a tale in weekly parts
(formerly Albert and Jarvis)
In episodes 1-88, Albert and Jarvis told the story of a bitek construct that had been in the lives of the Grahamson family for three generations. Appearing in the form of a shepherd's hut (Jarvis) and its elderly occupant (Albert), an earlier experiment had resulted in the birth of Aloysius, a non-manifesting human/bitek hybrid. Alice and Alex, the two children that Aloysius had fathered with his wife, Magdalen, displayed strong bitek capabilities from an early age, though Alice was significantly more precocious than her younger brother. Albert and Jarvis nurtured and enhanced these capabilities through many adventures until the point where, to prevent a global catastrophe, the two needed to act together. The action needed more power than the two possessed. To produce stonger hybrids, Alex's seed was used to produce a young in a distantly related hybrid female in another dimension, while Alice was impregnated using her own bitek components. Albert and Jarvis absented themselves from the lives of the Grahamsons to allow Alice's pregnancy to progress in a safe, normal environment.
You can see the full story so far at this link.
“Zak, come here, son,” Al said.
Zak came trotting around the corner with three dogs in tow. “What is it, Granddad?”
“Albert and his hut—”
“Whatever. They’ve definitely gone?”
“And they won’t be coming back?”
“What? How can it be excellent? I thought Albert was your father?”
“Yes, but I didn’t know that until just.”
“I still can’t see why you’re so happy about it.”
“Look at it this way, lad. We haven’t so much lost a man; well, kind of a man anyway; as gained fifty square metres of land. And not just any land. It’s well-shaded, free-draining land that’s not been disturbed in more than fifty years – apart from the hard-standing I put down, and that’ll make a smashing base for a shed. What’s happened is I’ve gained an allotment with the best land in the area.”
“What’re you on about?” Madge shouted from behind the leylandii.
“Come and look at this,” Al said.
Madge came around from behind the trees, followed by Alex and Alice. “What am I looking at?”
“Your new patch of garden.”
“But the sun never gets through to this part.”
“So this is where you plant the shade-loving plants you can’t grow in the main garden.”
“Ooh. Does that mean I can grow rhododendrons, hostas, ferns and bamboo?”
“I was hoping you’d mention something we can eat,” Al replied.
“What the bloody hell is brassicas?”
“Cabbages and stuff.”
“Why on earth would anyone want to grow that rubbish?”
“Some people like beetroot.”
“No bugger I know!”
“I like beetroot.”
“Is it too late to disown you?”
“Will you two stop squabbling?” Alice shouted.
“Just having a bit of fun, love. Nothing’s meant, is it, Madge?” Al said.
“Not by me, anyway,” Madge replied, “don’t know about misery-guts here, though.”
“What’s the pH of this patch?” she asked.
“PH? What’re you talking about, PH? All I know is PH shows where a pub is on maps, and you know where the nearest one is; it’s the one I go to sometimes, the Traveller’s Rest. Got a picture of a shepherd’s hut on the sign. Here. I’d never thought of that. You don’t suppose it’s named after Albert, do you?”
“Aloysius Grahamson, stop being obtuse, and don’t change the subject. Little pee big aitch; shows how acid or alkali the soil is.”
“How would I know that?”
Zak shimmered briefly. “I’d leave it alone, Grandma. It tends to be a tiny bit acid, but that’ll be okay. Cabbage, sprouts, spinach and salads will love it.”
“You know about these things, Zak?” Al asked.
“We do now,” the boy replied. He turned to his mother and said, “Mum, Alex; we need to meet. Coming?”
“We?” Alice asked.
“Yeah. We, Zed. Xander and Kris will be there, too.”
“I’m in,” Alex said quickly.
“Me, too,” Alice added.
Al and Madge stood looking into space as Alex, Alice and Zak disappeared from view.
In a clearing close to a woodland, Zak and Zara stood side by side, shimmered and merged into one. On a bench nearby, Alex was seated beside Kris and Alice beside Xander. They were all looking towards Zed, all more than somewhat confused.
