SCIENCE FICTION WRITER



LIDORS - A REBIRTH

STEP ONE

THE FORAMPS

THE SNAPPING

It started with a chance encounter. There to meet an old friend, the conversation began. Introduced as Skifi for the first time he became excluded from the chat. As with Friday chatter this minor inconvenience turned to envy. Still that was not too important but then it worsened. Skifi, what is science fiction? Confident now - his territory, Skifi answered that the endings allowed deeper investigation of philosophical questions. His arrogance rested; although he hadn't given it thought this was his terrain. Pause homed in. It dawned on him, his terrain was lost - the arrogance of past success had been destroyed....quite rightly. She said you haven't said anything yet. The acquaintance smiled agreement - too polite to voice his obvious question......I've given him Skifi, it's a misnomer. The rusty pen ruled the day or worse....no that question mustn't be asked. But that pause haunted him. Vanity? Hurt pride - all piled into...What is science fiction? It was the moment, everything hinged on moment.

He remembered back again. There was another pub, and a buzz! These buzzes had been very rare once he'd gotten over the easy gifts offered by the repressive middle-class upbringing. The last one had been on the pool-table, but that had no quality! This was a world-beater, the sort the artist searches for. His depressed teacher mentality had hinged on the style of the beer-throwing, taking that as a moment and building a book of all that was wrong with education. He had thought it was the total scenario but now he knew. Learn about the moment. That is the lesson, the power of moment the infinity in moments. Buddhist doctrine rang bells though phrases didn't materialise. It all was enveloped by moment. The two moments combined. Science fiction uses moment.

That says it but he grew an analogy in the bath. A pencil - take it. It writes. Life is total in its function, in the way it writes. You can closely examine part of the pencil but it has no meaning without its whole function. His mind wandered, his eyes strayed through the window at the untended bedsit garden. It is the moment: without knowing - yeah? - he snapped the pencil. He looked at the jagged edges of the break and he watched as his hand moved the point further away. It was his life......like two halves separating in existence. He became unhinged but his mind stayed with him .. JUST. The point led him further away and he went with it. Fatalistically he looked back, and he saw HIS body sitting there below him. Shittttt!, his ego panicked.

His hands were arched in front and the pinnacle was formed by the invisible umbilical that would have been the functioning pencil. Umbilical? Another moment as the point led him. Where? He was really beyond questions, and what good would an answer have been. All that registered was umbilical.....hold on to that Skifi. All became blank, the emptiness of silence that is fuller than any noise. And he travelled. One pointedness came to him in irony but only as an afterthought because all he did was follow that point. He focussed involuntarily, maybe, and in the focussing he moved through energy, sound, light and then pattern. And it was the pattern that was the journey end. For he had found a match - a floating thought - and that match was gaining him substance. The point of the pattern widened and as it did he began to drift down layers. And in that drifting powers of mind returned. Intuition relating to substance, reason, desire, instinct, emotion, senses. His mind screamed ....and ran.

He awoke, the last he remembered was working at his desk, that marking always sent him to sleep. But he was pleased, he didn't often dream, however scaringly, during term time. He uncurled himself and rubbed his back against the wall, he had to go to the storehouse to get his rations - Vernica would souch him a tune if he didn't. He imagined the souching watching her nostrils vibrate, and the scales on the right of her head rising in anger. He enjoyed winding her up..........Scales, vibrating nostrils. He rubbed his eyes, he was still dreaming. He shouted in pain, his claw had jabbed underneath a scale. He remembered his dream, descending at the end of the pattern. He caught a glimpse of what he could only describe as reptilian?? His mind ran again... but not as far. Back again, reptilian? The glimpse grew. The pattern descended and he entered... NOoo..entered the centre of the Lauchidoran.

And at the centre - by now he was resigned - he became Skifi, Sokifa the healer. Instinct took over and the image of another reptile trilling mildly in his head, took HIS body to all fours. Ouch a pain shot up his right fore-limb. Gingerly he lifted it from the ground and a large tongue rapped itself round the limb. At the end one of his clawbones had snapped clean through and was now only held together by his strong, leathery skin. Vernica had come over at the sound of Skifi's pain, and began to apply a tourniquet competently. She had worked with him many times making the effort to learn skills to assist him even though her role as endeller was more important to their community. He was watching Vernica with admiration as her long, gentle fingers began to work on him. She took some of the anaesthetic lotion, the juice of the Garbon vine, and rubbed it just above his joint. Slowly he felt the pain subside and he watched apprehensively as she straightened the claw; and then, lining up the two twigs next to his finger, she strapped each end of the splint. With the wound still open she applied a vine-based, healing ointment, and then completed the operation by wrapping round a compact compound of leaf and moist earth to act as protection. Swiftly the job was done and only then did she ask how it happened.

"When I awoke it was broken, no explanation" they both shrugged. They understood not to ask more yet. He smiled, and said "I'll still go to the storehouse." She nodded.

On three legs he slid out of their home and once outside he stood up and putting greater emphasis on his tail for balance he moved circumspectly to the storehouse. With this break I must take the long route today, he thought and Skifi moved off to an area which seemed less dense. There were trees around, tall, thin trees that looked shawn of any bark but, he found out later, its bark was a thin, invisible coating, akin to varnish, which was a secretion that oozed from the trunk at the end of the warm weather (their Summer) and hardened into a transparent coat. Around these "bare" trees were entwined many vines of many varieties. He recognised one as the Garbon vine whose dried stems had been used for the splint. But there were many others, and they appeared in some odd way as cultivated; there was no wild clammering by every growth in sight for sunlight, food or rain. They grew but there was much space. He looked near him. There was one of these Garbon vines growing round the artoc tree. It entwined itself around the stem and about fifteen foot above him the vine then stretched across to another of the artocs. It might not seem much but it was very convenient for Skifi because it gave him a pathway.

They were now at the storehouse. There was a shrill greeting and it was only then he realised the language was different. Different ... it wasn't a language it was a collection of lyrical sounds, trillings. How could he know? Try for some logic. He heard through the Lauchidoran's ears and what he heard became words to him. If he heard the Lauchidoran language, how ?.....he had no ears. Unless there was still with him that which could become ears!? Also who was translating? No there was no translation, it was simultaneous, both Skifis heard at the same time. Enough! Rhetoric on Earth always went in circles, just that now there were two starting points.

The shrill was "Hi, Skifi! How you? Vernice?"

"Both slippy. Yourself, Toma" Toma raised his forelimbs for greeting and only then noticed Skifi's finger. "What happened?"

"I woke up this morning and it was snapped, I don't know what happened." Toma looked at Skifi puzzled, still he knew his eggmate well enough to know if he wasn't going to say then.....

"You'll still be at the gathering tonight then, there was another report that the nomads had infringed on the far end of the wood two days ago."

"We both will. It worries me greatly. You know I feel that the city is moving out and affecting us." He saw the doubting look in Toma's eye - he'd expected it. "Well Vernica said that she'd had trouble reading the dell lines."

"She can't have been well...you egged her?" He knew Toma was winding him but he was sick of all this traditionalism. But Toma had registered a doubt, he knew Vernica was the best endeller in their community and if she was having trouble detecting the dells then that was bad news indeed for them.....and Lauchidor. Toma pointed to a stack in the corner of the store and asked "You are using the pathway today?" Skifi looked frustratedly at his finger and nodded. "Use my loggie then."

Skifi began to walk back home and with his tail around the vinehook pulled along the supplies. He had a bit more time to think, and he was totally at a loss. He had accepted that in some way he had been transferred into this reptile.....no he mustn't think of him as a reptile. A reptile is an earth creature who is a mindless being whose level of existence has not got beyond instinct. At least that's the popular view of the ignorant, himself included. Here was a Lauchidoran with a home, a beautiful wife and a respected position in the community.

He remembered the feelings towards Vernica, they weren't reptilian - not animal instincts. There was a deep affection, respect, admiration and love - he knew they were qualities beyond the awareness of earth reptiles. On earth there had been dinosaurs but they had died out, was this some alternative earth where it was primates who couldn't survive? Pointless speculation, remember to remove reptile bias! His mental meanderings had whiled away the journey, they had returned.

"Damn I forgot to tell Toma I would not be working today."

"He would know," smiled Vernica.

"Yeah, but I owe some time for the growing now." She looked at him, was he serious? He took his responsibilities too seriously, probably something to do with his self-realisation hang-up. Whatever, only he worries whether he works at all. She wasn't going to argue, it would have meant a fifteen minute rationalisation all of which meant he cared, and she knew that anyway.

"One day is acceptable," she said diplomatically.

"I am working in the field today anyway."

"Mmm," he grunted, then looked at her. There was a wide, benign smile and her large brown eyes stared straight back at him. He stared into them, laughed to himself and went into their home. "Gathering tonight" She didn't have to be told, she had pushed hard for it. Without showing, she was extremely worried, nobody can know how unnerving it is for an endeller to fail, it's like losing your sight. Inside the home Skifi relaxed; he must aid the healing garboni. Standing in the centre of their home beneath the point of their roof, he began his healing trance. He centred his body beneath the pinnacle and formed a tripod with tail and back legs. Then he placed his forelimbs in a circle in front with his claws pointing at each other, the width of his head apart. Gradually he felt the energy flowing as his body began to vibrate involuntarily. He concentrated his thoughts on his right front and tried to push the energy through his clawfinger and around his arm-circle. Skifi was amazed because he felt a great deal of vibratory movement in his body yet there had been no motor instructions from his mind.

He was aware that he would maintain this posture for some time so he began to examine his new home. Home? Not by his standards yet he knew it was the home by the feelings of familiarity, security and....personal space. But how to describe it? By outward appearances it was little more than a hole in the ground but the feeling was a lot more than that. The entrance had been circular - no more than three feet in diameter, but inside it was the size of a smallish cave. It was dug out neatly but it seemed quite barren, bare. No, now he looked more closely there were certain possessions tucked away, as if camouflaged against the background of the earthy home. On purpose? But he did notice something strange. This was obviously a clean place yet the vines were growing inside. Again they weren't sprouting everywhere but as if they were cultivated to form a ceiling pattern. Except in two or three places these vines grew down the wall, and again they seemed to belong there. Most unusual, by his way of thinking.

Vernica came in. She tapped Skifi on his head and paused a moment. "It is time I go to the centre. You could prepare the food you collected. In view of that gathering tonight I am only going to work the minimum - there's nothing urgent anyway is there?" They moved towards each other and brushed their mouths together. She felt his anxiety, and raising his arm she rapped her tongue gently round the break. "It will heal soon, healer." she smiled a concern stronger than any healing trance. And she went off to the workcentre to be assigned her task. Skifi then moved towards the kitchen - a "corner" of their home; here the vines seemed to be more overgrown. On closer inspection these vines were a kind of curtain for behind it was the first evidence of technology he had seen in the home. Being careful not to damage the vines he hooked his tail around a metal-like box and pulled it out. I hate preparing food, he thought.

This was his stove!! But how? From the food he'd collected earlier he picked up several rooty plants and lifting the lid he placed them inside the box. Then he took one of the vine-strands and gently began stroking it. A slight tingle seemed to vibrate through the room and then next he saw what could only have been water pouring into the "sink". Skifi stopped his hands and just as caringly replaced the vine on the wall. Then he began to wash the vegetables. Cleaned he placed some of them inside another compartment of the "stove" and then taking another of the vines he "plugged" it gently in and began the cooking. The vine cooking?

It was time for sleep, worn out by the trance and his mysterious fracture he needed to recoup his energy for the rigours of the evening. Without doubt tonight's gathering would be momentous for the Tuilley wood community. Now that his body was sleeping Skifi had control of the mental functions. So many questions, where to begin? His dilemma was solved for him by the power of Sokifa's mind, the gathering was so important that as soon as he entered sleep his mind began to focus on the problem. Gatherings were part of the Tuilley community life, they had been since the forming of the community. His mind drifted into memory. As a youngster he had been hatched many sonours away in a very isolated area where there was little to do but to survive. Their subsistence existence had given him very little interest in learning - there was not time - but he had attended classes for a while. In these classes they learnt much of the history of the Lidors but only that relevent today to help give a perspective on their community and its life. Although himself not part of the community he saw the advantages of their pooled resources and socialised work-schemes which gave time to develop more soulful pursuits. Whereas at home the three of them had developed all skills required for subsistence, here were experts who through experience had developed an efficiency which had so many advantages. But of course his home had to be run on the old lines. And it was until, and probably after, he left to learn.

At class one of the elders had recognised his potential and had encouraged him to develop his reading. Sokifa had found many surprising things. From his background he had learnt respect for his environment, it fed him and if used compassionately provided many power sources but he found that in history that respect had not existed. From early development Lidors had come out of the foramps and moved to the deserted plains. Initially there had been many territorial battles between foramps and plains Lidors. It appears that some of the plains Lidors had come into the foramps looking for workers. They had built large facilities in their plains to develop and produce foodstuffs en masse. These facilities had existed for some time but had reached a point where they would produce more than required for the plains. They went to the foramps to see if they would want them. The foramp Lidors in general were happy though they had a hard existence, and some were tempted with easy food. Parties of the foramps went into the plains in return for the food. After a while they began to realise that the Lidors with their pebbly-brown skin were not working as hard as their green counterparts. And also they were not being given the equivalent foodstuffs to the browns.

This was how it had started, their communities were offered cheaper food in return for labour and once a part of the plain cities with their trappings they were caught. For many generations greens went into the plains and worked hard for this "easy" food and gradually the greens at home had become totally dependent on the production of the plains. But still they were cheap labour. But now not only were the greens exploited but soon these browns found that they could use their own Lidors for the same. They started developing leisure goods, goods which had no real necessity but which gave Lidors comfort. There then developed in the city a group of browns who were using the desires of the other Lidors to make life for them so easy. But more and more the Lidors began to recognise the situation for what it was, and even though the ruling browns tried many tricks gradually their control was on the wane.

Tricks!! They could be called tricks but they set Lidor against Lidor. These ruling browns began spreading the idea that the greens were taking the foods from the browns. Historically this was obviously not true as it had been generations since the first greens were brought to the city. But this didn't matter because they controlled the communications and what is often repeated becomes known fact in time. These so-called tricks led to many greens being victimised and often killed just to satisfy the ruling browns. Of course the browns were innocent, they only owned the facilities they never killed anyone. They went right ahead justifying everything they did in terms of figures and production.

Both in the plains and in the foramps there were Lidors who were beginning to understand what was happening, and they wanted to fight. First it was Greens for the foramps and Browns for the plains, but after a while both groups realised that they were fighting against each other. It was not territory that they had to fight about, it was the ruling browns who were the common enemy. Gradually they developed systems of communication which enabled the different groups to inform everyone of the situation, and slowly over a period of generations there developed an awareness throughout the plains and foramps as to the real nature of their struggle. More and more this developed into the small group of ruling browns clinging to their riches enforcing it by barbaric use of poorer greens and browns who they used to kill their own Lidors. But soon even these began to succomb to the gestalt pressure of Lidor, and they laid down their arms.

Immediately the ruling browns had had their properties confiscated and they were sent to work in communities whose life had been virtually destroyed by their murderous lifestyle. It was strange to note that many, once away from the environmental fortress they had built for themselves deeply regretted their previous actions. But of course Lidorian memory had been hurt for a lot longer. But this was not the end. Many Lidorians had for many generations accepted that there was a need for more and more comfort. Now they saw the situation as a chance to develop these comforts. More and more there developed the split between the greens and browns along the lines encouraged by the earlier rulers until finally this developed into full battles. Soon they realised these were pointless and they resettled much along their original territorial lines. As time went on the greens reverted much towards their agrarian methods though often these were harsh because they were still trying to provide for the needs of trade with the browns. This became more and more difficult as gradually they began to revert to a level of natural resource that had existed during exploitation. They needed some strategy to overcome this.

For a long time there had been a call amongst the greens of a back to nature. This lobby had grown more and more as they had found that even without the ruling elite their environment was dying. Out of these death throes had grown a cult of nature worshippers. Their attitude was that whatever they took from the ground they gave back - a kind of recycling. But what was strange was that this cult found that Nature began to respond to them. It was found that by careful cultivation, combined with a respect for life itself, there developed a symbiosis between these greens and Nature. It was found that these Lidors had greater crop yields and soon there developed communities around these cultists. Over generations all the foramps had sprouted these Natural lifestyles and as the symbiosis grew so the capacity of the Lidors to work with their environment was enhanced. Over a period of time they found that the home-vines, which had been initially their camouflage, first became useful as water-carriers and then even as power-carriers. Green Lidors had always known the importance of their relationship with the countryside but with their being sucked into the world of the cities it became expedient to forget what came natural to them. Although this change came gradually in the foramps it was even slower in the plains. Of course these plains Lidors had originally learnt to survive, but their survival had been hard and vicious. Their pebble-brown camouflage had not been a defense mechanism but had been used for stalking prey - it must have been a carry-over from their carnivorous roots which had led to their more recent exploitative killings. It was necessary that the browns begin to co-operate more with the greens in production.

Gradually they developed a balanced economy with the greens. The greens maintained their growing rights but the browns became responsible for transport. The greens refused to allow any pollutant fuels and the browns recognising the good sense in this, in view of the developing symbiosis, formed a transport corps - these became the nomads. But there was a need for trade. The plains had the natural metal resource and the foramps produced the foods, within the foramps the communities planned their cultivation to suit their natural balance and this balance set the limits of trade with the plains. This natural trade balance had existed for many generations but now it was under threat, and this was the main topic for consideration at the gathering tonight.

Endelling was something Sokifa did not understand but he had learnt to leave it alone. Although he respected the non-rational mind it was his very inability to function on intuition alone which made him search for reasons - even though for many what he saw as reasons they saw as imagination, or even paranoia - especially lately. Mind you, love and respect are not the substance of oratory and he would need logic to sway the dormant minds of his community.

For many the endellers were a mystery but like all mysteries the magic was created by ignorance and fear, rather than any extraaordinary powers. Endelling had grown as a craft after the re-separation back to the plains and foramps. Out of the original cultists came many wierd stories, and grandiose claims, as to the ability of certain of the cult to enhance the speed and quality of growth. These claims, when reduced to the scale of fact, were substantiated by the science of the open-minded but suspicion had become a byword of their corrupt society so many preferred to keep the fantasy. After a while these claims came to be recognised as true, like coincidence they were unscientific laws; but there were other relationships with Nature which if interpreted became useful to the community. Choice of crops, place of planting, development of vine awareness became more than a faculty of experience; it became a craft. Because not all were able to learn or develop the techniques it developed an air of mystery. But it also gained a great deal of respect through it's success.

