#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.

Posted in Adventure, Authors, Book, Books, brands, cirencester, Cotswolds, Family Control, Fantasy, Fiction Writing, IT, killing, Literary Agents, Love, novels, Oranised Crime, Politicians, Politics, Publishers, Rebellion, Romance, Science Fiction, security service, Thriller, Writing, Writing Novels

#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.

Posted in Adventure, Book, Books, cirencester, Cotswolds, Fantasy, Fiction Writing, FYOG, Literary Agents, Planning Writing, Publishers, Writing

#amwriting #amwritingfantasy To be honest I’m more worried about the Plastic Window’s Installers than writing

When we write we need to move a reader to see the things we see as we write.

We normally start with an idea and haven’t the faintest idea where it will end up.

You could say we are mentally broken men who dream and can type and then we start to learn that stories work both ways.

Stories is just a way of life in another dimension.

We, or should, invent, portray or tell something. Usually for fun but often you let the things you hate enter.

I don’t write crime anymore but with these guys putting in all these secure windows, if I wanted to break in then it would be some climbing kid up to the roof, then a rope ladder and then you are in the house through the roof.

The nice thing is that there is very little of substance in the attic so they would come hurtling down and we would be ringing for medical help for them and waiting for the Insurance Companies dodging paying out.

An idea of the stuff I need to re-visit.

Why I need to re-visit is because you want a story with people and not a description of an idea.

Dave

Chapter I – Venal Politicians

Most Chambers were usually shielded when you entered but when a Ruling Family liked you the Chamber often exploded into colour; often into several colours and if you said, ‘no’, then the colour was Blood Red.

Everyone looked at them. It was always considered co-incidental that Admirals met the Dwarvian Naval maximum height limit of four foot two inches and black eyes.

Most other applicants for roles unless family selected, eventually gave up unless of course … given the basic attitudes defining them, and – it does make you wonder why the quality took the jobs; you were then matched and then you just had to take on your family, the world and a ‘mother-in-law as the cost were very high!’

Another race also distrusted but used for bureaucracy were the Elves – virtual prisoners although this never seemed to bother the Elves who just became even more bureaucratic and infuriating.

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 at Stefen 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, but they always made the naval height requirement.

For some other reason they all to seemed to wear and probably sleep in the blue and black naval uniform and their 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.

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.

The War Party had ruled for aeons on Dwarvia and as long as the wars were fought somewhere else and the wealth returned to Dwarvia, most didn’t care until other worlds learnt to fight; developed their own weapons and body counts started to appear in Dwarvia as Dwarfs found their families dwindling and prisoner camps springing up across Dwarvia; questions were once again being raised and then raised again as the War Party labelled dissenting Dwarfs as traitors but that didn’t change anything of the Dwarf’s attitudes nor of their complete lack of thought for defeated peoples. It is said that one Dwarf is an opinion; two an argument, and three a war.

Some of the prisoners had their wings clipped to stop them flying but for some reason they had started to grow during the wait to board and the time from Stasis released; some were still sealed in their own private prisons as fluid but compared to those whose beaks were hooded so they couldn’t eat or drink, a lot seemed free but now prisoners with hands were removing the hoods and the Rocs that could fly were bringing back food for those who couldn’t move far due to the plastic chains on their lower extremities. The prisoners in fact were working together unlike the Admirals who lacked prisoners and were just left with panicking Guards.

Destraight encompassed all races the Dwarfs had fought and captured, and had sent to die but freed prisoners were freeing others as they found them; their main attitude however, was to find Dwarfs and extinguish them from life … the Guards were not of a retiring nature but retiring seemed to be the order of the day, night and any other period of time you wished to consider your life. The Guards moved as fast as they could to the castles in Ascania and Toshonia, and they were running fast as birds rose in the sky to repaid them for the suffering they endured.

The computer programs for some reason had built all castles with just one habitable floor; one castle was buried in the ground with one floor as the computer glitched yet again but floods had taken over the south-west whilst land has risen after the water poured in and the land rising was now causing areas of mainly Toshonia to be either rocks or water.

The country was being changed to accommodate the stars, planets and debris and prisoners were now dying whilst the Admirals and cronies survived.

David Jamesson actually smiled as he sat in his formal dining room eating a piece of pig that had been happily running about some hours earlier. He’d made sure that more than enough supplies were delivered to his castle before he left the Armada Class ship but to find a live pig and eat recently killed meat was something David could live with, although the pig obviously wasn’t living any-more but David Jamesson’s castle was worrying him a little however; previously miles from the ocean it was enjoying water from a few miles away – sea water.

Land had risen for some twenty miles to the west but the southern half of his land was now split by the sea sweeping in to some ten miles south of his castle – at least his prisoners were safe and he could eat fresh meat, as could his Guards, although who would eat who when the meat ran out was another matter.

Stefen Matira felt the same about food although in his case it was beef that he found, or something very close to it.

His only issue was the prisoners being split between his land and David Jamesson’s. The thousands drown as the sea swept around the lodge with the water slowly climbing to just below the fourth storey was unfortunate but he could always find new prisoners. Martin heard reports of his land to the east growing by some four hundred square miles although he wasn’t personally supervising it, but his land was now cut in two and he didn’t supervise that either, still he was isolated from the other Admirals and that was good.

That there was no longer a western or northern area to his territory and that was something for the future although he was cut off from everything as he watched the red rocks in the sky moving closer and kept wondering as he watched the flashes from where the ships had been, where the debris would land but the waves were now sweeping in behind his castle to the south.

Not all, questioned everything – one Dwarf – a distant cousin of Martin’s was at Martin Matira’s castle and to him the magic felt alive as he accepted it. Rafus convinced himself he could feel a magic field anywhere now he felt magic as everything moved, creating magic in Toshonia and in him.

He stood on the battlements with his books as they charged but their charge on Rafus was that whilst he could feel magic, he was completely useless when he tried to use it.

James Droga was now on survival rations and remembering why he hated Dwarf politics and the incestuousness breeding of the major families more than anything.

By the time James realised the food supplies on the ships needed raiding they had been stripped of everything and all he’d managed to take were empty boxes packed with stone for about two thirds of the boxes – the top levels might be good but he’d have no teeth if he moved beyond that. He’d people out hunting and already some fields of what seemed to be corn had been found plus some rodents that would go into a pot, no matter what they were or where they came from but he had no problem sharing a rat stew with fellow Dwarfs.

James Droga’s claims to virtually half of Destraight also made life interesting although the prisoners, currently some eighty miles away and heading in his direction could possibly make things even more interesting. He also stood there watching the red rocks that continued to increase in size as they moved closer to Destraight but he also watched water that seemed to be boiling and now comprised two lakes.

One issue still unbeknown, still united the Admirals although there was little else that did. All of them felt they hadn’t been sold a pup but a monumental suppository, placed strategically, and it was still climbing up as the rocks were climbing closer, and now the land was starting to rise and meet the seas rushing in and all three were rushing in on them.

The lands rising were hot and the seas meeting the rising lands were generating a fog to the south of Martin Matira and a hundred to a hundred and forty miles to the north.

For David Jamesson, the seas were so close he needn’t bother taking a bath, even if he had been inclined to do so, whilst James Droga was finding his starched uniforms were becoming pliable in the damp atmosphere … all of which he could not remember in the briefing notes but since they had been the size of his underwear, this was unsurprising. This side of the planet was stated quite incorrectly, to be stable and unchanging.

 

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#amwriting #amwritingfantasy Just stuff

When we write. we write at levels and often between them:

Sometimes we have the faintest idea and my case, very often I don’t.

We write a structure at times and move on. Then we hit a glorious point and we write good words – in our opinion –  and leave the rest behind but we know we have to return and find weather, trees, politics, names and a plot at times and end up writing another book we never intended.

All Writers should be in care and we are. Our words insulate us and look after us but remember, if you don’t eat, you don’t write so try and earn enough to eat.

Dave

As he near the mountains he finally found the buildings he was looking for and Margo opened a door complete with a meat cleaver as he approached, “I told your bandits not to come here again. I don’t warn twice!” Margo for a woman was large, almost as wide as she was tall and at five foot three did not appear to be frightened of anyone.

Sir Charles raised his dagger, “I am no bandit, Margo, and I’ll thank you not to call me one.”

Margo’s face fell as she recognised the dagger, “Sir Charles, I didn’t know you had arrived. I haven’t seen that useless spymaster of your for a good half-year and all those bandits do is come around here stealing.”

Had Sargon paid them instead of lining his own pockets they would not have been reduced to stealing? Have you tried to contact Sargon to find out what he is doing?”

I initially sent two riders – neither they, nor Sargon, nor any funds returned. I sent other riders to see if he still lived – none of them have returned – now the other riders refuse what the call a ‘kiss of the devil’ mission …? I don’t think anyone of them will try that mission. So far you lost seven riders, Sir Charles trying to find out what Sargon, your Spy-Master is up to.”

Damn all spymasters. If he cannot protect himself, how can he protect me?”

Would anyone know his identity, Sir Charles?”

Possibly Princess Laseith, but she is in Ascania.”

She may be, Sir Charles but even I know of the broomsticks arriving from Ascania and the news their passengers bring usually ends up in the taverns, and I now have my own Agents in the taverns – I had the money from the lost seven riders to spend. They have also seen little of your spymaster – if anything, if they could manage to tell the truth without embellishment!”

How many Guards do you have left, Margo, and please don’t shout the answer?”

I have lost seven people, Sir Charles, which leaves thirteen – an evil number to shout about!”

Calm yourself, Margo. That is an old superstition. I have these four with me and you can take them to make your numbers up.”

Must I, Sir Charles? I would rather have evil luck than these bandits.”

Where are the hounds?”

We have to keep them in the huts, nowadays. When they were attacking the wolves, it was fine. When the wolves were gone, they attacked the livestock. It took a large payment and a promise to keep them locked up to save them. When you take them, and I wish you would, please keep them on leads or it will be my neck they hang, and probably yours as well. They don’t think that deeply around the mountains before they act.”

I need a team of thirty people I can trust, plus those dogs and a scout. You are right about those in the forest but they will be cannon fodder. Thirty one from you, plus these and whoever is left in the forest, when I get back should give us the men I need.”

I will have a room prepared for you, Sir Charles. These can sleep in the barn with the dogs – the dogs are used to smells.”

Put them in a tavern with a bath; new clothes and an escort so they are ready when I want them. When can you get word to your people in Matira?”

One of them should be here tomorrow. If nothing of importance is occurring, they report every two weeks. One is due tomorrow and I would suggest a bath is prepared for your Lordship and I will prepare a meal – let those bandits find a tavern as you instruct.”

Thank you, I could enjoy a good bath and meal.”

I also have a bottle of wine but I cannot speak for its taste.”

An honest statement and I seem short of those as well.”

This way my Lord,” and turning to his escort with little more than contempt, “To the tavern with you wretches and don’t abuse it or I will know and I will set the hounds on you – some coins for them, if you would, Sir, or they will only start stealing again,” Sir Charles took a small bag from inside his shirt and tossed it to his escort, “I will see you here tomorrow afternoon – follow the instructions of Margo’s people if you wish to live!”

Sir Charles watch them ride off, but not to the mountains, “Will they return, Margo?”

My people will make sure they do and I do employ some capable people who they would never escape.”

Your certainty comforts me, Margo. Let us see to this bath and meal. My needs, after journeying with that broom, are dire.”

The night looked at Donina who then looked at her escort and Jinny, who was leading the Guards, “isn’t it dangerous to ride across cornfields in the dark?”

