A Masked Reunion
The three avatars met on top of a hill overlooking a recreation of Northern England during the late eighteen hundreds. It was one of Copier's early creations and it was regarded with contempt so hardly anyone bothered to visit it, which was why they used it.
The three of them wandered down the hill into the backstreets. Little children ran up and down the back to back houses and the air on this foggy morning was thick with sulphurous coal smoke. It was relaxing to be out of their new characters.
A little child was playing with a rag doll in front of them. Her face was dirty and her once white frock had turned to a permanent grey.
“You need to use new improved Ariel!" shouted Henry Reydon. The girl looked confused and then scared. She ran off shouting about ghosts. She couldn’t see them.
“You know that's against the rules!" Susie shouted.
“Don't be such a purist. If only she knew she was a ghost." Henry stated. "Is it safe here, you checked it out?" Tom asked earnestly.
“I am as sure as I can be," Henry replied evenly.
“You look strange in that dress, are you thinking about a sex change?" Tom asked Henry.
“Hey, are you totally and completely unread? I chose the Rosie avatar, as in Cider with..."
“Rosie. I see. How quaint. To fit with your new rural farming lifestyle?”
“Except she's the wrong sex." Tom finished.
“I always wanted to be a woman," Henry said listlessly.
“Don't worry you are," Tom teased, "but Susie, I'm afraid I can't see the connection with, who is it now, small 80 and 90's film star...Tom Cruise."
“Oh think about it Tom for God's sake," exclaimed Henry impatiently.
"Yes think about it Tom," cried Susie, "Do try."
“I have thought and I can't see any connection, " Tom replied finally.
"Ah ha. That's 'cos there is none," replied Susie coyly.
“Oh Susie come on!" Henry exclaimed.
“Don't act out like this I can't bear it." Henry continued, "You saw that classic movie once with me about fighter pilots and you've always had the hots for him ever since. You were salivating .You remember? They were showing it at the classic movie house."
“There are two enormous flaws in both your arguments. One. Unless you're criminally insane, there's no way that diminutive little creature Tom Cruise, could ever pass muster as a sex symbol. Two. If Top Gun is a classic film then so is my anal ring," Tom quipped.
You're entitled to your own interpretation of what you think a classic is. I have never seen your anal ring so I'm not in a position to comment," Susie remarked sanctimoniously.
“Well now you've had your fun," Tom Manx said paternally, "you know the first rule of this business."
“We exist to change a situation," they both chimed tiredly.
“Good, at least my training has not been in vain. Shall we take a walk and have a serious talk?" Tom demanded.
They wandered off down the cobbled working class street. The wind had started to stir and was flapping at the endless washing lines, with endless sheets. On one of the cobbles a woman was scrubbing a flagstone clean.
“Why are you dressed like Abraham Lincoln anyway?" Henry asked.
"I've always fancied being a hero..." came Tom's riposte.
Susie and Henry smiled knowingly.
“I take it that you're enjoying your new roles. Susie as little Miss. Sally the secretary."
"Blow me." Susie cried.
“And Dave Rhobson the strong strapping farmer?"
"What about Scott Fenton the strong Union man."
“Well we all have our crosses to bear," Tom replied evenly.
That’s really whyI called this meeting, to talk about crosses."
The decussating road in front of them gave the view of two dim and depressing streets.
“Not much of a choice really?" Tom continued.
“We could go right or we could go left, which way do you want to go?" Henry enquired. In the distance there were some kids arguing. One of them was holding a soccer ball.
“Let's go down there," Susie volunteered pointing down the road towards the children.
“It seems to me that the farming union right now has a parallel in the New Testament."
Susie and Henry looked at each other and raised their eyebrows to the sky. They knew a sermon was coming.
“In fact the reason the New Testament came into being was because of a passive leader called Jesus. But the farmers want to fight. They are like the Jews who rejected Jesus. They want a strong, military leader who will vanquish their enemies and conquer their foes. Our Jakob is a passive hero; we need someone with a bit more bite. He quelled the fighting the other day. Our Jakob Hamburg will have to dance the merry dance."
“I don't think there's any question on that score, I think that we can make him dance the merry dance and I think I know who can make him dance best." Henry offered loftily.
“You mean our moosey fishy friend." Tom enquired.
“Uh huh, more like a wounded bull from what you've said." Tom volunteered.
“I don't want to lay down the law." Tom's voice grew more serious.
But you're going to," Susie and Tom chimed again in unison. Tom Manx turned and faced them both.
“There's been a bit of a change of plan and pace. Jakob Hamburg. Henry, that's your pigeon. We need to stir quicker; it's stalemate at the moment. We haven't got time to go framing Moosey Bremmer for anything. We're going to have to be a bit more direct. I know it's unusual but there it is. I don't like it any more than you do our clients are beginning to get very, very jittery. More jittery than I've ever seen. I don't have to spell out what that means for us. We aren't immortal.
Henry you need to take control. I want you to step on it. Is that clear? They want the goods from this engine company quicker than ever and they want to buy the whole goddam thing like it's not worth one frozen pea. We need to move fast. We've got to complete the job in half the time. "
“Half the time but that's not...!" Henry.
“Are you a professional? You heard me, half the time. Now that’s an order.”
“The gold is starting to get tarnished. They are getting jittery about his lordship’s parents. Seems there's some sort of leaking sieve somewhere but they can't find it. His father used to know someone in the circle. Don't know more than that so don't bother asking me. There's also the thing with McManan...that's far from clear at the moment. The Governor thing is tied up now but that proved messy."
Tom paused and looked, hard at them both. “I want to retire early and be above ground when I do it. We are going to modify, is that understood? And I don't want to take any shit from you two."
“Yes sir!" they shouted.
They walked a little further stopping outside a cotton mill. They could just peak inside at all the machines rattling away.
“I've found out some extremely useful things about Ellephanie.”
"Well Susie spit it out, come on?”They walked and changed their plans, through the mists of artificial history. A little boy was following them at a discrete distance; he was still holding a football, which he held to his ear constantly.