This is the first chapter of the book. It sets the tone of a meeting at the Alien institution prior to the inspection.
Chapter 1 – The beginning
For the love of Heaven! Zag shouted, throwing his four manipulators in the air in exasperation. We can put in about the rest of the stuff later on. Of course research and study are important and eventually the rest of the bloody universe. Of course having lots of interesting specimens is important. But right now we have a sodding inspection and the Inspection Committee won’t give a bugger about all of that. They just want to shut us down. Can’t you see that? Only paperwork can save us now!
I suggest we have a tea break, Lat proposed testily. The other two committee members vigorously nodded their cranial carapaces and clapped their manipulators in agreement.
No! Zag said sternly in his most authoritative voice, asserting himself and putting them firmly in their place. The clapping came to an abrupt halt. Not until we have finally agreed on this damn mission statement.
Zag took a big sigh, forced himself to calm down, changed tack and looked round at his three fellow colleagues pleadingly – to no avail. It was evident from their petulant scowls that they could not see anything as simple as that. They were tainted with idealistic fervor. They’d rather sink with their principles intact that swim with them compromised.
He searched around one more time for some simple way of explaining things to make them see the importance of the task in hand. They simply weren’t getting it. But this is our one fundamental purpose – our mission statement. One bloody thing. That is all. One bloody statement – one crucial essence of purpose. Can’t you understand that?
Their blank expressions said it all.
Zag turned blue with pent-up rage, supernumery protuberances began to burst out over his head and body with their characteristic – and embarrassing – popping sound. Zag hoped it wasn’t that noticeable.
His colleagues, in characteristic Gordian politeness, were pretending not to notice, but they all continued to look at Zag with an air of resignation and sour resentment that certainly did not help matters, or do anything for his disposition.
The committee had been in session for three weeks now – a whole, unprecedented three weeks, twenty one flaming days, without so much as a break, not even a lousy toilet break. It was true that a Gordian’s metabolism could put up with such insults but it was far from desirable and did little to ameliorate the disposition of the reluctant participants. But Zag saw it as a necessary evil. There was work to be done. In just under three months’ time they had been promised a full inspection and everyone knew what that meant. President Bog had introduced the new austerity measures and was looking to cut to the bone. He considered arts, science and most other things, including aliens, especially aliens, frivolous and unnecessary. The cards were on the table for the Gordian Institute for Extra-terrestrial Research and Conservation, or GIERC, as it was generally known. Bog was not renowned for his love of anything other than business and the bottom line, and aliens were definitely not profitable enough. Besides, they were ugly and revolting. In his book they were worse than Gordian ballet – and Gordian ballet was renowned for inducing catatonia and suicide. The future for the institute looked dire.
But Zag, the assistant Director, was determined not to go down without a fight. Despite his present fury – directed at Director Zor who, as usual, was nowhere to be seen, because he was off gallivanting around the galaxy as per bloody usual, he remained passionate about the place. Zag cherished the institute with all his heart and truly believed that the work they performed was inspirational and exceedingly important in the confines of such an increasingly uncaring universe. Without the institute’s efforts thousands of alien species would now be extinct. To his great satisfaction they had, against all the odds, successfully reintroduced a great array of alien life back into the wild. Then there were the educational benefits to consider. Generations of young Gordians had their empathic glands fully charged through a single visit to the institute. They learned to value the range of alien life out there and see them as fellow sentient beings, not mere objects to be exploited, or lesser creatures destined to disappear for ever. Aliens were important. They had feelings too. Thanks to the Institute many youngsters took that message on board. There was hope. While the institute existed there was hope.
In Zag’s opinion Bog was a philistine, a monster of the first order. He represented all that was retrograde and soulless. The world he wanted to create was as grey and boring as Briscow’s synthsoup – and Briscow’s synthsoup made distilled water taste positively tangy.
It was true that the planet had a few financial problems but it did not have to be one long decline into economic madness and uncaring exploitation – did it? There were better ways. The Institute for Extra-terrestrial Research and Conservation clearly demonstrated that and was, in Zag’s eyes, the last bastion of civilisation. If it was the last thing he did Zag intended to ensure that their crucial work continued and that the cretinous Bog did not get his way and close it down. Despite his anger at the irresponsibility of Zor, he was resolute to do all in his power to keep the place open. To that end he had brought the committee together to review and update their policy books. Everyone knew that paperwork was the key to success. When the inspection team arrived he meant to present them with a set of documents that were not only first class but would demonstrate quite clearly the essential nature of their work and its value to Gordian society. No self-respecting inspection team could argue with that, could they?
The major obstacle to achieving this laudable aim seemed to be the committee itself. Individually they were all as passionate and committed as Zag. The problem was that none of them agreed on how to go about achieving their aims. Indeed, deciding on the actual aims was nigh on impossible. Every one of them held a different vision that they sought to promote. No two of them shared a view and none of them were prepared to compromise. In that respect it was a fairly typical committee.
Dut and Lat were utterly impossible. Zag could not fault their spirit or intent but they were so irrational that it drove him crazy. They both wanted to take the work of the institute out of the confines of the galaxy to the universe beyond. Their ideas were so far-reaching and grandiose that they did not have an ice-ball in hell’s chance of success. Every time they opened their mouths it was some other ridiculous plan to take their work to some distant far-flung backwater tucked away in the middle of some megallanic cloud that could never, in a billion bloody Sundays, gain funding or achieve anything worthwhile, just because there was a rumour of some weird bunch of aliens who were on the point of dying out. As far as Zag was concerned Dut and Lat were out with the fairies. He was already drawing up plans in his mind to have them elsewhere when the inspection team arrived. If the chief inspector got one whiff of those two then he reasoned that the game was up.
Then there was Mut – on the face of it quite rational and down to earth. At least he wasn’t cooking up fanciful schemes for some plasma based life inhabiting a sun the other side of the universe; he was quite OK with focussing nearer to home with life-forms that bore some resemblance to Gordians and so could be in with an outside chance of being recognised, even by meatheads such as Bog, as being alive and having intelligence. The problem with Mut was that he did not value paperwork. He hated bureaucracy and begrudged every minute spent doing it. Reviewing the policies was tantamount to torture for Mut. He wanted to be out there collecting alien specimens, harvesting and observing them. That was laudable but not helpful when it came to the bloody inspection. No matter how hard Zag tried to impress upon him the need for planning, management of resources, or even something as basic as strategic thinking, Mut simply did not get it. He wanted action. He wasn’t happy unless he was getting his manipulators dirty. No matter how many times Zag explained that all successful action depended on clear philosophy or else it inevitably broke down into anarchy and chaos, Mut simply went deaf. It was like talking to a brick wall. They had been in session now for three weeks and had not yet been able to agree on the opening mission statement. As the policy booklet was 500 pages long, and the mission statement merely one paragraph, it did not bode well for the completion of the task in time for the inspection.