We need to head east, my Lady but someone inconveniently built the road from Matira to the west – taking us in the wrong direction and in what will be public sight in a few hours. We need to move to the east and remain out of sight – King Martan already holds one Spy Master in his dungeons plus several who came to find. It won’t be long before whoever employs knows he has disappeared. Quite severe questioning has highlighted his employer as Sir Charles Dastry. If we follow the sea coast until it ends, we are some ten miles from the road but eighty miles closer and undiscovered. We can ease your condition by riding slowly – on the road, we would have to move at speed. The Drunk and I also have a Cat and he will be prowling and scenting for anyone following.”

Who chose this route?”

I did, and with the Cat I have more chance of guaranteeing your safety than by blindly following a road in the wrong direction. Are you ready to ride?”

You seemed frightened?”

I am alive and I have been, as a trooper, for many years. I would not tell you how to act as a concubine, please don’t tell me how to act as a trooper and King Martan considers me a ‘lucky trooper’ as I usually win. That is why I have this job, now please mount your horse and will we move out before we alert the whole country and don’t think that no-one is looking for you. An exhausted rider from Charguar reported to King Martan shortly before he spoke to you, and I know what the King heard. Sir Charles Dastry recently landed in Toshonia and is now raising a Guards of villains and two black hounds the size of the Cat to move on Matira and the King …? You would be a bonus and hurt the King more than anything.”

So menace stalked me before I even left the castle; together with two killer hounds.”

Yes. That is another reason why we take this route. There is only one way they can follow our tracks if they pick this route, otherwise they must use the road; travel the extra distance and face the extra patrols that King Martan has on the roads; also the Cat is watching our backs. It was obvious that Sir Charles has his own spies in the castle and you went to bed with King Martan as a concubine and left as a guard. In some hours, someone will be on their way to Charguar to inform Sir Charles that Lady Donina has not made her usual toilette visits and this will alert them. It won’t take long for a late night patrol to be connected to this and that is also why riding directly towards them is not a good idea. We also need to move slowly and the dogs, if they follow will smell us and they will move faster than can and once they get close enough they can take out horses and people. Our only hopes are that it will take them time to get here and pick up the scent or else they will lose any scents on the roads – one reason for the extra patrols. The black hounds don’t need to kill and the hounds take a lot of killing. Even Cat can only handle one but Cat does have a brain and he uses it, amongst his other tricks. Let’s move; we are wasting time.”

Sir Charles, after a good bath, good meal and a bottle of rot gut wine that he donated to the Guards still at Margo’s house, slept well, which was hardly surprising, considering his trip on the broom and he was breaking his fast with Margo when they heard the messenger arrive and Margo was the first out of the house.

What news, Trevor?”

Routine, Margo. No sign of the Spy Master and anyone asking vanishes. King Martan is still in the castle. Donina appears to be staying with him in the King’s bedchambers, and that has been known to happen before. More patrols than normal on the roads but no reason as far as anyone knows. It is said, ‘Princess Routani will be arriving shortly’, but no confirmation of that. Everything seems to be quiet and no real signs of anything. If there are any changes, a rider is available and will be here. It is only eighty miles from Matira and the rider would kill his horse to bring news so you will hear within six hours if anything changes.”

Rest yourself and your horse, Trevor, head for the tavern and I’ll summons you if I need you.”

Thank you, Margo,” and Trevor headed back down the road as Sir Charles looked at Margo.

Can you trust him, Margo?”

As much as any of my sons, Sir Charles.”

Donina’s escort progressed some ten miles through the cornfields, which were a little lower in some places and even lower, where the horses trampled. Eight miles from the road that Donina demanded so turning south was her demand. Once again, Donina hit the wall of Jinny, “No, Donina. It is only eight miles to the road but just another fourteen to the small copse adjoining the road. The longer we stay off the road the safer we are and the hounds can’t pick up scent unless they know our route and target. It should leave us seventy miles ahead of them if they use the road and these cornfields should make the hounds work, a lot heavier, but they will be on our trail by the time we reach the copse. Sure as a rooster’s crow in the morning.”

And when they find us?”

We will have some hounds and people to kill,” and much to Donina’s chagrin and bowels, they continued east across the cornfields, avoiding any farms.”

It was some eight hours later when both Donina, her escort, and Sir Charles’ second messenger finally found their respective destinations.

Donina’s destination, to her disgust, was the copse by the road and Donina was finally realising that her running a kingdom, as she felt she had, was dependent on King Martan sleeping with her.

Sir Charles’ messenger almost became a corpse when Sir Charles’ temper exploded, until he found himself looking into a small stirrup crossbow he didn’t realise Margo was aiming at his head, “You don’t shoot the messenger, Sir Charles, although given that Bostrus is my son, I have often felt like it myself. I may shoot you, if you continue to threaten him!”

My apologies, Bostrus. Do we really know Donina has left the castle and in what direction she has gone?”

All we know my Lord is that she has not made her usual visits and that they are something she can not avoid making. No-one can remember seeing her this morning so she is either dead or has left the castle.”

How in all the nether-hells that we have can she have left the castle with all your diligent watchers, Bostrus?”

Without the orders of your vanishing Spy Master, my Lord, we had no instructions and my Lord, and we are weak without regular meals, like others who haven’t been paid, either. A Guards of Guards left the castle late last night; we can only guess they were her Guards and the odd thing was that they set across the cornfields to the east. They may then have taken ship; travelled to the roads or settled at one of the farms; carried on to the east?”

How soon can we travel, Margo?”

My sons, who you are abusing, my Lord, prepared carts with clean clothes, good armour and good horses, overnight. They hold the honour of the Droga’s high. The dogs are already fed and on reins to the carts. The best scout I could hire – Mansly, also my son – is already being raised from his bed and he knows the hounds and scouting people – how do you think we’ve survived without any resources from you, who now demand instant obedience. There are twenty six people in your escort, excluding anyone your Spy Master employed and these are quality people who will want paying, my Lord!”

With these four and nine in the forest, their is another thirteen – a significant number, so forty – including myself – will find the Lady Donina and kill her.”

As you wish, my Lord.”

You doubt my success, Margo?”

Donina has survived over eight attempts to end her life in the last year. Martan may become erratic if she dies and seek those who killed her. That would include myself and my family. You are the rightful King of Matira, my Lord and your dagger proves that. I sacrifice everything I have for the oaths we once gave to a Droga King of Toshonia. Do not squander that, my Lord!”

Sir Charles looked at Margo … the only reliable person he could trust and she considered him a useless traitor to his heritage. Sir Charles and his Guards finally moved, although Troupe seemed a little more realistic to him as he reviewed them watched them canter off in front of him.

It took a while before they finally found the bandits in the forest and he could not think of them as otherwise. His Spy Master had been good. He would never have employed these people. So what had happened to his Spy Master.

King Martan was in his dungeons and especially the one containing Lusus Mariettas – Sir Charles’ Spy Master – Lusus lived; currently or lately was a future decision, if Martan released him, having extracted, previously, Sir Charles funds and information, and thank you very much, Lusus, thought King Martan. King Martan’s real enjoyment as his own spies arrested all of the people who came to find the Spy Master was their talking … yes … he did enjoy listening to it: and did they like to talk as they hung from their feet over his tower, but he also had dogs to feed and dog food wasn’t cheap and they were trying to undermine his kingdom, so the dogs ate, and he learnt.

The Spy Master had now admitted to anything and Martan decided Lusus couldn’t be turned any further. They knew all his contacts – virtually everyone he’d ever met and Martan needed Laseith within reach; Routani was the means but Laseith’s greed the attraction, and the method. Martan would need more priest and priestesses than he could probably afford to protect him but Sir Charles’ money would go towards that. They would be trying to kill him and Donina, and Sir Charles should interfere with both Routani and Laseith’s plans if allowed enough leverage. He felt he’d built enough protection for the moment.

They were following and concentrating on Donina, who would lead them a merry chase?

She’d led everyone else merry chases for years!

All he needed now, were their Spy Masters and networks: much as he loved Donina, she would be a fool to think he would put her life before his or his rule; Sir Charles’ Guards would follow her, and he would regret the deaths but he would rule, and she would die, and that was a fact of ruling!

Sir Charles didn’t even bother to leave his horse. Watching this made some of his worst days, seem brighter. Burning the forest with this bunch in it seemed a fair option but it wouldn’t make them move any faster: they weren’t capable of it; some were grateful to have decent clothing and armour for a change; some did not seem to know the difference and started to fight and gamble over the clothing and armour – the forest might as well be a low tavern for these people, “Mansly, find out the description of those who hired these peasants, and then sent them away south to the roads. The King’s patrols will find them and feel we are following the roads to find Donina – let them! At best, they can also feed the hounds and keep my food bills down?”

Do you want me to set the hounds on them, Sir Charles. The hounds can be choosy on food?”

We have use for the hounds, let us not destroy their taste for meat! We move across country with your mother’s Guards. The rest follow the road to Spragend … it deserves them, but give them some money – they must be able to pay their way and take the time up of the Matira road patrols.”

Sir Charles, who was by now, finding levels of calm he’d never understood nor wanted, finally watched the refuse of his Spy Master’s recruitment rid off towards the roads. With luck they would meet and be killed by the Matira patrols which would divert the patrols from following him across country.

Matira was only twenty five miles away – rough riding.

Sir Charles was surprised as they were on several occasions forced into hiding as large patrols of sixty to seventy armoured Guards rode across the countryside towards them as if they knew the route he was taking. The hounds did play a part in disrupting the patrols and then as Mansly whistled, disappearing again but it became fairly obvious that the patrols were not interested in people in the country and would rather be on the roads.

Finally, after eight hours hard riding, added to ten hours hiding, plus to fifteen hours lost waiting for news, with another eight hours delay before they finally skirted Matira castle; they finally headed into the cornfields conveniently broken for them by Donina and her escort. The escort had some thirty one hours of time ahead of them, at least but Sir Charles didn’t need dogs to follow this trail and their speed was a lot faster than Donina’s and her escort. The dogs had also picked up the Cat’s scent and wee and were roaming over the cornfields like hounds looking for a Cat. The Cat did move across the country a lot but Mansly had no problem with the dogs and once he heard their howl of scent whistled commands to bring them back. They were following a bunch of horsemen treading down a crop field and with the crop field flattened they were able to canter with very little effort even with the hounds smelling the Cat.

The time advantage was being worn down by Donina, who unused to not getting her own way, was now playing King Martan’s deathly games for him. She wanted to head for the road so it was more comfortable, and was increasing her toilet stops to make her point that cornfields were causing her to stop too often. They were barely making five miles an hour – courtesy of Donina – whilst unknown to her, their pursuers were making between twelve to fifteen miles an hour as they galloped through the cornfields and ate the distance between them. Finally they made the copse by the road and Donina with a sigh large enough for everyone to hear, said, “we have made the road!”

What we have made Donina, is someone threatening your life; our mission, and the lives of this escort for nothing more than your tantrums! Our scouts are already reporting that nearly forty men are pursuing us and they are eight miles behind us. You have wiped out any advantage we had!”

If you had taken the roads, they wouldn’t have found us.”

Donina . We would be twenty miles closer to them and dead by now, if we had. As it is, your arrogance will probably kill all of us, and that includes you, my proud lady!”

So how will you defend me now, my proud leader?”

Possibly, by wringing your neck but that wouldn’t affect your brain, since that is in your loins and your death is all they desire.

