THEIR LAST BRAVE HEART
Ideas of Flight
The android scurried off, and there could have been no doubt: it’s ugly, plastic face was warped into an expression that could only be fear. No question, there were Committee rules and regulations that covered damage to nem or nemow in places other than in one of the punishment rooms where it was obviously allowed, and maybe he would be seen as complicit in the demise of Threa’s greatest scientist who seemed to be bleeding his life away on an absurd kitchen table..
To have earned acclaim and fame in his own lifetime made Einstersh special. Not even the great Newtersh had been so fortunate, and Darwersh had been forced to struggle in relative anonymity until the ending of his days and had actually grown a huge head of bright green hair without anyone noticing. Newtersh, of course, had discovered the basic principles behind evolution (his book on the Source of All Species had been widely rejected until his epitaph appeared in the papers, and then he had become an overnight but posthumous success) and Darwersh was famed for his notes on gravity, having discovered the phenomena, it was suggested, when he was sitting beneath a tree with his young lover and she was hit and disfigured by a falling pomegranate during a light breeze.
But less history and more of the present.
Smersh dashed into the room from his hiding place amongst the squiggles on the confusion of blackboards as quickly as a rotund and virtually limbless person could, quivering with confusion.
He stared at the prone and bleeding figure of Einstersh on the high wooden table, and struggled up onto one of the chairs in order to get a better view. Amyersh was already on another chair, and she looked anxiously across the table towards Smersh.
“Is he truly dead?” asked Smersh “I wouldn’t want that for anyone, not even the rapist of my wife.”
“He didn’t rape me,” murmured Amyersh, her eyes glinting. “It was all my idea, really. I could see he was in need so I said it was okay by me.”
“And I wasn’t in need?” asked Smersh, bitterly. “I, your legal husband, wasn’t in need of carnal comfort?”
“You could have me any time, and know it, Smersh,” said Amyersh sharply. “It’s just that you haven’t seemed interested in years.”
“A nam can have too much of a good thing,” muttered Smersh.
“It’s a long time since you wanted anything let alone a good thing,” reminded Amyersh. “Now stop arguing and help me. I think he’ll be all right. The bleeding’s stopped and I’m sure his eyes just flickered.”
As if to confirm the truth behind her words, Einstersh groaned.
Had he been equipped with limbs he might have contrived to sit up, but he didn’t. Instead he rolled gently from side to side and groaned again.
“That’ll teach you to show off your silly plastic legs,” growled Smersh. “Self-inflicted, that’s what it was.”
“They’re not plastic they’re bog oak,” groaned the scientist. “I made them myself using all the skill at my command and if they weren’t so unreliable I’d say they were brilliant. I sometimes wonder how early nam managed with four of the things made out of flesh and bone. They must have been constantly falling over even though they could reach up and pick fruit off trees if that was their thing.”
“Real limbs would have been very different from silly plastic things,” said Smersh scornfully.
“How do you feel?” interrupted Amyersh, almost sympathetically. “You came quite a cropper. I thought we’d lost you to start with. You might be as bright as a button with a brain the size of a dozen Universes, but you’re still mortal, subject to Darwersh’s law of gravity and quite capable of dying.”
“Don’t rub it in,” moaned Einstersh. “Now I’ve got a headache, and having got a truly large brain I’ve got a truly large ache in it.”
“Well, Committee will know exactly where we are and don’t forget Smersh and I are condemned to die of scrabble. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t get added to his list as soon as that dull android reports back to it. All hell will be let loose, I’m thinking.”
“Why me?” asked Einstersh, shocked.
“You told the darned thing you were a dreamer too, don’t forget,” reminded Amyersh.
“You even said you couldn’t work without being able to dream up answers, so you’ll be more likely to end up in the sudoku room rather than the scrabble room if they get their hands on you,” chided Smersh. “As you said, Committee’s a machine and machines will never understand the benefits of a nam having a good dream. Once they get an idea it becomes fixed in what passes for their brains. And I’ve heard there’s no worse punishment than death by sudoku.”
