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Chapter 9 - Diversion




After worrying all evening about what she had got Mohandas into, Bianca finally decided that he was a big boy and should be capable of looking after himself.  After all she knew several couples who persisted in what seemed to be unequal relationships, with one partner dominating the other, and felt no need to intervene in their lives. And pandering to someone's sexual fetishes or addictions is not illegal, particularly if it increases net pleasure.

When she woke on Saturday morning her greatest concern was finding a solution to Zaire's problem. 

Over breakfast on her morning balcony she took out an old style writing pad and began to list possible solutions and ideas as they came to her without limiting herself, brainstorming for one she liked to call it, and made two columns headed Defence and Attack.

It was early on a beautiful summer's morning just before New Year's and a very light breeze occasionally flicked the edge of the paper under her hand.  Bianca's various domestic robots had prepared her poached eggs on spinach and made fresh béarnaise sauce under the watchful eye of Isis her VPA while she took her morning jog around the park twenty stories below.  Her flat white coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice had just been delivered to complete her usual Saturday morning ritual. She put the pad aside and began to eat and think.

From time to time she put down her knife and fork and made a note.

Under Defence she didn't have a lot of ideas except 'sleep with the man'.  She refused to recommend that on principle.  Go to him and beg would probably have the same outcome and add insult to injury.  Attempting to bribe him would require a very big bribe or something he desperately wants???

She put a line through the Defence column and inadvertently knocked her knife onto the blue damask tablecloth leaving a yellow egg mark.

"That's annoying," she thought. "Isis will want to wash it now."

Bianca loves this rich fabric and it will not last long if it gets washed all the time so she's hoping to minimise trips to the laundry.  She discretely used her thumb to get most of the yoke off the cloth.  Rules could be a problem with software, even with sophisticated tools like Isis.  If a tablecloth is dirty wash it.  "Oh, well!"

Isis is leading edge technology.  Because Bianca can write her own Apps to update Isis' software she incorporates quite a few novel features not normally available to the run of the mill VPA owner who chooses off-the-shelf Apps from the vast library available in The Cloud.  Nevertheless, each VPA soon gets tailored by its owner into a unique assistant.  The owner can choose the special skills they want their VPA to possess from the App library and change their virtual physical appearance: their size; their gender; their shape and feel when experienced in six dimensions (6D); and so on. 

One's VPA represents one to the world at large.  They take and send messages; keep them informed about the world; read write and calculate for them; navigate from one place to another make transport arrangements; manage their personal credit; pay for things that they take from shops or eat in restaurants; and a hundred and one other things.  For many people they are their best friend and their lifelong companion. So most people elect to have a VPA who is indistinguishable from a real person, when experienced in 6D.   But Isis does not appear to be entirely real in 6D.  Isis seems to be a woman similar in build to Bianca but she has some fantasy additions that as a child Bianca would like to have had herself.  Not every woman has wings attached to her arms or the face of Nefertiti.  Similarly her clothing and jewellery are straight from ancient Egypt.   Bianca has continuously updated her over the course of her life but never removed the wings as they go with her name. And she has grown accustomed to her face.  Her latest Isis software update is a modification that should result in enhanced decision making capability.

Bianca has dismissed the tablecloth accident and gone back to her brainstorming.

Moving over to Attack on her pad she produced two more columns:

Stop Aden going to air; Discredit his broadcast.

Under 'Stop' she wrote: 'accident'; disease; death; blackmail; divert.

Under 'Discredit' she wrote:

Resort to sue him demand retraction; expose past and present indiscretions; reveal the network of favours and corruption behind media publicity; the list grew.  Then she wrote in big letters: 'Ex post facto solutions are a problem for Zaire - she'll lose her job and shit sticks.'

In any case, suing someone seldom favours the injured party these days.  The Law Computers needed to be convinced that human happiness would be increased if the suit succeeded.  Apart from the injured party almost everyone is usually happier if the suit fails.  The trials themselves provided a lot of happy social gossip so the Computer may see merit in a show trial.  Show trials could drag on for years, whereas a simple murder was calculated and resolved in seconds. 