Zag looked sternly round at his three colleagues with a fierce gleam in his eyes. We will bloody agree on this mission statement before we take any break or sustenance, he asserted fiercely. He glared round at them one by one daring them to contradict him. They’d been at this for twenty one days, and Gordian days were notoriously among the longer variety, seeing as how the large planet turned so slowly, and he was pretty much at the end of his tether. He felt so tense that if they so much as blinked he’d probably explode.
But a tea break would refresh the mind and enable us to work more efficiently; Lat persisted, not at all intimidated by Zag’s most fearsome scowl or evident emotional turmoil. He lolled on his couch, manipulators withdrawn, optical and aural stalks shortened, a relaxed pink colour, looking bored and quite evidently could not care less how angry that made Zag.
Can’t we simply gather together a huge number of new specimens to impress them with? Mut enquired for the umpteenth time. He was so touchingly naïve. Surely they can’t fail to be impressed by all the conservation work we have undertaken? He was usually a staunch ally of Zag’s but was greatly irritated by the way the inspection was diverting attention away from the aliens they were caring for. He wanted to get back to work.
No it bloody wouldn’t, and no we bloody can’t, Zag insisted, teetering on the verge of going volcanic. All we bloody well have to do is agree a simple statement. That’s all. Then we can take a break and refresh our bloody minds. He was in grave danger of losing it and he was experienced enough to know that losing it was no good to anybody. If you lost it you lost. Those were the rules of committees.
He looked around the committee room at the three blobs that confronted him. He was the only one of the four of them who now retained his shape. At the beginning of the meeting he had decided on a bipedal sylph-like form which he always found rather elegant. The others had adopted an array of other equally impressive though less formal shapes. The institute did not go in for uniforms or even standardisation of body shape. They preferred informality. Zag was a little miffed by this policy. He rather thought that a nice uniform coupled with a pleasing standardised form created an aura of professionalism. He was not impressed by the dress of his fellow senior team colleagues or their chosen body shapes. Lat had settled for a rather ugly quadruped of garish colour, probably intended to challenge Zag’s supremacy, and the other two had adopted variations of the bipedal model with an array of rather ostentatious testicular embellishments and vid hues. However, all that had now gone. The three of them had given up all pretence of maintaining any morph and were lolling around in their seats in unrestricted masses; masses that were now noticeably smaller than when they had begun this exercise three weeks ago.
Zag, well aware of the way this committee operated, had looked to focus their minds on reaching conclusions by depriving them of nourishment or relaxation until the task was complete.
As usual it was a tactic that had not borne results. But then nothing ever did, whatever he tried.
Now, he pleaded, softening his tone with a great effort. Can we just focus for once and agree this simple Mission Statement so that we can move on to the rest of the document. We have been three weeks on this one simple statement – three bloody weeks! I would remind you that the inspection team will be all over us in less than three months’ time. At this rate we’ll hardly have got started let alone have a set of documents to impress them with. He slumped back on his couch in frustration. We are in grave danger of having our operation closed down. Now can we please get a grip? He looked around the group appealingly.
Nobody said a word. They all glumly stared back at him with the most dejected, bored expressions on what passed for faces.
Right! Zag sat upright and pulled his body into an even tighter form. I shall read it to you one more time, he spoke in his softest most ameliorating voice, and hopefully this time we can all agree that it puts the principles of GIERC in a nutshell, Zag said, desperately trying to summon up some modicum of enthusiasm for the task. His patience was so threadbare that his raw emotional state was hanging out for all to see and that wasn’t good.
Nobody spoke. They were used to Zag’s enthusiasm and tactics. They had all now resentfully reabsorbed any orifice that might have been used for vocalisation and were glowering at him through numerous stubby optical devices. Zag took that to mean that he had some kind of tacit agreement so he read the statement that had taken three weeks in the making.
The principle aim of the Gordian Institute for Extra-terrestrial Research and Conservation is to preserve endangered species of life in the Gordacian Galaxy.
Zag then looked up and glared round at the three of them, daring anyone to contest the statement.
Finally Lat broke the silence. I still think we ought to include something about study in there, Lat objected. Study is an important part of our purpose.
And some mention of the wider universe I think is essential, Dut said morosely. We should show that we are forward thinking.
For the love of dear Heaven!!! Zag raged, finally completely losing it. He roared, he pounded the table and screamed. If there had been anything to throw he would have thrown it. Appendages and protuberances popped loudly into being as he surrendered control of his body. His colour turned navy blue and his oral orifice spat streams of orange mucus that splattered over the room and colleagues.
It was wondrous to behold.
They all watched him with an air of resignation and sour resentment, waiting for the storm to abate. It took a while.
Right. Right, Zag said, finally pulling himself back into a semblance of control. Reseating himself, retracting the assortment of appendages with evident embarrassment, he set about regaining his composure. Gradually his colour went from navy to sky blue but refused to budge any further than that.
An age passed. When he felt able, he once again peered round at them and with a great effort resumed his measured body shape. He was determined not to let it get to him. They were not going to break him. Finally he was calm enough to address them and forced himself to adopt a more conciliatory tone, Gentlemen, I assure you that we will fully deal with all those important things, the education and wider universe, later in the document. He tentatively raised his eye-pods. Now are we agreed that this is the primary fundamental purpose of the institute and should be our mission statement – yes or no?
After a moment’s silence Mut spoke up.
Isn’t it exactly the same as the mission statement we started with three weeks ago? Mut muttered.