Vernica tried to explain it to him "Endellers are only Lidors who interpret the laws of Nature. Within Lidor society we all have a role to play, sometimes planned, but more often a role we fall into through ability. Well Nature is simply a grander society where each of its creatures has a role to play. As Endellers we recognise this basic law as a substantive fact and we are trained to recognise Nature's patterns. Take this carreg it wants to grow, that is it's role. Within Nature there is a place for this carreg which would optimise it's growth and there will be an attraction between the carreg and it's place. For an Endeller that attraction is an actual force that they can detect and so they can discern the most suitable place."

"I can see the logic in that," she hated his rationalising plausibility, it was so difficult to separate from patronising "but in view of our symbiotic lifestyle why aren't we able to develop a scientific measurement?"

"Because Nature has a place for science and Endelling need not come within the scientific sphere. It functions adequately as a craft, and society isn't suffering," she explained. She was getting exasperated, her eyeballs were beginning to flare as the lids widened. She felt her tongue darting inside her mouth.

"But don't you see that eventually you might lose the gift of endelling and then where would we be?" She was getting angrier now, she began bouncing on her tail.

"To be responsible to future society you ought to make an effort to give this gift to all Lidorans?" She gritted her teeth, and gave him a wide, hollow smile. The edge of her mouth glistened her defiance.

"I can see it would..."

He interrupted "You agree?"

"So why haven't you tried to...."

She exploded "Oh don't use your reasons on me! Endellers know it can't be measured scientifically, it is an art which is beyond the crassness of even the most advanced technology. It is not meant to be measured it is a measurement in itself - a measurement of the real Nature of society." At this her cheeks growing fuller with each sound let out a high pitch, and showing him her back she slid gracefully out of their home.

God,I don't think like that, he thought, yet so often talking with her he said and did things which were beyond. Still when they sorted themselves out there were things beyond in other ways. But he wouldn't think of that now with the gathering happening soon. He smiled, a glow reached out from him that could only be put down to luck.

Sokifa woke from the strangest dream. Not surprisingly his thoughts had gone to the gathering but all the while he'd been dreaming he'd felt as if there was someone there - not as part of the dream but with it. What did he mean? And a fractured finger unexplained? He needed a shot of down-to-earth sanity.

"I'm home," she shouted, "Is the food ready?"

It must be burnt, thought Skifi, we've been sleeping. "It's preparing now." Skifi noticed certain activity by the stove and realised the movement had begun at the sound of Vernica's trill.

She slid gently through the entrance and collapsed silently on her stomach at the side of their home. She looked tired - she didn't enjoy labouring, and Sokifa held back his many deliberations. They began with small talk; not his style but she appreciated the effort. Anyway when she was tired she would talk about anything.

"Was everything fine in the growing?" he asked gently.

"Quite fine," she replied, although with a little thought she said "given the recent lowering of the expected output. Our group will make their quota and extra, so you needn't worry about your limb injury." Pause, she realised he'd forgotten.

She continued "Toma asked how you were, and he also said not to worry about your work-duty. He said that the extra amount you have put in..." She tailed off, he hated praise; it either embarrassed him or made him "lose a true perspective". So righteous sometimes!

"One or two in the fields sent apologies for tonight, petty excuses but no different than usual. Did you have a good day?"

"I slept most of the time, this injury must have taken more out of me than I'm used to."

"That's good. Sleep is good for you especially with the way you wear yourself out unnecessarily at these gatherings." She smiled impishly, her plume swelling slightly above her right eye.

"Getting over the day are we?" he laughed. At that moment the food was ready and Vernice moved underneath their pinnacle while Skifi fetched the food.

"Very nice dear, you're such a good cook," she said mockingly; in fact he was but she knew he liked cooking as much as she liked working in the fields. They just didn't like chores but Skifi sometimes pleaded enjoyment because of its social function. She never entered into those arguments because they were so pointless, especially as he often got vehement because of their very pointlessness.

They were enjoying this banter but it's superficiality demonstrated the nervousness they were both feeling. It was one of those awkward situations, Skifi particularly, though she did as well, hated having anything unsaid and here was a time that they should bottle it up. The more pent up their feelings the greater power they would have at the gathering.

"I think part of the slack approach is to do with poor, physical condition," she looked at him warily - he smiled soothingly to remove her disquiet "It would be good to develop a greater physical awareness within the community. You know those healing trances we all use, they were once part of an ancient physical culture for wellbeing. It is time someone made a fuller effort at introducing this into our lives. Do you know of anyone who could run such a scheme, I am sure if I suggested it Lidors would only think of me as a nagging healer."

"There is a new group who have moved into the far end of Lower Tuilley swamp. If we see them tonight we could ask them....then again tonight might not be a good time." They both smiled nervously at each other.

Their nerves drew them together magnetically for comfort; gently Skifi slid over and turning on their sides they clung to each other their stomachs bonding them sensuously. Gradually Skifi slid his tail around hers and then gently he pressed his jaws around her neck. She relaxed in his hold as her tongue mildly caressed the back of his neck. Quietly they lay together for some time their nervousness being gently dissipated for a short time, rather than a more energetic embrace which could have equally likely ensued.

For a while their unity separated them from all Time but they both began to tense up as the gathering neared. With a more violent hug their peace was ended and they moved off......to the gathering which would change their lives.

It had to, thought Skifi, otherwise why was he here? He would argue against the existence of any sort of accident but of this magnitude no-one needed telling there was a purpose.

THE GATHERING

Anticipating much struggle they arrived at the centre; unfortunately because of Skifi's official communal responsibilities they had to arrive early. As usual with these regular occasions therewas much pomp; not gaudy but the sort of superficial, familiar greeting used to hide nerves yet which looked natural and intimidating to anyone who was new. At these times Vernica particularly made an effort with new Lidors, and for once Skifi often found a charming tongue to relax their natural diffidence.

But his official role also required of him that participation which for him was ingratiation, although to all outward appearances it was litle more than politeness. He greeted others of their community committee, and they went over any minor forms of business which were not quite unnecessary. Gradually as their start approached the centre began not to seem so empty, but it would be an exaggeration to say it was filling up - it was as you would expect attended by the committed few and the average additional others whose count always seemed the same even though the reasons for their presence were vastly different.

However something very unusual did happen just before the start of the meeting. A tall stranger, a plains-Lidor, walked in - even though it was mainly community business all were welcome - and as soon as Vernice's gaze met his her tongue flashed out in the old gesture. Skifi couldn't believe it but she was on edge. Who was the stranger?

Anyway they commenced proceedings. Various perfunctory announcements were made, they were informed that the produce quotas were being met although they gave their usual appeal for more effort - their quotas were down on what they were five seasons ago. There were one or two details concerning social functions, and as usual the petty details for these became an open-forum discussion. Skifi complained this wasted valuable time and disillusioned committed members of the community, but he knew that there were few of these left and that Tuilley wood would prefer the evening to be social discussion.

At this point Vernica was introduced as craft-lidor of the endellers with a problem that the committee agreed should be discussed. Her introduction was so stale it almost betrayed the pressure that Skifi had used at the committee meeting - he still maintained great respect even though it was waning.

She felt little enthusiasm at the introduction but a flutter of surprised expectation greeted her because, although they knew and respected her, she hadn't spoken at gatherings - this was well made up for by her mate, they thought. In fact she only attended out of respect for Skifi, and that was if there was no suitable excuse. With some trepidation she began to speak "At recent meetings of the craft we have been very concerned about certain of our failings in recent times," she paused, glancing at the stranger. He had definitely unnerved her "We wanted to raise this concern with you to allow you to comment." The stranger moved disconcertingly.

"Many of the craft have not been feeling the dell-responses essential to our work and without these our judgements can become impaired - and that could become detrimental to the future of Tuilley. Many months we have discussed this, we have re-examined our training and considered the craft from all angles; and we are certain that it is not a craft-failing. We feel that the dells are not now as strong."

She paused; their expressions, if not blank, did not show an understanding of importance. The stranger's face looked amused, more it was as if he was enjoying her discomfort - who was he? Why was he here?

"But what does this actually mean?" she asked for them. "Originally we gained our reputation through our "magical" abilities," a rude grunt vibrated through the gathering, many dismissed it but seeing Vernice's dismay Skifi began to study the stranger. She continued, "our abilities to help with the crops. Simply we are not able to do this as well because our relationship with the dells is not what it used to be. They are clouded."

"I, particularly, consider this extremely serious and I feel that if the craft's skills begin to wane then it is a bad time for the community. The link between the craft and Nature is getting gradually destroyed and it is urgent that the community begins to make efforts to rebuild that link." She stepped back inviting comments, it had been a real struggle because of the apathy - some understanding but not that which is acted on.

"You have mentioned re-forging that link, surely that is the role of endellers?" asked one member of the gathering.

We have moved away, she thought. "Endellers only interpret what is there, they do not create that link; the link is of Nature as are we. For some reason we have forgotten our place in Nature and so are losing the required balance." The introducer, Felou, interrupted, "Vernica, it would be good to be more specific if you are asking for suggestions or help."

Skifi was worried, her plume was flattening out and this meant she was beginning to lose patience - she could explode.

"Excuse my inexperience, these are endelling ways. I can try to be more exact but that is not a way to understand the dells." He saw her breathe in, this meant she was coming up front - he saw the stranger's jaw widen with hangman's glee. "I am saying that Tuilley Lidors are beginning to exploit Nature without giving in return, and so they are destroying the dells."

At this, not surprisingly, there was mild uproar - the word "exploit" had many racial memories and it was not a word used lightly.

Felou calmed the gathering "That is a very serious statement to make, and as you can see it upsets the Lidors here. I would find such words close to incitement if it were not," he pointed to Vernica. He paused. "But even given your many contributions to the community it is not a statement that should go without substantiation."

She knew it had gone all wrong, the dells were the first signs - his "substantiation" could only come in time if they did nothing. She tried "The dells are the first sign that the balance of Nature has gone; the only substantiation I can give you is that the output of the crops is declining; you must recognise that that means there is something wrong."

"Tuilley has not had good weather, and there has been a strange groundpest that has affected the crops." answered Felou.

"That sounds very plausible but why has the weather changed, how did this pest strain develop - if it is a pest?" she answered but she could see that the understanding had gone. Why weren't matters worse?.....Nature was always too generous.

Felou could see that Vernica had finished, and if she hadn't he wanted this stopped - he had listened to too much dell mystery he would speak to him in the committee. He began to sum up "I thank you....."

He was interrupted by the stranger "My name is Paudi, I am the egg of Mabor the traveller. You have dealings with her?"

They did know her and they were cautious.

"Well I came here to say to you that your output is not satisfactory and that I am getting many complaints from the plains. And I am not surprised the output is down when I hear the kind of sorcerous reasons that are being heralded as excuses for failure. If less time were spent on magic and more at working efforts to improve production, maybe there would be higher output." Paudi paused and looked around, he was pleased with the response. It was obvious these greens didn't like his brash interruption but greens were easily conned with hard work and common sense (used for his benefit).

Skifi knew why Vernice's tongue had lashed out, his own had much trouble remaining shut in. She was well beyond a political response and he felt that was what was required.

"Paudi, on behalf of the Tuilley community committee, I would like to welcome you to our gathering - we are glad to welcome any newcomers - and it is especially good that travellers wish to participate," began Skifi amidst the polite trilling.

When it stopped he continued, watching his opponent carefully "Over many years we have used gratefully the services of the endellers and many times we have been saved much work through their arts, don't you agree?" There was a trill of concurrence.

"Because we have lived with the endellers for a long time we trust their instincts and don't always ask for explanation." He looked pointedly at Felou, "I remember a time when we had planted half our carreg stock and were told not to continue the planting for several days. One of us ignored the advice and planted anyway, his stock was lost in freak winds. Whether we understand why it works, it works. Traveller we appreciate your interest but these are Tuilley matters." Again a trill of approval "However I am very concerned that there are plains Lidors complaining, it seems that they are maybe getting a little greedy." He fed unashamedly on their old fears but this Paudi worried him.

"There are complaints that the quality of the produce is not as good; there are far too many illnesses in the plains - and amongst the travellers. We all feel under-nourished." Paudi countered, well aware of the greed trap - it was unarguable.

Felou took offence at this. "The illnesses of the plains have to be seen as your lives not our foods," he said, "we are a caring community and take good care of our crops." Surprisingly Paudi did not continue the argument.

Felou wound up the proceedings. "We have discussed the issue and have brought it to the attention of the gathering. Unless there is anything that anyone particulary wants to say I will leave the matter there.......until we have more concrete suggestions." Thankfully for most the gathering was over.

As the gathering had been somewhat summarily closed, Skifi wanted to avoid Felou with his analysis and recriminations. He was particularly concerned about Vernice and he went to console her. "Your plume is flattening," he looked at her caringly and she smiled but it was an effort.

"Things are bad, very bad......much worse than I had thought. We in Tuilley are in serious trouble.....and maybe not just Tuillley." She was lost deep in woeful thought, her head shaking side to side and her tail quivering behind.

He placed his tail on hers and moved close to her, his warmth pervading through his body to hers. She was shaking badly, it was as if she was beginning an endelling session. "Who is Paudi? He is evil. I could feel him all the time in the gathering staring. but not just that, it was as if he wanted to disturb - me, the gathering or even Tuilley. You must find out why he is here. If he had wanted to he could have been much more ruthless today, why wasn't he? He clouds my mind. Please Skifi will you go and find out what he is doing?" Her big eyes implored him and his heart fluttered but he was glad. He was not going to allow that sort of disruption to go unquestioned. This Paudi had deliberately tried to create trouble and he was sure that wasn't the end. "I will speak to him now. Where is he?"

He looked around and saw him talking to Felou. What was he doing now? He joined them, wearing a broad smile. "Did you enjoy our meeting?"

"Meetings are not to be enjoyed they are to conduct serious community business, but "he smiled lightly "I did find it interesting. I did not know the endeller was your mate."

"Does it make a difference?" Skifi asked aggressively.

"No, of course not, but it is interesting that you were the only two concerned about these dells," he observed wryly.

"Especially with the pressure you used on the committtee," interjected Felou.

Skifi glared at him but before he made any comment or offered any justification Paudi quietened them. "Still it is not important but I would like to consider the question of Quotas. Is it possible to arrange to discuss with your controller ways of increasing the stocks I carry." Very clever thought Skifi, create tension and gradually slip in what is wanted. Felou was still seething with anger and yet Paudi had managed to suggest something which went against all normal forms of trade contact - increasing stocks because of an unseen demand and not because of a good harvest. For Skifi the implications were enormous.

"You know that the stocks you carry are set by our laws of natural produce," Skifi asked controlledly.

"Of course I do, and I would not want to change that," his smile was unchanging and his gaze was unflinching unless actively confronted "but I am sure that if I gave you good reasons you might be able to alter your agricultural strategies to accommodate them."

Felou was completely fooled, in fact worse he was taking Paudi's side because of their previous conflict. "I am sure that any requests that Paudi has will not conflict our social laws."

"Nor the dells," Paudi and Felou laughed but Skifi took it like a knife in the tail as it was intended - he managed a brief smile. As he slid back to Vernica, Felou trilled "I hope you will be in a better mood when we meet." His forelegs were held up in mock greeting and Skifi had to quickly turn away for fear his tongue would flash out at the pair.

He reached Vernice and without a sound the two slid off home. By now both had reached fever pitch and neither had the desire to console, their respective calumny being well sufficient to contain the hobbling chatter of their minds. Without conscious thought they had immediately taken the longer route which would reach the edges of their wood.

Slowly they slid along avoiding the water which at night was known to be too sapping, and as the growth thinned slightly they stood erect and began strolling home. Around there were the noises of the foramp and even they seemed angry. In their state everything would seem angry yet it was as if the gathering had been a turning point for the foramp as well. Skifi watched as the moon's night light flashed through the canopy as they passed. By his tail he saw a salam scoot into the growth - he must take more care. Too much introspection. He tried to turn off his internal mind-flood and focussed on the route. Despite the regular noise and the air of dismay the night felt clear, certainly a night to relieve the tension. He applied the trick of concentrating on his steps. First the right, then the left and the tail in the middle. Again - right left middle. Again. Slowly his mind calmed as all he thought of was strolling. He took in the night more completely and as a result he became more composed, his subconscious churning through the evening's harassment for later evaluation.

As they strolled he noticed a lightening of Vernice's load as she too overcame her own tension. Soon they would chat. * * *

Meanwhile Paudi and Felou had been talking of old times, their changes and the unfortunate need for some to persistently harp on about the old times - stalwarts who see failure in every step which is not founded in historical truth. Things had progressed so smoothly for Paudi that Felou had invited him home but he had declined gracefully. How could he spend much longer in the company of this fawning, ignorant sucker? "It has been a long day, Felou, but thank you." He excused himself with suitable aplomb.

* * *

"Both of us have suffered tonight," she said breaking the ice, "Was that snake really so vicious?"

"More than we thought, and what is worse I don't know what he is doing." he replied resignedly. "He has charmed the second tail off Felou whose short-sightedness is limited to his own position on the committee. The more I think about it, the further we are returning to the mentality of the Dark Ages."

"This time will be worse, it is never the same second time around. For a long time we have controlled our mind energies and harnessed them for the prosperity of all Lauchidor, but if mind should regain control the situation can only avalanche." Her venom, although not directed at him, was frightening, why did she have such an extreme position on what she called mind-control and mind-games?

"It seems we both feel there is a great deal wrong. You sense it through the dells and I know that we are slipping back into the traps of history. It has always been accepted that if we begin to develop patterns of behaviour similar to those times we would immediately call a halt and analyse the situation. Yet here we have a traveller whose greed is demanding more produce.......at a first meeting!" His exasperation showed and she couldn't help. His preoccupation with historical comparison lost him much credibility with Tuilley, he wasn't dealing with history it was Lidors trilling - the great sadness is that it wasn't his true nature to live in history, it was his mind-trap. Try telling him!

