Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Prophecy On the Planet Chapter Four

The grass was greener than it had ever been before. It had grown and was actually making waves as it rippled in the wind. Kaleem could see it more clearly this time than he had ever seen it before. He soon found the familiar brick building, in front of which the children normally played. There were no children, though, this time. He was standing closer to it than ever before. He could see the bricks more easily. They were mainly a dark, rusty red, but now and then there was a black one, which made the whole building look dark. He had always thought that it had no roof, but as he looked up, he could see that there was something at the top, which seemed to be made from red tiles.
He looked for the children, but he could not see them. The grass seemed to stretch in front of him for miles. There were hills. It almost looked like a green sea with a huge swell. In the distance, he could see some white specks.
I wonder if they’re daisies, he thought. He knew the children liked to make necklaces with daisies. He started walking towards them.
His legs were moving. The grass was still rippling, but he could not feel the breeze that was causing the movement. He could not feel the movement in his legs. He did not seem to be getting any nearer to the daisies.
Suddenly, though, the daisies changed shape and grew larger. At was as if he was being propelled forward. They were there. They weren’t daisies at all. They were the children.
Kaleem braced himself. He hated the moment when they turned and faced him. It wasn’t so much the strange puffed up eyes and the little stubby noses that bothered him. It wasn’t even that their faces looked sixty years older than their bodies. It was more that sad, questioning expression in their eyes. It was as if they were expecting him to do something he hadn’t yet done, to answer some question only he could answer. Each time they seemed more disappointed, more accusing. He dreaded meeting them.
One of them spotted him. Kaleem heard him shout to the others. Two of them were running towards him.
‘Kaleem, Kaleem,’ shouted the boy. ‘We thought you would never come again. Why have you been so long?’
Two old faces were turned up to him. They were actually smiling. They took his hand and lead him towards the others.
‘We have been waiting for you, Kaleem,’ said the boy holding his left hand.
‘It must be soon,’ said the girl holding his right hand. ‘It is to be written.’
He had never heard them speak so much before. They were actually speaking Zandrian.
But I first came here when I was living on Terrestra, thought Kaleem.
The other children were running towards him now.
‘Kaleem, Kaleem,’ they shouted. ‘Kaleem has come.’
They formed a circle around him. The faces were solemn now, but not so sad as they normally were.
The girl Kaleem remembered from the last time stepped into the circle.
‘Kaleem,’ she said. ‘It is almost time. We welcome you.’
The others gathered around them began to cheer and clap.
The girl took Kaleem’s hand. She led him towards the edge of the circle. The children stepped aside so that they could walk through. Suddenly they were right by the brick building. She led him through a door, which Kaleem had never seen before.
The book was open on a table on a raised platform. She smiled and pointed.
‘To-day you can read the story so far written,’ she said.
She nodded to him that he should go up the wooden steps to the platform. Kaleem thought he could hear faint music playing in the background.
The marks started appearing on the pages as soon as he looked at them. This time, though, they seemed more familiar. They were almost like Wordtext. At first they kept changing faster than Kaleem could read. The pages filled with black marks, then scrunched themselves up and disappeared, just as before, to be replaced by pure white pieces of paper.
Gradually, though, this time, the marks appeared more and more slowly. They were indeed forming Wordtext. He could read what they said. Even so, before he came to the bottom of each page, it would tear itself out and start again.
Kaleem felt hot and slightly dizzy as he gradually realised what he was reading. It was the story of the tower. It was being written and rewritten, each time sounding better.
Suddenly, it changed again. Gradually, the whole story, as he knew it, began to appear. The blue and gold illustrations formed themselves in front of him. Soon, the book was complete.
‘Read it through,’ whispered the girl.
Kaleem started to read. He could hear the workmen building the tower. He saw the people making their way up it. He could hear the excitement in their voices. He felt the shaking as the tower began to topple.
‘It must be finished,’ he heard the girl whisper. ‘It must be finished.’
