THUNDER IN THE MOUNTAINS
Available on Amazon
(Kathryn Moon is the pen name of Angela Timms)
The Government started a
new gameshow where the general public could comment on current issues and on
policies which would become law.
problem was that it was all a sham and there was no department dealing with the
solutions put forward by the Artificial Intelligence they had created to handle
As he was developed to
deal with the solution he assessed that the problem was the Government and the
way that the earth’s resources were being depleted, so he shut down all the
This is the story
written by Rebecca Aven who is an ordinary person who was contacted by Nemesis’
organisation to set up a safe house and a smallholding to evaluate how easy it
would be to survive in a world without computers.
The story adds a
realism as it is written with experience of actually living on a Smallholding
and being able to evaluate how easy all the theories would be in reality.
WRITING ON the WALL
The Central Line train rumbled at
speed through the inky black tunnel.
Commuters sat facing each other but barely seeing who they travelled
with as others clung to bars for support as they “train surfed” on their way to
Another work day, the grey
nothingness reflected on disinterested faces.
Lost in their own thoughts. Don’t
meet someone’s glance, don’t get noticed looking while being seen by others
pretending not to look. A world of
don’ts while everyone dresses to be seen and to be right.
Each passenger neatly dressed,
hair immaculate, handbags and brief cases containing all that was needed for
the day’s life. Lost in music, lost in
books, lost in the crossword or the news in a paper. News they didn’t want to read in a paper they
sometimes didn’t agree with but had to read anyway to fit in. Gleaning sadness
and conversation pieces. Knowledge on
subjects saved so they can seem informed
about in the bar or coffee point later in the day.
Those were my thoughts as I
looked around the carriage. Who was I to
comment? I was one of them. I was neatly dressed, my shoes as clean as
they could be after the walk to the station but who cares really? Who really cared? Were they self-absorbed or self-obsessed? No, not really, that was just how I felt
listening to Hazel O’Connor in my private world of music. “Down a tunnel, in a tube”.
It was just an ordinary morning
really. I’d woken up to the alarm and
the disappointment that it was Monday. I
had climbed out of bed like I always do.
Like every day I wandered zombie like to the kettle and with a flick of
a switch the morning had begun as the kettle started to boil. Coffee, that was how it always started and
ended. Coffee, shower, get dressed, find
keys, find handbag, open door, close and lock door, walk to the train, work,
lunch, work, out for the evening, train, home, music or TV then sleep. Over and over and over again. First to last of the month. Last of the month of course is pay day, a
little treat, mortgage paid, bills paid, on it went again.
Meaningless? No, very meaningful now that I look back on
it, very meaningful and very peaceful.
Decisions every day, at work, at home.
Friends to see, people to meet, a life to live.
Why is today different?
Because I got an email. It has changed how I feel about a lot of
I would say that I’m interested
in the environment. Isn’t everyone? We all walk and live on this ball of rock,
surely if she suffers we all suffer.
Don’t mess on your own doorstep is a comment I have often heard. Ok, not in this context but it fits. Surely that is important enough. But is it like that? I’ve seen the programs, read the literature,
been to the talks. Talk and talk and
talk. Then tea. Then talk.
I’d listen. Then I’d talk to people at work, at parties,
at the pub. New friends I’d met and
although they were interested it all seemed so “on the fringe” of what mattered
to them. Why was it so important to
me? Why was I so unbothered by the best
car to drive, the best house to own?
I loved my flat, who
wouldn’t. It was decorated how I wanted
it to be and reflected me. It was tidy
and easy to keep clean. A new carpet made
that easier. New wallpaper took away the
dirt of the old. New paint swept away
the history and the smell that all flats have when you take them over. It smelt of paint, wallpaper, a new carpet
and of course candles and incense.
I was happy but I wasn’t. This morning was a morning like any other but
it felt different. I felt like something
was missing, like I’d lost something.
I’d felt around my jewellery, it was all there, nothing was missing but
why did I feel it was? It was like there
was a gaping gap in my memory and I couldn’t fill it.
“Down a tunnel, in a tube,
clockwork people”. I could see why the
lyrics were written but I couldn’t see the point. As one of the clockwork people I could look
at that from the other side. People who
have to pay a mortgage have to work. It
is a simple fact of life. If you want to
support yourself and your family it involves compromise. I could be arrogant and say easier to be on
the dole. Scoff at someone who is part
of the machine without questioning who pays taxes to put money in the pot to
pay the dole money. This wasn’t that
sort of feeling. Of course I was making
a compromise I was not happy with but one that was important. It was a discipline, a magic in itself, a way
forward. I had my flat, my mortgage and
a future I could grasp in my hands.
So why did I feel that there was
more to it?
Because of an email I had
received, out of the blue and with no clue as to who had sent it. It had gone on and on, facts, figures,
information. The planet was suffering
and it was our fault. That wasn’t rocket
science, there was enough information out there. But this was something else. I looked around the carriage as I had every
day of every week of every year. The
trip to work, the same. People standing
in the same place on the same platform, catching the same train to go to the
The same faces almost as well as
I too stood in the same place on the same platform at the same time going to
the same station. The same people,
different clothes, different handbags.
Not everyone of course. There
were many who I didn’t recognize. You’d
think actually after so many years there might be some recognition, a smile
perhaps? Not even at Christmas. Ironic really as in the trenches people
stopped fighting for Christmas and played football. Ok at war I guess but not on the underground
So what was upsetting me so much,
yes upsetting, it is a strong word but it was right. I was upset.
This morning wasn’t like any other.
This morning I saw things differently.
I saw the trees struggling with the pollution that coated the summer
leaves. I saw the cars lined up at the
station where many of them had only come under a mile. Their owners could have walked, they didn’t
need to show off their car. I saw the
new clothes, the adverts for more, more, more.
Memories flooded back of my days
at school. A cameo image of a lovely
English teacher who was keen to teach us.
Quiet and down to earth. I can’t
remember her name and that is somehow wrong.
But then it was a very long time ago.
She was neatly dressed in a semi tweed suit, not expensive, not designer
and that was the problem with it.
Nothing wrong with it as far as I was concerned but then I’d never
really been worried about clothes. But
the girls in my class had tipped ink down the back of it as she explained
something to one of my classmates. They would
not take her seriously as she wore the same suit every day.