If you, Donina, do not delay us any longer with your death wish, there is a second branch from the road about twenty miles ahead. The first branch is eight miles ahead. We need the Cat to spray scent around, and we’ll have to hope they have a Scout who will seek where the horses leave— …? Gods, what am I thinking of? They’ll expect us to leave the escort and the escort then draws them away. We need some decoys to carry on through the trees and be where the road turns off on the bend at eight miles. Others will turn off after twenty miles and the first team will join them. The rest will stay with the plan. The Cat needs to spray its scent through the trees across country for the next twenty miles to attract the hounds. We, Donina, stay with the main party although we’ll lose half the force over the two roads but if you could do your business in the trees for their hounds pick up, some should follow the Guards through the trees; they will take their horses through it and the rest should follow the escort. Hopefully we’ll be able to turn right at the next bend and finally might make Spragend—”

You’re not trying to make Spragend, so why have you headed this way?”

Didn’t King Martan tell you anything?”

I don’t know what you mean.”

Ask yourself this question. If the road to Toshon Village lies to the West, why do you think you have been moving east?”

You decided!”

Do you know where Charguar is, Donina?”

In the mountains to the west.”

Sir Charles Dastry’s Guards are actually in the forest bordering the road you would have to take from Matira with no means of escape and Sir Charles aiming to kill you.”

I don’t understand.”

Leaving Matira and heading west would take us past Sir Charles’ Guards in the forest who could ambush us with archers from north and south of the road. The aim, which you have deliberately thwarted was to head through the cornfields; build up a lead of some miles; head towards Spragend and turn back to the west across some thirty of the Spragend sea. Then we head for the Matira sea and finally make the Toshonia sea which would then allow us to sail Rocs Revenge and be within walking distance of Jacque and Mari.”

Why didn’t you tell me?”

Let’s get on with the job. We need to gallop across this land like a wind passing more than these Guards do. Go between the seas and there are no roads, just rough country. Hopefully by the time they realise, they’ve little chance of catching us as it will be boat and horse and the Drunk should have the first boat hired by the time we get there and he’s had his last drink. The main problem, now, is that we’ve lost our time advantage and King Martan did not plan this route. His plan was for you to use the roads and be caught by Sir Charles.”

That is a lie. You are a traitor! You are sacrificing my life.”

I am not prepared to sacrifice the lives of my Guards for you, and King Martan does not want your child born and I am to cut its throat if it ever—”

That is a lie. He told me he loved me—”

“—Then why did he lie to you. Why did he tell to move slowly. Our only hope was speed and you wiped that out. My Guards with you are just a decoy and Martan thinks you’ll die on the road or in Spragend and my Guards with you – we are all a sacrifice and I’m trying to take you to where you are safe.”

Why would he lie to me. He loves me.”

Why would he marry Princess Routani if he wanted you as his Queen and his is King, and can decide who he marries. There is no law against a King of Matira marrying a commoner.”

There is a law. He can only marry a Princess. That is the law.”

The law is the King and he is the law. He can do whatever he wants and you have no political value and bearing a child, you have the ability to plunge his kingdom into even more warfare. You got yourself pregnant, thinking to control the King. He decided you were disposable and I’m not prepared to risk my life for the antics of a King and concubine.”

You are disloyal—”

But still alive, in spite of you. Our Guards will now reverse and head across cornfields, bypassing yet another forest and we would finally join up with some Guards: surprisingly, at the bit you wanted to meet with Sir Charles and his Guards – forecast at some twenty miles behind us but in fact only eight miles. You left us little chance with your tantrums but they will follow your scent: your urine, and perhaps end that when the hounds find your throat!”

Are they really that close?”

Joshua?”

Yes, Jinny.”

Tell Lady …? Our only hope was speed and she wiped that out. My Guards with you are just a decoy and Martan thinks you’ll die on the road or in Spragend and my Guards with you – we are all a sacrifice and I’m trying to take you to where you are safe.”.”

They are drawing closer the longer we sit here! No matter what plan we decide, we need to move. None of us wishes to die, sat here.”

Jinny rode up to the three Guards she’d selected, “go through the trees. Make sure you create a trail. They probably won’t follow you but at the turn-off after that, you move across country again; another six Guards will move to join you there. You wait for them. I don’t think they will attack you as they should follow Donina’ smells and that will lead them to us. You then harass them from behind. All of you have horse bows – use them. They Cat will go with you. If nothing else, it will confuse them and slow them down, and they will wonder how many Guards we really have left if we can squander Guards? You have leave to run, once you engage them but don’t run to Matira – that should, with luck, confuse them even more and hopefully split their forces. This is your note of authority should you meet patrols on the roads. It requires them to assist you,” They took off and the rest of the Guards moved on at a far faster rate, after Donina had once more excused herself.

Jinny watched them go. There wouldn’t be any Guards for them to meet up with but maybe a couple of Guards who were useless could be targets and join them; you never know, they might survive, or even be of some use, afterwards.

Donina had actually tried to fool King Martan, thinking that if she became pregnant he would not marry Princess Routani. Martan did not want a child as it complicated things and had decided her escape would be her death-trap or at the very least a miscarriage and the problem was over. He knew Sir Charles had Guards in the forests to the west of Matira but it was too close to comfort for him to arrange her death there – it had to be far enough away to blame someone else – she was far too well known as being close to him. Instead the idea was to move her across country on a horse for some forty miles whilst word of her leaving was released to the remaining spies of Sir Charles to make him move.

The Guards were as much a sacrifice as anyone else … Jinny had realised that quite early on. The whole plan was a shambles and the Drunk had slipped away earlier whilst the Cat had followed her hand directions to go through the trees with the small band of Guards.

Convincing Sir Charles was the next target and in this she was aided by the tantrums of Donina who’d deliberately slowed them down. Now all they could do was run and hope to split Sir Charles’ forces. They carried on with her towards the west of Toshonia.

Sir Charles and his Guards had made good time through the cornfields and with the path conveniently beaten down were hardly breaking wind. The path was straight and the hounds were picking up the scent with no trouble at all. They seemed to just love running and were easily outdistancing the horses. Sir Charles was also impressed by Margo’s sons: Bostrus looked after one hound called Trusty; Trevor watched the second hound call Evil, like a hawk and often spent his time chasing it and forcing it to return, while Mansly, who was an excellent scout seemed to look after his two brothers like hounds. Still they were making good time and after Mansly had checked some horse droppings he established that the party some four hours ahead but looking at the signs some appeared to have started for the road; some carried on into the trees and towards the coast and some carried on straight ahead.

Sir Charles asked Mansly for numbers?

Sir Charles, they are deliberately messing up the horses on damp ground and the corn gives little away … I think about twenty— no … my gut feeling is thirty but they have some feline with them and what I don’t understand is that someone who is pregnant is stopping every few miles to pass water; I have children and my wife did not pass water that often when bearing any of my young. It makes me that someone is deliberately slowing them down – as if they want us to reach them – it makes no sense my Lord – no sense at all?”

How long before we catch them?”

I would say four hours, my Lord—”

Then we move—”

Where my Lord. They’ve split into three parties? One towards the coast; one towards the road, and the third through the trees towards the road?”

Follow the scent of the one who keeps passing water.”

That is the one heading to the coast.”

My Lord. If we are wrong, we will never catch them. There are only three and they are making good speed through the trees. Better than they should. They must be a decoy my Lord.”

And if they are not, Mansly? What if they are not?”

I can only advise, my Lord. If we are wrong she could live. If you are right, they still have four hours to reach the coast and take a boat.”

If they take a boat, they will drowned at sea – that will happen.”

As you say, my Lord.”

We head for the road, Mansly, and with all speed.”

Donina, now in a full guard’s uniform was finding the metal across the chest difficult, but not as difficult as passing water standing up in guard’s breeches but she was a lot faster now. The pursuers however, were also faster and they did not appear to be stopping for anything. Jinny looked back and looking at Alison – her third in command, said, “we leave now. Through the trees to the south and we’ll pick up a small village on the Spragend Sea. Fifteen miles and we should just make it. The Drunk should be there, or he and I will have words in hell; over his dead body.”

Move, Jinny, and we’ll have more chance,” and Jinny grabbed the reins of Donina’s horse; pulled it off the road and into the forest. The Cat, as if by magic, now appeared.

Donina started her instant and continuous complaints and had her helmet rattled as Jinny hit it, “Any more out of you and I’ll gag you,” Donina immediately started to argue and found chains around her hands linked to her reins whilst a gag was forced into her mouth; stopping all conversation.

You are not killing me, Donina. You are just a deposed concubine with no more rights than a beggar. These people better be prepared to take you in or you’ll wonder the streets. We’ll head for a boat that the Drunk should have hidden or the Cat wouldn’t be here. The three Guards – I don’t know – maybe just the north port. I will think the Cat has gone missing, and they will be right or not? Now we ride.”

Sir Charles’ Guards finally stopped as the hounds barked and Mansly leapt down from his horse to inspect their point of interest, “Two horse, Sir Charles, have come off the road and headed into the forest. I can’t say any more.”

So three headed through a forest towards the north coast; two head through a forest towards the south coast and the rest follow the road … what I wonder, is the difference? The north gives an ability to escape. The south effectively goes nowhere, and the main Guards are heading to Spragend by the look of it. Is there any smell of the Cat?”

I can set the hounds on it but we lose time, my Lord.”

We will catch them, Mansly. Stand the Guards down but one patrol – have them follow the remainder of the Guards and report back after ten miles; we need a rest and they won’t be able to avoid us. Find if the Cat is around and then we’ll know whether it is another decoy.”

Donina and her Guards made one mistake as they reined up and looked back to check their pursuers. The decoy to the north had not been followed and now headed back to the road to take the patrol from the rear. As the patrol passed they unleashed arrows from their horse bows into the ten guardsmen of Sir Charles.

Donina now headed back to join in the attack, however two of the Guards had been instructed to ride back to the main Guards if they were attacked and now, while they killed his Guards, Sir Charles knew Donina was no longer with those Guards who were attacking his Guards, meaning she was one of the two people heading for the Spragend sea and he immediately gave orders for his main body and the hounds to hunt them down.

Jinny kept dragging Donina’s horse towards the point she agreed to meet the Drunk. It wasn’t easy as Donina kept trying to pull her horse up and Jinny heard the noise of the following Guards moving closer and closer until finally she could see the bay and a small boat.

Looking over her shoulder she could see movement in the trees behind her, and then the Drunk was running towards her from the beach and then stopping as if shot when he saw the chains and gag, “Cut the reins, Drunk; throw her in boat and get us away. We’ve only minutes; they have crossbows and she’s sabotaging us …?” The Drunk slashed the reins with his knife and threw Donina chains and all over his shoulder as he started to stagger towards the boat. Jinny stopped to cut the saddlebags loose and then followed the Drunk; vaulted into the boat and put the saddlebags in the stern whilst the Drunk pushed the boat out and leapt in.

The boat was only some 60 foot from the shore when Sir Charles and his Guards arrived and began firing at the boat. Jinny held up the saddlebags as some kind of protection; feeling several bolts hit them as riders tried to force their horses into the sea to get closer and use their horse bows. She would have liked to use Donina as protection but the Drunk still had some feelings.

Sir Charles watched from the sea as they moved away, “They’ve escaped but we’ll find them and kill them. Where is that bitch heading, I wonder?”

Which bitch, Sir Charles? Those bloody Guards or Donina. The sooner we find them and kill them, the better. Only problem is that, that Guards leader has a brain, and where is that bloody Cat that’s been creating havoc?”

People often think that big Cats don’t swim; perhaps they’re right and paddling doesn’t really count as swimming.

In the Cat’s case, he didn’t care and just followed the boat which once out of the sight turned to the north west and headed for a narrow inlet which eventually measured some eight miles hard rowing. As they neared the inlet the Drunk was feeling in need of several trees to fall on him and that large foaming froth that revived him. Jinny: sick of a spoilt Donina; showed no signs of wanting to remove Donina’s gag or chains; the Drunk’s raised voice finally crept over the laboured sound of the oars, “She needs to drink and breath, Jinny and so do I for that matter although you would possibly disagree?”