"What do we do about this?" she asked veering him away from circular arguments.

"I don't know but we do seem to be out on an extra tail," he answered "The more you discuss the dells and I discuss historical imperative the less we are heard."

"Are we too dogmatic unable to hear Lidors' answers or are we just wrong?" she said hopelessly.

"There is a stage at which dogma turns off the sound and that is the fault of the doctrinaires," he continued wistfully "I am sure I have been guilty of that." She looked at him her jaw dropping slightly managing to withhold any comment. She contrived a smile. "But however shallow their minds this is well past that stage, the signs are everywhere if you open your eyes."

"You mean the dells," she grinned widely.

He laughed and quickly flattening her plume he scampered off into the forest. She chased after him catching him fairly easily, "Not so quick with only three limbs and a tail," she motioned towards his broken claw and threatened to grab it.

He moved back in mock fear holding the injury as far from her as possible, then swiftly she slipped her tail under his and upended him laughing her victory. He smiled as she slowly moved on top of him and their jaws met. The tension gone they relaxed in each other's grip as she gently played her tongue round his head. Then she took his broken limb and began to gently suck it in her mouth. Moving closer his tail began to gently stroke hers as they began to slip together. He looked into her eyes, they had the glaze of happiness and an anticipatory invitation. Slowly he turned her over and began to move his tongue over her body licking off the loving secretions.

Slowly she moved down his body and with tongue and claws began to play with his pouch. It was already soft and she began to ply it until it was loose and she could feel the two separate prongs hardening in her paws. Gently she pulled them together and with a grunt of pleasure she pushed them inside her. Slowly she felt him sliding up and down, and she moved her jaw round his body taking deep the smell of him as his exertions activated his glands.

Now both were very excited. The events of the day were sharpening their awareness of each other, their movements became synchronised and more violent. Her tongue shot back and forth automatically as she felt her self tighten around him. Her body convulsed sharply and then she felt the juice flowing hotly down his channel finally emptying inside her. He continued moving slowly and she gradually relaxed drawing herself bodily to him. They hugged each other for a long time, their spent energies bonding them in a protective aura which was impenetrable to the outer world. Relaxed, calm they held each other trying to retain the moment for as long as possible. Slowly it dissipated as did his sex and as it withdrew they turned on their sides and just gazed at each other. He stroked her now flattened plume raising it up and then just moved his face next to hers - simply to keep contact. She slid her tail and legs over to try and cover his still alive tail, and they remained quiet breathing in the air of their unsettled forest.

Skifi watched as the leaves rustled and the branches waved gently in the breeze as if an accolade nature paid to their love. But slowly they came down and each began to feel the chatterings of their minds replacing the more natural calm of their communication. Sadly the space had been replaced with the fallen tragedies of existence. As one they stood to return home to sleep before their next aggravations.

They had moved some way from their original path so they decided to stroll to the edge of the forest where it was much less dense, move around and then slide directly home at the suitable point. As they reached the outskirts they noticed lights from afar. These were not the fluttering lights of the fireflies used by the Tuilley Lidors, so they knew it was the flickering fires of the travellers. The last they wanted now was to see Paudi. They moved back into the wood reckoning on using the stream. As they moved inwards they had to move closer to their camp and Skifi saw that they had an awfully strong fire. He noticed Vernica perspiring and her eyes had widened - they must get home quickly their exertions of the evening were beginning to tell. But slowly her face grimaced and then she jumped.

Well not a jump, it was more of a start and it happened again. At the same time he heard a loud noise - it was a short sharp sound .......a chop. There again, they were chopping down the trees to make their fires; no wonder it was such a blaze. They scampered off at great speed so quickly that they almost ran into a food-growing area. That's strange, they would have to be really ill to be so careless. And then they realised it had been ravaged, much of the foodstuffs had been uprooted; and they knew by whom. They were near the stream and they slid in and their tails were absolutely worn out because they had never swum so fast in their lives. They were very frightened, Paudi had such gall he could try anything. In fear they curled up inside each other and by their comfort fought off the anxiety and slept.

* * *

Skifi had watched the events of Sokifa and Vernica for a long time. Obviously much perplexed him yet he had understood much that went on. What had built up in him was a great respect for Vernica and also for their relationship. As for Sokifa it was like looking at one's own reactions. The responses and emotions were his own only triggered by a world of different stimuli. OK Metaphysics what does that mean?

But what had staggered him most was making love. It was difficult to describe, he was involved yet watching - a writer perhaps; there seemed to be parts of him that almost participated as if drawn in uncontrollably yet remaining a separate Skifi. Beautiful, it was a different angle to see inside the head of their passion. Yet it wasn't a passion for him but love. His heart intuited great beauty, it was an observation no-one else could experience. A meditation of unity?

More was shaping up, he was learning much but a two-way process?

THE LEAVING

Skifi awoke to see Vernice sliding into the stream, he followed on sight. As the water engulfed them they began to feel the freshness of the early stream. Far away they heard the splashing as others of the bank-dwellers also sharpened up. As usual he stayed longer in the water, and as he returned inside she blurted "We have to leave Tuilley." He knew he would argue with her but he also knew she was right. But at this moment his silence answered her succinctly. She had already prepared their food - he had been in longer than usual, and they ate in quiet.

At the end "I have a meeting with Paudi and Felou soon."

"I'm not coming," she snapped at him.

"I know," he said calmly, nodding his understanding.

"Be careful about what we saw last night, it will be unbelievable for most of Tuilley." she said presciently "If you lose control we could be in a great deal of trouble." He smiled ignoring her matronly advice.

"I will work first it will prove my worth," he said.

"Things have gone too far already but you are right," and touching paws she went into their home. She was writing farewell letters , she knew they would have to leave quickly whether forced to or not. She was developing a bad fixation about Paudi, he wasn't the cause - it's far easier to blame individuals than systems - and freinds.

When Skifi had finished his work he reported in to Toma who smiled at his egg-mate. "You and V were on fire last night," he said jokingly.

"A little, but anything to wake this group up, eh?" they both laughed, eggmates knew each other too well to break a stand-off.

"We're going to start seeding the new area that Vernica pointed out: you know, down by Stigstream. We certainly need a good crop of beegs, they seem to have suffered one or two failures. In fact," he paused with import, then deflated, Skifi hardly ever listened to his chat "The beegcrop seems to be one that has suffered the most. It's strange, you know." Toma seemed lost in his speculating.

"What?" Skifi asked.

"It's only certain areas which have been badly affected by this pest, and most of these areas are planted with beegs." Toma replied.

"Where were these beegs planted?" Skifi asked.

Toma's mouth opened with surprise. He looked questioningly at Skifi, he's riding me; but no the question was in earnest. "This year the endellers said to plant the beegs near the outskirts." He mused "The advantages with beegs is that once they are planted they need little caring, yet they are our most important food source. Beegs must have good dells, eh?"

"Why has it failed?" Skifi ignored the quip.

"Well it seems that the beegs are most susceptible to the new pests," Toma explained.

Skifi's eyes lit up. Cover up! But what could he do? He couldn't blame the travellers, Tuilley just would not believe it. Besides it's easier not to, who wants conflict? He saw now, Paudi was having a real laugh destroying the crops and then everyone blaming the dells. He thanked Toma abruptly and stormed off to meet Felou and the thief. Vernica's warning was nowhere.

Meanwhile Paudi had arrived early for their meet. He had purposely found Felou and had been trying to discuss with him a "change in attitude" - how apparently innocuous subtle evil can be.

"You must recognise that times are changing, and so Lidors must change. We in the plains are not the same Lidors who controlled the Dark Ages, you know. Over the seasons we all change, but over many, many seasons Lidor society as a whole must develop. That is, after all, as I'm sure you'll agree, " he paused for effect, "only a law of nature. A dell?" Paudi smiled to himself, he was good at this - certainly far too good for this unsophisticated foramp fossil.

"I agree that times change but we cannot forget our lessons of history," thoughtfully Felou was trying to answer Paudi's traps. But he was interrupted.

"You're beginning to sound like that ivory-tower, Skifi," Paudi ingratiated "You have been around enough to accept that it is only one particular interpretation that Skifi has given. He seems to be conning you because he and his brown endeller have a wider education than others in Tuilley." Good,he knew Felou was envious and as is often the case intelligence fuels that jealousy.

"You're right you know, he does do that," he admired this Lidor's perception but of course he failed to appreciate his own vulnerability because of the naivety and inexperience of the foramps. Of course how was he to know that Lauchidor was changing fast, very fast. "But you are still asking us to increase our quotas beyond the natural yields," he continued stubbornly, it was the centre of his life.

"No we are not asking you to increase yields as such," he paused "but what we are saying is that you are not using all the available growing space. Increase your yields by increasing the area you plant. Anyway," having seeded enough doubt he paused then attacked "you cannot remain isolated here in Tuilley when there is a legitimate greater demand in the plains. Your rigid green code is causing problems elsewhere - serious social problems believe me." His sincere voice rocked Felou. Are our policies so out of date they are hurting Lidors?

"We do want to be fair, but if we begin to plant the whole area we will upset the balance of the dells: and then all our yields will be down." Felou argued.

"Dells, ever since I've been here that's all I've heard," Paudi acted angry. "Green Lidors claim that it is the dells and their use which led to our balanced society. But that is only the interpretatioon of green Lidors like Skifi."

Why did Paudi keep talking about green and brown, surely that was the past, thought Felou. "Many Lidors feel that it was only when we stopped exploiting the land that output increased. It was the case that they used to plant the same areas season after season without allowing the soil to regain its nutrients, its life. As a result much of the land gave poor or even no yields. It was a move away from this sort of exploitation which balanced Lauchidoran life."

Felou didn't like what he was hearing, it made some sense; but he had nagging doubts. Yet he couldn't ignore the suffering in the plains. "Ah there is Skifi, let's see what he has to say."

As he arrived Skifi could see a great deal of damage had already been done. The scales at the side of Felou's head were taut with dismay and showing signs that Felou was out of his depth. Paudi smiled one of his all-encompassing hollow smiles. "Have you recovered from last night's gathering, Skifi?" Gentle attack.

"What is there to recover from Paudi?" he was determined to keep control. "Did you and the travellers have a comfortable night, did you eat well?" That rocked him, Paudi's scales tensed with suspicion.

"It was cold last night, wasn't it Felou?" Felou nodded, and asked "Were you able to keep warm, Paudi?"

"Yes we were fine. Travellers are hardy Lidors, we don't have comfortable dwellings but we still survive, eh?" He still appeared quite composed, but what did Skifi know? This Skifi might cause them to alter their plans unless he could discredit him in some way. Mmmm, how?

"I have been discussing with Felou some of my ideas, which are the same as those of the other travellers," he added for strength, "so we could begin our meeting straight away."

"Good idea," remarked Skifi "Vernica and I had a long night and I've just put in a long stint with Toma. Oh I mentioned to Toma that we were meeting with you and asked him to come along. I hope that's ok," he smiled questioningly at Paudi. Of course there could only be one answer.

"Good,I'd not thought of that," said Felou, "he would know more about production, it is his job." He felt embarrassed at his omission.

"What exactly are your plans?" asked Skifi.

"You won't know this but in the plains there is a great deal of unrest. Many Lidors feel that with the falling quotas they are being short-changed. Some have even accused the green Lidors of hoarding." Felou looked shocked and began to argue. "Of course I soon put a stop to these lies but many still feel that the quality of the goods is not what it was."

"You said that last night Paudi, but they eat the same as we do," countered Felou.

"I know that," answered Paudi, "and I keep saying that to them."

"You can't be very convincing,"said Skifi.

"Be fair, Skifi. At least he tried." defended Felou.

We only have Paudi's word, a word that Felou would find difficult to doubt, as would many Lidors. Why did he doubt it so easily?

"Sure," he made a gesture which half apologised to Paudi but which made absolutely clear what he did mean. "So what are your suggestions?" Plans! The over-confidence was worrying.

At that moment Toma came in. He greeted Felou and touched paws with Skifi, egg familiarity.

Skifi introduced Toma to Paudi and explained "We have been dicussing the situation in the plains. Paudi claims that there is much unrest and that there are many criticisms of our growing methods. He has some suggestions." Toma looked puzzled. Not a great one for taking things personally this was a bit strong, still if Skifi hadn't immediately attacked this Paudi then he'd keep quiet.....for the moment. He remained wary.

"These suggestions are more a matter of strategy. We feel that if you plant more of the growing areas here in the foramps then you would be able to produce more. Many browns feel it strange that they are suffering and yet much of the land is not used." He felt that was a reasonable presentation, some would be far more aggressive.

"If as you ask we plant all these areas," answered Toma "it would affect the dells." He looked at Paudi's scepticism. "OK it would affect the overall output. We could plant all the areas but overall we are at maximum capacity, and we would be wasting effort. Less efficiency." he said with technical pride.

"How do you know it is maximum capacity?" asked Paudi, he'd cornered them now.

"The dells," said Felou, "the balance of Nature" He felt stupid, he knew he was right but for Paudi proof and reason were required.

Paudi just smiled, "I know how much faith you have in the dells," he almost sneered at the use of the word faith, thought Skifi. "But I can't present that as an argument to the browns."

"There can only be one answer," said Skifi "Lidors from the plains must come to stay in Tuilley. They can live here, we will give them dwellings and they can help in the growing." Both Felou and Toma murmured agreement.

"When you return to the plains you could invite them to come here and they can see for themselves." said Felou, he seemed happy with the suggestion. Skifi wasn't, Paudi had remained quiet.

"I am not sure that would be acceptable, but," his ingratiation now returning "I will go back with your generous offer and see what happens." This seemed a suitable point to finish, and arranging their next meet to finalise things before Paudi returned to the plains they parted.

Paudi returned to his camp and he cleaned up having arranged to meet Mabor and the council. Refreshed he called them together "This has not been a useful meeting. There is one fossilised foramper who is easily persuaded, but unfortunately there is a meddler who suspects. He even passed comments about fires and excess food. Did our guards see anyone last night?" he looked around, but there was either quiet or faint negative nods.

"We therefore are in a difficult position. If we immediately move into their community, then this Skifi will cause resistence. Without his efforts I think we could maneouvre this Felou into our ways of thinking without too much trouble. He seems scared of his own shadow if these stupid greens have shadows in the foramps." They all laughed mildly at his humour, the required laughter of subordinates.

Marew said "We could attempt to discredit this Skifi. If we planted some of their pest-ridden food,"

"And maybe an axe" said Rujia.

"Yes it would be particularly good because his mate is one of those magicians," Paudi smiled as the idea of the frame-up grew in his mind. "If we could discredit her at the same time then this Tuilley would be sown up.

"We are not progressing as well as we might," Marew added cautiously "I believe his highness was expecting to confront those Geraphins by the end of this season if we had control of enough of their supplies." They looked knowingly at each other, there was no margin for error and at the moment it was touch and go. Slowly they moved off to the fire, there were some of those salams roasting and they were very tasty fo fighting Lidors.

* * *

Skifi had returned to the centre with Toma, he was concerned for his opinion. "Paudi is very aggressive, what right has he to suggest altering our methods?" he paused "and for that matter it's not like you to allow him"

"True," he wondered, could Toma be a close ally? "I wanted you to see him as he is. If I had started an argument with him, you would have sympathised." Toma smiled, Skifi was right. If there had been an argument he would have assumed his egg-mate to be the instigator.

"I agree, Paudi is too pushy, but," he reflected "how serious is the situation in Geraphin? Are we even to blame?"

"No way are we to blame!" answered Skifi aggressively. "We must not forget that in terms of production we are working close to a perfect balance: the more I think about it the more I feel that outside factors are affecting the dells. or it could be worse than that there could be direct intervention."

Toma looked at him incredulously "You can't be serious, why do you always take things too far?" Squabbles of growing-up flashed in his mind, memories of the extremes that Skifi adopted.

Skifi'd misjudged it, still he must make an effort to justify. "The problems with the new pest, they all occur on the outskirts, agreed?" Toma nodded "Close to where the travellers were camped?"

"Possibly," muttered Toma with a struggle, he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Vernica and I saw a growing area near their camp last night, they had uprooted the beegs." he began to explain.

Toma interrupted "The growing areas were not destroyed by uprooting, I've seen them. Although there was hardly any of the crop left it was perfectly obvious it was some kind of pest."

"Could the crops have been uprooted and then the pest introduced as camouflage?" asked Skifi, just then realising what had actually happened.

"What you say could be the case, but we have no reason to believe it is true. Although he is a very unsavoury character, I don't believe he has stooped that far. Those are Dark Age tricks, is that when you think we are?"

"I know what I say is open to ridicule and I find it hard to believe myself, I must accept the evidence of my own eyes whatever conclusions they lead me to." Toma could see his egg-mate's sincerity but then Skifi completely blew it. "I even saw them chopping down the trees." Toma laughed, this last was too much. He moved towards his production charts, for him their discussion was closed.

"One last thing," Toma looked back impatiently "it is not an attack." Still dubious Toma waited for Skifi to continue. "There is definitely a change in attitude in the plains capital. I propose that someone goes to Geraphin to find out."

"That makes a lot of sense but if you come out with the slanders I've just heard there'd be no point in your going, no-one would believe you." Toma sort of agreed but he was still so angry. That sort of suspicion and paranoia is at the root of much instability, is that what Skifi is trying to do? No, he knew better but Tuilley wouldn't see that. "I will suggest that you," he saw Skifi's look of omission "and Vernica go on a liaison visit to Geraphin. But on one condition," he added as an afterthought.

Skifi looked quizzically. "You keep your accusations to yourself unless there is more substantial evidence," advised Toma pointedly. Skifi nodded agreement and departed noting that there was the use of the word substantial again. Toma now had lost trust in the old ways, this was sad.

