________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #5 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [Cover shows the Moles on the left side, pressing against the Net.Elementalist and Morph. On the right side are the Chubs, pressing against Agent and Dva. The Moles and Chubs are angry, and the Alt.Riders are fearful.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- %Don't tread on me.% Dva met Agent in the morning at the same cafe they had sat in yesterday, and the morning before that. "What's today's gameplan?" she asked. "Same as yesterday. Try to find Missy." "Missy. A Chub." "Yes," agreed Agent. "A Chub." Dva looked around them, around the cafe that sat in a city that was beside a beach, a beach that was nowhere even close to earth. She looked at the inhabitants, the Chubs, fat blue humanoids, and, in all honesty, could not tell them apart except by gender, and was guessing for that. "One Chub, among so many. Yeah, that's gonna be so easy." "Don't be so pessimistic," Agent said. "I heard she was somewhere about here, so we should keep on asking." "No-one's heard of her!" Dva exclaimed, fed up with the idea of another day fill of negative responses, as the previous two had been. "How can you have heard of her when no-one around here has!" "But earth has," said Agent. "Several radio telescopes on earth picked up a message a couple of months ago. As far as they could translate it, it originated from this planet, from a person called Missy." Dva blinked, surprised, then something occurred to her. "Hang on. *Radio* telescope? We got a message that was sent at light speed. How old would that message be?" "Seven years," Agent responded. "There are several planets relatively near to earth that contain life. This is the only one that received messages that earth put out, and bothered to respond." "And, because of this message, we've been sent here to pick up this Missy, and do what?" "Bring her back with us. She didn't sound altogether happy with her planet's hedonistic tendencies, and asked for someone to come and get her." "And we drew transport duty." "Actually, she's going to become a team member." Agent had time for most of his drink before Dva exploded. "Team member?!? Haven't we got enough members as it is?" "We need to be five. Since you and Silence joined together, we have a gap. I thought Missy was a good prospect." "And never considered to consult us?" Agent stared back stonily. "If I remember rightly, it was my idea to form this team, and you all agreed. I run this team, and if I say we have a new member, we get a new member." Dva threw up her hands. "Fine, but I'm lodging a formal protest. Not against Missy," she said. "But against this lack of information." Agent shrugged. "Don't expect a committee to form on your side." Dva sat back, and considered switching to sulk better, but something caught her attention, a Chub that was babbling something as she rushed inside to meet someone. %I heard a rumor from the east that the Pit Moles' battles with the beast have left them mindless and sick, that west is where, their fingers say, there are new found sites that give them something to cling to. The rumors have them coming here believing life is not so harsh.% %Life not so harsh, indeed,% said her friend. %A hundred thousand refugees?% Dva turned back to Agent. "Pit Moles?" Agent's gaze was focussed elsewhere. "The other species on this planet. They live and work underground, their religion dictates a life of poverty." He stood up, suddenly alert. "This sounds bad. We should look into this." "I though we were supposed to find Missy," Dva pointed out. "True, but if this gets ugly, there could be no Missy to find." He led the way out, Dva following close behind. "Ugly? Why should this get ugly?" she asked. Agent strode along the main street, past busy shops and bustling crowds. Chubs took offense as he pushed his way through, but nothing more than confused looks resulted. Agent held up a hand, and Dva nearly ran into him. "What?" she hissed. "Listen," Agent said, pointing at two Chubs that looked considerably more alert than most. %The Pit Moles are coming,% one was saying. %I..I heard just today; our p..problems with labour have ju..just been done away with. The P..Pit Moles will work hard and we..we'll barely pay; so eager to get work, they'll do things ju..just the way we want. %The Pit Moles are thrifty, the..their Gods reassure that poverty's blissful; they l..like being des..des..destitute.