A Short Science Fiction story by Guest Author: Pamela Cleaver
Continuing a Sci-Fi tale written in the 1970s, originally published in Space 2, an anthology featuring new writers. While much of the technology and style references have become out-moded, the plot is intriguing. In a new-town acts of violence involving 2 groups of youths have occurred. Inspector Deeping is keeping an open mind, enlisting his teenage son to assist in the apprehension of the lads in silver clothes. When questioned, the story they give is mind-bending – read on to find out more.
Peel thought about it. “I suppose that’s possible; if there’s nothing to overcome, nothing to strive for, nothing to stimulate them into action, people do get bored, especially the young ones. But all that stuff about time machines, you don’t believe that, do you?”
“I keep an open mind – who knows what will be possible three hundred years from now? Even a hundred years ago, did people think men would ever get to the moon, apart from Jules Verne, that is?”
“I suppose not, but even if his story were true, it doesn’t hold water. You told me they had harmony therapy or whatever it’s called to overcome their aggression, so how come he and his friends are aggressive?”
“I asked him that and it seems that they just did not report for treatment – it’s some sort of electric impulse which is applied to the brain cells. I suppose it was a bit like playing truant- you know how at that age youngsters are almost automatically against authority.”
“But why pick on us to relieve their tensions?”
“They chose the 1970s, if you please, because they read in their history books it was a lawless age. What do you think of that?”
Peel snorted. “Why didn’t they choose one of the many times when a war was on, or Chicago in the twenties for instance?”
“Their knowledge of history does not go back much before the 20th century and he says they did not want to kill people, just to act tough and destructive.”
“Well, I don’t want to believe it,” said Inspector Deeping, “but there’s a strange sort of logic about it. I’m going to have another talk with Lant. Leave the others for now, put them in the cells and we’ll see what else he’s got to say. Look, you’re off duty now, aren’t you? You push off and I’ll tell about it tomorrow.”
Deeping thought that Peel was looking at him as if he were quite mad. Perhaps he was. But the story he had heard was not quite as fantastic as the one he had thought up earlier when he had wondered if the silver-gear buys were visitors from space. If Lant was making this up, he ought to be writing science fiction, not mugging old ladies and destroying telephone kiosks.
When he went back to the interview room, past the impassive constable standing just inside the door, staring straight ahead, he saw the strange boy Lant sitting calmly at the bare table, his long legs in the silver trousers and boots stretched out, quite relaxed. Now he saw all the gear together, Deeping was not surprised the lab had not been able to analyse the scrap of material. It was obviously something made by a technology far more advanced than anything the 1970s could produce. The inspector felt that Lant’s very appearance bore out his story, but there were still a lot of things he wanted to know before he could be completely convinced.
He asked the boy about the crimes. To his surprise, Lant did not deny them but seemed rather proud of them. He admitted to taking part in three muggings and four of the cases of vandalism.
“Why did you choose old people to attack, not ones your own age? Don’t you think it was cowardly?”
“But it is the old we hate, not the young,” said Lant as if it was self-evident truth.
“Because in our time, people live to very great ages through drugs and skilful treatments not known in your times; the old ones are in charge, they make the laws, they tell us what to do and we may not argue. When we missed our harmony therapy session, we realised we hated them. Hate was a new emotion for us and we found it exciting.”
Deeping was repelled but he had to admit to himself that there was something in what Lant said.
“What about the telephone boxes and automatic vending machines?”
“Please?” said Lant, puzzled.
“Those things you broke up, why did you do that?”
“Oh,” he said, “the teleport stands and the informers.”
It was Inspector Deeping’s turn to be puzzled.
“What did you think those things were that you destroyed?”
“I am having a little difficulty with your speech,” said Lant. “I learned as much late 20th century English as I could from a hypno-educator, but seem not to have it all just right. The red boxes I took to be teleport stands where you materialize and de-materialize when the Guardians summon you, no? And the others, where you press buttons, were for reporting to the Guardians, no? We attacked those because they symbolize the authority of the Guardians. The devices were primitive examples, but we thought we recognized them. Were we not right?”
Inspector Deeping began to be sorry he had embarked on this conversation; he did not like the glimpse of the future it showed. He explained telephones and vending machines as best he could, but felt Lant was very contemptuous of such simple concepts of communication. He tried another tack.
“Who are the Guardians?”
“I think in your time they were called the police,” said Lant, “or maybe soldiers, I am not quite sure which. I have not understood quite perfectly the difference between the two.”
“The Police see that the laws of the land are carried out,” he said, “and I am a policeman. Soldiers are to protect a country from its enemies.”
“You are then a Guardian?” asked Lant. For the first time he seemed apprehensive. “We have broken your laws? What then will you do with us?”
What indeed? It was a good question – Inspector Deeping was beginning to wonder that himself. How could he take these people to court? Even if he believed this strange story, who else would? And there was still another question unanswered. “Are some of your friends dressed in red robes with shaven heads?”
“No,” said Lant, “that is not the way we Lemnians dress, it sounds to me like Pelleans of the 21st century. Are they here too? It was in their era that time travel first began and they may be here to investigate your time.”
“But why did you come to Everington, our town here?”
“The co-ordinates we used to choose a place to land are those of a great city in our time and it was too in the time of the Pelleans. To us and to them it would be an obvious choice.
Inspector Deeping marvelled that the dull little town in which he lived would one day be a great city. It was almost harder to believe than anything that had gone before.
To be continued (here)