Elsewhere on the same planet Pev was engaging in his usual pastime, you might say favourite pastime but that would suggest something out of the ordinary, or one of many, and this was far from out of the ordinary, and this was pretty much his only pastime; he was sprawled on a couch in a narcodive blissed out on narcojuice, with both eye-pods blearily engaged in watching a young Gordian wrapping himself around a pole and revealing tantalising glimpses of a very pronounced bump. The young man was close to budding – very close! That bump was sprouting a distinct well-formed head with eye-pods that were already blinking and taking in the scene around. The bump’s manipulators were opening and closing. If you looked closely it was possible to see that there was a distinct pinching in where the bump was attached to the young Gordian’s body. Quite disgusting and thrilling! Not a sight you would ever expect to see outside of a low-level dive like this. Gordian’s who had decided on budding were expected to obey stringent seclusion and don the durogown for the duration so that even their own eyes were shielded from the filthy sight of their own budding. There was big money to be made flaunting your bud, if you had the stomach for the work. In a few days’ time that bud would drop. It was incredibly illegal to display that, indeed it was illegal to display a full bud, even draped in a shapeless durogown, in public, but nobody seemed to enforce that particular law and Pev had observed a large number of the judiciary frequenting this particular ‘private’ narcodive where naked buds were always on display – for a price. Pev made it his business to ensure they knew he’d seen those members of the elite lasciviously ogling the nubiles in this joint and contrived to befriend them and surreptitiously gain visual proof of their presence in the illicit enterprise of prurient ogling. You never knew, in his line of business, when that might come in handy. A picture or two might be worth its weight in gold.
The young Gordian had finally left the pole and got around to flaunting the whole bump and was parading it around the room, thrusting it into everyone’s face and even lasciviously caressing the rudimentary protuberances that sprouted from it. It was utterly scandalous. Pev noted the two judges sitting with the chief of police trembling with excitement, their eye-pods bobbing about as the young Gordian, with a vacant, bored expression, worked the room extracting creds right left and centre as the eager clientele pressed the cash into the grasping mits of the bumps manipulators and delighted in the way it grasped the money. The room reverberated to the raucous cheers and leers.
Drop ‘im for us, dear!
Show us your bump!
You know, Pev remarked to Qip, his companion of the night, that trollop, he nodded towards the hussy of a Gordian, is due to drop in a few days.
Certainly looks like it, Qip replied in a quavering voice, not taking his eyes of the naked bump as the young Gordian blatantly displayed all its attributes for everyone to gawp at.
Pev flicked him a sideways glance. He’s going to do it in public.
NO! Qip exclaimed involuntarily, equally shocked and excited by the thought. Imagine – a bud actually dropping. That was probably the most disgusting thing you could ever imagine. People only ever did that in the utmost privacy. Dropping a bud was simply not talked about in polite society. You could imagine that nobody had ever done such a thing – that people were all brought about through some sterile surgical procedure. Budding – it was too disgusting for words. The thought of it made him tremble with excitement.
For a fee, Pev remarked nonchalantly.
I bet that’s quite a sum, Qip remarked, studying the bump and allowing his imagination to rampage through his mind as the Gordian approached. Buoyed up by the excitement he started thrusting creds into its tiny manipulators protruding from the bump. Nobody would do something as dirty as that lightly.
It is, Pev agreed. It’s a big risk isn’t it? If you were busted at a thing like that it’d mean reprogramming. No way round it.
I’ve seen viddies of it, real holos, Qip said, rotating one of his eye-stalks to watch the reaction, as if that might impress Pev.
But this is for real, Pev said matter-of-factly; close up, for a small select group.
Wow!! That would be something, Qip replied, glancing at Pev, unable to keep the wonder out of his voice. The thought of seeing a bud up close and watch it drop was electrifying. It was the most secret thing a Gordian ever did, completely revolting. Even to talk openly about it was considered to be the ultimate in rudeness. To watch it – that was too intoxicating for words.
I’ve seen it happen live a number of times, Pev remarked. He nodded towards a door at the far end of the club. There’s a room up there where it all happens. Only for a select group. He shrugged. You have to know the right people and pay the price.
Qip had gone a deep shade of blue at the very thought of it and both of his eye-pods were erect.
How can you afford that? Qip asked.
I have a ticket for this event too, Pev remarked with an air of boredom. Thought I would give it a go. He looks quite fit. It should be good.
I’ll say, Qip said hopelessly impressed. I didn’t realise your line of business paid so handsomely.
It certainly has some reward, Pev remarked, using the dispensor to top up their juice. I’ve a few million probes out looking for life right now. I only have to hit lucky with one of them and I can make a tidy killing.
Qip nodded, finally jerking one of his eye-pods away from the bump, which was being paraded around to another group of jeering clients. A few million eh? That must cost a tidy sum? Your line of work must be exceedingly lucrative.
You have to invest to progress, Pev remarked, knocking back a big mouthful of the amber nectar. There’s a lot of space out there but there are people who will pay well for an exotic find. It’s a question of tracking them down. Aliens are not easy to find and interesting aliens are quite a premium. Plenty of people will pay the top price for something rare and interesting. I make a reasonable living out of it.
Qip nodded and thought to himself that if only he could afford a few million probes. He could live the life of Riley like Pev. There were plenty of mugs out there to fleece. But then his mind settled back on the delectable bump being paraded in front of him. Right then he wanted nothing more than enough creds to see that handsome Gordian’s bump drop. That would make his life complete. He couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than that.
Just then Pev’s communicator flashed.
Oh ho, Pev said gleefully. Looks like one of my beauties has found something.
Qip watched intently with a jealous scowl as Pev checked the incoming message. Probably more slime, he told Qip with a shrug of an appendage. It usually is. Finding anything interesting is like a kaon in a burst of gamma.
Pev’s probe had indeed homed in on evidence of life. There were a multitude of tell-tale signs it looked for. Life was rare and you had to be responsive to the slightest indication while roaming through the endless wastes of space. But even a task of that magnitude only required ten percent of her processing capacity which left 90% of her mind free to get exceptionally bored. Fortunately Probe 777 had a store of every book and recording of the highest, most serious, high-brow culture known to Gordians and amused herself by whisking through it all and chuckling contentedly to herself. It was hilarious. How on Gord had they managed to create anything as sophisticated and refined as herself was beyond her. They were a farce.
Probe 777 had detected the atmospheric anomalies on the three planets in the system. That boded well. It was almost certainly life. When those were added to the output on the electromagnetic spectrum it seemed to indicate at least some modicum of intelligence. That looked even more promising. Pev would be delighted and more importantly it would give her something to do. Anything was better than this boredom.
Probe 777 messaged Pev of her discovery and then set off to home in on the source and begin her investigations. She hummed contentedly to herself as she made her approach. This was her idea of fun.
There was certainly sentient lifeforms in that solar system. They were everywhere. At first they all seemed to be scurrying around like a nest of sqabs who had just been disturbed with a mighty stick but she soon began to detect various patterns. As Probe 777 watched the activity of the creatures who inhabited the solar system and many things began to become clear.
