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The Senator didn’t look that happy when he arrived back from his meeting. Sandy asked him how it went.
“Pretty much as I expected. The people here think the vaccine batch is faulty, that it lowers immunity so that recipients are vulnerable to another illness and that is what is killing them. That’s not what is going on. Here, let me show you this.”
A typewritten note appeared on the screen in the Senator’s lounge.
“Four American staff in the Seoul embassy have died in the last few days. The dead are Jews, and the first to die had been handed a note by the North Koreans. Let’s have a look at the note.”
Sandy hadn’t seen the note before. It made no sense at all.
THE KILLERS OF FEVASTIN SHALL DIE
THE LAND OF DONKEY SHALL BE CLEANSED
THE HOURIS WILL BE NO MORE
RETURN JAPAN TO KOREA
OR THE JEWISH SOLUTION WILL BRING PEACE TO PALESTINE
“The second half of the note is quite clear. It is a simple piece of blackmail. North Korea threatens to kill the world’s Jews if it does not get both South Korea and Japan. And North Korea has demonstrated its ability to kill Jews. The first half of the note makes more sense is the English is improved”
And on the screen, this appeared
THE KILLERS OF FEATHERSTON SHALL DIE
THE LAND OF DON KEY SHALL BE CLEANSED
THE HORIS SHALL BE NO MORE
“They say, Sandy, that revenge is a dish best served cold. Many years ago Japanese and Korean prisoners were massacred by soldier guards at the Featherston Prisoner of War Camp in this country. New Ziland has always treated this as some kind of accident, as though a group of men armed with rifles could unintentionally send co-ordinated fire into unarmed prisoners. Well, as you can see, North Korea does not see it that way and they blame Maori for the massacre. They might be crazy, but even crazy people have opinions.
Don Key is the prime minister of New Ziland.
I think that a race-specific biological weapon of mass destruction is being released into this country. It is being released through a vaccine, but if I were in charge, I would use more than one delivery vector. As soon as we got a sample of the vaccine we recognized the weapon. It’s something TOM developed when he was in Vietnam years and years ago. The problem with it, and it is a big one, is that the race targeting is unstable. We believe that the deaths will spread from the Maori to mixed race Maori, and then to other racial groups. There have only been a hundred and something deaths so far, but that will change. We expect hundreds of new cases will be reported today and over a thousand will have died by the weekend.”
That didn’t sound good.
“But, it’s worse than that, Sandy. The research could only have got from Vietnam to North Korea through China. I think China intends to release this weapon against America. War is imminent. HAL is not convinced. He’s fixed on the idea that America is China’s biggest trading partner. But Germany’s biggest trading partners before World War One were Russia, the United Kingdom, and America. Same in World War Two. The biggest trading partners were the first to be attacked.”
Not good at all, if you were American. But Uso-Dex had an anti-toxin.
Nellie and Jane arrived back from Court. Nellie was not happy. He thought it had been a waste of time, but there was food on the plane, so he was allgood pretty quickly. Jane, well Jane seemed far too happy.
A Dr Pink arrived. The Senator had invited him over for lunch. And there was that reporter lady on the phone about the rescue of Abel. Sandy had left fourteen dead American servicemen, and twenty-two dead inmates, all aged under seventeen behind. She reckoned that was a lot of lives lost to rescue one boy.
“We only count one, one of our people saved.”
Dr Pink had been the only person at the meeting who agreed with the Senator and Red. The Senator wanted to offer him a job. Apparently Uso Dex was setting up a big medical research facility in Australia and wanted Dr Pink to be its head.
“Umm, I don’t know.. yeah, sure.. never going to get a better offer, am I? But do you mind if I ask a couple of questions?”
“Your anti-ageing treatment. Why isn’t that available to everyone?”
“The standard fee for our anti-ageing treatment is ten million dollars per patient per year, and Uso Dex has over twelve thousand full fee paying clients who are not getting any older. Costs of production and distribution are one percent of that amount. One hundred and ten billion plus is our annual take from this product. Equally important, these clients are powerful and supportive. The profit from all our other medical products is about half of this amount. That’s a lot of profit to give away.” Dr Pink did not look impressed. “And our program is untested and unproven. It may not be safe.”
“If the federal government paid for the testing…?”
“There is strong opposition within the scientific community to spending federal funds on alternative approaches such as ours. Even if testing were approved, and even if our program were shown to be safe, and even if we gifted the relevant intellectual property to the nation, at the ten thousand dollars per person per year generic price that has been suggested the country could not afford it. There is disagreement as to whether the country should pay two trillion dollars per year to treat two hundred million people. But if the program worked and if people stopped ageing, what would the country do with them? Everyone wants to live forever but no-one wants everyone to live forever.”
Dr Pink had nothing else to say. The Senator escorted him off the plane, and to a waiting taxi. Time to leave. Sandy followed the Senator across to a tent, the mobile field hospital. Once inside, they had to stand in what looked a little like an airlock.
“The operating theatre and recovery room are at positive pressure compared to the rest of the hangar so that bugs can’t be blown in.”
