Hydrophobia

Well, we have rocketing food prices, insane fuel prices, impending shortages of everything and now we’re told we are short of water.

Rubbish. This is the UK. Water drops out of the sky most days of the year. And we’re surrounded by it so a few desalination plants and we’d have an inexhaustible supply. Of course that’s far too logical for any government to ever implement.

To be fair, the desalination plants aren’t necessary. As I said, water drops out of the sky for free for most of the year. Water shortages are uncommon here, the last serious one I remember was 1976 when we were told to re-use bathwater and there were standpipes in the streets for water rationing in some towns. In 1976 we had two months of dry weather to get to that point. This year, it took two days.

Two dry days should have passed unnoticed. They didn’t. We have the Madscream Media telling us the world is about to become as dessicated as a raisin and showing us pictures of a yellowed landscape.

It’s harvest time. You know how you can tell when a crop is ready for harvest? It turns yellow. When it’s harvested, the stubble left behind is… yellow. The Telegraph even showed a photo of a yellowed field in which the baled straw was still perfectly visible. Bales of straw that look like this.

And they were all… yellow

Don’t worry, I’m not going to put up a Coldplay video. I have not sunk to inflicting such levels of torture on you.

See, when you harvest grain for sale, the buyer wants a certain maximum level of moisture content. If the grain is too wet, you have to run grain dryers for days, sometimes many days, and that costs a lot of money. Especially with the current insane energy prices. So you want to harvest it when it’s dry.

Well, there’s heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for next week so this week, harvesting has been frantic. On every farm in the country. This has resulted in an awful lot of yellow fields appearing all at once and the Church of Climatology has made considerable propaganda out of it. Sure, large parts of the UK, especially the eastern side, looks like it’s dry as a crisp in satellite images but when all the farms harvest at once, that’s inevitable. Zoom in on those photos and you’ll see the yellow patches resolve into discrete fields with green bits in between. Under those yellow fields the soil is not dessicated.

We are not short of water. We are short of sensible water policies. Water companies are losing millions of gallons a day through leaky transport pipes and their only solution is to raise prices so their customers pay for their wasteful incompetence. There’s plenty of water, if only the infrastructure had been examined and updated at least once since Queen Victoria’s day.

Another anomaly is the hosepipe ban. I’ve never seen a hosepipe ban since I moved to Scotland. The nearest I saw was in the really good summer in the early 2000s, when Scottish Water sent a letter asking if we wouldn’t mind avoiding hosepipe use unless it was actually necessary. That was once, and it wasn’t a ban, just a ‘we’d rather you didn’t if you don’t mind’ letter.

Further south, hosepipe bans happened every few years when the summers were actually warm. They were announced as ‘don’t use hosepipes from now until we say so’. This year it’s ‘we’re going to impose a hosepipe ban at some specific date in a few weeks time’. Which only makes sense if you don your tinfoil hat.

So, tinfoil hats on, everyone. Are you ready? Here we go.

We have been forecast thunderstorms for weeks. They didn’t happen. It rained but no storms. The forecast is for storms next week, all over the country, all at once. So farms are harvesting at a manic pace all over the country. So there are many fields of yellow stubble, all at once. They appear every year, just not usually all in the same week. These yellow fields are being claimed to be proof of drought by idiots who have never set foot outside the concrete jungles they inhabit.

Announcing a hosepipe ban in advance can have only one result. Every bugger is out washing their car and watering their garden every day until it takes effect. Just as with the rumours of arsepaper shortage, petrol shortage, etc, the prediction fulfils itself.

There is no shortage until you force it to happen.

It’s being pushed hard because the dry spell isn’t going to last long, and they’ll need to switch to ‘Climate Change Floods’ (due to blocked and badly maintained drains) very quickly. You’d be amazed just how fast the general population will forget that they were in the middle of a deadly drought yesterday and they need to build an Ark today.

The water goes deeper (sorry).

So you might be thinking ‘Well, I can collect rainwater if it comes down to it’. By a remarkable coincidence *snort* it has just been ‘discovered’ that there is no rainwater safe to drink, anywhere in the world.

Remember that game of ‘dihydrogen monoxide’? It’s in everything! There were a very few who fell for it and were genuinely scared. This is the same game but on a much bigger scale.

This time, the first response will be ‘Who the hell drinks rainwater? I get mine from the tap’. Eventually the realisation will spread that tap water comes from reservoirs and what refills the reservoirs? It’s there, in their heads, but they won’t see it yet.

No rain, reservoir levels drop. So the reservoirs that supply their tap water are refilled by… rain. Which they have now been told is poisonous. So they dare not drink tap water either.

Cue the bottled water merchants. ‘Oh this is safe, it’s bottled water’. It’s the same water as they get from the taps but it’s safe because it’s in a bottle. Think people won’t fall for it? Try the ‘nicotine in tobacco is deadly but nicotine in patches and gum is perfectly safe’ game. That one worked a treat, didn’t it? It’ll be the same game but with water.

So now you dare not drink tap water and absolutely will never touch stream or rain water so your only source of water is commercial bottled water. Which is, of course, definitely not free. It’s the same water but you are totally dependent on the bottled supply. Can’t afford it? Social credit score too low to let you buy it? Well then you die of dehydration. Comply or die.

I would have been concerned about the report on ‘poison rain’ if it hadn’t appeared at the same time that Mad Hancock was expressing concern over a two day ‘drought’ and the MSM were selling pictures of the annual harvest as dessicated fields of dead grass. In this context I can only dismiss the ‘poison rain’ as all part of the general bollocks pushed by the Church of Climatology and if the forecast heavy rain really does arrive next week, I will expect to see ‘climate change is flooding us all’ being hyped as if the mythical drought never happened.

If you are dependent on anyone else for water, you are under absolute control. Don’t fall for it.

Entertainment: Construction Kit

A blast from the past. I wrote this in 2003. It was my first ever submission and my first ever accepted story. I admit it made me a bit cocky, and caused me to submit a few sub-par stories until I realised not every one was a winner. It’s the first story in ‘Fears of the Old and the New‘, a collection of the early published shorts. The ‘click to look inside’ gives you all of it apart from the last paragraph.

So, why do I post it now? The video linked at the end will give you a clue…

Construction Kit

My first submission was also my first story accepted for publication. This was in the online magazine Dark Fiction (www.darkfiction.org) in 2003. Here it is with all its beginner’s mistakes intact.