As to revealing payola and corruption in the media that's a complete non-event.  There was even an MV show dedicated to uncovering it.  Occasionally a personality will be suspended but they soon pop-up again.  The public had a very short memory; or regard it as a fact of life; or chose not to listen.  Anyway Zaire's job is to facilitate the backhanders; petty bribes; and special favours. 

This was getting her nowhere.  She put a line through the Discredit column.

She took a break and went for a walk.  Let it mature, think about something else.  She walked through one park and then another.  'Mum's' park was looking very nice with lots of native flowers in bloom.  She checked out the kids' tree houses.  There was to be a community judging next week after which they would have eleven months to pull them down before the next competition began.   When she was that age they had built the second prize winner and it would have won if Peter hadn't accidentally blown a wall out with his experimental fuel stove immediately before the judging, requiring a less than perfect repair.  Fortunately they had taken the precaution of firing it up remotely and no one was hurt. Even the flying planks landed quite safely.

One of the kids' structures reminded her of Jackie O's loo. She was looking at it with amusement, a dunny up a tree, when she had her inspiration.  Maybe BoganVillia are tracking Aden Hitch? He's just the sort of high value target they would love to keep a close eye on. But searching billions of terabytes of data could take some time to get anything useful. She needed to cause BoganVillia's powerful engine to create a data cube of Aden's records.

Still looking towards the tree house but no longer seeing it, she asked Isis to retrieve the body scanner data stream that she scrambled the other day; then identify the data coding her dimensions and so on.  Encryption is easier to break if you know in detail what has been encrypted.  As she returned home they edited the data to resemble Aden.  His appearance data was easy to obtain.  There he is every weekday morning on the MV in 6D.  He was 'live from Phuket' last week. The DNA and other data would need to be taken from his medical records or suitably spoofed.

At one time this multi-terabyte stream might have taken months of byte by byte decoding and analysis.  But Isis is an advanced multi-dimensional Cloud Based entity accessing quantum analysis cores at the deepest level of The Cloud's data centres. 

Nevertheless, it took her nearly a minute to produce a data stream that could plausibly have been produced by Aden Hitch in that toilet.

It was midmorning when Bianca went around to Jackie O's apartment and pressed the button asking to use the loo again.  Again she was ushered through the beautiful apartment to the guest convenience. 

The doppelganger of Aden Hitch was relieving his bowel at Jackie O's.  But how could that be?  He was on his way home from Phuket.  At BoganVillia an exception would be raised.  Bots would investigate the conflict a data cube would be created and when it was, all Aden's records, from birth until today, would stream into Isis's data trap.

Sure enough, just as she was thanking Jackie O yet again, Isis caused her pocket communicator to vibrate briefly, indicating that he was 'in the bag'.

She messaged Zaire to meet her at her place for lunch adding in text: 'All in hand, LOL, Bianca'. 

Zaire may have to ask Pip to read this but Bianca hoped that she would start to see the virtue of a short text as an incentive to learn to read. It also confirmed her status as a friend. Formal communications, particularly between Grads, were always initiated by on a VPA to VPA basis. Isis would contact Pip to confirm that Ms Chin was available to talk with Ms McLeish before the screen or virtual image changed from Isis to Zaire and vice versa in the other direction.  Only close friends were permitted to go behind the back of their VPAs. Yet, even then, if the called party was busy for some reason, their VPA would appear to take a message.

Isis needed no instruction about lunch.  She had mediated the message so she immediately created a menu for a light lunch for two; set the household robots to work; checked the food inventory; and placed an order to replace items that would be consumed. She had previously directed the robots to clear and clean the breakfast things and directed that the tablecloth was to be folded away without going to the laundry, despite a little mark made by an eggy knife and not quite cleaned up by her mistress. The nice thing about a virtual assistant is that they can be in many more that two places at once and can multitask on a grand scale.

