Landscape in my Head

Landscape in my Head

There’s a landscape in my head

It comes from the national zeitgeist.

The combined will of everyone

How every last sentiment is priced.

I’d like it to be compassionate,

Outward looking, caring and true.

But Brexit unleashed the nastiness

The racism just grew and grew.

Now we’re isolated on our own

With the ‘Little Englander’ mentality.

Blaming all the foreigners

For the blunder that is our reality.

It empowered all the nationalists

Who crawled out from every crevice.

Snarling their xenophobic slogans

Like bulldogs full of menace.

It’s not just the wealth we’ve squandered,

Greedily snatched by profiteers;

It’s the friendships that we’ve shat on

Built up through many years.

The landscape that I now live in

Is made by ugly bullying pigs.

Created by arrogant Brexiteers

And a bunch of Tory prigs.

The England that I crave

Is tolerant, outward and true.

The one that welcomed the Huguenots,

And stood up for the Jew.

An England worth fighting for

Not narrow-minded arrogance.

I’ll strive for a better vision

Worthy of taking a stance!

Opher – 11.4.2021

For me it isn’t just the money that’s been wasted or the nasty little profiteers who saw an opportunity to make millions. It’s not even the monetary costs that will throw millions into poverty and cause decades of austerity. It’s not the loss of jobs or the firms going bust or fleeing into Europe. It’s not the masses of red tape and the curtailing of my liberties.

No.

For me it is the emotional impact – the change from an outward looking country full of tolerance, cooperation and friendship to an isolated nation viewing the ‘foreigner’ as the enemy. The rise of xenophobia and racism is just the expression of this unpleasant nationalistic fervour. It’s empowered the fascists, racists and scum.

I’m not suggesting that all Brexiteers are racist fascists. But by voting for such a damaging outcome they have unleashed and empowered the worst slimy breed.

It’s going to take decades to undo the harm.

England is so much the less.

Landscape in my Head

Landscape in my Head

There’s a landscape in my head

It comes from the national zeitgeist.

The combined will of everyone

How every last sentiment is priced.

I’d like it to be compassionate,

Outward looking, caring and true.

But Brexit unleashed the nastiness

The racism just grew and grew.

Now we’re isolated on our own

With the ‘Little Englander’ mentality.

Blaming all the foreigners

For the blunder that is our reality.

It empowered all the nationalists

Who crawled out from every crevice.

Snarling their xenophobic slogans

Like bulldogs full of menace.

It’s not just the wealth we’ve squandered,

Greedily snatched by profiteers;

It’s the friendships that we’ve shat on

Built up through many years.

The landscape that I now live in

Is made by ugly bullying pigs.

Created by arrogant Brexiteers

And a bunch of Tory prigs.

The England that I crave

Is tolerant, outward and true.

The one that welcomed the Huguenots,

And stood up for the Jew.

An England worth fighting for

Not narrow-minded arrogance.

I’ll strive for a better vision

Worthy of taking a stance!

Opher – 11.4.2021

For me it isn’t just the money that’s been wasted or the nasty little profiteers who saw an opportunity to make millions. It’s not even the monetary costs that will throw millions into poverty and cause decades of austerity. It’s not the loss of jobs or the firms going bust or fleeing into Europe. It’s not the masses of red tape and the curtailing of my liberties.

No.

For me it is the emotional impact – the change from an outward looking country full of tolerance, cooperation and friendship to an isolated nation viewing the ‘foreigner’ as the enemy. The rise of xenophobia and racism is just the expression of this unpleasant nationalistic fervour. It’s empowered the fascists, racists and scum.

I’m not suggesting that all Brexiteers are racist fascists. But by voting for such a damaging outcome they have unleashed and empowered the worst slimy breed.

It’s going to take decades to undo the harm.

England is so much the less.

Sci-fi novel – New Eden – a cure for overpopulation. A lethal virus.

New Eden

 

How do you solve the problem of a world that has been ruined by overpopulation?

What part does a small group of genetically mutated children have in the future of mankind?

How might an eccentric genetics engineer be involved?

New Eden tells the story of dystopian disaster and unlikely renewal …

Foreword

I first mapped this novel out in 1996. It was originally called ‘Ebola in Eden’.

At the time Ebola was a virus that had already been around for twenty years. The first recorded outbreaks were in 1976 in Zaire and Sudan. The disease probably originated in primates, including chimpanzees and gorillas, and is also transmitted by bats.

It is quite likely that the first cases in humans were contracted from the butchering of ‘bush-meat’ by hunters who were killing chimpanzees and gorillas. The logging companies were opening up the interior and putting roads in to extract the timber. The hunters were using these roads to reach deeper into the jungles. They were encountering animal groups that had previously been isolated.

I was looking for a virus for my book that might possibly be used in the way described in this novel. I had a number of contenders but was attracted to Ebola because of the description of its horrific symptoms. A doctor performing an autopsy at the time described the organs of the victim as having ‘melted’.

The destruction of the natural environment, the massacre of wildlife, and the continuing destruction of our forests due to the increasing overpopulation of the planet is a source of great sadness to me.

I write in the hope that the worst may never happen.

Ron Forsythe 5.11.2014

If I had been writing it today I probably would have used the Corona Virus as my weaponised virus.

CHAPTER 1 – Painting the scene

The United Nations building rises up like a great glass slab alongside the East River in Manhattan. From a distance it is fanciful to imagine it resembling the monolith that Arthur C Clarke summoned up in 2001 A Space Odyssey. It too represents the hope for mankind’s future.

This is the organisation that spawned the magnificent document ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in which the optimistic dreams of the world were enshrined. This was the world community’s apotheosis, and all that was required was the funding, power and will to put it into operation.

Unfortunately those ideals were never realised.

Within this building the General Assembly, representing all nations of the planet, meets regularly to discuss the issues and crises that threaten us. Within this building the Security Council also meets regularly. Their brief is to ensure peace throughout the world. They look for non-violent means for addressing conflicts and settling disputes.

It is not difficult to see that the United Nations has limited success when it comes to creating peace and resolving crises. The world has never been more fraught.