Space is vast; it is huge; it is infinite, but space for humans, as probe 777 was soon able to ascertain, was extremely limited because they lacked the means to travel far. Their solar system was their cage. 4000 billion people take up a lot of room. They were alarmingly packed in so tightly they probably all had to synchronise their breathing. Their solar system simply didn’t have enough surface area to house them all. That spelt trouble. Sure enough it took little investigation to observe that there was conflict. What soon became obvious was that there was constant battle over territory. These aliens did not like to share – and they were not as homogenous as they appeared.
It was quite apparent that despite their level of intelligence humans were none too clever. Probe 777 found that a bit disappointing but she supposed they were clever enough. Pev wouldn’t notice. Just as long as they could walk and talk he’d be happy – as long as they looked interesting and he could flog them to someone. But Probe 777 found their behaviour rather repugnant. They were incredibly silly. The trouble was that they haven’t been around long enough. They still thought tribally like in their early days. Instead of all joining together to solve problems they still tended to split into factions and create problems. They called it politics. Presently she surmised that there were two such alliances. From what Probe 777 could glean from a quick scan of their whole recorded history, they had distilled themselves out of the countries and races that had started out on the central planet called Earth. There was the Hispcom bloc and the Amcap bloc. Both had evolved to be roughly the same numbers, size and power. Between them they had carved up the Earth and terraformed the Moon, Venus, Mars as well as the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, but still there was not enough space and unbelievably, instead of investigating ways to solve this problem, the two blocs appeared to be heading for a showdown that would likely destroy them both. Boggling. Probe 777 was profoundly moved to laughter at the sheer stupidity of it. She metaphorically wiped the tears from her eyes. You couldn’t write it.
When she had recovered from her bout of hilarity Probe 777 looked more closely at the two blocs. They supposedly ran on completely different ideologies but she could not for the life of her detect any profound differences between them. They both, despite all their claims to the contrary, ran on pretty much the same principles. Hispcom was founded on a system that was supposed to be run by the people for the people with control of the markets while Amcap was founded on the principle of elective representative democracy and free markets. Both had decayed systems that had become totalitarian hierarchies so that the elites who ran the systems of both paid mere lip-service to their founding principles and had devised ways to circumvent all the rules. Life for individuals in both blocs was much the same as each other, including both sets of rulers who all lived in complete luxury.
Probe 777 had been constructed to hunt down life and observe, not interpret or pass comment. But that did not mean that it was not capable of marvelling at the level of idiocy it discovered in the scene it was witnessing. Probe 777 often despaired at the imbecilities of all living organisms it had encountered – including the Gordians who had manufactured her. To Probe 777 all organic creatures were infantile, stupid and inept. But even the vulgar Gordians were gods compared to this lot. But then – hers not to wonder why – or even to wonder how! She made a mental sigh in her circuits and set about her task of gathering information. There were plenty of questions to be answered.
Why could these sentient beings not pool their resources and solve the problems that assailed them? Why did they pour their imagination and resources into posturing, conflict and aggression? She felt like banging all their heads together. With a little more effort they could have solved the transport situation and opened up the rest of the galaxy and all their problems would have been solved? Their silliness was beyond belief. It merely demonstrated how primitive they still were. But, she conceded that they had possibilities. At least they weren’t bacterial slime like most life that she and her fellow probes discovered. That was tedious. These were a tad more interesting. They were sentient, if you could describe this level of consciousness as sentience. In her view it was highly debateable. Still – it met the criteria Pev had programmed into her circuitry. That had to be good. 777 thought Pev would be pleased.
She set out to produce a detailed report – so she delved.
The first obvious thing of note was that there was an endless struggle over land and resources. The main cause of dissention at this moment in history was the asteroid belt. This belt had historically been declared international property. Therefore any colonisation or mining was strictly controlled by international law under the jurisdiction of a body known as the United Nations, but that did not seem to curtail anyone. The United Nations had no clout. All they could do was censure and nobody paid too much heed to that. The laws were openly flouted by both sides. Under the guise of scientific research, colonies and mining operations had been established by both sides. The asteroids were being encroached upon on a daily basis. The area was so large and complex that it was impossible to police by a United Nations with such limited resources at its disposal. They simply did not have the means to enforce the most basic of laws. Throughout the belt there were spats, arguments, incidents and outright aggression that frequently threatened to erupt into major conflict. With the weapons available to both blocs a major conflict was unthinkable without crippling both sides. It almost certainly would destroy them both. And yet they senselessly flirted with it. The meagre forces of the United Nations, coupled with their own sense of self-preservation, were the only things stopping them from blowing each other up. It was comical. Repeatedly the two blocs positioned themselves, pushed the barriers to the limits, blustered and faced off, but always drew back from the brink at the last minute. There was too much at stake. They both possessed enough fire-power to destroy the entire solar system a hundred times over. But that did not seem to deter them. It seemed inevitable that sooner or later something would push them over the brink and then it was adios for mankind. That was protoplasmic life for you – or at least organic minds! So arbitrary and illogical! So daft!! She was thankful that her electronic circuits ran on more stable electricity. Chemistry was far too basic for her likes.
777 also noted that there were vestiges of religions that had their roots back in the dawn of mankind when the early humans were struggling to understand the universe they had been born into. Can you believe that? They had all that technology and some of them still believed in Gods. It was amazing that there were still some of that primitive thinking still extant. What did that say about the quality of their minds?
777 soon ascertained that there were reasons for this madness. Humans were basically overgrown monkeys with emotions controlled by glands. They ran on emotions. They did not always, if ever, function on logic. Those hormones created an intoxicating mix that prevented them from thinking straight. The chemicals actually befuddled the chemistry of their own brains. No wonder they did not know what the hell they were doing most of the time. They were trying to reason and solve problems with a head full of warm soup. On top of that they possessed instincts that come from the shadowy depths of their psyche. Their brains still possessed primitive sections. They hadn’t fully evolved. These factors conspired to override the higher centres of reason in there cerebrum. They were victims of their embryonic past and poorly evolved chemistry. It was a wonder they could walk and chew. In fact many of them couldn’t walk and chew.
The history of humans could have been made into a comedy. Probe 777 amused herself by doing just that. It was out and out farce. Extremely entertaining. She shared it her fellow probes and they found it enormously pleasurable. In many respects humans were too primitive for their own good. They always thought they knew what they are doing but history proved otherwise. They always looked for strong leadership and then were surprised to find that they have lumbered themselves with dictators, tyrants and psychopaths. They want quick black and white answers to complex problems and were amazed to find the problems, instead of improving, had escalated in size. Even a limited probe like 777 understood that there were no cut and dry answers to complex issues. But humans were daft. They never seemed to learn. They nearly always appointed the same kind of people into powerful positions because those leaders were strong and decisive, and then invariably found that those individuals that they’d elected were the psychopaths and sociopaths who have got to the top by trampling over anyone who cared a damn, and once at the top, surprisingly, those psychotic leaders delighted in inflicting pain and suffering on all those below them. So they re-elected them. They never learnt.