When Zaire arrived she was not quite sure how to get to the twentieth floor.  Perhaps she should have flown after all?   Twenty flights of stairs seemed like a long way and there were no escalators. She asked Pip who told her that there was a lift, also known as an ascenseur or elevator.  There should be signs bearing one or another of these words.  'Lift' was easy but if the longer words are too difficult to recognise she should use the camera on her hand-held and Pip would guide her.  The signs directed her to a pair of doorways, each with two decorative metal doors.  They were obviously sliding doors but there were no handles.  Zaire tried prising one set apart with her fingers, then the other but they seemed to be locked.  On the wall between the doorways there was a disk embossed with an upwards pointing chevron. Maybe this unlocked the doors?  She touched it and a voice announced that the lift is on its way.  But nothing happened for at least ten seconds.  Then one set of doors sprang open revealing a little room. Zaire cautiously entered and the doors sprang shut behind her. She was alarmed, it felt like a trap.  Then she felt the familiar sensation of getting heavier, like when her hover-fliver was accelerated straight up at full power.  She relaxed, of course, 'lift' said it all.  She was not surprised when the doors sprang open and she stepped out into Bianca's glassy lobby. 

"Wow!" she exclaimed as Bianca came to embrace her. "And Wow!  I've never been in a building this high. Look at your view.  It's like a stationary hover-fliver at eighty metres. And that lift. It's like a ride in a funfair."

"They're not all this fast," said Bianca.  "In some places people don't like feeling their extra weight as it accelerates up or the sensation of weightlessness when it decelerates and vice versa on the way down. And the snap-doors are pretty scary. These're like conventional lifts on steroids. Fortunately everyone in this building is used to it. It cuts the time spent waiting for lifts in half."

"Well it's my first experience of a lift of any kind and I love it."

As Bianca ushered her to the dining room she looked around and marvelled at all the old furnishings.  She knew of course that Grads liked to keep things for decades, unlike her and her friends, who seldom keep a table a chair or a bed for more than six months before the recycling drone takes it away, just in time for the delivery of the latest model. Almost everything she has in her parents' eco-bungalow is recyclable plastic, from warm-floor to glow-ceiling.  Although there is a lot of glass here she couldn't see a single thing that looked plastic. Even the floors seemed to be wood, much of it covered by large woven rugs like those she had seen on MV in old movies.  It was almost as if Bianca had an aversion to recycling.  But this place was nothing like some period movie.  Bianca's furniture was glass and metal and leather and wood, obviously designed for comfort and lounging around.

Over lunch Bianca told her what she and Isis had discovered.  They knew the identity of the lady-boy and just what had taken place in a lot of intimate detail.  Contrary to Aden's assertions, it had gone somewhat further and for a lot longer than Aden had asserted. He'd ordered breakfast for two and the balcony had been in full view of two security cameras.  Various cameras around the resort could also see into the bedroom and living room when the drapes and blinds were left open. They were.  Further, Aden's screen was propped up on its stand on a low table.  It has stereo cameras back and front and stereo microphones.  BoganVillia's 'security' App, nominally to protect his device against theft, was holding all these open 24/7 and streaming the feed back to The Cloud.  Some of the hot action it caught could do well as a celebrity porn video.  Aden also has a track record.  A previous 'go to girl' had lost her after job procuring him a similar bed companion in London. 

They decided that he'd deliberately and successfully confused Zaire in such a way that she would think it was her error; that he was a randy he-man who'd actually wanted her. That had already worked as he'd planned.  His reputation with his adoring female fans was safe.  The next obvious step would be to laugh it off and suggest that he wouldn't mention her mistake if his minor embarrassment was forgotten about too.  Then why had he called Zaire's boss with threats, clearly intending to have Zaire sacked?  It couldn't be because he thought she knew his real secret. How would having her sacked stop her talking?  It would make it worse.  More likely he'd taken some other offence to her, like her tattoo with her name in Arabic on her shoulder.  More than one person has imagined that the script -زائير that extends over her right shoulder like a dragon, to be an Islamic motif or prayer. Aden is known to hate Muslims.

Or maybe it's just because he's a malicious, disingenuous, racist, little prick.