% "Heaven save us from the corporate mind," Agent muttered. _-~-_ Morph woke up as the sun was setting. He traveled with the Moles for two nights, ever since their Pit was flooded, and they decided to go west, to the sea, where a new life awaited them. So they believed. Morph shook the Net.Elementalist awake, who groaned as sleep left him. "Gerroff," the Net.Elementalist muttered. He rubbed his eyes. "How many more days?" he wondered aloud. "Go look," Morph said. "Either take a recce or sit here and watch breakfast being prepared." As Morph and the Net.Elementalist had helped the moles evacuate, the moles treated them as honoured guests, and prepared their meals for them. While they could perform amazing culinary feats with just a few root vegetables, if they saw what was being used, their appetite tended to vanish. The Net.Elementalist shouted "Net!", and became a white streak as he flew upwards. Morph looked up, but soon lost him. He continued looking upwards, nevertheless, as it spared him from looking at whatever the moles were cooking. A minute or so later, he was spotted by the white object that was the Net.Elementalist, and the Net.Elementalist landed just after. "Tonight's the night, I'd say," the Net.Elementalist said. "Although the sun is down, I saw it glimmering off what should be a large body of water. It didn't look all that far away." "How would you know?" "I have spent some time out at the beach. It's very hard to live in Wellington and not see the sea," the Net.Elementalist said. "If you say so," Morph replied. The moles arrived, bringing with them a large leaf that held their food. %Thank you," said Morph, taking the plates gingerly. %We should be reaching the city soon.% %Yes,% said one of the moles. %I also believe that. It helps pass the time.% Morph considered pointing out that he meant that they would physically be reaching the city tonight, not just sometime on general principles, but didn't see the point. They would find out soon enough. _-~-_ When the city woke up the next day, it found over a million Moles at its doorstep. Fortunately, the people were prepared. %Need work? Need work?% Chubs were calling out, from behind barriers. %Sign here. Sign here.% The Moles came, crouched over, with their hoods pulled up well over their heads. Moles took the offers. They needed to work, just as the Chubs planned. %Need work?% Dirty, disgusting jobs were leapt upon as a last hope for salvation. %Need work?% The Moles would take anything, just so long as they could work. %Sign here.% Some of the jobs were filthy, hidden away from the light of day, but that just attracted more. %Sign here.% But there was a limit. %Sorry! That's all we need now,% the work leaders called out, their clipboards fill of names of those who wanted, needed jobs. %Sorry! That's all we need.% But the Moles kept pushing. They needed to work. %No... No... No more work now.% More barriers were erected, to protect as well as guide the luckiest Moles, those with work, through. %No... No... No more work now.% Thousands of Moles still stayed, seeing their chance at their happiness dying in front of their eyes. Was this not the sea? Was this not the promised land? Let their children live in a land that's low, where the holes are deeper than light can go; let them have not pride but instead a soul that can see the shame of the hands that glow. The Moles pushed, anxious. %The rest of you please leave.% Now enforcement was called in. Things were getting out of hand. The Moles, ungrateful wretches, were pushing too hard. %Please leave. The rest of you please leave.% When the crowd was getting rowdy enough to consider something more than simply the press of numbers, a calming influence spread outwards from the back. Slowly, the press eased, as the Moles reluctantly turned away, heading away from the city. Not far, but far enough for breathing room. As the crowd thinned, the Chubs thought they so two non-Moles guiding them, but surely the Moles were too lowly for anyone to associate with them? The Moles without work left. For now. _-~-_ Morph and the Net.Elementalist slipped into the city later, easily gaining admittance by the simple fact that Morph looked like a Chub, and the Net.Elementalist flew in. They met, and considered recent events. Only Morph's words, and their status as honoured guests of the mole people had prevented a riot earlier today, and they weren't sure how long the peace would last. Morph was sure they had a couple of months before the moles would get too nervous, but a) they wanted to find Agent and Dva, moving on if they had to, and; b) they weren't planning on staying on the planet that long. "Any ideas on finding them?" the Net.Elementalist asked. "I tried the bracelet," said Morph, gesturing to the team communication device on his wrist. "I think there's a natural force interfering with them." "Perhaps we should try asking someone," suggested the Net.Elementalist. "I doubt they would have made that much of an impression on this city, especially not Dva. No, the only option I see is wandering around and hoping. If we don't find them within a few days, we'll have to consider finding another city." "And we're assuming they are in a city," the Net.Elementalist said. "We're assuming they're on this planet," Morph pointed out. The Net.Elementalist sighed. "Search by quarters?" Morph nodded, and they went in search of a map of the city. _-~-_ %Today I have declared myself to be a subject of the will of the people,% the scientist dictated. %Too long have my studies and research been for my own pleasures and distractions. Civilization needs the minds of its people. My first project will be the freeing of our underground workers. There is no reason why technology cannot be called on to meet this challenge.