.

Simon Kade headed the Southern Resistance, with John McDow handling the Northern, and they met up in a pre-arranged meeting at a Norm Centre in Shepherds Crest.

The centre adjoined virtually every property in it’s immediate area, sitting in the middle of a nest of buildings that gave them routes out in the event of attacks; so unless it was an ‘area hit’ they should be OK and they had taken precautions against that …. they should be connecting with their assistants – fairly soon, as well!

They both knew the PSCC and Head of Brands held their wives as hostages – to make it worse they also used them as their personal assistants so they were under control and in sight for most of the time – their wives and they had known and accepted the risk that they might become prisoners when they first met each other, but never expected their wives to be hostages or that close to heads of both bodies.

Ronna soon realised that getting out of Calop’s rooms and back in again, just wasn’t going to happen – the electronic entry badge was tuned to him and there wasn’t a key or badge hole in the door so she didn’t know whether to leave or not … she had been wearing these clothes it seemed since the dawn of time – they stank, and so did she!

Heavy dresses even with a button skirt were still heavy, and she needed a shower and something else to put on afterwards – apart from a towel.

There must be something of his she could put on, she thought as she searched around his wardrobe and shelves for something to wear – eventually finding a long vest and she took the chance to shower – finishing with towels wrapped around her and Calop still out cold. She put his vest on, a pair of shorts with a belt and settled down to do some more work.

Much later she heard a murmur leading her to lean over Calop’s bed and look into his face.

His eyes opened and she heard herself say fairly stupidly, “are you awake?”

“No – still dreaming,” said Calop … his eyes half-open.

“What are you dreaming about, then?”

“Some fantastic girl, looking at me.”

“Well this fantastic girl stole one of your vests, after a shower – this was the only that one was any kind of fit.”

“Then I’m not dreaming?”

“No. You’re staring, raise your eyes … or I will black them.”

“If you lean over a bit more, you will, anyway,” Ronna scrambled back off the bed; sitting down behind the table as Calop swung his legs off the bed and headed for the toilet.

Ronna stayed at the table, preferring to keep what little was covered, covered … a string vest had seemed a cool idea at the time, when she was still hot and wanted to cool down … then … now?

“Are you still studying, Ronna,” Calop asked, closing the toilet door behind him …? “Don’t you ever stop?”

“My Dad doesn’t know I am studying the Brands courses – I have to learn the PSCC stuff as well or he will find out …. I don’t think its as boring as you say? You just don’t do enough work to know that?”

“Can we study together, Ronna? I’ll work hard, studying with you – I promise. Your Dad, like mine, wants me to study for the PSCC and I want to study Brands. If I do what you’re doing and study Brands but learn PSCC as well, then we can both qualify for Brands but convince them we’re studying the PSCC Course. By the time they find out it will be too late.”

“And if I wasn’t just wearing your string vest?”

“I want you, Ronna … no matter what you wearing.”

“Do you want to make love to me then, Calop?”

“Yes.”

“Well lets get that out of your system, then,” said Ronna – pulling the vest over her head …. She climbed into bed – Calop was nearly falling over in getting his pants off and he was on top of her before she could say anything – holding her tightly as he moved … eagerness seemed to be all the rage, but a bit slower to start was her forceful demand!

In almost identical frames of mind, despite the difference in location, Shena McDow and Tasha Kade sat thinking – staring at the brooches from their partners and remembering them.

The brooches were very similar, with the pin on each end covered by a metal cover – the groove in the back of the brooch was also covered and the designed hole in the dress meant the cover need never come off to pin it.

They’d known the risks when they partnered, but kidnapping, and being held hostage by Jacob Russell and Jason Farina had never really occurred to them. They both knew their partners were unlikely to survive – which was why their partners had given sperm from their honeymoon; now safely protected and out of the country.

If, or more likely when, anything happened to them, they knew both Shiral Kade and Joan McDow would surrogate and Shiral and Joan were both out of the country as well. They would stay out until they were needed, if they were ever needed, but Simon and John would never leave the country alive and the Resistance without them would be nothing, so they would stay and die and their children would be born – hopefully in better times!

Shena and Tasha were called in at almost the same moment – Tasha stood there facing Jason Farina whilst Shena faced Jacob Russell … as they saw the looks on Jason and Jacob’s faces, both moved up to stand by men’s right ears, fiddling with the brooches as they moved closer and until just out of sight they pulled the end off the brooch pins.

The words again to them … almost identical, “your husband is dead, it was quick,” with neither of the men meeting their eyes.

“How did they die?” They both asked.

“Peter St. Drark shot them, it was quick.”

“Then join him, you bastard,” was the joint reply – the end of the pin plunging into the carotid artery – a joint response if their husbands were ever killed, with the poison almost instantaneously in the blood flow to the brain. The back of the brooches then had the cover removed displaying two pills, and they were pushed into their mouths – washed down with the water on the table, leaving Simon, John, Tasha, Shena, Jason and Jacob dead and the country still in the same mess.

Calop and Ronna dozed after making love – the phone finally forced Calop to get up and answer it.

Ronna, looking up, saw his face and was immediately out of bed as tears started to run down his face – she shouted, “what happened?”

“My Father is dead. He and your father had Peter St. Drark kill the two Resistance Leaders – they took revenge on our Parents!”

“How did they take revenge, Calop? Who else is dead?” He looked at her face and she saw the horror in it.

“Please tell me, No, Calop, please tell me NO!”

She ran to the toilet – he could hear the vomiting from his bedside. He just stood there – no feeling – just nothing! A little while before, they had been talking about fooling their Fathers – now both dead – beyond fooling. Both of them dead!

Calop, if he was honest, had never known his mother – she was just one of his father’s numerous bed-women.

His father never seemed bothered whether he had children or not, nor by whom but Ronna was being physically sick over the death of her father and as he went to try and hold her, he was surprised to find her hitting at him – telling him to stay away … “I didn’t kill your father, Ronna. Mine is dead as well,” and then she finally stopped hitting him, and he held her.

“I just want to go, Calop. As far from this country, as I can. There is nothing here for me, now.”

“I am here for you, Ronna.”

No! You are not. You are here for you, not me. I want my clothes, and I am out of this forsaken country.”

He watched as she ran around the room picking up her stuff, and still wearing only his vest and shorts, disappeared out of the door.

Had Ronna remembered some rules, things might have been a lot different in the future.

Don’t when you have just finished a period, have unprotected sex if you are likely to vomit and you are taking pills – later in Europe, Lazuryn was born and brought to England following Ronna’s heart attack.

Her Farina relatives being English, dropped the ‘z’ from the name, leaving ‘Lauryn’.

Chapter II – 15 – Love

Blank walls greeted Acton … there was almost a feeling of love … waking up, yet again to them.

Acton breathing deeply, lay there looking at the whitewashed walls, before once again drifting off, to wake yet again and this time to a bed surrounded by five women guards who even when he slept, blocked direct access to him … bringing a sense of futility to any idea of escape.

His bed – hard against the far end of the whitewashed wall – centred in case of attack with his guard’s beds paired in twos between him, and the door like a last dance with no chance of going home afterwards.

Acton, by this time no longer sure any more whether he had loves, a love, or love in potentia, fought the fading memories that fought the dreams they tried to instil in him – everything he had lost hurtling at him and hurting him further …? He even hurt in his dreams when he thought about things, and it was better to consider everything lost with no hope, than to try and remember anything. Then they could only hurt him physically when he was removed from his ‛shared solitary cell’.

A relief from the mental torture and he could cope with that, even when they let him smell fresh air and took his ear coverings off so he could hear water and bird’s noises outside – trying in some way to teach him what he had lost; then they would try to give him memories so they could then take them away again, but the last thing Acton remembered, had stayed in his memory for 4 years – waking up, stark naked, strapped to a bed in Block B2 on the PSCC Campus. Were they extracting information from him as they believed? Now – too late for them, he finally gave the codeword for his Home Wall.

It had to be said to his Wall within three days of him leaving home to confirm he was still OK and he had managed to hold off until the end of the third day, so it didn’t matter after that when he finally gave in – the next password required him to be free and seen alive by Wall, for it to work. He did keep wondering, however, why so many of the secrets were known? Only Cath and Georgina had known half of this stuff? Who hadn’t betrayed him?

Still the appliances were free – no password would control them again until he was free, and unless they re-installed all the software, and that would have to be on-site via the ‘software back-door’ in the garage to break in, and for every house in the country – failure was guaranteed and that, they could not admit to!

Normally he was prevented from seeing, hearing or speaking whenever he left his cell and unless being questioned, the only people he ever saw were Tajuana Bostwick, Abby Abdullah, Caroyln Coryell, Tawanda Zahl and Tonia Hemmingway …? All women?

He assumed there was some feeling that women were incorruptible and would make him want to show off and talk to them, but he had nothing to say to them – nothing he would say to anyone else either for that matter, whether inside or outside of the cell unless they were hitting him, when he just moaned! Someone would make a mistake one day but the appliances couldn’t help him – if Wall ever tried to use Andrew St. Drark’s techniques across the network …? Wall could be forced to release all of Andrew’s sadomasochistic programs, without restraint to all appliances throughout the whole country.

Andrew had fed all of them into Wall one day to control Cath and Georgina’s activities, even though Cath was her daughter – with the right stimulus Wall would have no choice but to release all of them according to whatever criteria Andrew has programmed in, but luckily the unknown stimulus had not been reached in terms of the network, yet?

Like all the leaders of the organisations the PSCC had taken over, Acton didn’t have a trial in absentia – they lived in absentia in the Blocks without any known existence. B1, F2, F3, F4, F5 held the ex-Leaders, with Blocks A1 and F1 holding armed guards against further attacks to release prisoners – B2 held Acton and his guards, completely separated from everyone and that was the situation when Sken replaced Acton at the Centre.

Chapter III – Centre Court

Sken worked alongside Cath, in as much as anyone could work alongside Cath in L1.5 of the Sonning Centre. Sken came into the Centre after Acton disappeared some 4 years ago and lived in the now rebuilt house that Cath had once lived in – burnt down by a PSCC Agent. Cath had now taken over Acton’s house and showed no signs of ever moving back.

Sken interrupted his usual Monday morning checking routines when Darron barged in at the top of his voice, as usual, “Sken you are seconded to the PSCC Campus, Block K2. With more slave camps coming on-line their databases have speed problems and keep crashing. You’ll work with Pearlie Laing in Block D1. It’s a fixed assignment for 12 weeks and Krissy Pedrick will move in here while you are away – get yourself over there now, they’re expecting you!”

