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KOLOK'S DISTRESS

Ch5 The Apprentice

Some time after Daasur’s first visit, the bpiiernal observer mission arrived on Kolok. It was a mission but it was just two sensoids, Daasur and Daasur’s apprentice Sommwa – with their transporter Heffans, of course.

Daasur had mixed feelings. Sommwa was so fresh, she loved that in her/im. Occasionally there was a moment between them and Daasur felt the dynamism of youth that wants to learn – sensoid nature in its prime. But her/is enthusiasm was such hard work, always with the questioning – and far too many times questions that Sommwa should be answering for her/imself. Daasur knew this was age, but being aware of this didn’t make this problem go away.

She had developed some methods to make their contact less stressful – blasting in her/is face was not one of them even though she did lose it one time. In her day young sensoids took on a problem, puzzled and puzzled, solving the problem or accepting that they could give up. Now sensoid problems became shared problems first, they were “discussed” together, and more often than not a shared solution was arrived at. So there was a clash of methodologies, Sommwa shared first whilst Daasur wanted her/im to reflect. There was a middle way but it was stressful finding that balance.

Daasur was here to teach Sommwa about moments. She imagined that Sommwa might try to go head first and get blasted. This was not productive for sensoids as in the long-term it caused burnout and worse. In burnout they never lost their ability to take moments but it was well-known that some sensoids just refused to go on missions ever again – they could not face the brash contacts; this lack of activity could lead to dire consequences. Sommwa had that potential because s/he was so keen.

Daasur had worked with Sommwa back home on Baiita but of course they had long learned to take moments safely. But learning in school was always protected, now was the time for Sommwa to learn on a new gaia where s/he was not protected. After settling Daasur asked Heffan to take them to see Kolok’s natural beauty. For days they visited the extreme lands where nature had been left alone; they were staggering. Sommwa thought back to her time on Baiita with her parents, it was part of every Baiitian’s upbringing to learn where they came from. S/he had learnt of ancestors, how they had contributed to the development of the modern harmony in Baiitia, and how when they went back further their ancestors were part of the problem.

Like many Baiitians of their time Sommwa’s ancestry had accepted greed, their sensoid abilities were used to increase ownership and wealth. They had owned land, built on it, turned the land into symbols of wealth. Rather than being the land they walked on they became disconnected choosing an agreed symbol of unnatural beauty – supposed beauty. They applied their sensual connection to fashion dwellings that mirrored the stars, luxury and a disconnected character in which modern Baiitians could not see the attraction. These errant memories were recorded and held in the museums to ensure that the young knew their ancestry, knew how conditioning could take hold, and knew how the dispossession cycle – disconnectedness, conditioning, separation, attachment, greed, delusion, egotism, accumulation and destruction – could take over their society.

Once they knew of ancestry – in Sommwa’s case – also knowing how later generations had contributed to the development that brought them back in harmony with Baiitia, the young learnt the value of their gaia and the natural law that required harmony and sustainability. This was mainly boots on the ground as much of her childhood was spent exploring her gaia seeing how the gaia benefitted the Baiitians. They would walk the lands of Baiitia where their primal life-form had no interaction. S/he would walk the earth where their species had no interaction, touching the earth and feeling the Real. Knowing her history, knowing Baiitians relationship and eventually learning to feel the Real there was no way she could allow any form of separation to exist in her/is life.

It was this strong groundedness together with her compassion that eventually led her to be wandering Kolok with Daasur. As Heffans found beauty and beauty they could would stop and admire, not being Talak their sensoid bodies couldn’t touch the earth – they could not feel the Real. But they were still able to connect in moments so there was some understanding of Kolok. After their travels Sommwa was so full of awe – it was not Baiitia but there was beauty here, a beauty Talaks could take pride in and enjoy.

That is why the next day was such a shock for her as Daasur asked Heffans to take them to Mangalut. As they approached the beauty became sporadic as farm buildings gave way to blocks of houses, power plants and industry, and finally a centre of tall building and shops.
br> "How can they have created such ugliness on such a wondrous gaia?" Soomwa asked Daasur rhetorically. Daasur remained silent, no answer was wanted and the silence brought with it learning. As they moved from building to building along streets covered in concrete Sommwa asked “Where is the earth? How do they touch the earth?”

