12 Positioning

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Stephen Whiteside
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12 Positioning

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Tue Dec 27, 2011 7:57 am

12 Positioning

© Stephen Whiteside 27.12.2011

Hocus had the same thought at the same time. And it made him feel sick. Literally. He suddenly found himself turning away from the console and dry retching.

The problem was not that Pocus could not spend the night on his ship. He could. The problem was that it would cost Hocus his job with Curmudgeon. There was no way he could pull it off without being detected. And what would happen then? Would he be instantly dismissed and thrown into confinement? Would he be allowed to continue his duties until they had reached their destination? And what would his punishment be?

After a time, he pulled himself together. Right now it was a matter of life and death for Pocus. And that came first. It was unthinkable that he should sit on his hands and allow his brother to die. His twin brother. His identical twin brother. No, there was nothing for it. He must do all within his power to save Pocus’ life, and let the cards fall as they will. Besides, it didn’t look good to the Curmudgeon scanners for him to be dry retching on duty without an explanation. So, no. It was back to work. Business as usual. He must maintain his normal routines to do all within his power not to arouse suspicion. One thing was in their favour. He would be off-duty by the time that night fell for Pocus.

At the end of his shift, Hocus raced back to his room, and began another meld. This time, it was his turn to interrupt. Pocus was not so unwilling as he had been, though. He sensed Pocus’ fatigue. His jerky movements. His anxiety.

I’m going to bring you all aboard here tonight.

Can you do it? Can you really do it? There are thirteen of us, including me. Do you have room for us all?

Plenty of room. Don’t worry about that.

What about you?

Hocus thought about lying, but it was impossible to lie during a mind meld.

It will cost me my job.

Sorry about that. No way around it?

None at all. Trust me, I’ve given it a lot of thought.

But you can still do it?

Yes. I can do it once. I won’t be able to do it a second time, but we have surprise in our favour.

Six hours. We need six hours.

No worries. You’ve got them. What do you want? 23 degrees C?

Sounds like paradise. It’s about 2 here, and dropping fast.

Arrangements were made. Hocus needed them all to be standing still. Clear air would be ideal, too. Say, standing on a hill top above the tree line. He didn’t know what Pocus was going to tell the touring party. That was his problem.

Pocus didn’t know what he was going to tell them, either. He decided to tell them nothing. He would lure them into a good position, and leave it to Hocus to do the rest.

As the time approached, Pocus found himself and his party labouring up yet another steep hill. To their left burbled the river. As the ridge-top approached, Pocus had an idea.

“I need to get my bearings a bit”, he announced to one and all. “We need to head back to the river so we can get a good look at the valley.”

“We’ll stay here for you,” called one of the tourists in reply.

“No. We need to stick together. I want you all to come with me.”

“The river’s only about a hundred metres away. It’ll only take you ten minutes. We’re not going to get lost.”

“No. Sorry. We’re sticking together. Rule number 1 in a situation like this.”

The tourists eyed each other suspiciously, but fell in line. They trooped along the ridge-top, and broke free from the scraggy vegetation about twenty metres before the rock dropped vertically down to the water. It didn’t feel safe up there in the darkness. The moon took the edge of things, sure, but visibility was hardly ideal. What was their illustrious leader up to? He’d been behaving oddly all day. He wasn’t going to push them all off, was he? Individuals began to edge slowly back to the relative safety of the bushes.

“Stay here!” he commanded. “It’s important that you all stay with me, standing on this rock.”

Something about the urgency in his voice determined that they would indeed do as they were told. He conveyed a sense of authority that, to be honest, had been lacking all day. Without knowing why, they lined up standing to attention beside Pocus, all huddled close together. Each began to feel a strange warm feeling running through their body.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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