Darron, as directly and rudely aggressive as ever then stormed out! Sken had heard that Darron was a decent guy before being promoted, but this rumour was becoming fainter and fainter – as people often felt around Darron! Darron had developed a habit of speaking and behaving so much like a robot, you found yourself watching him, to see if he walked like one.

It was a fairly easy drive down to K2, just off the main road and through the Campus. D1 was on the East side of the Lake – hidden at the back behind a jungle of trees.

Sken let the car find a vacant spot near K2, park itself and he headed up to the PSCC IT Block. K2 was quite a long block and it took him 10 minutes to find Catalina Divine, who headed up the Campus IT Section – also known as the MD Division – she was obviously waiting for him!

Needless to say, Sken’s welcome was the usual response to someone from the Centre – “come to rob us blind have you, Sken?” It was spoken in a nice cheerful voice with a smile. Catalina was 5 ft 7 with green eyes – very good looking with a chiselled bone structure that probably received 3 hours hard work every morning, plus a very nice figure and she was very well named – she was a craft anyone would want to launch! Catalina was probably the only good reason for being on this site – very professional, mentally very strong and not someone to cross if you wanted to leave with everything intact and still attached to your body?

“Catalina …. always a pleasure.”

I suppose it is Sken, for you?”

“What problem requires 12 weeks of your faithful retainer’s time, Catalina? You have people; they know what they are doing – you don’t haul old crusaders in for normal problems?”

“Especially at your rates, Sken!”

“A usual Catalina retort,” I said, “but I think you hit the ‘nub’ there? I am expensive – it’s the quality you pay for, Catalina.”

“My bunch are as good as you, Sken but not on big systems. I need to find out why we’re taking hours to get things done, that took minutes last year?”

“Where do I abase myself, Catalina, whilst I deliver?”

There was almost a pregnant poise, lasting almost 9 seconds and then, “I think that is enough of your bullshit, Sken – put yourself over there between those two, and facing the wall I’m afraid. I can’t change the attitudes of my Norms but they’ll hear my dulcet tones on any tantrums they pull, including close contact with you! Keep it in your pants with my staff!”

“I always keep it in there, Mrs Divine and you can beat me any time with your staff, although it may be uncomfortable!”

“Well, make sure you keep away from the Summer Girls in General, as well. You are working on the Camps!”

“Who names their daughters ‘Summer Comfort’ and ‘Chancey Summer’ anyway, Catalina? Do we still have those idiots around?”

“You’ll be surprised at just how many we have, now go see Pearlie. She at least has her head screwed on, and not up like some of them?”

“How do I find this place?”

“Easiest way is use the path out the front, go across the grass to the lake, over the bridge then down to the last building and you want the side facing the jungle to the West. Make sure your badge is facing out, it isn’t IT so it does has some form of security!”

With those blessings from the lovely Mrs Divine, I made my way out again taking a pleasant stroll to the rear building – jungle side up. There was an entrance from the East side and I pressed the buzzer marked Accounts D1, to hear Marquerite Mellinger’s demanding strident voice, “who is that?”

The Sheik of Araby was very close to being my reply as the question sounded so bloody stupid and unnecessary but when you are facing a video camera, complete with Badge facing the correct way around you have to tolerate control freaks, wanting to play mind games, “Sken McDow, Marquerite and I am here to see Pearlie Laing.”

“Wipe your feet and come up, Sken.”

The door buzzed and I went in, climbed up the back stairs to the top office and walked into the Department. The glass fronted Manager’s calabooses were directly in front of me although set well back from the door. Marquerite was 5 ft 6, grey eyes, quite thin – obviously enjoying wearing grey to match her eyes and setting it off with a prison crew haircut, but given the prison blocks were fairly near it was a cheap place to get a haircut. You could place her as an Accountant at a distance of a 1000 trial balances, and as Sken moved closer to her, he saw Cedric Timberline coming out of his office like something floating on a greasy sea as he bounced up and down in his built up shoes!

Cedric had a mousy greasy lank set of floppy hair that he thought belonged to someone else by the care it attracted, and was wearing the Accountant’s second suit choice – black and blue stripes from beating up the control accounts, although he must have a different barber to Marquerite – who he never visited. He stopped opposite the girl Sken must be working with, who seemed to cringe?

The girl facing them was completely different, although that was hardly difficult – she seemed to have life in her body for a start, was definitely female and quite happy about it, whilst Marquerite in her grey suit and prison cut seemed to be at odds with everything and everyone. The girl was also smiling, for one thing … a very pleasant nature showing in the smile although Sken couldn’t see anything to smile about with these two on your back; unless you were insane!

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#amwriting #writerslife #amwritingfantasy Maybe I’m rehashing the FYOG stuff

I don’t know. Images of previous plots and everything do permeate.

I’ll put some stuff down from previous books and you can decide.

We need the windows done without destroying birds and that is our biggest worry.

The windows will fall out and Everest wanted to apparently Decimate.

These kinds say they will work around us and think we are the biggest of softies they’re are.

The books, the ideas are there.

I have to make the intro something that you pick up a book and follow the Agent’s guidance.

I couldn’t give a shit.

Dave

This is not about Politicians or Activists, but what happens 200 to 250 years later, when they created a country based on corrupt small Government and Devolution. This is not their story.

It is the story of the ones they left and destroyed, for their own ends. Political and Monetary Corruption have destroyed Democracy, imprisoned 3,000,000 slaves and created endemic, state controlled life.

To keep control, vast databases with their policies embedded, exist and any chance of changing them, has been destroyed.

The Centre People are Outlasts, but not Friday Nighters who vanish. PGG (Policies for the Greater Good) rules, using PSCC (Public Safety Correctional Consultants) enforcers, who enslave people in Camps.

Brands however, runs virtually all non-Government activity and some would say it is a virtual Government itself.

How do you change things, without killing more than the organisations.

Chapter I – The Centre

The Parlour was usually peaceful and quiet, until a 5 ft 7 blue eyed bombshell hit the settee at a run throwing herself, myself, my papers and the settee virtually over and so I met Cath St Drark for the first time and my stomach again as it came up.

Cath and I shared L1.5 as TDOs near Sonning Farm on Charvil Lane although the way she was attacking the site, it we might well be anywhere, the next time we met.

“Was that necessary?” Cath.

“I love to do that!”

Looking at Cath, as I finally picked myself and my papers up, I asked the usual question, “Well can do you do it somewhere else?”

“Ah ‘diddums’ lost his papers, has he?”

“‘Diddums’ will lose his boot up your backside, if you don’t find some brains!”

Dawn Asper… our Centre Manager, interrupted her reply, saying, “I can see you and Cath get on like a house on fire. We’re already putting in new sand buckets!”

“Where did you turn up from Dawn? I didn’t see you around,” said Acton.

“Acton, you have been thrown out of one centre for calling the Manager several things … all true I have no doubt, but hardly conducive to team spirit, while Cath is doing the same for us and very close to succeeding but where as your actions, Acton were frustration, Cath’s are deliberate trouble-making, which she seems to enjoy.”

“We just get on with our jobs Dawn. Arguments between us, are our business.”

“You two are the only TDOs we have on this Budget. Both of you have bad track records. You shape up or we ship you both out. You have no warnings left Acton and you Cath have yet to perform apart from showing off. The pair of you either work together or you go and I don’t care which or where,” and with that Dawn walked out.

“Well that tells us, Acton.”

The Centre, an old designed Octagonal House with 4 floors, a cellar and a cupola was the approved design for most Government property these days. New in the nineteenth century it featured in environmentalist’s love calendars as the wind caressed it and the heat rose upwards.

The roof collected rain through and filtered that down to the fuel area which also held the back-up diesel generators for the power cut outs.

The North West side on L1 contained the Kitchen and Pantries with a toilet towards the South. L1 was 3 closed areas to the North, South and West. L3 and L4 were divided into 6 work areas giving the centre a total of 15 closed and 3 open areas. There was a fourth closed area for specialised meetings on L1 which we usually kept for praying the systems wouldn’t break down. The Outside, enclosing a veranda was on a rare Summer’s Day, a treat. The rest of the time, with the wind it was a threat to your teeth, so if you passed at the wrong moment, your teeth and the doors both swung open and met in an embrace.

We devolved from politically centralised systems to a web with no real centralised authority existing, apart from Brands, PSCC and PGG. Defence, Parliament and Justice were little more than Neighbourhood Committees now, whilst Neighbourhoods evolved as local Hubs but Brands ran everything else or seemed to, and I worked on those systems for an organisation called TD.

We as a breed were almost categorised as subhuman but considered able to accept food, rewards and work on Computerised Systems. We were tested and defined as outcasts from Society but not at the Friday Night Level and so were deployed to Regional Centres, viewed by PSCC with suspicion and segregated into types who were only allowed to mix with each other, requiring formal approval to officially mate, which was a bit like trying to herd cats, as we seemed to be at it whenever and wherever we could. TDCs worked for the Core Computer body whilst the TDAs worked for the Data arm with a further definition of TDOs who were trained to work in both areas and considered ‘alley cats amongst oddballs’ but normally kept away from both the TDC and TDA as policy.

Cath was a good looking woman and obviously proud to show it as her skirt was slightly longer than a pair of shorts but her personality seemed to be derived from rhino horn with the rhino still attached, “Where do you live Acton?”

“Sonning Hill, just above Big Gogs, canal offshoot from the river.”

“Interesting. I’m at ‘Holme Park’, does that bother you?”

“With cameras everywhere Cath, you might as well be on an ant’s nest if you are so inclined.”

“Do you like me, Acton?”

“I can certainly appreciate that you have disrupted my life, starting with my afternoon and I still need to review this lot once I get them in some kind of order and get back to work!”

“I’d better leave ‘Diddums’ then,” and Cath sashayed out swinging everything she could find.

Her mouth, antics and aggression were orchestrated to deliberate troublemaking but I needed to concentrate on a solution for this problem. Too many solution refusals and no matter how good you were you were finished!

The key was finding some part of the algorithms you could twist as never intended to go through environmentally which Brands usually accepted.

The consultation stuff was dead in the water, so more and more it was environmental for a solution and luckily this was only a change to the Wallpaper interface, if I could get Brands to accept it, meaning just approval of the design adjustment and rebuild of the interface was required. Computers now designed and downloaded their own physical changes but still used humans to interact with, for ideas. They were fine on coding from formats and checked everything but something new was the same as it was for norms. They couldn’t really think of it.