S/he had felt the longing to touch on their travels around Kolok but this was not her gaia, she assumed these Talaks would know their own connection. Then the lectures on the dispossession cycle struck home, and it started to mean more than a distant history or words for a qualification.

“Daasur, I know I am new but how can you say that Kolok’s distress is not founded when you look at the atrocity that Talaks call Mangalut?” blurted out Sommwa critically, s/he was almost crying. But it just washed over Daasur, these youngsters, first bit of pain and they think they know everything, she thought. For a few days they drove through different cities so that Sommwa had the full picture – s/he had to learn, the pattern was much the same. Huge conglomerations of buildings and destruction of Kolok, then there was a gradual return to the earth followed by gentle sprawl that led up to further accumulations of building and Talaks.

Finally Daasur answered Sommwa’s atrocity plea, “This is an atrocity,” Daasur told her/im. “When you look around Kolok is totally correct, this Talak destruction is horrific. But I can tell you this, I have seen worse and the gaia turned it around; there was no need for Council intervention.” She looked at Sommwa, and there was no sense of acceptance.

“Now we are going to see the positive side of the Talaks, those upon whom we can trust to do gaia’s wish in the end,” she continued reassuringly. Again the look on Sommwa’s visage remained stern, s/he simply said “you are older and wiser, I will listen”; the words were correct, the feeling wasn’t.

*****

Laura begrudgingly walked into the renunciation bureau with Betos. There was absolutely nothing wrong with what she was doing – helping Betos renounce, but it was like walking into the palace of judgement. Superior people with attitudinal egos far huger than anything they could possibly merit – if a merited ego were a legitimate concept - sat behind desks of authority. All that Laura saw was a process of intentional demeaning. There was an appointment that they arrived in time for but no-one met them, they waited and waited – as was the intention. Laura’s irritation was far stronger than any fear Betos had, he was being shamed by the process and she was irritated. Why would they make renouncement harder than it already was, but then she knew the arrogance of these people. The whole process made her more sympathetic to Betos, and ultimately that was something she didn’t want to feel.

Eventually his name was called, and heads were turned at the mention of Nazarian, a name that had such systemic power.

“My name is Ms Prindingle,” she announced with such detachment and formality- it was an intentional slight. “There are a number of legal formalities I must go through so that high-priced lawyers cannot negate this renouncement process,” she announced – almost with a snarl. She was right of course, thought Laura, the first thing the Nazarians will do is try to find some legal mechanism to negate the renouncement – to protect the pennies of their inordinate wealth. It was Betos’ privilege but he was not misusing it here, in fact the opposite he was returning his privileged benefits to the community. She knew betos, he was not arrogant about his privilege – it was just something he was born with. The conditioning he’d received all encouraged him to flaunt privilege as a weapon but in Betos’ case it was always the opposite, whatever he gained from privilege he used to help others. And he was always willing to apologise. In his place Laura would have felt anger about doing the right thing, and yet always being tarnished by a stereotype – a stereotype that was being rejected.

The legal stuff dragged on so Laura felt some sympathy for the repetitiveness that must have been part of Prindingle’s daily routine. But then again she was probably stupid enough to believe that law was there for justice and fairness as opposed to a tool to support the Taj. One rule for the rich and one for the poor was not an unfortunate corollary of the legal system it was the essence. She can’t imagine Prindinkiwinkle had worked that out.

Then there was paperwork that legally made him a renounced Taj, a Talak again if you will. It specified the limits of wealth that he could bring with him, and to be fair, thought Laura, they were reasonable – more than most Talak could afford but far less than what he was used to. And it noted any gifts he must declare, not much point in renouncing if Daddy gave you a yacht for your birthday and a roller for Xmas. There was nothing Betos had not already come to terms with, and he readily signed. “Good luck in your new life, Talak,” signed off Ms Prinvipvanwinkle, and they left ready for the next more difficult step. She remembered the discussion.