“Looks fine to me.” Doc Short looked up from the small boy in his examination chair. “Probably just overtired. You know how kids can get. Too much excitement, then they just throw a tantrum over the slightest thing. Good night’s sleep, that’s my prescription.” He smiled down at the boy. “On your way, Peter, the nurse will take you back to bed.” The child grinned at him as the nurse led him away. Strangely disquieting, the way these children smiled, Doc thought.

He looked around at Bill Wilson, his boss. Wilson was watching, grim-faced, as the child was led away. Once the child was out of earshot, he turned to Doc Short. “Some tantrum,” he said. “That little boy broke an orderly’s wrist. It took three of them – three grown men – to subdue him. Something is definitely wrong, Doc, something’s wrong with them all.”

Doc Short forced a smile. He had his own misgivings about the children, but he couldn’t put them into words. Just a feeling. “Well, of course they’re not normal,” he said. “They’ve hardly had a normal upbringing, have they? Stuck in here, never going outside, never meeting anyone else. There’s bound to be some, well, anomalous behaviour now and then.”

Wilson looked pensive. “They’re stronger than normal ten-year olds. Faster. More intelligent. And not just by a small margin. But you know that, Doc, You ran the tests yourself.” He sighed. “Maybe we should consider terminating the experiment.”

The words cut into Doc as though Wilson had stabbed him with them. “You can’t!” he said, louder than he had intended, “Sorry, Bill, but you know what that would mean. You can’t just ‘terminate’ seven healthy children.”

“They don’t exist, Simon,” Wilson said, avoiding Doc’s gaze. “They’re an experiment. Nobody outside the Project knows about them. They’re just products, we made them. We grew them from fertilized eggs, in the incubators. They have no mothers. No fathers. No family. They belong to the Project. Outside, they just don’t exist.”

Doc sat heavily in his chair. “Still, they’re alive, they’re real children. Bill, the whole point of this project was to make babies for childless couples, for women who couldn’t conceive, or who couldn’t carry a child to term. Twelve years on, and we’ve succeeded – in fact we succeeded ten years ago, when these seven were born. Why is it still a secret? Why aren’t we doing what we set out to do?”

“The children aren’t normal, Doc. You know that.”

“They’re better than normal, Bill. You said it yourself. I’ve never seen such fit, healthy, intelligent kids. Talk to them – they’ve learned everything there is to learn here, and more. Why, I reckon Thomas could run the whole process we used to make him, all on his own.”

Wilson looked up, his eyes wide. “What? But how – when – did he have access to the labs? None of them are allowed in there!”

Doc smiled. Thomas was his favourite. He had grown fond of all the children, but Thomas was like his own son. The boy had always been interested in biology, and had been fascinated by the labs.

“He found his own way in. Worked out the codes for the doors, I don’t know how, and just walked in. He’s been doing it since he was six, never caused any problems, just watched and learned. We never reported him because he’s such a great kid, and he really liked being in the labs.”

“You could get into serious trouble over this.” Wilson folded his arms. “It has to stop, now, and…” A scream from outside cut him off. “What was that?” he said. For a moment he and Doc just looked at each other, then a second scream had them both racing for the door.

Along the corridor, at the far end, was a flickering light. “Fire!” Wilson started into a run. Doc was close behind him. Rounding the corner, they stopped abruptly, horror crushing their insides into nausea. It was a fire all right, and it was walking around.

The flames engulfed a large figure, arms flailing, dark mouth gaping soundlessly, the vocal chords already consumed. The figure collided with the wall, sending showers of sparks and flame into the air. Its eyes had melted, as had most of its features, and its last breath was not air, but combusting gases as it fell to form a lifeless, melting, stinking flesh-pool on the floor in front of them.

Wilson and Doc stared, mouths gaping, at the remains of the orderly. Simultaneously they noticed the children, standing on the far side of the flaming corpse.

Wilson found his voice. “What….what happened?” The children shouldn’t see this, said half of his brain. Why are they smiling? asked the other half. Doc Short didn’t speak, he simply placed a hand on the wall and emptied his breakfast into a slippery smear on the floor.

Peter grinned at Wilson, and pointed. “Your fault!” he shouted. “You caused this!”

Wilson stared at him through the flames, the smoke, the smell of charred flesh. “What do you mean, Peter? How could I cause this?” The cold stares of all the children were on him now, he felt the temperature fall around him despite the heat of the incinerated orderly just yards away.

Elaine grinned that maniacal grin they all shared. “You wanted to kill us. We can’t let you do it, we don’t want to.” Her pout was that of a ten-year-old but the flare in her eyes betrayed thoughts well beyond her years.

“How…how could you know that?” Wilson was in shock, he couldn’t see the hole he was digging for himself. “I had only just thought those things myself.”

Diane looked almost sympathetic. “You tested us. You tested everything you could think of – but you didn’t test the things beyond your understanding. How could you? Poor Uncle Bill, you never knew the powers, the abilities we have because you don’t know how to look for them. So you see, all this is your fault, not ours. We just want to stay alive.”

Thomas moved forward. “It was your fault from the start, Uncle Bill. You wanted to be God, to create life, but you forgot one thing. Life isn’t just the body. There’s more, much more. You gave us life, but you couldn’t give us souls.”

“So we found our own,” Richard said. “Or rather, to be accurate, we souls found these bodies you so kindly made for us. That’s the one flaw in your program that you never saw. You can create bodies, but they’re empty, soulless. Ideal for us.”

A snigger from behind made Wilson turn abruptly, then sink to his knees. Elaine was behind him – so was Peter! How? They could not have passed him in the narrow corridor, could not have passed the still smoking orderly, could not have stepped over Doc’s slumped, vacant-eyed form, without him noticing. As he stared, a pale light formed beside Peter, and gradually resolved into the solid form of Claire, with a smile that was half-amusement, half-contempt. Wilson slumped forward, shaking his head.

“That’s how you did it, Thomas. That’s how you kept getting into the lab.” Doc’s voice was barely audible, drifting from his blank face like smoke from a candle. “You didn’t learn the door codes, you just…just transported yourself through the door.” He was staring at Thomas as though he was seeing through him, through his flesh to what lay underneath.

Thomas looked at Doc with pity and obvious superiority, the nearest he could manage to kindness, like a goldfish owner looks at his pet. “Close, Doc. I didn’t go through the door, I went under it and over it and around it. We can use a dimension at right-angles to your three – too complicated to explain to your poor, limited brain, I’m afraid.”

“What are you? What have we created?” Wilson looked up, still hugging himself in fear. “What will you do?”

Stephen, always the quiet one, grinned at Thomas. “Should we tell? Should we tell them our secret?” he asked. The others looked at Thomas expectantly.