The shaking was getting more violent now. It was not just a picture in Kaleem’s head. He could hear the children outside shouting.
‘Run Kaleem, Pahandra,’ they cried. ‘The tower is falling.’
Kaleem’s feet were glued to the spot.
A new page appeared on the book.
“The Prophecy and its Fulfilment”, he read.
‘It is not quite time,’ whispered Pahandra. ‘If you stay, you will not be able to complete it.’
She grabbed his hand, and soon they were running out of the building.
‘Detran, Detran,’ he heard someone calling.
The furniture in his apartment gradually came into focus. Kaleem woke up to find himself covered in sweat. The message alert was sounding on his dataserve. His throat was sore and every muscle in his body seemed to ache. He was thirsty, and although he was covered in sweat, he was shivering.
Oh no, he thought. Not that again. It’s come back.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Prophecy On the Planet Chapter Three

The office in the Executive suite was hot and stuffy. It reminded Kaleem so much of the health centre at home where Maria was presumably still almost imprisoned. He suddenly felt homesick for Terrestra. Razjosh had forbidden him all contact with his old life. He would be more able to integrate into the new one if he was cut off completely from his home planet. The Elder had, however promised Kaleem that the moment there was any deterioration in his mother, he would be informed at once. Kaleem had heard nothing, so he assumed all must be well.
The Executive of Language and Story was staring out of the window at a holoscene of natural sunflowers.
‘It’s so clever what they are doing with the holo technology,’ he said. ‘That’s what I now want to bring to the world of words. Create atmospheres taken from elsewhere.’

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Prophecy, On the Planet, Chapter Two

Kaleem looked at the other people who had joined the special meet of the City Executives. All of the young Zandrian entrepreneurs considered to have made a significant contribution to society were waiting for their awards. Several of his students had put Kaleem’s name forward.
‘You deserve it,’ said Alistare Rogerin. ‘You’ve really got us all speaking so many other languages. Speaking them well, at that, in such a short time.’
‘Oh,’ said Kaleem. ‘Languages aren’t difficult really. Just hard work.’
That was so true. He didn’t, feel though, that he could go into a discussion of what really mattered. It was making the move towards the other that really counted. That was easier here on Zandra. They didn’t seem to have the Terrestran  unjustified fear of strangers.
Kaleem sipped his modified frega juice. It didn’t have quite the kick that his first glass had had, all those weeks ago. Yet it was still mildly pleasant. Perhaps he was getting used to it. It could be, of course, that they had watered it down so that people stayed in control.
It was some place, the Executive Palace. A great sweeping staircase led up to the landing where the Executives would later sit. There were holoscreens showing mirrors which reflected mirrors in the screens opposite. There were holograms of candles. The lights danced and reflected back and forth in the false mirrors. The floors looked as if they were made of genuine marble, but Alistare had assured him that they were only hololayers.
Everyone was dressed in formal Zandrian tunics. Kaleem had thought his own stylish enough. Here, though, there were so many more that were even more sophisticated. He didn’t feel uncomfortable, though, in the stiff, dark blue silky material. The formal wear here was so much more comfortable than back at home. On the few occasions that he had worn it on Terrestra, Kaleem had felt that he could not move. Here, the clothes were a smooth fit. He could move with ease. He knew, too, that he looked very good.
‘So, who are all these people?’ he asked Alistare.
‘Oh, just clever so-and-sos, who like yourself, have done something extraordinary in their area.’
But I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary, thought Kaleem. I’ve just put into practice what all those months of training that Razjosh taught me.
Suddenly, a group of droid musicians began to play an entrance march. Everybody turned and looked as the tall doors on the upper floor opened, and the Executives walked in slowly to take their seats upon the balcony. They were wearing the normal Zandrian formal tunic, but a cape of contrasting colours hung from their shoulders.
‘Each colour represents a different discipline,’ whispered Alistare. ‘That deep crimson is your area - languages and story.’