“Your parents, go with you to your parents,” she shouted at him “the liberal prigs of the renouncement bureau is bad enough but your parents. No way,” she was determined. A Taj renouncing had enough ego to cope with but the egos of those who had not – far worse.

“They will blame me,” she banged on at him again “you know they will.”

“I will make it clear that it is my decision,” he defended himself.

The anger went on a while but it was always going to be hot air, she had her duty and would do it however distasteful.

But it just wasted emotion. From the renouncement bureau they went straight to his parents where both were civil and loving.

These were nice Talak, thought Laura for a moment. They didn’t blame her, didn’t attack their son – just accepted his decision.

“How did you know?” asked Betos, smiling as Laura looked with surprise at him.

“Source at the renouncement bureau,” answered his father “the appointment system gives us time to get our affairs in order so there is little damage.”

“Of course there would be something in place,” Betos mused “no wonder you’re not upset.”

“We are,” jumped in his mother “don’t kid yourself about that. After all we have given you ….” She drifted off into silence as his father threw her a glance. “But we were prepared …. You have already rejected so much of our heritage, renouncement is no surprise.”

There was silence, the sort of silence that often occurs when disagreeing generations are forced to be together. They shared an obligatory meal and as they left his mother said “you are always welcome, given this,” and she held up the parental copy of the renouncement agreement with disdain.

There was silence in the car on the way home until eventually Betos broke it with “not as bad as I thought”. Laura looked quizzical but was dropped off somewhat shell-shocked.

Daasur knew of Laura, and had chosen the renouncement as a positive Kolok experience asking Sommwa to take moments of Laura and Betos during the process. Daasur did not know that Sommwa also took moments of Ms Prindingle and Betos’ parents. The next day after Sommwa had time to process the moments they met for a “discussion”.

“Laura has opened her connection with Kolok, it is still partially blocked but there is sufficient connection there for the gaia to express herself hopefully in the end leading to unity of purpose,” Sommwa began with her/is assessment of Laura, and then s/he judged Betos, “Betos is far from this. There is a pinhole light in his darkness. I don’t know whether he will be able to connect but there is a possibility.” Daasur was pleased, these assessments were close to what she wanted, surely this apprentice can now see that Kolok is not in the distress she feels. But that was far from the truth. Sommwa was covering up the distaste that s/he felt with the other three moments. Ms Prindingle was actively repressing any connection with the gaia. It was clear that during her conditioning phase she had had the opportunity to connect with gaia - a good upbringing, but instead of making such a connection she rejected it and held to her ego blocking any hope of connection unless she rejected ego. And there was no evidence that ego-dissolving would happen.

But whilst this moment was distasteful the moments of the Nazarians had rocked her/im to the core. Both had tremendous gaiac responsibility because of their accumulation, Sommwa could feel the potential for deep and meaningful connection there in both. But instead of the compassion that came with connection there was such a feeling of nastiness present in both. Links that naturally flowed out to other Talaks were blocked off preventing compassionate connection, and each decision they made compounded this break All that mattered to them was accumulation, and this had such little meaning. What is worse is that the responsibility to gaia was converted to this accumulation leaving gaia’s path unfulfilled. To a sensoid this was such a deeply unsettling sense of imbalance it brought with it great doom. Sommwa was just left with the feeling how can Kolok survive if there are more of these Taj? And she was left with great doubts about her mentor, Daasur, who accepted this. Maybe Daasur had avoided such moments, tired and old? Or was s/he just being young and too critical?

“Now that you have taken moments of Laura and Betos, and we have an agreed assessment, I want us to go and meet a great Talak, Yanus, in action,” Daasur announced. Keeping up the pretence, Sommwa smiled, and they went with Heffans to where Yanus was giving a talk.