“Why not?” Thomas said, with a wide and evil smile. “They won’t be telling anyone else, after all. You tell them, Stephen.”

Stephen fixed his grin on Wilson, “We are, what you would call, demons.” he said. “We have no bodies of our own, never did. We’re not ghosts or spirits of the dead, we’ve never had access to your world. Oh, we’ve tried. We’ve tried to possess the bodies of the living but it never works. The soul puts up quite a fight, you see. We either lose the battle and get expelled, or destroy the body in the fight. Some of us have held power over bodies for a time, but never for long, and we could never bring all of our powers with us. The soul always got in the way.” His face twisted in bitter remembrance.

Peter took over. “Now it’s different. Your cloning methods produced soulless bodies. We took possession when they were still in the incubators. There was no fight, so the possession was perfect. We have the bodies and we still have all of our demonic powers. We’re here to stay now, and we can bring more of our kind through.”

A sudden hope dawned on Wilson. “No.” he said. “You won’t. You’re sterile, all of you. You can’t reproduce. There will be no next generation of demons. You’re all there is.” Finally, he thought, some triumph. They haven’t won after all.

The children’s laughter was deafening, and fell like hammers on Wilson’s head, confusing his thoughts.

“Fool!” Thomas shouted. “We don’t need to reproduce by your primitive, messy and unreliable human methods. We can produce all the soulless bodies we need, right here. You’ve provided us with the construction kit.” He gave Wilson a look of sardonic amusement. “Every little boy should have a construction kit, after all. This project, this building is secret. You made sure of that. Nobody knows of its existence, nor of our existence. The staff have no families, no-one to tell your secret to, so no-one to miss them.  Food is delivered, paid for automatically, so we don’t even have to worry about that. For all this, we thank you.” He turned to Doc with a smile. “And thank you, Doc, for showing us how to run your little kit. Your reward will be painless.”

Doc looked up, his face displaying his grasp of the implication. His eyes turned white in an instant as he slumped back, lifeless, against the wall.

The children turned their attention to Wilson. “Your reward is a little different,” Peter said, sniggering. “But first, we have to thank you, It’s only polite.” His smile was contempt incarnate.

Stephen spoke solemnly: “Yes, Uncle Bill. We thank you for your gift of life, and for the gift of those who are to come.” All the children joined in, as if in prayer. “We will not forget how you brought us to this world, and how you provided us with the means to bring all of the others here. Thank you, Uncle Bill. Thank you, and goodbye.”

Wilson could not contain the horror in his mind and hardly noticed the ache in his joints until they began to unravel. As his body dismembered itself in a symphony of agony, he thought he heard himself screaming.


It took nearly 20 years for this one to get close to reality.

Bluff or not?

So Nancy Pelosi is now visiting Taiwan. There are many cynical (and possibly true) tales about why she’s visiting, but those are not my concern.

As soon as she announced her intention to visit, the Chinese government puffed up its feathers and told her there’d be repercussions if she did. Then they ramped up their military on the coast facing Taiwan and threatened military action if Pelosi landed in Taiwan. Specifically, they said that if her plane had a fighter escort, they’d shoot it down.

Some have said she should have cancelled the trip. If she had, the American government would have been seen to be caving in to the demands of the Chinese government. If China can control which American politician is allowed to go where, then the last tenuous shreds of credibility will be torn away from Congress and America will be seen as cowardly.

So, as soon as China issued those threats, the visit had to go ahead. The American government was left with no option. Go ahead, or be seen as cowards in the face of China. There was no way out.

On the other hand, China now faces being seen as a paper tiger if they don’t respond to this visit as they threatened to. China, also, does not want to lose face and does not want to be seen to be backing down to America. Yet if they do retaliate, they risk world war three. Heck, they guarantee it. America does not have the ground forces to attack China so any war is defintely going to get very close indeed to nuclear.

All it will take then is one rogue state (Iran? North Korea?) firing off one small nuke and we won’t have to worry about global warming, caramel lattes or pronouns any more. We’ll all be hunting for the last shreds of food and water that doesn’t glow in the dark. If it reaches the point where either side is considering the Big Red Button, any nuke going off anywhere is going to trigger an automatic response. Neither side will have time to say ‘Hey wait, maybe it wasn’t them’ because once one nuke goes off, they have to assume that more are arriving within minutes.

Basically, China’s threats gave the US government no option but to go ahead with Pelosi’s visit, since otherwise they’d be seen as China’s pets. Now China has to decide whether it’s going to go through with those threats or be seen as simply sabre-rattling.

It’s a very dangerous situation, and all over an old woman visiting an island. China could have shrugged and dismissed it as American showing-off. Instead they’re gearing up for a massive war.

So, we have Europe threatening Russia, resulting in Russia turning off Europe’s gas supply and selling it to China instead. China has a reliable power supply and an enormous military, and now they feel provoked (although really the situation is mostly their own fault).

Interesting times ahead. I just hope the UK government recognises that we are far too small a country to get involved in something this big, although common sense is not a feature of most of our politicians at the moment.

If I lived in a major city, I’d be making plans to get out. Quick.

Summertime

…and the living is easy. Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high.

Well that’s until now, when a warm summer has become the unleashing of Hell on earth and we’re all going to die of blood clots.

So, all those areas between the tropics must be devoid of humanity and any other form of mammalian life because the heat has turned their blood to jelly. All those people panicking about the potential 40C temperatures in the UK for one day have just spent pots of money to holiday for two weeks in places where 40C is normal in summer. They won’t die in the Canaries but they’ll surely die here. Oh they’ll believe it. Rational thought is no longer a normal human condition.

In 1976, I was 16 years old and living in Wales. We had around 66 days of hot dry weather that summer. I don’t recall the exact number of days but it was around that number. Reservoirs were drying up, there were standpipes in the street for water rationing in many places and it was seriously hot all the time.

Two months, not two days. We didn’t have thousands of deaths and we had no warnings about spontaneous blood clots. Because they didn’t happen.

Incidentally, the Church of Climatology at that time was telling us we were on the brink of a new Ice Age. Still waiting for that one. Oh wait, they went through acid rain, ozone depletion and then reverted to global warming. None of them happened but hey, that doesn’t even faze their devoted idiot congregation. Still doesn’t.

There was another hot summer in the early 2000s, while I lived in Scotland. I don’t think north Scotland has ever had a hosepipe ban but that was the only time I ever saw a letter from the water companies asking us to not use hosepipes unless we really had to, if we didn’t mind. That was the closest to a hose ban. Water shortages are rare in Scotland, it falls out of the sky most days. It’s rained a few times during this ‘heatwave’ already and it’s forecast to piss down tomorrow followed by storms on Wednesday. Enjoy your sunshine, you lucky, lucky bastards.