I’ve had enough of her, Drunk.”

I’ve had enough as well, Jinny, but I’ve just found a boat that I rode for nigh on eight miles with two of you doing nothing but staring at each other. I can appreciate the gag, Jinny and I’d laughed, if the energy was there, but why the chains?”

Think for a minute, Drunk. Why was Donina trying to make sure Sir Charles caught up with and killed us and believe me she was!”

I always believe you, Jinny but what could she hope to achieve, my occasional love? Sir Charles would kill her as quickly as us. He isn’t going to take Martan’s throwaways or is he? Sir Charles didn’t cross Gods’ know how many seas for to kill a concubine. He came here for something else and I don’t have the faintest idea what he came for? You’re supposed to be the thinking person, Jinny, and she’d derailed you as she does others: her only skill; apart from her body is her mouth, and kingdom politics?”

Assume for a moment, my Drunk, that Sir Charles came for something and it isn’t Donina – why would he pursue Donina to kill her? Why would Donina feel she has something of interest to Sir Charles that would protect her? There are one or more almighty questions here, and Donina appears to know something that she thinks will see her safe my drunken friend?”

There is only the baby, Jinny, and that from a concubine who is being replaced by a Princess who will be a King’s wife.”

Yes, my friendly Drunk but Sir Charles has bigger fish to fry and he will not wish to share his fish and potatoes with Martan’s throwaways.”

Why does he think this is his Kingdom and does Donina know that?”

The Matira’s kept the core as Dwarf held and controlled. He tried to control it. It was twisted into something, the still don’t understand. They adopted other species to dilute challenges but control was always with the Matira’s and using people is never a good idea – they tend to object; Droga’s ceased calling themselves Droga’s but Matira’s killing anyone who spoke against them, also fooled no-one. The Matira’s as part of control, drove the Droga’s underground and Dastry erupts, or so they thought. The Droga’s were widespread with ‘Old Magic’ and they protected themselves in ways they knew. The Dwarfs failed to kill them. That is why we have the ‘Old Stock’ and the Cats. Donina can’t keep her mouth shut any more than her bladder but she has learnt something and I prefer not to know, otherwise I will cut her throat for her knowledge.”

We can’t keep her in chains and gagged. We have move three miles to the second boat on the Matira sea and then finally five miles to the Toshonian Sea to finally pick up the last piece of road – Unchain her.”

Jinny finally unwrapped Donina’s chains and it took a lot of thought to get them from her neck, and as Donina threw herself at Jinny as they chains came off; she again, wrapped them around Donina’s neck.

The Drunk watched this, and wished he’d been able to take a drink. You don’t mess with women but he took the gag off and said, “I’ll cut both your throats if you carry on, and if I have to – neither of you will need a gag after that!”

I’m just trying to protect myself.”

Both of you stopped that a long time ago – now you just use people for the little we have, and they little you desire. You are trying to kill everyone because you think that is how you survive. King Martan wants you dead and you are not killing us as well – neither of you. We have a three mile walk to another boat and then hours of rowing to travel fifteen miles. Five mile walk after that and another fifteen miles and then it gets difficult, and I’m the one doing the work on the oars. Choose?”

I could have saved everyone if I met Sir Charles. He would give anything for a son of King Martan.”

And if it is a daughter?”

It will be a son – I know.”

When do you ever stop lying, Donina. Had it been a son and Martan has his priests and priestesses, you would not be on the road nor would Martan be looking for another woman. A daughter, however, could give birth to another son and a challenger for the Kingdom – you are having a daughter and you know, that but you would sacrifice all of us for yourself. I keep my honour, Donina, more you can keep anything. You will reach your refuge and let them deal with you because I have had enough of you, in all senses!”

In the meantime, Alison had chosen to forget his instructions since there seemed little point in following them and was now heading to the west following some way behind Sir Charles and his forces – there was also Jinny’s comments to Alison and that they weren’t meant to survive and Alison intended to.

Of her Guards she’d detoured and picked up the other decoys and they now numbered twenty three in total – a sufficient force for safety but one that should be in Spragend and not in force on the King’s roads and there was possibly a problem if they met any of the King’s Guards – assuming they lived. Reaching Toshon Village – most of them had thrown off their armour already – Jinny would have spoken to them for that but she’d kept her armour bright and on – well it had taken a few drinks – and in battle, you might need to be free. The slice down so you parried ready as the blade and a few other things happened. She rode up front; they weren’t bandit but the word had obviously gone out; they were dead and she didn’t understand that as they met the first bunch of patrols met who attacked them. How could they be bandits; already they were bandits and if not bandits, they treated as bandits.

Maybe they could make their way to Frania. They always needed Guards in Frania.

Kyle was already reeling with a mind entering his and saying, “I have bonded with you.” He’d already had the Women’s Committee virtually accuse him of attacking the woman he found by the road and tried to help. Now he was told he could not hunt Roc eggs unless allowed.

What were they trying to do to him. He’d done nothing wrong. He’d tried to help a girl in trouble; tried to feed the village with old and dead Roc eggs, and caught fish for the village. Were the fish going to start talking to him, now? He went back to the trees he tied his nets too and looked for any catch – nothing – it made, not only his day, but a complete month of isolation – even his toes were giving him grief and Tare wouldn’t touch them until she was pregnant. One thing, however, was dying, whilst his toenails were bidding for freedom, and that was his belief in anything.

It was a hike to Jacque and Mari but Jacque often had some fish left and Kyle could do with a bit of luck after today and getting away from the rocks and the Rocs …?

What a can of life is this when a Roc is in your brain and watching you like a hawk; maybe she, or he watches you like a Roc and the Women’s Council or Committee used every way they could to attack any man who achieves and ‘Old Stock’ – maybe he was ‘Old Stock’ like Jacque and Mari – forced out unless needed; he was certainly ready to leave everything and everyone!

His leaving, however, was subject to getting some fish; walking five miles to Jacque and Mari with his toenails grating the ends of his boots and then back into his toes … perhaps Mari would cut them and he’d see if there was anything he could exchange for a little relief although Tare would yet again, go berserk when she found out his toenails were cut.

Visiting Jacque and Mari took him a good way from the village. They were on the coast and that was not by choice.

They were, in the words of the Women’s Council, ‘Old Stock’ – to be ignored – as if they didn’t exist but you might then ask why members of the Women’s Council walked about eight miles at night to find people who did not exist and one thing you would find were completely blank looks if you dared ask where they going, and where were the rampaging wolves who it appeared, knew better than to face the Women’s Council, still Kyle needed some fish. With no Roc eggs – not allowed; nothing from his nets; his wife not expecting; a Roc bonded with him which would put anyone off mating as three of you would be enjoying it he have even more grief from the women.

Kyle wondered what Gods he’d offended – there must be a lot of them to offend and he’d obviously found everyone, and they’d obviously found him despite his hiding from the Woman’s Council, who acted like Goddesses?

Jacque and Mari lived a hundred yards back from the coast and the Franian Sea and eventually he was almost there. You approached them through a copse of three large pines where their Hawks were based and lived wild. Why they did not fly off, Kyle never knew but the Hawks knew him and so did the large Cat who wandered up and sniffed him with Jacque looking up as Kyle approached.

Jacque didn’t look more than forty years old yet seemed to have been around for longer than anyone knew. Sandy haired like the Cat, blue eyes as opposed to the Cat’s black eyes, Jacque match Mari in everything but shape and height – in strength, maybe they were matched but both kept to themselves, tended their herbs; trained their hawks and fished.

They lived fairly simply but over the years had added to their home and now there were two conical roofs spread across a wooden framework. One had a trough filled with both fish and water to keep the fish fresh and this was just below one open side of one hut. Everything was built on stilts although the water never came this far – perhaps it once did? The two sides of the huts were joined by a wooden walkway but stretched some fifteen foot across by some eight foot in length and there were hooks inside for four hammocks if you were desperate and Kyle when faced with Tare’s renown temper, sought a hammock – often moving at speed. There were steps down the sides to the sand and a walkway from the front of both huts towards the sea – it again looked as if the sea had once swept this far in.

Jacque smiled as Kyle approached, “if you are running from the Women’s Committee, they are already on the way. Mari’s hawks saw them,” Kyle realised that the hawks would have seen him, too.

Is no-where safe?”

You seem selected for something, Kyle, but to put your mind at rest, you are not ‘Old Stock, you are merely in the wrong or right place at the wrong or right time.”

If I am, I don’t know what. I went to find some fish and Roc eggs; instead I find a girl lying by the road and then, when I get her to the village they attack me. I head back to the fish pens and nothing; then a Roc bonds with me and Tare wants me to get her pregnant. Now I have no fish; no Roc eggs and something in my mind whether I like it or not.”

I always keep a few fish back for you. It’s not easy when you try and help people. You succeed and no-one gives you credit – fail and they’re all on your back, but I’ll tell the Women’s Committee the fish are yours; you are repaying a favour to me, and they can carry them back although the men will get the job. Follow the Cat when he gets back, into the trees, and hide, he’s watching the women at the moment, along with the hawks.”

Kyle looked up as he heard another shout and saw Mari pointing back into the trees, it sounded like, “go, Kyle,” and Kyle wasn’t waiting for the women to arrive; running for the trees like a bat out of hell, with the Cat overtaking him – maybe they crossed the finishing line together and if not, it wasn’t for want of trying. They barely made it before the women arrive with four men carrying a stretcher with a body on it and Mari met them as they arrived.

The Women’s Council were a fearsome bunch. Tare had the tolerance of a snake guarding its young and it was made worse as she felt Kyle was failing in her desires for children. Half the time she couldn’t even keep him awake at night as he roamed further and further afield in his mental search for food. Tare was five foot two inches; blue eyes again and she hated that; as she did the blond hair that marked her and she wanted children.

Sueshar was famous for refusing any man who could not wrestle her.

Greta usually wrestled them with her mouth which never seemed to close.

Tonya, on the other hand, or usually a male, seemed to have no problems with her mouth or men, until she wore them out.

Minine usually worked from where she couldn’t be seen. Causing trouble where she felt it could not be tracked back to her and Stort her husband; leaving Sophia, who considered herself worldly-wise having lived in an isolated village all her life.

Together, they spent more time either fighting or gossiping or in a lot of cases planning for themselves and not the village to be little more than trouble!

They’re were four stumps of trees behind the first hut-like building and the makeshift stretcher was finally laid down there. Tare – self appointed but unchallenged in the Council stared at Mari until her eyes were virtually watering.

There really was no point in try to out-stare Mari – it was like staring at a rock-face, “Kyle brought this woman to the village and then ran away!”

You mean that you and these women attacked him without thinking because he was a man and this was an injured woman?”

No-one attacked Kyle, he ran!”

Faced with Harpies like you, anyone with any sense would run. Most of you are only interested in yourselves and attacking men. Leave her and go. Take the fish Kyle caught earlier – he cares more for your village more than you ever will! Go before I lose my temper – go!”

To say the Women’s Council ran would be inaccurate. They gathered their skirts to their thighs as the hawks swooped down over them and overtook each other as they left; the men who knew their job, looked at Jacque and Mari, and waited: “at the side of the side; there; put the fish into the bags and I want the bags back – Kyle is helping me and will sleep here tonight. Tell that to this bunch of Harpies!”

Jacque watched them put them put the fresh fish into the bags. He hated this long death for the fish, who would probably be dried by the time they reach the village and suffer the worst deaths you could imagine but the villagers never seemed to think of anyone but themselves.