They arrived to observe a Green New Deal conference at which Yanus was the main speaker. To take a moment it was more accurate if they could find the person alone; as Yanus was the main speaker this was going to be very difficult. They watched the Talaks as they moved together in the arena, there was a good feeling about this place. Suddenly a huge flag came into Sommwa’s attention, there was danger. Focussing on the danger s/he looked to find the source. Danger! Danger! Danger! The feeling increased as she neared the source. This danger was not going away and it was moving towards Yanus. S/he just knew that s/he had to end this danger. S/he linked with the source, and s/he pulled out the danger and replaced it with atama. There was such a relief as she felt the danger dissipate. She took a moment with the source of the danger, and there was such a sense of peace within the source she could feel the new connection with gaia. This occurred in such a brief instant of time that with the danger averted she returned unnoticed to Daasur who was still looking for an isolated instant to take a moment with Yanus. Eventually they had their chance, and yet again Sommwa was able to tell Daasur that the person she had chosen had a deep connection with the gaia, Kolok. Daasur had missed the danger that Sommwa had alleviated but Daasur had also missed the cardinal sin she had committed by giving Lance her atama. For Sommwa it had been almost instinctive to relieve the danger, she felt an instant change in herself but what did it mean?

Lance had been called to a meeting with his boss at Extent, and had received the instructions unquestioningly – to delete Yanus. As he walked out he thought Yanus was a visible target – not usual for Extent, but he never gave it much of a second thought. His mission was difficult because of Yanus’ visibility. He began his surveillance so that he could present the Extent with his deletion plan. As he began to observe his target he realised that any form of “accident” would not remove his martyr status, he was too powerful in their movement. Whether the death was accidental or not, his follower would attribute it to the Taj and the Extent, thus his “accidental” death would be a rallying call.

Therefore he would have to be murdered in an apolitical way ie the death would not in any way be attributed to the Taj or Extent. He therefore needed some sort of stooge, a stooge scenario, a death narrative that would not be traced to where it was not wanted. Such scenarios usually involved romance or a sexual relationship, but Yanus was dedicated to his movement therefore such a scenario would have to be manufactured.

His followers were not so dedicated and virtuous. Through further observation there arose a follower, Arianne, who had a supremacist stalker, Banno. Ideal. Extent had used these supremacist loose cannons before, and there was limited blowback because they were just accepted as crazy. As a black man it would be difficult to insinuate himself with a supremacist so to begin with he needed help - Extent agent Carso who already had links with the white supremacy movement. Carso was in with more established supremacists so when he paid attention to Banno the stooge’s ego was well pleased. Carso presented Banno with the scenario that Yanus was exploiting Arianne, that he was using her along with a number of women in his movement.

Having cemented the narrative Carso needed to withdraw as his cover within the supremacists would be exposed once Banno committed the act. He introduced Lance as a gangsta who would do anything for money, and how he would pay Lance to enable Banno to kill Yanus. By this time Banno was so crazed he did not care whether he got caught, and he wanted to expose this exploiting SJW Jew for taking advantage of beautiful Arian women.

At the conference Lance would coordinate and at the right moment Banno in front of cameras would assassinate the Jew, Yanus. Lance arrived first so that he could provide Banno with the best opportunity. Yanus was always surrounded by people, at the same time camera coverage was essential to Banno.

It was at this stage Sommwa intervened. As Lance received her atama there could be no other description than epiphany. All around him he saw posters of Yanus’ Green New Deal on Kolok. He was drawn to the images of Kolok, Kolok, his Kolok, our Kolok, the Kolok that all Talaks are a part of. Yanus was defending our Kolok, and the Extent want him dead – had instructed Lance to delete Yanus. At that epiphany he knew that he could not do it, he knew the deletion had to be stopped.

Banno had to die. This deluded man had been so manipulated by the Extent, Carso and Lance, that if he was stopped today he would try again. And if it was not Yanus it would be someone else. This level of delusion would require an epiphany to dispel, he mused to himself. Despite his own epiphany he decided that the death of Banno was the answer. Part of the plan was that on stage he would show the uniform of the Aryan sect he wanted to belong to. With Lance Banno had established a website describing his views and his reasons for the assassination in which Banno stood in full regalia. This gave Lance his approach. He would drag him to the ghetto and leave his dead body in full uniform there.