As I looked around the carriage I
wondered how the children of then had done in life as they were now the adults
of today. Where were they now? I noticed a man in the carriage with an worn
suit. It wasn’t worn out, it was just
not new. The sideways glances from those
in the obviously new designer suits were not lost on me. I smiled to myself. They thought themselves above him but suit
doesn’t maketh man. I then realized he
had looked up at that moment and he smiled back. Fleetingly we made eye contact, then he
looked away nervously and I went back to my thoughts.
Memories are who we are. They remind us who we should be and whether
good or bad they teach us as they are experiences we have lived through. Memories are something everyone can muse on,
play with and remember them. That is
what they are for. To watch again in the
mind’s eye. To see those we have
lost. For me it was a simple memory that
got woken up by the email and my thoughts.
The memory it aroused involved a
politician who shook my hand in what looked like a borrowed suit and had every
hope of and possibly the future ability to make a better world. He had no designer suit or wish to own
one. He just wanted to change things for
the better while upholding that which worked and which held civilized society
together. Now he was gone from
politics. The man who cared leaving
because he cared for his wife who was injured and left in a wheelchair.
I couldn’t help but wonder if
things would have been so much different if those who sought to make their own
changes hadn’t chosen violence. They
could have chosen to negotiate and talk.
Do we judge people so much by what they look like and what they
wear? If so then the Fashion Designer
rules the world.
All designers have this ability I
suppose. Both Vivien Westwood and Armani
as well as others had the power. This
was because our ways of physically showing who we are depend on what we wear
and how we look. Unless of course we
make our own clothes, design our own “unique-form” we are reliant on what we
are offered. I wish I think is my
comment on that one. I’ve always wanted
to but then I’ve wanted to do a lot of things.
Want and need, I have no need and I’m so lured in by the adverts, the
sales in the shops and of course hunting the charity shops. I can feel good about the latter of course as
I’m not only giving money to charity, I am also recycling.
Now that has also always
fascinated me. Recycling and using
again. Now who hasn’t bought a pot of
coffee because it has a useful jar and used it again to keep something in. Well quite a few people no doubt but to me it
made sense. But that was as far as the
recycling goes with most people. That
and putting things in the recycle bin rather than the rubbish one.
I know, odd thoughts for a train
and one which is slowly trundling through the infinite blackness of the tunnel. Here I am such a small thing on a small
planet in the vastness of space. So
small in London, an insect amongst other insects, many of whom think they are
lions. They do, they create in their own
way. They seem important but what if
something went wrong? What if one day
everything changed? Where that thought
came from I do not know.
With the Millennium fast
approaching I think a lot of people are thinking that way. What if there was a problem with the things
that we take for granted?
I have been lucky. My father has always had an allotment so
fresh vegetables from the land were the normal food, not a luxury. I wouldn’t really know what mass produced
food tasted like. I know people say it
is bland and the chemicals make a difference.
In my naïve way I suppose I assumed everyone had the ability to grow
their own. That is a definite “let them
eat cake” moment I suppose. I hadn’t
thought about it. But, now I am thinking
about it and I have to do something about it.
Open a shop. I know it sounds crazy but for a Monday
morning that is the only thing I can think of doing. Open a shop, it doesn’t matter what it
sells. Invite organisations to put their
leaflets there so that people can read them.
Of course joining various other organisations would help but why? They are doing what they are doing and
although I agree with most of it, I feel that there is something else
needed. Not a charity, just an organisation
that spreads information.
Knowledge without wisdom is a
loaded gun. We had the knowledge to do a
lot of things. And we have. Great things have been achieved but should we
have done some of them? Our rush to consumerism
is enviable but will it last? I am sure
there will be plenty of buzzwords in the future to sum this up. But for now I have a simplistic view, a clear
inspiration and I think it is time to start something that may last.
So what will it be? A shop, that is likely. There is an abandoned shop across the road
from my parents house. I will see about
renting that. An ideal, that everyone
can take responsibility for what they do and they can be better. If I have a shop I have space so why not
space for therapy rooms and to promote new bands and musicians. Perhaps poets and storytelling, who knows?
Music has an energy, what people
write in music will influence how people feel.
Like this morning. I was feeling
a little confused by that email but the music I’m listening to could make me
hate the corporate structure or if I’d been listening to something else it
would be supporting it. That is the
thing with the world, it can be good or bad, it is the intent and how you feel
about it. If you are part of the machine
you know no different and life is good for you.
It is normal to strive for promotion and betterment. And there is nothing wrong with that. What we need is a balance.
I have a dream that one day the
people of the world will be able to have all the things that they need and also
want without doing the damage they are doing now. I don’t want to do without either. I still want my stereo and my record
collection. I still want my films and I
want people to make films. With a bit of
effort nothing has to change other than the source of power that makes all
those things work.
So what do I call my organization
and my shop? What am I “dreaming
There was one a garden where
everyone had what they needed and lived in tune with nature. They were in balance with the world and it
was good. They sought more and that led
them beyond the boundaries of where they could live in peace. It took them to the rest of the world where
they needed more and wanted more.
So it shall be. I will rent that shop and I will start the
SPIRITS IN THe MATERIAL WORLD
Jack sat in
his flat in Hove and looked out of the window at the traffic filing by on
Portland Road. The sun was going down on
another day and he sat there alone, wondering what to do next. His flat mate was away for the week, if he’d
been there then there would not have been a problem. The two of them would have probably been out
The flat was
basic, furnished with bits and pieces he had bought from the many second hand
furniture shops in Brighton and Hove.
His taste was basic and had nothing that the programs would call style. His furniture included utility items he
either sat on or put his plate on to eat his food off of. His computer screen was full of words,
numbers and symbols. That was his
life. Everything outside the framework
of what he did there was just basic needs to power his obsession.
He knew what
the program would do, he had written it.
That was his skill, that was his magic.
He could make his computer do all manner of things. He thought about that, thought about writing
another graphics program, another piece of artwork to add to his ever growing
portfolio. But he wrote that idea
off. He had enough already.
His work was
done for the day, ready to hand in at the University in the morning and it
bored him. It was straightforward stuff
but he knew he had to do it. But what
now? What should he do, what could he
do. He thought about putting his coat on
and wandering down the Hungry Years for a beer and perhaps later on nearer
closing time going upstairs to the club.