“Or a namow might dream just as much as a nam,” interrupted Amyersh. “I dream most nights, dreams that must be racial memories from the distant past when we still had legs and arms and could walk unaided outside, and the sun shone down warmly rather than dimly like it does now, and I might have been a lovely young girl with bronzed skin and with my gorgeous man, all hopes of a brilliant future and endless, wonderful sex…”
“You? Sex?” stammered Smersh.
“Of course,” smiled Amyersh. “Just because we’ve had our family and they’ve grown up and left home doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes want to feel a man inside me! And don’t forget, back in the times I dream about you nem had two willies, and knew how to use them! I’ve read the old books, you know. That’s why there was a population explosion and they had to put a limit on the number of children folks could have.”
“This is all wasting time,” interrupted Einstersh. “One willy is enough for any namow to cope with if the nam knows what he’s doing! Committee probably knows all it needs to know already. You two: help me down off this table and we’ll find somewhere to go where they won’t find us.”
“Where?” asked Amyersh, dubiously. “Hasn’t Committee got his eyes everywhere? They say he even knows when a nam wipes his bottom!”
“And watches them have sex on kitchen tables,” added Smersh, darkly.
“Just you shut up about that!” snapped his wife. “I’ve only done it once and it’ll never happen again.”
“Won’t it?” asked Einstersh.
“It most certainly won’t!” chorused Smersh and Amyersh.
“Even if I were to tell you that even though the Committee has eyes almost everywhere he’s been blinded in my apartment,” murmured Einstersh. “I’m not a scientist for nothing, you know: I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve…”
“What sleeve? What sleeve?” demanded Smersh.
“Touché,” smiled the scientist. “Anyway, I know where all the Committee sensors are because he got me to design the system when I was still a student, and I disabled those in here ages ago, when I could see that the damned machine had become a big-headed autocrat with ideas above his RAM!”
“That’s got nothing to do with my morals, anyway,” Amyersh told him with a scowl. “Smersh is my nam and that’s got to be that from now on. Now let’s stop bickering about what’s never going to happen again and pay attention to what’s important before we get seized and dragged off to our deaths.”
“Right,” agreed Einstersh, “that makes sense. Let me propose that seeing it’s known that we’re in here we ought to set about going somewhere else, preferably somewhere the Committee hasn’t got any eyes. And as far as I’m aware there’s only one place that fills that requirement.”
“You mean, there are links from the Committee to just about everywhere?” asked Smersh, amazed.
“There are,” confirmed the Scientist, “it’s what the Tinter’s for. But I do know that I refused to let it have any sensors in my laboratory for quite obvious and honest reasons. I told the machine, and it was absolutely true, that electric circuits of any kind might interfere with some of my more sensitive experiments. So if we go there we might remain hidden from view, at least for a little while.”
“And where is that?” asked Smersh.
“It’s at the other end of the complex,” sighed Einstersh. “Quite a long way,” he added as if there was something the two didn’t understand by quite a long way.
The complex they were in consisted of rows of fully enclosed and very long corridors and it housed over ten thousand nem and nemow, all living in apartments for singles, doubles or small families: and all families, at this apparent ending of time, were small because the birth-rate was shrinking despite the best efforts of the more virile nem. The corridors stretched for miles, but had bends and corners along them in order to alleviate the monotony of the place – and, it was said, to accommodate variations in the natural landscape outside the complex. Bearing in mind that Amyersh knew that the scientist lived very close to one edge of the centre it seemed that his laboratory must indeed be a fair distance away if it was at the other end.
“How are we going to get there?” she asked.
“There’s always the cleaner,” said Smersh, doubtfully.
“It was a struggle with just two of us, and anyway it’s power will be getting low,” complained Amyersh.
“I have a machine,” put in Einstersh. “It’s a long way to the laboratory, and I use it regularly, and it travels along the service corridors rather than those used by the public. We’ll use that. It was built to carry a great deal more than me so it’s big enough. The only problem is you’ll have to wrap up warm: the service tunnels are unheated and the temperature outside is more or less zero all the time. And, it is said, some of the wild creatures have made their way inside – and they are potentially dangerous.”
“You mean we’ll either freeze to death or be mauled by monsters?” asked Smersh. “I guess we’d better get on with it then. It should be a whole load of fun! Lead on, Einstersh and let’s see what scientists get up to when nobody’s looking!”
© Peter Rogerson 25.11.11