Warpdrive (Ruff Kut Bizness Edit)

MARGARET BUCHANAN OWNED A WALLPAPER STORE IN LAMBETH NORTH, SOUTH LONDON. Sahgal Bhosale made some of her paper in Ghatkopar, east Bombay. She also sold slipmats and windchimes. There used to be money in it, sometime.

<<It's a glorious design>> she was showing a leaf of marigolds to a customer one morning <<sans pareil, yeah. It's imported.>>

<<Yeah>> said the customer, who was imported as well <<I've never been keen on floral.>> He skimmed through the display book passing every conceivable shade of magnolia, more abstract flowers like diamonds and rippled spheres. He closed the album. <<Have you got anything in an African style?>>

The shop was empty for a long time after that. In the middle of all that, malicious as a race riot, in stepped the grey overcoat and bowler hat figurehead of Mr Jones.

He shook out his Kensington West umbrella over her Lambeth North floor and said as if he meant it: <<Disgusting weather.>>

<<You should have been here Monday>> Margaret countered. <<Glorious sunshine then.>>

Mr Jones stopped to look at a Rousseau wallprint which had been hanging there the last time he dropped in. <<Let's get straight down to business, shall we>> he said. <<You've fallen behind rent twice now in the past six months. I can't support you forever you know.>>

Margaret did what she always did in periods of high anxiety: she polished the nearest surface space. <<Oh Mr Jones, I'm so sorry, I've been trying dreadfully hard. It's been so slow. It's doing my head in, believe me.>>

<<It hasn't been that easy for me either>> Mr Jones said. The Rousseau print caught his eye again; steady, old boy he thought, principle... <<Can't you cut back or something?>>

<<The takings have been down 30 per cent all year. I've tried everything to stop it.>>

Mr Jones passed the buck. <<All right, I'll give you another week. But this is the last time, I've got my creditors too. I can't be dealing with it.>> He stole one last look at the print, tilted his hat and left.

A little while later someone haggled for the print. <<Oh go on>> Margaret sighed <<20 pounds.>>

MARGARET BUCHANAN LIVED ON THE sixth floor of the monumental Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle. Leeroy Robinson lived directly below her on the fourth. He liked drugs, Jungle hardcore and the fortnightly girocheque which made it all possible. He was having a party one night flaunting all three components, Leeroy aping about on the turntables and dribbling a joint, Jasmin Caracas eyeing him off from an idle corner. Easing panAfrica's Eye of the Tiger into Dark Sol's Event Horizon gently, then crunching them together to make a joke of it, <<This is a ruff toon, geezer>> he said. <<Man, this is ruffkut bizness!>>

Leeroy tabled a pouchful of speed. The night developed a similar texture: granular and vast. His hands blurred clockfast over the turntables, retrieving occasionally into his record box or Jasmin's ticking lap. He did some berserk MCing in the bedroom - <<Petal>> plucking them one by one <<the narcissus has strewn silver in the way of the bridal rose.19>>

Caddoway Towers, blooming out of a Jungle of the soul

Just before dawn he came down on a joint and brushed his teeth. He caught his face in the mirror, something he best avoided on nights like these, was trapped for a time in his own reflection... all five and a half of them. He punched a crack in the glass and asked the DJ to put something happier on.

MARGARET POLISHED A RECALCITRANT tea stain on the counter. A customer was studying a petunia pastische hanging on the wall. Outside there was a typically Lambeth North pastiche of rain and raggamuffin.

<<Do you need a hand there?>> Margaret asked.

<<I'm just looking>> the woman said. Unfortunately, she meant it.

Three hours later Margaret peeled the Super Sale: Up to 25% Off sign from the front window and rubbed out the 25. She textered a sunnier 30 and hoped.

Margaret had spent much of her life chasing promotions. When she was 14 she dated Dwight McIntyre because he was Californian and liked Deep Purple. She married an entrepreneur in 1985. Nowadays he invested most of his earnings in the fruit machines at the local Hog and Sundry. Dwight McIntyre was fashionably unfaithful and lost all street cred anyhow when the Sex Pistols stormed in.

<<I'm sorry it's out of a Tesco can and all>> shoving a jacket potatoful of baked beans into his face. <<Since you've cut another 30 per cent off the budget.>>

Jim was already drunk. <<Let me run the shop tomorrow, love>> he suggested. <<I'll have us back in black by dole day.>>

<<Oh that's a laugh, that is. I wouldn't trust you with the bleeding till.>>

<<You know what your problem is>> him opening a can of Kestrel Super Strength with his teeth <<you've got no initiative. Discount sales! Christ, everyone has discount sales.>>

<<What do you want me to do? Give away a set of steak knives with every purchase? A bottle of wine or something?>>

<<It might help in these parts.>> He shovelled the beans into his mouth. <<But for Christ's sake don't moan tonight. We'll run a promotion. We'll get that rent dosh.>>

He was one quarter Jamaican and a quarter Irish. It used to be a good mix, sometime.