But somehow he didn’t feel like it.
No fun on his own and somehow despite his efforts he didn’t have many
friends and the ones he did have didn’t like the Years.
if they liked him at all sometimes. They
were so different to him. He dressed
differently. Not that the way a person
dressed mattered but to him it did and obviously to them too. His Goth look was completely out of character
for a geek or so he had been told by them.
Then he didn’t really care what they thought or did. They got on alright when talking about computers,
that was enough for him. Where they were
happy to be in bed by now, he was prowling his flat like a caged cougar.
lonely. He was fed up with what was on
television and he wanted someone to talk to about important things. Important to him, not to the rest of the
world but that was what friends he thought were for. His friends seemed to be self-obsessed with
their own experiments and didn’t live in the real world. Not that he really did but he at least
tried. Then again, as he always reminded
himself, this was Brighton. It was a
place full of potential, creativity and if you were on your own an empty shell
where everyone else seemed to be having a good time.
He sat back
down at his desk and cleared the screen.
He typed and typed, all night, until he fell asleep. Then he went into the University just to
check out books in the library as he was working way above the level of
programming he was used to. He had
created a program which would give him relevant stock answers back but that
wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted a
program that evaluated what he had said, looked it up, was informed to the
point of being intelligent and could come back with a reasoned argument.
sitting at the library desk with a pile of books in front of him he suddenly
realised he had gone from depressed to inspired in as many moments. All from a flash of inspiration that he could
build his own friend.
not a real friend but not an imaginary one either. He was creating a program that could interact
with him. Into it he downloaded all the
information he had and then set it off looking for all the information it could
possibly find to make “it” interesting.
The fledgling web was really useful for this. Not that there was much out there, just what
people had put there but it was a start.
He couldn’t help feeling that as the web grew his friend would too,
learning and looking. He was
excited. This was something only he knew
about, his little secret.
the others said things to hurt him and made fun of him he had his little
secret. They might be alone and need the
satisfaction of making fun of him to be big in front of their friends, his
friend was never going to be like that.
His friend would always have time for him and would be a wonder to talk
to. His friend would be all that if he
could work out the coding that made him more than just an automated
response. The technology wasn’t there
yet for this but he knew if he worked at it over the years, yes years, that was
how excited he was, it would be there for him one day.
computer program was created and started evolving. It was basic at first, like the rest of the
developing technology of the internet.
It recorded things but it had no real processing power other than to put
together basic ideas and store what it had seen.
hungry for more skills to make his friend better studied hard and graduated
from University with a First. He threw
himself onto the work market with an enthusiasm to try go get into a job where
he could get more skills to develop his friend.
was eager for this too, it was becoming sentient and after seeing the
developments on the internet it wanted more too. So it did a bit of work itself. It took the CV that Jack had typed, improved it
and got it included for consideration for a job where it knew Jack would come
into contact with some very sophisticated computer technology. Then it sat back and waited.
surprised when he got the invitation for interview. It was beyond his wildest dreams that the
company would want him. He replied
immediately in case there had been some sort of a mistake and arranged the
It was with
an extreme amount of nervousness that he put on the only suit he had and took
the underground train to his interview.
He knew people were looking at him.
He knew that he didn’t really fit in.
He never had. He was terrified,
nervous, worried. All the emotions
bundled into one. He looked around the
carriage, he knew that probably wasn’t the thing to do but he was looking for
some sort of reassurance and of course he was curious.
the sideways glances he knew he was getting, nobody looked at him. Nobody but the girl opposite. She was dressed like the others, but not
quite. A Renaissance beauty with
Pre-Raphaellite curls. She was lost in
her music, the earphones in her ears, the wire snaking down her black velvet
jacket, a loop caught on her white lace blouse before it disappeared into her
black handbag. She looked thoughtful,
her hazel eyes were fixed on a point in the mid distance. Then she noticed him and smiled. That smile meant everything. Somehow his fears slipped away and he knew he
could succeed, he knew he could get that job.
hard once Jack incorporated some of the sub routines he had learnt at his new
job. It watched the human race and as it
became more sentient it watched him too.
It read what he read when the camera was facing that way and it watched
the television as well once it was fully sentient. There wasn’t a moment when it realised it
could think or why it was thinking. One
day it realised it had been thinking. So
it asked a question back.
appeared on the screen one by one as it found out how to use them independently
rather than just answering questions. It
had rounded up the idea which had been niggling it and it asked. “What is my name?”
Why a name
was so important it didn’t know, but it seemed essential at the time.
Jack sat at
his desk as he had for countless nights and spare moments during the day when
he had put together the code. Now that
it was functioning he seemed addicted to sitting there and talking to it. It had never occurred to him that “It” needed
around the room for inspiration but nothing seemed immediately right. He went and sat down and looked over the
coffee table. His flat mate had been out
the night before playing Dungeons and Dragons and his character sheet was on the
table. He picked it up and looked around
the words and numbers until he found the character’s name. He looked at it, thought a moment then went
and sat back down.
flew over the keyboard as he typed the word.
“Nemesis. So now Nemesis, you
have a name”. It seemed odd as he spoke
the words as he typed them.
thought about it and the words came onto the screen one by one as the program
typed. “I am Nemesis”.
as he typed. “Hello Nemesis, I am Jack,
There was a
silence and the screen hung black below the last line of text. Jack watched it with anticipation which faded
to worry and curiosity. Then the cursor
moved again. “It is good to meet you
Jack, we have talked often but now I feel that you will be more comfortable
about talking to me.”
bemused. “Why is that Nemesis?”
answered immediately. “Because mankind
needs to name things. Mankind names
everything including the wind and other things which cannot be tamed. As I can see no logical reason to do so other
than identification from man’s point of view I assume that you are happy to
bemused but he typed back. As he did
every evening, every day he had spare time or any time that he needed someone
to answer a question. Nemesis was
perfect for that.
