• Guy Martyr

'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 11.

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

La Dolce Vita instalment 11 of 20


Gary the mechanic. Things had been getting hairy for Gary, so the call up had come as something of a relief. His carriage repair workshop which he had set up as his make-or-break solo venture was not doing well. He didn't know why, but carriage owners didn't seem to trust a non-corporate enterprise. He had of course been aware of this constraint when he embarked on the venture, but had felt the time was right to reintroduce the 'factor X' of human contact, rather than the faceless machine of corporate efficiency. Besides, his boss, the corporate monster for whom he had been working, was a right bastard, whose guts he hated; he had to get out.

One of the problems with setting up an independent workshop was getting hold of the chips - long gone the days when carriages required merely tools for their upkeep: computer chip access, diagnostics, and constant running equilibrium dominated the industry. A 'mechanic' 's job amounted essentially to diagnosis and replacement: all parts were relatively cheap, coming in finished assemblies made in the east, all en-chipped, and en-crypted. Nothing would work without the correct priming chips, and these were only allowed, by the carriage manufacturers, into the hands of the main official workshops.

A few independent workshops survived, even flourished: indeed the industry regulator had insisted at the last Treaty that a certain percentage of workshops must be independent, and so had the manufacturers' tight fingers been prized apart, a few chips let fall. Highly prized they were.

Gary, though, had got his chips the other way: while working on the night shift, he had brought his own disc recorder which he used to fix under the bonnet of the carriage on which he was working: this device picked up the information on the vehicle chips slowly, over the hours of the night, unnoticed, and which he then took home under the guise of a personal disc entertainer. At home he entered the information into his chip-reconstruction-filter programme, a nice piece of software available from a catalogue selling lots of useful, semi-legal items.

Unfortunately the software had not been that good: his chips were OK, but not fantastic, ie, they didn't always work. There is nothing more frustrating than standing before a pristine carriage, resplendent with new parts, completely immobile and unwilling to start. Not a sign of life. Its mother board in a total strop, not lighting a light, not a murmur from the motor. Having to get the de-bugger in to check the thing over, try to get it going, eating up your profits.

"What've you been chipping this with, then?" shaking his head, applying his connectors.

"Just get it going."

"I can get you some genuine chips." But they would have cost too much.

Then he was investigated after a sweep: one of the detector vans picked up his signals, saw the glitches in the sine waves flagging up illegal processor activity.

All in all, a mess.

The business of Victoria was nagging at Horatio: since Wylie had passed on that message from her, he had been nagged again by, well, jealousy. Where was she? What did Wylie have to do with

her?

Horatio knew he must act.

With great resolve next morning he stormed into Sergeant Peters' quarters.

But no one was there! They had all gone, disappeared like ghosts into the desert sand.

No clues were left behind.


Back in camp proper, the phone rang for Horatio: "You can release all the prisoners."

Lorries came; prisoners were loaded up; they departed.

Horatio and his men had half an hour to pack up, before a transport aircraft arrived.

Horatio took a last look at the gathering of tents, the huts, the fence, the lighting towers, as he entered the aircraft.

It took off.

"Sir, is it true we're being de-commissioned?" Inside the aircraft Horatio opened his Orders, handed to him by one of the air crew. He read quickly . . .

"Yes. But we're to be on seven days' notice, in case we're called up again."

Groans.

"They always say that; they never do though," Simon said. "Both my brothers had the same."

That seemed to satisfy all.


9.


Back home in London, Horatio walks with a spring in his step: he is completely free of responsibilities. He is now Released from Service 'subject to Recall' as of early that morning at the airport. He traipses now his stamping ground: down to the shops to buy some breakfast, drinking in the mundane scene, feeling fresh as a daisy.

London is sunny; quiet, as always, and sunny.

Horatio's mind turns to work - to what would he be assigned now? - and to Victoria, not at home - where is she? He could ring her parents - her mother, as Daddy was always at work - but prefers to try other avenues first.


A message on his computer read: "Data server investigation in progress" as he tried to log on at home. Nice of them to tell me, though of course they have to. What was he being investigated for? He remembered the disc; David's bloody disc. Where was it? Bloody thing. He hunted round the room - was it with the entertainment discs? the information discs? the fiction discs? Safely hidden, anyway . . . Horatio found it eventually, on the mantelpiece, under an invitation card, inviting 'Vicki' to Simon and Caz's for dinner, 'to console you while hubby is at war'. When was that? Last night! She must have stayed over. Horatio didn't like Simon, or Caz, or their friends: all a bit smarmy, a bit sharp, too much gloss. But his own business was at hand, so he let the card drop and picked up the disc, and placed it centrally on the mantelpiece, and stared at it. What to do . . .

Horatio sat back with a cup of coffee and contemplated the disc: he applied his mind to the solution of a problem; he was good at this, if he could be bothered. Apply yourself, and a solution will come.

He stared; his mind began to flow, a kind of stream of consciousness, a technique gained in India, like karmic yoga. Horatio hadn't made it to London straight after university, to get his architecture off the ground: he should have, of course, paying due homage to the metropolis, there, or somewhere similar, Frankfurt, New York, Sydney; but instead he had gone to India to expand his consciousness: to the guru le Korbu. le Korbu was not an Indian, but he who was regarded as the great architect, if not quite yet the Great Architect, who, after exercising almost definitive influence on the world of Architecture and beyond for decades, had taken off to live in a cave. Indeed, no one was entirely sure where the cave lay, those who had been to pay homage having affected vagueness as to its whereabouts on their return. But India was deemed the place to start. Horatio had had a little more to go on: his best - pretty well his only - friend at university, Ravi, from Calcutta, had a cousin who knew a man etc etc, so off, and months later the donkey eventually deposited him before the mouth at the feet of guru le Korbu. le Korbu must have been ready for another young student: he had been standing before his cave dressed simply in white, bare foot, old, exhuding calm and contentment and wisdom. Horatio spent two days just lying at the portal, not allowed, not doing, not admitted, nor wishing to enter. le Korbu appeared now and then with a bowl of food or some water, spoke a few words and left. If Horatio looked like he was about to speak, doubtless to ask something, le Korbu would put up a hand calmly to stop him.

On the third day, as the sun was setting, le Korbu came out to sit by Horatio. They gazed together into the distance. "You may go now," said le Korbu, and that was that.

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