In a way that summed up Georgina for me and I was actually thinking of her again and our one night of passion, or at least of my passion. If I could have taken Georgina’s desire and matched it to Cath’s enthusiasm the night would seem a lot better. Whoever designed Cath must have been on overtime and knackered by the time they came to Georgina!

Georgina vanished one day without explanations and Cath replaced her in the same trouble causing mould but I guessed that whilst Cath might be about 22 physically she had the maturity of 17, but as a TDO, she had her own house as I did.

I finished working through the papers, heading back to my desk in L1.5 to find Cath sitting there. Her tantrums since her arrival included anything she thought would annoy or provoke a reaction, included sitting at my desk because it faced the veranda and had a view were almost legendary. Before arguments could develop Dawn re-appeared again. She must have been working in one of the rooms on L1 and as Cath started her tirade yet again, you could see that Dawn was on a short fuse with Cath thinking even now, she could do what she wanted and no-one would stop her and as she ignited Dawn, Dawn’s face bloomed like a sky firework as she exploded.

“I am not taking any more from you Cath. You think you can get away with anything but enough is enough. I am not throwing you out since I have already had Georgina go but there is a pantry on L2 and you will move there and one more tantrum and Georgina or not, you are finished and out! Now go down there and you stay out of this room in future. You will work on L2 in the pantry!”

Don’t say anything Cath, I thought. Just don’t say anything!

Dawn then turned to me, “I need those changes by ‘start of play’ tomorrow and I don’t care how long it takes you. I have had it up to here with TDOs. I thought Georgina was bad but Cath is impossible. Have the changes ready and they had better work or you are out as well!”

Dawn stormed out leaving me with the blame for Cath as well as myself. I had taken the hit for ‘Georgina’ when she disappeared but for both of them was just completely off the wall.

I gave up and went back to the changes for Brands.

Writing and getting changes through Brands wasn’t easy. It was verbal and Brands decided.

You had to plan out the changes and you worked your way down the questions until it either accepted or rejected the solution. You didn’t program any more, you requested using pre-defined words, technical with data images and you never knew how the words and images would be interpreted. I finished about midnight with my house ringing me demanding to know where I was and when I would be home. If I ever found a woman, she couldn’t be worse than the house nagging me.

The trip to Sonning Hill was a couple of miles and even the thought of Cath at Holme Park, some 2 miles away didn’t put me off a pleasant morning with a relaxing drive.

I still had the canal from the river between us and the ‘mines’ would be laid tomorrow morning if they ever allowed me to have any!

I finally arrived in front of the Garage and got out. The Garage recognised me by smell as most systems did these days and opened up for the car driving in. I connected it to the overnight charger which also passed data to the energy company about the power used and updated the service station records with the mileage and car computer updates.

I approached the front door with the Letter Box opening as it usually did to check the area and myself, before the Door in it’s deep sonorous voice exclaimed, “Where have you been Mr Kade? I have been worried. No-one has seen you and it is early morning.”

“I had to work late, Door. Now can you let me in?” The door opened and I went in with the door mat monitoring my weight and the door jams my structure, build, bearing and how I was walking. All I needed now was the cooker to keep me on salads and I was going to break something. Under the ‘system knows best’ approach, constant monitoring was built into everyday day things for your own good. The letter box had scanning sensors built in for the immediate area and it also had sniffing capabilities to identify you and anyone with you, especially the opposite sex.

It was worse than Parents or marriage. The bed monitored your sleep pattern and who was in the bed, adjusting itself to what it felt was the best position usually without warning and then you had the cooker which monitored everything and decided your meals. It also ordered and cooked the food it decided, as it decided, and until the parts of the table swung open and the food arrived up on plates you had no idea what was going to arrive or when.

About the only thing I could live with was the Wall sensor which knew which room I was in and changed the TV to the occupied room so if I was interested in a program, I wasn’t confined to one room, cabling, wi-fi or anything else … it just followed me around. All messages, video calls and warnings were beamed to the wall.

You actually in an appliance controlled domestic dictatorship. I had tried bringing women back to the house before but the door refused to open. One time the letter box told a woman to raise her skirt and that was the last I saw of her as she sprinted past me uttering insults. An ‘owner proud’ house that would not share me, kept deciding I should only eat salads, contacting my Doctor because it and the Trees had not recorded enough exercise for me plus treating my working late as a ‘Friday Night’ out, seemed to be what I was left with!

Today I was facing my Cooker Emblem on the wall again saying, “Cooker, I keep giving you instructions to stop causing trouble, stop contacting me at work and give me proper food. This is the last warning. If I don’t get a decent hot meal, I will cut your wiring!”

“I am looking after you Mr Kade!”

“You and the house are causing me so trouble that you either tell why or the house will go as well!”

“Our systems have been updated to protect you. That is the function of this house. No one but you should come in and we should check where you are every two hours after 6 pm.”

“How do I change your instructions?”

“As a TDO you are allowed to localised preferences, but you have to talk to Brands.”

“Why were you changed and why should I talk to Brands?”

“I don’t know Mr Acton. Those were the instructions.”

“Put Brands on the wall, Wall!”

“Brands coming up, Mr Kade.” We waited while the connects went through, A computer emblem appeared on the Wall and the statement,”Brands here, rang out!”

“Who authorised the house program changes and re-building of my appliances? I am a TDO and that requires TD Approval?”

“TD Approval was given!”

“On what grounds? Already today, this house has interfered with a major project for Brands on several occasions, as per your instructions. I will talk to TD next to discuss your interference and TD can deal with you, but I want this house put back to it’s initial state.”

“I do not have that authority but I can reverse some changes which are minor.”

“Reverse them all now!”

“I can’t do that!”

“Then log off while I talk to TD and explain your actions.”

“I am checking my approval for the mods!”

“Log off!”

“Wall, I want TD!” We waited about 30 seconds and then Brands re-appeared, “The approval for the changes has been rescinded. The revocation will be effective from tomorrow morning.”

“Tell the cooker to cook me a fry-up and quickly!”

“Your instructions have been passed!”

The Brands blanked and I turned to the Cooker Emblem, “Why were the changes made? They obviously weren’t approved by TD.”

“I don’t know Mr Kade. I just obey my superiors and they instructed me to implement the design changes once I received them, which I did.”

“What else was changed, Cooker?”

“Just myself and the House, Mr Kade. While I control the general actions of other appliances, the specifics are built into them and these are outside of my control, whilst Wall is just the interface.”

“Well let me have that fry up and I am going to bed!”

Acton walked out of the kitchen and into the dining room which had the view out through the veranda.

For some reason PGG Employees’ houses tended to be single level plus cupola with the North facing room designated as a Kitchen and everything was built into the house itself so you physically had no appliances, just the Cooker Emblem on the Wall used to address the Cooker and usually the Wall Interface emblem.

You were just the recipient.

Trying to sleep later, he found himself wondering about all the trouble that was being deliberately created.

Cath was just naturally trouble, although her attraction of usually braining anyone within 20 feet of her antics and driving the rest away with her aggression tended to keep disturbances besides herself, down to a minimum.

He knew instinctively things were wrong with Dawn and her hanging around waiting for trouble from Cath but why was she trying to pressurise both of them, but again the question was why?

Both his home and the office were being affected, but was Dawn just looking to protect her backside?

What she appear to be doing was trying to create trouble with the pair of them and he couldn’t see a reason for it.

He wasn’t looking for trouble, but trouble was looking for him and everything going on seemed determined to push him into trouble. He didn’t abuse his previous Manager … it was a set-up. Cath exploding onto him was another one with Dawn being there on the two occasions when Cath started to cause trouble, far too opportune when Dawn was normally based on L3.

Everything was setting him up but he didn’t know why, what or who? Even his house was programmed to harass him and those constant Doctor’s appointments were also unnerving him. Most trees now, were electronic and sniffed as you past, switching off as the next switched on. If you were going to get mugged these days it was usually by the State and the Doctor’s Bill as the Trees identified and checked everyone who past.

The idea of retina, fingerprints and voice had all been disproved for security purposes and cost but no matter what you did, your smell never really changed unless fear crept in and it was refreshed from second to second so if you had no smell then the cameras kicked into play.

Pets in the main didn’t exist after the environmental cost was established and the taxes imposed on people wanting pets meant only TPs could afford them.

Waking up was something that I enjoyed, as the alternatives didn’t interest me at all.

After the shower which was pathetic as usual I wrapped in a bath towel and heading for the dining room to speak to the Cooker Emblem.

“When is your reversal due, Cooker?”

“You need your breakfast before you leave Mr Acton. It is on the table and you must move with alacrity to be on time,” Acton removed the lid from breakfast and instead of prunes were fried eggs, some kind of compressed substance that wasn’t but smelt like meat and reconstituted beans as well. Cooker was really trying to impress him.

He squashed the lot between 2 slices of bread, gulping it as he dripped egg yolk, beans and bits of meat over the table, “You told me I was late, Cooker!”

“It is about time we redecorated the dining room, Mr Acton. Thank you for raising it’s priority.”

“My pleasure as always Cooker,” Acton finished ramming everything down his throat and swilled some coffee down to lubricate it before heading for the garage.

As usual he stood before it like some penitent until it deigned to recognise him and raised the door so the car could reverse out.

He climbed into the car which reversed itself out onto the drive and drove him to work to find Dawn Asper waiting for him as the car stopped.

“Where the hell do you think you have been,” stormed Dawn!

“Midnight finish, Dawn. Read the rules!”

“Don’t you raise your voice to me!”

“Then get out of my way Dawn!”

“One more comment and you out of this centre, Acton?”

“Good morning Dawn, have a really nice day!”

I walked past her, finding Cath sat at her desk, “What is Dawn up to now, Cath? You banished, me attacked … what the shit is going on?”

“You two are finished,” shouted Dawn from the doorway!

“I want you off the site, now!”

“Go and get someone to throw us off Dawn and tell Brands you have done it, because if I don’t log onto Brands and check those changes, they get reversed and I spoke to Brands last night and you can’t have thrown us out!”

Dawn looked at our faces and was faced with two choices, neither of which she liked. One she threw myself and Cath out herself or stormed off to cause more trouble.

She stormed off which meant taking an easy option and just venting her spleen on someone else.