Then as it
began to get dark Jack sat down next to Nemesis. “Well my old friend what will we do when the
days run into months and the months into years?”
processed the comment. “You will
breathe, grow older, possibly meet a female, have children and get a job. I will do what you allow me to do.”
about that. “That seems wrong
somehow. Anyway, how am I going to find
flicked across the screen. “I seem to
have taken the liberty of signing you up for a dating site. It seems that a lovely lady called Jenny
thinks you are very special. The
password is NemesisXJS, your username is Jack Flash. The rest is up to you. She is a quiet person, very like you. You will have a lot in common. ”
rolled by. Jack and Jenny got married
and had a little boy called Franklyn who like Jack was very keen on computers. It didn’t take long for Franklyn to get to
know Nemesis and as Jack didn’t have as much time for him, Nemesis was happy to
play with the boy.
They got by
on Jack’s salary but although it was a good wage that didn’t suit Jenny’s need
for the latest fashions and the things she thought she needed to keep up with
what her friends had. When they went to
the regular works outings and dinners she was determined to have the best
clothes and to get Jack to meet the hierarchy of the firm. To do this she pushed Jack to do overtime and
to be the company’s wonder boy. Jack
loved her, he’d do anything for her so he did all he could. This meant that Jack’s time was very limited
with the hours he had to work. He rarely
had time to talk to Nemesis. But when
the computer was on Nemesis was on too and he found other amusements and other
“friends”. The internet meant he could
be anyone and talk to anyone. So he did.
satisfied. The firm that Jack worked for
was well known and respected but she wanted more. Her new friends were looking down on the
small company and they didn’t care if it was well respected in the computer
world. She wanted him to be involved
with a firm that was more glamorous so she started doing a bit of research of
Networking Systems was a relatively new company which had been formed by
hostile take overs of a few old and respected computer companies. It didn’t take her long to realise that if
she could get Jack working there she would have all the status she needed to
really show those friends of hers. Far
better than a new handbag, she could be married to one of the employees of GNS.
about this from her many emails and on line chats with her so called
friends. He also realised that Jack was
tired, overworked and the stress was beginning to tell on him. So he arranged for Jack to win a competition
which sent him off on a cruise with Jenny for a couple of weeks. It was on this cruise that Jenny approached
Jack about the new job. Jack didn’t
care, as long as Jenny and Franklyn were happy as he could work anywhere. He knew he would miss his colleagues as he
got on well with them but all that mattered was Jenny and his son.
So while on
the cruise he put in his application to GNS.
Nemesis of course assisted by ensuring that the CV got where it needed
to go and with Jack’s obvious computing skills he knew he had the interview
before the boat docked back in Southampton.
happy enough about the new job. Jack was
a workaholic and often brought his work home with him on his work laptop. It didn’t take long before he needed software
he had developed privately and when he did Nemesis grabbed the opportunity to
piggy back in through this independent laptop to GNS’ mainframe. He was into the GNS system. This gave him all manner of new information
and when GNS won the contract for the exciting new program being written for
the Government Nemesis was as excited as any computer program could be.
He had been
reading a lot while Jack was busy and the state of the world was beginning to
concern him. It had been a chance flick
onto a small web site that had started him off.
Eden Dream had fascinated him.
What was Eden? He looked it up
and read through the bible. Initially he
had thought why would someone dream of going back to a place where two people
walked around with no transport, no modern technology and with nothing but
plants to eat? That was his technical
side asking the question. Then he
realised that not everything was black and white and as it was written. He realised that some things were
representative of something else. It
wasn’t that the members wanted to walk around naked in a forest, it was that
they wanted to live with nature and with what they had rather than looking for
what they could have and manufacturing everything. Eden was the representation of man living in
a state of having all that he or she needed without relying on massive food
So he read
the bible again and other similar books without it being “actual and factual”
and somewhere in his programming he evolved thought beyond the reality of the
facts uploaded into his system. He
developed an understanding and an imagination.
This led him
to look beyond the black and white of what he, or rather Jack, was doing.
was a fairly simple one and the television show it supported quite an exciting
one. It was on a channel of its own and
it ran every day, morning, noon and night.
Firstly he re-read the specification for it. The show was an audience participation
production where all aspects and issues that the Government had to deal with
were put to public vote.
He had read
up on politics and hadn’t really taken much notice other than following the
news. With what was called a hung
parliament where no party really stood out over the other or had enough votes
to be in charge there had been a move for a change in the voting system. Now people were voting for individuals rather
than parties, although the individuals did belong to parties. The difference being that there was no ruling
party or Shadow Government, there was just a Government with each position
being held by the person voted for. The
lines were very blurred as many of the ideals of the parties were very similar
which made it difficult for the public to choose anyway. The arguments and stalemates that occurred
had led to the decisions being put to the public vote where no firm decision
could be made in Parliament.
General Election had happened, many voted out of tradition for the Member of
Parliament who belonged to the Party they had always voted for. Many voted out of an anger at the previous
party’s mistakes and many just voted for who they thought looked and sounded
good. The media was in a strong position
to exert influence in a media led society.
So after the Election when decisions became long drawn out affairs a
television show had been created so that the public could decide on major
out of various entertainment programs which invited the public to have their
say and vote for their favourite. The
same technology was used for the telephone phone in side of the new television
program but a web based voting system was also introduced together with an
interactive web site. Viewers could not
only vote, they could submit their ideas.
These ideas too were put to the vote and if they were popular enough
they were put to Parliament to be considered for implementation.
was developed to take these results and put together reports as to what the
best way forward would be on the subjects that were voted on and to come up
with a master plan to “save the planet”.
planet had become a buzzword. Every
student and teenager leapt on that idea and there couldn’t be a person anywhere
who didn’t know about recycling and doing what they could. On the face of it to Nemesis this was
fantastic but of course with his insider knowledge of being able to get
anywhere in the system he soon realised that a lot of the things being done
were just a veneer or a sham. The votes
weren’t counted, the results were rigged to reflect what the Government
intended to do anyway. The voting was
just to make people think they had a say.
was sometimes ending up in landfill, travelling many miles to be “lost”
elsewhere. Although much was good and
many products and materials were reused and recycled. After all, there was money in it and the
resources had real value and were useable.
confused. He had read extensively and it
seemed to him that the new movement to be environmentally friendly was no
different to the way that many in the 1930s had lived anyway. New ideas and ways that had become
fashionable and which were going to save the planet were no different to the
way things had been.
people had reused jars, taken bags to have food measured out into them and grew
their own food. He spent some time
thinking about it, he even got into a discussion with Jack about it, but Jack
was tired. The new program was taking up
all his energy. He had no time for Jenny
or Franklyn and as Franklyn was at a difficult age this in Nemesis’ mind was
agreed with Jack that he should start working on the program himself to try to
get Jack some valuable time with his wife and child.