They finally left and he watched Kyle and the Cat move from the trees as he walked towards Mari and the body – still alive – but not for long he felt.

Mari looked up as he arrived by the body, “She is wandering but there is very little left. Thinks she is a Roc and keeps trying to fly in her mind. Only thing keeping her alive.”

What Roc is she flying with, Jacque?”

I have no idea, Kyle … Mari is doing the work …?”

Tell Mari what you know about Rocs.”

A Roc bonded with me, Mari. I have never bonded with anyone but Tare; if that was ever possible but a Roc came into my mind as I looked at the fish and told me she had been instructed to bond with me.”

Then we need to find your Roc. Who she is flying with?”

I don’t know but if she is bonded she must know of this conversation and her name is Mona Roc.”

From your description, Mona Roc wasn’t just an outcast from the Rocs who lived here, she is excluded completely – she can’t even sit in the rocks.”

Like Rona, there was a time and family gap and in any case, they were both four hundred years older without the pleasure or experience of knowing it.

Mona Roc was being held liable for mistakes she’d made four hundred year before in moments of panic as everyone’s world failed. Even her own kind didn’t, wouldn’t, and couldn’t know the decisions she made in seconds. There wasn’t a Council of Rocs to guide, just very little, if any time to decide and act.

Now, there was nothing for her and she kept a tight hold on Rona Matira’s mind to preserve her own sanity, and now in Kyle’s mind he saw Rona and the senseless and lifeless state Mona had put her in to.

Mari just gently touched Rona’s head and looked at Jacque, “Often they drive us away because we’d uncover them – too many ‘Old Stock’ in the old areas – maybe we should have gone to Frania … ‘Old Stock’ are prized there and not prised out.”

The girl needs attention, Mari, not history!”

History is killing her, Jacque. I need the Roc whose in her mind and I think it’s the one in Kyle’s mind as well. The Roc also feels that Kyle has killed the sick and old – there’s more but without the Roc I can’t do anything.”

Mari placed her hands on Rona’s head, listened and again heard a screaming voice as a Roc forgot there was someone on their back in the sheer exuberance of feeling she could fly everywhere she had been denied and only as she soared did she realise her back was lighter. She turned her head to look at her back and realised there was no-one there. She sought for the mind as it fell and then seized on it as she sped down, aiming at a dwindling speck … maybe … maybe—

Now we call Mona Roc and she will come, Jacque – she will come and she will join us!”

How will you call her? We can link to hawks and an old Cat but we cannot link to Rocs?”

Kyle is linked to this Roc … I know it … I damn well know it Jacque. This Roc has taken over this girl’s mind but the Roc is linked to Kyle and Kyle must call her,” Kyle looked at them once again and ruffled Cat’s mane. What was going on? Everything seemed to be his problem?

The question was swiftly answered when Mona Roc landed in the trees and looked down at Rona lying there. Mona searched around for minds.

Kyle’s she knew but she’d also embedded herself in Rona’s mind and Rona’s death would kill her in agony if she stayed, “then a voice echoed in her own mind. You are killing this girl; leave her or die with her, Mona Roc!”

You do not tell me what I do. My bond was before your birth!”

Was it, Mona Roc. How many others were outside of the bubble when it sank. How many were frozen a bubble but did not sink or died as the land sank, and the earth and water swept in, summons for the Matira’s in the revenge of the Dwarf. You flew; others fought, died but some survived. Your bond to Rona Matira was a personal choice; our lives were a fervent desire and little you cared for that. Release her, Mona Roc. She will bond again with you again, should she choose – release her or she will die. You now occupy her whole body as well as her mind. There is nothing left in her to provide what is necessary for her to live”

If I release her, Mari. I will die.”

How do you know, Mona Roc?”

I put myself into her body as she fell. It was the only way I could find her.”

Put yourself into my mind and body, Mona Roc. I need to know your true and complete identity so I recognise your pattern in Rona Matira and by putting yourself into my body you will have another body pattern and then we can remove you from others and keep you alive and you need to leave the mind of Kyle Nonsat was well.”

Mona Roc flew to the raised walkway at the front of the first house and her message to Mari was, “If I leave the mind of Kyle Nonsat the other Rocs will kill me. It is their instruction that I bond with him to stop him killing unborn and sick Roc children. I cannot leave Kyle Nonsat’s mind.”

Kyle’s wife wishes to be pregnant. He does not want you in his mind when he is with his wife.”

I will set my mind to only be with him when he approaches Roc’s Revenge. That should satisfy him, but my sin was let my love of air and flying over-rule my feelings for Rona Matira who was never of Matira stock anyway but adopted, and then excluded by the Matira’s. I befriended her because she had no-one and it suited me to feel her young mind, and then through my own stupidity I nearly killed her and then caused this.”

Pride is a sin you don’t mention Mona Roc and I can do nothing about that but with your help I can save this young girl, although what I save her for, is another matter. Maybe that she was young and abandoned will save her but we have no children and we know of her time so perhaps she will stay here if she has a life again.”

What do you want me to do, Mari Hawk?”

First, you must never utter my real name. I take a risk by even allowing you to enter my mind as it has knowledge no-one must know or our lives would be forfeit throughout the land. You must blend your mind and self to me as you did with Rona Matira and Rona must adopt the name of Hawk. She cannot use the name of Matira. I will change her understanding as I use your presence to enter her body, spirit and mind. She must live a different life under a different name – she cannot go back four hundred years.”

When do you wish to mind-meld?”

Now is as good a time as any.”

Posted in Adventure, Authors, Book, Books, cirencester, Cotswolds, Fantasy, Fiction Writing, Literary Agents, novels, Writing, Writing Novels

#amwriting #amwritingfantasy General Update

Finally finished the edit/re-write on the 1st 200 pages.

Lot of work still to to do and I wont write further until I realise what the hell I’m doing.

As I’ve said before, I lost everything and cobbling everything together has resulted in a mismatch and I need, now I’ve seen the last pages to put it all onto that quality.

Aim is to use Scrivener but I have to learn that now and start at the beginning.

Still it is 200 pages and 65K words to work from but it needs to be worked professionally.

For those who like my stuff – this is the final chunk.

Dave

We need to head east, my Lady but someone inconveniently built the road from Matira to the west – taking us in the wrong direction and in what will be public sight in a few hours. We need to move to the east and remain out of sight – King Martan already holds one Spy Master in his dungeons plus several who came to find. It won’t be long before whoever employs knows he has disappeared. Quite severe questioning has highlighted his employer as Sir Charles Dastry. If we follow the sea coast until it ends, we are some ten miles from the road but eighty miles closer and undiscovered. We can ease your condition by riding slowly – on the road, we would have to move at speed. The Drunk and I also have a Cat and he will be prowling and scenting for anyone following.”

Who chose this route?”

I did, and with the Cat I have more chance of guaranteeing your safety than by blindly following a road in the wrong direction. Are you ready to ride?”

You seemed frightened?”

I am alive and I have been, as a trooper, for many years. I would not tell you how to act as a concubine, please don’t tell me how to act as a trooper and King Martan considers me a ‘lucky trooper’ as I usually win. That is why I have this job, now please mount your horse and will we move out before we alert the whole country and don’t think that no-one is looking for you. An exhausted rider from Charguar reported to King Martan shortly before he spoke to you, and I know what the King heard. Sir Charles Dastry recently landed in Toshonia and is now raising a Guards of villains and two black hounds the size of the Cat to move on Matira and the King …? You would be a bonus and hurt the King more than anything.”

So menace stalked me before I even left the castle; together with two killer hounds.”

Yes. That is another reason why we take this route. There is only one way they can follow our tracks if they pick this route, otherwise they must use the road; travel the extra distance and face the extra patrols that King Martan has on the roads; also the Cat is watching our backs. It was obvious that Sir Charles has his own spies in the castle and you went to bed with King Martan as a concubine and left as a guard. In some hours, someone will be on their way to Charguar to inform Sir Charles that Lady Donina has not made her usual toilette visits and this will alert them. It won’t take long for a late night patrol to be connected to this and that is also why riding directly towards them is not a good idea. We also need to move slowly and the dogs, if they follow will smell us and they will move faster than can and once they get close enough they can take out horses and people. Our only hopes are that it will take them time to get here and pick up the scent or else they will lose any scents on the roads – one reason for the extra patrols. The black hounds don’t need to kill and the hounds take a lot of killing. Even Cat can only handle one but Cat does have a brain and he uses it, amongst his other tricks. Let’s move; we are wasting time.”

Sir Charles, after a good bath, good meal and a bottle of rot gut wine that he donated to the Guards still at Margo’s house, slept well, which was hardly surprising, considering his trip on the broom and he was breaking his fast with Margo when they heard the messenger arrive and Margo was the first out of the house.

What news, Trevor?”

Routine, Margo. No sign of the Spy Master and anyone asking vanishes. King Martan is still in the castle. Donina appears to be staying with him in the King’s bedchambers, and that has been known to happen before. More patrols than normal on the roads but no reason as far as anyone knows. It is said, ‘Princess Routani will be arriving shortly’, but no confirmation of that. Everything seems to be quiet and no real signs of anything. If there are any changes, a rider is available and will be here. It is only eighty miles from Matira and the rider would kill his horse to bring news so you will hear within six hours if anything changes.”

Rest yourself and your horse, Trevor, head for the tavern and I’ll summons you if I need you.”

Thank you, Margo,” and Trevor headed back down the road as Sir Charles looked at Margo.

Can you trust him, Margo?”

As much as any of my sons, Sir Charles.”

Donina’s escort progressed some ten miles through the cornfields, which were a little lower in some places and even lower, where the horses trampled. Eight miles from the road that Donina demanded so turning south was her demand. Once again, Donina hit the wall of Jinny, “No, Donina. It is only eight miles to the road but just another fourteen to the small copse adjoining the road. The longer we stay off the road the safer we are and the hounds can’t pick up scent unless they know our route and target. It should leave us seventy miles ahead of them if they use the road and these cornfields should make the hounds work, a lot heavier, but they will be on our trail by the time we reach the copse. Sure as a rooster’s crow in the morning.”

And when they find us?”

We will have some hounds and people to kill,” and much to Donina’s chagrin and bowels, they continued east across the cornfields, avoiding any farms.”

It was some eight hours later when both Donina, her escort, and Sir Charles’ second messenger finally found their respective destinations.

Donina’s destination, to her disgust, was the copse by the road and Donina was finally realising that her running a kingdom, as she felt she had, was dependent on King Martan sleeping with her.

Sir Charles’ messenger almost became a corpse when Sir Charles’ temper exploded, until he found himself looking into a small stirrup crossbow he didn’t realise Margo was aiming at his head, “You don’t shoot the messenger, Sir Charles, although given that Bostrus is my son, I have often felt like it myself. I may shoot you, if you continue to threaten him!”

My apologies, Bostrus. Do we really know Donina has left the castle and in what direction she has gone?”

All we know my Lord is that she has not made her usual visits and that they are something she can not avoid making. No-one can remember seeing her this morning so she is either dead or has left the castle.”

How in all the nether-hells that we have can she have left the castle with all your diligent watchers, Bostrus?”

Without the orders of your vanishing Spy Master, my Lord, we had no instructions and my Lord, and we are weak without regular meals, like others who haven’t been paid, either. A Guards of Guards left the castle late last night; we can only guess they were her Guards and the odd thing was that they set across the cornfields to the east. They may then have taken ship; travelled to the roads or settled at one of the farms; carried on to the east?”

How soon can we travel, Margo?”