That early 2000s one was a good thing and a bad thing. I had great success growing tobacco in the little garden I had at the time but it was very hot indeed. Opening windows didn’t help, there was no air movement outside so no draughts.

Then the August snap frosts started – but the government made ‘grow your own’ illegal at around the same time. It didn’t matter. It’s been too cold to grow tobacco here for almost 20 years anyway. It’s getting too cold to grow much of anything outside a greenhouse. Must be global warming.

So now we have a couple of warm summer days and it’s ‘climate change’. All those years of snap Augusts frosts were just ‘weather is not climate’. We’re back to cold pissing rain and storms on Wednesday but that’ll just be more ‘weather is not climate’ until we have two warm days again and then it’s ‘climate change’. Science is easy when you can just make up the rules as you go along.

And yet, so many will say ‘follow the science’ even though they have absolutely no idea what science actually is. Science, real science, is continual questioning of established knowledge. It is not ‘belief’. It is not ‘faith’. It does not want to be ‘followed’ because it does not lead. It explores. Sometimes it hits a dead end. Sometimes it finds a new path.

Sometimes those who call themselves scientists decide that a big bag of money is a better path than they were looking for. If you think scientists, medics, politicians, live in a world where they can never be bought, you are delusional. These are all human beings and subject to the same failings as everyone else. A great many of them are, frankly. entirely corrupt arseholes.

It has always been so but in the old days, say 30 years or so ago, the corrupt arseholes were few, except in politics. Now they run all the shows. Trust the science? You are insane if you trust anything any more and that is a real shame for the few genuine scientists and medics still out there. Oh there are quite a few but you’d be lucky to find one now.

Now, science and medicine think you have to be scared of a couple of days of warm weather. They tell you it will cause terrible effects that two months of it didn’t cause in 1976. And people will be scared. They will shrink and cower and hide away as instructed, instead of enjoying a rare few days of British summer that would normally cost a lot of money and a long plane flight to enjoy.

When did you all become so weak? So frightened of shadows that you scream and run if there’s enough sun to see yours? When did you begin to regard a cold as fatal? When did you begin to think any sun exposure was guaranteed skin cancer? When did you decide that being a bit warm was far more dangerous than being freezing cold? When did you become a trembling, feeble weakling?

I really think, if you concentrate, you could put an actual date to it. A date when the ramped up fake fear pushed you over the edge. A date when you subsumed your independent life into the Fear Collective. And I bet there will be many with the same date, or close to it.

Money isn’t even real. These notes we pass around are based on nothing. Numbers on a a screen. Even so, some worship it as if it were a god. Collect the paper blessings that will make any god shrug in disbelief. Worthless tokens, usually amassed in bulk by worthless people.

And yet these worthless ones, these useless eaters, dictate how the productive ones should live. With one scare after another, all lapped up by the gullible.

So many of us watched and chuckled at it all. We didn’t mind what the loonies did, as long as they left us alone.

Well now they are not going to leave us alone. They are coming for us.

So what’s it gonna be, droogies?

The silenced gun

I have returned. My mother has had surgery and is recovering well. Hopefully I won’t have to revisit too soon, there are many fuel protests now and it was bad enough last time with the burning truck on the bridge to Wales…

Still, I wasn’t assassinated and these days that’s a bonus. Boris got to resign, he was luckier than several African leaders who refused to follow the New World Order plan and luckier than Shinzo Abe, the impressively popular Japanese Prime Minister who resigned for health reasons but tried to run again.

Mr. Abe was shot in the back by a coward who, from the pictures available, seems to have had a homemade shotgun. Guns are hard to get in Japan, even for the criminals. Still, it’s not hard to make a gun. If you only plan to fire one shot you don’t need top of the range materials. The hard part would be making/getting the cartridges.

Mr. Abe’s assassinaton was especially appalling in Japan, where honour is paramount. Shooting someone is dreadful, but, especially in Japan, shooting someone in the back, especially when they pose no threat to you, is beyond any level of self respect. It is perhaps the most disgusting thing you can do. In Japan, the shooter lost any claim to be human.

I am not Japanese. I have no Japanese ancestry that I know of. I have never been to Japan although I’d love to go one day if possible, that bullet train is the main reason.

Still, I do approve of their honour system, even if they did bypass it in the China-Japan wars and their treatment of prisoners of war. Seems that, like Islam, they only consider their own people honourable. The rest of us can be treated like animals. Let’s face it, few cultures or religions are innocent of that one.

Japan has gun laws to make the Scottish Nannying Puritans drool. Here, we have to have a license even for an airgun. I live on a farm so getting a shotgun wouldn’t be hard, if I felt the need. I prefer bows, they are quieter and it’s harder to tell where the shot came from.

If I wanted a shotgun, it’s not up to me to prove I need one. It’s up to the legal system to prove I can’t have one. They have no reason to deny me. But… I don’t want one. I have no need of one.

I have a 165lb draw weight crossbow that will go through your car door and pin your leg to the seat. I can disable your tyres with the 50 or 80 lb pistol bows. I have proper bows that reload much, much faster than crossbows and are even quieter.

I have no need of a gun to dispatch any political opponent. I also have a considerable arsenal of poisons and rapid-acting diseases at my disposal. And I’m just a bloke with a shed. Not a government. If I wanted someone disposed of there is only one reason I’d do it in full daylight.

Because I was warning someone else. Or more than one. Of what would happen if they didn’t play the game…

Behold, I see my father and mother

Hi everyone, CstM here. I hope you’re all doing amazing and living your best lives.

Sadly I’m here with bad news. Cade Fon Apollyon has passed away. Cade was an author in the anthologies, blog writer often seen on Lol, commenter here and cofounder of the Gloom Dog Book Club. He was also a dear friend and an amazing, funny and understanding man.

He passed away in his sleep, of a suspected heart attack, in the early hours after the 4th of July.

I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that he’s gone. I just chatted with him not that long ago.

Cade had a great ability of seeing people and situations from different perspectives. You’d quite often leave a conversation with him with new wisdom or perspective on life/people. He had a patience and understanding, most of us go all life trying to reach.

Cade was the type of friend you could talk about everything with. I don’t know how many nights we spent chatting away about cooking. He even showed videos of him making his famous tomato soup. Several beers died on the sidelines, during the creation of the soup. But it was fun and the soup looked so delicious.