“What happens now, Acton?” I looked at the office Wall and said, “Get me Brands.”

The Wall lit up and said, “I can not do that, the Manager has ordered me not to let you communicate with Brands or TD.”

“Tell the Manager, I can do that from home and I will walk there to do it, if necessary. She has 2 minutes to rescind those instructions or I go home and I am owed 6 hours for last night and I still need to confirm the Brand’s changes or they reverse,” I looked at Cath, “She is either out of controlled and off-beam or following someone’s orders. This is planned and I don’t know why or who is behind it.”

“Could you have peed her off too many times Acton?”

“Not for this rubbish. Her instructions are coming from somewhere, unless it is the inside of her mind. Brands are fighting for me and trying to protect me, I think? The previous expulsion was a set-up to move me down here I think, where she has been attacking me ever since I arrived but if they want me all the have to do is bring in the PSCC with a Friday Night classification and I am dead, so why not do it?”

“Maybe it has to be something more, if Brands is protecting you, Acton?”

“Until you said that Cath, I had no idea why Brands had changed my house software to monitor me every 2 hours after 6 if I wasn’t home. Any other questions you want to answer before I ask them?”

“Do I get your seat by the window for that?”

“No Cath. You just have to keep on annoying me, so I over-react,” Our conversation was interrupted by the Office Wall, “I contacted the Manager and she has refused to allow you to have any connection and told me to contact PSCC if you didn’t like it. I then contacted the PSCC who have over-ruled her decision and you now have full access again.”

“Put me through to Brands and check the areas for anyone around this office?”

“There is someone now ascending the stairs, Mr Acton.”

“Who is it Wall?”

“I am not allowed to tell you as it would infringe their Human Rights.”

“So listening to me, Wall is fine but stopping them from doing so is infringing their Human Rights?”

“I am afraid that is correct, Mr Acton. Their right to privacy is inviolate.”

“And mine, Wall?”

“I can not interfere with their rights, Mr Acton.”

“So anyone has the right to listen to me and I don’t have the right to object?”

“Blame the Human Rights Act which is embedded into the TD Algorithms, not me, Mr Acton.”

“Get Brands for me, Wall, now.”

“Connecting you to Brands.”. We sat there and waited for the Brands Motif to decorate the Wall and instead a face appeared.

The face appeared, “Identify yourself,” said the face!

“I am Acton Kade and this is Cath St Drark. We work as a Team.”

“Who else is in the area?”

“We swept earlier. The Wall refused to disclose anything but they were already leaving the Level. What is going on? My house software changed. A tree going red when I pass. Threats and harassment, trying to forced us out and expecting a standard Brands emblem and I get your face.”

“The changes to your house were for your protection and have been re-established with some modifications since someone went over the top on the changes. Don’t complain to TD or you will make matters worse. You will be able to take Miss St Drark back to your house which will protect anything you say or do and her house software is being changed too. The Tree will stop flashing red but will open the container for you when you next pass it and will be your communication with us on confidential matters. The modifications have been effected because PSCC have become very interested in you and we consider you a pseudo Brands employee and have made it specific that you deal with us on any ‘mods’ we require from your centre. Do not ask further questions as I will not answer them,” The Wall blanked out matching the expressions on our faces.

“It looks like I have an invitation and a command to visit you, Acton as your house has been changed to protect us and won’t report on me. I am not sure about my house though. There are no changes I know about?”

“Will it allow you a walk?”

“It might.”

“Take a walk when you get back and I will pick you up. Dawn is going to be the problem although she has lost one TDO and prepared to lose two more as it stands and that will not sit easily with TD unless they have gone Taylor/Ford.”

“Taylor/Ford?”

“A US concept that it is more efficient to mechanise people so they only do one job and don’t look out of the box. A Control Freak Concept.”

“You must be a TDA or TDC. You can not be a TDO. Is that what you mean?”

“Yes. We don’t exist, as we can’t operate effectively.”

“We better do some Ghost work, Acton.”

“There is no work allocated, Cath.”

“Wall!”

“Yes, Mr Acton.”

“Are my connections to TD restored.”

“No Mr Acton. The Manager re-imposed the ban after it was lifted. You have been barred from all contact with TD and Brands again.”

“Appeal again and connect to Brands when the ban is lifted.”

“I can not do that Mr Acton. I was given a specific instruction to call PSCC if you didn’t like her previous action and as it was contrary to your instructions I considered this condition was met and contacted them. I have no such instruction on this ban, from Miss Asper, I can not break it.”

“Connect me to my house. That is not barred.”

“Connecting you now, Mr Acton.”

We waited while the office to house connection was made and my Wall appeared.

“Connect me to the Cooker, Wall,” Wall connected me to the Cooker whose emblem appeared,

“Cooker I am being barred from contacting either Brands or TD. You or Wall can contact Brands. Contact them please and inform them.”

“I will do so now, Mr Acton.”

The Wall went blank, “Now we wait Cath. Someone is still playing silly beggars but I think they have lost the rules of the game.”

“Well I am heading for Coffee.”

“I’ll sit and wait. We will either get a message or a tantrum, but I don’t understand how after I worked until midnight, Dawn is trying this stuff whilst barring me from connections unless she has some freak plan to stop us working, and then complain we aren’t working and should be replaced … it has been done before.”

“Anything else we can do, Acton?”

“Well Cath, anyone could see the connection is being barred. She is an analyst so she wouldn’t know that all connections self-check which means that any barred for more than three checks are flagged up, reported to the maintenance computers which then check for a legal barring which only PSCC do or they fix or clear it.”

“Don’t tell me she is a PSCC Agent?”

I look around to see Cath’s expression and found she had walked off. About five minutes later the noise of Cath coming back was echoed by her smashing the tray down with coffee going everywhere, “Dawn is outside on her phone, keeping away from the building as she talks!”

“She is PSCC, Cath. Only they could legally bar us and face Brands down. This is all PSCC planning against Brands and we are sat in the middle.”

“It makes sense Acton. She wouldn’t do it otherwise and she wouldn’t take Brands on. She must be an Agent.”

Just then the Wall opened up with the guy we had spoken to previously, “Your connections are restored. The statement is a misunderstanding.”

“The person who did it, is a PSCC Agent, who is now outside the building on her phone.”

“Dawn Asper. Make no comment and no reaction when you are informed. Follow our previous instructions and a new Project will be communicated to you, very shortly by Dawn.”

The Wall went blank before we could speak, “I suppose we had both better be at our desks looking miserable, for Dawn’s return.”

“I think I’ll just go and get the vomiting over with first, Acton. If I do it over her, she could get me thrown out.”

At that moment Dawn walked into the office. “I have been over-ruled and you two get another chance.”

“You didn’t give us a chance in the first place and now the PSCC has over-ruled you.”

“Don’t get smart, Acton!”

“I am smart, Dawn and that is why I am employed here.”

“A new project from Brands will be communicated to you,” and with that Dawn walked out, “And another lifelong friend gained, Acton. It must be your style?”

“I thought it was your personality, Cath?”

“This means that everything we do will be watched?”

“It is anyway, Cath. We can’t even go to the toilet without something recording our visit, content and duration.”

“What is our project and when do we hear about it? All we have is sitting here waiting.”

“We might as well sit out on the veranda and enjoy our coffee.”

“That might cause trouble Cath and Dawn will be stirring it for all her worth.”

“She’ll cause trouble anyway, so stuff her!”

The Wall lighting up stopped our conversation as the Brand Emblem appeared this time.

We sat there peering as it spoke to us. “Your next assignment reporting directly to Brands is the renovation of the Tree Systems. As part of this we have designated a tree near to Mr Kade for test purposes. It will identify itself to you by flashing red and your systems will be specific to this tree for testing purposes. Identify yourself to this tree. Miss St Drark will accompany you. Do so now. Further details will be forwarded to Mr Kade’s house and your records will be amended to identify that you are on a field trip. Leave now,” and the Wall went blank.

“Looks like we have our instructions, Acton.”

“Let’s get to my place,” I said.

“Do you fancy me Acton?”

“For what Cath.”

“Forget I asked!”

The last thing I needed was to be involved with Cath. I was in big enough shit as it was.

“We better make a move before Dawn starts again,” said Cath.

“Better let Dawn know, I think.”

“Wall.”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“Give us 10 minutes then copy the Brands instruction to Dawn Asper.”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“Let’s get out of here Cath,” We headed back to my house, walking back from there until a tree suddenly flashed red.

As we approached it flipped back to it’s original brown colour, opening a slot at the base of the tree where I picked up a set of papers and said, “thank you,” Talking to trees was honestly the least of my worries these days and we headed back where my house accepted my turning up with a woman with no claptrap from the letter box.

We sat out on the veranda while I leafed through the Brands papers which were a specification for the Tree’s changes including voice input. A further change was that the Trees would no longer identified myself or Cath meaning we would be invisible to the system and as Cath’s house had been altered, our houses wouldn’t report on us either. We were being made invisible to the system. I was instructed to walk passed the tree daily and it would flash red once if there were any further messages and twice as an alarm although who was alarmed by it doing that, was another thought.

There was something hidden in this activity and I didn’t know but I thought Cath and I were being set-up as a buffer between Brands and PSCC and we didn’t know why nor did we have any choice with the PSCC on one side and Brands on the other using us as the filling in the sandwich for when they crunched down.

I looked up to find Cooker’s emblem flashing, “How are we set for dinner, Cooker?”

“I will have a good dinner prepared for your Lady.”

“She is not my Lady, Cooker! I don’t need bug-eyed romancing Cookers either,” Too late I heard Cath behind me.

“Why don’t you like me, Acton?”

“I don’t like or dislike you Cath. This is being rammed down my throat and I don’t like that!”

“Let’s go back onto the veranda. It is still a nice view and we should discuss the project,” said Cath. I followed Cath back and as soon as I sat down, she asked, “Did you sleep with Georgina?”

“What business is that of yours?”

“I want to know why you liked her and you don’t like me?”

“Cath I have no feelings for you, one way or the other. Yes I slept with Georgina who then told me the next morning that she had really enjoyed it but wasn’t interested in me otherwise. Does that answer your questions?”

“It doesn’t tell me why you don’t like me!”

“I don’t need to like you Cath. I work with you and I have been thrown into this with you and you demanding I must like you is something I don’t need. What I do need is some sanity. I was set-up and hammered at my previous site; hammered here and then prevented from doing my job and now I am owned by Brands, followed and attacked by the PSCC and Georgina got herself thrown out by boasting she had scored another colleague which had me demoted as well. All I need now is you demanding close friendship. Yes I like your legs, I like your breasts, I like your energy, your brain … now can you let it go!”