My sons, who you are abusing, my Lord, prepared carts with clean clothes, good armour and good horses, overnight. They hold the honour of the Droga’s high. The dogs are already fed and on reins to the carts. The best scout I could hire – Mansly, also my son – is already being raised from his bed and he knows the hounds and scouting people – how do you think we’ve survived without any resources from you, who now demand instant obedience. There are twenty six people in your escort, excluding anyone your Spy Master employed and these are quality people who will want paying, my Lord!”

With these four and nine in the forest, their is another thirteen – a significant number, so forty – including myself – will find the Lady Donina and kill her.”

As you wish, my Lord.”

You doubt my success, Margo?”

Donina has survived over eight attempts to end her life in the last year. Martan may become erratic if she dies and seek those who killed her. That would include myself and my family. You are the rightful King of Matira, my Lord and your dagger proves that. I sacrifice everything I have for the oaths we once gave to a Droga King of Toshonia. Do not squander that, my Lord!”

Sir Charles looked at Margo … the only reliable person he could trust and she considered him a useless traitor to his heritage. Sir Charles and his Guards finally moved, although Troupe seemed a little more realistic to him as he reviewed them watched them canter off in front of him.

It took a while before they finally found the bandits in the forest and he could not think of them as otherwise. His Spy Master had been good. He would never have employed these people. So what had happened to his Spy Master.

King Martan was in his dungeons and especially the one containing Lusus Mariettas – Sir Charles’ Spy Master – Lusus lived; currently or lately was a future decision, if Martan released him, having extracted, previously, Sir Charles funds and information, and thank you very much, Lusus, thought King Martan. King Martan’s real enjoyment as his own spies arrested all of the people who came to find the Spy Master was their talking … yes … he did enjoy listening to it: and did they like to talk as they hung from their feet over his tower, but he also had dogs to feed and dog food wasn’t cheap and they were trying to undermine his kingdom, so the dogs ate, and he learnt.

The Spy Master had now admitted to anything and Martan decided Lusus couldn’t be turned any further. They knew all his contacts – virtually everyone he’d ever met and Martan needed Laseith within reach; Routani was the means but Laseith’s greed the attraction, and the method. Martan would need more priest and priestesses than he could probably afford to protect him but Sir Charles’ money would go towards that. They would be trying to kill him and Donina, and Sir Charles should interfere with both Routani and Laseith’s plans if allowed enough leverage. He felt he’d built enough protection for the moment.

They were following and concentrating on Donina, who would lead them a merry chase?

She’d led everyone else merry chases for years!

All he needed now, were their Spy Masters and networks: much as he loved Donina, she would be a fool to think he would put her life before his or his rule; Sir Charles’ Guards would follow her, and he would regret the deaths but he would rule, and she would die, and that was a fact of ruling!

Sir Charles didn’t even bother to leave his horse. Watching this made some of his worst days, seem brighter. Burning the forest with this bunch in it seemed a fair option but it wouldn’t make them move any faster: they weren’t capable of it; some were grateful to have decent clothing and armour for a change; some did not seem to know the difference and started to fight and gamble over the clothing and armour – the forest might as well be a low tavern for these people, “Mansly, find out the description of those who hired these peasants, and then sent them away south to the roads. The King’s patrols will find them and feel we are following the roads to find Donina – let them! At best, they can also feed the hounds and keep my food bills down?”

Do you want me to set the hounds on them, Sir Charles. The hounds can be choosy on food?”

We have use for the hounds, let us not destroy their taste for meat! We move across country with your mother’s Guards. The rest follow the road to Spragend … it deserves them, but give them some money – they must be able to pay their way and take the time up of the Matira road patrols.”

Sir Charles, who was by now, finding levels of calm he’d never understood nor wanted, finally watched the refuse of his Spy Master’s recruitment rid off towards the roads. With luck they would meet and be killed by the Matira patrols which would divert the patrols from following him across country.

Matira was only twenty five miles away – rough riding.

Sir Charles was surprised as they were on several occasions forced into hiding as large patrols of sixty to seventy armoured Guards rode across the countryside towards them as if they knew the route he was taking. The hounds did play a part in disrupting the patrols and then as Mansly whistled, disappearing again but it became fairly obvious that the patrols were not interested in people in the country and would rather be on the roads.

Finally, after eight hours hard riding, added to ten hours hiding, plus to fifteen hours lost waiting for news, with another eight hours delay before they finally skirted Matira castle; they finally headed into the cornfields conveniently broken for them by Donina and her escort. The escort had some thirty one hours of time ahead of them, at least but Sir Charles didn’t need dogs to follow this trail and their speed was a lot faster than Donina’s and her escort. The dogs had also picked up the Cat’s scent and wee and were roaming over the cornfields like hounds looking for a Cat. The Cat did move across the country a lot but Mansly had no problem with the dogs and once he heard their howl of scent whistled commands to bring them back. They were following a bunch of horsemen treading down a crop field and with the crop field flattened they were able to canter with very little effort even with the hounds smelling the Cat.

The time advantage was being worn down by Donina, who unused to not getting her own way, was now playing King Martan’s deathly games for him. She wanted to head for the road so it was more comfortable, and was increasing her toilet stops to make her point that cornfields were causing her to stop too often. They were barely making five miles an hour – courtesy of Donina – whilst unknown to her, their pursuers were making between twelve to fifteen miles an hour as they galloped through the cornfields and ate the distance between them. Finally they made the copse by the road and Donina with a sigh large enough for everyone to hear, said, “we have made the road!”

What we have made Donina, is someone threatening your life; our mission, and the lives of this escort for nothing more than your tantrums! Our scouts are already reporting that nearly forty men are pursuing us and they are eight miles behind us. You have wiped out any advantage we had!”

If you had taken the roads, they wouldn’t have found us.”

Donina . We would be twenty miles closer to them and dead by now, if we had. As it is, your arrogance will probably kill all of us, and that includes you, my proud lady!”

So how will you defend me now, my proud leader?”

Possibly, by wringing your neck but that wouldn’t affect your brain, since that is in your loins and your death is all they desire.

If you, Donina, do not delay us any longer with your death wish, there is a second branch from the road about twenty miles ahead. The first branch is eight miles ahead. We need the Cat to spray scent around, and we’ll have to hope they have a Scout who will seek where the horses leave— …? Gods, what am I thinking of? They’ll expect us to leave the escort and the escort then draws them away. We need some decoys to carry on through the trees and be where the road turns off on the bend at eight miles. Others will turn off after twenty miles and the first team will join them. The rest will stay with the plan. The Cat needs to spray its scent through the trees across country for the next twenty miles to attract the hounds. We, Donina, stay with the main party although we’ll lose half the force over the two roads but if you could do your business in the trees for their hounds pick up, some should follow the Guards through the trees; they will take their horses through it and the rest should follow the escort. Hopefully we’ll be able to turn right at the next bend and finally might make Spragend—”

You’re not trying to make Spragend, so why have you headed this way?”

Didn’t King Martan tell you anything?”

I don’t know what you mean.”

Ask yourself this question. If the road to Toshon Village lies to the West, why do you think you have been moving east?”

You decided!”

Do you know where Charguar is, Donina?”

In the mountains to the west.”

Sir Charles Dastry’s Guards are actually in the forest bordering the road you would have to take from Matira with no means of escape and Sir Charles aiming to kill you.”

I don’t understand.”

Leaving Matira and heading west would take us past Sir Charles’ Guards in the forest who could ambush us with archers from north and south of the road. The aim, which you have deliberately thwarted was to head through the cornfields; build up a lead of some miles; head towards Spragend and turn back to the west across some thirty of the Spragend sea. Then we head for the Matira sea and finally make the Toshonia sea which would then allow us to sail Rocs Revenge and be within walking distance of Jacque and Mari.”

Why didn’t you tell me?”

Let’s get on with the job. We need to gallop across this land like a wind passing more than these Guards do. Go between the seas and there are no roads, just rough country. Hopefully by the time they realise, they’ve little chance of catching us as it will be boat and horse and the Drunk should have the first boat hired by the time we get there and he’s had his last drink. The main problem, now, is that we’ve lost our time advantage and King Martan did not plan this route. His plan was for you to use the roads and be caught by Sir Charles.”

That is a lie. You are a traitor! You are sacrificing my life.”

I am not prepared to sacrifice the lives of my Guards for you, and King Martan does not want your child born and I am to cut its throat if it ever—”

That is a lie. He told me he loved me—”

“—Then why did he lie to you. Why did he tell to move slowly. Our only hope was speed and you wiped that out. My Guards with you are just a decoy and Martan thinks you’ll die on the road or in Spragend and my Guards with you – we are all a sacrifice and I’m trying to take you to where you are safe.”

Why would he lie to me. He loves me.”

Why would he marry Princess Routani if he wanted you as his Queen and his is King, and can decide who he marries. There is no law against a King of Matira marrying a commoner.”

There is a law. He can only marry a Princess. That is the law.”

The law is the King and he is the law. He can do whatever he wants and you have no political value and bearing a child, you have the ability to plunge his kingdom into even more warfare. You got yourself pregnant, thinking to control the King. He decided you were disposable and I’m not prepared to risk my life for the antics of a King and concubine.”

You are disloyal—”

But still alive, in spite of you. Our Guards will now reverse and head across cornfields, bypassing yet another forest and we would finally join up with some Guards: surprisingly, at the bit you wanted to meet with Sir Charles and his Guards – forecast at some twenty miles behind us but in fact only eight miles. You left us little chance with your tantrums but they will follow your scent: your urine, and perhaps end that when the hounds find your throat!”

Are they really that close?”

Joshua?”

Yes, Jinny.”

Tell Lady …? Our only hope was speed and she wiped that out. My Guards with you are just a decoy and Martan thinks you’ll die on the road or in Spragend and my Guards with you – we are all a sacrifice and I’m trying to take you to where you are safe.”.”

They are drawing closer the longer we sit here! No matter what plan we decide, we need to move. None of us wishes to die, sat here.”

Jinny rode up to the three Guards she’d selected, “go through the trees. Make sure you create a trail. They probably won’t follow you but at the turn-off after that, you move across country again; another six Guards will move to join you there. You wait for them. I don’t think they will attack you as they should follow Donina’ smells and that will lead them to us. You then harass them from behind. All of you have horse bows – use them. They Cat will go with you. If nothing else, it will confuse them and slow them down, and they will wonder how many Guards we really have left if we can squander Guards? You have leave to run, once you engage them but don’t run to Matira – that should, with luck, confuse them even more and hopefully split their forces. This is your note of authority should you meet patrols on the roads. It requires them to assist you,” They took off and the rest of the Guards moved on at a far faster rate, after Donina had once more excused herself.

Jinny watched them go. There wouldn’t be any Guards for them to meet up with but maybe a couple of Guards who were useless could be targets and join them; you never know, they might survive, or even be of some use, afterwards.

Donina had actually tried to fool King Martan, thinking that if she became pregnant he would not marry Princess Routani. Martan did not want a child as it complicated things and had decided her escape would be her death-trap or at the very least a miscarriage and the problem was over. He knew Sir Charles had Guards in the forests to the west of Matira but it was too close to comfort for him to arrange her death there – it had to be far enough away to blame someone else – she was far too well known as being close to him. Instead the idea was to move her across country on a horse for some forty miles whilst word of her leaving was released to the remaining spies of Sir Charles to make him move.

The Guards were as much a sacrifice as anyone else … Jinny had realised that quite early on. The whole plan was a shambles and the Drunk had slipped away earlier whilst the Cat had followed her hand directions to go through the trees with the small band of Guards.

Convincing Sir Charles was the next target and in this she was aided by the tantrums of Donina who’d deliberately slowed them down. Now all they could do was run and hope to split Sir Charles’ forces. They carried on with her towards the west of Toshonia.