Once decided Lance’s training and experience kicked in – he was focussed. He had each detail meticulously planned – it never went exactly to plan, but when there is so much detail changes don’t have disastrous consequences. Banno was at the corner as arranged, unsuspecting he got into the car, Lance smiled and greeted him, noted the vein in his neck was accessible. Staring the car he drove off gently maintaining a pleasant atmosphere within the heavy charge and trepidation that was Banno’s intended assassination of Yanus. Lance knew Banno would be wired, there would have to be a settling period before he could act.

He saw his opportunity, an old lady was crossing the road and he pretended to ignore her. Eventually Banno saw her and shouted, Lance braked and as Banno fell forward under the restrained by the belt, Lance injected the vein. Naturally rocking back Banno’s body was almost immediately inert, Lance checked his eyes – consciousness. He smiled patiently at the old lady, and when she was safely across moved off at a gentle pace glancing occasionally at Banno for no reason other than professionalism.

They reached the deserted area in the hood, known from his youth. He parked and waited checking for activity; the hood was suspicious - his parked vehicle might create interest. But no signs. Driving into the alley he found a space between bins and hauled the body there, and slashed Banno’s throat checking that blood was pouring out sufficiently that they would know he was killed there. His only concern was slight, an officer might be an Aryan brother wanting to make case of Banno’s death. Not likely in uniform in the hood there might be witnesses, plenty of volunteers willing to kill him, but …. all contingencies thought Lance. Once more he checked details – no mistakes, he drove off.

Within half a mile he pulled to a sudden stop as it hit him. What had he done? He had killed another being, another man, a human being, a life. His head slumped forward onto the wheel as it hit him. There was a deep silence as he felt this. He wanted cry but there were no tears. But there was shame and a deep anger with himself. There was no justification for the taking of life …. even Banno; no justification. How could he have let himself do this? Then he knew. His conditioning had just kicked in. Problem …. solution …. action, that’s all. Problem …. solution …. action, where was his compassion? That was a new question, compassion? Where had that come from? He remembered back, the posters, Kolok, Green New Deal, epiphany. Compassion wasn’t in his awareness then, it was now. Kolok was compassion, the epiphany was compassion, he must be compassion now. He felt no guilt – it was his conditioning, but no more would he let that conditioning in – definitely no more deletions. No more conditioning, that was harder, he thought. How deep was his conditioning? He had to be aware of conditioned responses, he had to see how they arose and stop them from arising. He sat there ashamed deeply hurt at the pain he had caused not just to Banno. Deeply hurt.

But where was your choice? an inner voice asked. This voice was piercing, it pierced through the hurt and pain he was wallowing in, and began examining his choice. He went back. Extent – no choice, just conditioning; the gangs – no choice, conditioning; before the gangs – he never went there. Go there, the inner voice said. His father in the gangs, his mother on crack, his older brothers – gang. He felt love for his mother, he went with the feeling of love. He went back with her, further, further, he felt her love. But he also felt her pain. He spoke with his child. “She loves you, look at the love,” the child spoke to him.

Lance could feel the love, the warmth, the bond. But then the child spoke of her addiction, “she left you.”

And Lance could feel how he felt when she left him. His compassion left him at the same time. Then there was a cycle, she loved him, he felt her love, then the addiction and she left him, and more of his compassion drained from him.

Then he saw his father, a man of violence, violence he never used on his mother because she was so scared. And her fear drove her to escape. And then the cycle, feeling her love, feeling her leave, feeling his compassion leave. The only thing his mother had was love for the father that was rejected as he could choose the women he controlled with the drugs. The mother turned her love onto Lance more and more driving away the father, more drugs, more of Lance’s compassion draining away

And there was none left in Lance, and all he saw around him were the gangs. And that was what he did, he decided on the life. And once focussed he became good at the life, he became the life until the Extent took him.

Lance we never had a choice, the child told him. And then in unison until now. And from then on Lance was going to be compassion. His epiphany had given him choice. Now what was he going to choose?