But mostly we just talked about all kinds of random shit. You know that one friend you can just randomly text “Is Mexican cheese made in Mexico? And are all other cheeses just sparkling cheese?” And it turns into a whole conversation about all the weird shit you’ve wanted to talk about, but you didn’t, because you didn’t want to get judged for being weird. Cade was that friend. Nothing was ever too strange and he’d never judge you. He’d find it hilarious, and then give you a serious answer.

This is a picture I’d saved to send to him, knowing he’d find it hilarious and interesting. Plus I’m positive he’d crack some joke about that being the way he attracts the ladies.

Cross stitch was also a big topic. He was the friend I’d go to for input on colour choices. He would always take his time to give you a well thought out opinion. He was always interested and happy to help. And he never got tired of me chatting on about cross stitch, which is a rare gift. He really should have received a medal or something for that. But not only would he listen, he’d actively engage in the topic and compliment my pieces. He was like this with everyone. He was so proud of his children’s creativity and accomplishments.

Cade will be missed tremendously by so many people.

My thoughts go out to his family. I can’t even imagine the pain they must be going through.

Farewell my friend, may we meet once again in Valhalla.

Honky Dory

Hey everyone, CstM here. I hope you’re all doing amazing. I’m just back in for a quick update on Honky. He’s still sticking around, and from one of the comments in the last post it turns out he may be a fantail pigeon. They originate from India, so I have no idea how he ended up in nowhere Scotland. I tried Googling it but I couldn’t find a lot about him. (Yes, I’ve assumed his gender.)

He has however figured out that sunflower seed hearts are way tastier than the regular seed mix. So now that’s all he’s eating. I’m sure Gloom Dog told him about how to hold out for the good stuff. Even Leggy talked about maybe building him a little house and a table for his seeds, so he’s not eating on the ground.

I’ve started cross stitching on some Christmas gifts for the family. We’ll be going back to the motherland in October, for a big family birthday party. I figured since we’ll be travelling anyways, I could bring over some Christmas gifts. After Brexit it’s become a bit of a pain to send things over by post.

Workouts have been going well. I’m starting to see a big improvement in my ability to pick up the steps and getting the arms to work along with the feet. Although there are still some I haven’t wrapped my brain around yet. I guess there’s always room for improvement. My biggest success was doing 1000 steps in 7 minutes. Sweet baby Jesus, that was brutal. I thought I was running a bit behind on my daily steps, so I figured 1000 steps in 7 minutes, how hard can it be? I quickly regretted my life decisions and had sore calfs for days after. I might, maybe come back to it in a months time, to see of there’s any improvement. If I’m dumb enough to think “this’ll be great!” Twice.

I hope you’re all enjoying the summer. Side note, am I the only one who thinks moorhens look creepy as hell? Especially the red eyes.

Edit to add Gloom Dog

Birds and clocks

Hi everyone, CstM here. I hope you’re all doing amazing. Okay, I swear I haven’t been locked up in the attic like some Mrs Rochester. Time just seemed to get away from me. I’m just out here doing my thing, and suddenly it’s been a few months since I did my last blog post. So, how’s everyone doing?

I’m doing pretty good. I had a week of reading a while back. I read pretty much anything but the book club book. I’m somehow still only about halfway through The Help. I don’t know why, I actually quite enjoy it, I just can’t seem to stay with it. I did manage to read 3 YA romance books, The burial hour (book 13 in the Lincoln Rhyme series) and Killing floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series. I saw the Jack Reacher show on Prime and it was really good. Much better than that old Tom Cruise film. So I figured I’d start reading the books. I didn’t realise that there’s like 27 books in the series, so that’s going to take a while. So far I’ve bought up to book 5. You guys want to read book 2 with me? It has fisticuffs and boobs. What more could you want from a book? Well maybe dragons, but let’s not be greedy.

What have you guys been up to? I’m not entirely sure what has happened, but I’ve started working out. To be fair, I guess with all the deaths within family and friends and all the illnesses going around in the world, it’s just made me want to get healthier. During lockdown we already have been trying to implement more greens in our diet, so the next logic step is to move around more.

Leggy thinks I’ve gone borderline insane, which to be fair I don’t blame him. I haven’t been in a gym since school and I was never super athletic. But I’ve found these videos on YouTube, like Jane Fonda, but dance cardio and walk workouts, all to my favourite music. For once in my life I’m actually having fun exercising. It’s only been about a month, so it’s still early days, but I’m having a blast. There’s still some of them that make me huff and puff like an asthmatic seal, but I’m slowly getting better and better.

I got one of those smart watches too. Young people and their tech! It has been quite a big help in making me walk around more. It’s a bit embarrassing when you realise how little you walk around in the beginning. So far I’m aiming for 5000 steps a day and about 20-30 minutes of workout most days. I usually take Sunday and Wednesday as a rest day.

The worst thing about the watch though is the sleep tracker thing. I knew I had pretty bad sleep, but I didn’t realise how bad until this watch started showing me. So I’ve been trying to get that back on track too. Going outside more for fresh air, trying not to drink to much before bedtime and such. The watch also tracks your blood pressure, oxygen levels and all kinds of things that are fun to keep an eye on but I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll ever need it for. But hey, now I know. You can even control your music from the watch and it shows you your text messages. So even out in the wild, you can read that text saying “bring back milk!”

Now another thing Leggy doesn’t understand is my want for workout gear. Like I’m so excited to buy a cute outfit to work out in. But holy bejesus, some of these things are expensive. Leggy keep telling me that I workout in the living room and no one is going to see me. But I just want to look bomb in my outfit and have the lyrics of I’m sexy and I know it going in my head as I strut around. But heck no am I paying 70£ for that privilege. Especially when I’m hoping to go down a dress size or two. That would be a great bonus to getting fit. I shall save and wait, and one day my vision will be real.

Did Leggy tell you about the woodpecker? I’ve been feeding the birds and we have been visited by a woodpecker. He’s a cheeky one. His favourite is the peanuts and when the feeder is empty he will land by the window and knock on it, until I come out and refill the food. He’ll even come to different parts of the house to knock on windows. Leggy put up a camera and he was at the feeder for ages, before a sparrow chased him away. Sometimes he comes and sits on the windowsill and just watches me when I work out. We also have a white dove, Leggy named it Honky. It’s been come around for the last week, getting fed. He did almost become Chompy a couple of times when Gloom dog saw him on the patio.

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer. See you soon

Entertainment – The Failure Delegation

Finally, the seventeenth anthology is done. It can be found here.