% This proclamation made, the scientist wondered exactly what she could do to aid the Moles. Something to replace them in their toil. Something to take over the excavation many of them found themselves doing. She considered it distasteful that anyone should be forced to perform such deeds. Even though the Moles had only been working for two days, she thought it a great mistake. An idea occurred. %A machine. A great machine. I see it now. Creatures! Seek your dignity! Scrap metal and I shall fight, and you shall be the winner!% she said out loud. Picking up a pencil, she started designing her first project. _-~-_ After three days of searching, the Net.Elementalist and Morph had only covered half the city. They resigned themselves to staying until their search had completed. But, even they heard about the new machine that was being built. Some scientist hired Chubs and Moles alike to build a great monstrosity that was supposed to put the Moles out of a job. So far, the Moles were so desperate for work that they blindly took this job, ignoring their own future they were making. Morph had also heard about a meeting that to be held that night. The information passed by word of mouth, and only to Chubs, but Morph was a suitable target as much as any Chub. When he and the Net.Elementalist arrived, the building was already full, and they hovered on the street outside, straining their ears to gain some idea of what was going on inside. Morph extended an ear over the crowd, sounds now clearing as he got nearer, although he had to be careful to avoid being seen. Once the ear was inside, Morph paused, just listening. Immediately, there was too much babbling, no coherent speeches. The general feeling was animosity, animosity towards the moles. Morph was about to give up when the noise died down. Obviously, something happened, and there was discrete coughs until someone commanded absolute silence. %They lie about all through the day,% the speaker said, %Thinking that they should be paid for all 'em knowing how to breed, producing more for us to have to pay for their food, too.% Roars of appeal sounded, but they were hushed down. %They'll steal our daughters for their brides,% the speaker continued. %Expecting more than life provides. A huge ungrateful straw stampede...% Roars again, this time left unshushed. Morph withdrew, knowing the meeting had effectively ended. "What was that all about?" asked the Net.Elementalist. "They don't like the Moles being here," Morph said. "I think things are going to hit critical." They departed quickly, not wanting to get caught in the crush of people as they left. The crowd streamed away, taking their prejudices and hatred with them, reaching out to infect others. Only two people, exiting near the end of the stragglers, looked concerned by the atmosphere. "It's going too far, isn't it?" asked Dva. "Yes," replied Agent. "And I don't think it can stop now, even if everyone wanted it to. It's one of those social dynamical things." "Where to now? To see how the Moles are reacting? That's a very good name for them," Dva commented. "Too good. Their real name is Mohelmot, but very few Chubs know that. And they don't care," Agent said, with a note of bitterness. "No, we'll leave the Mohelmot's alone. I think this new machine does bear looking into. It could prove to be the spark." _-~-_ With the efforts of so many people, all under the guidance of one person, construction of the new machine was rapid. It was a digger, processor, storage faculty, and dispenser all mixed into one colossus. Pipes jutted and cogs turned. No-one but the scientist knew what any of it really did, and some doubted that even she did. But the work progressed quickly. No-one noticed the arrival of two more hands, even looking as strange as they did. One especially poked around a lot, but did so covertly. He tried to gain admittance to the scientist on more than one occasion, but had been spurned each time. On the dawning of the next day, the scientist observed her work, and felt pride. Her first project for the betterment