* * *

Skifi looked on Sokifa's problems as symptomatic. Here was a society that had remained stagnant and withdrawn from much of the life of the planet, and now that there were changes beginning to catch up with them they were so stuck in their ways they were unable to adjust. Earth similarities were amazing, physical shape and the type of society were vastly different yet the interrelationships matched up astouindingly. But why? He began to consider earth history anthropologically. There were various stories concerning descent from apes, development of fire, the upright stance - all offered as reasons for superiority over animals (and lizards). But they had always struck him as feeble, worse that that symptomatic of science's inability to recognise that they are studying the wrong end of the spectrum - it is causes not effects which give you the reasons. It was then he had read that this phase of human evolution was the beginning of a phase dominated by the development of the mind. That which separated humans from animals was this mind, and that the descent and the other red herrings were as a consequence of this development and not the cause. Yet in a sense they happened at the same time, he mused to himself, a requirement of mind is to introduce a before and after. He gave up on this mental trap. But what really struck him as important was that this mind faculty seemed to be consistent with the types of behaviour exhibited on Lauchidor. What this meant and how important it was he had no idea but he realised that he must try and separate for himself these faculties. In some way he might be able to use them; besides he had nothing else to do but watch.

* * *

When Skifi arrived home he found Vernica outside tending their own growing area. As he approached he noticed the salams scampering around her not interfering with her work but just enjoying her presence. He went over and picked one up to stroke, they enjoyed their underbellies being rubbed - mind you so did he. He smiled at Vernice who carried on with her work. "We invited the Geraphins to come and stay in Tuilley," her brow looked puzzled "they seem to believe we are short-changing them."

"Not us, Paudi," she said automatically. He looked at her strangely, in all his conversations he had not thought that yet it was so obvious. After a while he simply nodded "He claims that he defended our interests."

She just laughed contemptuously. "They won't come, they might not even get asked. but whichever way Paudi will have created such antagonism that Geraphins would only see it as a trap. We must go."

"I suggested that to Toma and he says he will raise it officially with Felou," he said a bit too smugly.

"It will be too late by then," said Vernica stubbornly "I think we should go anyway, why don't we go tomorrow?"

This didn't sound good, she was not allowing any room for doubt, debate or even breathing. She gave him an open friendly smile but she was only offering him a choice of time, nothing else. Unfortunately he knew that; he didn't want to fight it, but he wasn't quite able to feel the urgency. That smile, he thought to himself, it showed a condescending valueless patience; it was as if the smile and decision didn't belong to her but were simply an expression of predetermination. Maybe! He liked it anyway.

"We will go but should we not act as some form of representative, and therefore be nominated. Otherwise any evaluations or contacts would be meaningless." he said practically.

"They are going to be meaningless anyway, don't you realise Tuilley and possibly Lauchidor are just not going to be recognisable?" She was so convinced he just had no argument.

"What do you suggest?" he asked, fearing the worst.

"We should leave now," she said simply.

He looked at her, she was perfectly serious. "What about friends, responsibilities?" he asked, this seemed so impractical.

"I have written notes to all concerned - Felou, Toma, the endellers and your partner. I have explained why we felt we should leave and what we were going to do. Anyway Skifi," she turned to make him look at her directly "there is nothing here for you, Tuilley doesn't listen to you at all now. You're living off old respect but you are basically wasting away. You have your practise but their small minds are closing you out of that - Lidors aren't visiting you like they did. It is a natural break, accept it and move on."

She was right in all she said but he still felt proprieties, decency, the correct form, they should all mean something; and he realised that he had allowed himself to become trapped. He now possessed the values of insular small-mindedness. He agreed. They walked to the gathering place and left the notes that Vernica had written. And with no small regret they walked out of Tuilley.

* * *

It was not much later that Marew and Rujia crept up near their dwelling and left a supply of beegs by their growing area. They also left an axe by their driftwood and piled some of the freshly-chopped wood at the top. They rushed off back to the camp and reported to Paudi that everything had gone smoothly. Marew said with blaze-trooper crudity "they must have been busy, too busy to notice anything else." He winked with a style that had not been seen in Tuilley for many, many seasons; and it's unlidor conception had only recently resurfaced in the whole of Lauchidor.

THE AWAKENING

As they left Tuilley it was as if a heavy weight had been lifted, they felt a light-headedness and a clarity of vision which they'd forgotten they possessed. As they strolled, around them the scene seemed to want to permanently impress them with its beauty. The sounds of nature which were of background said "Come and listen to me, remember me". The colours of the sky, no different to the routine, wanted to be noticed for their subtle hues, their many different blues seeming to offer the vividness of the whole spectrum. Around they saw the scamperings of salams and insects, if not seen before forgotten in the restricted memory born of small-mindedness. It was as if they had gained new senses - but in reality the old ones had only just begun to function.

After the initial exhilaration had faded, the remorse set in. Vernica particularly began to dwell on past events, memories of the small but now seemingly important. The routine securities began to weigh heavily as the mind fearing its loss of control began to create barriers in an effort to re-establish its domain. Fear grew as thoughts of their dwelling, their salams, their friends with their understanding - or rather with their presence and verbal concurrence, began to swarm her mind - her strength and resilience from her initial conviction had served it's purpose and had now disappeared being replaced by the anxieties that had been held back by her mental floodgates. Recognising her discomfort Skifi held her but he knew that distance would lessen her attachment to Tuilley so he refused to allow her to rest - she hadn't dared to suggest returning.

When they had left Tuilley they had followed the trail recognising it as that of the travellers. But after a while they began to see several trails and didn't know which to take. Surprise then mixed with anger for they knew it had been the practise to limit Lidor trails as to those required, why use more? Therefore their direction was not going to be forged easily. Skifi looked at Vernica, now regaining composure. "Delling need not be a farming art." She smiled and using the crutch of her craft began to snap out of her indulgence. Once in her habitual element she was able to free her mind and so relate to their present dilemma. Closing her eyes she allowed the dells to enter her full consciousness. She began walking, testing one direction then another. Watching her mind she saw the clouds thin and her walking became a barometer needle. When Skifi saw her walk one way and then turn back on herself he went up to her, and they simply carried on in that direction. Once this pattern was in her mind she knew their direction for to stray would darken her inner vision. But where they were going neither knew? Their fate?

Afar they saw another foramp. Although they had spoken with the travellers from time to time, neither Mabor nor any of their regulars had mentioned another community so near - nor for that matter could Skifi remember it from the time when he'd gone to study. He sensed great caution so they rested.

Recovered and prepared for difficulty they approached the foramp. As they neared they saw splashing towards their left and sensing there was no great danger there they went over to refresh their bodies. A strange smell hit them, it was harsh and got harsher as they neared the foramp. A mild hiss caught their attention, and they both turned to their left and saw a Lidor partially concealing himself amid the thin undergrowth. They realised it was not from them he hid as he motioned them to join him. As they moved towards him his agitation made them scamper and soon they too lay in this partial shelter. When she - a common mistake among Lidors initially - spoke, there was a conspiratorial air about her but that was almost overwhelmed by the smell of fear. "Are you fools to wander around so conspicuously? There are stockade gangs on patrol in this vicinity."

She looked again at them, they had not understood. "What are you trying to do?" she asked them, still not comprehending.

Vernica reverted to outmoded protocol when confused by strangers. "I am Vernica and this is Skifi, her limb brushed the side of Skifi's head gently. We are from Tuilley and we've left to try to discover.. " she was stuck for words - dells were not understood in Tuilley, what chance here. She shrugged and swept her limb before her in a minor arc, the sentence unfinshed.

Sunar looked at them incredulously. "What scam's this?" Again blank expressions. Maybe this was on the level. "I am Sunar from," she loked around her with a hopeless, defeated longing "what used to be Linou Dee."

"Used to be," she intoned, before they had a chance to say anything "Now it is gradually being destroyed under the guise of a new agriculture," she laughed scornfully at the paraphrase that now meant so much to them all.

Skifi began to see an image emerge, a scene not disimilar to what they'd just left, only more advanced - seasons, lifetimes no he doubted that. He fed Sunar "The travellers?"

With scorn she answered "They might have been travellers once, now they are the garrison." Their jaws dropped. "Yes, now they don't travel to the plains they use us and our stocks for their own benefit. And if we disagree then we get the stockade. Mind you," she added almost to herself "prisons take many shapes."

"Well, what are you doing ?" Vernica asked.

"There are some who evade work and capture but not for long," venom creeping through from her memory "their guards are ruthlessly efficient."

They looked at her sadly, she seemed out of her depth. There was a hardness to her but it was still very thin - she'd not been on the run for long.

"Please Sunar," Vernica asked quietly "Tell us what happened." She looked at them her suspicions evaporating to be replaced by the relief of company - of company from the past. For the first time she smiled "We must not stay here but there is a furrow not far from here that these arrogant thugs don't know about. They might claim to be New Lidors but their knowledge of our ways is limited," she said half-heartedly. "Come," she perked up "it is not far."

They seemed to move in towards the water and then began to move parallel to it's edge. Every few steps Sunar gathered loose branches and growth, all the while her newly-developed cunning active. She stopped. "You must follow and do exactly as I." They nodded now fearing to breathe as her conspiracy enveloped them; somehow the atmosphere prevented them from free actions.

Sunar descended down the banks of the swamp and made to enter, then she backed away and as she went she would step on rocks or logs. Turning towards them she repeated "Exactly where I trod." Handing Vernica the loose branches she instructed "Use these to sweep away, or cover up, any claw prints we may leave." Swiftly she moved off and Skifi then Vernica followed with extreme caution, her instructions being meticulously followed. Somewhat awkwardly they followed Sunar and then saw her tail disappear into the ground - they had not noticed but they had arrived at her furrow. Those guards would need to be very sharp to find her.

Resting they were handed cups of water which they gladly drank, then to break the silence "Our home was much like this," Vernica said "Dug out by the bank of a stream." she added.

"Once there were many homes like this spread throughout Linou Dee but now they've been destroyed or abandoned as the Linouds have been moved to the stockade or to the new dwellings provided by our hosts." Sarcasm seemed her last refuge.

"You intimated that Linou Dee was much like our Tuilley," began Skifi "please explain to us how things could have become so bad."

"It's all happened since the beginning of this season - or at least most of it," Sunar started the story of Linou Dee's degradation "and it started almost innocently - certainly nothing of a magnitude to portend the future. At the beginning of each season we all met, as usual, to discuss with our controller and the endellers the quotas and workloads for the season. It began as normal - minor bickerings, petty points of dispute and all the usual sort of rubbish which dominated that sort of occasion. And then a stranger rose and asked whether the quotas could be increased by better use of the land. Some ridiculed, others angry began vehement argument, most remained ambivalent to the suggestion. Soon the situation cooled and the stranger returned to fours. You ask who this stranger was," Sunar said seeing the question forming "Well, he later introduced himself as Paudi, the traveller." Sunar saw knowing smiles and continued "He explained that there was much social unrest in the plains and that much blame was being put on the foramp Lidors. Some sympathised but we maintained our usual output despite his objections."

"Then after we had slept, he and several of his travellers came to our store and began to take the supplies, more than he was apportioned. There were objections but these were laughed at. Senior Lidors decided to go out to their camp to ask for the return of the excess, and were shocked to see that they were using freshly-chopped wood and were roasting the salams for food." Sunar looked at the revulsion in the eyes of her guests. "For them it was also unbelievable and it was then that Irigou moved towards this Paudi to strike him with his tail. Irigou was then set upon by four Lidors who clubbed her senseless. Then Paudi informed the seniors that the travellers now controlled production in Linou Dee. The seniors were captives that sleep, and after the sleep Paudi and a large number of travellers, more than we had seen before, came to our store. When Lidors turned up to work they were given fresh instuctions and if they objected they were beaten. Many stayed home then they sent out these troops who would drag Lidors from their dwellings." Sunar's voice began to shake. "It was just so quick. Within three or four sleeps Linouds were either locked in the stockade or like me were on the run. We," she gulped back her emotion "were totally unprepared. Why should we be anything else? Nothing remotely like this has ever happened in Linou Dee."

At this she completely cracked up. For sleep upon disrupted sleep she had lived claw to mouth, not knowing where the next food was, not knowing whether the next Lidor she would meet would take her to the stockade. She was distraught. Both Skifi and Vernica went over to console her and they waited quietly until she regained what remained of her composure.

After a while Skifi asked "How have the Linouds organised against these shits?"

"Organise," she laughed bitterly,"I hardly see any free Lidors now, and any that I do I flee."

Skifi looked at her compassionately. "You have little left now in Linou Dee." She nodded helplessly "then you must come with us," he looked questioningly at Vernica for approval. A smile was sufficient.

Sunar stuttered for arguments, her memories, friends, home were all here in Linou Dee. But they were all the past; her Linou Dee did not now exist. Her little resistence gave way to resigned agreement - not out of rudeness but unwilling still to admit that her life as she had known it was now at an end. "Need we delay?" asked Skifi, and Sunar led them back to where they had met. "You must backtrack and circle round for the path you were on would lead direct to one of their outposts." Sunar spoke of these travellers as if they were an army, the thought frightened him. He buried it for a time.

As they followed Sunar's directions, Skifi worried about the imminent disaster in Tuilley. "Do you think we should return?"

Vernica replied more out of his need for confirmation than to impart information. "We would be as ineffective as Sunar has been. Paudi's Lidors are too organised, this must have been planned a long time. Do you have any idea what has so changed the travellers, it can't just be one Lidor however charismatic?" She looked at Sunar but as expected received only an uninformed shrug. Sunar disclosed her fateful apathy "I never really took an interest in political matters, they didn't seem to affect my life."

"Tuilley was like that," said Skifi thoughtfully "and now she and probably many other foramp communities will suffer. But why have these travellers so forgotten the Dark Ages, and completely destroyed their's and our dells?" He looked at Vernica who was equally baffled.

Sunar, ignoring Skifi's speculations, had been concentrating on their route. "You were very fortunate, you know," she said with some awe "your path was the only possible route to Linou Dee that could not be seen by their outposts."

They had backtracked a long way and now could barely see the foramp; Sunar had changed directions and was leading them parallel to the foramp's edge. She stopped and pointed. "Just there the foramp juts out," and as they moved along the foramp seemed to move further away. Sunar again stopped. "About opposite us here is their last outpost, and although it was blind to your route it has a panoramic view of these whole outlying areas. We must travel a long way before we are out of their vision."

They could see how right she was, for in front of them stretched a large grassy area, flat and endless like the plains, only with this hardy strain of rough grass which somehow had gained a hold over the whole terrain. Skifi, looking at the distance, realised that their bodies had not taken water as they had intended. "We must bathe soon," he warned Sunar "it is some sleeps since we were properly hydrated."

"We will return to the foramp once out of range of their outposts, besides" she added "I would not choose these wide open spaces." They both knew what shemeant, so much space seemed frightening lacking any of the security of trees, vines and other daily acquaintances.

Time dragged on and as the dehydration began to take some toll on his strength Skifi worried; of course this made his condition worse. Vernica noticed his shortening breath and watched as he anxiously wiped sweat from his scales. "You must not think of your water, it will only make it worse."

"That's easier said than done," he answered brusquely.

"If you simply concentrate on the walking one limb then the next and so on you will find that the journey passes without the anguish," he laughed, that was one of his normal practises but he had not been in difficulties then - it was easy to experiment with tricks when it didn't matter.

They soon turned in towards the foramp and as it closed on them Vernica felt much easier. To her there seemed little danger and she said so. Almost too carefree they strolled into the foramp and finding a stream all three were quick to slide in. At first they worried about splashing but soon they abandoned caution and with joy and thanks they rolled and darted about the stream as they had long ago growing up. Although they had travelled far the water gave them great vigour as if there was energy that seeped into them through their contact. Soon they were very much stronger and feeling relaxed they began to look for food. And no sooner thought than the first place Vernica looked they found some wild beegs. Their hunger satisfied they lay together and began to think ahead.

"We have several choices open to us," Skifi said and was about to list them. "On second thoughts," his thinking becoming words "Sunar what do you want to do?"

"I haven't thought," she said evasively "why don't you list your choices and then..." Vernica interrupted "His choices would limit your thinking, and therefore your choice would not be total."

She still wasn't too certain. "All I want is a return to Linou Dee, or somewhere like it," she added, her insecurity unfolding "I can't face this total disruption."

"But what about the failings, the isolation, the lack of awareness of Lidor life ?" Skifi had easily slipped into a new mode of thinking - a thinking which assumed that the faults were not just external.

"I completely accept that the life of Lauchidar has to account for these," she paused, this admission was difficult "and I wish for my role within that accountability. I just want it quickly....yesterday?"

Skifi detested apathy, he needed social involvement. "In other words, youwant to.."

"Skifi!" Vernica shouted, fearing the worst of his intolerance. Her voice calmed "I understand and" she added placatingly "It is not everyone's role to change the world."

Skifi started to argue with this slight but she refused him the room. "Besides it is a good job that not everyone wants to analyse and organise." She could see that Skifi had now regained his tact and would be open enough for a continued discussion.

"I'm sorry for being rash," he apologised "it is just not my nature." She smiled , his self-negation had eased the tension.

Sunar and Skifi turned to Vernica, and she laughed. "Do you think I have a choice? We left Tuilley to discover what was happening, it would be impossible for us simply to settle down in some other comfortable community. His nature would not let me even if I wanted to. Besides," she gloated a little "we're here because of my pressure." Skifi felt his scales tighten and a globule of embarrassed perspiration slid down his face.

"But where does all this leave us now?" asked Skifi overcoming his discomfort.

"Nowhere." ventured Sunar, and gradually they began to convulse with laughter at their stalemate.

"We're not staying here," said Vernica who was relieved to see that Sunar readily agreed.

Skifi looked at Vernica who easily slipped into her endelling, and almost as quickly she had decided on a route. They moved deeper into the foramp.

With great watchfulness they strolled deeper into the foramp; this was unknown land to Sunar, and themselves. An inexplicable gloom overcame Skifi. After all they'd been through, gloom was the last he'd expected. The foramp took on a darker hue and as he looked around he felt the trees close in on him. He felt awkward and molested, irritated at every branch that blocked his path. Eventually Vernica stopped them.

"What is the matter with you?" she said angrily, barely controlling herself.

"Don't you feel it, this gloom?" he asked surprised that she particularly was not undergoing similar, if not more powerful, reactions..

She looked at him admonishingly. "What are you talking about? I feel nothing but weariness ..... and a sense of relief that we are out of Linor Dee," she looked at Sunar who nodded vehemently, a gasp of agreement escaping easily from her mouth. "You're just overreacting, maybe you feel homesick?" she looked at him questioningly.