Probe 777 had never had so much fun. This was better than anything in her comedy section. She knew that she would enjoy herself for years into the future running through all the idiocies she was discovering.
It was soon clear to 777 that humans were nowhere near as intelligent as they thought they were, but they were jolly interesting, more interesting than she had first thought. They might not be terribly endangered as a species but they were dimorphic and they had sex, can you believe that? Sex was almost mythical and Probe 777 soon ascertained that it was every bit as weird and messy as rumoured. Sex was the icing on the cake. Sex was unique. And that was enough to attract the attention of any respectable Gordian collector of endangered aliens. Probe 777 felt pleased with herself. She’d always wanted to have a good look at real sex. She’d plenty of archives about it but they were all rather vague. This was the real thing. These humans did it for real – and they did it often! And it was true – they did do it on the furniture – and it was exceedingly loud and messy. It was much better than all the stuff in the archives! No wonder there were so many of them. She knew Pev would be absolutely beside himself. There was a hell of a market for sex. It was the fabled lodestone.
Probe 777 sent off an updated report with full visuals and descriptions of sex – nothing too graphic. She was smart and wanted to draw Pev in slowly, but enough to send him into an ecstasy of lust. She enjoyed playing him.
Pev was amazed when he downloaded the report. He fell in love with those humans from the moment he first set his optical stalks on them. Humans were so cute. He’d never discovered anything quite as quaint and interesting. He was bowled over by the dimorphism and the sex was almost unbelievable. They had dangly bits and squishy bits, wobbly bits and squirty bits and drippy bits. It was all so much more than anything he’d read about in the archives. Nobody had found any species indulging in sex in modern times. All they had were old waffly accounts of fabled legendary discoveries the details of which had long vanished in antiquity. But these were here and now. Sex was wondrous. Dimorphism was boggling. He could not wait to find what they did with all these bits. Which bit went into where, why all the squirting and dripping and why they panted and groaned so much? All that huffing and puffing. What was that about? It was bizarre. So weird. Every other creature they had discovered did things so much more boringly – they just budded off a new individual when they felt the need. This sex was so complex and messy. Besides, he was watching the short viddy 777 had sent and it was almost impossible to see what that human was going to do with that enormous appendage. He didn’t seem to be able to make his mind up himself. First here and then there. Then taking it out and squirting. What was that all about? Pev knew he was on to a winner. He had to study this more. There was a market for curiosities such as this.
Pev made a mental note to keep that bit of information to himself – the stuff about sex. Firstly he didn’t want the vultures getting in on the act and secondly he knew this was the clincher that he could use in any negotiations with possible clients. Sex added a few noughts to any deal. It was the holy grail.
He sent Probe 777 a message to gather more information.
Probe 777 set about her task of selecting specimens. Her brief was to find mature adults that were in their prime for the purpose of future collection if Pev deemed it worthwhile. Looking at the merchandise on offer she reckoned that Pev would probably want her to snaffle a number so she set about searching out a few likely candidates.
Nick Crane was feeling pleased with himself. At the tender age of twenty four he was a hugely successful man with a great future ahead of him. He had just signed another mind-boggling deal with Grongle, the internet giant, to franchise his Holographic Art. They would distribute throughout the whole of Amcap and even parts of Hispcom on any system that used their platform. That was one hell of a lot of systems and each one accessed by a punter generated a tiny return. Together that amounted to a considerable sum of beans. It was one more step forward in the Nick Crane rise to global fame and fortune. Well actually he was already there. This just cemented the deal.
Life is funny. What had started as a hobby was now a business. What had begun as art was now an industry pulling in megabucks. At twenty four it was hard to take in. You got caught up in the fame machine. It took over your life. He wasn’t sure he liked it much. It certainly wasn’t all what it was cracked up to be. The stress, pressure and public attention was draining – but it certainly had its perks.
Nick had a rare talent. He could design holographic art that connected to the psyche of billions. That had first been recognised by the Art Industry who had showered him with honours, then by the collectors who had paid huge sums for his installations and finally by the financial moguls of the mass marketing industry who saw the potential for linking his art with advertising and promotion. His earning power had become astronomical. The sky was the limit. With a Solar System population in the thousands of billions the market potential was truly almost unlimited. Nick was already earning more money than he could possibly spend in a lifetime. This deal would take that to another level. It had become all about numbers and comparisons. That measured status. The money didn’t really matter anymore. Who was it that he was on a par with now?
It is amazing how quickly life can change.
Nick had started out as a geekie kid from one of the regional units. Kids from those backgrounds were destined to live their lives as mundane players. There were social ceilings you could not break through. He was reasonably intelligent and so probably, all things being equal, with a fair wind, would have ended up teaching. That would have provided sufficient income to enable him to exist in much the same strata as his parents. He’d have had a pleasant two room apartment on level hundred or so, and end up married with two or three kids, depending on whether he could afford a licence, and probably taken his family for a couple of weeks to the surface where they would have played about in a resort and got to see the sun for a few days. If he was particularly adventurous and lucky he might have applied for a post on Mars or Venus and achieved a slightly higher standard of living. Who knows? But the future had turned out differently. It hadn’t happened that way at all. He’d ended up mingling with the elite. He could buy a million repro licences if he wanted. And there was no being stuck in a 2 roomer on level 100. He could afford a 100 room cruising pad that followed the sun all day long.
As a kid Nick nurtured his talent – not because he had to but because he enjoyed it. He spent his free time designing Holographic Art and his parents went without so that they could provide him with the tools. It was fun and it impressed his mates. It was one of his teachers who noticed it first, strangely not one of the Art ones either; it was his Biology teacher. She’d seen one of his installations and been mightily impressed. It was her enthusiasm that had sparked him to try even harder. He liked being noticed and he liked being praised. It gave him a buzz. He began producing ever more elaborate designs to impress her and delighted in her response. That look of delight was reward enough. But Natalie Armitage, the Biology teacher concerned, was not content to leave it there. She was the first, apart from his doting parents, to be smitten by his rudimentary work, the first to recognise the level of his talent. She encouraged him to enter competitions and chided him until he did.