Zed looked up and faced the others. “Albert based his action plan on an understanding that the destruction of the planet would be the result of a major conflict linked to the rise of a despotic ruler. Albert was in error.”
“Are you saying the war won’t happen?” Alex asked.
“It will happen, all right,” Zed replied, “but its cause will not be linked to the unsuitability of the holder of high office.”
“So this individual won’t be a problem?”
“He will be. He will cause major problems to his people, but the war will not be a direct result of his disastrous rule.”
“The war will be an indirect result of global climate change.”
“Rising temperatures will render some parts of the planet incapable of supporting human life. Refugees will flee those places in their millions and try to settle in more suitable areas. This will give rise to local tensions, leading to closed, protectionist governments. Other parts of the planet will lose access to clean water which will lead to more refugees. Regional food shortages will cause raiding parties from poor communities to attack better-off locales where food and water are plentiful. All these things will come together to effectively result in every population being at war with another bloc or with itself.”
“Can this be prevented?”
“Let us finish. This war will be the result, not the cause, of the planet’s fate.”
“Then what will be the cause?”
“Please don’t tell us this is inevitable.”
“Of course not. Nothing is set in stone. This is statistically the most likely future, and it’s the one that will happen if everything continues as at present with no intervention.”
“So what can be done? Is there something you can do? Albert was talking about preventing a birth, as though that alone would change the course of history.”
“And it would. Preventing a birth would mean that the despot wouldn’t be there to take high office, and a vast swathe of people would be saved a lot of unpleasantness. It would also have an effect on the rate of global climate change. But that would not, of itself, be enough to prevent the catastrophe. That needs concerted action by the entire population of the planet. It is a political movement, which is not something that we can directly influence.”
“Because it means convincing billions of people to make what will be, for them, uncomfortable, possibly expensive and certainly counter-intuitive changes to their lifestyle.”
“But if it’s to save the planet…”
“Convincing them is the issue. It’s a job for politicians and civic leaders, not for bitek constructs.”
This week’s challenge – favourite childhood memories
This week’s challenge is to write a story, limerick or poem on the subject of:
Favourite childhood memories
Last week’s theme was favourite indulgences. Here are a few of yours:
A couple of scones with jam and cream
is my favourite indulgent dream
But it makes me quite fat
and I’m quite worried that,
I’m in danger of bursting a seam.
Waist of Space, part one of the Unlikelihood series, followed Commanders Tarquin Stuart-Lane and Meredith Winstanley; hapless heroes of the Royal Space Regiment; who were sent on a mission to the Moon from which they were not expected to return. There they met with a group of aliens who had forged a living under the surface of the moon, and whose forbears
were testing a new kind of spacecraft.
In part two, FLATUS, our dynamic duo help the aliens (and the RSR) build their own multi-locatable craft. Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having three such craft in space at one time?
FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?
Part three follows the preparation and development of the Gap Travel Initiative (code named GTI) and the developing relationships among and between species, races and genders. Will humankind achieve the nirvana of limitless travel and if so, at what cost. Stick with Tarquin and Meredith as they navigate their route through an uncertain future.
GTI. Chapter one, scene three
An hour later, Arty knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” Andrea said, her tone falling somewhere between deeply, deeply sad and downright livid.
“Arty,” came the truthful reply.
“Come on in.”
“I’m reading your emotional state as either unhappy or angry,” Arty suggested, “and where’s Tarquin?”
“I’m both,” she replied, “and he’s over there.” Andrea pointed to the crumpled pile in the corner that was Tarquin.
“My fault, my fault entirely. I didn’t allow for his fragility. I just started unzipping my suit without any warning or preparation.”
“And he fainted.”
“He doesn’t usually stay out for long, though.”
“He doesn’t usually bash his head on a protruding solid object.”
“How did he manage that? There are only a few chairs in the room.”
