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The Crimson Surfer

 

The Crimson Surfer

 

Copyright 2016 Richards Hall and e.

Published by Richards Hall and e. at Shakespir

The Crimson Surfer

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Kara Strand took a good look at the ground and started stomping her foot.

“What now?” asked her sister, K.

“Mr. Strumm,” she explained.

“Dr. Strumm, no?” said K. “Like him or not? Why?”

“Why always so formal?” asked Kara. “I call him doctor to his face. Isn’t that more than enough?”

“I would think people would think you’re being disrespectful. So what’s wrong with the ground today?”

“Strumm boy wants to know what’s on the other side of the EARTH.”

“No, that’s not rude,” said K. “What other side? Isn’t China over there?”

Kara was actually fond of Hermann, putting her in a minority with Franz and Marygold. “Not that side, the inside, behind the edge.”

“Now you believe in edges?

“I’m now open to edge-ness,” said Kara.

“So doesn’t the doctor buy that there is dirt and rock on the other side?”

“He wants to know what’s on the other side of that, too.”

 

|m|*

 

It wasn’t one of those things anyone said, or thought not to say, but Quant City was known as the city of destination. It was understood. Wholly understood.

The understanding began on the Way. The Way as in the speed system of travel. Speedway travel by car for those of you too precious to handle a steering wheel. If you were on the Way, and didn’t know your destination when you were there, now and just then, and again right about now, heaven help you, because drones were out to skin you alive and hang you out as an example. Think micro destinations that you don’t think, as in where your eyes are right now. And again right now. Were you caught thinking? If so, you’re going to need to speed up your game. There’s already a new app available out there that tells you what you’re thinking, in advance.

“Get out of my way,” was the cry of the day. It was pretty packed 24/7.

Quant City, QC, was on the other side of Mount Bossche Bol, as mattered to Kara. What was on the other side of the Mount also mattered to Hermann, but not the QC side. The inside other side of the Mount, as he whiled away wondering over what was between space and absolutely no space.

 

|m|*

 

“My name is Dr. Hermann Strumm,” said Dr. Hermann Strumm, “and I have a voucher.”

The destination was his front door, the next macro destination after the museum in QC, but heck, his front door was in Bossche Bol so we can forget that kind of talk for now, although they were talking about destination at the moment. “Dr. Strumm, it’s your last voucher, and you need to hand it over.” The woman speaking was from the Office of Control, which was better for Hermann than her being straight law, and thus not voucher friendly. Office of Control might sound Kafkaesque, but it decidedly wasn’t.

The thought of surrendering that last voucher gave the doctor pause, permanent pause, on the way, in a way, as he couldn’t very well drive around Quant City without a voucher. Around QC, as on the round Way that encircled it, like an orbit on ground, with off ramps. He moved too slow and he drove too slow. That may sound redundant, but there’s a difference and a connection.

“You can hand it over or pay a K-fine.” A K-fine represented one thousand minutes of wasted travel time by other travelers who’s routes were interfered with by Dr. Strumm’s hesitant driving. The Way was a hellhole of hybrid driving, un-self driven car versus hand/foot driven. Un-self driven was like suggesting taking away your shot gun. I remember the first bumper stickers - you can take away my analogue car the day you pry my grip free from my bloodied steering wheel. Sort of wordy. Phil Rand suggested an Amendment to protect American’s driving rights. He swore up and down the pike he’d take a bus before self un-driven mass transit. ??? Creating road rage was so so so soon an issue of the highest order, even with unintended intent. Hell, I once got a guy so mad his teeth shook loose. EE OO OO, like some kind of monkey on wheels.

Although physically slow, the doctor still had mental speed, speed beyond speed, headed towards transcending. “Aw, shucks,” he said, practically de-transcending. This situation required no braining out. For one thing, the trip to The ArT and SpaCe Museum wasn’t worth his last voucher.

People like Dr. Strumm, financially immortal as it were, along with people who were Dr. Strumm, and just financially immortal enough, couldn’t be hurt with fines, strictly speaking, but pain could still be administered, along with inconvenience. A K-fine represented a time ban, as in a ban from leaving Quant City without a voucher signed for at the court house, in person, which generally meant a four hour wait, the minimum fine if the judge was lenient. Get stopped on the way without a voucher giving you permission to be there for x amount of time at x hour of time, and you could get your car taken away. In point of fact you could get your taken away any old time, voucher or not, but at least you got to stay in your car when they took it away if you had a voucher, in the event you were willing to turn the voucher over. Of course, considering the traffic conditions, one might not get stopped until they got home, thus stopped twice at once, the universe coming undone. Today the steering wheel, yesterday the gas pedal, tomorrow the brake.

And that four hour wait was voucher line wait. Don’t get me started about parking at the court house which wasn’t anywhere near the court house. The K-fine was only the tip of the inconvenience iceberg, then there were the traffic and traffic lights you had to fight through just to get back on the Way and away from Quant City. Quant City was one of those cities of the future that the non-precious wished would have stayed there. You see all those movies with people safely behind city walls, with Quant City safety was provided for those living outside the walls.

