Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Eighteen; The Sting

Zain made our small home the centre of operations. He explained it was the place Ziggy would most likely try to hit us.

The small cave was overrun with Zugar-Zipperat homeland security officers, I expected them to be very serious and have severe down to business personalities, but for the most part they just sat around and played cards and eating the Zugar-Zipperat equivalent of hot dogs and donnuts One or two of them did look very busy, but I got the impression they were shooting for promotion. One of them, a petite female with big green eyes and a neatly trimmed beard fluttered her eyelashes at Zain every time she walked passed him.

The hours passed slowly, the passage of time marked only by the differing brightness of the cave walls, when I asked Zain about the walls he suddenly became suspicious and asked me why I wanted to know.

“Just passing the time,” I replied.

Sounding sceptical he answered, “They are powered by the fire crystals.”

“Fire crystals?” the name sounded familiar to me, “Oh, Bocco thought I was here for them when you locked me up with him.”

“We have to be careful,” Zain looked around the room and continued, “The fire crystals are our most precious resource. Without them we’d be plunged into perpetual darkness.”

“How do they work?” I asked.

“You’re asking an awful lot of questions,” complained Zain. He plucked at his lapel and I noticed the edges of the left lapel were frayed.

“Do you have somewhere else you need to be?” I asked, puzzled by Zain's attitude.

He muttered something about aliens, but said, “The fire crystals are kept in a secure chamber. They capture the sun’s light through an opening in the cave roof, and magnify it, then send it deep into the heart of Zugar-Zipperat, from where it is absorbed and dispersed as light through the rock.”

“Dispersed through rock?” I wasn’t convinced. “Hang on,” I said just thinking of another question, “If you’re cave dwellers, why do you need light, shouldn’t you have developed sharper eye sight? Like Gollum?”

“Gollum?” Zain asked.

“A movie star,” I dismissed the question.

Zain snorted. “We weren’t always cave dwellers,” he snapped and stalked away.

The hours continued to tick slowly by. As 5 O’clock got closer the tension in the room became palpable, homeland security officers began mimicking their boss, pacing worried tracks back and forth across the cave.

Bocco announced when the moment was actually upon us, “Now!”

Nothing happened for long seconds.

Everybody froze, and stood staring at each other, I noticed Zain edging towards the cave entrance, and then, the lights went out.


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