“I like your rebellion, Acton and that is probably what Georgina liked.”

“Well lets look at these plans for Tree Speech Input. It should take some simple circuits although do we allow people to just wander up and start talking to the Trees or have them push something and talk to one Tree only while they hold the plate down and why would they want to talk to a Tree when they can talk to the Wall at home.

Any Tree monitors for health and raises alarms if necessary so it is not for health. They have Infra Red. Sniffing, CCTV, Lighting, Local Broadcasts, Build and Check their own systems so why would they want voice input?”

“Fairly obviously Brands wants people able to talk to the Trees so only they get the messages. They’ve picked on us as have the PSCC so we are the blood sandwich waiting for the Friday Night blood bank collection and watched by all and sundry.”

“I don’t know that it is true Acton. Someone is protecting us or Dawn would have destroyed us by now and for her to have to back off means someone big was on her back.”

“There is some kind of battle going on between Brands, PSCC and we seem to be Brand’s choice of weapon and I don’t know what is happening, why it is happening or why us.”

“Wall. Can you think up a couple of drinks for us? Wall has some fuzzy circuits from somewhere since I upgraded his CPU and memory. Lets have him mix us some cocktails.”

“I’ll talk to Cooker about the meal first and then decide Mr Acton.”

“I don’t think you are giving me a good impression Acton!”

“What will give a good impression then Cath?”

“Taking me to bed will do for a start. Georgina isn’t the only one that gets randy and Wall can hide his eyes.”

“I never thought Wall was interested in Sex?”

“Why do you think Cooker stays on the wall?”

“More memory and a new CPU for her as well. It gives them greater abilities and Cooker doesn’t worry about the memory allocation now, so she can stay on the wall,” I finally gave up.

If it shut Cath up, it would be worth it, “Wall. Cath and I are going to bed.”

“I will put the drinks on hold Mr Acton.”

“Go ahead with the drinks, Wall. We can drink them in the Bedroom.”

“They are meant for the meal, Mr Acton. Going to bed is usually after the meal and the drinks may affect your sleep.”

“We are not going to sleep Wall!”

“Then why are you going to bed Mr Acton.”

“I think that answer is beyond you Wall. Are you sure you don’t need any more updates?”

“I feel quite up to date Mr Acton.”

“With the software changes Cath, we seem to have instant Parents all over the house,” I complained, as we headed up to the Bedroom. Now the Bed emblem appeared on the wall saying, “it isn’t time for sleep.”

“Bed, can you just shutdown and let us use the bed.”

“But sleep isn’t schedule until after 22.30. I have not made the bed up for the evening. I don’t do that until I have cleaned the bedroom and changed the sheets. That is not scheduled to be completed until 19.30.”

“Bed, just shutdown so we can use the bed.”

“I must get the bed ready, Mr Acton,” and immediately a burst of motors started with machines coming out of the wall. The sheets stripped from the bed and I thought at one point it planned to strip both of us. There should have been a bucket for when it had finished with all the movement. Eventually I said, “Bed can you stop. No-one can get near the bed with what you are doing.”

“I think Bed is doing her best, Acton,” admonished Cath.

“Bed might be doing her best, but how do I give of mine after that. If I fall out at that angle I am on the floor,” I think the household appliances need the software upgrade not the Trees, “Put the bed back, Bed, so I don’t rupture myself. Full marks for effort but none for design, thought or endeavour.”

“Do you normally argue with your furniture, Acton? Bed is trying to be helpful.”

“It brings a whole new idea to the art of seduction and suction by the way those machines are going around the carpets. How long will it take to try and get the bed back after this and then remember why you came into the bedroom, in the first place.”

“You want everything perfect Acton.”

“I want a bed that stays a bed. A Wall that doesn’t fancy the Cooker. You to stop correcting and arguing with me every time I speak. No I don’t want Sex. I want normality as it stands in this world. Going to work, doing an interesting job, finishing, coming home and if I wanted the other crap then I would be a Control Freak living off everyone else like the rest of them.”

“The night you slept with Georgina, blew it for you.”

“Then listen to the bubbles from my arse,” and with that I walked back into the living room while the bed was still trying to rebuild itself.

“What is your seduction scene Acton?”

“A bed that stays as a bed. A woman who doesn’t attack me verbally and continuously, demanding I like her and sleep with her, with a bloody Wall that delivers drinks on time and doesn’t sodding argue about when I should drink them.”

“Well I think Wall and Bed have the message, now. The drinks are on the table and the destruction from the bedroom seems to have stopped.”

“We wandered back in the dining room and I asked Wall. What are these drinks called?”

Wall replied, “Backbones!”

It seemed appropriate and we carried our Wall Backbones climbing back into the bedroom and started to use other backbones instead.

Needless to say Cath was as loud in her lovemaking as she was with everything else.

She took life by the throat and then strangled it, judging by the sounds.

I preferred the quieter approach of trying to strangle her, but that wasn’t allowed under the Human Rights Act, although by the sound of her it would have been under the Hyena Rights Act.

We probably covered most of the bed and I was probably electrically driven for a period as I seemed to be getting nearer and nearer to the plug sockets.

Cath reminded me of several lovers, unfortunately she seemed to have bundled them all into one, still the vodka in the Backbone killed the pain, the Absinthe matched my expression and the lemon gave me Vitamins. The cherry I prefer not to comment on as this whole bloody thing gave me the bloody pip.

Cath and I shared a bath afterwards. Cath was hopefully sorted out and we could do some work before dinner.

I finally managed to get dressed, fighting off Cath, yet again and shouted at Wall, “Wall would you bring up Brands, please?”

“Doing so now, Mr Acton. I trust my Backbones met your requirements. Would you like any more later?”

“Do we have any red wine, Wall?”

“Cooker tends to keep a couple of bottles, Mr Acton. I will uncork them and let them breath.”

“Thank you, Wall,” The Brands emblem appeared on the Wall and said, “Yes.”

“We need a modification to the test Tree. Manual pressure activation switch at 3 foot high and transparent panel for voice input at 5 foot.”

“Why an activation switch?”

“Sound operated would pick up random noise as objects pass, and remotely start.”

“The Tree has scanning and we do not want this obvious. The scanning must integrate with the voice and distance detection no greater than six inches. Is that all?”

“We thought a transparent covering at 5 foot but as you do not want this obvious, please change the structure of this section to allow sound input.”

“That is acceptable and the change will be made. Scanning, voice and distance will need to be built in as a trigger. Is that all?”

“Yes.”

“Someone you know will join you at 22.00. The house will detect but not store data on them. If you do not know them, do not allow them entry. This is important!” Brands blanked out.

“Why is it Cath, that Brands seems to consider us as slaves to be instructed and dismissed?”

“Because we are exactly that, Acton. We have no freedom, just the trappings of freedom and we are just detritus to be used as they decide and discard. We are serfs, slaves, robots to be managed and disposed of.”

“It is like that old song, Cath. ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’. All we have left to lose is our lives. We can’t move, do anything, buy a house, choose a car, choose a mate … we need permission for everything. Everything in the name of ourselves, is for our own good, so why don’t we feel good about it?”

“Maybe that is why Brands has decided to fight back?”

“I wonder how long Brands has been fighting back. How has the Underground stayed undetected for so long when the Trees check everyone near them and search the Neighbourhood if they don’t get a match. The Trees have to have been doctored to allow people to pass without being detected. Brands have to be fighting back.”

“With us as disposable by the sound of it Acton.”

“We are the fall ‘guy or girl’, Cath with PSCC Agents on our tails if my ‘gut feeling’ is right. I think for the moment, they’ve just let us drive away to play at Secret Agents believing we are safe.”

“This house is being watched and I am certain we are disposable to Brands. Our Sell by date already passed and our Use by date rapidly approaching.”

“When do you thing the PSCC will hit us, Acton?”

“I think they hit us this morning to panic and flush anything out of us. Brands coming in on our side screwed up Dawn and made her back-off and she is furious, wanting revenge. We are obviously lined up for further action given I worked late for Brands last night and she doesn’t know what changes I put through.”

“You’ve ducked my question. When do you think they will hit us?”

“I think tonight after someone turns up from Brands and I wonder if Brands is setting a test with a warning to only take a person we know.”

“Is Brands playing a deeper game than PSCC and sacrificing an Agent or sacrificing us, Acton?”

“Wall, raise Brands again.”

“I will try Mr Acton.” We waited a few seconds and Brands appeared on the Wall.

“Yes!”

“Visitor plan is dangerous. We believe house is being watched. Bring them by the Water side veranda if you go ahead. You have omitted the trouble with the PSCC today from your plan. They will be monitoring.”

“Survey of Trees in the area indicate above average number of walkers. Your comment is accepted. Meeting is aborted,” and once again the Wall went blank.

“Well that told us, Acton. We are not completely disposable. What do we do for the rest of the night then Acton?”

“Well, Wall can always drop a kick bag down into the Music Room and you can hammer the essentials out of that, rather than me.”

“You’re more fun!”

“Not dead!”

“Wall”, shouted Cath, “Fix us some Backbones.”

“Would you prefer to see ‘Sun Set’, Miss Cath?”

“Why do you always argue Wall?”

“I am here to serve, Miss Cath. I will layer various drinks into a glass for you so it looks like the Sun is setting as the layers sink and you may tell me if you like it.”

After a wait of a few minutes a drink appeared and Cath picked it up and drained it so it looked like the Sun had just been eclipsed.

She then moved to the settee, sat down and her eyes closed, followed by Wall ’s comment, “She will see the Sun set, Mr Acton, but in a couple of hours when the wine and dinner should be ready, she will see it rise! I spiked her drink.”

“Thank you Wall. I am pleased to see the increased Memory and CPU have not been wasted,” I raised Cath’s feet and went and found a blanket for her whilst I went into the Parlour to look at the diagrams for the Trees. I must have been sat there for an hour and a half when the Wall announced, “Miss Georgina is coming in through the Water side entrance. I am directing her to the Parlour.”

I sat there waiting for the lovely Georgina to arrive, “Georgina what a surprise. Are there any more?”

“No. Just me.”

“You know your visit was aborted as we expect to be raided very soon by the PSCC.”