Not that Quant City was a place of danger, it was a place of work, without significant danger of your being damaged and marked, but there was pain to be had, and even invisible pain can leave one invisibly marked and damaged. “Ha, chachacha,” the immortals would laugh. When the time came, they’d design artificial invisible marks that could artificially heal, to match invisible space, maybe tacking on a scarf for contrast.

Speaking of which, it was the not so invisible space of the The aRT and sPAce Museum that made it, the museum, such a pain. Imagine a football field twenty yards high, sort of your typical field, except twenty yards high, shaped like a perfectly rectangular cake of soap. Now take that soap cake shape and tack on another bar of the same size, end zone to end zone. Now whatever you were actually imagining the field made of, be it dirt or grass or pom poms or soap, don’t imagine it, just imagine the space that stuff would have occupied, add walls to enclose it, and you had the foyer to The aRt and sPAce Museum. Stark-i-texture Moderne. Dyslexic to say the least regarding human occupancy. It was a near miraculous use of only two football field cakes of space to create the feel of three cake fields. Genius. You could actually feel the space, almost as if you were walking in fresh, moist cake. Mmm, cake. Hermann and Kara never made it to the ARt, and Hermann was so pissed off he mis-drove on the way and got nailed by a traffic drone. He was so surreally angry his teeth appeared to wobble. Some call that talking. Is it talking if no listens?

As such such such, along with being a city of destination, QC was a city of remorse, where people became very familiar with wrong. Right? Not so much. For instance, traffic lights in Quant City had a way of not following the rules, with arrows skipping turns, thanks to hackers. Both hackers for fun and hackers for profit. For instance some more, a guy like Phil Rand had permanent staff on hand for rerouting traffic lights in the off chance he hit the road, behind the wheel or not. All systems were built to accommodate the financial immortals. Hell, how not? That was rule one back before they bothered to write them.

As for ol’ Philly, he was the great, great, not all that great, grandson of Cactus Rand, whom the Cactus Rand Speedway was named after, commonly known as the CRS, or the Curse. NO, not the race track in Virginia.

As for Hermann, who was always on the lookout for an excuse to not go to Quant City, this was not the one he was looking for and he was pissed at being singled out. There is just no satisfying some people.

 

|m|*

 

“Today may not have been the best to visit, Kiki,” said Kara, leading her sister to the kitchen. “Hungry?” she asked.

That was like asking K if she were alive. It wasn’t that she was always hungry, it was that she was always not hungry on Kara’s dime. Kara came to an abrupt stop at the cat, who stood in front of his bowl looking up at her wistfully.

“Eat,” she said.

The cat meowed.

“What is that supposed to be?” asked K, looking at the cat food bowl overflowing with greens, matchstick carrots, a blue-ish pudding-like substance discolored with various dots and specks of other colors, and what was once chunks of crushed ice.

“It’s supposed to be imitation live squirrel,” said Kara. “Try it, you’ll like it,” she said to the cat. The cat meowed again, sniffed, and continued to stand there.

“How,” asked K, pausing to look at the cat, “do you know it tastes like live squirrel?” Had she ever eaten live squirrel? That was wrong every way imaginable. For those who don’t know about Kara, be grateful.

“You will note that Cosmos is tempted to eat. I’m getting closer. Earlier the twigs were moving and he was pawing at it. There’s just a hint of psychedelic mushroom gas as a pre-glaze to get him to think the whole thing is moving and alive. That’s the issue, not the taste. Cats have a never say die appetite for play-ability.”

“AH HA!” K AH HA’d. “You drug everything, don’t you?”

 

|m|*

 

As for walls, edge of tomorrow walls surrounding the place, QC designers were too tactful for that sort of eyesore, that of walls, instead providing the Cactus Rand, for short, or CRS, for politically correct shorter, which served just as well and better, leaving no one looking like a prisoner, just cursed and cursing, which has no look. For someone in no rush, passing under the Way on foot was easy breezy, and thus did the Way become even less of a wall. Well, maybe call it a wall with a basement.

A very ordered man, this way and wall business was a headache for Hermann. He was retiring in nature, and from nature, having long since retired from teaching and running Strumm Laboratories and other enterprises he had been involved with, thus in time creating his financially immortal enough status, which left him out of the voucher system, with no access to more of them. Not natural access.

The objective at hand was obtain the services of a driver, which tied in, at the moment, to order, the order of the Strumm household. He had a loyal cleaning lady in Marygold who couldn’t cook worth a nit. He had an assistant in Franz, who could drive a bit, but no way would on the Way. Recently he hired himself a cook, Kara, who had a lead on a driver for him, but first, Kara had to be squared away. Squared away as in immortally squared, included in the doctor’s estate so as to be protected from the mid to far near future. Dr. Strumm guaranteed the help ten years salary should he die abruptly as long as they held up their end of the bargain.