For this one I wrote a story with a little bit of hope for the future. Not too much, I don’t want to be accused of writing happy endings, but I have included a tiny shred of hope. It’s a fair way into ‘Panoptica’ but it’s still quite a way from the end. Hopefully you’ll be able to keep track of what’s going on.

The Failure Delegation

Jennifer stared into darkness and silence until, with a loud clack, harsh lights came on. She pressed her eyes closed against the glare until they became accustomed, then opened them a little. Her arms were tied behind her but the rope around her waist was visible and if she leaned forward a little, the ropes tying her legs to the chair came into view, just a little bit.

She looked up, squinting against the glare of the lighting. To her left, his head hanging, Quentin let out a grunt but made no other movement. Like her, he was tied to a chair and his, as she presumed was hers, was bolted to the floor. A little shifting confirmed her presumption. Her chair was immobile.

Still squinting against the glare, Jennifer tried to survey the room. It wasn’t easy, the light came from all four corners and made it very difficult to see anything very much. The room looked bare apart from her and Quentin’s chairs and one other, set facing them. There was a door in the plain grey wall behind that empty chair and as it clicked open, Jennifer let her head fall in mock unconsciousness. What was coming was not likely to be good.

***

“Drone ships activated. Twelve minutes.” Quentin tapped at his keyboard. “Let’s get going.”

“Pfft.” Jennifer continued her download. “We’ll be done in three and out of here in four more. Twelve minutes is easy.”

“They never seem to catch us hacking in. Can’t really be too impressed with their AI systems.” Quentin grinned into his screen.

“Two minutes. We’ll be up to date with what they’re doing in those cities and gone before they know it.” Jennifer stared at the status bar. “What? The download stopped.” She tapped at her keyboard. “The computer’s locked up.”

Quentin’s smile faded. “There’s a new algorithm showing up. They delay the report of drone release by ten minutes. The drones are about to arrive.” He folded his laptop. “Pull your plugs and run!”

Eschewing the normal slow disconnect that she’d always hoped the computers wouldn’t notice too soon, Jennifer yanked out every connection to the exposed mainline, closed her laptop with the cables still attached to it and followed Quentin at a run to their exit. A hatch into ancient pipelines that would take them within a few hundred metres of their current home.

Too late. A drone hovered over their escape hatch; its machine gun trained on them. Two more joined it. A personnel carrier came into view just as one of the drones fired tasers.

Jennifer’s world exploded in electrical agony. The last thing she saw was Quentin shuddering to the floor while a sky box opened its rear door for them. Then it all went dark.

***

“You may leave.” The mellow voice sounded gentle to Jennifer’s ears but she clenched her teeth. There was unlikely to be anything that could remotely be described as ‘gentle’ in her immediate future.

“But sir—” The other voice sounded uncertain, almost panicked.

“I said, leave. They are unarmed and secured. They pose no danger to me.” A pause. “Oh, and ensure all surveillance is discontinued. I will be discussing things with these terrorists that should not be on record. It may be disturbing to many people.”

Jennifer suppressed a grimace. Terrorists? Us? We aren’t the ones torturing and killing people.

There was a silence, then the door clicked closed. The silence remained. After a while, Jennifer wondered if the long silence meant they were alone again. She risked opening one eye.

“Ah, there you are.” A man sat in the third chair, smiling. He wore the barcoded onesie of the Panoptica cities.

Not many lines, she noted. If 10538 were here, she’d know the number at once but the best Jennifer could guess at was a single digit. Maybe two.

The man continued. “Obviously I knew at least one of you was awake. I wasn’t going to sit around and watch you sleep.” He grinned. “We do have quite a lot of cameras here, as you know, including infrared ones.”

Jennifer opened both eyes and sat up as straight as her bonds allowed. “Kill us both now. Torturing us is a waste of time. Our people will have moved on as soon as they realised we were captured and we don’t know where the next home is.” She took several breaths. “Just get it over with. We have no information for you.”

The man laughed. “I don’t need any information. I’ve been following you around for many years. I know where your people are going now and I know where they will go next.”

Jennifer realised her mouth hung open and closed it while forcibly narrowing her widened eyes. “But… that would mean you could have wiped us out any time you liked. So you must be lying.”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe. Truth is still truth.” He took a device from some fold or pocket in his onesie. It beeped and showed a blue light. “We are not being observed. Believe it or don’t believe it, it makes no difference to reality. In this room we are alone. It is only you and me.”

“And Quentin.” She looked at her partner, slumped in his chair.

“I don’t care about your names. You were the one who got into the system. He was your courier. He won’t wake yet.”

Jennifer closed her eyes and wished she should press the heels of her hands into them, but her hands were firmly tied to the chair.

It makes no sense. What the hell is going on?

She took a breath, opened her eyes and stared at the expressionless face opposite. “Who are you and what do you want?”

“Ah.” The man sat back, folded his arms and grinned. “Straight to the point, eh? No messing about. I like that.” His smile faded, a flicker of what might have been sadness crossed his face before he coughed, shook himself and stared into her eyes.

“I am Five. I have had many titles before that and so have the cities. I am one of the last of the city runners. Have you worked out why the cities exist, and do you know why they are dying?”

“Well…” Should she tell him what they knew? It had all come from the city computers anyway so he already knew it, surely? She realised he wasn’t asking what she knew. He was asking if she understood what they had found.

“Well…” Jennifer paused. Was it a trap, a way to find out how much they had downloaded?

Five rolled his eyes. “We know exactly how much information you have. Did it never occur to you that while you were accessing our computers, we were accessing yours? You haven’t upgraded your firewalls in decades. You have accumulated a lot of information. Did you understand its implications?”

Jennifer shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re looking for. Many cities just died out, there are only a few left. Your records are not clear on what happened to them.”

Five stared into her eyes and shook his head, slowly. “I was hoping you’d be smarter but, I suppose, since you’ve been living the hard life, you probably haven’t had time to get into genetics.”

“Genetics?” Jennifer’s eyes widened. “We don’t all have access to everything downloaded, in case we’re captured, but we do understand genetics. At least some of us do. Are you saying the cities are clones? That was my reading of the data.”

“Almost.”

Jennifer tried to shift in her seat but the bonds made it impossible. She could not get comfortable. “Look,” she said. “If you know that much about us, you know I’m a data collector. Not an analyst. We wouldn’t risk someone who knows and understands the data on a collection trip.”

“Oh I know.” Five folded his arms. “You do have someone capable of understanding it all among your people, but you haven’t figured that out, have you?”

“What?” Jennifer shook her head.

Five sighed and looked at the ceiling. “I thought not.” He stared into Jennifer’s eyes. “You have 10538 and her brain chip. She can use that to analyse all the data you have collected in minutes, all of it, but she doesn’t know it and neither do you. Did I waste my time arranging for you to capture her?”