Zaire is not religious at all but she has a dusky beauty, which Aden may think is Middle Eastern, inherited from her four, racially diverse, grandparents.  Both couples were survivors of the Great Famine, individuals who met in traumatic times, having been relocated far from their original countries and homes. She was brought up a humanist-atheist by parents who could no longer believe in a benign god, or even an evil one, and she practices 'live and let live' liberality and believes in treating others as she would like to be treated.

Bianca's information is a huge relief.  Aden clearly had no intention of rubbishing the Command Resort, Phuket on his show. It would be an odd thing to do after presenting his show from there all last week.  He just wants Zaire sacked; her boss to grovel and to be forever beholding; and maybe get a fresh go-to person, maybe a boy this time, who'll provide him with more favours in future. But this time this nasty little man has met his match. His victim knows everything about him, down to what he had for breakfast ten years ago; and every step he's taken; and every bed he's slept in; and everything he did there; since. 

If she wants to blackmail him Zaire is spoiled for choice. 

Blackmail is a fall-back option but it's not something either young woman wants to make a habit of.  It would be would be much nicer if Aden spontaneously called Zaire's boss and told her that he enjoyed the Resort and that she's forgiven. To do that, they need a soft-toy, or one in colourful plastic, to divert this little man from his quest to break a valuable figurine.

Almost immediately Isis and Pip found just the toy among Zaire's friends in The Cloud.  He's a Bogan on his way to becoming a Busie who just loves the famous and wants to join them.  He's an entrepreneurial, up and coming, fashion-forward, clothes designer with perfect cheekbones; a gym tuned body; a mop of wavy hair and, most importantly, a tight little arse.  He's the very essence of a colourful toy for a certain kind of boy.  As for soft, only on the outside.  Inside his gay colourful exterior is a man with steely ambition to become a leading celebrity designer on the World's catwalks. 

Zaire video-messaged him:

"Hi Bosie it's your Cloud Friend, Zaire.  Listen, I've just got back from Phuket where I was at a resort assisting Aden Hitch."

He squealed with delight at her good luck and asked to know all about it.  But he didn't ask why she'd chosen to tell him.  Obviously she was messaging everyone.  Who wouldn't?

"I'm messaging you in particular because I'm sure you two would like each other."

"Oh no!" Bosie said: "He's an ultra-conservative, male - oh I can't say - with no fashion sense.  He wouldn't like me at all!"

"You'd be surprised.  When you know him like I do, you'll realise that it's all just a front.  He's had numerous secret boyfriends and you're just his type.  If you play your cards right, at the very least you can expect a friendly interview one morning on his show.  If you do that well you could become a regular guest.

Bosie screamed with excitement at the prospect.  "Yes.  No.  Oh Yes." Then like a shadow falling across him, he became calm.  Steely, determined Bosie had appeared.

"Ok. How do we make this happen?" he asked in his 'no crap', 'no inflection' designer's voice.

Zaire explained that she knew Aden's schedule down to the minute.  He was returning today.  Bosie should wear something androgynous and meet her in the foyer of The Plaza Grand at two o'clock.  They would intercept him checking in.

Despite a traffic delay the intercept worked perfectly because by now they were mapping Aden in real time. 

As predicted, his first reaction was shock at seeing that tall Muslim girl, Zaire, in the foyer.  Had she heard that she was about to get sacked? Was she here to cause a scene? She's an Amazon.  Might he be in physical danger? He smiled his best media smile. 

"Hello.  Come to welcome me home?" he said casually, as the check-in person allocated him a luxury suite.

"Well no.  This is an amazing coincidence.  I'm here with my friend Bosie.  He's a wonderful fashion designer, the latest thing, and we've been talking about my outfits for next week.  You should talk to him too.  He's brilliant.  He'd probably sit down with you for free.  He loves your show."

"A huge fan," said Bosie smiling, judging it perfectly - respectful without being obsequious with just the right amount of gay intonation and admiration. 

"But it would have to be right now.  I have to get back to my studio.  I've got an important commission designing a fashion-forward but conservative business suit for a certain someone.  I'm sure you must know him." He smiled beautifully at Aden.

Aden was hooked.  "Would it bother you to come up to my suite now then?"

