"Yes, I've lowered the bar."
"Is that fair?"
"And you say I am weird."
"Thieves, moral degenerates. Maybe not people who cheat on their
taxes, but not much higher. I'm looking at it from the beetle perspective.
If they stay another ten or twenty years there will be a similar reduction
in numbers, my way is quicker so the standard of living, general health
of the planet improves more rapidly."
"That means less rabbits get eaten too."
"That is the idea."
"Fine, under those circumstances I'm happy making pick pocketing
a capital offence."
"I'll take Thunderchild over, because of the new inks, but I won't
be gone long. Al-lisia doesn't like using Mercury on a war footing."
"How are they different?"
"It is a single toxin, the moment it touches the skin it initialises
cell decay. It works like a virus, the information is duplicated and when
the membrane ruptures if floods through the body. After twelve hours they
are beyond help, only it will probably take two or three months before
they die. It will give the appearance of a degenerative disease like Alzheimer's
as nerve cells will be crashing and they can't be replaced. The body will
compensate for a while, but it will disassociate the condition from the
bar code which will have faded by then."
"Sly. Is it contagious?"
"Only if some sick creature turns into a cannibal because of the
lack of meat. I doubt people are that desperate."
"Four and twenty black men, baked in a pie."
"Oh Griff, stop it. How far off are you?"
"I sent an e-mail ages ago, I said three months, there is no rush.
I want to make quite sure that I have all the criteria set correctly.
It will mean I can virtually pick tagged people out for a second run."
"The ones you took that were mechanically screened, how did they
"Great, but there was a second line of defence, I second vetted them
all. I dropped one in five."
"I sensed they were thinking the move would be beneficial in the
wrong way. Self improvement, a distinct advantage over others, maybe something
as simple as vanity or excessive pride."
"Seven deadly sins may have taken on a deeper meaning. That's another
film title to add to the list."
"Are you actually writing them down?"
"Some are a little obtuse."
"Er, Jurassic Park, Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Demolition Man."
"Just don't tell big Bruce."
"Oh, not even about Enter the Dragon'?"
"Do you know what Angeline re-marketed the equipment as before she
"Thunderdome. So this makes the new version..."
"Beyond the Thunderdome. Neat." Jane paused. "Do we have
"I think so, she was outside the age category but came in as a celebrity
capable of raising morale."
"No, failed screening. George Clooney didn't, only his wife did."
"I was never one for old George, overrated in my opinion."
"George was stunned, I did an in depth and found it was more her
attitude, the way she impressed, or tried to impress people at parties,
so I let them in. I believe Brad was taken aback. The most noticeable
flaw was that he chose many scripts depending on what he was going to
"There are thousands of famous people that didn't pick up on the
promotion I hope they aren't all dead now."
"Money can give you a modicum of protection, fly you out of danger,
a beetle proof house with transfer chambers. Staff to go shopping even."
"Not that it matters, we don't worry about what happens on that old
planet too much."
"Krik once said that I owed it my birth, we can't ignore it totally."
"You aren't, you keep helping out."
"I think we will sit back for at least a couple of years after the
next intake. I don't want to spend forever, even years playing ferryman."
"If you are happy about selection would you have to go?"
"Yes, peace of mind. Even if it is just Vai and I bulk scanning I
like that last line of defence. We do not want to spoil paradise. It is
just possible that someone could study the system and work out perfect
answers. The lie detector should pick up the slightest anomaly, only I
have a suspicious streak."
"Beach later, to make up for working?"
"After lunch. We have the raft finished, we can test it in the cove."
"Adults or children?"
"I dare say little arms with want grown ups to paddle."
They hadn't used trees in the end, just welded up a very lightweight box
and mounted soft padding around it, and a ladder for getting out of the
water. Maybe later they could put a slide onto it. It had not been easy,
but it had been kept secret, so it was likely to be a noisy afternoon.
The concept of ripping out vast section of the community, in effect decimating...
Well no. That came from the Roman way of keeping order, line everyone
up on a bridge and push every tenth one off. The scheme was more likely
to be six in ten. Even so, seriously diminishing the population was not
that distressing, especially as it was a way to help protect the environment
from years of suffering from flesh eating beetles. It was not like in
Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, where Cassius was looking at a list of people,
those who would possibly oppose their goals. Fair enough it had modern
day similarities, he shall not live, look with a green bar code I damn
him. But all the victims would be nameless faces, until they lost them.
God mentioned using selective breeding of primates, only perhaps he had
not looked deep enough into their make up. If you have the stomach to
watch a well made documentary on chimpanzees you will find that they are
aggressive, use mob rule to kill other monkeys and if they don't like
one of the pack they are likely to beat it to death. Familiar? Maybe he
should have started with a Slow Loris.
Construction was like a typical flow chart. Have you ever threatened anyone
with violence. No, what a nice man, go to question two. Yes: did you get
a kick out of it? No: go to next question. Yes: amble through the rest
you little thug God wants your soul back. Complicated, something of a
maze at times, only necessary to make sure the rot didn't spread to Eden
and you didn't unnecessarily eliminate people. As Griff had said, a thief
yes, someone who cheats a little on taxes maybe not, after all if they
were in to serious evasion they would drastically screw up anyway.
At least designing a model car for his son had not been so complicated,
though they hadn't started to build it, the jet boat was easy by comparison.
