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THE ARICO CHRONICLES

7) The Ruai

Foster Roth was a pleasant guy, lucky as well – pick of the jobs that money could buy, but he still managed to piss off his family. What DID he talk about? On and on, better world, exploitation, and so on. He was quite handsome so he could more or less choose who he wanted, they were lining up for him. Roth and Cooper, Roth and Prock, Roth and Kerswell-Smith, any such match was possible, but he showed no interest. Sure there was the gratuitous sex, but that was his only female interest.

The Roths of Connet Bay were legend, their products alone could have stocked a mansion, yet their “varieties” were also legion. Foster was expected to participate in all that, at least tokenly, but he could see no point.

In the club Saint-John Roth bemoaned his lot, his oldest son was resisting the family line. But worst of all he sounded like the dissidents who disrupted wherever they could – not that there was much chance now. It was just the way it always had been for generations of the Roths. They ran the factories, organised the import and export of materials controlling distribution. Without them who would make the stuff? He got so annoyed when Foster questioned this.

“We do it because we always have done,” Foster propounded “but anyone could – we are not special.”

His father was furious, his ego flapping around, the family had the expertise ordinary people couldn’t have – it was in the genes. That was why it was so important that Foster marry the right stock, to keep the gene pool from being polluted by the kon.

Years ago one of the young Kerswells was famous for playing around with the kon. Meeting after meeting took place as the kons were paid off – as well as the occasional termination. In the end Grant married a kon, they had no choice, the club organised the road accident. Great sadness all round.

Saint-John knew such a fate was possible for Foster, he was walking just this side of the line. Kon marriage was not the issue, but some of the things he said were so worrying – you just didn’t say them. The mother was also a big problem. With the increasing likelihood of the club being involved the more she was causing ructions. Give her her due, she was always on Foster's case, but he was afraid that there might be more than one accident in his family. Such decisions were out of his hands, no man was more powerful than club Ruai.

Meanwhile Foster pursued dubious paths. First he started a farm, a basic farm, no machinery, no pesticides. Many people from university joined him on this farm pooling together sufficient family money to open it. Then to the horror of all at the club instead of this farm being an acceptable but limited commercial operation they discovered that these errants were planning to live there, and live “off the land”. They had to put a stop to this, and the club’s squad had to be called in. Initially a couple of agents joined the errants causing dissent, it was so easy to play on petty jealousies. When the group was at its lowest they set fire to the food storage, and some of the weak-willed returned home disillusioned. Foster was stronger than this but of course he could not run the farm on his own; it gradually died out.

But that was not the end of Foster’s ventures. He began travelling, and began to see some of the poverty the ruai had created. The Roth empire paid extremely low prices for imported goods and forced the local people to grow the crops Roth wanted. For centuries these people had survived famine by skilled agricultural techniques such as crop rotation, crop balance – growing two crops in the same area one feeding nutrients into the land that the other took out. For centuries kon had lived by the desert feeding their tribe, but within 50 years the demands of the Roths for cheap raw materials left them homeless as the desert ate up the land whose nutritional balance had now lost harmony. And what remained free of the raw material policy was finally destroyed by the inflated prices the Roths charged for their manufactured goods that they were forced to buy - the Roths made a condition if they bought the raw materials the government had to buy Roth's exports.

What Foster wanted to do was start his own company to buy the traditional products so that these kon could revert to their traditional practices. But in order for this to work his company would have to be large, and therefore threatening to his family and the rest of the ruai – and even he didn’t feel safe threatening them, family or not. But what he could do was import “crafts”, and sell these crafts to the snobbery in his community. Aaggh, he shouldn’t be so pejorative but he was frustrated – he was doing something but it was nothing compared to the damage being inflicted by Roths et al.

It was during one of his regular downs that it happened. Late at night he couldn’t sleep. His mind wandered first down to the garage where he had just bought his new Presch, then looking around his room – the latest cosma screen, the computer suit sim game that he enjoyed so much – sometimes. The girl next to him, Serene, he was with her but he wasn’t – it was mostly lust and for appearance. His family liked her, her family liked the name Roth; it would work. Nothing was real, nothing mattered, he was sad – he was tempted to jump up and snort – he usually did when the downs came. But instead he stayed with the instability in his mind. He watched it running, and he sensed something chasing it. The mind jumped from Presch, cosma, Serene, the pointlessness of his company, it just jumped. Then it was chased, what? Chasing, chasing. He tried to jump faster but the chasing seemed to be gaining. Trying to jump faster, trying …. faster, faster. Why? What is chasing? He looked back at the chaser. Yellowy-white, it appeared ghost-like. Fear stepped in. The ghost shouted eerily “don’t be afraid”. Didn’t help. It spoke again quietly – and this time he felt no menace. “Foster don’t be afraid, look at me.”

And Foster looked and as he looked the ghostly chaser began a metamorphosis; it became …. Him. Him, Foster. Why was Foster chasing Foster? But he wasn’t, Foster was chasing his mind. There was a light and what seemed like the sound of wedding bells. Mind and Foster were different, he wasn’t his mind. What was he? Foster.

Foster slowed and as he slowed he became one with the chasing figure, and he felt comfortable. But that was not enough, there was more, the chasing figure, Foster, wanted more. As the figure and Foster became one, it started to grow. To begin with the metamorphosis took on Foster’s shape but its outline began to change. Slowly Foster’s frame began to expand. From inside there was force pushing out through his chest, a light started to move out through the top of his head, strange tentacled spirals wove their way out from his toes merging as if coming from his feet, then his arms. The tentacles, the expanding chest, the light from his head started to meet at a distance in one light, this light moved back into his body and out again. Merging, merging, merging, there was only light. The chaser was only light, there was only chaser – light, one light. Oneness.

And he awoke, or he was awoken – shaking. Serene was afraid, she sensed something was wrong, there was a strange feel, almost a glow about Foster and she was deeply worried. He was so still – perfectly still and quiet – a contentment filled his countenance. At the same time he seemed open and cut off, she felt he was open but cut off from her. She wanted to be a part of him but he wouldn’t let her. Frightened she woke him fearing the distance she felt, shaking, shaking ….

At the time she didn’t understand this was the end for them.