Sommwa had been horrified when she watched Lance, she had given her atama and yet Lance had killed Banno. But then she watched as the atama took over, she understood his conditioning, she understood his lack of choice, and she now understood that he was now free to choose. She took a moment and felt what a good Talak Lance now was. She felt a connection with him, how could she a sensoid feel a connection with a Talak? She quickly left the unanswered question.

For Lance his immediate future was clear – protecting Yanus from the Extent; he could not see much beyond that as they would not accept a rogue agent. Maybe lying low? But not for now, Yanus and the PBN were important. Once the Extent realised that Yanus’ plan had failed, they would start to question. Banno’s death was plausible, after all he was in the hood in uniform. But it was still suspicious, Lance had not protected him and Lance was a professional asset. And if Lance could not ensure that his plan with Banno could work, why had he made the plan?

The debrief was taut, but Lance had a good reputation, a reputation that would just carry him through; they accepted he would make a new plan. A second failure would be recognised for its intent, Lance knew he had little time. He would work on a deletion plan but his real planning concerned the Extent. It was not policy to take out visible assets, it was not constructive for Extent; even suspicion of deletion would bring some form of martyr status. And the policies of decumulation that Yanus advocated were the most destructive for the Taj, so martyred encouragement was not a sound policy. Before as a loyal asset he had dismissed this apparent anomaly in policy, now he focussed on it, teasing it out, seeing if there were some form of plan in the making.

Even though he was a trusted and reputed asset his status was that of soldier and not a “general”. But somewhere in “general” land there were decisions being made that went against usual Extent policy, the usual policy of tactical invisible targets. Such a contradiction in policy was probably caused by Taj interference, Taj using the Extent for a personal vendetta.

His analysis had led to a strategy; was there some Taj who had been personally affected by Yanus? Usually what interests the Taj is their accumulation but in this situation Lance suspected a personal motive. To protect Yanus Lance would have to expose this vendetta, and in this way persuade Extent that this target was not viable – by involving less emotional Taj. Within Extent the “generals” had allegiances to different Taj interests, usually such interests could be classified as accumulation from finance as opposed to accumulation from military engagement; the individual Taj would be in one of these camps so he could identify the section of Extent whose policy he would need to change.

But how had Yanus caused so much anger in the usually cold and analytical Taj? Daddy’s girl, he thought. Now renunciation usually upset the Taj but not to this level of response, however renunciation was a good place to start especially as renunciation was public record. Which members of Yanus’ entourage had renounced because of their connection with Yanus? Having listened to Yanus this number would not be small.

With his first deletion plan Lance’s research had been thorough, he was aware of who were the “new Talaks” as the renounced often liked to call themselves. What was the sexual angle? Daddy’s girls creating this level of anger and response would have to have been damaged sexually – probably pregnancy. Or maybe even suicide? Yes, that was more likely because he knew that Yanus was careful sexually – sexual digressions were so easily manipulated by Extent, he smiled to himself at what he had done in the past; so irrelevant but effective. But then he dismissed his conditioning, amusement at such manipulation was not appropriate, he realised.

He began searching for suicides. There were 3 “girls” who had disappeared from PBN, disappearances that were clouds. He must pursue the cases in detail. The first girl was a friend of Arianne, Banno’s stalked. Because of his plans with Banno he knew Arianne, and saving her from the stalker would be a good in. That’s where he would start at tonight’s PBN caucus meeting.

As part of their transparency and accountability procedures the PBN allowed the public – journalists and others to observe their meetings without contributions; Lance had used a journalist pass before, and knew several of the caucus including Arianne. He knew the Caucus would spill over into the coffee lounge, and he went there to bump into Arianne. He saw her, she smiled an invite, but when he went over conversation with Arianne was not possible.

One comrade spoke, he later learned her name was Sophia, “In our motions the PBN has to guide the movement. Through their BigFood corporations the Taj provide processed food that is not healthy.”

“Could be healthier,” interrupted Sargo for accuracy. He was virtually ignored but that ws for other reasons.