ON SATURDAY NIGHTS LEEROY USUALLY went to Club Troppo in Hackney. Sahgal Bhosale normally spent hers making wallpaper. Leeroy sat in the darkest corner spare and smoked crack and nodded to the DJ when he was impressed. He spoke to women who wore lycra and occasionally dealt drugs.

He even found himself dancing one dawn, that coke/speed masala being his most potent yet. He trod on someone's toe, another black bloke, who shook him up by the jacket until he saw his eyes in full strobe. He apologised. <<Safe, man. Hey man, do you want a stone?>>

<<This is a ruff kut>> Leeroy said in the comfort of thetoilets. <<How do you make a crust, mate? This is ruff-kut bizness!>>

The other bloke unfurled a sheet of acid tabs, neat row on row of smily faces, dahlias and steaming bullets. He smiled as well.

<<Oh yeah>> Croon said. <<I deal a bit myself, sometimes. The trade's well tight these days, but.>>

The other bloke inhaled, swirled an acrid haze into his lungs and beyond. <<I don't just deal it, see>> he said. <<I mix it.>>

Leeroy felt like one of those geezers you hear about who wake up spontaneously combusting in the middle of the night, and the beat was sociopathic. <<Give us a kut in the bizness man. I'm flat out skint.>>

The other bloke refereed his trainers, considered a booyakka examination. <<Hey man, what was your favorite lesson at school?>> he said instead.

<<Chemistry>> Croon said.

The other bloke laughed and gave him a safe, man fist. <<What's wrong with economics?>>

<<TELL YOU WHAT>> MARGARET FORCED a smile <<I don't normally do this sort of thing. Buy the double-roll set of Oleander #26, yeah, and I'll throw in, free of charge, an extra roll. You could do your bathroom with it. And it's a glorious design...>>

Margeret Buchanen's Oleander #27, somewhere in South London

A second potential buyer, whom Margaret had been tracking with all the apprehension of an air traffic controller, grabbed a wind chime from display and dangled it out the door. <<You rotten sod>> Margaret said, chasing him on to the street. The offender was white, under 16 and wearing a Fila jacket and cap. He weaved into a crowd and the dangling of his chimes lost her in the rain and the loitering car soundsystems.

Back at the store, the first customer was nowhere to be seen. Margaret kicked the double-roll set on to the floor and sobbed. She locked up, caught the Tube home with barely enough rationality to consider a bath.

<<Oh sweety>> Jim peered up from the bathroom sink. He was in a variation of that marital strainer when all you can do is say <<Darling, I can explain...>> except his involved a straw up his nose.

<<Get out>> Margaret said.

She cooked a vindaloo for tea and wept the whole way through a Channel Four documentary on milk pasteurization. She wept for 12 years of discount sales. She wept for the demise of Deep Purple.

Brushing her teeth she saw Jim's last line of speed and was about to flush it down the sink when, remembering her first trip with Dwight at a Led Zeppelin show, the textures and the colours and the... insights. She lapped it up and rinsed her toothbrush.

She was up all night after that. She mopped the floor raw four times and scrubbed every window. When the alarm rang at six she had an idea.

LIKE HIS MUSIC, LEEROY'S WOMEN LURKED well underground of style. They boomed in blackmarket cycles too makeshift for Adam Smith, circulated word of mouth, carried to the air in pirate radio broadcasts faster than most viruses. Sometimes they leapt too far to commerciality and Leeroy hastily withdrew, always turning back to the roots, to Africa. Jungle was the vibe now and Jasmin was the epitome. She had dreads, safari suits and a permanent lollypop grin. Wasn't that enough?

<<I'm not chuffed about stacking Boots' shelves all my days>> she told Cassius once. <<I'm going to make somet'ing of this life, brother. I'm getting me some culcha, see.>>

Which entailed a visit to the National Gallery. Jasmin spent 26 minutes studying an early Rubens. <<Come on love, it's shit>> Leeroy said. <<Gawking at these dead ponces ain't going to get you no office job you know.>>

He was ready to ditch her in the Art Nouveau section when they came upon a Henri Rousseau painting of a tiger in a jungle. <<Well, this is more like it>> he said. <<Something I can relate to.>> He was vaguely stoned but there was something else transporting in that painting, maybe the clarity of the brushstrokes... Leeroy was entranced. <<Fuck's sake>> he managed. <<It's right colorful, in'it?>>

He split up with Jasmin that night. He dropped in at the plant and dowsed 30 square feet of acid wysteria with the partner. They mixed records after that and talked about politics.

<<Jungle is the riddim of the new world>> the other bloke explained. <<To its frenetic beat the African Nation marches to its birthright.>>

MARGARET'S IDEA WAS WELL SUCCESSFUL. She paid off her debts in no time. When word got round she was clearing 5000 square feet a month. At the end of the year she opened a new store in Kensington West and went on a cruise to Sri Lanka.