Unbeknown even to those members of the General Assembly and Security Council there is another body which also meets at regular intervals. The Strategic Planning Committee – the SPC – has no official standing. It is not recorded in any documentation, reports to no-one and to all intents and purposes does not exist. Yet this body, made up of members of the G7, has a huge remit and great powers. It operates to its own brief – to look for alternative methods for dealing with global issues. It is not subject to the same strictures, operates through clandestine facilities and can deploy a huge budget. It operates under military jurisdiction and protocol.

There are not even rumours of its existence. Yet it exists.

Beneath the United Nations building there is a committee room. It is reached by means of a number of circuitous routes all carefully protected, guarded and sealed, culminating in a single entrance by way of an elevator.

The room itself is extremely ordinary. The round circular walls look dour but conceal the largest array of devices ever assembled. The surfaces are polymer screens for projecting information. The screening devices are exceptional and updated by the hour. Even the seemingly austere mahogany-look table is really an array of extremely high tech facilities but they are only visible when required. The furnishings are almost non-existent, consisting of the single round table of standard dark polymer, with seven comfortable chairs. The purpose of the venue is discussion.

This is where the clandestine decisions that affect the whole world are really made. Above them in the chambers the business is relatively mundane compared to this. In the bubble of their national governments these seven people carry out the day to day intrigues of parochial politics but they all know that the global perspective is decided here. And their instructions come from another higher source.

The group is presided over by President Paul Shank of the USA and consists of the seven Heads of what used to be known as the G7. This assembly was created long ago and shaped by a group of extremely rich and influential figures who have always pulled the strings behind the various governments of the world. They operate globally and utilise their power group to manipulate events and markets. History is largely the result of their various interventions. The fact that the G7 expanded to incorporate Russia, China, India and Brazil to become the G11 has had no impact on this select group. They, or rather their instigators, did not feel the need to expand. Neither is it likely to respond to circumstances should the Arab and African countries succeed in their pressure to be included in the G11. The SPC has a historical basis and is happy to keep it that way. They have no wish to become big and unwieldy and descend into a talking shop like the other bodies. They have no desire to include the others in their deliberations. Especially those they have never trusted. Seven is big enough. Here they can speak honestly and openly without fear of repercussions. Rather ironically they informally called themselves ‘The Synod’ fully aware of the significance of the word. There was nothing religious about them but they made the decisions that shook the planet.

They have the strongest power in the world behind them.

The current discussion had been focussed on the burgeoning world population with the horrific implications now being predicted. The natural world had already been decimated; the last tigers, rhinos and elephants had disappeared from the wild years ago. The chimps and gorillas were only hanging on by a thread through the extreme actions of a dedicated group of environmentalists backed up by the military. The frantic ravaging of the land continued apace. It was a rearguard action that was doomed to fail but that was a side issue. Not that this group cared about such things. They were only concerned with the issues that impacted on world markets, profits or their lifestyle and status.

There were plenty of those. They were busy studying the latest reports, modelling and conclusions.

The figures made for dismal reading. The predictions for the scarcity of essential resources, pollution levels and climate change were looking dire. The economic figures were also on a disaster level. The inevitable conflicts were already getting out of control.

If that was not bad enough, the population was still on course to continue its upward projection. None of the actions so far taken had slowed it down.

The seven of them flicked through the data, graphs and projections delivered to each of them on the polymer screen from the table in front of them.

George Handley was a small man with longish grey hair swept back from his receding hairline and bushy side-burns. His immaculate pin-stripe suit and Etonian tie were anachronistic by any standards but he wore it with pride and considered it set the tone. It provided him with a bearing of historical gravitas, or at least that was how he liked to see it. His voice was measured and conveyed the same message with its cultured tones and paced delivery. It made him sound aloof and superior.

George grimaced with an expression which suggested he was sucking on something vile. ‘There are just too many of them,’ he noted disdainfully as if he was talking about an invasion of cockroaches. ‘Too many by far.’

Paul Shank allowed himself a reproachful smile. The arrogance of George Handley always amused him. The man certainly had a high opinion of himself. It was all a result of his background and class. Paul himself came from good old American farming stock. His family were wealthy but had none of the pretensions that George Handley projected. His folks were much more down to earth. But that did not prevent him from feeling completely at ease in all company. He was used to rubbing shoulders with the greatest men and women from all walks of life. Nothing fazed him. He would not be in this position if it had.

‘Come now George,’ Paul chided with a light easy manner. ‘Surely we have to have an expanding base? The economy cannot grow without expansion.’

George glowered down at the charts on his screen and flicked it off. He’d seen enough. There was no amusement or lightness of tone in his voice. ‘They are not contributing,’ he pointed out. ‘They serve no purpose. You are all missing the point. You cannot even go downtown without a respirator. Things are desperate.’

‘So what are you suggesting George?’ Pascal Bosco enquired. His dark eyes flashed mischievously. His modern one-piece suit was stylish and comfortable and set the tone for his personality. He was forward looking. He knew how George’s mind worked and liked to bring things out into the open. ‘That we do away with them all?’

‘They serve no purpose,’ George repeated as if this was sufficient in itself. It amply conveyed his opinion. ‘They do not work or contribute to the global economy. They are merely a drain on the financial system. They are unproductive. Their consumption is causing the problem. They do not earn and so are not able to contribute. Not only that, but their very presence is destructive. They are creating the problems we are having to face up to and try to solve. Let’s deal with the root cause.’

Pascal sat back in his chair, laced his fingers and raised his eyebrows, unwilling to take that step despite the fact that he knew it was inevitable. He felt a sinking inside but persisted futilely in focussing on the economic aspect even though he knew it had moved well beyond that. ‘Perhaps consumption is sufficient to stimulate the economy. They provide a need.’

‘They are a canker on the face of the planet,’ George stated bluntly.

‘Come now George,’ Mya Jannot said, reacting to the harshness of his words. ‘There is a trickle down. They, in their own way, are contributing to the global economy. They are consuming.’

‘Not so you would notice,’ George replied huffily. ‘They are parasites. They require eradication. Besides this is no longer an economic issue. You’ve seen the data on climate and the latest pollution figures. It’s unsustainable.’