That seemed like a good idea to Sandy. The Senator pushed some buttons on a monitor on the wall, and they saw Mr Bolton, still in theatre scrubs, disconnecting various machines from Adam Gooch.
“Mr Bolton. Wheels up in twenty.”
Mr Bolton looked up.
“Ah, Senator. This patient can be moved. The shoulder is stable but not yet repaired. I can do that at your place.”
“Are you prepared to travel with us?”
“If you can provide me with clothes and toiletries. I don’t like leaving a job half done.”
“It may be some time before we can return you here.”
“I understand that. Get some orderlies in here will you?”
“HAL, can you get us loaded up? I would like to be in the air as soon as possible.”
“Senator, air traffic control is refusing us clearance to take off.”
“I don’t have time for this nonsense. Which runway is safest for a take-off without air traffic clearance?”
“Inform the pilots that we will be taking off from runway seven. Radio silence till we are taxiing.”
It was fifteen minutes, and he was back in the forward lounge with the Senator, Red, and Gunny, seatbelt on, before he felt their plane begin to move.
“Inform air traffic control that this flight is taking off from runway seven.”
“Permission denied, Senator.”
“Tell them I was not asking for permission. Inform all other flights of our plans.”
“There is a firetruck and several airport security vehicles racing to runway seven, Senator. I believe they mean to park on the runway.”
“Too many movies. They watch too many movies. HAL, do we have enough time to launch missiles?’
“Yes, Senator. Targets locked.”
Sandy saw the missiles flying from, not from under the wing, it looked like they were coming from under the plane. Direct hits on all three vehicles.
A few minutes later they were in the air.
“HAL, are we taking the long way home?”
“Yes Senator. Across to South America and then up.”
“Well, Sandy, how was your day?”
How was his day? Sandy really hadn’t thought about it that much. Got on a plane to New Ziland. Broke a guy out of prison. Waited round the airport. On the way home now.
‘Not bad, Senator. Reckon I might go and check on Abel.’ Convos with old people weren’t much fun. No point getting into one.
Directly behind the suites was a pretty big, maybe eight meters long area. It had been a lounge a few hours ago. Now it was a hospital, with two beds. Adam Gooch was sleeping in one. Abel was sitting up watching a movie in the other. He had a drip in one arm, and one side was heavily bandaged, with a tube coming through the dressing.
Sandy hadn’t realized how big this boy was. Mind you, his father was a Gooch.
‘Hi. I’m Sandy.’ There was a chair by the bed and Sandy sat in it. ‘Just wondered how you were doing?’
“Good. You’re one of the guys that rescued me. Thanks.”
‘Yeah, didn’t realize you were so big, or I would have let Gunny carry you all the way.’
“I’ve always been big. Where did you guys come from?”
‘We’re from Uso Dex. The police tried to arrest your father this morning. He asked us to get him out of there.’
And then they were talking. It turned out that Abel was fifteen, nearly sixteen. He told Sandy about how he was stopped by the police. How they had found the meth in his car. Sandy told him they knew it had been planted.
“Yeah, I know that. Pleased you guys do too.”
He’d got into a bit of a fight at the youth facility yesterday. Was in the yard by himself and the guards had let four other guys in. Bloods. Brown boys with red bandanas.
“It was pretty obvious they wanted to fight. And I was just pissed off. So we fought. The big one had a go at me first, but I just picked him up and threw him into the wall. Heard the cracks. He didn’t get up. One of them pulled a knife but he was a dumbass, tried to poke me with it. So I just grabbed his wrist, bent it pretty much all the way forward, bone came through the skin, then I just swung his arm so he stabbed himself in the chest. The last two rushed me, but I broke the elbow of one and the other backed off. He didn’t want to fight. Kept saying “It’s allgoods. Allgoods eh. Wanna smoke? I can get us some smokes.” The guards came back about five minutes later. Made quite a bit of fuss. Asked me, what happened? I just pointed to the cameras. A couple pulled their batons out. I told them where I’d stick their batons, and they opened the gates so I could walk back to my cell.
This morning, they opened my cell, told me to shower. When I was in the shower a whole lot of punks rushed me. Must have been about twenty of them. Had a bit of trouble getting back to my cell. They were trying to set fire to it when you turned up.”
‘Pretty exciting. You fight much.’
“Nah, that was the first time in ages, since I was about ten. Everyone at school knows I’m real strong.”
‘You play any sports?’
“Not allowed. Dad says I’m too strong and my temper is too bad. He’s right. I watch a bit of league, and I’d kill half the refs.”
Sounded like Nellie’s kind of guy.
‘Hey, you tired, or you want to meet some people?’
“I gotta stay here. Got some stitches, and gave some blood so Dad could have a transfusion.”
‘They shouldn’t be far away. I’ll go see.’
And there they were, sitting together. Sandy counted. There were six seats to a row, three either side of the aisle, so ninety seats all up. Most were empty.
The doctor was in the front row. Sandy beckoned to Nellie and Jane. They unbuckled and came to him. Corporal Afa looked up, and then back to his tablet.
‘Come, I got someone for you to meet.’