“Since the beginning the PBN has always accepted its responsibility for an agenda that will make healthy natural foods available for all at reasonable costs,” Mobio reminded them “Yanus particularly has argued that the PBN should have a holistic approach to political change. Remember ….”

Arianne interrupted “Integrate the whole person, integrate the society, integrate with Kolok; integration is change.” They all laughed as she spouted the litany.

Sargo added for exactness “Integrate the whole of mind energy and body.” They barely nodded as he interrupted the laughter, he was correct of course.

“But,” Arianne continued “we must be inclusive if there are doubts.” They threw glances at her, she had opened the confrontation box and they knew what would come out – hopefully not with vitriol.

Sophia tried to resist but couldn’t. “Is there doubt that vegan food is healthier?” she asked. That kicked it off.

“You have to be specific,” argued Sargo “healthier than what?”

“Sargo’s point is relevant,” Arianne agree managing to avoid saying “this time”, but the slight pause meant that it didn’t need saying. “Within PBN health is a priority, it has to be – ill health is a lynchpin of the Taj’s BigPharma. But we don’t have the science to be absolutely certain – to remove doubts.” “There needs to be tolerance,” Lance added, pleased that what he said fitted in with Arianne’s inclusivity.

There was a groan as Arianne began with the indigenous, “Some indigenous groups are happy to eat natural meat, some were more focussed on plants. It depended on their homelands.” The groan was with humour, they all supported indigenous-led but unfortunately indigenous-led was not a precise science; why would it be?

“But we have evolved from meat-eating,” Sophia countered “it is not necessary for our health.”

“Maybe if we controlled the funding there could be more science about that,” spoke up Niappo for the first time “but Taj funding spends its time promoting its foods. Foods with poisonous F-numbers. Foods that come from the factory slaughter houses. They say Kolok’s animal foods for babies should be consumed by humans from birth on a daily basis, and then they cage those animals in such inhumane environments.” There was a pause of silent approval, they were all united against the Taj production methods.

“If there was funding we could prove whether Arianne’s paper or Sophia’s paper is correct,” Niappo continued “but we can’t prove it. And PBN has to be scientifically-backed, the way the Taj have misused scepticism over science has been severely detrimental to Kolok.” Again there was silent agreement, they hoped the potential division had petered out.

But Arianne had to say it, she loved her grandfather, “My grandfather died early because he was determined to be vegan even against advice that encouraged him to eat natmeat to protect his heart. Although few science comrades have had funds to test the truth of this, my family know it’s true.”

“Families from vegan cultures survive through old age,” Sophia countered “the heart argument is weak.”

“Not according to testimony of those who began eating natmeat following advice,” Arianne threw back at Sophia “and testimony is sound qualitative science, not emotional idealism.”

“Oh I’m sorry, Sophia,” she interrupted herself “it was not acceptable for a comrade to have said that. I was just feeling angry about my grandfather and took it out on you. Wherever your viewpoint comes from it is your right, your choice, your legitimate approach. I should not have called it “emotional idealism” because I disagree. Please hug me.”

And they did, breaking the tension.

“We should remember that the Taj will never allow the funding to answer these questions – to clear up these doubts,” Niappo added after an appropriate pause “they want the PBN to remain divided on this issue.”

“But we are not divided on the farms,” both Sophia and Arianne shouted together “how can Talak accept such violence against fellow creatures in the name of food production?”

“It is good to end on agreement,” said Niappo as he and Sargo stood up to leave. They all stood up, joined hands, and took a silent moment together. Arianne moved over to Sophia and they hugged again no words needing saying, they were not hung up intellectually, both compassionate about what they had experienced. “I must wait with Lance,” Arianne told her. Sophia smiled at her but did not take the thought further – it was not her business.

Sophia squeezed Arianne’s arm gently, and joined Niappo and Sargo on their way home.

Arianne sat there in silence for a while letting the remaining tension diffuse. “You are natmeat?” she asked Lance.

“Yes it came from my family,” he told her, not saying that the family he meant were the Extent who had long trained assets with a meat diet. And then as the farm practises worsened had insisted on natural meat. Of course they could afford it; whatever Lance’s actual family’s view was they could not afford it = or it was not available in their community.

