The Do’s Series: Segment 9
© Grandpa Jim
LoveJoy and DawnRunner lie on low cots. Soft covers reach to their chins. On a stool next to DawnRunner, a single candle lights the small tent.
“You are smitten.” DawnRunner’s voice is insistent.
“He surprised me.” LoveJoy wiggles deeper into the covers.
“You stayed next to him the whole lane.”
“He is rather goodlooking.”
“You hardly noticed anyone or anything else.”
“That’s not true.”
“Even over your coldshake sticktaste, you followed his every move.”
LoveJoy is quiet for some seconds. “He may be a problem.”
“The problem is you, if you’re not careful, not him.”
“You don’t understand. I have a plan.”
“I could see that.”
“It’s not what you’re thinking, Dawn. There may be a way . . . a way I can find my family. I may be able to help them.”
“LoveJoy, I’m sorry. I thought. . . . Well, I thought everyone was . . . gone.”
“They are gone, but there may be a way for them to return.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It is complicated.” LoveJoy takes a deep breath. “There are those who will help, but we need more.”
“The SandRunners are with you. You know my father. All you have to do is ask.”
“I know and appreciate all you’ve both done. We need help but we need more than fighters. We need a special thing. A secret thing.”
“Tomorrow. The ruins.”
“I don’t know. I hope. I don’t know.”
“Let sleep calm your mind. Perhaps, in the morning, this HirschTruss can be of some use. He is assuredly smitten with you.”
“He is . . . as you are with him.”
“You are. . . . Enough of talk. Now to rest.”
“Do you think he can help?”
“I know that he will try his best to please you.”
“What if he is a problem? What will we do then, if he is a problem?”
“I don’t know. . . . Tomorrow, LoveJoy, tomorrow. The sun’ll come out tomorrow. So ya gotta hang on. Til tomorrow. Come what may.” DawnRunner bends over the side of her cot. “Those are old words . . .” the blond SandRunner blows out the candle “. . . and true. Be still and listen.”
* * *
“Is technology a bane or a boon?” MinneSinger HitBolt speaks to the four faces on the split screen before him.
“What is your thought, wise mountaindweller?” Queen Mother Mary Plantagenet Pickford presents the question for them all.
“I wonder for the two who are the subject of our facetime together. One, LoveJoy, now NewFound, searches after objects. The other, Prince Lohengrin, now HirschTruss, searches after her. What does she seek and what will he do when she finds it?”
“They are young, sage HitBolt.” The guppie queen smiles. “Let them swim their own currents.”
“Still, I wonder.” The mentor pulls at his ear. “I wonder, as Gabriel Marcel did, if we and our young people are projecting ourselves too much into gadgets? Do we risk becoming dependent on such things for our existence and success?”
“You risk being called by my name.” DeepDelve HuffSpot speaks from his corner of the screen. “Who is this Gabriel Marcel?”
“A philosopher of existence from oncewas France.” MinneSinger Hitbolt sighs. “I fear that Sir Richard Geoffrey Ingelger of Jobs has studied deeply. These dark things he has created are what Marcel feared, technology that is no longer an aid to improve but a tool to enslave.”
“What are these cloud creatures?” RhineHold HuffSpot flashes an impatient hand across the screen as if wiping its surface of dust.
“As you see and hear at your family sitcom gatherings, my greencountry dwarffriend, LoveJoy KickStart has already discovered certain things and she seeks more. She suspects, as I do, that Sir Richard has somehow infused intelligence and personality into these new servants, his sonamed SCRUMPs.”
“An artificial intelligence, MinneSinger?” Queen Mary asks.
“A prior one, I think,”
“Her family?” Queen Mary presses.
“Her father. Maybe others of her farway clanhold.”
“Does HirschTruss know of these things you speak of?” DeepDelve asks.
“He knows something of the making and nature of Sir Richard’s new servants, and he knows that Sir Richard has captured LoveJoy’s family and made them his servants.” MinneSinger HitBolt turns to the square holding DeepDelve HuffSpot’s face. “Do you, highcountry dwarffriend, have more recent information on our two fairgoers?”
“They have met. My agents relay this much. And they plan to visit the holiday ruins.”
“Of course.” The MinneSinger adjusts his cap. “They must visit the information nurse who shelters in the center of the roundabout. She is in the song. Penny Lane.”
“Will she help them?” Queen Mary asks.
“Does anyone know what the nurse will do or what she knows?” HitBolt glances down at the readout below the screen. “Our time is almost over. SatTime is limited.” He turns to DeepDelve. “Truss has the plastic?”
MinneSinger HitBolt moves his eyes from DeepDelve to RhineHold and back to the TopHouse master. “And the dwarfdoors are monitored?”
“Yes.” “Yes.” The deep dwarf voices echo from their screens.
“Good. We must hope Sir Richard’s servants stay elsewhere and the underways remain free. Now, I must bid you each goodeve. Adieu.”
The four faces in the cornersquares nod to their moderator as the sections of the screen go blank.