"No I would love that! Perhaps we could order a bottle of bubbly?  Zaire darling, you might find this very boring."

"Oh no I love men's fashion.  But I do need to message my boss first and see if there have been any developments.  I've had no connection since I got back."

"That reminds me," said Aden "I need to message her too, to thank her for all your help.  Would you like me to do that first?"

"Oh yes would you? I love it when clients give me a good report!  But then I'll have to dash-off back to the office I'm afraid."

Sunday is a day of rest, so neither Aden nor Bosie emerged all day. Not that they got much rest.

That Monday morning, a bleary eyed Aden was glowing in his praise of the Command Resort, Phuket.  He waxed lyrical, quoting that old-time heartthrob, 'Elvis Prayer-sley', in his distinctive theatrical intonation, which seemed to have become more exaggerated over the weekend, claiming that Elvis' song, Love my Tender should have been written for the Rear-sort.  In particular, the lines: All my dreams fulfilled; For my darlin I love you; And I always will; best reflected Aden's experience at the Come-and.  The only slight issue for the Command's publicity person was his insistence that 'ph' is always pronounced 'f" as in photograph.  So he told the world that they too could have their every dream fulfilled at the "Come-and Fuk-it Rear-sort". 

"Maybe it's Freudian," laughed Zaire, mopping the tears from her eyes, as she and Bianca recovered from their spontaneous hysterics.  They'd decided to watch the show together on Monday morning over breakfast at Bianca's.  Again, Bianca was surprised by her new, educated Bogan, friend, who'd talked intelligently on all sorts of topics until late and then spent the night in her guest bedroom.

Then Aden introduced the show's new regular fashion spot, to be hosted by this 'fabulous' young designer: Bosie Wild.  And actually put a hand on Bosie's knee.  On MV.  In 6D!

Bosie was purring like the cat that got the cream.



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Bridge over the River Kwai



In 1957-58 the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai‘ was ground breaking.  It was remarkable for being mainly shot on location (in Ceylon not Thailand) rather than in a studio and for involving the construction and demolition of a real, fully functioning rail bridge.   It's still regarded by many as one of the finest movies ever made. 

One of the things a tourist to Bangkok is encouraged to do is to take a day trip to the actual bridge.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Through the Looking Glass






I'm seeing on TV senior politicians, including the Liberal PM and involved Labor Victorians (bi-partisan), gathering in Morwell in Victoria to announce that jobs in the Latrobe Valley have been saved by a Japanese consortium that will build a pilot plant to convert brown coal to hydrogen. Read Here...

I had to pinch myself to check that our screen had not somehow turned itself into Lewis Carroll's looking glass and sucked me through to the other side.

Fans of the Reverend Dodgson's (Lewis Carroll's) work will recall some 'weird shit' in Wonderland like: Alice growing and shrinking; a disembodied cat coming and going; and babies turning into pigs.  But these adventures are put into the shade by Alice's subsequent experiences: Through the Looking-Glass

Hydrogen from coal (carbon) - really?  Surely they mean hydrogen from water. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Australia and Empire




The recent Australia Day verses Invasion Day dispute made me recall yet again the late, sometimes lamented, British Empire.

Because, after all, the Empire was the genesis of Australia Day.

For a brief history of that institution I can recommend Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Scottish historian Niall Campbell Ferguson.

My choice of this book was serendipitous, unless I was subconsciously aware that Australia Day was approaching.  I was cutting through our local bookshop on my way to catch a bus and wanted something to read.  I noticed this thick tomb, a new addition to the $10 Penguin Books (actually $13). 

On the bus I began to read and very soon I was hooked when I discovered references to places I'd been and written of myself.  Several of these 'potted histories' can be found in my various travel writings on this website (follow the links): India and the Raj; Malaya; Burma (Myanmar); Hong Kong; China; Taiwan; Egypt and the Middle East; Israel; and Europe (a number).  

Over the next ten days I made time to read the remainder of the book, finishing it on the morning of Australia Day, January the 26th, with a sense that Ferguson's Empire had been more about the sub-continent than the Empire I remembered.

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