“Arianne, I wanted to speak to you about Banno,” he added changing the subject at just the right time – his training he mused. “They found his body in Comteth yesterday; the fool was dressed in Aryan uniform wandering the hood.”

Arianne looked at Lance almost in disbelief then shrugged it off with relief.

“At least you won’t be another disappearance,” Lance added, he hoped casually enough.

“I don’t understand,” Arianne asked hesitantly.

“I think it was Sargo who told me that your friend Sarnio disappeared,” Lance replied quickly “maybe Banno would have liked to disappear you.”

“Oh I see,” she nodded almost absent-mindedly, “Sarnio’s disappearance was not a stalker.”

“Oh that’s good,” he answered “I would hate for someone else to have been stalked just for having the correct political understanding.”

She nodded but still wasn’t engaged. “You now she wasn’t stalked? Would she have told you?”

“Yes we spoke often,” she spoke more strongly, and then wandered again. “It was sad”, she added.

Almost there, he thought. “Sad?” he asked ever so gently.

“Not everyone knows, so don’t say anything but she killed herself,” she started and began opening up, it was as if stalker-relief was providing energy for a slightly-imprudent confidence. “She was “New Talak”, and her parents argued with her especially her father.”

“I understood that most of the Taj now accepted renunciation even if they didn’t like it,” added Lance fuelling the minor imprudence.

“Most do,” she continued “but her father was very old school. He employed detectives to get into her business trying to find a way to win her back.” Extent, thought Lance.

“Sarnio knew her father was over-protective so she was on the lookout,” said Arianne. “she thought she was being followed so she began taking cams of people waiting near her building.” Cams, what careless fool had let themselves be cammed?, thought Lance.

“After weeks she found one guy who was regularly out there,” recounted Arianne. “Sarnio still had Taj connections and found this guy worked for some seedy detective agency, Mallos I think. We joked about it, marshmallows, we were at a campfire toasting marshmallows when she told me.” Got it, he knew Extent used the Mallory agency as a front …. and he knew which department head.

“As soon as she knew, she went straight to her father and had it out with him,” continued Arianne “she told him not only will she renounce the Bezet fortune but that she was going to change her name. And she would never see him again.”

“That sound forceful,” put in Lance “not suicidal.”

“But she was not strong,” sighed Arianne “she missed her family, she was not really suited to PBN. We tried to support her, work with her, encourage by getting her involved in the community. But unlike most comrades she couldn’t get into it. Her activism became harder and harder, and all she spoke of was her anger with her father.

“She was close with another “New Talak”, Kitta, who spoke with me – she was very worried. All that Sarnio spoke of was hating her father, she couldn’t let it go. We did all that we could. We managed her diet, but she wouldn’t eat. We organised exercise together, physical and energetic, but we couldn’t get her to do it. Kitta took her on meditation weekends but Sarnio would just go and mope around, occasionally joining them on walks. “It had taken all of Sarnio’s strength to renounce. When she found she was being followed it tipped her over the edge and she couldn’t recover no matter what we did. Eventually Kitta got a text. Watch this. I have sent it to my father so he knows what he did, but you keep this as a record so that he can’t blame the PBN.” Arianne stopped, the story was over. Both were silent thinking about the tragedy.

“You, the PBN, all did what you could,” Lance consoled.

“There is sadness not guilt,” assured Arianne.

“What happened to the suicide clip?” asked Lance.

“Kitta told me several trusted comrades have copies,” Arianne replied. “This was a tragedy. Even though the Taj misuse crisis and tragedy for their own ends, PBN don’t. The Exec sent a message to the father commiserating over the tragedy, and assuring him that the clip would not be circulated. The Taj don’t believe we are like that, but the PBN knows integrity is part of the armoury to destroy the Taj exploitation.”

Lance had what he needed. It was late he hoped Arianne would notice – she did but it took a while of silence. Sharing transport, Lance made sure she was safe as she was particularly vulnerable. They arranged for a coffee the next day as he was concerned. But the next day was another life.


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