* * *
“He’s here, Sir Richard Geoffrey Ingelger of JobSssss.” FawnFizzle lisps the ending as he bows, trips on his robe and catches himself before falling.
The First Count of the Sweeping Lands shakes his head and motions impatiently for the BentOne to usher the other party into the cavespace.
The guest enters as FawnFizzle backs cautiously out, leaving the door open.
Sir Richard lifts a headset. He pushes the squeezepart into the canal of one ear and positions the connectwire in front of his mouth. Tapping the earpiece, Richard raises his head and speaks slowly into the receptor. “Do you hear me, DarkCloud StillReach?”
“I HEAR YOU” There is agitation in the dark cloud and quickflashes between the particles, but no sound follows the words across the room. Only in the master’s ear do the large cold monotone words take intelligible form.
“Excellent.” Sir Richard settles into a throne-like chair. “I’d offer you a seat, but you don’t sit. Do you?”
“Or have a sense of humor?”
“Or understand a double negative?”
Sir Richard drums the fingers of one hand on the wooden arm of the chair. “I see you do have a sense of humor, though strained. You betray yourself, DarkCloud StillReach, chief overseer of my particled creations. So I will say this again for you to hear and know again. Only I hold the keys to the vatholds where the physical forms reside of you and those others So Cleverly Remade Under My Powers.” The First Count laughs. “I do so like that acronym.” The lord and master of the Sweeping Lands grows serious. “Do you hear me, SCRUMP?”
“Do you know who you once were?”
“And do you understand that if you disobey my commands in the slightest way or fail to accomplish any of what I direct, I can and will disassociate the pitiful mist that is your nowself and you, vat and vapor, will cease to exist?”
There is no sound in Richard’s ear.
The Count stands and slowly enunciates the words in a clear strong monotone voice. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND SERVANT”
“CAN YOU BE DEFEATED” The sounds take shape in Sir Richard’s ear.
Sir Richard sits, a smile on his face. “I have made you well. Strength of mind in an invincible form. You retain your character, StillReach, when all else is lost.” Richard spreads his arms wide. “My dear SCRUMP, you of anyone should know this. Dark ones like me never leave. We just change shape.”
“CAN YOU BE DEFEATED”
“I believe I’m developing a fondness for you, DarkCloud. Let me try again. The question is not ‘Can we be defeated?’ Of course we can, over and over again. The question is ‘Can we win?’”
“To that question, I do not know the answer. But that is the answer you should fear the most.” Sir Richard stands and steps closer to his creation. “Enough of this prattle. The time has come for you to do your real work. You know of the old dwarf tunnels?”
“Of course you do. You were born there. Take the ones assigned to you and go quickly through the underways. A squadron of BentOnes has been sent ahead and should be nearing there already.”
“I like that you remain inquisitive. Your programming will tell you when you arrive and what to do with the girl and any others foolish enough to be with her.”
“She will be your surprise.” Sir Richard extends a hand out. “Ask no more. Be on your way.”
The mass of particles shimmers, elongates backward toward the open door, flashes and is gone as if it had never been there.
“But you were here, SCRUMP.” The First Count of the Sweeping Lands removes the headset and speaks to the empty space of the cave. “And you will obey.”
* * *
On their backs in their sleepbags on the ground, Truss and Tidbit stare up at the stars. Between them, sparks lift from the fire fading to glowing embers.
“Goodsleep, mousefriend TidBit McIntyre.”
“May you sleepwell, bladefriend HirschTruss. For I sleep little or well.”
“Of what is it that you worry?”
“They burned the LowHills.”
“And your people there?”
“They were taken.”
“To the Ridge over the EastDesert, the caves and tunnels of the Dark Count. To work his projects.”
“He changes the desert to green. And he changes my people and others to be his servants to do his work.”
“How does he change them?”
“I do not know. Rumors only. He makes them different and dark like himself. I do not know.”
“Let sleep calm your mind, TruthSeeker StealthMouse. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day, a new day.” Truss smiles up at the night sky. “And we have SandRunner ladies to meet.”
“You have a particular SandRunner lady to meet then.”
“You do for you are assuredly smitten.”
“You are as she is with you.”
“She is?” HirschTruss is quiet for some seconds. When he speaks, it is as though he speaks to another faraway person. “Will that be a problem?”
“For the two of you? Yes!” The stealthmouse laughs into the night. “I think I will sleep well this night and look forward to you each facing your problem in the morning. Thank you, trueblade friendmade. You have lightened my mind.”
“And given me something to look forward to.”
“To look forward to?”
“You both have done this. Now, I will sleep.” Tidbit turns to his side and murmurs with a smile, “I wonder if you will?”
* * *
LoveJoy tosses her head on the pillow and settles back into the soft cushion.
A smile forms on her sleeping face as she stretches her legs.
In her head, she hears the song and wonders.
How do music and motion and sound
Pervade our lives
And bring us
She hears a farvoice speak and say.