Sir Charles and his Guards had made good time through the cornfields and with the path conveniently beaten down were hardly breaking wind. The path was straight and the hounds were picking up the scent with no trouble at all. They seemed to just love running and were easily outdistancing the horses. Sir Charles was also impressed by Margo’s sons: Bostrus looked after one hound called Trusty; Trevor watched the second hound call Evil, like a hawk and often spent his time chasing it and forcing it to return, while Mansly, who was an excellent scout seemed to look after his two brothers like hounds. Still they were making good time and after Mansly had checked some horse droppings he established that the party some four hours ahead but looking at the signs some appeared to have started for the road; some carried on into the trees and towards the coast and some carried on straight ahead.

Sir Charles asked Mansly for numbers?

Sir Charles, they are deliberately messing up the horses on damp ground and the corn gives little away … I think about twenty— no … my gut feeling is thirty but they have some feline with them and what I don’t understand is that someone who is pregnant is stopping every few miles to pass water; I have children and my wife did not pass water that often when bearing any of my young. It makes me that someone is deliberately slowing them down – as if they want us to reach them – it makes no sense my Lord – no sense at all?”

How long before we catch them?”

I would say four hours, my Lord—”

Then we move—”

Where my Lord. They’ve split into three parties? One towards the coast; one towards the road, and the third through the trees towards the road?”

Follow the scent of the one who keeps passing water.”

That is the one heading to the coast.”

My Lord. If we are wrong, we will never catch them. There are only three and they are making good speed through the trees. Better than they should. They must be a decoy my Lord.”

And if they are not, Mansly? What if they are not?”

I can only advise, my Lord. If we are wrong she could live. If you are right, they still have four hours to reach the coast and take a boat.”

If they take a boat, they will drowned at sea – that will happen.”

As you say, my Lord.”

We head for the road, Mansly, and with all speed.”

Donina, now in a full guard’s uniform was finding the metal across the chest difficult, but not as difficult as passing water standing up in guard’s breeches but she was a lot faster now. The pursuers however, were also faster and they did not appear to be stopping for anything. Jinny looked back and looking at Alison – her third in command, said, “we leave now. Through the trees to the south and we’ll pick up a small village on the Spragend Sea. Fifteen miles and we should just make it. The Drunk should be there, or he and I will have words in hell; over his dead body.”

Move, Jinny, and we’ll have more chance,” and Jinny grabbed the reins of Donina’s horse; pulled it off the road and into the forest. The Cat, as if by magic, now appeared.

Donina started her instant and continuous complaints and had her helmet rattled as Jinny hit it, “Any more out of you and I’ll gag you,” Donina immediately started to argue and found chains around her hands linked to her reins whilst a gag was forced into her mouth; stopping all conversation.

You are not killing me, Donina. You are just a deposed concubine with no more rights than a beggar. These people better be prepared to take you in or you’ll wonder the streets. We’ll head for a boat that the Drunk should have hidden or the Cat wouldn’t be here. The three Guards – I don’t know – maybe just the north port. I will think the Cat has gone missing, and they will be right or not? Now we ride.”

Sir Charles’ Guards finally stopped as the hounds barked and Mansly leapt down from his horse to inspect their point of interest, “Two horse, Sir Charles, have come off the road and headed into the forest. I can’t say any more.”

So three headed through a forest towards the north coast; two head through a forest towards the south coast and the rest follow the road … what I wonder, is the difference? The north gives an ability to escape. The south effectively goes nowhere, and the main Guards are heading to Spragend by the look of it. Is there any smell of the Cat?”

I can set the hounds on it but we lose time, my Lord.”

We will catch them, Mansly. Stand the Guards down but one patrol – have them follow the remainder of the Guards and report back after ten miles; we need a rest and they won’t be able to avoid us. Find if the Cat is around and then we’ll know whether it is another decoy.”

Donina and her Guards made one mistake as they reined up and looked back to check their pursuers. The decoy to the north had not been followed and now headed back to the road to take the patrol from the rear. As the patrol passed they unleashed arrows from their horse bows into the ten guardsmen of Sir Charles.

Donina now headed back to join in the attack, however two of the Guards had been instructed to ride back to the main Guards if they were attacked and now, while they killed his Guards, Sir Charles knew Donina was no longer with those Guards who were attacking his Guards, meaning she was one of the two people heading for the Spragend sea and he immediately gave orders for his main body and the hounds to hunt them down.

Jinny kept dragging Donina’s horse towards the point she agreed to meet the Drunk. It wasn’t easy as Donina kept trying to pull her horse up and Jinny heard the noise of the following Guards moving closer and closer until finally she could see the bay and a small boat.

Looking over her shoulder she could see movement in the trees behind her, and then the Drunk was running towards her from the beach and then stopping as if shot when he saw the chains and gag, “Cut the reins, Drunk; throw her in boat and get us away. We’ve only minutes; they have crossbows and she’s sabotaging us …?” The Drunk slashed the reins with his knife and threw Donina chains and all over his shoulder as he started to stagger towards the boat. Jinny stopped to cut the saddlebags loose and then followed the Drunk; vaulted into the boat and put the saddlebags in the stern whilst the Drunk pushed the boat out and leapt in.

The boat was only some 60 foot from the shore when Sir Charles and his Guards arrived and began firing at the boat. Jinny held up the saddlebags as some kind of protection; feeling several bolts hit them as riders tried to force their horses into the sea to get closer and use their horse bows. She would have liked to use Donina as protection but the Drunk still had some feelings.

Sir Charles watched from the sea as they moved away, “They’ve escaped but we’ll find them and kill them. Where is that bitch heading, I wonder?”

Which bitch, Sir Charles? Those bloody Guards or Donina. The sooner we find them and kill them, the better. Only problem is that, that Guards leader has a brain, and where is that bloody Cat that’s been creating havoc?”

People often think that big Cats don’t swim; perhaps they’re right and paddling doesn’t really count as swimming.

In the Cat’s case, he didn’t care and just followed the boat which once out of the sight turned to the north west and headed for a narrow inlet which eventually measured some eight miles hard rowing. As they neared the inlet the Drunk was feeling in need of several trees to fall on him and that large foaming froth that revived him. Jinny: sick of a spoilt Donina; showed no signs of wanting to remove Donina’s gag or chains; the Drunk’s raised voice finally crept over the laboured sound of the oars, “She needs to drink and breath, Jinny and so do I for that matter although you would possibly disagree?”

I’ve had enough of her, Drunk.”

I’ve had enough as well, Jinny, but I’ve just found a boat that I rode for nigh on eight miles with two of you doing nothing but staring at each other. I can appreciate the gag, Jinny and I’d laughed, if the energy was there, but why the chains?”

Think for a minute, Drunk. Why was Donina trying to make sure Sir Charles caught up with and killed us and believe me she was!”

I always believe you, Jinny but what could she hope to achieve, my occasional love? Sir Charles would kill her as quickly as us. He isn’t going to take Martan’s throwaways or is he? Sir Charles didn’t cross Gods’ know how many seas for to kill a concubine. He came here for something else and I don’t have the faintest idea what he came for? You’re supposed to be the thinking person, Jinny, and she’d derailed you as she does others: her only skill; apart from her body is her mouth, and kingdom politics?”

Assume for a moment, my Drunk, that Sir Charles came for something and it isn’t Donina – why would he pursue Donina to kill her? Why would Donina feel she has something of interest to Sir Charles that would protect her? There are one or more almighty questions here, and Donina appears to know something that she thinks will see her safe my drunken friend?”

There is only the baby, Jinny, and that from a concubine who is being replaced by a Princess who will be a King’s wife.”

Yes, my friendly Drunk but Sir Charles has bigger fish to fry and he will not wish to share his fish and potatoes with Martan’s throwaways.”

Why does he think this is his Kingdom and does Donina know that?”

The Matira’s kept the core as Dwarf held and controlled. He tried to control it. It was twisted into something, the still don’t understand. They adopted other species to dilute challenges but control was always with the Matira’s and using people is never a good idea – they tend to object; Droga’s ceased calling themselves Droga’s but Matira’s killing anyone who spoke against them, also fooled no-one. The Matira’s as part of control, drove the Droga’s underground and Dastry erupts, or so they thought. The Droga’s were widespread with ‘Old Magic’ and they protected themselves in ways they knew. The Dwarfs failed to kill them. That is why we have the ‘Old Stock’ and the Cats. Donina can’t keep her mouth shut any more than her bladder but she has learnt something and I prefer not to know, otherwise I will cut her throat for her knowledge.”

We can’t keep her in chains and gagged. We have move three miles to the second boat on the Matira sea and then finally five miles to the Toshonian Sea to finally pick up the last piece of road – Unchain her.”

Jinny finally unwrapped Donina’s chains and it took a lot of thought to get them from her neck, and as Donina threw herself at Jinny as they chains came off; she again, wrapped them around Donina’s neck.

The Drunk watched this, and wished he’d been able to take a drink. You don’t mess with women but he took the gag off and said, “I’ll cut both your throats if you carry on, and if I have to – neither of you will need a gag after that!”

I’m just trying to protect myself.”

Both of you stopped that a long time ago – now you just use people for the little we have, and they little you desire. You are trying to kill everyone because you think that is how you survive. King Martan wants you dead and you are not killing us as well – neither of you. We have a three mile walk to another boat and then hours of rowing to travel fifteen miles. Five mile walk after that and another fifteen miles and then it gets difficult, and I’m the one doing the work on the oars. Choose?”

I could have saved everyone if I met Sir Charles. He would give anything for a son of King Martan.”

And if it is a daughter?”

It will be a son – I know.”

When do you ever stop lying, Donina. Had it been a son and Martan has his priests and priestesses, you would not be on the road nor would Martan be looking for another woman. A daughter, however, could give birth to another son and a challenger for the Kingdom – you are having a daughter and you know, that but you would sacrifice all of us for yourself. I keep my honour, Donina, more you can keep anything. You will reach your refuge and let them deal with you because I have had enough of you, in all senses!”

In the meantime, Alison had chosen to forget his instructions since there seemed little point in following them and was now heading to the west following some way behind Sir Charles and his forces – there was also Jinny’s comments to Alison and that they weren’t meant to survive and Alison intended to.

Of her Guards she’d detoured and picked up the other decoys and they now numbered twenty three in total – a sufficient force for safety but one that should be in Spragend and not in force on the King’s roads and there was possibly a problem if they met any of the King’s Guards – assuming they lived. Reaching Toshon Village – most of them had thrown off their armour already – Jinny would have spoken to them for that but she’d kept her armour bright and on – well it had taken a few drinks – and in battle, you might need to be free. The slice down so you parried ready as the blade and a few other things happened. She rode up front; they weren’t bandit but the word had obviously gone out; they were dead and she didn’t understand that as they met the first bunch of patrols met who attacked them. How could they be bandits; already they were bandits and if not bandits, they treated as bandits.

Maybe they could make their way to Frania. They always needed Guards in Frania.

Kyle was already reeling with a mind entering his and saying, “I have bonded with you.” He’d already had the Women’s Committee virtually accuse him of attacking the woman he found by the road and tried to help. Now he was told he could not hunt Roc eggs unless allowed.

What were they trying to do to him. He’d done nothing wrong. He’d tried to help a girl in trouble; tried to feed the village with old and dead Roc eggs, and caught fish for the village. Were the fish going to start talking to him, now? He went back to the trees he tied his nets too and looked for any catch – nothing – it made, not only his day, but a complete month of isolation – even his toes were giving him grief and Tare wouldn’t touch them until she was pregnant. One thing, however, was dying, whilst his toenails were bidding for freedom, and that was his belief in anything.