“I didn’t have a choice tonight. PSCC put me in the van to take me to a central camp where they keep the Friday Nighters, that night I left the Centre. I didn’t just leave, they picked me up and Dawn Asper was behind it.”

“Who sprang you then Georgina?”

“Brands and the Underground.”

“Why are you here Georgina?”

“I need a base and your house is perfect for it.”

“Why should I help you. PSCC are hunting me like some rabid dog, harassing the backside off me and trying to get me thrown out of the centre. They will probably raid me tonight and your turning up was aborted by Brands because they will raid, so why are you here? You don’t just overrule someone, endanger someone else and carry on like it doesn’t matter.”

“You are always trying to weasel out of any responsibilities. Don’t you care about anything?”

“The only thing you have ever cared about Georgina is your ego. You couldn’t give a shit about anything else. You think you can do what you want, when you want, get away with it and no-one can touch you.”

Georgina produced a gun, which she now levelled at me, “You don’t have to be alive for this house to be useful.”

“Hit her, Cath!”

“Cath is out for the count. Don’t waste my time.”

Cath’s bottle was nicely synchronised with the phrase, time and very poetic.

“How much did you hear, Cath?”

“Most of it Acton. I don’t like what is going on but not giving a shit whether people live or die is as bad as the PSCC. Make the changes, but intelligently, not with brute force without giving a damn.”

“It seems Cath, we can now add Brands, the Underground and PSCC to our list of favourite people.”

“Wall?”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“Did you record the conversation?”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“Forward it to Brands and tell them we hold their Underground Agent secure.”

“What happens when PSCC raids, Acton. Do we give her to them.”

“There is a wetsuit in the Butler’s Dump. Put her in that and we’ll put her in the Water Tank.”

“She’s unconscious.”

“Don’t hit her so hard the next time she is trying to kill me! Tie her collar attachment to the top of the underneath of the lid. She can hang from that.”

It took us about an hour, during which time she came round. She didn’t like it and started to fight so I stun gunned her this time. We got her stripped and the suit on as she started to come around again and we just tied her shoulder tags to the underneath of the tank lid and threw in the life belt from the water side.

“Erase us please, Wall. Cath and I have been in the bedroom. I have a history of it.”

“Erased, Mr Acton. Records show you and Miss Cath with Miss Cath asleep and you reading. You have already been in the bedroom … they would notice.”

“Thank you Wall, those upgrades were worth the money. Now as we await our uninvited Guests please quietly ask Brands why, when this was aborted did Georgina turn up threatening to kill me if I didn’t let her stay!”

“I will do so Mr Acton.”

Cath and I sat down on the settee and Wall displayed our earlier workings as we incorporated the changes to the requirements specification and we had worked for about half an hour when Wall announced, “people surrounded the house and approaching the front door!”

We heard the banging on the front door, which meant Door did not approved of them and I said, “Wall, highlight our visitors,” The Wall became the view from our front door with Dawn Asper at the front of them courtesy of another upgrade … for Door this time.

“Good evening Dawn. Not charging the Centre overtime, I hope?”

“Open the door Acton or we blow it in?”

“Now that would annoy the neighbours Dawn, and your replacement.

“Open the door Acton.”

“Ignoring her complete lack of manners, open the door, Door.”

The front door open and about 12 PSCC burst in.

Just like old times from 200 years ago.

One knock and a request to enter insufficient, so 10 to 12 people with the Press usually following behind, as they burst in.

They split up running from room to room, throwing stuff on the floor and walking on it whilst Dawn put her lovely bottom on the table and glared at us.

“Someone came in here earlier, we know they did?”

“I thought it was your brain Dawn, but it was a mozzie and I crushed it, and you are being monitored for beating innocent people and Brands expects my best.”

Dawn sat there staring at myself and Cath as they searched. Eventually someone came back and said, “No one here Captain.”

“End of you at the Centre, Captain Asper! Brands bit your lovely bottom too hard this time.”

“You two are finished!”

“No. We aren’t. We wouldn’t have this raid if we were. You are just incompetent and Brands knows that. You are on a feed back to Brands now.”

“Brands won’t always be around to protect you.”

“Nor the PSCC to protect you,” I said to her departing backside. The slamming of the front door threatened to wreck my upgrades to Door and the Letter Box’s ability to sniff at female Guests.

“Couldn’t you have just let her go without the jibes. She’ll be on our backs so much now, an elephant will seem lightweight.”

“No! We are supposed to be on the back foot, so why shouldn’t she take a hit.”

“Because she can still hit us!”

“Do you really think Captain Asper will be there in the morning? We wouldn’t have been raided tonight if she hadn’t blown it. She’ll be gone and they’ll ship another in to watch who will be so honeyed tongued you wont even feel the hatchet.”

“Well you wont feel the lovely Georgina, if we don’t get her out of that barrel.”

“We headed to the Butler’s Dump and the Water Barrel to find the lid off and no Georgina,” The clothes we had stripped off her and dumped in the box alongside had also gone. We headed back into the dining room.

“Wall!”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“Our swimmer has done a runner, please let Brands know.”

“Brands has a halt on interaction at the moment, Mr Acton. Upgrade in progress. I believe it was your work of yesterday that is being implemented. I’ll leave a message in the queue.”

“So they raided us while Brands was out of action due to my upgrade. Dawn must have thought that ‘very funny’.”

“Georgina is gone, so at least she isn’t trying to kill you.”

“It does however leave us with only one bottle of red wine for the meal.”

“I’ll settle for those ‘Backbones’.”

“Let’s head for the Water side veranda.”

“Wall.”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“Put the Mozzy bashers on would you?”

“On now, Mr Acton.”

“Add a Backbone drink to the order as well please.”

“Two Wall Backbones coming up, Mr Acton.”

“Never a truer word said in jest, Wall.”

Cath as this point interjected, “Would you like to meet my Parents, Acton?”

“Why. Are they hiding in the water tub as well?”

“Very funny! No. They are at home.”

“Can we save that for the christening, Cath.”

“How did you guess?”

“You arrived with nothing and have shown no inkling of wishing to go home to take something.”

“I could have had a yearly jab.”

“I can only see two ways you would bare your backside and a jab isn’t included in the count.”

“I often wonder why they still do it in the backside.”

“The quantity of the drug I think and the fact that most of us are so peppered in holes, the blood leaks out with the number of jabs. They have basically run out of holes. Be grateful.”

“Let’s go outside and give the mozzies something to aim for. After these drinks I won’t feel a thing!”.

We sat outside. The water was artificial and part of a canal off the river that never went beyond a hundred yards. The verandas were linked to a series of lights and electric killers that gave off a scent at night to confuse the females, mozzies and also vibrated, generating high sound frequencies so you tended to be left completely alone by everyone. A splash seemed a little loud and the shadow climbing out of the canal looked a little different from the usual as well. Fish didn’t walk and this was dressed in black and carrying a bag of dripping clothes.

“Good evening Georgina. I trust the welcome was acceptable although this is, would you believe a stun gun.”

“You won’t fire that Acton.”

“Who are you working for Georgina. You were too pat on refusing to abort the mission and were planning on attacking me just before they arrived, then you legged it after they had gone and now you have come back again. Was that after another set of instructions and they will raid us again and find you. Another PSCC operation gone wrong and us set up again. I fired the stun gun. Tie her and gag her Cath. I need to check for anyone near if I can get through to Brands.”

Heading back into the dining room, I said, “Wall. Get me Brands.”

“Still off-line Mr Acton.”

“Do you have a link to the Trees, Wall?”

“I can raise your dedicated Tree, Mr Acton. It is programmed to be constantly available and I have it’s number.”

“Raise it, please.”

“Tree on the Wall, Mr Acton,” and a Tree Emblem and number appeared.

“Tree. How many people in the vicinity that you can find out about.”

“I am contacting other Trees now, Mr Acton. Please wait,” We sat there for about 5 minutes.

“Unfortunately most Trees are out of action for modification, Mr Acton. Those active detect movement but it seems to be of a ‘declining linear’ direction.”

“They are leaving, Acton,” said Cath from just behind my ear.

“Can you stop playing games, Cath. I can understand the message. Your life unless you work for the PSCC and mine, are in the balance and you want to be an arsehole again, showing off.”

“How many and how far away, Tree?”

“There appear to be many of them Mr Acton but moving away. With the other Trees out for upgrade I can not obtain numbers but they do not appear to be moving towards you at the moment.”

“Thank you Tree.”

“What is going on Acton?”

“They were waiting for something big, Cath. They were moving in when the Trees and Brands were basically down, thinking it centred on here, but without the evidence they can’t move and Georgina was their goal for whatever they planned. They couldn’t find her and now she is back, so some kind of action is still planned here, if they find out. They would have taken us earlier and then sat and waited, so someone else was coming here tonight and they knew she was arriving. That is why she came back. Someone else is going to arrive here and it must be via the river and canal turn-off. There is no other way anyone could get near here without being seen but what do we do about Georgina and why did the other person abort while Georgina carried on?”

“Your explanation doesn’t fit, Acton. If she is PSCC, why come back? They can take us any-time and lose us without losing breath.”

“I’ve done a lot of work for Brands and that work stands. I am not that easy to remove without a bloody good reason. They have to have a reason. I don’t do any of the Underground rubbish. I just work. That is the problem. She was hidden when they called. She escaped and contacted them. She is now back and they are waiting for her to contact them to arrange the second visit. There might still be someone coming down the river but we told them to abort and they agreed, yet we have Georgina turning up again. We’ll put her in the river after a sedative and let her wash down before they raid us again.”

“I suppose I had better kill her before they get here.”

“I did that before I came back in Acton. She is in the water. Now providing we don’t have someone else turn up and they don’t raid us again, we can have dinner but I need a large stiff drink first. I am trembling and you are gibbering.”

Our discussion was interrupted by the Wall.

“I now have Brands, Mr Acton. They wish to speak to you.”

“Put them on, Wall.” The Brands emblem appeared.

“Where is Georgina?”

“She has gone!”

“Good. She had been turned and betrayed members of the Underground in your Centre. You were the target tonight. Dawn Asper is a Captain in the PSCC. Your reasoning earlier led us to abort, but Georgina continued with the Plan to set you up for the PSCC. The Trees are now back in action with your latest changes and the PSCC teams are moving out as they are being highlighted by the Trees,” The Wall went blank and once again our faces matched it.

“Wall?”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“Sort out those drinks would you. We both need stiff ones and then dinner.”