Although Hermann’s house was good sized, on a reasonable plot of land, one wouldn’t call it an estate, although put it all together, house, land, staff and the doctor, and an estate parasite could feed for years. Hermann didn’t want to do it, but he would have to send for Jon Stalking to come and feast, a worse than worst case scenario, to take care of his cook, if he couldn’t find a better way, or a safe way back on the Way.

That sounds a little nemesis-y motion-like.

*

“Me a driver?” asked K. “Where’d you get that crazy idea?”

“You’re out of work,” said Kara, as K was. There had been some bloodshed that may or may not have had something to do with K, and it was decided it best for her to leave Blight Brewery, as she was already on the Office of Control’s list. It wasn’t as if her father even wanted her working there in the first place.

“Work,” said K. “You want me to work in this house of horrors, alongside you no less.” She still vividly remembered the discomfort in getting down from Hermann’s ceiling. Still, the vividly was something new, and Kara had it too, and Kara was stoked about it. K was not so stoked, as she already had a hyper-natural memory aid. Still, the vividly didn’t detract.

The ‘vividly’, as they called it when being intentionally cryptic, a lesser boom as it were and was, was a clarity of memory, an ability to push aside debris, as it were, to look baaaq closely at a specific memory of choice. Buy that ability on the street and it would cost a pretty penny. And the vividly did make a penny look pretty. Ooh, see all the colors and finger prints.

“You worked alongside me at Blight,” Kara complained. “That didn’t kill you.”

“I didn’t technically work alongside you,” said K. “We didn’t even work in the same building.”

“Still, after what happened wouldn’t you like to have someone like me watching your back?”

For those who haven’t heard because I haven’t told, someone tried to kill K. Shh. For those who’ve heard because they got into my blue wax, I will hunt you down and rip it out. It’s what I do.

Kara was one of those people who always got to the core of things, even when there was more than one core. Get to one and you got the job done. The core Kara always got to was having a job. “You don’t eat, you die, little girl,” she said to K, so regularly she should have had it tattooed on the back of one of K’s hands. Maybe across both of them and up her wrist. She had tiny, little hands.

K always found the chastisement amusing, coming from Kara, because it was so true. True and pure. Although she was also certain eating Kara’s cooking would kill her, so there was really no win win situation. There really was, but not in Kara’s mind, as she didn’t accept that her cooking was toxic.

Sooner than later K found herself in interview status with Dr. Strumm. Kara was on hand for moral support. “Why do you need to be here?” K asked her.

“To help. I know you better than you do,” said Kara.

There’s just no answer to that type of remark and K glared until she grew weary of it.

“You understand the situation?” asked the doctor. “I will not give up the wheel, even if it means handing it off.”

That was another one of those remarks K couldn’t respond to. It was no mystery the doctor and her sister got along so well.

“Kara says you’re quite the accomplished driver.”

“Anything with pedals her feet can reach,” Kara chimed in.

K opened her mouth but nothing came out. She in fact had quite the thing when it came to making anything move.

“She used to steal my bicycle all the time, even before she could pedal it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, that’s Kiki all over.”

“That’s exactly the drive I’m looking for,” said Hermann. “I, of course, don’t warrant a personal driver, not as an employee. I’m not sure Strumm Motors even needs a driver, as a driver.” Strumm Motors was an enterprise Hermann would never fully retire from, serving as designer emeritus. “But we could stand having our own icon of the intrepid traveler. It’s almost inconceivable that we don’t have one.” Yes, like a parts driver.

“Been there, done that,” said K.

“Say what?” asked Hermann.

“Intrepid traveler. It’s been played.”

“I don’t follow what you’re talking about. I’m just saying that’s what you would represent, it’s not a title. You would be the woman behind the wheel.” WoW OH WoW OH WoW.

“So where would I travel?”

“Nowhere. Everywhere. To the airport.”

“The doctor lost his driving privileges,” Kara explained.

That brought Hermann to a halt. He most certainly had not lost his driving privileges. It was losing his car that concerned him, and that would really bring him to a halt. It wasn’t the loss of a car, though, it was the loss of a specific car, even for a short while. The Strumm Transcender. There were all sorts who’d like to get their hands on one just to see what made it tick, although the select few who owned them weren’t having any luck on that end. “I have not,” he eventually said.

“On the Way,” Kara clarified.

“The Cactus,” Hermann further clarified. “Let’s say it’s becoming risky for me drive it and getting worse.”

Indeed. It seemed the Analogue Fringe couldn’t be killed off and they were reinventing transportation, returning hands-on steering to one’s way. It seemed doing what could be done had issues when up against stopping what couldn’t be undone.

 

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The Crimson Surfer

  • Author: Richards Hall
  • Published: 2016-04-26 14:35:06
  • Words: 3078
The Crimson Surfer The Crimson Surfer