Only it had to be painted bright orange, because it went so fast it couldn't
turn, that meant rushing across to the other side of the lake and searching
for it. If it didn't quite make the shore line it was at least easier
to find. Still, Bruce was thrilled at the speed it virtually bounced across
Jane had ended up almost starting a production line of blue dragons, once
Jo-ann had one, Jeanette and Kate started jumping up and down. Maybe she
should open a shop, make use of theatre skills, fine use of needle and
"Dad, there a sheet, floating in the water," said An-tony as
they piled out of Custard Pants.
"First job of the day, tidy up the beach. Bet you can't fold a wet
Children flooded down the beach, a couple forget the need to change, some
were already wearing costumes. Obviously the best swimmer was well ahead
of the rest. Only the sheet seemed to be snagged on something, lifting
a corner replaced curiosity with excitement. Climbing onto the platform
An-tony swiftly rolled back the disguise.
"You do realise that you should have made two," said Al-lisia.
"Because they could chase each other around."
"It will hopefully take them a while to work that out."
Alert eyes had found paddles, so folding the sheet faded from favour.
Only movement was somewhat labourious.
Griff didn't want to shout. "Son, it has an anchor to keep it in
one place, unhook the little orange ball."
An-tony waved, and they finally got moving.
"What's the betting they go outside the cove," said Jane.
If they do someone ought to swim out and supervise. Female, the men built
"Then it is your responsibility," said Rose.
"That wife of your's has some cheek, Jack."
"Careful, I am in charge of drinks, your throat could get very dry."
"No," said Al-lisia.
"What was that for?" asked Jack.
"My wife seems to think she is psychic."
"Thinking has nothing to do with it, you are an open book Mr Peters."
"Oh, you're in trouble. What were you going to do?"
"Attack your wife, I know that look, he's wondering if she is ticklish."
"Soles of her feet, definitely," confirmed Jack. "Left
Rose stood up and moved further away, taking the refreshments with her.
"We could always bomb the kids from the cliff. Maybe board the raft
and throw some into the water."
"Pincer movement," suggested Jack, taking his top off.
"Peace," sighed Vai, leaning back. "What about you William?"
"I'll wait until I can sneak up, using pandemonium as cover and take
control of the raft."
After a few minutes Jack leapt from the rocks, hitting the water a few
metres away didn't get anyone wet. Griff looked at the drop and stepped
away from the edge, looking around the cliff top.
"I dare say he will lie down."
"I wish I had a hard dragon sometimes," sighed Vai.
"The children are content with you as vapour."
"But Griff really makes them happy, they bubble over with excitement."
"You can do it for a second, why not longer?"
"Concentration, that and it is tiring. I have tried speaking but
can't get my head around it. It's like walking through doors, logically
there shouldn't be a problem, I suppose my Carillian mind tells me it
"Maybe you should ask for a little help, clues or confidence building."
"It doesn't matter. It is enough being married to the greatest man
in the universe."
"Sorry Rose, but however much you love Jack, he's only human,"
"Just as well. Look at Griff's work load."
"Did you know sometimes he goes to the Blue Pool alone. Sits in the
cave and cries."
"I think part of him needs release. It is like when he found out
about the dragon, he felt forced into a corner. Now on the surface he
seems to accept slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Jonobians, only
it's a facade."
"He regrets being God's right hand man then?"
"The deaths make him quite ill. That guy in the Maldives that shot
at people, he could see the man was worthless, evil. Only although he
pretends he isn't doing anything with this equipment I am sure he is haunted
by the huge numbers."
"We were talking about it earlier," explained Jane. "Griff
said it was either a lethal dose or a lingering starvation while beetles
rule the planet."
"But he has had to lower the threshold, so theft is punishable by
death. I don't think he considers it fair. Admittedly he knows they are
guilty, but he is still judging them."
"I never gave it a thought," said Jane quietly.
"I tried to question the values he had set, he was a little vague.
I think he almost feels ashamed."
"I did too, asked how low the bar now was, he jovially said limbo
"Griff is too good with masks. Perhaps that is one reason he is so
vigorous playing with the children, it distances his mind."
"That's unfair," said Rachel. "It is because he loves them,
perhaps even mine a little. Maybe he missed out during his own childhood."
The blue dragon was leaping over the raft, occasionally flicking its tail
to spray water. William shook his head and went to join in. By the time
he reached the raft, An-tony had developed a strategy, and Jack was being
kept in the water. Griff saw William taking the long way around , so he
picked Jack up and dropped him onto the deck. The word cheat' was
audible on the beach, and Jack was mobbed and eventually rolled into the
water. William slid out and tossed An-tony in, holding two more children
at arms length, only twelve against one was difficult, he was soon in
the water. The raft rocked and everyone grabbed something as Griff span
it around. After less than a minute they were all lying down laughing.
Movement stopped and two adults climbed on board. There was no sign of
"Aunty Vai, where's Dad?"
"He has been rushing around for over an hour, I don't expect he has
enough energy to stand up. We may have to take food over if he has enough
strength to signal. I can see him from here, I'll check in a little while."
"Is he alright?"
"I can sense him, he's probably just exhausted."
"Just so long as he is still on the planet," sighed Al-lisia.
"And not having a premonition," added Jane.
"I'm definitely glad Jack is mortal."
An-tony lay down on the raft. It seemed obvious that he was worried about
his father. "Aunty Vai, he's still ghosting."
"I'll find him."
"What is it?"
"I have an idea, I won't be long." It was handy being able to
speed across the surface as a spirit. Vai went straight to Mercury, Griff's
vapour was in sick bay, soaking up energy. "An-tony is worried."
"I lost track of time, I could hardly move. Luckily it doesn't take
much to push buttons. The children were having so much fun I didn't think."
"Are you better now?"
"Ten more minutes, or I won't be able to do tricks, light the fire