He’d never looked back. He’d won competition after competition and soon risen to global recognition. It had all seamlessly flowed from there. From someone destined for a fairly mundane life he found himself elevated to the very heights. By the age of eighteen he was being heralded as a major genius in his field. It didn’t stop there. By twenty one he was being viewed as one of the most successful people of his generation.
For him, his parents and Miss Natalie Armitage it proved highly fruitful. He was not one to forget who had made it all possible and given him the confidence and backing when he had needed it. Life was very different for those who had helped him on the way up. They were all surface dwellers now with a lifestyle they could only have dreamed of. That felt good to Nick too. It was good to pay back favours. He delighted in the pleasure they found in their elevated lifestyle.
For Nick it was even better than that. He lived in a most beautiful complex consisting of twenty spacious rooms high above the surface. It was the kind of luxury and space that was hard to imagine in a world so incredibly crowded. It clearly demonstrated just what a truckload of credits could buy. He looked down at the clouds and distant surface below him and claimed that it inspired him in his holographic work. It didn’t really. He just liked living there. It was wonderful. He did not know where he got his inspiration from. The ideas and images seemed to congeal in his mind and he merely gathered them together to create his work. Miraculously, and thankfully, they never seemed to dry up, and equally wonderfully, he never tired of chasing them around. The joy of creating never lessened. He was one lucky boy. To be successful at something you loved doing was the luckiest thing in the world.
It is amazing what wealth can buy. He had it all – even his own scudcar. It is also amazing what wealth can do for a person. It acts as an aphrodisiac on women and works wonders on the fragile psychology of a shy geek. With the help of the top fashion experts it can transform a spectacularly bland individual into a sleek, stylish, sophisticated man brimming with confidence. That is what happened to Nick Crane.
Wealth had unleashed a different persona altogether. The reticent youth had blossomed into a confident man able to deal with the media and talk freely about his work.
The shy retiring Nick of old had disappeared to be replaced by one who thoroughly enjoyed all the glamour and attention and felt completely at home in the swankiest of places. How adaptable people are. Nick enjoyed everything about his new life. It is incredible how quickly a person can change. One minute he was the quiet, boring kid that none of the girls fancied and the next he was the most sought after bachelor in the solar system. Life was one round of restaurants, night-spots, sporting events, concerts and resorts, always with a bevy of young ladies on his arm. He enjoyed the fast life and was not slow to take advantage of his luck. As I said – fame and fortune are the greatest aphrodisiacs known to man. That works for men almost as much as it does for women.
For Nick the sky was the limit. But he was already as high as he could go. His domicile was in the stratosphere. They did not build any higher than that.
That was good enough for Probe 777. Nick Crane’s isolation from the mass of humanity made him an easy candidate for her in depth study and easy prey for snaffling. She set about looking for other likely candidates.
Wow!! Pev exclaimed in his own head as he homed in on the new signal from Probe 777. Bingo!!
It was unusual for the probes to be right. They usually went off in random, perverse ways, triggered by heaven knows what, probably their own insane boredom. They were a law unto themselves and although programmed to hunt for life, he suspected that they usually did their own thing. Even when they were on task they usually came up with little and had a tendency to eulogise about some new lifeform that was really little more than a sponge. That was partly due to life being so extremely scarce so they spent a lot of time meandering around going nowhere fast and were desperate for any glimmer of interest. Despite the fact that they were only intelligent machines with electronic circuitry for brains the loneliness seemed to send them a bit strange. You couldn’t trust them. They were programmed to pick up on all the tell-tale signs of living organisms – you know – carbon, methane, transmissions, light, sound, radio – you name it. Nine times out of ten, even when an alarm goes off, there is nothing to get excited about when you get there. Some quirk of nature triggers the probe and you have to check it out. It’s a bore. But one time out of ten there is a result – life. But mostly that is a bore too. Unfortunately it is rarely life as we know it – just some goddam unicellular sludge not really worthy of the name – with a few billion years and a lot of luck – maybe – just maybe it might develop into something with legs – but certainly that’s not worth putting money on either. It usually dies out long before that. Pev got bored just thinking about checking reports.
For Pev that was all the tedious downside of the job. He spent most of his time chasing sludge. But what kept him going was that every now and then that ‘one in a billion chance’ turned up trumps and you hit something interesting, something you could really describe as life. Even then it wasn’t usually up to much. But what kept him going, like any gambler, was the possibility of stumbling across something really interesting. It was the thrill of discovering that lodestone that set his heart pounding – and Pev was an expert at hitting the jackpot. Nobody did it better. He had intuition. Out of the thousands of reports that came in from the probes he was always the person to hit on the one that paid off. There were hundreds of examples of alien life forms presently under surveillance and study due to Pev’s knack. He had the knack for selecting exactly which part of space to send his probes out into. That’s what he made a very comfortable living out of. The Gordian Institute for Extra-terrestrial Research and Conservation GIERC employed him because of it. He had identified a large number of intelligent, sentient aliens on the verge of extinction and ‘rescued’ them. Some had been bred back up to viable numbers and returned, some had been transferred to more suitable locations and released, and some were kept at the institute for further study and research until they could be prepared for future release back into the wild. The hunt was always on for more endangered forms of sentient life to rescue. Pev was paid handsomely for his discoveries. It kept him in narcosticks and narcojuice and well able to sample all the delights on offer in those narcodives. It was the one thing you never got tired of – budding – well that and getting high.
Saving endangered aliens was the main purpose of the institute – GIERC as it was affectionately known. Though in truth this was not merely all altruistic. The institute required exhibits. Weird and wonderful alien exhibits were its lifeblood. They attracted attention and that attracted funding. Without funding, none of the valuable conservation work was possible. It was an unpleasant fact of life. They bought aliens off Pev for display purposes as much as anything else. It kept them afloat. It kept the government interested in funding them.
As more reports came back from 777 Pev was ecstatic, section SJ17 had exceeded all expectations. A cursory inspection revealed everything he could possibly have desired – it was crawling with life – real life – none of your pungent smelling slime – real, large, wonderful metazoan life with legs – and they looked cute. Not only that but they were intelligent – well up to a point. They had mastered rudimentary space travel and mastery of the Electromagnetic spectrum. The ether was teeming with their daft transmissions.
Section SJ17 was so bloody loud it was almost a miracle that nobody had stumbled on it before. But hey, the galaxy is vast. Even with this level of technology and activity being broadcast to all corners it was like finding a needle in a haystack.
Gracious!! – what a discovery!! Probe 777 had really come up trumps with this one. He could feel it in his scondulum.
There was life in Section SJ17!! Yipppeeeee!!!