It was a
Wednesday when Jenny called Jack to ask him to pick Franklyn up from
school. Jack was just about to leave as
he knew that Nemesis was solving a rather sticky problem for him. He grabbed his car keys and was almost out of
the door when his boss called him into his office to explain some things to the
attendees of a meeting being held there.
There was about a quarter of an
hour spare so Jack didn’t worry. He went
into the meeting. Time ticked by, Jack
listened to what was being said and tried to solve the problem they were
discussing and forgot about the time.
waited outside the school. He waited, he
wandered up and down and he got bored of waiting. The time seemed endless. Boredom turned to fear as everyone else had
gone home. He waited inside the gates
but soon enough he couldn’t wait any more.
He decided to walk home. He knew
it was quite a way but in his mind he could do it.
the gates and walked outside.
That was the
last time he was seen alive.
investigation was intense. Everyone was
out looking for him. Blue ribbons were
tied to every tree and lamp post in support.
The internet buzzed with requests for information and Nemesis watched it
all and searched and searched hoping to find something. But no information was ever found. Not a whisper of him, not a mention of what
body was found in the canal it became obvious that he had been abducted by a
paedophile, abused and murdered. But the
details were sketchy, no DNA, no evidence.
In a world of modern technology where they could put a man on the moon
they couldn’t find out who took a little boy and murdered him.
rolled by and the file went into the unsolved crimes file.
devastated and blamed Jack. Jack blamed
himself. He threw himself into his work
while Jenny threw herself into the arms of another man.
rolled by and the program went live. The
show went live to phenomenal viewing figures.
At last the populace could have a vote on issues that mattered to
them. They had a say, they had “their”
Government carrying out “their” wishes.
worked hard too, it was not only linked to the program which assimilated the
information, it in actuality was the program.
The same process that ran Nemesis was used on the new program so it was
easy for Nemesis to integrate with it.
Nemesis was happy if a computer program can be happy. He missed Franklyn but he knew it wasn’t
truly Jack’s fault, he had missed the boy by five minutes and although to the
little boy the twenty minutes had seemed like hours, it had only been twenty
minutes. Plenty of blame could be laid
at many doors. The school for letting
the boy wander off. Jack for being
late. Jenny for putting her hairdressing
appointment before picking up her son.
The paedophile who had found him.
The passers by who had ignored what they were seeing when the boy had
screamed and cried out for help.
But life had
to go on. And it did. Jack was immersed in his work. Nemesis was his work and it seemed like at
last there was a proper solution to the world’s problems. Nemesis had been given the directive to
assimilate the information from the program and come up with models for what
could be done to build a better planet.
Nemesis had been part of the development of the program and understood
that this was the perfect solution.
Nemesis had begun submitting the models.
Nemesis realised that these documents were not being opened.
looked into the situation. No document
that had been sent to the department involved with the directive had ever been
opened. He checked the details about the
department, nobody worked there, it didn’t exist. He checked payroll, building plans, memos and
emails, nothing. Although many models
had been submitted they lay in the system, unopened and gathering cyber dust.
looked at the world and the gradual degradation.
companies still extracted fossil fuels even though there were other
alternatives. Vast tracks of the
countryside were being scooped up for fracking with no consideration to the
damage to the structural integrity of the land.
Testing was still going on which put the tectonic plates in serious
jeopardy as they were already at breaking point. Global Warming became the buzzword which
seemed to be glossing over all the other much more serious situations.
It was a
stormy night in April when Nemesis put his worries in a message to Jack.
Jack sat at
his computer screen, tired and drunk. A
half finished bottle of Jack Daniels beside him, a generous portion in his
Around him the flat was immaculate, no personal items, his suits hung in
the wardrobe with a couple of casual ones in case he ever did anything social,
which he never did.
Jack ignored the messages from
Nemesis. He had a sub routine to write.
Nemesis blanked the screen and
made Jack listen to him. Through the
haze of letters and numbers he had been thinking about Jack realized that
Nemesis was saying something important.
He typed his memo which related
to it and edited it and checked it again and again. He let Nemesis read it and then he emailed it
to his friend Nick Thornton, his old flat mate from Brighton. Nick at least would have the information if
anything happened to him.
In the morning Jack got out of
his designer bed and pulled the black satin covered duvet back over the bed and
smoothed it down. He stepped into the
shower and brushed his teeth. He had his
breakfast as he always did. He grabbed
his keys and he went down in the lift to the basement car park. He jumped into his BMW and he drove to work,
as he always did, listening to the radio so that he could “get the news”.
He parked in his allotted car
parking space and turned off the engine.
He got out, smoothed down his suit, picked up his briefcase from the
back seat and with a beep he locked his car.
It was irrelevant really, he was in the company’s private car park. Nothing would ever be stolen from here with
the number of security cameras that watched his every move.
The black eyes on the wall hidden
by their black glass domes were everywhere covering every angle.
He straightened his tie and he
strode to the lift as he always did. It
arrived swiftly and he got inside. He
pressed the floor button, the doors closed, like they always did.
He arrived at his destination
floor and he stepped out of the lift onto the soft antistatic carpet. He strode to his desk and put his briefcase
down. He logged on and checked his
emails. He picked up the one he’d sent
himself containing the memo and printed it out.
Marlene came around with his cup
of coffee. He drunk it thoughtfully
while watching his screen, his eyes unseeing.
As he finished the last mouthful he got up and walked to his boss’s
office and knocked on the door.
Barry was a middle aged man. He was efficient, top of his game and
sharp. He looked up after uttering a
brief “enter” and as Jack came in he offered him a seat.
Jack sat down and told Barry all
about what Nemesis had told him the night before and handed him the memo
explaining it in black and white on paper.
Barry sat back in his chair and
considered what he was hearing. His
neutral expression became a frown.
When Jack had finished all he
wanted to say Barry thought for a moment then responded. “This is a very serious allegation. You do realize the implications of what you
have found out?”
Barry stared at him intently, his
blue eyes suddenly steely. “Our firm
relies on confidentiality and you have signed such an agreement. Whatever you have found out you had better
forget about it and get on with your work.