of civilisation. Freedom of the Moles! Although the machine was not perfect yet, it was close enough for her to activate. With a tremulous hand, she slowly moved the switch that would bring the machine to life. For a minute nothing happened. Then a cog twitched under steam pressure, and grudgingly turned. Parts jerked into animation, and the machine slowly woke up, giving out snorts of steam and groans of stress. The scientist hollered in success, but she did so inside. Outside her demeanor was pleased, but subdued. She stared at the juddering machine, already going to work to do what so many Moles had done before, only better, quicker, and with less labour required. As she looked over her machine, she noticed many people, both Moles and Chubs alike, gathering not too far away, all gawking at this new addition to their lives. However, she missed the dirty looks the Chubs gave the Moles, and didn't see the hurt looks the Moles returned. All her attention was on the machine, even more so when part of it gave a loud squeal. The scientist moved towards the wounded sound when another klaxon went off, signaling more failure. The machine shuddered more, this time from parts not moving as they were supposed to, in discord instead of harmony. %Failure...% she whispered to herself. %Oh, my beautiful machine. My poor, poor beautiful machine. What have I done wrong? Where have I failed you?% The scientist studied the area where the problem started, still contemplating the task ahead of her, and whether she was up to it. %But give up?% she asked herself. %Never! Not as long as there are souls imprisoned in the dark life. Not as long as a whisper of life clings to my body. There will be freedom in the holes! All will hail the new machine!% With new determination the scientist turned her mind to the vexing situation, and schematics turned in her head. Ideas flashed through her head and were dismissed. None of it would work, unless... Directing some of her workers, the scientist implemented changes, altering the track of a cog here, the bend of a pipe there, sometimes adding new components, sometimes ripping entire sections out. All the time, the machine wheezed, as it continued to try to do what it was made for. The scientist had not switched it off, for fear that it would never switch on again, and the machine suffered under its duress. Finally, the scientist stood back, observing the result from a distance. Yes, it was right. It should work. But... Then she saw it. %Yes! Yes!% she said, as cogs turned more fluidly, and the groans slowly died away. %I think I've got it now. There, the spark leaps to life. The Golden Age quivers on the brink of creation. Live, my machine! Live my savior! You have my breath... You have my dream, my dream.% She watched in fascination as the machine rumbled on, now setting to its duties with a vigour it had lacked before. "You're name wouldn't happen to be Missy, would it?" asked a voice behind her. %Yes. Yes, it would,% the scientist said, not turning from the exulting sight before her. "Oh dear. I think you've just destroyed the way of life as you know it." _-~-_ Due to a fascination with the new machine, the end of life didn't happen that day, but when the city rose the next day, it discovered that it had 100,000 people it didn't need anymore, and 100,000 people who needed to be needed. The Moles advanced on the city, scampering and crawling in the bright light, but determined to make an impression. The Chubs weren't completely stupid, and they waited at the city edge, ready to make a stand. Near the head of the crowd of Chubs, but off to the right, stood Agent and Dva, with a worried Missy beside them. %Oh dear, my machine, my dear machine, caused this?% she asked, half of herself. %Yes,% replied Dva. %Why don't you destroy it?% Missy looked like Dva slapped her. %Destroy? My machine?% %It's a part of their life now,% said Agent, out of the side of his mouth, so only Dva could hear. %But it's only the spark that set this off. We've seen this coming over the last day or so.% Dva nodded. They had. But she hoped that it wouldn't turn as ugly as it promised to be. Though they had now found Missy, and their mission was technically complete, she never thought of returning to earth. The Moles were close now, making the Chubs restless. A large number of them strode forward, halting the progress of the Moles. A corresponding party of Moles came forward. Agent and Dva slipped closer, leaving Missy to fret by herself, to listen in. %We don't want your arm, we don't want your hand,% the Chubs shouted. %All we really want is for you to leave our land. We don't want your foot, we don't want your toe, all we really want is for you to pack and go. We don't want your necks, we don't want your backs, all we really want is for you to hit the tracks. We don't want your nose, we don't want your lip, all we really want is for you to take a trip. We don't want your skin, we don't want your hair, all we really want is for you to become rare. We don't want your tongue, we don't want your ear, all we really want is for you to disappear. We don't want your ankle, we don't want your knee, all we really want is for you to quickly leave. We don't want your palm, we don't want your wrist, all we really want is for you to soon be missed. We don't want your brow, we don't want your eye, all we really want is for you to puke and die!