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“I don't believe it," Chuck said incredulously. Chrissy stroked his arm.

“Mr. Ellephanie, I’m really sorry but we’ll have to think of other ways around this problem," the consultant said.

“Can you send this to my holoroom now?"

"Chuck!” said Chrissy.

“I want to see for myself, I don't believe it."


“Chuck do you want me to come with you?"

“No. I don't," Chuck stated flatly.

Chuck marched out of the living room and slammed the door. As he left · he could hear his wife talking to the woman on the other end of the line but he couldn't hear what she was saying. He didn't care.

He walked into his holoroom and went over to the console in the corner. He put on his wrap around glasses so he could inspect things more quickly and thoroughly.

The file was downloading. The hourglass symbol seemed to take forever it probably took a few seconds.

And then the image was all around him. He walked around. It was like a thin watery soup with little bits of strafed bamboo shoots in it. Everything around him was perfectly and totally still. Not one little bamboo shaped thing moved. Not even a shimmer of movement, not even a whisper.

Chuck went for a walk around the holoroom. In every conceivable direction he walked, the picture remained the same, except the bamboo like shreds were slightly different. Sometimes it was more clouded and sometimes it was less crowded. He walked and walked and walked and walked and walked. He started to run; in fact he ran so fast that the holofloor didn't have time to move quickly enough with him and he ran into the wall with a thump.

He sat down on the floor looking at the evidence of his own infertility scattered all around him in every conceivable direction.

Kandie came into the room and sank down into the soup next to him. She put her arm gently on his.

"It doesn't matter Chuck, honestly it doesn't, I don't mind." Chuck stood up.

“I should’ve saved some when they told me, thought it would never happen.”

"Well that's passed now." They sat in silence for a while.

“Can I switch this off?" said Kandie.

“No, I'm going to have another look."

“Chuck." He gave her a pointed look. "Okay." Kandie left the holoroom and returned to the living room. Stephanie and Rog.er had their headsets on and were playing Tom and Jerry. They thought it was great. You had an avatar, in this case Tom was Roger and Jerry was Stephanie. They always fought over who would be Tom and who would be Jerry.

They played cat and mouse on the game for ages, the big difference from the original cartoons was that they were Tom and Jerry and they made the story up, chasing each other around, dropping each other, trying to put each other into the oven etc. Kandie put a headset on and entered into the game with her children. They saw the approaching black feet and long socks of 'Mama'.

“Time for a story," she said.

It was an opportune moment. Tom was about to get fired from a cannon, which always lead to tears.

“Great,” exclaimed Roger and took his headset off just before the cannon exploded.

“Hey that's not fair!" Stephanie cried.

“You can play another time," said Kandie.

Stephanie looked sulky for a moment and then perked up at the idea of a story.

She'd read the same story several times over. It was their favourite but they didn't get bored of it. It was one of those clever books, which had a hundred different versions of the same story.

The retailer had been right though, they never did get bored of it. It was the same story structurally about Vordor going to war and coming out on top. It was just the enemies varied, as did the planes, trucks and vehicles used.

Good for both sexes, boys will like all the action and toys and girls like the different stories and characters” the retailer had said.

They'd been right but eventually Jessica, their maid and child minder, emerged and said it was bedtime. There was the usual argument about it not being bedtime. The usual bribe of one more story worked, well nearly. "Where's Pa?"

“He's studying.”

“What's studying?" asked Roger.

“It's where you look at something with great care," said Kandie wistfully." “What's he studying?”

“Things, men’s things," said Kandie with a faint smile on her face.

“What are men’s things?"

“Things to do with business."

“He's always studying things to do with business," said Stephanie,” It gets boring."

“Well, this is really important."

“It's always important," said Stephanie querulously, "he promised me a story tonight. He said. He broke his promise."

“No he didn't, he said that one of us would read us a story."

"Right," said Stephanie sulkily.

“He likes Vordor," said Roger, "ever since Senax. He thinks Vordor's cool.”

Stephanie shot her younger brother a look; some past argument was brimming in her eyes.

“He's cooler than Elax by miles. He's got better weapons than she has."

"Pop, Pop!"

Stephanie ran over to Chuck and hugged his legs.

Stephanie looked up her Dad. She was, like many children, visceral but even more so than most. “What's wrong with you? Why aren't you smiling?”

“Oh, I'm smiling really. Look, see a big smile."

“That's not a proper smile, that's not. You're just smiling 'cos I said smile. Don't believe you!" Stephanie started to run around her father's legs. "Not smiling!"

“Come on now Stephanie, Roger it's time to go to bed now."

“But you promised another story, you did, you did!” Stephanie squealed. Chuck looked at his wife Kandie beseechingly.

“Come on now, he'll read to you another night." "But he promised."

“No he didn’t!” Kandie said looking at her husband, "He said one of us would read you a story."

“Look, I promise you I'll read you a story tomorrow. I promise."

"You promised last night and didn't."

Chuck got down on bended knee.

“Look I had to look at something really important tonight."

"What?" said Roger.

“Well, it’s to do with whether or not you might have another sister or brother or not."

"Why did you need to go to the holoroom for that?"

Chuck looked helpless.

“I had to look at some things to help Mom and I make up our minds and then we wanted to talk to you about it. Mom and I want to talk to each other about it and then we'll talk to you."

“When?" Stephanie persisted.

“Soon," said Mr. Ellephanie, “very soon."


“Maybe, but only if you are good and go to bed."

“Not sure I want another brother or sister," said Roger petulantly.

“That's why we're going to talk to you about it tomorrow, we'll all decide. Now go and give your Mom a goodnight kiss, go on."

Roger stamped his feet and gave Kandie a kiss. He hated doing it but sometimes it was useful. He got things. Stephanie clambered onto the large sofa and pecked her mother on the cheek.

“Come on now," said Jessica unveiling her two hands.

The children grabbed her hands and disappeared out of the door.

Chuck wandered over to the drinks cabinet and poured himself large bourbon and sat down in an armchair opposite his wife.

“I looked everywhere. It was deathly in there, not one living little wriggle.”

“We could, you know, borrow some," Kandie ventured. Kandie remained quiet and watched her husband as he swirled his glass.

He watched his whiskey going round and round, sniffed it and then took a large gulp.

She bit her lip slightly and watched her husband swirl the whiskey round and round in his glass. He didn't reply.

Finally Kandie got up, pecked her husband on the cheek and went to bed.

“Good night Chuck, turn the lights out when you come upstairs." Chuck sighed and continued looking into his swirling whiskey.

It's just nice to see something moving," he said finally, but it was too late. Kandie had disappeared and gone to bed.

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