He accepted the escape, calmed himself and continued the journey trying to fight back his dread. There was no sympathy here, he thought, as both Sunar and Vernice gave him consoling smiles. But smiles which put an end to the subject.

As they moved further into new territory Skifi's gloom was enforcedly replaced with an almost paranoic watchfulness, his awareness was extremely sharp and each rustle was immediately spotted and vouchsafed. In his mind he could not understand why this feeling should be so strong and yet the other two felt nothing. They seemed totally unaware of any foreboding; why was it so strong in him? He thought to question them but he remembered their previous response; he kept his own counsel.

Then suddenly it was upon them. From out of nowhere a band of lizards attacked them. There was a wildness about them, almost that of wayward children. Only not with this crew play, for there was murder in their hearts. His mind focussed on the word why as it drifted into the distance with his consciousness.

Myriad images flashed across his mind as slowly he ploughed back into wakefulness. As his mind emerged from its centre he checked his own periphery, he was badly injured. Severely injured, perhaps even mortally. That's what they'd thought flew across his horizon and it was then he became concerned for the others. He looked around, where were they? There were tell-tale signs of struggle but the marks were much scuffed but at the edge of what he could only think of as the attack zone he saw drag marks. He immediately began to follow. His instinct had said follow but he had no idea what he was going to do or even if he could make it. All he thought was Vernice.......VERNICE!

As he followed he noticed the signs were weak, fading - he must have been out a long time but this did not deter. He was beyond deterrence, he must go on he must find her. His whole being was one thing - Find Vernice, and that was what was in his mind as he collapsed again from exhaustion and injury.

As he awoke this time events were clearer. He knew there had been an attack. Why - who knows? Vernice and Sunar had been dragged off. And he was following them when he had collapsed.

To follow, this thought grabbed his mind and his passionate obsession took him over. Again ..Find Vernice.....Find Vernice!!!

He found their tracks again. They were not being dragged now, he can't imagine those creatures would carry them unless they were ... tied? Sympathy for Vernice soon gave way to anger as he thought of those thugs, what he would do to them! But then part of his mind began to push him to reality. How many were there? What could he do? And much much worse, was Vernice alive? Tears grew in his eyes but he would not allow them he must find her and he again concentrated on his task. Find Vernice: he focussed on the tracks.

He now realised he must have been out for a great length of time because the tracks were covered by prints of salams and other of the smaller foramp creatures. Many times he stopped and almost gave up for there were no signs or tracks only at the last moment to find a branch broken or a print covered by the wind blowing leaves. So he thankfully continued his search. But to his horror the foramp with the signs he could read began to give way to pure swamp. Dreading each step he saw the tracks take him nearer and nearer to the swamp edge. And his worst fear was realised as the last track disappeared at the water's edge. Let logic prevail he thought. The direction he had come would lead him straight across the swamp to where they'd exited and he would then continue his search. It seemed a long way the distant trees were not recognisable as such - he just assumed - but he would swim to them. Nearer and nearer he got, his energy sapped but he still fought on what did it matter how much he injured himself he wanted .... needed Vernice, he must find her.

Exhausted he sprawled onto the bank. And it was with utter despair that he looked around to see not a sign of life, not a print, not a track and certainly not Vernice and those .... He passed out with exhaustion, sleep taking over again. Within him there was a guide that was able to regain some control when his mind was its weakest.

This time when he awoke was the first that he realised that things were looking hopeless. He had travelled a great distance from the attack across foramp and swamp and it must have been many sleeps without ant sign of her or the thugs. He had to face the fact that she was probably DEAD.

NO NO, he would not accept that she must be alive. How could he find her? What if he marked this spot and traced round the edge of the swamp eventually he must find where they had left the swamp. Logic triumphed again he thought - or at least he wanted to believe it was a triumph. It was a long job but then he knew he would find her.

Slowly he set off, for although logic had its answer his spirit was not with it now. Methodically he moved slowly round the edge of the swamp meticulously examining any sign of life but to no avail. At the end of one revolution of the sun there had been no sign and the doubts had given way to a deep sadness, and in his solitude he cried himself to an exhausted sleep. In the morning the new freshness gave him revitalised hope but there seemed so much ground to cover. He still forced himself on but his despair was greater at the next sleep. More and more his search was turning numb. And as the emptiness crept over him he drowsed off. And this time as he awoke it was as if he hadn't slept. All he knew was despair and he couldn't dispel the thought that Vernice was dead. He snapped at himself. Look at it logically, follow your plan but far too quickly his resolve disappeared and he collapsed into a heap of despair at the water's edge.

Maybe he should sleep and revitalised he could carry on but as he closed his eyes he could only see the blackness of emotionless despair. His thoughts and desires had been enslaved by the zombie depression - he had no thoughts but to lie there. What else was there to do? Gradually he drifted into a shallow sleep and when he awoke partly recharged he could only think of Vernice, and if that wasn't enough if he managed to snap out of that all he could think of was the pain he was in.

* * * Throughout this Skifi looked on in sadness. Initially the hope and then the pain had been so strong he had been dragged inside it. He had been unable to help. But now through the despair he saw a way in; maybe this was even why he was here. He felt that he could pull Sokifa through although the despair was so great he wondered whether it was right to. Maybe a love as strong as theirs ought to be allowed to die simultaneously - it is accepted in the old. Of course not, he knew better but logic was difficult now.

THE UNITING

Having gained at least a partial insight into his strange journey Skifi felt it was now time for some action. Seeing the great despair that Sokifa was in what was he to do? Probably the unstable mental condition would predetermine a classification as madness. A good subterfuge, he thought.

Beneath the mourning cloud he began to feel the emergence of a partial life-form. Through the haze Skifi called out, it was thought transfer but it would only register as a disembodied voice. As Sokifa awoke he began to look around, where was that voice? Who was it? He knew no-one here. Still the voice persisted and as he searched wider and wider he heard the voice call out "There is no-one there, the voice is inside your head."

As soon as this was said Sokifa associated it with madness. A deep loss and voices inside my head; definitely the signs he thought to himself. He laughed scathingly at himself but he wasn't really concerned. Madness didn't worry him; nothing compared with the loneliness of separation from Vernice.

As Skifi caught this thought he tried a fateful move. "You must forget Vernica, you are now on your own." With my help he thought to himself.

No sooner said than he felt a violent reaction. "Voice of Madness," bawled Sokifa "whatever you are, know this! Life for me meant only Vernice. No Vernice, no Skifi." And again he allowed the deep depression to swallow him in its wallowing black jaws.

* * *

What must Skifi do now? His first attempts he recognised as naive but what next? Persistence certainly, but he was beginning to fear for Sokifa's life; food had not been a high priority and it was essential given the extent of the injuries which were now really taking their toll. Could he control certain body reactions, possibly those which were instinctive - survivalist? He looked around Sokifa's body and within five lengths he could see some wild beegs. Could he move the torso to enable him to pick the beegs? He would try.

He searched the body for stimuli. The stomach must be looking for sustenance and gradually from within he felt a minor consciousness which was automatically searching for food. Skifi empowered the involuntary hunger and slowly this hunger took a more substantial form. It began to demand motor response and once the faint triggering had been woken Skifi again built this into an insatiable urge. Although asleep and under great psychic deflation, Sokifa's instinctive brain responses were functioning on a pure survival level, now that the animal consciousnesses had been stimulated the will to survive was strong. Skifi felt that he would now be able to push the body into retrieving the beegs. Aligning the consciousnesses he focussed all the energies in just one direction and gradually Sokifa's body made a coordinated, involuntary movement towards the food. With great effort Skifi controlled each synaptic response and painfully he pulled the beeg and began to eat. Skifi could feel the life return to the body and the satiated hunger radiated as elation.

But also within Skifi there was satisfaction; he knew that on one level, admittedly purely instinctive, he was able to exert some control. The body would not die despite the mental state. But this was not enough. If all he was to be was some kind of conscious somnambulant he would maybe prefer oblivion. Yet he could not believe that was his position. Far too many coincidences militated against passivity: destiny, he smiled at the melodrama, had far more in store. He also drifted into sleep, pain and tiredness which had seemed distanced within Sokifa's consciousness now seemed to be integrating within his own ... and it HURT. And it was the pain which took him into the dream. Identifying with a twin-headed monster, pain tossed from one head to the other. It was as if one head said "Take it," and the other fought it back. Then it was not the pain they were tossing but lives. At first there were people blown out of cannons wearing dollar signs and midair they changed to lizards. And on landing they came to these delightful residences. Gone was the pleasant sparseness and in its place luxury. Cool water indoors! Salams splashing around playfully ... but they were cages. Hollowed-out trees screamed at misuse as water was pumped into the pool. And they followed the scream which came from a lizard - a baby dying with no food. In the city beneath the tossed lizard? But it was then Sokifa tossing. And he screamed because his tossing had made him wake on his broken paw.

But he was awake and more. The depression had turned to hostility; the dream had shaped his emotion into race consciousness and more importantly conscious action. He smiled as the mental Vernice's quiff directed him. Paudi and the other travellers had to have a reason for their actions ...Power, and if they were getting power who was relinquishing? Or who was having their power taken? How many still dream?

* * *

Skifi felt that the dream had done a great deal to align Sokifa's mind with his own, and he knew that now there was no barrier to their progress. And more he felt a certain jubilant expectation, he was moving towards the discovery of his own journey. They now travelled towards the plains to learn of the corruptions of Lauchidor.


STEP TWO

THE PLAINS

THE MEETING

Every fifday they met, it was a good day because very little happened fifdays an they often met to arrange parties that would happen over the next few days. As usual there was the speaker berating the priveleged, criticising misuses and in general paraphrasing whatever whenever and why. She shouldn't be there! Gone was her youthful enthusiasm, mixed with the naivety that had made her fanatical, and all that was left was the faint but rationalised straw whcih she clung to togive her life meaning - she wouldb't think on the full implications of that one. she thought back to younger days, she thought of her revolution, the party line, the emotion which meant full commmitment without deep questioning unless it was the questioning which was sanctioned by the party at that particular phase of the revolution. In her mind she sneered both at herself and at the situation because she saw in new members her own unquestioning approach. It sickened her to think that in the very words of revolution that were paraphrased in every permutation was the very system they were supposedly fighting. And yet in the arguing she became part of the same. Because the existence of the party was only a government control. Twofold, to find youngsters who might cause trouble and dishearten them by showing them apathy masquerading as struggle. She looked around at the comfort. Here they all decried the propertied, the new dwellings which was contrary to all the old ways, and yet although none were affluent there were none who were lacking. Yet outside she knew of plenty whose life was maintained by a thread. Not so many in this city because lizards needed to see poverty but only relative, not death.

But she had seen both and she knew the cause. Mind you so did most but they invented excuses for not facing it. the lazy greens hoarding the food, restricting production steeped in a tradition of ignorance and magic which had as much relevence as salams to government. She smiled, their pets would make a better government so maybe the dells meant more than labour. It was a dream that passed before her. A continual stream of words and pretences built into a whirlpool eddying nowhere. She remembered back, she had seen arguments and soon those lizards had left. They all had been happy for such regressive elements only harmed the struggle --- they conveniently forgot that those same had been the most active. It was as if commitment to the struggle actually meant that as part of your learning you left because you were so worn down by the blatant contradictions and lack of meaningful fight. She'd often thought of voicing these at meetings but knew that she would lose credibility - even more, however blind were those in the party her disillusion must show through. She had thought of writing it. She imagined the reactions. Sold out, system lacky, write anything to make money; the frustration almost made her cry for a deep questioning and lizards actually struggling against the system instead of struggling with their compromise - family, job, whatever. The real sadness was that there was no fight in the movement because there was no fight in the lizards unless within a particular arena for which everyone knew the rules and never went too far. The games that were played didn't matter to those who played them but they were only able to play those games at the suffering and death of the foramp lizards who were now systematically being wiped out or enslaved as part of the present productivity drive.

But of course they were fighting for these greens didn't they have a party position that they upheld? She wished they could all find the energy and strength they were born with and channel that into the fight; there would be no struggle then their natural force would wipe out the opposition without any problem! Prove it!! That was the other great con! Words and raeason shackled the revolution. They discussed, rationalised, wrote pamphlets - all of them arts given by the system educators. They must get outside their own education before they can fight. Destroy that part of yourself they have created and then go out and fight. But where is the logic in that came the response? But if you discussed paradox or anomalies then you were accused of verbal salamandering. Life is like that you go out and do, it lacked any possible verification and therefore could not be true.

But still she held on. She attended the meetings though it was harder and harder to stay awake. The occasional flash of enthusiasm gave her courage and hope but she knew she lived so far from her soul that there was never any chance of success. Perhaps they were even scared of success, certainly they weren't going in that direction. Having learnt of her tasks for the seven she went off home having a case of what she called fifday blues. She met her mate on the way home and they went off to the new watering hole which had opened last seven.

As they entered the Lidoro Jana glanced with appreciation at the rippling waters in front of her. Quickly they paid their fee and soon she found herself totally immersed in the pool. Lying there she opened her scales to allow the ripples to gently tingle against her raw nerves stimulating her whole body. She wallowed in the excitement and began to anticipate later fun. Unfortunately the gong soon sounded and as they emerged from the pool the attendant provided them with their drink. Sipping it slowly Jana began to feel an internal glow which matched her already nervous excitement. She turned to Buron "Isn't it time we went home?" she asked quietly, little hiding her true desires.

"Just one more," he pointed at the Morvin.

She was feeling too good to make an issue and although pressed into having one more she barely touched it not wanting the drug to spoil her appreciation. After a while they left and she could feel Buron's excitement growing but her response was somewhat deflated, her nerves now jangling with frustration at the delay. Buron looked at her strangely and she put on a face.

Soon they reached home and with gentle but firm grace Buron moved quickly into the act. Not that her body wasn't responding but it was at arm's length. For much of the love-making she could not participate with true verve. Soon however her body's passion destroyed the mental interventions and gradually she became immersed in the whole well of emotions and responses.

Now that they had finished, the minor irritation returned. She didn't want to but she began to focus on the dissatisfaction. She couldn't ignore the feeling of delay and frustration but she wouldn't say anything. Was it her? It never seemed to give her the appreciation she wanted. Was it her demands were too great? Her mother and friends said they were but she didn't feel that. She wouldn't have the feelings in the first place. No the responses were part of the rules for female lizards. Her frustrations were becoming political anger, was there no peace? It wasn't that there wasn't a political dimension but she couldn't even feel post-coital satisfaction now without her mind darting into the territory of change ... or revolution. The real one, not the talk. She had to get up even though it would make Buron angry. She looked at him apologetically and he curled up to sleep showing the hard scales of his spine almost in a threatening gesture. He said nothing, neither did she but there was a gulf. How was it to be bridged, should it be?

She didn't want an answer but went for some air and space. Outside she allowed the mild wind to blow at her tingling scales. Soon the nerves were passified but that left her mind in turmoil. Buron was a problem but no more than any other male lizard. Sure tonight he had not been sensitive but there were times where her response lacked mutuality. But what she felt was far deeper. The sexual frustration belied a greater feeling, her whole body was rejecting her life and its conditions. There were times she felt the death throes of the green workers especially after she had attended the Lidoro or partaking of excesses of Morvins. She felt like an unexploded bomb but without a fuse or a target. So this resulted in her anger with those at the meeting. They were wrong but there were many others whose errors were more far-reaching and DEADLY. But they should know, but why? Because they profess to know. Oh, it was circular.

But then there was no recourse in love. Many claimed it, was it true? She wanted to believe it, but it didn't seem likely - everyone would be so much happier if it was. Lizards had appearances to keep up and sex was one of them. She smiled at the childish pun but there was no escape in low-key humour. Was there escape in religion? For a long time she had immersed herself in deep study. Not the superficial rantings of the system creed - the one which cares on the one hand and supported the rich with the other. Her mind wandered into the quagmire of the creed's hypocrisy and the practises of its ministers but that seemed not to rile her. But she couldn't understand those who had studied and then claimed practise. Having their minds opened up to the true practise of religion and then still choosing to immerse themselves into the practise of dogma, for her that was inexplicable. Agreed it was not right that one loses one's spirituality in the dilemmas of daily life but how can one ignore the deaths of thousands , millions when it is those very deaths which funds your religious predelictions. Again it was the same paradox. They used the money that they gained from the deaths of others to debate whether they should do anything about these deaths. The hypocrites, but then what did she do but the same only with subtler mental gymnastics and greater mental anguish.

Such mental meanderings simply made her tired and awkward and she went back inside to try to sleep through her dissatisfaction. Waking next day she set off for the indoctrination factory. Since qualifying she had spent all her adult ife in the school but now she was beginning to question every aspect of her work. She hadn't expected a great deal in terms of success, but there seemed nothing for her now. She had come to an understanding very early on, an understanding which she summarised as EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION. For her the work at the school was evolutionary, it had to be if she and her school system weren't able to educate so that lizards could begin to drag themselves out of the social evils they were in then ultimately they would involve themselves in war and DEATH. A thought struck her. Maybe there were now so many deaths and that number can only increase, perhaps she'd be better off taking revolution. Except who were the revolutionaries?

She ran away from these thoughts especially as the work began imposing its toils on her. Her close friend Larron was able to give her some comfort but he found it strange. Here she was facing deep issues which were of far greater import, yet the minute there were kids in front of her it disappeared into mind recesses and she went on with the routine of number. Larron laughed at this especially when she waxed lyrical about the kids.

But Larron had noticed it gave her a realism. Although as a teacher she exhibited the notorious narrow outlook of the profession the kids also gave her a humanity. She had said that of those in the party he exhibited the greatest verve and realism but he had a great failing. His analysis was anaemic. It was as if the lizards didn't exist, that it wasn't Lidors who were dying. They had to fit a pattern of response that belonged to the analysis of he and his cohorts. At least Larron recognised this and one way was his repeated diatribes about coming at them from where they stood. There was too often a temptation for idealists to require exclusively their ideals, to demand of those who were making efforts that they are not being successful - full party members!- until they embraced the whole philosophy. Of course very often lizards felt they couldn't and regularly came into conflict with purists. Since the purists were long established the newcomers would feel embarrassed at arguing - or even worse intimidated - and eventually they would become so alienated they would leave the party. Of course this suited the purists for that meant the party line continued - who wants "mavericks" anyway?