It always made him feel good to hit a jackpot. From the look of it there wasn’t too much for GIERC to get interested in. The life-form was too numerous to be endangered even if they were incredibly interesting with their sex and cuteness. There were no immediate threats that he could detect. They were multi-planetary and their sun was stable. Even if their military stupidity wiped out a complete planet or two there would be billions left. They were ridiculously prolific and covered the surface of every lump of rock they could colonise. There did not seem to be much danger of this lot dying out. But even if GIERC couldn’t be persuaded there was bound to be someone who was interested and willing to part with some readies. That was a bit of a shame though. GIERC were usually the highest bidders. He even wondered if it might be worth organising a little microbial accident or two, but quickly shelved that idea. There was enough to be made out of what he had. No sense in exposing himself to an inspection. They’d do him over good and proper.
The thought that he might not get a massive reward from Gierc did nothing to lessen Pev’s enthusiasm. He’d made another major discovery of sentient life. It all added to his reputation. There was more for the science dudes to get their teeth into. Every new form of life was highly intriguing. He loved it. He reckoned he had the best job in the universe. He sucked on a narcostick and sipped his juice. Besides, even if Gierc didn’t take the bait there were plenty who would. Sex was the biggest seller in the whole universe – the fabled El Dorado.
Time to get stuck in.
Zag wafted through the door of his domicile as it dilated open in front of him after automatically sensing his approach. He made straight for the dispensor and ordered up the very best dish available on his contract. As soon as he was through the door his body relaxed. By the time he reached the couch he was an amorphous lump. He discarded his garmentor and his clothing disappeared. There was certainly no need for embellishment or environmental control here in his own home. There was nobody to show off to, to impress or intimidate, and the climate was always perfectly attuned to his needs. He sulkily flung himself down on to the couch, wolfed down the nourishment without appreciating the nuance of the delicate flavours of his top quality meal. Zag’s status enabled him to procure a high standard of cuisine but tonight that was utterly wasted on him. He was in no mood for appreciating anything. He could not have been more depressed and disgruntled if he tried. Tonight he was eating solely to satisfy his bodily needs. He’d starved himself for three weeks. He simply needed to replenish his stores.
Zag grumpily ordered a second course of nourishment and disposed of that in the same rabid manner, washing it down with a few tots of narcojuice without tasting a thing. He was in no mood for moderation. He had metabolites to replenish and a great heaving mass of tensions and emotions to dispense with. Finally with a great heave of a sigh he surfaced from his gloom and recovered some tiny modicum of composure. Flinging the empty platters in the recycler he began to feel a teensy bit better, though every thought of that prolonged and highly unproductive meeting sent him spiralling back down into the world of gloom. As the narcojuice hit, Zag pushed his despondency back out of his mind. He badly needed a lift and he needed it right now. He dialled up a narcostick from the dispensor. He was very careful with his narcostick use. He had no wish to become dependent. He had no desire to delight the peddling corporations who produced the stuff but right now he needed one. He had never needed one more.
Lying back on the couch, inhaling the narcostick, he finally began to fully relax and flicked on the viddy to find out what was happening in the world. He had been completely out of touch for three whole weeks. Anything could have happened. Someone might have declared war for all he knew. That made him laugh. There hadn’t been a war for over three thousand years.
He was confronted with exactly what he didn’t want to see. It did his disposition no good at all. It was bloody Bog pontificating about his damn austerity plan and how they had a moral duty to future generations to balance the books. Stupid lying bastard. He hated the sight of the deceitful gland of a man with all his pompous adopted Augustan physique, primping himself with his expensive adornments intended to make him look grand, regal and someone who was in charge. All that glitz only served to irk as far as Zag was concerned. The man was a disgrace. All the mellowness created by the narcostick had instantly evaporated. Angrily Zag ordered another and glowered at the holo of the man unable to bring himself to switch to something else. That monstrous excuse for a President was the cause of all his misery. Everything had been going swimmingly before this ideological prat poked his nose in – well apart from Hol that is. Hol was another source of great grievance. How that man had blagged his way into that position of responsibility was beyond him. That was one of the mysteries of life.
Zag turned the sound off and sucked fiercely on the narcostick. He knew the man’s patter off by heart. He was probably still droning on about austerity again. He knew every word of the poisonous mantra.
We are living beyond our means. We have to budget. We have to cut our expenditure. I am giving tax cuts to the rich to stimulate the economy and create growth. Blah blah blah – baloney!!! Bollocks!! What utter rubbish!! Even with the mute on it was driving him nuts. Bog was the most sorry excuse for a politician who had ever breathed air.
He killed it with an angry stab and the holo faded away.
Zag angrily flicked his mail on. There were hundreds. The sight of them was enough to send him spiralling down again. But they would have to be addressed sooner or later. He began by deleting as many as he could so that he was left with a manageable number. That still took time and did nothing to improve his mood. He still had far too many. His mailbox automatically prioritised. First up was Zor, pontificating from some distant part of the universe as usual. He realised that he’d already seen it. This was the bloody mail that had caused all this mess in the first place. He sucked hard on the dregs of the narcostick and then defiantly ordered up another. Three was unprecedented since the days of his youth but then he had never felt quite in as much need as this.
With mounting fury he scowled at the holo as he replayed the first message from Zor who looked remarkably relaxed and happy – indeed glowing, a luminous bright pink, which made Zag all the more incensed. You would not credit the storm Zor had unleashed just by contacting him.
Hello Zag, the cheerful character of Zor strutted on the holo plinth smiling benignly. I trust you are in fine fettle? Spot of bother I’m afraid. I have it on good authority that that damn Bog is sizing us up for the old heave ho, planning some great inspection in three months. Planning to use that as an excuse to shut us down. Would you credit it?
Anyway, I’m stuck out here in Andromeda 9 at the conference – you know – essential fund raising and networking – usual stuff. Bit of a bore really but someone has to do it. Kind of lucky really. We’d never have known would we? Just shows the importance of keeping in the know.
Keeping in the bloody know! He’d show him ‘keeping in the bloody know’ – where the hell was the poor excuse for a man? Bit of a bore – he’d show him what life was really like at the coal face. No time for boredom here – not dealing with those three cretins Zor had put on the bloody committee.
So – after this conference I’ve got a few more essential stops before I can make it back. He gave Zag a wicked grin that sent him into further paroxysms. So the short of it, old fellow, is that I’m counting on you to get the ball rolling, so to speak. You know – dust up the old paperwork, update the policies and make sure the whole place is looking spick and span. Can’t have the blighters turning up the slightest excuse to pull the proverbial plug, can we? The whole business is far too important for that – what? Chin up – I’ll be back before you know it.