They had to steal a seat from Mr Gooch’s bed, but he was still asleep.
‘This is Abel. He’s the guy we broke out of jail today.’
“Better day than we had. We had to sit in Court. Hey, you were supposed to be there.”
“Got any food up here Sandy?”
“Was I? Nobody told me.”
Sandy reckoned he knew what that felt like. A steward appeared, pushing a trolley.
“What would you like to eat, Founder?”
HAL hears everything. That could get to be annoying.
A nurse appeared. She poked a thermometer in Abel’s ear, took his pulse and blood pressure and said Abel could eat and drink whatever he liked. They had a good feed. Nellie on the steak and fries. Abel had the fish and stir-fry, like Sandy and Jane. Nellie and Abel got talking about rugby league. They were both fans. It was probably about the only sport you could watch on monitors in the reservation. Nellie supported the Roosters. Abel was a Souths fan.
“Hey, Sandy you know what?”
‘Nah, what Nellie?’
“You know Jane is going to be a flyboy, eh?”
‘Yeah, I heard.’ Sandy reckoned Nellie should have worked out that Jane was a girl by now, but, not his business.
“We should have Abel in our troop.”
“Yeah. You know how Gunny was saying Jane and I have to knock on doors, talk to ords before we shoot them, stuff like that?”
‘Yeah.’ Sandy didn’t know, but it was easier to agree.
“Well I don’t know crap about ords. But Abel has lived there forever. He could do the talking and when he’s done I’ll shoot ‘em up. Anyways, we’re Abel troop, and he’s Abel. Where else he gonna go?”
“What’s an ord?”
“Them. Not us.”
“How do you know I’m not an ord?”
“Your dad. He’s a Gooch. You’re not an ord. You wanna join the army?”
“Hadn’t really thought about it. I’m still getting used to being a convict, on the run.”
“Dodge that. Sandy can set it up. Can’t you?”
‘Dunno. Maybe. Let’s get back home first.’
“Yeah. I reckon I got training again tonight. When someone tells me what day it is. Hey where’s that tube go?”
Nellie had spotted the clear plastic tube that came from under the large white dressing on Abel’s side. He leaned forward for a better look.
“Yeah I guessed that. You gotta big hole in your side? That why you’re leaking? I dunno if you can be in the army if you gotta big leaky hole in your side.”
“Nah, it wasn’t that big. Just deep. The guy who sewed it up said the knife might have cut my kidney. If blood drains out, I might need another operation.”
“Cool. Let’s see.” Nellie reached out and picked the tube up. It was attached to a clear plastic bag. The bag was empty. “Nah. Nothing.”
Nellie seemed a bit disappointed, but he came back. “Hey do you know what’s going on? With the world, and the Senator, and the Stargate, and the robots, and the Gooch, and the Choo? All that stuff?”
“I’ve been in jail man. We don’t get the newspaper in jail.”
“Newspaper. What’s a newspaper? Anyway, can we show him Sandy?”
“I can feed it through the screen up there,” and Jane pulled a tablet out. This time it almost made sense to Sandy.
Uso Dex had created Gooch and Choo, and now ILFs. These would be destroyed on sight by the ords, or a bounty paid for their capture dead or alive. The Twelve had decided that the best option was to abandon this planet. The Stargate couldn’t be kept secret, and so the Senator had made his announcements.
“Hey, but my father’s a Gooch.”
“Yes, son, I am.” Mr Gooch had woken up.
“So you’re what, a mixture of gorilla and human?”
Sandy knew the answer to this one. ‘Initially a chimpanzee human hybrid, then bred to a gorilla. Two generations bred with human. Two Gooch-Gooch matings since. That’s your father. Is your mother human?’
“My mother is Jewish.”
“You better join the army then, boy.” Nellie’s contribution.
“What? Why?” Abel was getting angry.
“You’ve got chimpanzee and gorilla genes. They’ll kill you on sight and get paid a million bucks for it. You’re a Beta, like me, like Jane, like Sandy. They’re at war with us. Dunno why, but we’re looking forward to it. And you’ve got Jewish genes, so the North Koreans have released this virus thing to kill your ass.”
“What are you on about?”
“Let me finish.” And Jane showed the tape of Mr Gooch’s attempted arrest, of the rescue of Abel, and of the Senator discussing the message from North Korea.
“Does mum know?”
“She heard the Senator’s broadcasts, and asked me whether I was a Gooch, like the Senator was talking about. When I said she was, she packed her bags and left.”
“Shit dad, I’m sorry. But why didn’t you tell her? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I never thought it made a difference. Your mother and I were in love. I still love her, very much. I didn’t think whether I had this gene or that gene was so very important to her. And look at you. You are a wonderful son. Why should you be treated as a freak? I’m sorry son if I have let you down”
“Nah, it’s just a surprise. And now what, eight billion people want to kill me. And those North Koreans want to poison me. Well frig them. I’m a joining the army. I just hope Nellie’s stronger than he looks”
"If we’re going hunting together, I can carry my share. What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me, boy. Don’t worry about me. You’ll see.”