But the real effect is that the party's numbers remained small, and far more importantly there were still thousands/millions of greens dying while there was this semantic purism stifling the evolutionary desires of the lizard populus.With her Larron showed his understanding side but when it came to the meetings he was stuck. With his rhetoric and intellect he presented the sharp line which was respected but the pressures to conform were so great that if he showed his real concern he would be pushed out - there were many who already suspected his anarchic position.

Jana encouraged his individuality but the party was his life, his insecurities as a young lizard who did not involve himself in the chauvinistic pastimes of his peers meant that when he did gain some recognition he always too frightened to lose it, fear of lonelines was at the basis of most of the rigidity in the social structures. She could understand that, why was she still with Buron if it weren't for the security of the couple and the stability of the socially acceptable role model.

It was food time and she met Larron. They went to the artificial green that was created at the centre of the city. It was their sanity to sit and while away the time usually repeating the same arguments but it was the company and understanding they needed. At one celebration the had both hit the Morvin excessively, and out it all came. Soon they were discussing leaving home and moving to a small foramp and just living for themselves . They professed their great love and how their relationship was the most important thing in their lives. But luckily the Morvin had begun to affect certain biological functions and they had what could only be called a loving calamiy. But what was the greatest expression of their love was that they both laughed at themselves and each other. They recognised the true boundaries of their love and without any futher recrimination or guilt simply carried on where they had left off.

Many were suspicious. Particularly when either she or Larron began criticisng incompetence and a lack of caring attitude, responses were not concerning their comments but little more than veiled cajoling of morality. It seemed acceptable that you could criticise non-conformity rather than having to face the issue at hand. What was even more amazing was that even within the supposedly revolutionary framework of the party it was the more personal criticisms, again veiled in the catechism of the time, which was more important than the actual rationale, especially when it was uncomfortable.

They knew of someone at the school whose own conflicts with the system had left him greatly dependent on morvin. non-alignment with any of the arbitrary factions within the teaching staff had alienated him from their paranoid insecurities exemplified by highly developed group identities. His comments were basically ignored through jibes concerning the morvin and of course his was a direction we should all take - towards the Lidoro. She was beginnning now to see more and more where he was coming from but she wondered whether it was too late. But more unfortunately even if it wasn't why wasn't what she was doing good enough to replace his dependency. He had once said to her that there was a great deal of wisdom drowned in the bottom of morvin glasses, and maybe he had said scathingly the real roots of the revolution would come throught excessive tax on the morvin. At the time she was well into the party line so had dismissed him as had many others but now even she was looking to drunken pathos for some kind of answer.

THE BEGINNING

It was springtime, she could see it in the frolics of the salams but the steps of the lizards were grim, dour .... BLOCKED. She put the state of her head down to the spring fever - the frustration of the evolution and spring being the time for evolution. Of course for lizards spring was now the time for revolution she thought sadly. At that precise moment she could hear the increased sound of the army presence. There always now was some such action but not to this extent, something was happening. She felt the excitement in the air, but an excitement which gave her a foreboding with it for her an air of uncertainty. She received a call from Larron "There is something seriously happening in Grenton, there is a great deal of army. I am going to see."

"Wait," she said "I will be there."

Soon she rushed around and off to Grenton she went with Larron. Arriving there she saw great turmoil. There was one person talking "I am a country lizard. Never have I come into the plains or the cities. I have worked hard all my life providing food for a reasonable rate of pay."

There were murmurs of agreement the crowd completely accepted the work ethic.

"Then recently there have been more and more travellers demanding more and more produce for less and less money until finally three weeks ago they came and destroyed our village, and locked our lizards in worker compounds. I escaped and I come to tell my brothers."

Up stood someone else "They lock up our brothers in the foramps and in the cities, they treat us little better than salams, it's time we did something about it." There were cheers but one person shouted "You're a bit late" as they watched the young battling with the army while the rhetoric protected the frightened and the intellectual onlookers. Larron and she moved further on and Jana saw Clevon, one of her brightest students a short distance away on the outskirts of the action.

She went up to him "What's happening?" she asked.

"A picnic." he couldn't believe her, he gave her an intense look which made her feel very uncomfortable. Someone called Clevon "Over here", and she saw one of the soldiers attacking the caller. As Clevon ran to him he shouted "Jana go home you don't belong."

There was no anger no malice it was a statement for her which really rocked her being. She had supposedly been active most of her life in a struggle for freedom, through school, and she knew from previous conversations that she had a meaningful understanding with Clevon at the school and what it meant to him. But here the beginning of some real action he simply said that she didn't belong with no hatred or disrespect; she knew that she was in the wrong . It was time to get out and fight. She did not go back to school, neither did Larron. But they did go home. How many lizards had come to a realisation that their struggle was meaningless? By now many had seen and felt the barbs of frustration "Don't play with our lives, fight or get out. We don't need no system buffers - do-gooders," .... advocates of justice who through genuine caring simply deflect true desires. Where would these same lizards go? Most, she knew, would give up, or even worse describe the barbs as ignorance, frustration born from repression, anything but TRUTH. But could this have changed some? Would there now be a growing force for true action? At least there were two, her and Larron. But what could they do? They recognised it was not their fight ..... NO that was wrong, that aspect was not theirs. but the fight was on all levels. She had heard that before at school, another one of their verbal indigestions. But there was a sense of truth.Yes, that was not her struggle but she had faculties which in the right context could prove useful. But where? Some would say in what she wasdoing but that was stitched up by the many inadequacies of the system and that particular kind of system child. Gone were her times of compromise with party line or hidden developments in the youngsters. No more of those excuses - action with truth, action that was 100%, action where its results would not be sucked into the morass of the system, action that would not be justified because yhe morality was right. This was going to be action for results. Evolution was the past, the patching up had finished, inside her frustration system and sexual (the same) had gone because she now recognised that all her life she had been waiting to accept the revolution. Her soul and the revolution were united, the one direction.

She had been summarily told where she did not belong but she knew she was half looking for acceptance - apart from the kicks. But there was one thing. Even when there was no right to expect it trust had emerged. For all the wrong reasons she had been there and yet there was still a trust. She must repay it. Apart from her intelligence and system acceptance, her face was an asset - she must begin to organise herself to utilise that. To begin with, that army was an important tool; could she blunt it? The more she thought the more she believed that the forces of the revolution were alive, the cycle had moved beyond and instead of such as she acting against it with her patching. She had seen it was always there, but had thought that was simply the forces of change needing a little violent help. But now those forces were blocked, there was no change and so the revolution was building ... BUILT.

Her family was where she could begin. Ethics be damned, she had started her war and that meant she would use what she could including robbing from her father, a commander in the army. She thought on this. Although she knew that those she fought lacked integrity she had always believed that she must act correctly rather than fight fire with fire, or get involved with mud-slinging. Yet here she was being criminal. But yet there was a difference. For her now life was war, life was not party games disguised as struggle. In her evolution phase integrity was essential, in her new phase there was no ethic except win. That was the direction of the world energy, and every other aspect of Nature she wanted to call on for justification ... though she didn't.

As she approached her dwelling she had only action in her mind. But it would be stupid to limit her opportunities. There was a dual advantage in her past. Firstly her father had been extremely suspicious of her politics and in response she had been far more vociferous to him than to others, but then given time he had rationalised it by calling it a phase and granted his daugter an integrity which classified her politics as a quirk. So long as she did not alter her approach she had a ready source.Obviously he would not discuss matters with her but he was not averse to leaving the odd documents. But it was essential that this could not be traced to her. She could use her previoous"activists". This would be a two-pronged approach. Firstly she would allay suspicion from herself by planting certain information with these lizards. And secondly in these lizards being discovered with the information they would then become targets for the army. So that the struggle would cease then to be academic as they would suffer the physical brutalities of the system. The truth would be internalised by bruises rather than rhetoric.

She reached the entrance and her mother was the first to greet her. They smiled and their tongues met perfunctorily displaying the lack which was a characteristic of their class. "How is the school?" her mother asked dutifully. Her mother was interested but the question was to derive her own type of answer and not to listen to the words. Jana went into a short tirade about some recent bungling and her mother simply answered "Isn't it time you left, the job is destroying you?" But at least she was satisfied, no better but at least it was no worse.

"You're right mother," she answered more truthfully than ever "What should I do join the army?"

At this obvious threat to tranqility her mother went to the kitchen and began preparing the food. "You will stay to eat?" she asked as an afterthought.

"Yes please!" she answered politely "but I must,"she added as an afterthought "leave early, I have a hard day's work tomorrow."

She could predict the maternal sigh. "Is father in? Where can I find him?" she asked.

"He will be at the camp late tonight," her mother said with an accepted despondence. "well while you're cooking I'll work in the study. I don't have much to do, I won't disturb anything ,will I?"

Her mother muttered something which tailed off innocuously as Janna rushed to the study. She began to look through what was visible; not much obviously with all the security. But she did notice a message concerning Grenton, and this made it clear that the army was aware before it happened. indeed were they partly responsible. Some of the speakers? Designed inflammatory speeches? This was prrobably useful- but only as confirmation. But there was an urgent letter concerning the meeting he was now at. She took the agenda and copied it down, she could usefully give this to friends .... to incriminate. But there was nothing of interest here, she would have to go wider afield if she wqs going to prove of use.

She finished her work and went to her mother cooking. "I told you there wasn't much!" Her mother looked at her with a forced smile. "You know these beegs are getting more and more expensive," she said half-despairingly.

Jana looked at her; of course they were getting more expensive the army was having to kill more lizards to get them. But she'd tried telling her. Wasn't it sad? Her mother was intelligent and yet on certain things she wouldn't, couldn't, see beyond her snout. She wouldn't look beyond the cost and only blamed the merchants who sold them. Jana smiled and told her how much hers had increased, and they tutted together in the time-honoured tradition that prevented real discussion of the truth. As they sat down to eat her father arrived. He was angry, obviously a difficult meeting. She had heard signs lately that even he was beginning to see the crime in his job, but at his age tranquility was more important. Sometimes she could partly see that but not too often. She looked at him differently now, he wasn't her father he was now enemy and this then brought home the fact that her mother was enemy as well. In the past the differences were discussed, ignored or, at the worst violently argued, leaving huge rifts. But not any more; she had entered on a path which meant that her family ties had been completely destroyed by the recognition of revolution.

And she was sad, because she was a responsible daughter. But if they were in the way ... she gulped. Her mother asked "Is something wrong with the beegs?"

"No they're fine, mother," she answered and she thought she would break it to them.

"I was thinking about," she paused unwittingly and her mother particularly looked at her dramatically "I am not going back to school, what I am doing there is pointless."

She admired her partial truth and its effect. When she looked at her mother she could see a brief flash of joy, quickly overtaken by the realisation that she now had no job. Her father blurted out in anger "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know," she said " but I have decided it is wrong what I am doing. Anyway I don't enjoy it any more."

"You're a quitter!" he launched into his anger "How long have you been teaching and simply because in such a short time you haven't been able to change the world you are quitting." She began her arguments but they were fruitless and she slowly realised why. It was as if his social conscience had quit. Here he was stuck in a job that he continued in order to support his family but without ever having his heart in it.

And then Jana had begun to question their society. Although he had always ridiculed her, even attacked all that she stood for, in the end it was because she was that part of him that he wanted to live but couldn't. And now it was that part of him dying. She felt so angry and yet sympathetic. At first she'd been angry to see his intelligence swamped, but now she was even angrier because she saw his trap - and worse his feeble escape. Parents have no right to play with the lives of their children like that, yet she could see why and she just felt so totally frustrated. She walked out briefly, it was often the only way and after a short space she came back to a less taut atmosphere. They finished the meal in relative calm and she left. She took the long way home and posted the agenda in Dinor's house just before calling the army.

Waking up the next day she felt a great relief. Rather than there being the vacuum she had unconsciously feared, she felt a sense of freedom - her soul released? Although having time on her hands she also had time to control her life, that control had been non-existent whilst involved in the routine of work. Simply to have the time to make small things work was a luxury.

And for her that brought back a sense of integrity which had been lost. She could say this would happen and know that it would, or she would be at fault - and not some individual/system cock-up. And what was more important about this integrity was that she would make it happen. It did. She realised that this was something very important, in fact she remembered it having been important to her pupils and their respecting it having occurred on occasions - on the whole too rare.

But although she had time because she had purpose her life had meaning, and in that was the sense of security which was lacking in others in a similar situation. But that purpose was only valid in action and not rhetoric. But she would begin through a semi-rhetorical medium. She had often been complimented on her writing style, she could begin by using this gift. But not through the organisations that had previously stifled true action. The question was where?

Maybe the where would find her. Get herself in print was the first objective, but not through her political connections - although meaning well they often tainted. Overt organisations were not the answer but within was the caucus of true change. And they were observant, they watched and searched. Or maybe they were just Fate!

PACE IS GATHERING

Thomar and Bulor moved off to Grendale - the so-called ghetto. Thomar now realised that Bulor did have real contacts amongst the young - presumably he had been one of the activists the system had used to smoke out the leaders. They would be of use, thought Thomar, not at the moment but in future, by subtle exposure to valid literature and careful monitoring of their progress they might qualify for one of the movement's cells. That is unless crime takes them, he knew the dividing line was thin.

Especially the way the system encouraged the crime, paying backhanders to their stooge fences who encouraged the youth into profitless crime - that was violent. The sole purpose of this was to allow the adverse publicity of this type of crime to encourage the insecurities of the browns. It is strange to think that through the media-control the greens were made out as violent and uncontrollable, yet the violence was being controlled and manipulated away from where it could hurt. The real violence was brown, violence of the powerful, violence of those in control, the violence of the corrupted system.

Thomar moved his mind away from the mental rhetoric, he had to be careful. Bulor must not suspect and that would be difficult in view of their long acquaintance. Once away from the cell where Bulor's nervousness must have been to Thomar's advantage, now they would be on a more equal footing. Both were trained in duplicity but Thomar was in it for truth, Bulor only the power. This was a real edge from which his cell had long seen benefit.

Soon they were deep into the ghetto. They arrived at a yard Thomar knew for drugs - a useful cover under the eyes of the army. Useful for the young who were suspected anyway, he could not stay his cover was respectable. He pointed this out to Bulor who agreed.

"Why don't we arrange to meet and I will bring along Clemor and Dumar?" It appeared innocent but he could not be separated. Tricky, but solved. He saw recognition in two young lizards.

"I will meet you at Brador's," he moved off in that direction but doubled back. He watched as the two youngsters swaggered up. They showed their youthful arrogance, treating an adult as equal was always fateful; adults had much more experience in corruption. But he also watched Bulor, his own army arrogance betrayed him. Rather than taking full advantage he was fishing letting out the line to bait them, but with the arrogance of misused authority. How had Thomar let himself be fooled? He played their games, the greetings, the casual chat, the drugs all of which made the Lids feel superior because they thought they were seeing through him. But it was a tiresome plod manoeuvre. Thomar could see the game, a supposed intellectual someone they disdained but were used to using.

Eventually he threw in, "I have weapons"

"What, heavy books!" they laughed. Bulor smiled suitably, the benign patronising smile of the intellectual.

This only further amused them "Jet-propelled inkpens." They continued to laugh "radioactive chalkdust, nuclear-charged briefcases" They forced their raucous laughter, not because they were funny - they knew they weren't; but to anger Bulor. Them and their precious intellect, what good had it done anyone?

Bulor feigned annoyance, he began with a few quietly-voiced appeals for silence. Then as he saw they were not responding, he raised his voice. They looked at him, paused then continued laughing. They were milking this. Then Bulor went completely quiet allowing feigned rage to build up inside. Then he said "Enough I'm off" and he walked off.

After a few strides Clemor shouted out "Calm down, can't you take a joke?" He looked at Dumar and they smiled.

"We are interested in what you have to say, you came up with the goods before."

"We're not talking petty fire-bombs now,"said Bulor quietly, "you can really do damage with this."

They looked at him quizically, but putting on a face Clemor said "take us to the goods, we will show these army shits".

Bulor smiled, he had them now. But more important he had Thomar, Omthor and their arsenal. As they moved towards Brador's, Bulor glanced round furtively.

Damn, thought Thomar, Bulor has had these two tailed; had he been seen? Should he cut out? He waited and began to reason. He knew that he was being tailed - by the cell. They will have seen Bulor's glance and recognised its meaning so they would be wary. He would react as if ignorant.

He backtracked and rushed off to Brador's before the rest arrived. Soon he saw them. Motioning to follow Thomar left Brador's and moved off down the street. He turned the corner and waited in the shadows. As the three turned the corner he watched them pass and then with a blaster pointed at Bulor he called out to halt. Bulor looked at him in shock, had he been found out? Immediately Clemor rushed Thomar. Taking his time Thomar swerved slightly to the side he used one paw to grip Clemor's nozzle and the blaster hand pushing into the small of the back, Clemor went flying round the corner his own momentum being a more powerful weapon than the blaster. Almost immediately Dumar came at him and with equal speed he was dispatched. Bulor remained still, he was well aware of Thomar's training and with novices in the way he could not hope to overcome the expert. Soon the defeated got up, and Thomar motioned them back to Bulor. They looked angry - but they definitely did not swagger back.

"Bulor, introduce me!" said Thomar crisply. He did so.

Dumar asked angrily "Was that necesary?" rubbing his back.

"Don't whine at me, yougster, these aren't toys we're playing with and this is not a playground for immature bullyboys." He looked at Dumar who was shocked and was about to bleet angrily again. Then he looked at Clemor who was smiling wryly. He glared at him and out of respect Clemor cleared his face but that was all. Thomar had found what he came for. Now to carry out the rest of the plan.

He replaced his blaster and they moved off to the mock arsenal. What exactly did he want to do? He felt he was in control and therefore should try to gain optimum advantage .... before leaving finally. But what was that to be? Choose the best, he thought. Bulor dead, Clemor linked with the cell however superficially, Dumar rapped smartly so he didn't dabble with danger and the army seeing the arsenal destroyed , himself destroyed - and the cell undamaged. And of course his escape to try elsewhere. Right, how?

Then it struck him, it was a matter of timing. He had to make it appear to the spies that Bulor was in control, go with Bulor's plan and at the last moment make the switch, apparently accidentally, so that Bulor died from their own bullets. Tentative, unworkable - probably, he laughed to himself; what were plans anyway? Did they ever succeed?