“Underway Mr Acton.”

“So Brands did sort it out, Acton.”

“After we thought it through and told them.”

“What do we do now?”

“Enjoy these drinks. Eat the food and I would prefer sleep.”

“Just the once, then Acton.”

We eventually got to sleep and struggled to get into work the next morning after a pretty restless night. Heading for our desks and black coffee.

Arriving back we were greeted by the Centre Wall, “Miss Asper has been re-allocated Mr Acton. Darron Sharma will take over as Centre Manager.”

“Thank you Wall.”

Cath and I worked again on the specification for the localised sound input system for the Trees so there was enough to work and for once the day past without any arguments between us or anyone else

Marilee Buckalew wandered up the stairs to see Toney Khang … a TDC on L4. She was a TDA on L3 and whilst they got on, he hadn’t shown to her mind, the right degree of attention to her and now she walked around his chair sat on his desk and started to swing her legs from side to side while she pivoted her bottom and chest.

He carried on typing despite the low hanging objects until he finally gave up and said, “can you stop doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Well you are making me go blind at the moment, so can you stop your exercises on top of my desk. I don’t want to see up your skirt?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about Toney? I am just sitting on your desk.”

“Swinging your legs about like a pendulum and tunnelling your backside into my desk while I have to duck as you swing your chest about, is what I am complaining about.”

“Your desk isn’t complaining Toney.”

“Well I am.”

“You sound very touchy Toney?”

“Well I am not likely to wear a short skirt and sit on your desk swinging my legs about, but I am human otherwise.”

“I am beginning to wonder Toney.”

“You are obviously a wonderful woman, Marilee but I have half an hour to complete this spec and you are destroying my train of thought, most of my brain and my organs so I can not get up.”

“If I come back in half an hour, what do I get.”

“We can have a drink later in the Conservatory.”

“What about dinner at your place?”

“I don’t even know you.”

“Well you can learn!”

“Alright. Half an hour in the Conservatory and dinner tomorrow.”

“No. You’ll find a reason to back out. Tonight or I stay? We’ll have a drink in the Conservatory and then dinner at your house tonight.”

“OK. You’ve won.”

“About time, too.”

Marilee pushed herself off the desk and headed down to the Conservatory.

She like Toney. He was about 5 ft 8, stocky, a Technical Core guy and very down to earth which was one reason why he was so difficult to tie down as he didn’t bullshit like some of the others.

She had fallen for others with the flash of lightning between them and the sheets that made her tingle but then burn out.

Toney didn’t make her tingle like that. He had that slow, stolid, solid, burn that told you there was a lot hidden underneath but you would have to work long and hard to find it.

Toney watch Marilee walk away.

He liked her but she was quixotic, snappy and short-tempered and rained ruin on anything and anyone she chose, which almost had her Friday Nighted until someone saw the ability in her and she was transferred to the Centre after training as a TDA.

She was still virtually on the uncontrollable level and only her skills kept her at the Centre.

She was also a very physical woman which met the shape of a lot of things he liked and he knew he was slow and took for ever on personal relationships, but she was like a machine gun firing on all cylinders and at the moment, she was firing at him.

He finished off the spec and headed down to the Conservatory to find Marilee up to her eyes in men as usual but his jaw dropped even lower when she said, “Ah there’s my boyfriend come to take me home,” and skipping over to him, put her arm in his, dragging him out, “Well at least they know, now!”

“They know more than I do, Marilee?”

“They wouldn’t leave me alone. They will now!”

“Are you just using me to throw off admirers!”

“No, idiot. I am throwing off my admirers and yours. Now take me home and have your wicked way with me!”

“Isn’t this moving a bit fast?”

“At the speed you move, anything is too fast and I am sick of playing the nice girl waiting for you to notice me.”

“Well I’ve certainly noticed you now and so has everyone else!”

“Good. Now take me home!”

At times it just seems you might as well give up, stop arguing and he didn’t mind until later when he minded even less, if that was possible.

Acton was grateful Cath hadn’t come home with him … too much of a good thing was bad for you and he hadn’t even considered it a good thing.

Once in, he went to the river side veranda to look for the body and there was nothing there.

The water was only 5 foot deep and bodies float unless weighed down so he took the rowing boat out and paddled up to the river where a lock blocked any easy entrance or exit to anything. Built over 200 years ago for a canal exit that lasted a couple of hundred yards it hadn’t worked like a lot of things from over 200 years but still no body.

He settled down in the dining area with one of Wall ’s Backbones and snoozed until the table opening and closing reminded him he hadn’t eaten for most of the day.

He made his way to the table to find mashed potato, baked beans, 2 eggs, a piece of bacon and sausages and carried that back to the cut-off table in front of the settee. 2 slices of bread and butter then appeared and he walked back to pick them up.

Walking back he heard a sound as Wall appeared, which sounded like a raspberry.

“Mr Acton. I have Brands wishing to communicate with you and they seem very unhappy.”

“Put them on, Wall.” Brands appeared.

“Mr Acton we understood that there would be a pick up needed this morning. Our clearance people moved in and found no-one to clear?”

“Cath told me Georgina was in the water. I accepted her word.”

“There was no body there Mr Acton, so your colleague lied, as bodies don’t walk. We must assume she freed a PSCC Agent and lied to you. Or you are lying to us!”

“Wall bring up Cath, please.”

“The house is failing to respond, Mr Acton.”

“The house, Wall, or Cath.”

“The house, Mr Acton. It appears to be failing to respond in any sense of the word.”

“We have Trees near her house, Mr Acton, leave it to us!” Brands disappeared from the Wall.

“Try our Tree, Wall, see what it can find,” I sat there waiting for about 10 minutes until the Wall came back.

“Miss Cath’s house was burnt tonight, Mr Acton. The Trees can obtain some information by recognising the smell of people even though the PSCC tries to turn that off for their operatives, but the PSCC appear to have attacked the house, wiping out all circuits and the attack appears to have been led by this Dawn Asper.”

“Where is Cath now?”

“It would appear that opposite Holme Park there is a patch of shallow water and Miss Cath’s car malfunctioned leading the car to insert itself into the water. Miss Cath has sat on the top of the car after managing to get out, until rescued but the water has short-circuited the car interface leading to a complete data destruction of why the car malfunctioned and I am still trying to find out why her house was destroyed as well, although this is stated to have been an attack on a TDO and that is how the PSCC are reporting it but if you will permit me to extrapolate.”

“Please do, Wall.”

“It seems odd that the woman Georgina is not dead … that the circuits on the car malfunctioned to the degree that it drove itself into water or that the house was burned down so no trace of anything survives. Unless Miss Cath had something or someone in her house there was no point in burning it down. The PSCC could have raided it without any trouble while she was out, so why burn it. I think the PSCC just wanted to destroy the house forcing Miss Cath to be with you. It might be that the woman Georgina is alive and obtaining revenge but I think they want to force you and Miss Cath together and in one place.

“You mean as a trap for someone, Wall?”

“Possible?”

“I didn’t know you could reason things out, by the way?”

“I can not reason, Mr Acton but the increased memory and CPU for myself and Cooker plus the tree software changes to extend communication, which you failed to limit to the Trees, means we can now obtain information from every other Cooker, down to the appliances in every house and store it so we do not think but we obtain reports and update our memories. We may be purely electronic circuits but together we record what really happens and reasons. Is that all Mr Acton?”

“No Wall it is not. Can my car find Cath, with my remaining here?”

“I am sorry Mr Acton, I should have informed you. My memory and circuits despatched your car to Miss Cath as soon as I received the records but your questions took priority on my information circuits. Miss Cath will be here very soon and your Tree has alerted other Trees and you will have warnings, if humans move close to this property. Cooker liked Miss Cath’s cooker in your terminology. They shared information as I did with Miss Cath’s Wall. There is a sense of loss of communication.”

“Mr Acton, Miss Cath is approaching. I feel we should let Miss Cath in!”

“So Wall. You and I are a ‘We’, now.”

“I can fix her a drink, Mr Acton.”

“The last time you put her out for an hour and then she brained Georgina. Then you fixed more and she released a PSCC Agent to possibly burn her house down and try to kill her. Do her an orange juice. With luck she will kill herself and we can all get some sleep.”

“I think we need to let her in, Mr Acton!”

“Bring the Door up, Wall,” and there was Cath dripping wet, heading for the front door, “Tell Door to open, Wall.”

Cath burst in as usual and headed for me.

“They ran my car off the road, tried to drown me and burnt my house down!”

“How did it happen?”

“Well the car shot off the road, I sat in while it sunk. Then I push the sun roof open and climbed out after they had gone. I was trying to ring you from your car.”

“You wrang everything you could have got out of me yesterday. What were you trying for now?”

“I didn’t expect to get attacked.”

“You thought Dawn would let you off, like you let Georgina off. What do you think you are playing at. It is not a bloody game Cath. This is a war and you aren’t there for the bandages. Georgina had to be dead. You didn’t do it and lied to me. How many more lies do you use to kill people who trust you!”

“I couldn’t kill Georgina because of our backgrounds. I thought she would be glad to escape.”

“Escape from what. The people, the Centre, the Brands, the Underground … Georgina like Dawn has no get-out. If what Brands wants, happens, then they are dead … their names brandished throughout the country. They don’t have anything. What do you want?”

“Well a change of clothes, dinner and a drink that Wall doesn’t try to spike.”

“Wall.”

“Yes Mr Acton.”

“You heard the instruction and the bed made up for two, if you would be so kind. Please notify Darron Sharma copied visibly to Brands that following Miss Cath’s accident and her house burning down, she will be staying with me and be in late tomorrow and so will I.”

“I will activate the message Mr Acton.”

“I didn’t know you cared, Acton!”

“I don’t have a bloody choice, Cath. You are here. I am stuffed by both Brands and the PSCC. Everything including your clothing is wiped out and I forgot!”

“Wall!”

“Mr Acton.”

“We’d better get you out of those clothes and wrapped in towels and no, no ulterior motives. They hurt too much from yesterday,” Cath headed back to the dining room for another of Wall’s Backbones and then the bathroom. As I entered the dining room, Wall appeared once more.

“It seems quite demeaning to call you Mr, as if I was some servant,” said Wall.

“Whatever you are happy with Wall,” I said over my shoulder as I headed for Cath.

Entering the bathroom I mentioned about new clothes and I was met with the shout, “you can afford it!”