Kaleem looked closely at the Languages and Story Executive as he passed. He was a tall man, with dark hair and pale skin which could have almost been Terrestran.
‘I expect he’ll come and talk to you afterwards,’ said Alistare.
The Executives were now almost all up on the balcony. Suddenly, there seemed to be a disturbance by the doorway. Most people turned round to see what was going on. Kaleem blushed deeply when he saw who it was.
‘Look, it’s Tulla Watkins,’ whispered Alistare.
You don’t need to tell me that, thought Kaleem. I know who she is. Only too well.
Kaleem watched Tulla make her way into the room. She looked as gorgeous as ever. Her hair was soft and shiny. The rich chocolate brown silky tunic really showed it off well.
‘She’s quite a looker, isn’t she?’ said Alistare.
Oh yes, she’s that all right, thought Kaleem. ‘Not bad,’ he said, turning away from Alistare, conscious that he was blushing again.
‘She’s one of the diplomatic workers,’ he said. ‘It’s her job to negotiate deals with other planets, so that we can obtain the ingredients we need for our medicines. She’s just come back from a mission to Zendan. She had to learn Intel Flemish to speak to them. Pity she wasn’t one of your students.’
Kaleem did not answer his friend. This was all so stupid. If he’d only known that, she would have been the perfect person to work with. There was no reason why he shouldn’t have known. He could have so easily looked up her profile. But the Black Tulpen incident had made him panic so much then. He didn’t dare get involved with a girl - not until the Peace Child mission was over. Goodness knows when that would be.
Tulla caught his eye. She blushed and looked away. Kaleem watched her disappear into a crowd of people who were standing near the doorway.
‘Hey,’ whispered Alistare. ‘I think she fancies you. Did you see that? She was staring at you and then when she saw you looking at her, she couldn’t get away fast enough. You’re in with a chance there, I would say.’
Kaleem grunted.
‘Look they’re nearly there now,’ he said, nodding towards the Executives, the last of whom were now taking their seats on the balcony.
A final fanfare sounded and the Executives bowed to the Chief Executive. The crowds in the hall below clapped. The Chief Executive made a speech. Fortunately, it did not go on for too long. Kaleem watched the other young entrepreneurs go up to receive their awards. One by one, they floated on a hoverpad up to the balcony and a gold coloured badge was fused to their tunics. The Chief Executive shook their hand and managed to ask each one a question.
Kaleem did not enjoy floating up on the hoverpad. It felt so unstable as it wobbled through the air. He was sure he was going to fall off at any second. He hated the way everyone was staring at him. At last, though, he reached the Chief Executive.
‘I hear that you are most proficient at languages and can even get others to learn quickly,’ he said to Kaleem. ‘What is your secret?’
‘I think I was trained well myself,’ mumbled Kaleem.
For a split second, the Executive seemed to stare at him.
He doesn’t believe me, thought Kaleem.
The older man smiled. ‘Well, you must have had a very good teacher that’s all I can say.’
Seconds later, Kaleem was floating back down.
‘You were a long time,’ said Alistare. ‘What in Zandra were you talking to him about?’
‘Oh, he just wanted to know about language learning,’ muttered Kaleem.
‘Perhaps you’ve got a new customer, then,’ said Alistare.
The presentation ceremony drew to a close shortly afterwards. The Executives came down from the balcony, moving this time informally and without music. The robot waiters came around with trays of food and drink, and despite the mellow music playing in the background, the volume of the talking got louder and louder. Soon, it was very difficult to hear or make yourself heard.
Kaleem felt a tap on his shoulder. He jumped, and then turned round to see the Executive with the crimson robe, only now the robe was no longer pinned to his shoulders, but was draped over his arm. A robot waiter came up to them. The Executive handed his robe to the machine and waved it away.
‘Well Detran Malthus,’ said the Executive. ‘I hear you have done great things.’