It was a hike to Jacque and Mari but Jacque often had some fish left and Kyle could do with a bit of luck after today and getting away from the rocks and the Rocs …?

What a can of life is this when a Roc is in your brain and watching you like a hawk; maybe she, or he watches you like a Roc and the Women’s Council or Committee used every way they could to attack any man who achieves and ‘Old Stock’ – maybe he was ‘Old Stock’ like Jacque and Mari – forced out unless needed; he was certainly ready to leave everything and everyone!

His leaving, however, was subject to getting some fish; walking five miles to Jacque and Mari with his toenails grating the ends of his boots and then back into his toes … perhaps Mari would cut them and he’d see if there was anything he could exchange for a little relief although Tare would yet again, go berserk when she found out his toenails were cut.

Visiting Jacque and Mari took him a good way from the village. They were on the coast and that was not by choice.

They were, in the words of the Women’s Council, ‘Old Stock’ – to be ignored – as if they didn’t exist but you might then ask why members of the Women’s Council walked about eight miles at night to find people who did not exist and one thing you would find were completely blank looks if you dared ask where they going, and where were the rampaging wolves who it appeared, knew better than to face the Women’s Council, still Kyle needed some fish. With no Roc eggs – not allowed; nothing from his nets; his wife not expecting; a Roc bonded with him which would put anyone off mating as three of you would be enjoying it he have even more grief from the women.

Kyle wondered what Gods he’d offended – there must be a lot of them to offend and he’d obviously found everyone, and they’d obviously found him despite his hiding from the Woman’s Council, who acted like Goddesses?

Jacque and Mari lived a hundred yards back from the coast and the Franian Sea and eventually he was almost there. You approached them through a copse of three large pines where their Hawks were based and lived wild. Why they did not fly off, Kyle never knew but the Hawks knew him and so did the large Cat who wandered up and sniffed him with Jacque looking up as Kyle approached.

Jacque didn’t look more than forty years old yet seemed to have been around for longer than anyone knew. Sandy haired like the Cat, blue eyes as opposed to the Cat’s black eyes, Jacque match Mari in everything but shape and height – in strength, maybe they were matched but both kept to themselves, tended their herbs; trained their hawks and fished.

They lived fairly simply but over the years had added to their home and now there were two conical roofs spread across a wooden framework. One had a trough filled with both fish and water to keep the fish fresh and this was just below one open side of one hut. Everything was built on stilts although the water never came this far – perhaps it once did? The two sides of the huts were joined by a wooden walkway but stretched some fifteen foot across by some eight foot in length and there were hooks inside for four hammocks if you were desperate and Kyle when faced with Tare’s renown temper, sought a hammock – often moving at speed. There were steps down the sides to the sand and a walkway from the front of both huts towards the sea – it again looked as if the sea had once swept this far in.

Jacque smiled as Kyle approached, “if you are running from the Women’s Committee, they are already on the way. Mari’s hawks saw them,” Kyle realised that the hawks would have seen him, too.

Is no-where safe?”

You seem selected for something, Kyle, but to put your mind at rest, you are not ‘Old Stock, you are merely in the wrong or right place at the wrong or right time.”

If I am, I don’t know what. I went to find some fish and Roc eggs; instead I find a girl lying by the road and then, when I get her to the village they attack me. I head back to the fish pens and nothing; then a Roc bonds with me and Tare wants me to get her pregnant. Now I have no fish; no Roc eggs and something in my mind whether I like it or not.”

I always keep a few fish back for you. It’s not easy when you try and help people. You succeed and no-one gives you credit – fail and they’re all on your back, but I’ll tell the Women’s Committee the fish are yours; you are repaying a favour to me, and they can carry them back although the men will get the job. Follow the Cat when he gets back, into the trees, and hide, he’s watching the women at the moment, along with the hawks.”

Kyle looked up as he heard another shout and saw Mari pointing back into the trees, it sounded like, “go, Kyle,” and Kyle wasn’t waiting for the women to arrive; running for the trees like a bat out of hell, with the Cat overtaking him – maybe they crossed the finishing line together and if not, it wasn’t for want of trying. They barely made it before the women arrive with four men carrying a stretcher with a body on it and Mari met them as they arrived.

The Women’s Council were a fearsome bunch. Tare had the tolerance of a snake guarding its young and it was made worse as she felt Kyle was failing in her desires for children. Half the time she couldn’t even keep him awake at night as he roamed further and further afield in his mental search for food. Tare was five foot two inches; blue eyes again and she hated that; as she did the blond hair that marked her and she wanted children.

Sueshar was famous for refusing any man who could not wrestle her.

Greta usually wrestled them with her mouth which never seemed to close.

Tonya, on the other hand, or usually a male, seemed to have no problems with her mouth or men, until she wore them out.

Minine usually worked from where she couldn’t be seen. Causing trouble where she felt it could not be tracked back to her and Stort her husband; leaving Sophia, who considered herself worldly-wise having lived in an isolated village all her life.

Together, they spent more time either fighting or gossiping or in a lot of cases planning for themselves and not the village to be little more than trouble!

They’re were four stumps of trees behind the first hut-like building and the makeshift stretcher was finally laid down there. Tare – self appointed but unchallenged in the Council stared at Mari until her eyes were virtually watering.

There really was no point in try to out-stare Mari – it was like staring at a rock-face, “Kyle brought this woman to the village and then ran away!”

You mean that you and these women attacked him without thinking because he was a man and this was an injured woman?”

No-one attacked Kyle, he ran!”

Faced with Harpies like you, anyone with any sense would run. Most of you are only interested in yourselves and attacking men. Leave her and go. Take the fish Kyle caught earlier – he cares more for your village more than you ever will! Go before I lose my temper – go!”

To say the Women’s Council ran would be inaccurate. They gathered their skirts to their thighs as the hawks swooped down over them and overtook each other as they left; the men who knew their job, looked at Jacque and Mari, and waited: “at the side of the side; there; put the fish into the bags and I want the bags back – Kyle is helping me and will sleep here tonight. Tell that to this bunch of Harpies!”

Jacque watched them put them put the fresh fish into the bags. He hated this long death for the fish, who would probably be dried by the time they reach the village and suffer the worst deaths you could imagine but the villagers never seemed to think of anyone but themselves.

They finally left and he watched Kyle and the Cat move from the trees as he walked towards Mari and the body – still alive – but not for long he felt.

Mari looked up as he arrived by the body, “She is wandering but there is very little left. Thinks she is a Roc and keeps trying to fly in her mind. Only thing keeping her alive.”

What Roc is she flying with, Jacque?”

I have no idea, Kyle … Mari is doing the work …?”

Tell Mari what you know about Rocs.”

A Roc bonded with me, Mari. I have never bonded with anyone but Tare; if that was ever possible but a Roc came into my mind as I looked at the fish and told me she had been instructed to bond with me.”

Then we need to find your Roc. Who she is flying with?”

I don’t know but if she is bonded she must know of this conversation and her name is Mona Roc.”

From your description, Mona Roc wasn’t just an outcast from the Rocs who lived here, she is excluded completely – she can’t even sit in the rocks.”

Like Rona, there was a time and family gap and in any case, they were both four hundred years older without the pleasure or experience of knowing it.

Mona Roc was being held liable for mistakes she’d made four hundred year before in moments of panic as everyone’s world failed. Even her own kind didn’t, wouldn’t, and couldn’t know the decisions she made in seconds. There wasn’t a Council of Rocs to guide, just very little, if any time to decide and act.

Now, there was nothing for her and she kept a tight hold on Rona Matira’s mind to preserve her own sanity, and now in Kyle’s mind he saw Rona and the senseless and lifeless state Mona had put her in to.

Mari just gently touched Rona’s head and looked at Jacque, “Often they drive us away because we’d uncover them – too many ‘Old Stock’ in the old areas – maybe we should have gone to Frania … ‘Old Stock’ are prized there and not prised out.”

The girl needs attention, Mari, not history!”

History is killing her, Jacque. I need the Roc whose in her mind and I think it’s the one in Kyle’s mind as well. The Roc also feels that Kyle has killed the sick and old – there’s more but without the Roc I can’t do anything.”

Mari placed her hands on Rona’s head, listened and again heard a screaming voice as a Roc forgot there was someone on their back in the sheer exuberance of feeling she could fly everywhere she had been denied and only as she soared did she realise her back was lighter. She turned her head to look at her back and realised there was no-one there. She sought for the mind as it fell and then seized on it as she sped down, aiming at a dwindling speck … maybe … maybe—

Now we call Mona Roc and she will come, Jacque – she will come and she will join us!”

How will you call her? We can link to hawks and an old Cat but we cannot link to Rocs?”

Kyle is linked to this Roc … I know it … I damn well know it Jacque. This Roc has taken over this girl’s mind but the Roc is linked to Kyle and Kyle must call her,” Kyle looked at them once again and ruffled Cat’s mane. What was going on? Everything seemed to be his problem?

The question was swiftly answered when Mona Roc landed in the trees and looked down at Rona lying there. Mona searched around for minds.

Kyle’s she knew but she’d also embedded herself in Rona’s mind and Rona’s death would kill her in agony if she stayed, “then a voice echoed in her own mind. You are killing this girl; leave her or die with her, Mona Roc!”

You do not tell me what I do. My bond was before your birth!”

Was it, Mona Roc. How many others were outside of the bubble when it sank. How many were frozen a bubble but did not sink or died as the land sank, and the earth and water swept in, summons for the Matira’s in the revenge of the Dwarf. You flew; others fought, died but some survived. Your bond to Rona Matira was a personal choice; our lives were a fervent desire and little you cared for that. Release her, Mona Roc. She will bond again with you again, should she choose – release her or she will die. You now occupy her whole body as well as her mind. There is nothing left in her to provide what is necessary for her to live”

If I release her, Mari. I will die.”

How do you know, Mona Roc?”

I put myself into her body as she fell. It was the only way I could find her.”

Put yourself into my mind and body, Mona Roc. I need to know your true and complete identity so I recognise your pattern in Rona Matira and by putting yourself into my body you will have another body pattern and then we can remove you from others and keep you alive and you need to leave the mind of Kyle Nonsat was well.”

Mona Roc flew to the raised walkway at the front of the first house and her message to Mari was, “If I leave the mind of Kyle Nonsat the other Rocs will kill me. It is their instruction that I bond with him to stop him killing unborn and sick Roc children. I cannot leave Kyle Nonsat’s mind.”

Kyle’s wife wishes to be pregnant. He does not want you in his mind when he is with his wife.”

I will set my mind to only be with him when he approaches Roc’s Revenge. That should satisfy him, but my sin was let my love of air and flying over-rule my feelings for Rona Matira who was never of Matira stock anyway but adopted, and then excluded by the Matira’s. I befriended her because she had no-one and it suited me to feel her young mind, and then through my own stupidity I nearly killed her and then caused this.”

Pride is a sin you don’t mention Mona Roc and I can do nothing about that but with your help I can save this young girl, although what I save her for, is another matter. Maybe that she was young and abandoned will save her but we have no children and we know of her time so perhaps she will stay here if she has a life again.”

What do you want me to do, Mari Hawk?”

First, you must never utter my real name. I take a risk by even allowing you to enter my mind as it has knowledge no-one must know or our lives would be forfeit throughout the land. You must blend your mind and self to me as you did with Rona Matira and Rona must adopt the name of Hawk. She cannot use the name of Matira. I will change her understanding as I use your presence to enter her body, spirit and mind. She must live a different life under a different name – she cannot go back four hundred years.”

When do you wish to mind-meld?”

Now is as good a time as any.”

 

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