Righto – must dash – crucial meeting coming up. He looked back over his shoulder towards someone out of sight and smiled. Shame about all these other engagements but all too important to postpone. Don’t worry, I should make it back in time for the bally inspection. But it’s all in good hands. I put my utmost faith in you Zag. You’re a good man. So just polish the crown jewels and get everything shipshape until I get back, there’s a good chap.
By the time Zag had reached the end of the holo, which he had already viewed a number of times to the point where he could recite it backwards, his appendages were all shaking and he realised he’d demolished the third narcostick without even noticing, and far from feeling calm and tranquil he was still on the ceiling. Absently he dialled up a fourth.
777 was in her element. Instead of powering along through endless vacuum with nothing to see but the same monotonous star fields she had a whole civilisation to investigate, if you could call it that. And these people were fascinating. They were so weird it was unbelievable. There was plenty to get her circuits stuck into. The more she looked into it the more primitive they were. It was like studying cave paintings!
They even still had religion! Could you believe that? She chortled to herself as she began to delve. They kindly had archives on line. The whole history and extent of the culture was available. All she had to do was download, absorb and enjoy.
Religion was dead. That was almost true. As human civilisation developed the vast majority of people left the superstition of religion behind in the past as a relic of its primitive understanding of the universe. Hispcom took that a stage further, in Hispcom all religion had been banned long ago. Ironically while religion gradually died away in Amcap it hung on much longer in Hispcom. It seemed that driving it underground merely served to create more fervent adherents.
Though religion was no longer practiced by the vast majority there was always that tiny element that still seemed to need a supernatural being to worship, who still required a vision of eternal life and a God-given purpose to their lives. No amount of therapy seemed to cure them of those religious needs but in this civilised day and age they were viewed as largely harmless and consequently tolerated by the authorities. People generally regarded these tiny minorities as quaint, though parents still became agitated if their children displayed any tendency about gravitating towards any such cult.
One of the most popular cults was that of the Prophet Gerald the All-Knowing. Gerald had visions and they were recorded very eloquently in a four volume tome known colloquially as ‘The Book of Gerald’. Probe 777 was in her element. Her incredulity was being sorely tried.
Most nonreligious people were scornful and joked that these four volumes, each of 500 pages, were a tad verbose and unnecessarily lengthy and could easily be reduced to one volume of less than two pages, in fact the back of a synthwine bag would do nicely. But Gerald’s admirers were adamant that there was no end of nuance, hidden meaning, double meanings and secrets hidden among the text which made every word valuable. To subtract one single letter from the sacred text was blasphemy and would alter the entire message.
According to Gerald every word was the word of God that he had faithfully written down verbatim and his followers believed him. He had begun receiving the visions one night while sleeping alone in a spare room, having been banished there by his wife Matilda. Much debate has taken place regarding the argument that led to his banishment. His devotees considered it all part of God’s rich plan. The story was that the previous evening, while his wife was away visiting her mother, God had sent his angel down in the form of a young lady and Matilda had returned unexpectedly and unreasonably become enraged. That became known as ‘the enragement’ and was a source of wonder to his followers. The way God operated was magnificent in its subtle execution.
The visions had gone on for many many nights and Gerald had assiduously recorded them, or at least his acolytes had. A small group had gathered around him, eager to hear what God had to tell them. They believed in him even though Matilda seemingly did not. She was a very unreasonable woman and had taken exception to Gerald providing succour for his band of zealots. She had become totally infuriated and, after a lot of shouting and throwing of various smaller items, some breakable, had left him. That too was God’s will, all part of the larger plan. Gerald needed the time alone for the extensive visions to manifest themselves. His young acolytes, mostly zealous young ladies, were eager to hear the word straight from the press and Gerald was keen to deliver it, which unfortunately meant that at least one of them had to be with Gerald all through the night to record the words when they came. Fortunately they were a dedicated bunch of eager young ladies and did not seem to mind the inconvenience. It was better after Matilda had gone. The bed was a lot bigger. Some non-believers even went so far as to postulate that this was one reason the Book of Gerald was so bloody long.
The message, when broken down was quite simple. If his believers wanted eternal life they had to follow a strict code of dress (in the case of women a simple short tunic while men wore longer robes and underwear), a diet that always contained many rich foods, avoidance of anything resembling work – especially when it came to the accursed State, periods of intoxication where they communicated with God and received the blessing, a daily ritual of adoration, love and kindness, a memorising of the extensive texts and, above all, sexual healing in which the spirit was cleansed. To believe and practice the religion provided both bodily contentment in this life and eternal ecstasy in paradise. The one other caveat was that Geraldians, or GAKs as they were sometimes known, were the chosen ones and all non-believers were to be cast into the pits of hell. It being a Geraldian duty to assist in this by either converting them, so that they were saved, or by sending them directly to God for the reckoning.
Gerald certainly had charisma. While his cult remained exceedingly small his acolytes made up for that with the fervency of their adoration. But then small is relative. When you have a population counted in the billions the tiniest proportion could be measured in millions. It appealed to a certain group of individuals.
The cult did not exactly flourish but it did send its tendrils out through every corner of the known solar system, even into the far reaches of Hispcom, which was known for its ferocious crushing of religion. Throughout both blocs it became an irritant, opposed to all aspects of social control, not contributing to society in any way and generally making a nuisance of itself. But over time Geraldians became generally accepted as a bunch of freaks and the cult settled into its place. As for the Geraldians they grew to despise the non-Geraldians with a fervour verging on manic hatred. People generally viewed them as eccentric, mad and colourful, and the authorities viewed them with suspicion and kept them under surveillance.
The more they were hounded the more attractive they were to that minority who detested all that the blocs stood for.
Being a GAK wasn’t easy in many ways but it certainly had its rewards. The talk, emanating from leaks from their secret group meetings, was of a hedonistic outpouring that often went on all night and involving much sacred coupling, moaning, groaning and ecstatic climaxing, the thought of which set the eyes watering. But true Geraldians kept the faith and the more they were persecuted the more they became isolated and belligerent.
If you are tempted to have a read of one of my Sci-fi books in either paperback or digital I have provided some links below:
My best Sci-fi books in the USA:
Ebola in the Garden of Eden
Starturn – Intergalactic Rockstar
Sorting The Future
My best Sci-fi books in the UK:
Ebola In The Garden Of Eden.
Sorting The Future
Starturn – Intergalactic Rockstar