About Time

Here comes the new boss…

Well, I’m near death with swine-bird-buffallo flu (by which I mean a minor cold) and so not going to write much, but I can’t let the appointment of Australia’s first female PM pass unmentioned. Shame it was done via leadership upset rather than an election, but it’s still a start.

Now let’s see some movement on asylum seekers, climate change and killing off that internet filter eh?

Tales of Orion – Part III

Now this is just getting out of hand…

Orion lay sleeplessly in bed, listening to the plumbing churn away in the walls. Sickly green light from the city aquarium sign seeped in through the standard-billet-issue blinds, scrawling “Come And See The Dugongs!” in distorted letters across the ceiling.

He’d performed at the opening of the dugong exhibit. They’d even named one of the creatures after him. Well, after Elvis actually, but the thought was there. He’d been popular back then, almost as popular as the dugongs themselves which were generally regarded as wildly charismatic. Orion could never figure out why. They were rather ugly really, and all they wanted to talk about was kelp.

His head still ached, and he couldn’t stop thinking about tea.

Shouts, laughter and cries of “Tally-Ho!” from the street below as the nightly Happy-Joy paraded past. So different to that dreadful year when no one dared be out after dark for fear of the T-Gangs. Ah yes, the T-Gangers with their pinstripe suits, bowler hats and barely contained expressions of savage joy. Gathering in the empty warehouses down on the waterfront to sup from fine china and compare the financial papers, then – suitably refreshed – heading out into the streets in search of anyone foolish enough to be abroad after curfew. The chilling cries of “More tea Vicar?!” and “Freshen your cup?!” would ring out, followed by running feet, terrified screams and the dull, damp thud of umbrellas on flesh.

Dark days indeed.

No one was sure how it started. Megaglobex Corporation News issued hourly statements – many delivered by the very popular Newsreader Number Five – categorically denying NID involvement. The NBBC blamed alien influence, although with the world tea monopoly held firmly in the NUK’s grip they could hardly be trusted. Word on the street spoke of a Tok’ra plot, or the disciples of Steen, or any number of other fringe groups and splinter factions. But when night fell all speculation stopped and anyone with sense cowered in their beds, dreading a knock on the door and plaintive call of “One lump or two Ma’am?”.

The local Runners proving ineffective at containing the menace, the decision was finally made (at – it was rumoured – the highest levels) to send in the SG-Teams. Not even the notorious Threadneedle Boys could stand up to veterans of a hundred offworld conflicts, and the warehouse district went up in a maelstrom of flame. The city reeked of smoke, fish and Lady Grey for days, and years later the docks still hadn’t been rebuilt – a matter most vexing to the Merchant Combos.

Orion sighed. So much death, so much violence, and so little tea.

The Happy-Joy went by again, blowing whistles.

The plumbing finished its growth cycle around 3:00am, and Orion finally drifted off to sleep. Dreaming of dugongs, flames and a howling wolf silhouetted again the full moon.

Tales of Orion – Part II

Heading out into the uncertain zones

Orion slowly regained consciousness, his head spinning. The TV lay on its back, making furious mechanical noises, and the lights were off. He dragged himself to his feet and staggered to the bathroom.

Leaning heavily on the sink he hit the dispensary’s large red button. He winced as the sensor array burst to life and ran feelers of light up and down his body. The data core emitted a series of alien chirps and a heavy ‘clunk’ announced the arrival of a prescription in the hopper.

Orion fished it out. “SGA Approved Super-Lax Bowel Stimulant”.

No…” he moaned weakly.”…I need something for my head…” He punched the button again.

The dispensary repeated its scan.’Clunk’.

He reached into the hopper and pulled out an ominously familiar package. “SGA Approved Super-Lax Bowel Stimulant”.

He pulled himself up and began punching the machine. “I bang! need bang! something bang! for bang! my bang! bang! HEAD! bang!

The dispensary made a series of offended sounding chirps, spat out a small slip of paper and turned itself off. Orion scooped up the note and staggered into the lounge,squinting to read the minuscule type.

“Prescription: Tea”

Tea! He could really use a good cup of tea. But of course tea has been declared illegal after the infamous harbour “tea parties” of ’08. It was still available if you had the right connections – the Invisible Hand or the Big Sur Tong -but it was an age since he’d had that kind of pull. He sighed,remembering. Old Leakie used to smuggle it in via camera seal from the NBBC spy ships. It was salty and tasted faintly of fish, but it was still Earl Grey…

Leakie! Of course! He started across the room, fumbling in his pocket for labour scrip before he remembered. Leakie was gone. Called up and sent to Antarctica as a drone loader. Army boots and ice. There’d be no more seals waddling ashore at Quantico.

He collapsed onto the couch. Even if he had the connections, the savings from his Sanicorp Street Bleach jingle (dancing girls in gleaming white street cleaner’s uniforms,happy borough sanitation workers riding Frank the Friendly Street Sweeping Vehicle, Mr Sanicorp with his slicked back hair singing In these times of fear and doubt, no local committee can be without, the product that makes your sidewalks gleam, Sanicorp’s Street Bleach gets streets clean! still running on late night cable and bringing in a small, intermittent royalty) wouldn’t stretch to more than a few grams. He’d heard Oolong was up to 500 scrip per kilogram.

The Consumption Meter started complaining again. There had to be a better way…

Tales of Orion

It’s all still there if you look for it…

“Arrrgh! I don’t like this show!” moaned Orion, the masked singer. He was always moaning, it annoyed him that people kept mistaking him for Elvis. “Just because I wear a mask and sound like Elvis and use a stage name and started my career just after Elvis died doesn’t mean I’m Elvis!” he used to yell at his fans. Then he’d launch into a hip swinging rendition of “Jailhouse Rock”.

That was when he had fans.

He grabbed the remote and switched from the strange show about talking birds and fish to the Megaglobex Corporation News Channel. The lights dimmed slightly as the TV drew extra power from the lines to properly display the newsreader’s blindingly white teeth.

“In international news the British Royal Family have been revealed as shape shifting interdimensional reptilian aliens from the constellation Draco with the ability to create controllable multiple personalities in their subjects by the repeated broadcasts of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” the NeoBritish Broadcasting Corporation is famous for.”

He smirked. The lights dimmed again.

“A statement from the Millennium Dome Palace on the Isle of Dogs is expected soon, be sure to keep watching Megaglobex Corporation News for the latest developments. Back at home the latest reports from the SGA indicate our brave boys have made major gains in the Gladsheim, Vingilot and Fenris systems, pushing to the brink of defeat the third, fourth and tenth fleets of the Asg…”

Orion switched off the TV. There was nothing on.

A red light began flashing on the Consumption meter by the fridge. Seconds later the scratchy synthesised voice began. “It has been 46 minutes since your last consumption break Mr Presley. Slaves are starving on P3X-6756 because of your poor consumption ratio. You are 325 consumption units behind for this month, failure to consume is an offence punishable under the Guaranteed Consumption act of twenty-oh…”

“I’M NOT HIM!!!!” screamed Orion, lunging at the meter “I’M NOT ELVIS!”

“….with penalties ranging from twelve years imprisonment to penal exile….”

“I’M NOT ELVIS!!!!” he screamed at the ceiling. He jumped up and down waving his fists in the air. The Consumption meter disgorged a flood of consumption pellets, his unconsumed allowance for the month so far. They spilt over the floor and beneath his feet, tripping him up. He collapsed slowly to the ground, banging his head on the TV as he fell. Strangely,his last thoughts before unconsciousness claimed him were of the annoying show with the talking birds and fish…

(We resume normal Eurovision broadcast soon. Probably)

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