Having asserted himself earlier he knew that the others would follow his lead exactly until Bulor made his move - he must watch for a signal. Through overtly elaborate precautions he was able to throw the switch which showed his arrival. The cover was a small warehouse with in the forefront a plant for making crockery; it was one of many such small businesses. They moved over to the delivery entrance where there were stocked the cases of crockery. On the casings there were special pre-arranged markings - with a dual purpose, one to distinguish the weapons from the crockery and one to transmit a signal. He looked at the other two carefully, then decided that he was not ready.

"Into the office," he ordered sharply, they looked at him with misgivings but did as they were told.

"Details," he paused for effect. He looked poignantly at Clemor then Dumar and finally Bulor. They were unsure.

"Well what are the detailed plans?" he snapped at Bulor. "Don't let me down!" he muttered almost inaudibly, the threat clearly coming through.

"I brought you the contacts, we make the plans from there," Bulor said hesitantly.

"Is that the whole strength of your plan?" he fingered the butt of his blaster, his paw resting menacingly at the trigger, "is that what I risked the cell for?"

He looked angrily at Bulor, it was not an act. Not only had he been duped but Bulor had not felt it necessary to develop an involved plan to trap him. This angered his pride, he was thinking of finishing this now and cutting his losses.

Clemor interrupted, "It is his contacts who have the plan." Thomar turned slowly to him. "We have the organisation to use the weapons if we're allowed to use them," he said with confidence.

"Explain more," said Bulor. Thomar's mind leapt at that. This was news to Bulor so the army had far underestimated these youngsters - as he now realised had the cell. Why now? A danger signal. Why was Bulor questioning now? He glanced again at Bulor who was keen with anticipation. This meant something to him, enough to place the arsenal second. The army was actually worried about these Lidors. So they were organised, they were a serious threat. And Bulor wanted to know now. Why now? Slowly realisation dawned, Bulor was not the only one listening. How? Where they had met Clemor? He had picked up more than these youngsters.

Clemor was continuing. "Certain of the gangs are organised together. In each of these particular gangs there are two or three of us Lids who meet and we plan best points of attack. Now if we had blasters we could make much more of an impact and we could control the criminality."

It was that mature perception which finally clinched it for Thomar. He could not allow any more knowledge to go to the army. With quick precise movements he turned and blasted Bulor. He knew he was dead but he moved over and doublle-checked. He looked across at the other two. Dumar was shaking but at least he was quiet. He looked squarely at Clemor and drew his blaster quickly from left to right across his jaw. Clemor began to move towards Thomar but he was motioned back sharply. Thomar coughed to cover the silence and searching Bulor's body found what he was looking for. He didn't remove it, it could have some body sensor but motioning Clemor towards him just pointed.

Pushing the shocked Dumar he ran towards a back entrance. Without being told Clemor simply followed. By the entrance Thomar lifted up a sewer cover.

"At the other end someone will meet you, explain your organisation to them and you will have the weapons you want," he stopped. "Now hurry, the silence will bring the army spies." Both the youngsters were down the tunnel before they realised that Thomar was not with them. Clemor stopped, would he go back? No the momentary pause over, he dragged Dumar along until they came upon Eddor.

Eddor looked at the two, Clemor in control and the shocked shadow of Dumar. "What did Thomar say?" he asked peremptorily.

"To explain our organisation," replied Clemor succinctly. They moved off Eddor taking them far from the decoy factory.

Meanwhile Thomar was taking stock of the situation, how long had he got? Don't Lids always surprise you, he thought. One minute you fight and fight and get nowhere with them. And the next they come out with gems.

And Clemor was a gem. Organisation amongst youth, organisation that saw what they were doing as struggle, saw the realities of delinquency and used that as subterfuge. now that could be used and to great effect. Obviously young Lidors with political leanings would have been frowned upon by the criminals, it was part of the socialisation. But to have worked their way in and still remained political and to have organised. That was revolution. It was worth his sacrifice. Now to deal with the spies. He moved Bulor's body towards the crates at the back and opened one or two. He put a weapon in Bulor's paws and lay a few near the open crates. He balanced Bulor's body and the blaster in such a way that once it was moved slightly it would topple, setting off a trip-wire which would blow up the few arms that were there. He took two of the weapons and placed them in different corners of the plant. He took a final blaster with as many clips as he could comfortably manage, and found himself a hide near the entrance. And waited.

Almost immediately they came in, darting side to side. They stopped - two he thought, looked around and saw Bulor standing at the back. Had he seen them, they looked at each other. Thomar waited, there were more than these two - he must take as many as possible. He watched as the two agents moved slowly towards Bulor as if stalking a prey. They were worried by his continued stillness. As they reached him no reaction, he should have heard them, he hadn't. Instinctively they dived to the side looking for any cover. Again they waited. No reactions. They're beginning to feel there's no-one here, thought Bulor. They stood up slowly, and moved towards Bulor again. Now they concentrated solely on his body.

"Call in, " one said "there's no-one here."

Thomar smiled. That would bring more in. Carefully the two began examining the body. Expertly one held the blaster while the other examined the body in detail, yet leaviing it undisturbed. He stopped, there was the wire. He moved a paw to his side and took out a small object, Thomar presumed snippers - standard issue. Then he traced his paw along the wire carefully and he found the bomb. Holding the contacts open with his paw he snipped the trigger-wire. Then carefully he snipped a further length of the wire, folded it over and placed it between the contacts. The bomb was no danger, it never had been but there were always mistakes. They must check for another so they called for back-up.

In came four more and they began to move round the warehouse. Biding his time Thomar checked the position of the six. There were still the two examining Bulor, two to his left and two to his right. He knew soon he would be discovered, they would check by the entrance last but .. soon. He decided on the order. He fired at the two on his left, these had to be precise. They were and he rolled over towards them and fired at the two opposite. He wasn't sure. Quickly he turned and fired at the two by Bulor. He ran round the back of the plant. By Bulor there was one getting up, he fired again. He stayed down this time, he fired at the other. He rolled forward but too late a shot from behind caught his tail; he rolled off balance and bumped into tne side of the plant. He saw out of the corner of his eye three more come in through the entrance. He struggled over to Bulor and the crates; he would take them with him. He saw the crate with the maroon marking. Inside was a volatile liquid explosive and he took the handbomb which he'd clipped round his underbelly. He pulled the pin and thought, his plan had gone well Clemor was a bonus and it had only failed in one part.

As he was running off Eddor heard the loud explosiion, he'd expected nothing less. He felt a touch of remorse but .... no point in thinking about it, these Lids had to be sorted out. He got on with his work.

He forced the two lids to keep moving, their natural reaction to return to help Thomar. But there wasn't far to go now. They turned a corner, slid up a narrow causeway and they were outside this old slum. Quickly Eddor rushed them inside before they could get their bearings. He sat them down and gave them some beegs. Gradually he could see the night's exhaustion creeping up on them, particularly Dumar. Soon he saw their eyes close and he waited. Now sound asleep he woke Clemor and quietly took him through to another room. Still drowsy Clemor followed without argument, Eddor was pleased and produced a drink.

They sat quietly a moment until Clemor had wakened slightly. "We have no intention of providing arms indescriminately to gangs of criminal youths: we are not interested in mindless destruction. However your organisation can be important to the struggle." He looked at Clemor eyeing him warily.

"Can you see this?" asked Eddor. Clemor nodded. "What do you want to know?"

"Names and contacts," he replied succinctly, "just a list."

"They are of no use to you, they will not help without me," answered Clemor with more than a touch of pride.

"Now that's true," agreed Eddor,"but when they mature ...."

"Even you don't realise!" interrupted Clemor "I expected it of the army." He looked angrily at Eddor.

He carried on "Young lizards have a far greater maturity than you give them credit for, it is the maturity of a revolution generation. We have grown up in oppression and as a result we have grown up inside - we are not allowed to grow outside. We cannot say or do what we think because it is all a trap so the only growth is inside. Adults we cannot trust, look what they have created for us. What they believe we must reject because their world is part and parcel of their beliefs. So we are left to ourselves. And for most it is crime for there is no law because there is no justice. But for a few there is an innate need for change - a change that is violent or peaceful. All that is unimportant because things must change it is in our blood, our genes whatever. It is us!"

Eddor looked shocked. Their cell considered themselves a vanguard of organised clandestine conspriracy - a life style of necessity. Their approach was considered, initially rationalised and now integrated into action. But here Nature had done a better job. For these lids it was no mind-construct, it was the air they breathed, it was the food they ate and as such they were insatiable.

He gathered himself. "What do you want?"

"If we have weapons then my organisation can choose the targets. No more petty crime, we can aim for political strategy. No more attacks on our own, no more attacks on the poor, we direct ourselves at the source , the money, the real power-base." Clemor was getting carried away.

"On that basis we will provide the weapons but you must realise that we cannot involve ourselves in your approach."said Eddor "you are too vulnerable. The immaturity of those you work with will eventually betray you either with petty power struggles or bribery of the non-committed."

"You and yours are not the only secure group but I will bear your advice in mind," he smiled at Eddor "we can have the guns?"

As Eddor walked off he simply said "I will contact you"; and he would. But he walked away with doubts. Despite his obvious maturity Clemor was still young and Eddor hated the manipulation of the young. Even in his youth the young had been seen as the great hope of the intellectual revolution and it was only as he grew older that he realised they were only puppets of lizards who were talkers with no action. And worse the youth became the cannon-fodder because they were easily influenced into wildness and frustrated activity. Still he had recognised Nature in Clemor and She was beyond question.

COMING TOGETHER

Recently Jana had begun writing fervently; it was as if the years of being corrupted in education were being poured out in print. But she wasn't sure what it was about, was there real meaning in print? In the past it had been an excellent media because it was new. In the past the printed word had inspired and created revolution but now it was different. It was as if the establishment had recognised the power of the word and introduced an immunity into the system, an immunity which prevented Lidors from recognising that it was their contributions which propogated the misery. Changes were unattainable, unaffectable; and yet she believed it because there seemed nothing she could do. Sometimes there was no power in what she wrote because in the end it became nothing more than rote critiques, rote analysis and feigned rote revelations producing the written rhetoric of revolution; these very crimes being the ones she had hated in the ineffectual didactic revolutionaries.

She heard a noise at the entrance, she was not expecting anyone so she was wary. Knowing some of the stories her father had let slip she knew that she was within the awareness of the military, if not direct surveillance. Moving towards the entrance she noticed a crisp but pleasant day, a coldness that sharpened her perceptions she thought. There was an unknown lizard outside and he was moving around very suspiciously. She caught his eye and with deference, yet with a confident air, he moved towards her. He introduced himself. "My name is Omthor and I am in the process of organising a new magazine. A friend of mine Thomar" she remembered meeting Thomar, a strangely deep but fascinating lizard " said he has spoken to you and he felt that you would be interested in our work." This lizard although with strength and seriousness had an engaging charm that relaxed you, she had no hesitation in inviting him in.

"Would you like something to drink?" she asked dutifully, Omthor used ceremony to break the ice and she was unsure so was quite amenable. She noticed the ease with which he settled into a proffered chair, not a brash chauvinist imposition but this assured deference which promised a great deal more. But what?

She brought the drink and waited. Giving her due time Omthor then took the lead. "We are running this magazine/journal called Unity. A group of us had been involved in writing and other fringe political activity, and we realised that instead of struggling for our true aims many of us ended up in petty squabblings and bickering between ourselves." he watched as her sympathy with these words radiated from her almost as relief. He could feel her giddiness, her desire to shout out her agreement. But she held it back not stifling it but neither suffusing the atmosphere with unnecessary emotion. He liked that reserve - common sense?

"It is not difficult to see that we are destroying ourselves, why is what you are doing different?" she was not unsympathetic, she knew she couldn't hide that; but this sort of exercise could simply disguise another form of infighting.

"We aren't looking to be different, we simply want lizards to sharpen their attacks on the enemy and not reinforce the system-created divisions," he replied quietly.

This worried her, her convictions were being tested almost immediately. "But it is difficult to focus our attacks on an unseen enemy."

"Not that difficult, changing what they do is a bit harder," he continued smiling at her. She was beginning to resent that she was feeling threatened.

"I am not clear, are you referring to the army government or what?" her unsuredness came out in the lack of precision of her question.

"No they are the means of control, they are how the enemy keeps us down," he answered.

"So the enemy are the capitalists, but I knew that," she was beginning to hear the old story and her old prejudices began to pour out. Was this some more rationalising gibberish? If it was why was she so defensive?

"You must be careful of your education," he continued "it would be easy to reject what I am saying simply as a response to capitalism, colonialism or multinationals. They are words imbued by the schools with power and meaning way beyond what they say, but even worse they don't actually convey their true meaning because education has created defensive blocks to the words."

"You speak as if it's a design," expecting a denial.

"Well isn't it?" he asked unassumingly.

"It certainly is the way it happens but design. No I can't accept that. There are too many lizards who disagree."

"But what effect do they have?"

"None but that is because lizards don't listen."

"But they are trained not to listen otherwise they must hear; they are not stupid just trained.

She lay back to recover. Either this lizard was paranoia-personified or........ she had been duped. Although she had recognised the failure of the system she had always thought it had just well... failed. Designed to fail, she had recognised that parts were producing failures. But Omthor was saying that the system was a gigantic success, there was no failure involved in the system because the system was a total success. From the enemy's point of view!!

She waited there quietly for a while and slowly Omthor could see that she was recovering her energy.

"Could I have another drink?" he asked.

"But of course" she fetched the drink, happy for the excuse.

Whilst she was out of the room Omthor began to appraise the situation. He was actually quite pleased. Although Janar had in fact been duped by the system she was at a stage where she could accept this fully. She had an inner strength which meant that although she was not fully aware she could internalise new arguments and that they would then be part of her. In other words he thought selfishly he was not in a pointless argument, not involved in intellectual exercise. However clear and precise he was and however much the other person said they agreed, so many times had he seen those same lizards carry on their lives exactly the same way. The pinnacle of that frustration is when he found himself in a repeated discussion, and this happened too often. Lizards don't use discussion as a learning process, it's only a parlour game or intellectual foreplay. Still that is the emasculation of their education but understanding wasn't always enough to relieve the frustration.

He brought his mind to a stop. Concentrate on the issue at hand. Here was a lizard who listens, the drained look on her face the pale green scales and the ease with which she took the excuse to leave the scene of attack, all indicated that she was being dis-educated. And that hurts!

She was returning and he gave her an appeasing smile; he hadn't finished yet. There was potential but was she ready? She looked at him and her inner fear showed through to him, her assailed consciousness was apprehensive about another attack. And it was right to be, but then it must be. He took the drink and waited to see if she would relinquish the effort and discuss beegs.

"What you say is fascinating and I must say disturbing but I am not sure about one or two points. You said that it isn't difficult to attack the enemy..." her puzzled brow was looking strained as she began the struggle with her internalised system.

He smiled gently at her discomfiture as he interrupted her "what I said was that it was not difficult to focus on the enemy but to attack them is different." She acknowledged an apology and he continued. "The system is designed by the money lizards for the money lizards, and to keep the money lizards safe from any repercussions. They create buffers - government, teachers and social workers - and if those buffers are not strong enough and some lizards break through they have the army. These money lizards never get their claws wet, blood is let by other lizards."

"This is the standard anti-capitalist argument, what's new that you're saying?"

"Why should it be new? It has to be the same argument because it has always been the money lizards who have caused the problems. The only reason you want a new argument is because your intellect is upset at not seeing it before. Lizards are mis-educated with great intellectual pride; the idea that something is as simple as the above is the root cause belittles that intellect and your ego fights it." He watched as her scales went a lighter shade of green, and he saw the skin at the edge of her jaws quiver as he slowly worked on her system blocks. He was convinced now that Janar would join the cell. "What we are trying to do in Unity is just to explain that it is not complicated, it just hurts to be re-educated, to break down the barriers the moneylids have created."

He feigned an appointment. "In two suns time the Unity lids are meeting to discuss the next issue, would you come along?" he asked "we can talk further then."

Now that he was going she felt a weary relief coming over her. She stifled a yawn and replied "I would like to come just tell me where and when." And he did. When he left she relaxed with her drink and almost immediately she slept - this was odd she'd only just got up.

As Omthor left Janar's he felt satisfied their converstaion was creative and he knew it had a future. That in itself was rare. But sometimes he wondered at these small starts, he often got depressed at the enormity of the task. He had time to kill so he got hold of the journal to find what the enemy was doing. It was never ending. Learn what they do, write about it and then the same the next time; it was ongoing. And that wasn't his real struggle.

It always amazed him the lengths these moneylids went to a subterfuge. They had an exchange where they controlled their businesses. There was only a few who owned the businesses but they tried to do two things. Firstly to make it look as if many lizards were involved and secondly make it appear as if anyone could take part. Neither was true, but their subterfuges were great. They made their money by dishonest dealings but they covered this up by intricate legal dodges. There was a vast bank of laws and safeguards, all of which were meaningless, to prevent the corruption but which were good for public consumption. Not long ago they created this big scandal about fraud. What they did was employ a stooge to "expose" some frauds. As a result of these "exposures" they got their government to create new legislation to prevent the fraud and they set up a new system to supervise the laws. This made it appear that they were trying to stop the corruption but that wasn't the case. What they did was to stop the small fry trying to muscle in, that was clear because there was a green caught by this and none of the real moneylids were greens. Also they were able to employ some more puppets to safeguard their interests and who could be blamed if something went wrong. But none of this was actually what was happening. All of this was a cover while they changed the rules of the exchange. Those at the top were taking an even bigger slice of the cake. They were opening up the exchange so that the bigger you are the easier it is for you. This would then concentrate the power in even fewer hands. But none of this ever got said. He didn't use Unity to say this because they would use it as an excuse to close it down. The journals didn't say this because those in charge of them would lose their fat salaries. It never got said, it never did. But that didn't really matter even if it did get said it was so stitched up that individuals couldn't do anything about it.

He glanced at the time, his appointment. Off he went thinking about the need for collective action and re-education. But after a while he calmed his mind and took in his environs. There were many things to see that these moneylids hadn't touched. Ultimately lizards were only part of the planet however much money liked to play God.

