Nanthology – The Monitors

Nanowrimo is a compelling challenge to write 50,000 words during November: that’s an average of 1667 words per day. My plan is to write a set of 30 short stories each 1667 words long instead.  Each story comes from a prompt, a lot from fellow bloggers.

MY NANTHOLOGY

Day Twenty-One

2015-10-24 12.03.32

This picture was supplied by the Textiliste; she saw it attached to a tree in one of our local parks. And this story links to previous stories in the Nanthology: Mrs Pickwick Takes a Chance (Day one) and I Am Death (Day 9)

The Monitors

‘That you Colin?’

‘Oh hi, Andy. Just a mo while I pin this.’

‘I didn’t know you had a dog.’

‘We didn’t until a month ago. After old Mrs Pickwick disappeared the warden in her block, Mary, asked if we could take it. The old dear would have hated it in kennels.’

‘Peggy? Didn’t she call it Seed or something?’

‘Pollen. Stupid name frankly so changed it.’

Andy nodded. ‘When did it go missing?’

‘That’s bizarre. One minute she’s sniffing by the dustbin, next gone.’

‘Kidnapped maybe? They say there’s a real trade in pedigree dogs.’

‘Can’t say I’m sorry but Mandy says we need to try and find it. I suppose she feels we owe it to the old girl.’

‘Have you heard any more? Really odd her disappearing like that?’

*

‘So class, what does this picture show us?’

‘A Class B Monitor on Planet Earth.’

‘Good. Who knows why the Monitor has shape-shifted to a solid form and why that form?’

‘Humans are the dominant species on Earth though that judgement is challenged in some quarters, preferring dolphins and…’

‘J, you’re rambling.’

‘Sorry Miss. Humans are carbon based so only interact with similarly solid forms. The Monitor was chosen…’

‘Carbon, Miss? Is that unusual?’

‘Yes, K, very. Most known life forms are either silica or hydrogen based due to the gravitational mix of habitable planets most likely to support the evolution of intelligent life. Earth is one of a handful with a single sun, thereby combining a sufficient atmosphere with moderate gravity. The limitations are readily apparent: silica is more robust and survival more likely; hydrogen, the base of all of the most advanced forms is infinitely flexible allowing transference and recolonization of planets and now time and space travel over great distances. Back to you J. Why this form?’

‘Dogs are the most trusted other mammal within the compass of the human. They are allowed close, fed and feted. A dog has a greater chance of accessing the most private of places and, most importantly, conversations.’

‘Why not re-form as another human?’

‘Other humans aren’t so trusted. Guards, especially thought-guards aren’t invoked around dogs while, with other humans especially those to whom the target is closest, the thought guards are set at their strongest.’

‘Excellent.’

*

Andy and Colin circled the park. ‘Did you know her flat has been completely cleaned out?’

‘Oh. Rapacious relatives was it?’

‘Apparently not. She’s divorced – her husband moved abroad last year after her son died. Tragic that. Then her sister died a short while ago. Apart from a wastrel of nephew and he’s disappeared abroad there’s no one else. It could turn anyone’s mind.’

‘You think she topped herself? Blimey. Mind you, the people who run her flat are a bit keen if they want if for another tenant.’

‘Mary plays golf with Martine and she was saying they know nothing about it. Bit embarrassing for them really. Makes it look like the place isn’t well managed.’

‘Very odd. And now the dog. Maybe they’ve been taken by aliens?’

‘Right. Fancy a coffee?’

*

‘Your homework is to consider the role of the Monitor. Use the Earth example as a case study. Details of the Human monitored by the Class B in the picture will appear in your mind-downloads on exiting.’

J and K drifted outside. They intermingled in a tendril-mist-massing and floated into the branches of a cherry tree. ‘She’s so dull. Why do we have to concentrate on Monitors? Interveners are so much more exciting.’

‘Next term, K. If you pass your exams. Let’s have a look and see if we can’t get this out of the way. There’s a Mist forming later and I heard there’s a new molecule amalgamation planned.’

The students opened the study-box. Penny’s picture faded and was replaced by details of Mrs Pickwick.

‘Why would anyone monitor this human? She’s just a cleaner. Earth is so dull.’

The other gaseous mind nodded. J opened up a second study-box. ‘Oh look here. There’s more to this. I think we should do some research.’

K tugged itself loose. ‘Well I’m going to join the Mist. You coming?’

But J was already delving deeper into Mrs Pickwick’s background.

*

‘The Pickwick sisters were some team.’ The man behind the desk, known to the others in the room as the Principal but whose real name was Frank Wormhold put down the folder. Paper was still safest for the ultra-top secret stuff. ‘Status?’

‘One dead and one missing. The death was natural causes. There is no evidence of foul play. The disappearance has us completely foxed. We can trace her to Christchurch Harbour but after that nothing. We know of three boats that set sail that evening but so far nothing.’

‘Should we be worried? Foreign power involvement?’

‘We don’t think so. Marjory Dongle – the one who died – worked mostly on major crime. Claire, who has disappeared fronted as a cleaner and had the more significant role in interstellar message interpretation.’

‘It says ‘translator’?’

‘Yes. She was a genius at unpicking radio broadcasts picked up from around the galaxy. One of a handful trusted to understand the ramifications.’

‘Ramifications?’

‘That there is intelligent life out there. And it’s not always friendly.’