The room fell into silence as all seven of them reflected on the latest data. The population was spiralling out of control. Drastic action was needed.

‘It is true that we have to do something,’ Mya admitted with a frown. Her hair was unfashionably grey and bobbed. It fitted with the rather unflattering costume she insisted on wearing. ‘The natural environment is all but destroyed and we’re running short of every possible resource. There are mounting food and water issues plus the dire situation with the unrenewables. We cannot keep pace. It we do not take action now we can say goodbye to the last of our wild fauna.’

‘I do not care about the damn fauna,’ Virginie Chauvin stated with Gallic frankness. Virginie was a power dresser with shoulders squared and padded. It set the tone. Everything about her was bold and angular. Her make-up and jewellery was expensive, severe and precise. She was a powerful woman. People normally took notice. ‘I care more about the looming conflict. We are already at each others throats. It cannot go on much longer. China, Russia and Brazil are all vying with each other and the Arab bloc is getting involved. Before long it will erupt. There is not enough resources to go round.’ Virginie surveyed the room with a magisterial gaze. ‘I agree with George. ‘They are surplus to requirements. They need removing.’

These were the thoughts that were normally suppressed in most people and certainly not aired in public assemblies but it was the remit of this group to think the unthinkable.

‘I am not so sure,’ Paul mused. ‘Every social model requires a wide base. It provides incentive for everyone. It is there as a warning. It makes people aware of why they are working so hard. That desperate poverty is something to be avoided. Just having it there is an incentive to all those who work, that they need to work harder so that they do not end up in that misery. They serve a purpose. Perhaps we just need to focus our attentions on the problems the population is creating.’

‘Surely the size of the market has to be the guiding principle,’ Hans Schultz said also reluctant to step into the arena that he knew they must eventually address. The sturdy German had an acute mind when it was applied to the economic considerations. His round face was a little pasty looking and his eyes appeared small and insignificant, his clothing nondescript and bland, but his mind was shrewd. He was happiest looking at the situation in economic terms. ‘We need growth. It is the size of the market that determines growth and productivity. That’s what or friends upstairs want. They want a good return. Having a large body in reserve to call on is a reservoir of cheap labour. It keeps wages down, reduces prices and maximises profits.’

‘But that model breaks down when there is a looming battle over resources,’ Virginie Chauvin pointed out in exasperation. All this beating about the bush was a waste of time. They all knew it. They were going to have to grasp the nettle and the sooner the better. All this circling around the topic was a waste of time. ‘The dwindling resources create a different scenario. George is right. We have moved a long way from economics. This is a global catastrophe.’

They could all see the ramifications

‘It’s more complicated that just the size of the market,’ George stated belligerently emphasising his argument. He saw it as more than the mere market and profits. They had become a side issue. This was spiralling out of control. ‘There is the population’s productivity and wealth to take into account.’ He scowled round at them. ‘It is related to their purchasing power. If they cannot afford to purchase goods then they are of limited value. If their tastes and proclivities are basic they are next to useless. One has to assess their aspirations, determination and willingness to strive for what they wish to procure. I do not see it. It is limited. Their needs are basically just to survive. They are causing a huge emigration problem. Then there is the terrorism. The pollution and climate are becoming apocalyptic. They are out of control. We must deal with them.’

‘Surely we can manipulate that?’ Paul remarked reasonably. ‘It all depends on marketing and propaganda. The scientists can deal with the environment.’

‘Not when it is a battle for such severely depleted resources,’ Virginie Chauvin interjected.

‘Marketing cannot touch the have-nots, don’t-wants or can’t-gets,’ George remarked morosely. ‘I reiterate: there are huge numbers of them out there, billions, who are simply surplus to requirements. They are not consuming and they are not contributing. All they do is generate huge problems and the rest of us suffer because of them. They are responsible for the crisis. That is my point. We are better off without them.’

‘So how are they surviving then?’ Mya Jannot enquired with a petulant tone. She found George’s callous approach hard to take. ‘They must be consuming something.’ Mya knew that in the end it would come down to the economics. That is what upstairs always cared about.

‘They are scavenging,’ George Handley replied with an air of disgust. ‘Living off our detritus. They are not part of any chain of consumption. They serve no useful purpose. They are surplus to requirements.’

George’s phrase echoed round the chamber and set the minds racing. Was it as simple as that? They all knew what George was referring to. He was proposing the extermination of a good percentage of the world’s population. Surely there had to be a reasonable alternative. It was incontrovertible that the population was now raging out of control. The environment was teetering on the brink of catastrophe. They were in the last chance saloon. They had to do something.

‘So what are you suggesting George?’ Mya Jannot asked, looking at ways to address the issue. ‘A huge welfare programme to bring them into the frame so they can be consumers?’ She knew that was not the solution. Indeed it would only make matters worse. If they all started consuming at even a small percentage of the most affluent the resources would be exhausted and the world would be plunged into conflict. ‘A benefits scheme? A massive work programme?’ Even as she voiced it she could see the preposterous nature of the idea. ‘Or are you looking at enforced contraception? Sterilisation? Education for females? Because they all seem to have failed. So what are you actually suggesting?’

The whole room focussed on George Handley. It was quite clear what was on the table but they wanted to hear it from him.

George pouted and tapped his fingers on the table. ‘I am simply pointing out that we have a large rump that is proving a drain on wealth creation,’ George replied, ducking the question. ‘There are billions who are surplus to requirements and of no use to anyone. They are a drain on our resources and serve no purpose. They are having a catastrophic effect that is costing us dearly and will only get a lot worse. We are having to pick up the bill for the mess they are creating. If we do not do something drastic now we will end up paying far more later. I cannot imagine that is what our friends upstairs would want. We have to be decisive.’

They all knew what he was getting at. They had to face it.

‘We could stoke up a few more wars,’ Pascal Bosco proposed. ‘That is always a good way of reducing numbers plus it has the added benefit of stimulating productivity. There’s nothing like a good bit of arms trading to stimulate the economy. There are plenty of fanatics out there in the hinterlands and there’s nothing like religion or survival to focus the mind.’