% The silence after the final crescendo deafened all the more. Dva saw the Moles, now turned from any possible recourse of diplomacy to a warlike stance. With their dirty faces, and cramped bodies, this was all the more frightening. %Hatred has hunger and hatred has eyes, hatred has purpose and hatred has size, hatred has honor but hatred hates lies!% the Moles chanted in return. %Assailants of mercy with hate in your eyes, do not disturb us, you might be surprised, we are not weaklings to tremble and die.% The Chubs took a few steps back. Clearly, they were not expecting such a retort from the downtrodden slaves they considered the Moles to be. %Hatred has dignity, hatred is clear, hatred has courage and hatred is dear, hatred has virtue and hatred is here!% the Moles continued. %Odious enemy do not come near, there is no pity nor tenderness here, there is no mercy just villainous fear!% This final judgment delivered, the Mole party retreated back into their main group, likewise the Chubs. Dva looked around as the Chubs armed themselves for battle, mainly using clubs and rocks. The Chubs rather free-and-easy lifestyle did not lend itself to warfare, just as well, but they looked prepared. Something caught Dva's eye, and she turned to see two people breaking away from the Chub group. Surprisingly, she recognised them. "Agent," she whispered, grasping his arm. "Isn't that...?" Agent looked and nodded. "I wondered where they were." "At least that proves they're safe." "Not if they're going over there, they aren't." As they watched, the Net.Elementalist and Morph headed for the Moles. "This isn't one of your best ideas," hissed the Net.Elementalist. "You want to let the moles die?" asked Morph in return. Morph saw the Net.Elementalist shake his head. No, neither of them did. They had grown fond of the moles over the journey, too much so to see anything happen to them now if they could stop it. The moles looked pleased to have them back. %Welcome, saviors,% one greeted them. %Why are you doing this?% asked Morph. %What do you hope to achieve?% %They have used us. Called themselves merciful when they were our enemy. They are treacherous, undeserving of our service.% %So leave,% suggested Morph. %Travel someplace else, set up a new home.% The moles shook its head. %Too late, too late.% Morph looked on despondently as the moles prepared themselves for war. As they did so, they chanted their new hymn. %Let our children live in a land that's low, where the holes are deeper than light can go. Let them have not pride but instead a soul that can see the shame of the hands that glow.% "Can you do anything?" Morph turned to the Net.Elementalist. The Net.Elementalist shrugged. "Like?" "Lag them all, or something." "I don't think I'm that powerful." "Well, at least try, will you?" A note of hysteria crept into Morph's voice, and the Net.Elementalist gave him a look of concern, but turned to the task. "Net!" the Net.Elementalist yelled, his costume turning white. Seeing the Net.Elementalist's eyes shut, Morph thought he could feel the lag waves washing over him. Movement nearby did slow, but not nearly enough, wide enough. The Net.Elementalist let his concentration drop, and his suit turn back to black. "Nope," the Net.Elementalist said, Morph hearing weariness. "Too wide an area. A small concentrated area, such as I need to fly, yes, easily, but I'm not up to doing all this." Morph winced in disappointed, and movement caused him to turn and see the Moles moving. The war started. _-~-_ First hit: A rock thrown by a Chub struck a Mole on the head, knocking him over. The Mole's nearby friends continued with inertia, some tripping over him, most running over him. First clash: A bulk of Moles and Chubs met in the middle ground, the Chubs' clubs crashing down, but just as many Chubs as Moles going down in the fight. More Moles appeared, trying to overwhelm with numbers. Just as many Chubs poured out of the city, ready to defend. Agent and the Net.Elementalist met in combat, the Net.Elementalist flashing a look of anger as Agent stopped a Mole from tackling a Chub, but does not stop a Chub from clubbing a Mole. Morph