‘Why was she in Christchurch, for god’s sake?’

‘Her cover was approved at the highest level.’

‘This is a mess.’

*

‘So class. What have we found out?’

J triggered an attention string. ‘Miss, why was Monitor B with that particular human?’

‘Anyone? No? Didn’t you look at the records?’

‘But it made no sense. She listened to space messages. Surely that’s a good thing, knowing what’s going on?’

‘Take a step back. Why are we monitoring any aspect of human behaviour?’

K joined the string. ‘It is duty of the Blessed to ensure the survival and eventual development of all intelligent life forms in the Universe to ensure they achieve their maximum potential.’

‘Good. But what makes these life forms different?’

‘I… oh they’re carbon based.’

‘Exactly. So what do we know about carbon life forms?’

Silence.

‘Oh come on you lot. Think.’

‘They’re solid…’

‘Yes, go on.’

‘But so are silica.’

‘Ok so what’s the main difference? Indeed with hydrogen forms too.’ After a moment the teacher smoothed the anxiety building in the Class Cloud. ‘Shh, this is advanced. Let me ask some questions, see if we can get there. Do Silica life forms travel?’

‘Durrh, no. They can’t. They’re part of the planet.’

‘So how do we know about them?’

‘Thought transference.’

‘Just as we are doing now.’

‘But we can travel too.’

‘Yes but only as a gas.’

J stumbled before he joined the string again. ‘You mean their solid mobility is the issue?’

‘Precisely. Off you go and research carbon life forms and their major differences. Look at the Prnggh of Caspian Three.’ She paused. ‘And K, you need to realign your molecular amphitheatre – it’s a bit lopsided after the Mist Mingling.’

*

Principal Wormhold secured the line; representatives of fourteen major nations, all with the highest security clearance came on the line one by one. This was one of those calls you hated to have, preferring it to be someone else to confess to a mess.

‘Ladies, gentlemen, you will all have received the briefing note. As of 30 minutes ago we have no clear picture of where our translator has gone. The circumstances are suspicious and we cannot rule out some form of kidnap.’

A light flashed, seeking the right to interrupt. Great, thought Frank. The bloody Russians. ‘Yes?’

‘You need assistance finding her?’

‘I imagine…’

‘Only I am authorised to inform you we know her whereabouts.’

If there could be a stunned silence on a conference telephone conversation this was it.

‘You do?’

‘Old habits die hard, Frank. We have been monitoring Mrs Pickwick, as we have all your assets. Like you do ours, eh Tony?’

The American light flashed. ‘Dimmy’s right, Frank. And for the record, we’ve been monitoring her too.’

‘Great. Anyone else?’

A chorus of affirmations filled the air.

‘Marvellous. So who’d like to tell me where she is?’

‘About fifteen miles south of the Isle of Wight…’

‘But…’ Frank scratched his chin. ‘That’s the middle of the Channel.’

‘And, um, 40 metres down.’

*

‘So, how did we do?’

‘They can’t travel far and nowhere near the speed of light.’

‘So…’

‘They can’t re-colonise easily.’

‘Sure but what does travel do?’

‘Gives you cramp.’

The class tittered. Gas cramps from superfast movement were extremely painful and only avoided by mass ingestion of narcotics.

‘It introduces you to other life forms, other intelligences and…’

‘You learn stuff!’  The class buzzed. They fed off their teacher’s excitement.

‘Exactly. Without the ability to travel, to explore, to move on you repeat the mistakes of your past. Without learning from others your focus narrows. It’s like mental inbreeding and all sorts of flaws are repeated and regurgitated. Any idea what that can lead to?’

The class knotted and teased itself, sharing thoughts and ideas. Their teacher smiled; they were learning to share thoughts – this lesson string had been so useful in their development. K’s thought interrupted her. ‘They fight.’

‘Excellent K. They experience Armageddon. That’s why we monitor them. We do as little as we can until it looks like mass destruction is inevitable and then, well, we nudge them.’

‘How do we decide who to shadow?’

‘Good question. People who can influence. The human in question was one of seven who have begun to understand the interstellar messages. However, as a species, humans aren’t ready to know for sure other intelligences exist so we have been keeping tabs on their progress…’

‘But that’s stupid; why would they be the only intelligent ones?’

‘Until you know it, it is difficult to imagine it.’

‘So why did we stop monitoring the human and bring the Monitor home?’

‘Oh dear, is that the time? I think we need to move on to creative thought couplings and how to enhance you orbital exigencies…’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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19 Responses to Nanthology – The Monitors

  1. Ritu says:

    How do you manage it Geoff! Brilliantly strange!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sci-fi! – You turned a mystery into sci-fi! It’s so great 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gordon got there first. My thought was wonderfully weird. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, this is new. I really like it. You were going to say “mice”, right? Before the teacher interrupted him…dolphins and mice? 😉 This was wicked fun. So long and thanks for all the fish.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was mind boggling, Geoff. I’ve no idea where you get stories from like this. All I can say is that I wish I had a mind like you. I loved the link to the previous Mrs Pickwick story. However, my main question is “Is Toby one of those Monitors?” I hope not 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Nanthology – Derek Dongle: Uncowed | TanGental

  7. Charli Mills says:

    Cramps! Brilliance and humor go hand and hand in your writing.

    Like

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