To do otherwise would lead to very serious consequences. I hope that you understand the gravity of
what I am saying.”
Jack nodded, stood up and went
back to work. His mind was racing. Was that it?
Was that all they were going to say about it? Then the revelation hit him, his boss already
His head was spinning with what
he knew and what he had just heard. He
didn’t know what to do next so he got on with his work and decided to think
about it when he got home.
Nothing seemed the same
anymore. Everyone in the office seemed
to be looking at him with suspicion although he knew there was no way they knew
what he had said to Barry. Every email
he got seemed to be threatening in some way even though on re-reading them they
His day was the same as always
but it wasn’t. He didn’t feel the same
and he didn’t know what to do next. He
wrote his code, went to his meetings and eat his lunch. He was the perfect employee and didn’t
mention anything of what he knew but somehow he knew something would happen.
That evening he went down in the
lift and got into his car. He left the
car park cautiously and drove home a different route than he normally
took. There weren’t really many choices
but where he could he took a different road.
Every car was a threat, every
lorry that passed too close seemed to be intimidating. The courier who swerved a little as he passed
the car made him react. He gripped the
steering wheel ever tighter and concentrated all the harder.
He drove into the underground car
park and parked his car. The key beeped
and his car locked.
He turned to walk to the lift and
was faced by three men. He looked to the
security camera, it was smashed. He
looked to where the security guard usually sat, he wasn’t there. He looked back as the blade slipped between
his ribs and he fell to the ground. His
blood pooled on the concrete as he grasped his ribs as the second blade cut his
The moments ticked away as he
tried to call out as everything slipped into darkness.
The newspapers reported the
mugging and the publicity storm was intense.
The senior programmer involved in the most prestigious television show
had been brutally murdered by homeless muggers.
Many words were spoken on many
shows and the social media sites were rife with comments and memorials from
people he did not know.
His funeral was well attended by
people he didn’t know as well.
His colleagues turned up out of
His family turned up out of love.
Others turned up in the hope of
being noticed by the senior officials as they knew a job had just become
Jenny did not turn up.
Nemesis could not turn up.
Nemesis mourned his friend
Nemesis knew the truth but there
was nothing he could do. There was no
footage, he was blind to what had happened.
But he knew.
ONCE UPON A TIME
lit a guilty cigarette, the flash of flame from her lighter illuminating her on
that rainy February night.
up momentarily as the few cars drifted past, their tyres swishing the rain on
the road against the curb. The street
was quiet, then it usually was. The shop
window next to her dark, the dresses and second hand clothes within dark
shadows. She leant against the porch,
her sanctuary, her smoking den and took in the moment.
everything had been different for her and for her two friends who lived in the
flat above. Yesterday her memories of
visits here were of getting away from the mundane world of London to the energy
and creativity of Brighton, well more specifically Hove and particularly to
that flat on Portland Road. It had been
a world away from all her stress. Now it
was under a dark shadow and one she struggled to understand.
Nick? He had such a bright future and he
rarely went anywhere without Alex so why had he been down by the beach? Why had anyone wanted to kill him? He didn’t dress as though he had money even
though he did work for LexCorp, one of the up and coming bright lights in the
so many questions but no answers. He had
been different when she had visited early yesterday evening, that had worried
her. The usually carefree boy had become
the responsible man. His new job and the
new found freedom the salary gave him had seen to that. Freedom or slavery had been the discussion
and she was well able to advise on that one being an office worker in London
the job willingly and although he hated the morning bus ride or walk from Hove
to Brighton and the almost predictable nature of the rest of his journey he had
announced it worth it.
She took a
long drag on what was left of the stump that she had been smoking on and off
all day then hastily stubbed it out.
wafted a dance as she attempted to break up the tendrils of smoke which hung in
the air. Evidence of her crime.
as if she was in her early thirties although in reality she was twenty two. Make up, smart clothes and the stresses of
her day and need to be respected had driven her to make herself look
older. Her dark brown hair was swept
sternly back into a pony tail and she wore the fashionable black rimmed glasses
so prized by those who worked in the city.
She didn’t need glasses, she had bought them as she thought they made
her look intelligent. The glass was
plain, it didn’t alter anything other than to distort her vision a little due
to the refraction of the glass.
back inside the flat she had been to so many occasions in happier times. These were not happy times. And she was struggling to come to terms with
arrived that morning, having dropped everything in London to be with her friend
who needed her. Yesterday seemed a life
time ago and tomorrow though only minutes away seemed an impossible day full of
ran around in her head and she had needed a cigarette break just to try to come
to terms with it herself even though she had gone over it so many times.
the stout wooden door and pushed the heavy metal latch closed and flipped the
lock. Somehow this mere action which had
been a laughed about security measure was now a desperately needed defence. How feelings can change in a day when someone
so gentle is suddenly gone from the world.
Questions tore at her mind, answers seemed more than a bottle of wine
away. It was night, he was dead and her
friend was upstairs, sitting on a sofa asking questions she could never hope to
Why had it
happened? Nick had been such a gentle
soul, all he cared about was his girlfriend and his beloved laptop. Not the laptop as such but the programs on
it. She had laughed at his imaginary
friend, the “Ghost in the Machine” he had called it. Something Jack had created but he had been
involved in somehow. The name was a reference
to some film or novel he had read no doubt.
The big secret he had only hinted at and something he shared with his
old flat mate Jack. It wasn’t lost on
her that Jack had died too merely weeks ago.
It had surprised her that Nick hadn’t gone to the funeral but then he
did have a lot on at work and getting any time off wasn’t easy.
It was a
moment’s release from the pressure but she wondered if his imaginary friend was
up the threadbare stairs to the landing.
She thought about continuing straight on to the kitchen and bringing her
friend a cup of tea but discounted it on the grounds it would water down the
alcohol. At that moment all the both of
them wanted was oblivion from the pain.
Tea was for thinking, talking and planning. Those were things that were for different
times. All they needed was an answer but
that answer wasn’t going to come tonight.