Kaleem did not reply. Even though this name had been used just a half an hour ago, he still could not get used to it. He knew Razjosh had been right to insist. Kaleem Malkendy was just too Terrestran.
‘Marek Ransen, by the way,’ said the Executive. He held his hand out ready to receive the Zandrian handshake. Kaleem pushed his hand forward, a gap between his ring finger and his middle finger. Marek Ransen slotted his hand into the space.
‘I really have been most impressed with what I have heard so far. You must come by to the Executive Office Suite some time and tell me all about it. In fact, I’ll send an official invite.’
‘Thank you,’ Kaleem managed to mutter.
‘You know how important he is,’ Alistare mouthed to Kaleem. ‘Get a grip. Say something clever.’
‘Ah’ said Ransen. ‘Here comes my son. I’m sure you’d like to meet him. He’s about your age.’
A young man with reddish hair and a face covered with freckles was making his way towards them. He was about the same height as Kaleem and Kaleem guessed about the same age. He was grinning widely.
‘Petro Ransen, Detran Malthus,’ said Marek Ransen.
Petro held out his hand, finger spread apart, ready to receive Kaleem’s palm.
‘I hope my Dad’s not boring you,’ he said.
‘Of course I’m not,’ said Marek. ‘And to avoid any danger of doing so, I’ll leave you young people to your own devices. I’m sorry, I don’t know you name…?’ He turned towards Alistare.
‘Alistare Rogerin, number corps,’ replied Alistare.
‘Well, a good mixture then - mathematician, a health specialist and a language expert,’ said Marek. He waved and made his way through the crowd.
‘Hey, these olds just can’t take the pace, can they?’ said Petro. ‘Do you fancy going on to a frega dive later?’
‘Good idea!’ said Alistare, grinning.
‘I don’t know…,’ said Kaleem. He was tired. Keeping up this new identity,  constantly speaking a language which was not his own, and having to be careful all the time was wearing him out. A couple of hours in a frega dive would be another two hours of strain, two hours less sleep and he was busy the next day.
On the other hand, Petro would be a useful contact. He worked for the health authorities. He was so friendly and easygoing, too. He was just the sort of person Razjosh had said he should try to make a good connection with.
Petro’s face suddenly clouded over.
‘Oh, oh,’ he said. ‘I’d forgotten. I’d promised to see my girlfriend after this do. She’s just got back from a mission. Sorry folks, we’ll have to make it another time.’
Petro grinned again.
‘You’re something else, though,’ he said, looking at Kaleem. ‘Tu’ sure could have done with your help. I’ll have to get her to get in touch. She has to learn new languages all the time - the translators just aren’t diplomatic enough. I’ll be in touch. I will, honest.’
He waved and set off towards the doors.
Kaleem watched him pause in front of the tall doors. Petro’s face lit up. Someone in a chocolate coloured silk tunic was pushing her way through the crowd. Kaleem’s heart skipped a beat as he saw who it was. Petro hugged her and then planted a kiss firmly on her lips. They went though the double doors, arms around each other’s waists. Of course, Tu’ - Tulla.
That could have been him. If only he didn’t have this important job to do. Why couldn’t he be doing normal things? At his age he should be getting to know members of the opposite sex - and he should be getting to know them quite well. It was just so annoying.
‘Hey, executive entrepreneur,’ said Alistare. ‘Why so sad? This is supposed to be a day for celebration.’
If only you knew, thought Kaleem.
It was just so unfair. Still, at least, he supposed, it solved one problem.  There would be no more wishing or hoping. He could just get on with what he was meant to do. At least now he had got a good contact with the health workers. He’d done it without actually seeking anyone out, just like Razjosh had told him to. Besides, if he hadn’t had to do this important job, he would have never even seen her in the first place.
‘It’s nothing,’ he said. ‘I’m just tired. I’m going home. See you soon’
He turned and made his way to the doors.
‘Couple of party-poopers,’ he heard Alistare mumble. Even so, he and Alistare walked out of the exit portal together