‘One thing is certain,’ Virginie Chauvin remarked pointedly. ‘Natural processes do not seem to be working as well as they used to.’ She glowered round at them as if it was their fault. ‘Every time we have a natural catastrophe we get the Aid groups wading in. They pull at everyone’s heart-strings and the money pours in. There are too many do-gooders. They rush in and mop up before the natural processes have a chance to work their normal attrition.’

‘Technology has certainly taken the sting out of natural disasters,’ Hans Shultz agreed. ‘There is a rapid deployment of resources and so much more that can be done. Disasters do not reach the same proportions as they used to.’

‘There you are,’ Pascal Bosco remarked triumphantly. ‘That’s where technology comes in. War is more efficient than ever. We can take out millions.’

‘But it’s so indiscriminate,’ Paul Shank argued. ‘It doesn’t just get rid of the ones you’d like to eliminate. It just……’

‘It is too limited in scope,’ George asserted, interrupting Paul in mid-flow. ‘War is too restricted. We need something on a bigger scale and something more general. We have scroungers everywhere now. They’ve become universal. We should cut out the cancer once and for all.’

It brought everyone back down to earth. They had viewed the latest figures and knew a few million here and there was going to do little to rectify the position. They did not like to admit it but George was right. They needed to get rid of a few billion at least.

‘Besides,’ Virginie Chauvin stated fiercely. ‘Those damn weapons keep getting in the wrong hands and you get them coming straight back at you. We have damn terrorists holding everyone to ransom, blowing things up and destroying the economic base. It gets in the way and slows things down. War is no good. You cannot control it well enough.’

‘You could always go for the nuclear option, I suppose,’ Pascal Bosco piped in brightly. ‘Not much chance of missiles getting into the wrong hands.’

‘I wouldn’t be too sure of that,’ Virginie Chauvin muttered.

‘It would get rid of millions as well as stimulating the markets,’ Pascal continued eagerly without pause. ‘Just imagine all those jobs in reclamation and rebuilding. What a boost that would be.’

‘But Pascal,’ Paul protested. ‘That’s so messy. It would make things so unpleasant and as George has pointed out; it would not go far enough to solve the problem. We need something more universally effective. Besides, it would add to the massive pollution problem. Not at all what we need.’

George was heartened by what Paul had said. It wasn’t often that the man sided with him. ‘Something drastic has to be done,’ he tapped hard on the table in emphasis. ‘Our growth is stagnating. Upstairs is not happy. We cannot go on like this. It is becoming desperate. There are far too many, billions too many. They are like leeches sucking our industrial blood. Something has to be done!’

‘We need some way of removing the ones we do not require,’ Teruo Yamada stated softly. He had remained quiet and thoughtful. Now he was ready to speak. He had worked it all out in his head before saying a word. He knew exactly what was needed.

‘We cannot go rounding up millions of people,’ Paul remonstrated allowing his mind to ruminate on the solution they were all talking about. ‘Hitler and Stalin have tried that. Imagine the scale of the operation. We would need to eradicate billions. Selecting them and rounding them up would be a night-mare. Think of the logistics. You could not keep an operation on that scale secret.’

‘Oh I wasn’t thinking of anything so pedestrian,’ Teruo Yamada said chidingly. ‘There would be no covert secret police or crude archaic methodology. We have the means to be much more clandestine, effective and subtle than that.’

There was silence in the room. The polymer screens shut down and the table resumed its former mahogany appearance. The blank walls had no focus for the eyes and nobody wanted to meet anyone else’s. They were all looking down at their hands.

Seven ageing individuals speaking a language developed in an obscure Northern European archipelago, were about to determine the future of mankind. This was the way things had been done since the dawn of civilisation.

Without speaking they were already in agreement.

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Poetry – Long Ago

Long Ago

Long ago,

                Man fought man,

                                Face to face

                                                With sword and spear.

Bravery and strength

                Skill and tactics,

                                Were the things

                                                To fear.

Now, a young skinny wimp

                A thousand miles away,

                                Guides a drone,

                                                Presses a button

And you’ve had your day.

Opher – 3.4.2022

Once we had a need for strong, brave, macho men; now they’re an embarrassment, a threat and a nuisance.

Nowadays we need intelligence, not brawn, empathy and compassion not violence.

In a modern world there is no room for the violent. We don’t need them; they’re obsolete!

Green – A Sci-fi novel. Is there a universe inside our heads??

Green

 Opher May 26, 2020

This is a Sci-fi novel set in the future. Elspin is born without a nervous system; a brain with no connection to the world. She is locked within her dreams in an infinite universe of inner space. She should have withered into nothing but against all the odds she prospered …

Politians and Business-people are at each others throats. The world is in crisis. The Greens are split into factions. Passions are explosive.

A way is found of contacting Elspin. What happens when universes clash?

Will the world survive?

Chapter – 1

A flash of orange light exploded in the room with dazzling intensity.

            ‘WHOOOOOOOOMP!!’

            The shockwave, following right behind, resounded with an echoey thud that hit the two people in the apartment with a solid thump.

            Unperturbed, in fact looking bored, President Jane Muller of the Planetary Council sauntered across the room and surveyed the huge burgeoning mushroom cloud now filling the  whole of the far side of the lounge area where her husband was sitting, with a look of critical annoyance. The explosion formed a livid ball of blazing incandescent heat swirling through inky black smoke, rolling and boiling its way up towards the ceiling. An angry red glow played across the skin of her face. The acrid smell of the smoke filled her mouth and nose with a scorching, choking intensity.

            Still she was unmoved.

            With no more than a frown she turned her attention away from the scene and directed it towards the reclining figure of her husband who was still carelessly sprawled in his usual place in his favourite chair.

            “I do wish they would give some warning that they are going to do that,” she remarked, adjusting the intensity controls of the monitor in passing. It irritated her the way he always had the tridee turned up so high.

Her eyes caught her reflection in the large mirrored surface beside the door causing her to tighten her lips in a grimace of disapproval. The grey unipiece business suit and cropped hair presented the conservative, almost military bearing and hard-nosed image that she sought to foster but it could hardly be considered flattering. She turned slightly, pulling in her stomach tight and assessing the effect, tilting her chin quizzically. It wasn’t getting any better. Her frown intensified and her attention wandered back to the fire that was still raging at the end of the room.