Soon he reached the meeting-place and he saw Eldor with a green he hadn't seen before. Eldor introduced Sokifa. "Sokifa has an interesting story to tell about his village."

Sokifa began his tale "I suppose we had just kidded ourselves. Vernice" they noticed him strain at that name but wouldn't comment " and I had been to college and we knew things weren't good but we were happy so we ignored ..." His voice trailed off as Omthor recognised the old story. "Anyway it was all brought home to us by this Paudi who within a week had completely destroyed the fabric of our village. We opposed him but no-one listened and he soon took over. We escaped but we found the whole planet is full of these Paudis, they have taken over everywhere. And yet everyone seems to accept them. I have travelled for two full turnings of the sun, and once lizards got over the initial shock they seem to accept their situation. Village upon village live with their exploitation. In the end I decided that the only place where this might not be true is the capital.

"But I was wrong, it's exactly the same. Although the lizards are richer they are trapped the same as the villagers only the trappings are prettier." he sighed forlornly his voice tailing off at the hopelessness of it all.

"Don't be despondent, Sokifa, there are many lizards who are waking up to these truths and we are beginning to have some affect." Omthor replied encouragingly "But it took centuries to create and it will take centuries to destroy. But don't be downhearted it is a struggle and we have to do it and that's it!"

Omthor smiled benignly at Sokifa, he recognised that this country green had been through much torment - he remembered the emphasis on Vernice, she was obviously family. But he knew of much suffering, that was the nature of the exploitation, cheap labour and all that. He knew it seemed cold but if that suffering didn't lead lizards to recognise their enemy then there was no hope. It was the one thing the moneylids could not control. In their excesses they created more and more suffering, and that soon creates realisation of what is truly happeninhg. eventually they destroy themselves. Empires have come and gone, it was only a matter of time.

Skifi lay in a room; after his meeting with Omthor - he was an interesting lizard! - Eldor had brought him back here. He now felt that he was near the end of his journey or at least at a new beginning; he had met with lizards who were moving in the right direction, if nothing else. In that thought relaxation took over and allowed him the space for recollection.

He drifted back to the blissful times with Vernice, times he could now remember with love and not remorse. Then the arrival of the brown armies followed by their flight from the village. Then that fateful dawn Vernice's disappearance and death. Then he remembered a long period of loneliness and his own self-pitying near expiry.

Then that strange schizophrenia, that alien union which had saved his life and more. He remembered the first contact as if it had occurred at the last dawn.

He rose with the sun almost unconsciously. At the back of his mind was the aawareness of a miraculous recovery, a supernatural effort of will and control - beyond the power of Vernice's dells. It could be just survival, he thought.

It isn't, the thought came into his head. This surprised them both, Skifi had not tried to make contact yet here the lizard had heard him.

He tried again. "You won't understand this but there is someone else here," he said forlornly, he had thought so often of what he would try to convey if ever the chance came and yet when it did he came out with this meaningless rubbish. "Let me try and explain this more clearly. My name is Skifi, I am here inside your head...I am another person."

That was it. He felt the whole of Sokifa's brain close down, it could not accept any of this and it closed it all out with a last gasp of energy. But Skifi followed these energy trails and he was able to trace the roots of the flow. Pursueing Sokifa down his mental currents he was able to map out the source of the flow and gradually he worked out the way to establish control. Also by gaining that control he would be able to control his energy and so develop the symbiotic bond to mutual advantage.

In fighting him off the lizard was again tired. Slowly sleep took over and that gave Skifi his chance. Re-examining his mental map he searched out the currents he wanted to use, and began switching the taps. He then began to integrate himself into the most profound channels and soon he felt that Sokifa could not now expunge him even if he tried. He waited for the tiredness to take its course. As if dawn Sokifa awoke, it must have been a dream he thought.

"It wasn't," said Skifi, "and this time you have to come to terms with it." He felt Sokifa try to raise his blocks but couldn't. "There is no way you can force me out, I am now part of you.!" "I have been pushed beyond, this is some kind of fantasy. This is not real," muttered a mesmerised Sokifa. He shook himself but there was no change. He scratched his arm, maybe pain will crack the illusions. But even the sight of the trickle of blood could not dispel the presence.

"The sooner you accept me the sooner we can start the changes. Don't you feel an awful lot healthier?" asked the human. At this Sokifa began to feel the energy flowing in his body. He almost felt fully fit.

"That's because of me," said Skifi, "Through your illness and bereavement I have been able to get inside your mental body and begin to control some of the pulses. Working together we can be strong, stronger than you were before."

Sokifa felt revitalised, this could be true. But wait! What was he thinking, how could a schizophrenic be stronger? It was a split personality, not a joining of two. Unstable lizards, he had heard, had created the most contrived of fantasies, none more so than this. He laughed at himself.

"You can laugh, Sokifa, but you will accept me eventually. Time now to eat."

Sokifa almost sprang up, it had been so long since he had felt any real eneergy resource. And this was without food. Having eaten he began to think of what to do. Relegating his madness to the back of his mind he focussed on his present position. Obviously there was no way back. What remained in the village and his recent journey had no context for him without Vernice. So the way was forward, but how? What did he have to offer? And that gave him his reason, perhaps he could begin to warn the greens of the dangers ahead, to warn them of the armies and warn them of the total breakdown of their way of life.

He still couldn't work out how it had all happened. "Exploitation,"said Skifi.

Sokifa accepted the conversation without rationalising it. "We had set up failsafes against a repeat of usury, it is a historical fact." he informed Skifi.

"You might well have done but they haven't worked. But how could they, not everyone was participating?" asked Skifi.

"What do you mean?" puzzled Sokifa.

"How much have you involved yourself in the maintaining of balance, or failsafes or whatever label you give it?" asked Skifi quietly. "That's unfair. Both Vernice and I were actively involved in the village council. And if you examine history you will see that active participation in the affairs of the council was the way in which the village kept abreast of changes and did not stagnate," defended Sokifa with apparent assurance, emotion and righteousness. "That sounds good," placated Skifi, and he saw a shakiness which was quickly suppressed. "You can't hide from me. I see all that you see, I feel all that you feel but there is one difference. I have no wish to suppress your thoughts that I don't like - the ultimate confessional without an external divinity to hide behind."

Skifi continued "You realised then that you weren't participating, why?"

"You're right, I went through the motions of the process but we did not take enough care to be informed." answered Sokifa apologetically.

"But that's not enough! You forgot one most important detail, you isolated yourelves. You ran your lives as if your village was a totality, a self-contained group - society. But it isn't! You know that simply because of the need for trade," Skifi started to be more incisive.

"I see what you're saying. We recognised our role as growers and we left it at that. Theoretically that should have been suffficient but we forgot one thing - the lizard factor," answered Sokifa.

"Exactly," said Skifi, amused at the similarity of the phrase. "It is typical of many failings that they are examined as to their theoretical consequences instead of viewing what is happening around them. You allowed a theoretical structure, your council and its role, to dominate your thinking. And more importantly your actions. But your actions have to be based on what is and not what you wou:d like it to be. But the whole process did not break down quickly, it took, a long long time. And because it took so long you allowed it to creep up on you and take over."

"What is so stupid about all that you are saying is that that was what was said at the end of,the last struggles," mused Sokifa. "Marocks resolved at that time that within the structures of the councils there must be a continual reappraisal of the relatiions of trade, economy etc. But what did we do ? Instead of devoting our studies to an understanding of the planetary context, we fooled ourselves into accepting that because trade appeared to be flowing satisfactorily we asumed the model created was sufficient."

"This question of a model continually arises, why do you think that is?" asked Skifi realising for himself the full significance.

"You learn about models in schools," replied Sokifa, both felt the surge as the full impact hit them.

"That is it ." said Skifi. "You learn about models in schools, you learn about the way things ought to be if the system followed the model.But what really happens is that the system has for a long tome not been following the model bbut merely using the model as a method of duping the intellectuals, conning those that care into accepting things the way they are because in theory they ought to be better. And why aren't they better? The implication without being explicitly said is lizard failure.

"But that is completely wrong," continued Sokifa. "There has been no effort to follow the model for a long time. Instead the old forces of greed have taken over again. They have developed divisive policies, they have recreated the armies, there has grown a two-tier society of rich and poor. "Whilst at the same time teaching all lizards that there is a free democratic system of councils, collective particpation and all the other ideas that Marocks propounded."

"Yes all that theory was a trick a blind, indoctrination to maintain the flow of production," agreed Skifi. "Because of our belief in the theory we followed the model with free will.." continued Sokifa. "But in effect we were nothing but slaves with a higher degree of autonomy that the whip that Paudi and others are using now." interrupted Skifi conclusively. "So who are the masters?" asked Sokifa.

"That is our search." they both thought in unison.

Without realising there had been a fusion of minds. Both Skifi and Sokifa had become so intertwined they ahd lost who was saying who. For they had become united, their thoughts - their pattern of thinking - was one. Their soul?

And neither noticed, for the creativity that had been the power behind their discoveries was greater than both. What matters personalities to such wisdom?

It was soon after this that Sokifa accepted the situation. When they set off he gradually realised that he had come through his remorse-created madness. This was not part of it. But their fusion of minds - wisdom? - was more than this. This wasn't separate creatures this wasn't one happenstance lizard who coincidentally resembled the mental faculties of some erect bi-pedal slippery-skinned alien. For Sokifa and Skifi were the same spore, the same ray, the same purpose in the design. This was a nice thought, it could be mind-boggling but that in itself would be a kind of fantasy like the model. It was not of real consequence.

As Skifi's mind returned to the room he recalled that their initial fusion had been permanent. There were times where the experience of each had given greatere insight and the advantage of not being able to fool yourself was a great timesaver. But other than that they had got used to being Skifi. Neither questioned the situation. There were at times remorse for Lauchidor, the village and times of no strruggle but awareness prevented any dwelling on that. The need for change, the murdering of lizards, all this mattered far more than any moralistic self-pitying emotion. That was easy for them, emotion for one was objectivity for the other, and sympathy could never be as strong as first hand experience.

A knock at the door destroyed his meanderings and both felt it portentous.

THE NEXT STAGE

There were four present, Omthor, Janar. Skifi and Eldor. Apart from Omthor, they were there for the magazine - at least so they thought. They began with long discussions of articles, front covers and design; all seemed to centre around Omthor but he was just giving head. But soon he directed discussion towards concept. "Unity is essential but as we all recognise if it is theoretical then it has no meaning; it is merely a tool of the enemy. We need a practical demonstration of unity."

"Aren't we doing that through the magazine?" asked Janar beginning to be suspicious.

"Of course we are," said Eldor "but is that enough?" He knew Omthor, where was he leading?

Janar turned sharply at Eldor, "What are you suggesting?" she said loudly, her vehemence a mixture of anticipation and fear.

"I am not suggesting anything in particular but what I am saying is that it might not just be enough to write about unity. The enemy aren't writing, they are actively involved in killing greens in order to increase their coffers," answered Eldor.

"I sense a cell," said Skifi.

Eldor deferred to Omthor as Janar squirmed at the implication. A cell, killing greens, reprisals, her background and education threw up all the system hate-words - terrorism, guerilla, revolutionary cadres - all now frightened her despite her commitment.

Omthor continued quietly. "We must not unduly worry ourselves by melodramatic verbiage, we are still concerned with unity and we will always be concerned with that. Don't," he paused particularly looking at Janar "ever forget that. Use of inflammatory words are designed to offput you, threaten your resolve, as well as indoctrinate others. WE ARE UNITY and that is the end of it. That is all we are concerned with. Whatever our actions, however political our rhetoric, however antagonistic we might appear to their status quo, it is we who are concerned about uniting lizards and not the moneylids - the enemy. When they can explain murder as economic necessity, then however violent we might be we have the justifcations on our side. But," he smiled "we are not here suggesting armed struggle to the death, we are not looking for suicide missions as vainglorious attempts to promote our interests. These are politically senseless acts...........at the moment. When we are considering such actions we always have to remember that it is not only a question of truth it is also a matter of force, and do we have that?"

"Not yet," said Eldor.

"And that is only a matter of time," said Skifi. There was quiet concurrence.

"What do you want done?" Janar spoke with confidence; they smiled.

"While I am not saying we should be participating in armed struggle, I am saying that if there is an opportunity for action then we should take it," began Omthor. "Now Janar has provided us, perhaps unwittingly with that opportunity." He smiled at her puzzled looks. "A while back Janar recognised her true affiliations, and stole some papers from her father..."

"H...how do you know?" she interrupted.

"Knowing where you stand now it must have been you. But," he held up his hand to pacify her "you needn't worry they will not discover it, your father is the only person who could tell them and he will either cover it up out of guilt or he will fail to recognise your hand.

"But most important about this is that you don't understand the position your father held and the papers you got hold of. Now we cannot use the same gambit again, you cannot use your family ties but we can use your situatiion without exposing your commitments.

"Firstly however your father is Secretary for Non-urban Liaison. Beneath that innocuous title hides a great deal of power and responsibility. He organises all the military who attack the greens, he is second only to the Minister of Justice. He therefore has access to all the garrison information, where the food sources bare where there is greatest resistence and so on," Omthor paused, he saw Janar begin to squirm as a nervous sweat began to trickle down her back. He looked on with sympathy at this filial emotion. "Your father is only the nominal head, what you must remember that he is not the real enemy he only performs a function for them - and takes their punishment. He does not design the attacks, he is only a part of their machinery. Although he is as guilty as anyone who participates in their corruption, he should not be singled out excessively because of his nominal title."

She could see what he was saying but what her father did still hurt her. But then he was her father, she couldn't completely dissociate from that; she had lived off the benefits of his crimes.

"Anyway," said Eldor sympathetically - they were all feeling for her, whatever anyone said family ties were hard to break, "your father is now going to do something positive." She was going to snap at him but as he smiled she realised the irony and thought better and laughed. They all joined in, the dividing moment over.

"We are going to use him to destroy their records. Although this is a small action we hope it will disrupt. We have obtained from the office some headed stationery. Now we have been able to develop a combustible material which takes a full turn of the sun to ignite, and what we want you to do is to place this combustible headed paper in his bag so that when he returns to work it will ignite.

"Further to allay any suspicion we are going to organise a demonstration and dummy raid at the garrison where he works so that they will think that there is some kind of breach of security, and when the records ignite they will blame the demonstrators. Maybe as a result more will be harassed and recognise the true nature of the system." Omthor concluded "What do you think?"

No-one ventured an opinion. They were silent as Omthor looked around. Skifi broke the deadlock "it seems so unimportant, is it worth the effort?"

"If you don't want to do it you don't have to do it," said Omthor.

"I didn't say that and I don't feel that patronising intimidation is the best way for unity. I don't feel guilty about my doubts. To be quite honest it sounds a waste of time," said Skifi angrily.

"Is that what you all think?" asked Omthor. He looked at each in turn. Janar reluctantly nodded. Skifi controlling his anger barely nodded, and Eldor who had been through this before remained quiet.

"Well Skifi, what do you want us to do?" asked Omthor.

Skifi was now beginning to regret his defiance, not because he felt unjustified but because he had no alternative. He gave Omthor an apologetic shrug, "You know I have no answer."

"Will what I suggest be of any use?" asked Omthor.

"If it works it might have some use in temporary disruption but what if it fails?" asked Skifi.

"What if it does fail?" and again Skifi had no answer because no harm could be done.

"I see what you're saying, Omthor." began Skifi realising now the purpose of the exercise. "If your plan succeeds then it will be of some, but little, positive use. And equally important it can cause us no harm even if it fails."

"But think a bit deeper!" demanded Omthor.

"We...ell!" he began slowly, "what is there that we can do? We can continue with our writing but for some that is not enough we need some form of action. But we cannot take important steps through action because they have the system tied up. Murder, who? Destroy, what? As individuals there is little we can do. We are fighting a monstrous system whose sole purpose is self-perpetuation of the enemy, the moneylids. But remove one cog and there is another to take its place. While there are always those to take places the system will continue. While money is valued more than lizards, then there will always be those who accept murdering lizards as a necessary evil in order to get those rewards. Therefore we can only wait for others to understand."

"And while we wait lizards die!" said Janar angry with frustration.

"Yes!" said Omthor "but we must live with the frustration. These moneylids are not stupid otherwise they, as a very small minority, would not have gained absolute control. They have a deviously-developed system which we as a minority cannot hope to overthrow and therefore we live with frustration."

"But we carry on the struggle!" Their discussion was over, they knew there was agreement even though it was somewhat forlorn. They separated waiting to begin tomorrow.

THE PARTING

At the end of the day Skifi moved off to his quarters. He was trying to gain enthusiasm for the venture but it didn't come: perhaps it was better it didn't. Maybe treating the escapade as some perfunctory action within his routine was the best strategy.

He reached his quarters and was soon overtaken by a faintness, akin to a mild vertigo. But he was still in control. He lay down. Suddenly he felt a buzzing inside his head. He concentrated on it. It developed into a mild whine. And the more he concentrated the more the whine began to take over. He continued to concentrate and he felt his ears begin to follow the sound. It was as if he, with his ears, were moving outside his head following the sound. The sound moved off above his head yet it seemed attached to his brow. His body began to feel heavy as if all the weight had moved to the pit of his stomach. He let it remain there as he looked at the sound above his brow, there seemed a path to it. He returned along this path and he moved inside his brow. From inside different parts of him all seemed to come together and then seemed to move out to meet the sound. It seemed to follow the path of the sound higher and higher, and the more Skifi looked the further the path took him. Until finally the effort seemed to just burn up, and his whole being seemed suffused with a terrific light. And this light burned back down the path and entered his whole being. He looked at his claws he could feel them tingle. As he flexed his tail he could almost see it leave an auric trail as the residue of the sparkler left its pattern. He felt so good, so full of life it was as if he would never sleep.

Slowly his ecstasy diffused, and he stared gratefully up again at the path from his brow. He knew that he was alone, that Skifi was gone, and he realised that Vernice had gone as well. But thanks to his alien guest there were now no chasms - only fond memories. And more a purpose, a struggle.

****************

Skifi looked down at the broken pencil. There was now no doubts, no blocks, no ambivalences. He knew what his gift was for: he began to write. There was a knock at the door; who was she?


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