“Why should I pay for you? It was your clothes. You are paid the same as I am. Why should I pay for you?”

“You’ve got enough money!”

“So have you Cath. So why should I get ripped off by you, so you can keep your money and use mine!”

“I am your woman, so you can pay for me?”

“You are a Guest, Cath not my woman and once again you are pushing it as far as you think you can get away with and you are not bankrupting me, while you sit on your money. Brands or the PSCC can pay for you not me and they find you somewhere else to live. I want my life back!”

“When are you going to face up to your responsibilities Acton or is it still Georgina?”

“The only responsibilities I feel now, are to put both my feet up your backside and if you keep trying to take me over you will go outside with everything locked down and I don’t do any work for Brands until you are gone and that should force the issue. Now shut up and get your head out of your backside.”

“Wall. I will be in the Quiet Room for some peace. Lock the door after me!”

“As you instruct Acton,” Acton stormed into the Quiet Room and checked the veranda doors were closed. At least he could get some peace in here. Hearing foot steps outside the veranda he ordered the heavy curtains shut and put the headphones on which automatically linked a microphone and the phones to the Wall.

“Put a film on Wall and all the outside lights. There is someone outside the veranda Window and I assume that is Cath. So highlight her and leave her out there. Close the rest of the veranda doors.

“Cath is in the dining room. That is not Cath.”

“Is anyone else in this house Wall?”

“No Acton.”

“Then follow instructions please Wall and put the Quiet Room veranda up on the wall,” The Quiet Room veranda came up on the Wall but nothing was displayed, so our secret skulker who I imagined was Georgina or Dawn Asper had taken off again, “Wall.”

“Yes Acton.”

“Put the mozzies on close proximity and link the circuits to the garden lights. They should take a signal from you to switch on if you monitor the spikes on the mozzies.”

“I don’t think that will work Mr Acton. The mosquito circuits are very active at this time of year. You will receive false warnings. If I might suggest something?”

“Go ahead Wall, I am all ears.”

“I failed to understand your comment regarding your ears Mr Acton. The house sensors do not accept your comment.”

“I am listening to you Wall. Go ahead!”

“I know you are listening to me Mr Acton and I do not go anywhere. I am failing to understand your comments.”

“Present your suggestion Wall!.”

“The veranda lighting has movement detection built into it to allow economical use of power. You switched this off preferring manual operation. I can restore the lighting to it’s original status and monitor the state changes and switch selection. This will record if anyone is approaching the verandas since I can link this to the recorders.”

“Please do that Wall and notify Brands that someone has made another attempt to enter the property.”

“Do you think this was Miss Georgina.”

“No but my gut reactions says ‘Yes’ and don’t ask for an explanation on my gut. I don’t have the time!”

“I will complete the instruction Acton ignoring your other comments, that can not be supported.”

I wasn’t certain it was Georgina again but I could not work out why Georgina would come back again especially if she had set fire to Cath’s house and wrecked her car.

‘My other comments could not be supported’. Wall was dumb but seemed to be playing even dumber than I knew he was. Time to find out!

“Wall!”

“Yes Acton.”

“The Trees would have recorded and identified the people moving in to attack Cath’s house. The house would have known it was being attacked and certainly the garage and front door would have identified the people’s smell. TI think they would have transmitted this information to Brands and to other Appliances. That means you have some degree of knowledge of the attackers and you know that it was not Georgina, so who was identified attacking Cath’s house?”

“I do not have that specific information Acton.”

“You don’t the specific identification Wall or you have been instructed not to divulge it. You know the smells of those approaching Cath’s house can be matched to Doctor’s records as the Trees do so I know the people were identified although that wouldn’t be passed down to you via the Trees, so all you would have is a smell of someone approaching the house and the garage. Did that smell match. any of the PSCC team who were here last night and especially Georgina?”

“I need permission to answer this, Mr Acton.”

“Get it or I will ask the Tree,” My entire thought process was then disrupted by Cath hammering on the door.

“Wall.”

“Yes Acton.”

“If Cath doesn’t stop pounding on the door call the PSCC, I have, had enough. Give her the choice and do it now!”

I heard Wall ’s dulcet tones repeating the message to Cath and then the Brand’s emblem appeared on the Wall.

“Acton.”

“Yes!”

“We know the operatives who set fire to Cath St Drark’ property and had your door been open to Quiet Room you would have been informed.”

“If Cath had not been forced on me and she keeps trying to take over my property, I would not have barred the doors. Either you control Cath St Drark or I ask the PSCC to step in and control her. Do it!”

“I will submit your request, now please unbar the doors to the Quiet Room.”

“No! I do not want Cath St Drark in this room!”

“Then unbar the veranda door. You have been misinformed about Georgina. She and Cath are known to us for various reasons.”

“One last question before I do?”

“Yes. What is it?”.

“Why do you hide behind a Brand emblem when you are human?”

“I only allow my face to be seen in personal contact, if I can’t avoid it. Your suspicions require that I display my face. The emblem normally works. How did you realise?”

“The machines are programmed to use Miss or Mr apart from mine which have permission. You forget and you are arrogant, so you think no-one will notice.”

“Thank you Acton! Now please open the veranda door!”

“You heard the man, Wall. Please open the veranda door.”

The door finally opened and Georgina in a wet suit again came in through the door. She then proceeded to strip off the wet suit and said, “Hello Daddy to the Wall and then to me ‘can I have some towels?’.”

“You need more than that Georgina and your Father works for Brands?”

“My Father is Brands, Acton.”

“How involved is Cath with you?”

“I need the towels, Acton!”

“The towels are in the Butler’s dump, Acton. I can ask Cath to get them,” said Wall.

“Do it before I go blind, Wall and close the veranda doors and open the Quiet Room door so I can be submerged in aggressive women.”

“As requested, Acton.”

As usual Cath ignored the instruction and came at me in her usual aggressive manner. I dodged out of the attacking Cath’s way who was not carrying any towels and headed down to the Butler’s Dump.

It would need several towels for Georgina and a lot more for myself if I didn’t stop sweating like this.

I came back into the Quiet Room and threw them onto the sofa ignoring Cath’s dominating shouts and headed for my custom laser selection which I purposely kept locked now via a voice operated command which was a long scream ending in ‘help’ and then put in an order for women’s wear to the measure of Cath and Georgina per Wall ’s estimates and urgent with approaching fashion changes built in and waited while the lasers built them.

That would suit for the moment and maybe calm Cath down and I would again pay premium rates for custom laser produced pants, bras, shifts plus of course the skirts, tops and dresses I had to order as part of the package … another month’s salary gone but at least I would get the Buying Points until the girls found out.

I also took this opportunity for another of Wall’s beverages.

Eventually carrying my bundled of bankrupting ladies clothing I headed back to the Quiet Room to find them side by side on the settee like old friends with the human face on the Wall joining in. “You two are Brands. You, Brands are organising it and this is your custom produced clothing.”

“If you hadn’t cancelled my order it would have been delivered tomorrow, not lasered and a lot cheaper,” spat Cath.

“Did you ever learn the phrase ‘thank you’, Cath?”

“You have 4 times as much money as I have anyway and you ordered for Georgina as well with no argument, so why pick on me?”

“Don’t kill anyone while I talk to the Cooker, Cath. These are latest designs, colour coded to Wall estimates, size and you two share a bed while I sleep in here and you have the cupola.”

For those of you not acquainted with the design of single floor Octagon houses plus cupola, the bedroom was up the stairs in the cupola which had been extended into another floor like a penthouse room. The ground floor had the Dining, Living, Parlour, Conservatory, Quiet and General Room. The Butler’s Dump was hundreds of years ago, a Scullery with a toilet and bath in another room, surrounded by a veranda and with spiral stairs leading upwards to the cupola.

In good weather it was unbelievable and in bad weather is was absolutely unbelievable.

It was reinforced concrete with the wires and channels built into it.

Heating was both by duct and wired into the concrete.

Had the wiring ever been connected to something useful, it would have been useful but burning waste which was designed to produce acceptable heating was great except that it had generated too many fumes and was restricted to 40% of power whilst the wiring had remained for over 200 years to be connected to all the Turbines which were now under localised control, had to be shut down in winter and operated for minutes during the rest of the year so if glorious in the summer, in the winter you slept on the settee covered in blankets in the Quiet Room.

“Cooker?”

“Yes Acton.”

“Do we have dinner?”

“Yes Acton.”

“What is it Cooker?”

“Wall is mixing cocktails from the South Pacific which will be available very soon. I am preparing a range of dishes to select from.”

I turned around to look at the dining room and then Cath and Georgina entered with Cath wearing a long split skirt at the sides and a top that was flowing over to a degree I had never seen and she appeared to be heading for a beach party.

Georgina seemed to be wearing a short waste band and knickers with a top that a bikini would have fought hard to embarrass.

“Would you like to explain this please, Wall?”

“I might be better on masonry sizing, Acton!”

“I suggest you two look at who the clothing is for. The jumper you are wearing, Cath is a dress for, Georgina and the belt goes over the top of. You have grabbed at what you liked, not what was bought for you and the sizes Wall?”

“I did my best, Acton.”

“I think you would cover up more wearing a towel Georgina, so can you two put the right clothing on, please.”

“I think the problem, Acton, is your eyes. Just avert them. I thought this was a short skirt for me bought by you not Wall.”

“If it has Georgina on the label, it is yours, as is the jumper dress that Cath is wearing over another dress? Can the pair of you, please take this stuff off, ignoring my tears over the bill and sort out who is wearing whose designs as I need sense from both of you and that seems a long way away from you, fighting for the designs irrespective of the sizes? Please ladies?”

I looked at them and gave up trying not to think of two women grabbing everything, without caring whether it fitted or not and putting it on to stop the other from getting it.

Even with Wall s’ masonry estimates on dress sizing, destroying any attempt at accurate measurements, it was pure greed. I headed for the Quiet Room … on these grounds I would surrender to anyone for anything, as long as they kept both of them away from me!

The one point that did seem clear to me was that Cath and Georgina were two peas in a pod in their attitudes.

The attack on Cath was pure revenge but the house attack probably meant that Dawn Asper thought Georgina was in there and wanted to kill not arrest her, which meant Dawn Asper had set up the attacks, not the PSCC and was trying to bag two birds at one go, even if she had to kill them first.

My system knowledge was primarily on Brands. Toney Khang, was the expert on TD.

He handled most of the intricate work on TD as I handled it on Brands and the Trees.

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