            Reaching the chair occupied by her husband Deryk, who was still studying the unfolding scene of devastation, she joined him in his assessment.

            “……Appears the LPL have claimed yet more victims early this morning,” the commentator droned as the camera panned away from the ravaged chemical works to the panic and chaos surrounding the plant. “Following a message received in the early hours of the morning a huge thermite device was exploded in the works. Frantic efforts to find the device and shut down the plant failed and the IntSol Company say that insufficient warning was given.”

            Deryk glanced up at her with a smile of greeting.

            “Twenty people have been reported dead and there are many more missing. IntSol sources say that the final death toll will almost certainly reach into three figures.” The grim face of the commentator loomed out at them superimposed on the billowing clouds of the explosion, seemingly hanging there adrift in the air like a huge decapitated balloon.

            “LPL still at it then,” Deryk observed dryly.

            Jane Muller sighed but did not bother to reply. They both continued to stare morosely at the violent pictures unfolding before them.

            “The only saving grace to this tragedy is that the explosion was timed to go off in the slack period between shifts in the early hours of the morning. This is a time when the plant is only manned by a skeleton crew sufficient to run the computations and deal with emergencies. At any other time the death toll would certainly have reached into the thousands.”

            “The device appears to have been planted close to a pipe-line containing the new and highly inflammable DL17 rocket propellant. The initial explosions setting off a series of gigantic secondary explosions that ripped their way into the heart of the complex.”

            “Survivors report huge shock-waves destroying all building in the vicinity followed by a rushing wall of flame whose searing heat engulfed streets and buildings.”

            “A spokesperson for……………..”

            Deryk shook his head and pushed himself out of the chair, patted her hand and wandered out of the room.

            Jane continued to frown whimsically at the image still billowing in front of her, her thoughts momentarily caught up in the report. The scene behind the commentator changed to a sweeping panoramic view of the plant taken prior to the explosion. It showed an orderly complex of gantries and pipe-lines intermeshing with buildings and storage tanks. The image was clear and sharp and had obviously been taken after the rains when the plant was not shrouded in its usual mantle of smog.

            With an even bigger sigh she deepened her scowl and pulled herself upright from the chair, stretching, suddenly overcome with fatigue and weariness. Her attention wandered to the Massalax. She was desperately in need of a period of calm and peace to drain some of that tension away. Things were not getting any easier. She was tired and hungry. The question was which to deal with first? A quick meal and a comforting drink or an ultra-sound massage to calm the mind and ease the muscles? They were both equally enticing.

            With a practised jerk she tugged at the release straps on her suit and felt the seams relax to safety grip. Absently dialling in the code on the tunic belt she released the security grips and shrugged off the loosened fabric of her uniform to fling it in the nearest disposal chute. Tugging on the connector tabs she disengaged her underwear and they followed the suit down the chute.

            She stood there for a moment as the soft light of the tridee played across her naked body assessing her profile in the mirror. It was a nice full figure, amply proportioned with little sign of the flabbiness of ageing. But then it ought to be with the amount of drugs and beauty treatment she had lavished upon it over the course of the years. She eyed herself coldly, running her critical eyes over her weaker points for signs that might point to the need for further treatments. Were her buttocks beginning to sag a little? Her breasts a shade too full? And her cheeks were definitely showing signs of droop. But then that could just be the tiredness. Even so, perhaps it was time to book another appointment with Stefan. It wouldn’t do any harm would it?

            Resignedly she stepped into the Massalax. Age was a tiresome inconvenience that she could do without. Her presence triggered the mechanism and she felt the invisible forces closing around her as the luxurious waves passed back and forth across her skin soothing and massaging the tired tissues. She let herself go, sensually closing her eyes and relaxing into the flow of the energising programme.

            “………..Buildings were torn apart and thrown into twisted heaps of metal.” The commentary continued on the periphery of her hearing, the shattered buildings littering the room went unnoticed, even the irritating burning smells fading away to be replaced by the gentle aromatherapy of the Massalax sequence. ” IntSol say there is very little chance of survival for any of their employees working in those areas. Both the intensity of the blasts and the tremendous heat would have made it……..”

            The weariness drained out of her as the accumulated waste products were leached out of her cells with the blood circulation stimulated by the pulsating waves of the Massalax. Its deeper radiations eating into her very core leaving waves of contentment and pleasure in their wake. Her mind floated in the lazy internal seas it created as the world outside slipped away to some far away unreality. Everything receded. Time melted.

            “……….What compounded the damage was the spontaneous combustion of the nearby river Gurde.”

            The scene switched to a panoramic view of a sluggish brown river snaking its way through a sterile plateau of mud.

            The thought of a burning river drew her back out of her reverie. Jane’s half opened eyes allowed the images to seep in. She was interested in a detached dreamy way. She knew that tomorrow she would have to deal with the aftermath. But then tomorrow was a long way off and interesting though the image of a burning river might be, it was not interesting enough and she was damned if she was going to allow it to detract from her enjoyment of the massage. She nudged the control to level 4 with her foot. After all ….. she deserved it. The pulsing of the massage became deeper and even more sensuous so that her body seemed to dissolve into the tingling world it was creating inside her. Even so, she still found that she kept a tiny fragment of her mind, despite all her intentions, tracking along with that report.

            “………..The river has long been a source of concern to Environmentalists who have repeatedly claimed that IntSol’s dumping programme has made the river a danger to public health. No life has been recorded in it for more than half a century and twice before the river has spontaneously ignited.”

            The picture switched to views of the river with pools of burning chemical and charred mud. Part of her watched in horrified fascination.

            “Despite claims by IntSol that the previous conflagrations were caused by the build-up of methane gas coupled with hydrocarbons from natural sources, neither of which had anything to do with their dumping programme, subsequent investigations led to the company being fined on both occasions. Whoever is responsible this time, and IntSol are the likely culprits, it now seems certain that the present conflagration was a result of gasses released from an interaction of chemicals within those murky waters. The perpetrator remains to be officially identified. Whatever comes out of this investigation the facts of the matter speak for themselves. Gasses from the river were ignited by the explosion at the chemical works spreading flames down the length of the waterway. These flames engulfed everything in their path and have started up numerous secondary blazes down the length of the river.”