“You have to understand, Arty, that Tarquin is a complicated soul. When I started to pull the zip down, he started to swoon. Now that’s not something that upset me; I think it’s rather nice when the very thought of seeing my undressed form is enough to overwhelm a man. Trouble is, he felt the need to apologise, and you know what that means…”
“A virtual slap across the face?”
“Exactly. Only this must have been a big apology because the slap knocked him off his already shaky feet and caused his head to make contact with the edge of the table.”
“But surely, at moon gravity, that shouldn’t have been too hard.”
“You didn’t see the force of his slap, Arty. It was a hard contact.”
“Does he need help?”
“Yes, he does. But not for the knock on his head. I’ve checked him over and he seems okay. I’ll just let him sleep it off.”
“Andrea, I assume you know that Tarquin has a history.”
“I know quite a lot about him, but if you have anything new…”
“When he and Meredith were staying with us—”
“As your pets—”
“Sadly, yes. But we wanted to see if they would breed.”
“I know, but we didn’t know anything about humans at the time. Anyway, it was plain to us that Tarquin was extremely keen to perform for us, but Meredith wasn’t interested. At one point, Tarquin had a fall and knocked himself out. When he came around, he had lost his interest in breeding but had become … I suppose you would say normal.”
“Normal as in?”
“What happened to make him as he is now?”
“Another bash on the head, I imagine.”
“So you think that when he comes around now, he may have lost his interest in me as a woman, and become, what?”
“Clever, erudite, articulate.”
“But that’s terrible,” Andrea wailed.
“If I’d wanted an able colleague up here, I’d have brought a scientist or an engineer, or even a diplomat. But I didn’t, so I didn’t. I need someone to help me with my non-task-related needs.”
“I think you know what I mean, Arty.”
“I wish I could help,” Arty said.
“I know. But sadly, you can’t.”
“I’m sure we could design you a—”
“Don’t even go there, Arty.”
“But it would—”
“Whatever it would do, it wouldn’t worship me, it wouldn’t adore me, it wouldn’t faint at the prospect of—”
“I understand. Should we wait till he comes around to give him his extra bash, or should we do it now, while he’s unconscious and won’t feel it.”
Andrea didn’t bother responding. She simply grabbed the nearest solid object, a vase, which she proceeded to demolish over the head of her unconscious friend (hopefully, later, with benefits).
“Bugger,” she said, “it broke. Now what?”
“Spanner?” Arty asked.
“Spanner,” Andrea replied. Arty handed her a 24/26mm double-ended ring spanner that he just happened to have in his suit. She applied it to Tarquin’s skull.
“If it’s not a silly question, Arty,” she said, “why are you carrying such a large spanner?”
“I didn’t know I was,” he replied, “I just found it pressing into my proterbium.”
“Into your what?”
“Proterbium. It’s a part of our structure that has no equivalence in human anatomy.”
“You know what this means, though, don’t you?”
“Yes, it means we’re built differently.”
“Not the proterbium, dummy, the spanner.”
“I think so. I think it means that elements of the drive are still being tested here—”
“Contrary to Meredith’s direct orders.”
“What do you suggest we do?”
“Your decision, Arty; you’re Project Manager here. If it were my job, I’d find out who is running the tests, why and where, and see to it that they stop. Immediately.”
“Of course. What are you going to do in the meantime?”
“I have some unfinished business with my support staff, and I seem, miraculously and unexpectedly, to have a bottle of smelling salts in my hand.”
“Before you go, Arty, are you up to speed on EPHS?”
“Enhanced post-hypnotic suggestion? Yes. We all are.”
“Can you give me a quick tutorial?”
“Of course, but why?”
“Let me put this as delicately as I can. I want Tarquin to remain conscious so we can both enjoy the benefits of our friendship.”
“Okay, but you must promise me that you won’t use it for any other purpose.”
“Oh, I absolutely promise,” Andrea said, the index and middle fingers (that’s the pointing and swearing fingers, if you’re not sure) of both hands firmly crossed behind her back. Happily, Arty didn’t notice, or if he did, he didn’t know what it meant, or if he did, he didn’t care, and went on to give her a quick run-through anyway.