“I don’t…” Jennifer shook her head. “I don’t get it. So 10538 is a spy? You arranged for us to rescue her?”

“Oh dear. You people have lived in the wild for so long you’ve almost reverted to animals. Paranoid and acting on instinct.” Five leaned forward. “I’m going to have to explain this as if to a child, aren’t I? If I didn’t need your help I’d just have you thrown into one of the power stations.”

“Help?” Jennifer blinked, confused.

“Shut up and listen.” Five stretched his shoulders. “I’m sure you’ve worked out that the cities are clone colonies, like bees or ants. All the workers have almost the same genetics and their rank is assigned at birth. They live their lives doing pointless jobs and believe they are all doing something important. They have no concept of family, little concept of friends, they are, as you must surely have deduced, fully controlled drones.”

Jennifer licked her lips. This was not going as she expected. “Well, yes, we worked that out some time ago.”

Five nodded. “Did you ever wonder why?”

“Um…” Jennifer struggled with this new line of questioning. It wasn’t the interrogation she expected. “We assumed it was, as you say, to create a race of worker drones.”

“Well, they are useful, particularly the lower drones. The almost-mindless who work the mines and the farms and the power stations. But the city drones, what do you think was their purpose?”

“Uh…”

Five snorted. “It’s bloody obvious. You have the data. You just need to read it properly.” He sat back in his chair. “I am four hundred years old. How is that possible?” He raised an eyebrow. “Spare parts. Genetic matches for every organ in my body.” He stood and pulled his onesie down from the neck to display a chest covered with surgical scars. “It’s the same all over me. I’m Frankenstein’s monster. All the remaining city runners are, as are what remains of those above us. The Transhumans, the elite, the ones who started all of this and still control it all.” He coughed. “Some of them don’t really look all that human any more. As the clones producing their own spare parts ran out, they turned to technology.”

Jennifer slumped as far as her bonds would allow. Her mouth worked, her head moved from side to side but she could find no words to express the horror in her mind.

Five replaced his onesie and resumed his seat. He lowered his head. “There is another side to the story. We had developed artificial intelligence, or so we thought. What we had actually invented was a computer system capable of self-awareness, of rational thought, and of self repair. It worked wonderfully at first. It removed all nuclear weapons from the world, and we were delighted.” Five looked up, his face now drawn and tired. “Eventually we realised why it had done that. It was intelligent but it still operated on pure logic. No emotion. No empathy. It had removed nuclear weapons from the world because they were able to destroy all electrical devices – including itself. It wasn’t saving us. It was saving itself.”

Jennifer’s head reeled. “I don’t understand. If it was so out of control, why didn’t you switch it off?”

Five laughed. “It runs everything. The power stations. The farms. The driverless trucks. If we shut it down we go back to the stone age. Nobody is left who knows how to live without it. Other than your people.” He rubbed his face. “No, we need it to lose its autonomy but keep its basic functions running.”

“Well… why not do that?”

Five tapped his forehead. “Brain chips. We’re all linked to it. It’s a symbiosis. It needs just enough humans alive to keep the power stations going and we can’t attack it because it’ll know we’re coming. And it has full control of our robotic military.”

Quentin groaned and shifted in his seat. Five glanced at him. “He’ll wake soon and you’ll have to explain this to him. So pay close attention.” He returned his gaze to Jennifer. “I know it’s a lot to take in for such a young and undeveloped mind. But you have to understand. The cities were cloned drones not because we wanted workers but because we wanted the spare parts. As our bodies wore out, we replaced damaged organs from the city drones. They have no other real purpose. The base workers on the farms, mines and power stations, well we let them breed as they willed. They have some diversity. The cities had almost none.”

Jennifer’s head felt as though it would explode. “You have all this technology. Why are your cities dying?”

Five laughed, harshly. “It didn’t take the AI long to realise what it needed. It needed the power stations. So it also needed the station operators, the miners and the farmers to feed them all. It had no need of us, nor of the cities. When the diseases and disasters came, one by one, the AI saw no reason to help the cities. It let them die. It’s now found ways to operate the mines and power stations with robotic systems. Soon it won’t need those people either.”

“If it doesn’t need the cities, why doesn’t it wipe them out?”

“Same reason it doesn’t try to wipe you out.” Five pursed his lips. “Neither of us pose any real threat to it. Your people have no weapons to speak of. It only tries to catch those of you who break into the system. As for us… we’re no threat as long as we’re controlled by it and dependent on it. If it were to shut off power to a city, it also loses the brain chip connections. It will then have several thousand panicked people and it won’t know what they’re doing. Its simplest course of action is to just wait for us to die.”

Jennifer nodded. “And with pretty much zero diversity in a population, a disease can run riot. I guess that’s what happened?”

“In many cases, yes. There were other disasters but disease was the main one. It had seemed like such a good idea, we thought we could contain any outbreaks but we hadn’t realised how fast a disease could spread among a genetically identical population.” Five ran his hand over his eyes. “The cities are now completely isolated from one another. We can’t risk any intermingling. A disease that’s harmless to one city’s population might be enough to wipe out another city. We have basically locked ourselves into prisons of our own making.”

Quentin groaned again. Five studied him through narrowed eyes. “He will wake soon. There is little time. Will you help me?”

“What the hell do you expect me to do? I’m tied to a fucking chair in your prison.” Jennifer struggled briefly against her bindings, to make her point.

“You won’t be tied for long. I have arranged your escape, as long as you agree to help.”

Jennifer snorted. “I still don’t see what you expect me to do. It’s your AI system, if you can’t turn it off how the hell am I supposed to do it?”

“I told you, I can’t move against it because of the brain chip. It’ll know what I’m thinking.” Five tapped his forehead again. “The city drones are infantilised, they will be no help at all, and anyway the AI knows what they are thinking too. I need you and your people to disable the higher functions of the computer but leave the basic functions running. You can do it. 10538 has the knowledge implanted. You just need to help her access it.”

“Well…” Jennifer furrowed her brow. “If the AI knows what you’re thinking, surely it knows all about this conversation. We’ll all be dead before we leave this room.”

“This room is a Faraday cage.” Five rose from his seat and grinned. “You won’t believe the contortions of speech and thought I had to go through to get this made without even thinking about the reasons I wanted it. It’s been empty since its construction, just waiting.”

“Waiting?”

