Promises on a Foreign Promenade
“Weird inside a black hole!" Martin Shaw exclaimed.
“Not half as weird as Hertferd at the moment," replied Duncan flatly.
‘The singularity will become a wormhole taking you to another part of the galaxy,' the electronic voice announced.
“Can we go somewhere else? It’s making me feel sick," said Duncan.
“This is just a simulation; I always find the live stuff more interesting. Jupiter is amazing, all that swirling gas, the giant spot and then there's the moons. Lo..." suggested Martin.
“Can we go somewhere firm and solid, so I don't feel dizzy.
“Well let's go and watch those little bacteria they planted on Mars, I want to see how they've been getting on."
“It's always so busy there," said Duncan somewhat peevishly. "Well we can blank the others out. What's wrong with you?"
“Look,” continued Duncan, becoming somewhat exasperated, "This is your hobby not mine. Take us somewhere quiet, where we can talk in peace."
“Okay," said Martin to the voyager. "Take us to see the bacteria on Mars. Don't you even think it’s slightly amazing that you’re at home in your holoroom, I'm at home in mine and we can see bacteria growing live on Mars? If I'd told my father this would be possible in a few years, he would have thought I'd gone completely crazy."
"I suppose so," said Dunca·n."But I'd rather be running, or fishing.”
"God, Duncan, you've got no imagination."
“Wrong, I just don't get off on this sort of thing. I like fishing, you sit there surrounded by flowing water, birds and the faint chance you might catch a fish. This," he said throwing his arm out, "this is just bloody nonsense."
The two men sat on the bench looking at a sulphurous pool of liquid in a cavern underneath the surface of Mars. They didn't say anything for a couple of minutes. Duncan watched the cauldron solemnly.
“Look, I'm sorry," said Duncan, “I've been under a lot of pressure lately. Take no notice of me. Besides I ought to get into this sort of thing, my wife's thinking about setting up a gallery in Hertferd."
“That's not a bad idea."
“You know Hertferd at the turn of the century and before that. She wants people to be able to see it as it was."
“Uh huh. I think some people might quite like that."
“Yep. She thinks that people would get home copies for working interpretations of what Hertferd was like. She figured that she could sell copies and people could ·explore the full thing in their holorooms at home. You know Hertferd in the late 18OO's etc. with all the immigrants.”
“I think that's a great idea!"
“She reckons that'd pay for the more abstract stuff, the stuff that makes my head spin. What was it she said: 'Voyages Within' by 'Copier'? A vision about what heaven and hell would be like."·
“That would be an interesting one to explore," said Martin with reverence. “I've heard of Copier. Interactive Copier too," he glanced at Duncan who looked none the wiser. “People meeting in his virtual sculpted landscape and they change it... the whole painting or landscape becomes evolutionary, it is never the same twice. It's a reflection and manifestation of all the people who visit it. A bit of you becomes part of it and it becomes a part of you."
Duncan looked genuinely surprised. He'd never heard Martin talk about art with such passion before. In fact he didn't even know Martin knew about art.
“Yeah ...the idea's growing on me," Martin said finally.
“So what would Van Gogh have done with Virtual art then?" Duncan said trying not to appear completely ignorant.
“Depends which bit of his life he was in. If it was near the end of his life when he was becoming increasingly schizophrenic in Aries, I just can't even guess. He would've done great things with flowers though and peasant landscapes."
“I never knew you had such a thing about it, Martin."
“Well, you know, I kind of keep things quiet; doesn't do much for your image in the station if you know a bit about art. So don't you go telling anyone right? I'm a bit of a, what do they call it, dilettante."
“Oh yes and what sexual persuasion is that?" "Someone who uses a butt plug."
“Knew that'd put a smile on your face. No, it's someone who likes art but doesn't know much about it really."
“You mean an ignoramus."
"Jees, cheap gags round here. Hey did you catch that?"
Duncan peered through the swirling sulphur.
“Mini geyser of stuff just flew up stuff really high. Glad we aren't there we'd have fried like hash browns."
“So, how's it been lately?" asked Duncan.
“I think the question is better the other way around. How's it been with you lately?"
Duncan looked at the red sterile earth.
“Not the best I guess. In fact it's been pretty shitty this year so far: full stop, period and now this Ellephanie thing. You've been pretty busy lately one way and another haven't you? The Ronnie's thing sure brought you boys to life. Not sure if it did anything for Hertferd. What do you think? How do you reckon it would pan out? What's your feeling, what've people been saying?"
“Well they've been saying that if we aren't careful all of this could become messy. I don't want to be calling in other cops to deal with all this; I think we should handle it ourselves, quieten it down."
“I don't want to become involved at all," Duncan said.
"Well, I guess you're going to have to."
They caught a glimpse of the sun at the entrance to the underground cavern; it was much brighter and bigger here.
“What's your plan Duncan, against Ellephanie? How are you going to play it?”
“I know one thing's for sure - reckon it'll get personal. I'll bring that son of-a-bitch down, if I have to burn his goddam factory down. Thing is, I don’t want to be the first one to start throwing the dirt."
Martin shook his head.
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that. Everyone throws dirt. It’s just a question of presentation. If you present the dirt as personal people don't like it or leastways they pretend they don't. If you present the dirt as meaning they're unfit to do a job, then that's an entirely different thing all together."
“Come to the point Martin."
“You know about Tom Busey? Well he's just been promoted at Carlton. Could be made to look bad couldn't it? Murder suspect is promoted at Carlton."
“No, I didn’t know about that. That’s interesting. Do you think Ellephanie knows about it?”
“Don't know. I doubt it, not sure he would be dumb enough to promote him if he knew about it. Could be useful though."
Duncan's mind was whirring.
“Very useful. Very useful indeed. Especially if he were to be found guilty,"
Duncan looked at Martin and raised his eyebrow.
Martin looked uncomfortable.
You’ve got my support Duncan, you know that. I'll be your eyes and ears.
You’ve got to admit it'd be useful. Damn near put a nail in Ellephanie's hopes of getting in, if he promoted a murderer. Even the people at Carlton wouldn't be keen on that. Good way of killing his campaign, don't you think?”
The sulphur blew up into another fountain.
Do you want to go and explore a bit?”
The two men disappeared out of the cavern onto the surface of Mars and went for a long walk. Various cameras a long way away turned and refocused or went into zoom lens mode until another camera took over.
In Duncan's view fishing beat the hell out of Mars. Mars was as boring as hell. For all he knew it was hell. It was hot and red and there was bugger all to do, except look at more red dust and a few mountains covered with more red dust.Still, when he turned off the holoroom later, he had a smile on his face and a bounce in his walk as he went up to his bedroom.