            Despite the languid state of mind created by the Massalax her nose puckered in disgust as she caught a whiff of the pungent river smell that was now emanating into the room completely over-riding the aroma limitation controls.

            The report moved into a sequence of shots of helicraft dumping clouds of white powder, a chemical fire retardant, onto a number of blazes.

            “If it had not been for the fact that few people live in the proximity of the Gurde due to the corrosive chemical smog that extends for distances on either side of its banks the death toll and damage would………………….”

            At this moment her tenuous attention was distracted by Deryk ambling back into the room. The door slid silently shut behind him and she became aware that he was holding two extravagantly filled glasses of amber fluid. The look of smug satisfaction mingled with anticipation left her in no doubt that this was not the usual synth concoction. It was a generous helping of his precious vintage brandy. She returned his smile as he placed the two glasses on the coffee table before turning and walking back through the door.

            Her eyes followed him admiring the sinuous youthful fluidity that his movements still retained. He may be approaching the end of what might be described as middle-age but it certainly did not show. His perennial youthfulness was emphasised by his slight willowy frame and the casual cut and brightness of his unipiece, admirably set off by the furry ‘slippers’ he insisted on wearing which added a dash of eccentricity.

            She nudged the dial to off and allowed the last tremors to settle through her as she luxuriated for a moment more. In some ways this was the time she enjoyed most. More than the deepest relaxation induced by the machine. This was the time she felt warm and snug just like that moment in bed before you push the covers aside and step out from its protective embrace.

            “……….Fire-fighting crews are still trying to control the many fires that are still springing up in the wake of this disaster and it now appears that it may be many hours before the situation is fully under control.”

            Deryk arrived back in the room clutching two dishes of brightly coloured vegetable and rice. The smell of seafood paella deliciously scented the air.

            “Thought this might just do the number for you,” he murmured allowing his easy smile to pleasantly lift the corners of his mouth transforming him into a happy sprite as he stood there basking in the now contented expression on his wife’s face.

            “Umm,” she murmured. “That smells good. You know, I thought you’d forgotten how to dial dishes as good as that Deryk.”

            She boldly stepped out of the machine, noting his appraising glance, and dialled a loose-fitting robe out of the dispenser. Beaming her cheesiest grin she accepted the plate of food and sat with it in her lap.

            He grinned back at her and slid down into his chair, spooning a mouthful of food in as he turned his attention back to the images still beaming into the room.

            “……….This is the tenth such terrorist act carried out by the LPL this month and the eighth that has been directed specifically against IntSol.”

            “The LPL admitted responsibility for the attack in a statement released to all tridee stations this morning.” The serious expression on the announcers face reflected the gravity of the situation. “The statement contained the familiar demands for industry to clean up its environmentally damaging practices and warned of further action if nothing was done. It would appear that IntSol has been singled out for special attention due to its poor environmental history……..”

            Easing herself back into the cushioning of her chair she turned her full attention to the plate resting on her lap and took a small bite of the gourmet food Deryk had presented her with.

            Nudging the smell factor on the tridee down to zero, so that the programme did not interfere with the meal, she, as the food began to melt deliciously in her mouth, began to focus on the man she shared her limited private life with. In contrast to the other men she came in contact with in the course of her work there was nothing arrogant, ostentation or affected about him. And she was glad. Here she could relax.

            “I’m glad we had that gourmet model installed, despite the enormous cost,” she reflected.

            “You can afford it,” he grinned. “Not even much of a luxury to someone in your position. If the President of the planet can’t afford it, who can?” He added.

            “Well luxury or not. I’m glad we had it installed.” The food was delicious and Deryk’s choice was inspired.

            He lifted his glass and toasted her. Touching the glass to his nose, he sniffed the amber fluid as he rolled it around the large glass. After watching the liquid swirl, and the oily drops run back down the sides of the glass into the main body of the classic brandy he at last allowed himself a minute sip, settling into the chair to savour the extravagance. He smiled to himself as the electricity of the flavour visibly radiated out through his body, relaxing him as surely as any Massalax machine. Despite all their claims to have matched every molecular nuance, no synth product could come near to matching this.

            She reached for her own glass, repeating a similar process in pleasing mimicry.

            The seconds drifted past as they slowly worked their way through the meal in silence, savouring the interacting flavours while the broadcast drifted over them, only partially registering on their senses.

            She finished the last sip and emerged from her reverie feeling light and contented and deeply sated, gazing across with affection at the man she had been with for so many years. He was probably the only human being she could ever truly relax with, someone with whom their empathy produced an almost telepathic quality, someone with whom she was truly comfortable.

            Within that richly contented moment she was overcome with a deep clarity. She saw him as he was – a supportive and generous man, contented and easy-going, quite happy to take the back seat through the course of her rapid rise to prominence. He did not relish public life and hated the glare and attention. Yet it had been his strength and stability that she had come to rely on; the foundations on which she could build the edifice of her political career. He had been there to pick up the pieces when things had gone wrong; to put them together again and get things in perspective, sometimes with support and comfort and sometimes with harsh advice —- the platform from which she had set off for the stars and achieved her ambition. She silently thanked him again.

            For this brief moment she could truly relax. The day had been tough, fraught with the worry of big decisions, and tomorrow looked as if it was shaping up to be even worse. She pushed it aside. The taste of the meal was in her mouth. The brandy was in her head and she felt great. She smiled across at Deryk. Tonight she ceased to be the President of the Supreme Council and for the first time in a long while was just content to be Deryk’s wife.

            “………..Magnus Rikson, the Chairperson of the Combined Business Confederation, was quick to condemn the act as an outrage committed by the lunatic fringe. He claimed the LPL were a crazed group of terrorist murderers who were out to hi-jack International Industry for their own ends. He castigated them for dealing in death and destruction and accused them of leaving a trail of maimed bodies and mayhem in their wake. In an angry address he ended by stating that they deserved to be hunted down like animals and shot like the diseased dogs they were.”