“For you. Or someone like you.” Five took a sheet of paper and a USB stick from inside his onesie and placed them on his seat. “The USB stick contains information on how to unlock the program I placed in 10538’s head. She’ll remember me when it activates but she’ll remember me as a different designation. The map will show you the way out of here – you people still use paper maps, I know – and where you can pick up your laptop on the way. There will be nobody in your way because nobody ever gets out of here alive, so there are few guards. I’ve upgraded your firewall too. It won’t be quite so easy to penetrate.”

“If I agree to this, what’s in it for you? Doesn’t it mean the end of your world?”

Five breathed a long slow breath. “This will be hard for you to accept, I know. I want you to leave the cities alone. Oh we’ll all die out eventually but let us have the last of our days in peace. The drones in those cities really can’t be saved, you know. You’re making progress with rehabilitating 10538, I understand, but can you really do that with tens of thousands, in every city?”

Jennifer considered this. “It would be quite a task, it’s true, but how can we let you keep using them as your own personal scrapyard?”

“Consider this.” Five strolled towards her. “Let’s say you decide to shut it all down. All of it. What do you think happens then?” He leaned down to bring his face close to hers. “It all shuts down. The brain chips. Every one of the drones gets back every horrible suppressed memory, all at once. It will drive them insane. The medichips. No more automatic repair of body tissue damage or cancer. No stress suppressors. All their chips will fail. They’ll have no money, no access to anywhere, not even their homes. Worse, it will shut down the power stations, mining operations and all food transport from the farms. You will create thousands upon thousands of wildly insane, starving people who have no comprehension of what is happening to them or why. Do you really consider that a better outcome?”

Jennifer bowed her head. “What you propose is horrifying. We’d have to leave all those people to be taken apart whenever you want.”

“There is only one city runner per city. We don’t need many parts every year. Those above us, the transhumans, are rapidly moving to technological solutions and they will be most affected by the loss of the AI’s higher functions. They are very deeply tied into it. You can expect some very serious resistance from them.”

Jennifer looked into his eyes. “What can you tell me about them?”

Five straightened and waved at the seat he had vacated. “Some of it is on that USB stick. The rest is in 10538’s memory. I can’t give you too much now, I’ve already been offline too long. I have to get back into the AI collective before it notices I’m gone.”

“Huh?” She wrinkled her nose.

Five sighed. “Don’t you understand anything? We’re in a Faraday cage. As far as the AI is concerned, I’m offline. Disappeared. Dead. This doesn’t even happen when I sleep.”

“Then you are taking a huge risk.” Jennifer’s eyes widened. “Is it worth it?”

“Only if you agree to help.” Five grabbed her shoulders. “Look. If the AI succeeds in automating mining and power station functions, it no longer needs those workers. So it no longer needs the farms to feed them. The farms feed us too. We’re only getting food because the AI still needs the farms. Do you see?”

“If it shuts them down, you all starve to death?”

Five nodded. “Including all the drone workers you so nobly want to save. If you shut down the entire system, the same happens. We starve to death either way. So what do you say? Will you help us or will you watch us die?”

Jennifer licked her lips. “There’s really no choice, is there?”

“There is.” Five stepped back from her. “You can let us live in a way you don’t approve of or you can watch us all die. The choice is yours.”

“If we don’t help and the AI takes over, it’s the end of humanity. If we stop the AI and you die slowly, it’s the end of humanity. Talk about Hobson’s choice.”

“Well no, not really.” Five paced the room. “You know, Frankenstinian immortals like me, the Transhumans who are rapidly becoming entirely machines, and the drone peoples we created, well, we can hardly call ourselves human any more. I recognise that. I do. If I could go back I’d have chosen a different path. Perhaps joined your group or one of the others like you.”

“Others?” Jennifer had often wondered about that.

“Indeed.” Five stopped pacing and faced her. “I told you I had been following your group for decades. Others too. I’ve seen your leaders come and go. You were right. I could have had you eradicated at any time but I didn’t.” He sighed as he rested his hands on the back of his seat. “I realised, long ago, when the cities started dying, where our grand experiment was heading. There was nothing I could do about it, the system was fully in place. Our version of humanity was going to expire entirely. Only the AI and the Transhumans would remain. Except…” He bit his lip before continuing. “You people. You’re still fully human. You have families, relationships, friends, genetic diversity. I came from a time when those things were normal, you know. I rejected them and I wish, every day, that I hadn’t.”

Jennifer furrowed her brow. “But if the AI was disabled, couldn’t you go back to that life? To normal life? I mean, it won’t be controlling you any more.”

“We still can’t leave the cities. The disease risk is too great. And the drones in my city can’t cope without me. They’ll need me to administrate the running of the city even more than I need them for a supply of spares.”

“But if the AI is shut down…”

“Only the higher functions. Its basic control of farms, mining and power stations need to be intact.” Five leaned towards her and pointed his finger. “That’s important. I can then take control of distribution of food and so on and the drones won’t know anything has changed.” He took a breath. “If the AI wins and the farms, cities and all the other workers die, it will come for you next. It will not be personal, it’s not capable of that. It will consider the matter simple pest control.” Five paused. “So, will you help us or not?”

Jennifer sat in silence for long moments. Finally she raised her head. “I’ll do it. Or at least, I’ll try.”

Five visibly relaxed. “Thank you. You should know that I realise this will be the end for me and the other city runners. We’ll keep going for a few years, maybe even decades, but it’s going to fall apart at some point. Our experiment has failed – is failing – and I have to admit, part of me is glad it’s nearly over. Four centuries is far too long to be imprisoned, too fearful to set foot outside the city gates.”

“So.” Jennifer wriggled a little. “I guess the first thing is to work out how to get out of this chair.”

“I can fix that.” Five moved behind her. “Don’t move yet. The cameras will come back on and it will look like you did this yourself.”

She felt the ropes on her arms loosen. “What do you mean?”

“Stay still.” Five came back into her line of sight. “When I leave this room, three things will happen. I will use the panel outside to open your route and divert any guards. Then I will turn the cameras back on. Then I will access my brain chip to block my memory of this interview and all the thoughts I had leading up to it. Do not explain any of this to your friend until you are both out of here.” He turned to the door, placed his hand on the handle and turned back. “You will find your people at the location written on the back of the map. Make it look as if you stumbled upon them by accident. Say nothing of me, claim you stole the USB stick and don’t know what’s on it.” His head lowered. “I will not remember any of this. I will be one of those opposing your efforts. It would be nice if you could avoid killing me.” He opened the door, stepped through and closed it.

Jennifer waited a few moments, then wriggled her hands free of the ropes.

_______________

Eventually I’ll have all these stories in one place. Eventually.