I'm taking a few days off work, as my sainted Mother has decided we can benefit from a few days of her company. The moment she decided that she was coming up here, and I had made the necessary leave arrangments, Jenny got a letter from the lovely people at the Justice Department, demanding her presence for Jury Duty.
This is the second time she's been called: I've never been drafted. As it is, she didn't have to sit on a jury: just miss a couple of days' work, and sit around a draughty courthouse. What fun.
So Mum arrived on the bus, in the middle of the roughest weather we've had in a long time. The wind was so strong I had to leave her in a bus-stop, and go to fetch the car. The wind literally stopped her in her tracks as she was crossing Queen Street.
Fortunately, she was laughing at the time. Proper weather is fun.
We've since tiki-toured about, yon and hither. I found a superb second-hand shop in St Helier's: I am now the proud owner of a bright yellow shirt, $15. Calloo, callay. Puhoi was next: a quiet stroll through the pub and hugely expensive antiques shop... then devonshire tea 300 metres up the road. I think it's called Puhoi Cottage: you can't miss it, as it has CAFE painted on its roof in two-metre high letters. Charming place, chirpy little Englishman, and scones the size of Tasmania. My Mother has decided Orewa is beautiful, and wants to move there... or Red Beach, at least. I'm doing my best to convince her that Invercargill's where she really wants to be. Family is brilliant, and often made more so by living in another country - although I do wish my sons and grand-daughter were a little closer to Northcote.
Today we're entertaining family: all my brother's daughters and their sprogs are coming around for lunch with their Nana. I think there's be around a dozen here. Jenny is, naturally, setting up to feed the Abyssinian Army. At least the weather looks as though it's going to behave. We've had some much-needed rain, although I must say that getting a week's worth in ten minutes is taking things a bit too far.
Anyway. Must go: Jenny's waving a potato peeler at me.
READING: "The Pacific", by Stephen Ambrose's son. It's the companion volume to the TV series, and is very good.
LISTENING TO: Acoustic Alchemy, "Positive Thinking". Which reminds me: my sudden crazed descent into positive thinking and new-age crystal-sucking mind-over-matter self-deception ended in abject failure, as I suspected it might. I fled to a new doctor, and stocked up on some new and miraculous drugs. Always remember this: pain is a real bummer, and it hurts. But if you do decide to get some, make sure you have modern drugs on hand, with exciting new ingredient "Snibbo"! Snibbo takes away pain, and replaces it with the feeling that you really do deserve that new Maserati you saw yesterday. Snibbo is also good on household stains, and can scare away large dogs. Use Snibbo, and your life will no longer be the drab and mundane thing you suspect it is: it will instead be beautiful, and blissful beyond belief. Snibbo: available now at your apothecary, saddlery, and haberdashery. Just 1/6d a bottle. You should never be without Snibbo in the house.
WATCHING: Well, probably not Doctor Who tonight. Sigh. Mothers. But I am going to see Russell Hood playing Robin Crowe: I need to see some blood, and soon!
More Paper Heroes:
The man she is addressing is her brother. Almost naked, narrow-chested, and balding, Charles murmurs “Sorry, Cienwyn. Shan’t be long.”
She shrugs, and turns back to her watching. She is staring intently at the six forms in the room, her gaze flicking from the group of three near the door, the one loner at her right, and the two directly opposite her window. It was the lone form that garnered most of her attention.
All six seem to float in the air with no visible support. They no longer needed the constant and intensive medical attention that they had had over the past three months in the tanks, when their flesh was being re-created, re-formed.
The one the woman is watching most closely is huge. He weighs – she knows this exactly – 123.76 kilograms. His musculature is impressive, almost unwieldy. His deep ribcage is rising and falling with each breath, and a strip of cloth has been draped over his loins – indeed, all six people in the room have this concession to their modesty. It is hard to know how they will react when they awaken.
There: a movement, from the big one. It was his left hand, clenching and relaxing. Close, and open. When he’d done it five times, she accepted that it is a purposeful movement, and not an unconscious reflex.
“Status on Number Three,” she murmured.
Information from the monitors was projected directly onto her left retina, backed up by a whisper in her left ear. She read, rapidly. Number Three’s blood pressure was rising, his heartbeat now at a steady 63bpm. Astonishing. They were all the same. Superbly well-conditioned men, ranging in age from 25 to nearly 60, but all in excellent physical condition, despite the scars their bodies still bore. Many had been smoothed over in the initial designs, but it had felt right, somehow, that there should be some sort of external reminder of past injuries. All internal damage, of course, had been repaired.
The big man’s hand relaxed, and lay still, fingers curled slightly.
“We’ve had more movement, Charles.”
“Show me,” he orders. “Give me the feed.”
Cienwyn murmurs an instruction, and the data stream is tight-beamed to him. He raises his head, thinking. “Extraordinary. Once again, they all quicken ahead of schedule.”
“Shall we let them take their own course?”
“Yes, I think so. When we tried to slow down the last ones, they failed. I still have nightmares.” Charles scratched an armpit, and stood, stretching. “Although the gods know it is the right thing to do. It must be. We can hardly do worse.”
Cienwyn grunts, and remembers the others: forty-two of them, all dead. Not that they had truly lived, but it is an aggravation that they did not succeed in wakening.
“Yes,” she says. “It was difficult. Do you think they’re conscious now?”
“No. Not yet.” He replies. “They’re still uploading.”
This is the time of greatest danger. This is the time that so many others who had lain in the room had died. Not died: failed. This is the time that the information is being bundled into them, the time that their nanotech-enhanced bodies and minds are programmed, that their minds are forced to accept what has happened, and what is happening. When they awake – if they awake – they will know things they never dreamed of. And they will, probably, know without understanding. This process has never before been attempted: indeed, it has been deemed unethical, and outlawed. Yet it seems that the fate of the Commonwealth may rest on the illegal and unethical operations being committed on the six still slumbering men in the White Room. Cienwyn, ever conscious of the old superstitions, crossed her fingers, hoping that the shoulders of the Sleepers may be strong enough to carry the burden they were soon to have laid upon them.