            The round moon-like face of the fair-haired industrialist filled the room self-righteously glaring out at them with his piercing blue eyes.

            “We will not bow down to these crass blackmail demands,” he growled menacingly. “Where are the police? Where is the protection for the working people these monsters are killing?” There are no foundations to these foolish allegations these terrorists are making. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the way our industry is operating. It is not possible to go back. We have to go forward. People deserve a better standard of living.”

            “He would say that wouldn’t he?” Deryk remarked mischievously. But Jane refused to rise to the bait and contented herself with a feigned glower of disapproval accompanied with a quick pout. He wasn’t going to spoil her mood by stimulating an argument concerning the attributes of one such as Magnus Rikson.

            Deryk grinned back, toying with her. His tanned and deeply lined face alive with fun. He leaned back into his chair sipping his drink and studying her, his grey hair giving him the appearance of great wisdom that contrasted with the twinkling of his eyes.

            “……….Rikson was joined in his condemnation by many political and religious leaders throughout the world. Earlier today President Muller described the explosion as ‘An outrage against humanity’. She was………”

            Deryk’s face broke into a huge open grin. “And very well said too,” he stated. “That should pull in a few more votes in the next election.” He struggled to assemble his face into a serious look of mock agreement. “It’s good to hear my woman using such decisive language at a time of crisis.”

            She sighed in outraged exasperation. Deryk was the only person on the entire planet that she would tolerate treating her in such a cavalier fashion. Anyone else and she would have exploded in extreme wrath…. and he knew it. That’s why he did it. Teasing her. He was the joker who brought her back to earth with a well timed remark; deflated her ego and stopped her from becoming too full of her own self-importance. He helped her to see the way others might see her words and actions. Stopping her from coming across as arrogant. Not only that but in doing it he lightened the darkness of each and every deadly crisis that threatened to plunge her into despair. Like in the midst of this environmental catastrophe they seemed to be sinking into. Extremists like Rikson and the LPL with her and her government caught piggy in the middle. She needed him……….. particularly at times like this.

            These were the moments when she envied Deryk’s height and natural bearing. The image of herself in the mirror haunted her. Perhaps Stefan could not do anything about her height, not now, she was past the age, well past, but maybe some cosmetic work to make her feel better, so that she could take on the world with new confidence. Perhaps a pill to make her lose a few pounds and another to tighten that collagen in her skin, just so she would lose that puffy look. For men it was so much easier. Perhaps it was those generations of being in control that gave them that air. Or perhaps it was just the physical size. It did not seem to matter if they were plump or wrinkled. It didn’t detract from their self-image or status. The more hideous they were the more they seemed to bask in it.

            How she could have used some of that regal stature now. The advantages it would bring when dealing with the kind of awkward characters she dealt with each and every day. It would have made life so much easier.

            When you boiled it all down politics was simply about one individual imposing their will on others, promoting their views, pushing their ideas, forcing their decisions. It wasn’t a question of right or wrong, and intelligence certainly did not come into the equation. It was simply who had the advantage. Who held the power.

            Sadly, Jane knew, the major part of that was image and confidence.

            She knew she had it inside and projected it well. But oh, how much simpler that would have been from within Deryk’s body. He had all the inbuilt advantages. The strength and height ——- the sagacity.

            She saw herself as short and dumpy. Stefan had worked wonders but the bottom line was still just barely passable. It left her short of many of the weapons a taller more sexy woman might utilise. Yet she had used her sex astutely, as an aspiring contender and was not above using it regularly in her daily contests. And now her arsenal might be lacking the tools of youth and the strength of masculinity but she had restocked them with an armoury born of maturity and understanding. She could be ruthless and often had to be. It was not something she had grown to enjoy.

            The irony was that Deryk had no desire to use his stature and intellect in such a way. He never had, and now at the age of 67 was quite content to lead the quiet life of a semi-retired writer with little aspiration. To blend into the background with no need to impress or impose his views on anyone. As far as he was concerned the world could just go on in its crazy contortions, wending its way down the road to oblivion, just as long as he had a stock of his favourite brandy and his family were cocooned away from the harsher realities. It was going to happen anyway. There were just too many people and too little will to do anything about it.

            In some ways, she had to admit, Deryk was a defeatist.

            “………..Ishmael Rheem, the head of internal security, has stated that the cause of the explosion is under full investigation. He added that the security forces will not rest until they have brought the terrorists responsible to justice.”

            Jane studied the surly image of her Chief of Security. The man in charge of the secret police. Heavy jowled and stony eyed. He did not look incompetent and yet there did not seem to be much success coming from his investigations into these acts of terrorism. It was beginning to wear a little thin. Perhaps it was time to have a change round. The murmurings intimated that the moment could be ripe. Then again there were always murmurings. The question was really, when it boiled to the essence, not if he was competent but whether removing him would assist her position or not. Nothing else mattered. This terrorism was becoming a problem. If getting rid of Rheem helped to solve a problem ….. then he was out. The only trouble was that he was a powerful man with many connections and a security network whose intelligence gathering was second to none. It would test her power to its limits to oppose him. Still if it needed to be done then that was precisely what she would have to do. He stared out at her with bitter intensity just as he had done for so much of today during their lengthy and sometimes acrimonious cabinet meeting.

            She relaxed back into her seat thoughtfully. So why wasn’t he having any success? With his organisation? With its feelers into every nook and cranny? Surely they must have unearthed something? The whole business was beginning to undermine her and the whole integrity of the Government. It was a fact that was forcefully brought home to her with the continuation of the report.

            “………….Rheem, along with President Muller, have come under increasing criticism in recent months over their lack of success in tracing and arresting any members of the terrorist environmentalist groups who have claimed responsibility for the acts of sabotage causing so much havoc with industrial plants across the world.”

            “Security measures have been…………….”

            Jane seethed and allowed herself the luxury of a withering glower towards the commentator that was really intended for Ishmael Rheem.

            Deryk, noting the reaction, took another sip of the brandy. Closing his eyes he allowed the liquid to burn its way across his palate and slide to the back of his throat. He swallowed and savoured its hot descent, followed by the resonating after-taste.