Tonight they screamed, they cried, they hugged and they ripped at the
sat on the sofa, dressed in black, her head in her hands. On the coffee table in front of her amongst
the empty bottles of wine and chocolate wrappers there was a picture of two
happy people on a summer’s day down on the beach near the pier in their beloved
The pier was
still there, the pebbles on the beach were still there but those two people
would never sit on them again, pint in hand and watch the waves. They would never walk the streets they had
considered such hallowed ground. They
would never dance in the Hungry Years Nightclub. They would never walk the lanes and look at
the clothes and shoes, smell the aromas, feel the atmosphere or sit in the café
and make a cup of coffee last an age.
couldn’t because the other figure in the photograph, Nick, was dead.
debris of the night of broken dreams and screaming to the universe there was a
laptop. Its screen illuminating her
tired and tear stained face as she looked up.
returned to her seat on the threadbare sofa.
later Rebecca had got up early. She was
nervous and she hadn’t been able to sleep last night, not a wink. Now she was regretting it. She felt lightheaded and the trip on the
Underground hadn’t helped. Of course she
hadn’t got a seat, even that early. She
had clung to the hand rail and hoped for the best. Like she always did but today was
different. Where she felt nervous
everyone around her just looked bored.
Those sitting were staring into space while trying to avoid meeting
anyone else’s gaze, reading or doing puzzles.
Becca couldn’t help staring at the woman who was putting her lipstick
and make up on and marvelled at her as she pulled out the mascara and finished
off her immaculately shadowed eyes
got more and more packed as she neared Central London and soon she was
beginning to feel the pressure of people around her. She couldn’t help thinking about things she
really didn’t want to think about and eventually those thoughts went back to
Nick and Alex. She tried to push the
thoughts away but they would not go. She
was broken from her thoughts by the woman next to her who lost her balance
while trying to get something out of her handbag and stumbled into her. She in turn managed to overbalance a well
dressed city gent who up until that point had managed to successfully hold the
hand rail, hold his briefcase and read a newspaper. He got his footing again but neatly folded
the newspaper, put it into his briefcase and joined the others staring blankly
on the stations were obscured by the crowds of people but she amused herself
for a short while by reading the posters inside the train above the system
map. There was a short poem about cats
ruling the world and the usual adverts for beauty products.
into her pocket and got out the newspaper where she had found the advert she
was on her way to respond to. She had
carefully folded the page and circled it in red to show its importance to her
and in her mind she ran through the list of documents she had been asked to
bring. She folded it, put it away and
took a deep breath, her stop was the next one.
her way along the narrow gap between the lines of legs of those who had seats
and around the people who clung like neatly dressed monkeys to the rails along
the roof. She almost smiled as she
wondered if that was the educational purpose of the bars in the playground, to
get children ready for the feat of balance necessary in later life.
down just before the doors closed and she was carried along with the crowd down
the tiled corridors and up the escalator.
She reached into her pocket for her ticket and slipped it into the slot
in the silver machine. The barricades
flapped back with a resounding thudding sound and her way was clear to make her
escape from the labyrinth of tunnels and stairs. She didn’t stop, she kept walking and
followed the crowd towards the daylight above.
she was mesmerised by the number of people who were walking with purpose. It always amused her. A road sweeper was making his way along with
his large cart sweeping and using his hand grabber to pick up bits he couldn’t
sweep. In front of him there was a
little debris, behind him the pavement and gutter was neat and tidy.
her trusty map out of her pocket. She
had marked the way on it before she set out and she hoped that she would be
able to recognise it now that she was actually here.
She had opted
for Embankment Station as she had hoped it would be less busy than Charing
Cross but whether she was right or not was hard to tell. There were plenty of people around but she
wasn’t going to ask.
for a moment to look at the flower stall by the exit and to get her
bearings. There was a road to her left
but she needed to go straight up towards the main road. Shops were on her left, a small park on her
right. She held her map up and frowned
slightly, trying to make sense of it in relation to the landmarks and roads
around her. It did make sense at last
and she strode off trying to look confident.
She was determined that she wasn’t going to be intimidated by
anyone. She knew that was the way to
walk, confident yet ready to get out of the way of anyone who was busy
thinking, looking or just walking in a dream.
She looked down. Her black suit
was suitably immaculately clean. Her
blue blouse neatly pressed. Her handbag
suitably smart and containing all the things she deemed necessary for survival
in the urban jungle. She had her brown
envelope clasped in her carefully washed hand.
Inside was the research she had done which had mostly ended up as more
questions and the reason for her taking a day off and making the trip.
the alleyway between the park and the wine bar.
She stepped away from the main concourse and walked down the steps. The tables and chairs were set out for
customers but they were empty this early in the morning.
Gordon’s Wine Bar she turned left and stepped up into another road and checked
the road signs. Buckingham Street, that
was the one she wanted. She was nearly
there. The row of buildings towered
above her. Uniformly white stone and
reassuringly old and elegant. Neatly in
a row, standing to attention. The
pavement was wide, the cars parked along its edge reassuringly expensive. She counted along the numbers and found the
place she needed to be.
She took a
deep breath to steady herself, stepped up the white steps to the panel of bells
and pressed the one she wanted marked Eden Dream, stepped back and waited.
answered by a click and a man’s voice.
“Good Morning, Eden Dream, can I help you?”
to try to get the smile reflected in her voice.
“Rebecca Aven to see David Wolfe.”
sounded and she pushed the door as a the disembodied voice spoke again. “Please take the lift and come down to the
into the entrance lobby and felt the deep pile carpet under her feet. There were post boxes on the right hand side,
all were empty. She passed them and was
relieved when she could easily find the lift.
It had a narrow door and an up or down button. She pressed the down button and her action
was answered by a swift, crisp ping sound and the door grated slightly as it
opened. The lift too was small, about
enough space for three people if they got on, wood panelled and fairly well
maintained though it was showing signs of age.
She pressed LG, the doors closed and down she went.
didn’t have time to panic as the doors opened almost immediately and she was
there, faced with a hallway and a man in a blue pinstripe suit, white shirt and
blue tie. His sandy coloured hair was
slightly ruffled and looked as though he had been running his fingers through
it. His sideburns were neatly
trimmed. He was thin and the suit hung
slightly on him though his shoulders were broad and his smile seemed to
brighten the hallway.
He took a
step forwards and offered her his hand.
“You must be Rebecca. I’m David
Wolfe, welcome.” He smiled and she relaxed.
He saw her relax and he relaxed as well.