became a brick wall, separating the Chubs and Moles, but both sides attacked him, causing him pain, and forcing him to move out. Dva shielded Missy from rocks thrown by Moles, while moving her away from the fracas. Dva thought that silencing powers may be more useful here, but wanted to get Missy safe first, so needed to be able to protect her. The first death was a Chub, accidently clubbed by another as the other swung for a Mole. Although only knocked unconscious, she was trampled to death by the uncaring battlers. The first Mole death was shortly after, a number of Chubs ganging up on the Mole once his legs had been broken. Unfortunately, many deaths followed, both pointless and brutal. No death was kind. _-~-_ The short war finished before that evening. All too soon, the deaths were too many for either side to bear. The relative number of those killed was small, but those killed were relatives. Although there had been no fighting near it, the great machine had also been damaged. Missy declared it unrepairable, and refused to let anyone see the designs to prove her wrong. With that, and both sides sharing losses, the war was claimed a draw, and the Moles went back to their new village outside the city, to ready for their work they had the next day. In a cafe near the beach, the Alt.Riders quietly drank, ranging from water for Agent to the local equivalent of scumble for the Net.Elementalist. There was a lot of scumble being served. "Did anything get resolved here?" Dva asked. Agent shook his head. "Not really. The Chubs and the Moles now need each other, but then they did before this." "The moles deserve a lot better than these people," Morph said. "These people are users, in the worst way." "I suspect that they've learned something now," Agent said, wryly. "What abou' her?" asked the Net.Elementalist, waving a glass vaguely in Missy's direction, the drink already taking affect. "Our 'mishion'?" Missy was sitting quietly in a chair, staring at the table. She looked up when she heard her name. "She comes back with us," Agent said. "As she wanted to." "You my message got?" Missy asked. She knew how to speak English, learning a lot from the probe, and more from hearing Dva speak, but she didn't have the construction just right yet. "Yes, and now we get to go home." "With me?" "You're our new member," Agent said. "New member?" asked the Net.Elementalist, frowning. "When we get new mem -hik- member?" "We need to be five," Agent said. "Dva only counts as one." "Thanks," Dva said sarcastically. "Why five?" asked Morph. Agent shrugged. "Just one of those things." "How do we get back? The door didn't exactly sticking around," Dva pointed out. "It didn't?" Agent said, twisting in his seat. The others followed his gaze to where they saw a large black portal standing open in a wall. "But... that..." Dva said. "It's just one of those things," the Net.Elementalist and Morph chorused. Guiding Missy, Agent stood up and led the way to the portal. Morph and Dva helped the Net.Elementalist to stand, and then to walk as they made their way over. "I'm glad I'm pished," said the Net.Elementalist, mostly to himself. "'Cos I don't wanna go through that thing again sober." "We made it through all right," Morph said. "Yeah, but who knows where we'll end up this time," the Net.Elementalist said. "Come on," Dva said, giving the Net.Elementalist an extra tug, following Agent and Missy as the blackness swallowed them up. The Alt.Riders left the city of the Chubs as the sun sank slowly, casting a golden light over it, and the party of Moles not too far away. Song floated in the air, originating form the Chubs, but almost Molish: %People must be left alone. Unless they have a happy home.% -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Will the Alt.Riders make it home? They'd better, 'cos I start using a familiar storyline in an arc I call "The Mank of the Man Dragon". All in _The Alt.Riders #6_. Credits: -------- All mine, but a lot of the speeches came from the _Mark of the Mole_ album. Notes: Can you say "compressed timeline"? I thought you could. Can you also "artistic license" and "don't want to spend all life-time on this planet"? :) The first song on _The Tunes of Two Cities_ is about the Chubs, and is called "Serenade for Missy", so that explains something. The album did leave the Moles and Chubs with nothing much resolved after the war. There's supposed to be two further albums about what happens to them, but no sign of them ever turning up any time soon. :( Anyway, the two album covers of _Mark of the Mole_ and _The Tunes of Two Cities_, which show what the Moles and Chubs look like, can be found on the Alt.Riders web page: http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~thad/blip/alt.riders.Back to the Index.