            She watched his actions from afar and observed the way he surfaced from the experience. It was a mystery to her. Brandy was strong and pleasant. It had a rich flavour and was relaxing but more than that she could not say. There was obviously some range of nuance that she utterly failed to detect. Something that Deryk experienced that completely passed her by. She could see the immense pleasure he got from the drink. The reverential manner with which he approached it. The intensity and depth of the experience. She just could not understand what it was. The fact that it was his greatest pleasure in life was strange but it was something she had come to accept. People were just different.

            At least it had distracted her mind and brought her back to her state of relaxation. She settled back into her chair and mused over her feelings. She smiled to herself at the thought that she was jealous of a simple spirit. What if he did have a great love of cognac. It did not warrant full divorce proceedings. It was just that it made her feel as if she had been born lacking some vital sense, as if there was something faulty in her sensory apparatus, and there was a whole world of experience that was denied to her. A world that Deryk visited often. A world he found stimulating and fulfilling. It somehow made her insanely jealous. The smile spread into a big grin. God, it was only cognac.

            “What are you grinning at woman?”

            “Just you, my man. Just you.”  Her attention wandered back to the documentary.

Deryk nodded musingly.

            Through the smoke covered view it was just possible to make out the ravaged buildings of the part of the IntSol complex that had been the centre of the initial explosion. Through the swirling clouds and still exceedingly unstable structures, tiny figures could be seen picking their way through the wreckage. They were all encased in brightly coloured protective suits.

            The commentator’s face rose above the scenes of devastation like a huge rising sun.

            “Experts were today beginning their investigations of the stricken plant. Their first priority is to assess the dangers and attempt to make the installations safe. It is thought that many of the underground tanks have not been ruptured and enough chemicals are still contained within them to produce a blast on a similar scale to what has already taken place. Engineers are struggling to stabilise the site.”

            “When the plant is secure the salvage teams will move in to try to ascertain the full extent of the damage and what if anything can be rescued. Initial reactions seem to indicate that the damage is so extensive that it is exceedingly unlikely that anything other than complete site clearance will be possible although there is an outside chance that the underground installations might be salvageable and the plant could possibly be reconstructed.”

            “The cost of the explosion has been tentatively put in the billions but the peripheral costs will resound through the whole industry in the form of increased insurance premiums and increased security arrangements on other prime targets. It is hard to judge just…………”

            The tridee broadcast wound up and moved on to another programme. Jane toyed with seeking something worth watching but let it rest as a background drone. She was content within her thoughts. Tonight was the lull before the storm. She could sense it. She might not have the opportunity to be this relaxed again for a long time.

            Tonight she could feel at ease with herself and her achievements. She had had her share of lucky breaks but could feel secure in the knowledge that she had got to where she was largely through her own abilities and efforts. She possessed that strength of personality and charisma that made it possible.

            She found Deryk’s eyes resting on her and smiled.

            He raised his glass and took another lingering sip.

            For now the Massalax and brandy had conspired to take the edge off her tension. Tonight there were no games to play, no fronts to maintain. They had no secrets from each other. This was the only arena left in which she could completely relax and lay aside her guard. She indulged herself. No need to talk. Just basking in each others company was sufficient. Business could wait.

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Patriotism – the last refuge of Scoundrels.

Nationalism and patriotism divide people, cause problems between nations, encourages racism and xenophobia and is used by cynical politicians in order to get themselves elected.

People, all the world over, are the same. The differences between them are the result of cultural brainwashing.

You can take a baby from any race or culture and bring them up in a different culture and they’d be the same as the others in that culture.

Quantum Fever

Quantum Fever

The System is made up of thousands of planets housing trillions of people in tiny doms arranged in tiers.

The Consortium are a group of wealthy capitalists who live above the metropolis in floating mansions. The name of the game is expansion and profit.

The Quships cross quantum space in search of planets to either colonise or plunder for resources in order to maintain the system.

Quantum Fever is a disease that affects people who jump the weird reaches of quantum space.

Was Tahsin Roeg suffering from Quantum Fever or were the Consortium seeking to control her?

What of the alien planet she discovers?

Were the Primitives going to achieve their dream?

Extract

Chapter 1

I hate every minute of being in such an elite club. I play the game and I know I do it well but it really is not me. Inside I am still Tahsin Roeg, the ordinary girl from the deeper beltways of Haven.

Having this rare ability has been my ticket out of the lower tiers. At first, I revelled in it. Who would not feel good about being able to do something that so few other people could do? For someone like me, now in my middle age, short, rather dumpy and plain looking and possessing a phobia about Nano surgical recontouring, it surely proved a lifeline for my ego.

Who would not feel great about being made to feel so special, or having the potential to be elevated into such a high position in society? That skill provided me with a status that was otherwise unattainable.

My rare ability transformed the future for my entire family and gave me a pass to a life, that as an otherwise rather average girl, I could only have imagined – attaining that place in the sky we all dream of.

The skill made me wealthy and famous, but it had not made me happy and now I was finding that it was not at all fulfilling either.

Disillusionment leaves a rancid taste.

I began to see it for what it was – emptiness – sheer emptiness – all sham, all front.

We thought we were part of their club but we really were not. All we Quship Skippers were being used. We were expendable. They, ‘The Consortium’, exploited our talent, paid us handsomely but would discard us as soon as we were of no further use to them. We moved in their world but we were not part of it.

Worse than that – they thought they possessed the right to control us.

There was an epiphany when I woke up to what the Consortium was really doing. For some reason I had shut my mind to it. Now my eyes were opened. I could clearly see what game they were playing. It was so obvious.

No matter how much I tried to kid myself that I was doing a good job and bringing back the resources that everyone needed, I knew I was really working for a bunch of crooks who I did not think were very nice. They certainly were not doing it for the people – that was for sure. The whole business made me feel used and grubby. Somehow, despite all my best intentions, I had lost contact with the friends I used to have in the lower tiers. Looking back now I can see that the moment I left to start the intensive training was when I subconsciously broke away from my roots. I severed that umbilicus. It was something I was now regretting. I was starting to wonder what had become of my friends. We had shared so much. They must have felt abandoned, betrayed.

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