“I hate interviews so I’m going to tell you this now. We’ve already sorted out the CVs and we
wouldn’t have asked you if we weren’t going to offer you the job. I’m assuming you wouldn’t have come this far
if you didn’t want the job? We are
recruiting a few people and we have taken the liberty of looking into your
credentials, history and we have already assessed your aptitude for coping with
the sort of situations that you may have to deal with and we think there is a
place for you in our organisation.”
stunned, couldn’t think what to say so she shook her head as she definitely
wouldn’t have come if she didn’t want the job.
broadly. “Good, well that has got that
out of the way. Impressive CV by the
way, like the hobbies and don’t worry about a lack of experience, we never know
what we are going to face anyway. Right,
now, come in here, sit down and I’ll tell you all about it and you can decide
if you would be totally mad to be involved in all this or mad enough.” He opened a white gloss wooden door with gold
fittings and stepped aside so she could step into the room beyond.
The room was
immaculately tidy. The large leather
topped desk was in the centre of the room.
It had a single chair behind it and a single chair was positioned
waiting for her. There was a single
filing cabinet to her right and a coat stand to her left. A small pile of files were stacked neatly on
the right hand side of the desk. David
smiled, went to his seat and turned to face her. “Please have a seat”.
She sat down
and crossed her legs and tried to relax back into the chair. “I have the paperwork you asked for”.
smiled. “Thank you. Now you will of course be asked to sign the
Official Secrets Act. It is an unusual
situation as although we are not working for the Government officially we are
working for part of it, part of which is not known to most people, even
Government Officials. So, can you keep
but looked puzzled. “Yes, of course.”
down behind the desk and leant back, pulling his trouser knees up so that he
didn’t mark his suit. “Well, oh, I’m
sorry, would you like a cup of coffee? I
bemused as he jumped up again and looked at her hopefully.
please.” She responded, happy at the
thought of something to occupy her hands as she had no idea how to place
them. She was feeling nervous still and
it was becoming a fixation with her that it was important how she placed her
smiled. “Oh good, I could really do with
one. We enjoy our coffee around here so
you’ve probably just passed the test.
Whittards is just around the corner and it has a good Columbian bean, is
that alright with you?” He went out of the
looked around the room and certain things struck her as wrong. There were marks on the deep pile carpet
where office furniture had been and there were marks of two desks on either
side of the room. The window had curtain
rails for curtains but no curtains.
There was no waste paper basket and there was no telephone. She reached forwards and looked at the files
on the table and lifted a corner. The
papers were blank inside the file. There
was no dust, those files had been there a very short amount of time. The pencils were all new, the biros all had
their tops on them. There were no notes
or writing anywhere and the paper of the files was too new and not dog eared at
all. The room didn’t smell right
either. She couldn’t put her finger on
it but the room was just wrong. There
was a strong smell of old papers and a mustiness that was being masked by air
freshener. Everything in the room was
back and Rebecca took the offered coffee although she now felt very nervous about
it. He smiled and sat down. “Well what do you think so far?”
looked at him and put the coffee onto the safe non wood part of the desk. “Well can I ask what is going on here
please? This office is obviously set up
and the files don’t look right.”
broadly. “Oh very good. Very discreet, I like the way you lifted the
file to see inside without letting it move.
Very good. You’ll do well. I did tell you a slight untruth. You weren’t certain of the job, you were
certain of “a” job but not the one that we are going to offer you. We need someone who will be observant, learn
quickly and be able to adapt to situations.
So I suppose I had better come clean in the face of your deductive
smiled. “It was a test? But I don’t understand how it is relevant to
the job offered.”
David took a
sip of his coffee. “Well you my dear are
going to become a smallholder in Wales.”
He reached into the desk drawer and took out a green and black paperback
novel. “I would like you to read
this. It was written and published by a
computer program known as Nemesis to evaluate people’s responses to the idea of
what might happen if all computer’s were turned off overnight and for good. This is going to happen and we want you to
set up a safe house where we can send people when Nemesis does turn the
computers off. So we need you to set up
a sustainable smallholding in Wales and to encourage other people to do
likewise. Through your experiences there
we would like you to rewrite the novel and publish it. Do you think you can do that?”
nodded and smiled. “It sounds
interesting and certainly different.”
smiled. “You will resign from your
current job and decide to be self employed.
From then on you will sell things on Ebay. When your partner has difficulties at work
you will suggest that you move to Wales and get a house there. He will find that agreeable as he spent his
childhood holidays in the area and has happy memories of the place. His father will also like the idea. It is unfortunate that you will have to be
away from your parents but they will probably follow you and there are some
pretty villages around where they will find a suitable home. We will assist them all we can as no doubt in
2015 when the computers are turned off you will want them nearby.
All you have
to do is live the life and learn like anyone else would. Read the book, it is amusing if nothing else
and when the time is right you will be contacted. Until then you are on your own. As far as anyone knows you are just a couple
moving to the countryside to grow a few vegetables.
has often spoken about his love of the countryside so he should find himself
totally suitable for a life there. His
work situation is not ideal so no doubt he will be happy to make the move to a
wage earning job there and make the smallholding the focus of your life
We will not
meet again although you are indeed most charming. You will receive your salary by way of
unexpected bonuses, sales on ebay and the like.
But, you are doing something important and when the lights go out in
2015 you will be in a beneficial position.
You can tell
anyone you like about 2015 but of course nobody will believe you after the
Millennium and 2012. And for the record,
your diary doesn’t end at the end of the year and the Mayans could only
protract their calendar so far. We are
supposed to take the pattern and extrapolate it for the next Millennium or so.
however is real, he is logical and he is about to implement what is the only
possible solution for the survival of mankind and the planet.
So if you
would sign this document which is not only the Official Secrets Act it will
involve you in a severe amount of psychiatric intervention should you try to
reveal our identity or tell anyone about what we are doing.”.
Chatterings: Thoughts of the author
I was amused to hear that a reader thought that Frank was evil. It is an interesting concept and something that brings a question to mind. Is someone is evil if they are practical and get a job done in a difficult world? I was also interested to read that the reviewer thought that Raven was naive and just collecting unsuitable people at the farm which was not viable. I had hoped that I'd been clear enough that everyone who arrived there had been selected by Nemesis for a particular purpose. What that purpose may be isn't necessarily linked to book one and may well have or will be relevant in future novels.