Even Leeroy Robinson got some benefit out of it. He wallpapered his bathroom with her now legendary Frangipani #18 one day and threw a party to celebrate it. He fused into a corner under the toilet bowl, high on orchid fumes and the crackling heat of the canopy. <<Onward march de Afrrrrican Naaaation!>> he cried. Four of five junglists were there with him licking their way to Ethiopia and beyond. <<Brudders and sistas come tagedder!>>

A frangipani stalk sprouted creepers which emerged from the walls and slowly wrapped around his chest. Ants thundered over the tiles. Leeroy lapped another petal and sighed <<Brrrritain is the larrrrgest island of the Carrrrrribbean. Brudders and sistas come tagedder!>>

y? A door chimed out of nowhere and slid gently open. Kirk retreated under his bunk, h and as white as he was. And she was beautiful. She stepped forward, and the door sealed the space behind her. "My name is Lisa," she said, advancing a little further. "You have no reason to be afraid. Your crew is perfectly safe, in the best of hands..." ered to his feet. "Wouldn't you rather like to know where you are?" she counter-questioned. Before Kirk could respond she said expansively: "Welcome to Eden!" completely sure, an with black hair and eyes of similar hue. A queer humanoid robot stood by his plate. "A most gratifying meal," Spock said, swallowing his last morsel. "I remember receiving a mass of life signals as we were dragged into the atmosphere," Starx said. "From what I could deduce, it seemed like a tropical paradise, a planet-wide Amazon of life, but for such an exundant world to escape exploration..." "And the scourge of colonisation that would follow," Michael said. "The occasional probe veonisation?" Spock asked. "What prived here five years ago, fleeing the decadance of Lemurian Earth, and erected this outpost to complete a study of local lifestreams before they collae, we have built up a worthwhile database. The fruits of our research are at your disposal. We'll arrange a tour of the labs, later." "I'd be very honoured," Spock said. Something about Lisa's use of the word "operate" unnerved Kirk, so he said: "Later - listen, there's not going to be much of tely, and begin repairs." "Salvage will be impossible, I'm afraid," Lisa said. "As faven its velocity, I assume it was vapourised on impact." Kirk felt his heart go cold. "I see," he said. "Well, we'll have to contact the outpost on Randsl Michael's words were curt, a simple command. An uncomfortable silence spread around the room. Starx fidgeted uneasily in ?" Kirk askeddo attention?" "We acted according to our principles." Michael said stoutly. "And in doing so, we did not expect ungratefulness for our effort. It is a cruel world outside, though we call it paradise; perd) it, chantinshouln alternative to a distress signal. We have in our posession a small but spaceworthy cruiser, capable of limn," Kirk said sullenly. he hosts of Eden had vanished about 20 minutes earlier, "tending to a few odds anyes? They looked as if they'd just popped a vial of sasoyd pills! e're the ones who intruded on their private garden, their paradise. Who are we to start making demands?" "In any case," Spock said, "what demands can we make, when this facility "What do you mean?" Spock asked, exasperated. "Well, nobody remembers anything beyond our jetison from the Enterprise," Kirk said. "By that time we were still plucked by a sub-orbital craft. It sounds improbable, but far more likely than the claim we were captured in a gravity net and siphoned down to the surface." "A single outpost," Spock said, "alone on a medium-sized planet, in exactly the right position to open a gravity net. Yes, it is highly unlikely." "Almost impossible," Kirk said. "And has anyone yet glimpsed the world beyond these walls?" Kirk had scarcely said these words when a sudden darkness enveloped the room. The luminou oblong windows. Kirk flinched momentarily, overcome with fear. But curiousity being the stronger force, he looked out the openings thus created - and was overcome by wonder. The world beyond the window was indeed alien, there was no doubt about that. A forest of tubular trees seethed for at least 100 kilomet beyond the limits of attraction; it might well have been an abundant paradise in its youth, but it had since overheated into a saun After draining the landscape of knowledge, and finding beauty only in itsliar form of life." Even as he spoke it seemed "Great gods!" x muttered. "ppens every 25 hours, so it's as close to a day as you get here. A Terran day, that is." Kirk smiled bleakly. "I hope," Lisa continued, "you're sufficiently rested to commence the tour. Depending on the weather conditions, we may be able to take you on a flight to Mount Esvalva, a volcano about 5000 kilometres south of here. And after that, possibly a forest walk." "Our stay here must be short," Kirk interjected. "I appreciate the e "Terran Reckoning, that is." Croon whistled, impressed. 滴ell, old man,・he said, 電idn't know you had it in you.・ 的 would have whipped your behind before,・he said, 澱ut for the fact I知 a gentleman.・ Well, Croon thought, I知 a rogue. He leapt into attack screaming furiously, clawing the air like a cat. Mr Catheter grabbed an umbrella hanging on the wall and opened it just in time, like a giant shield. 鏑ook bastard, I want some answers,・Croon said. 溺y girl just left me; what the fuck's going on?・ As he said these words an image sprung into his mind: a river snaking through the dawn-dewed fields, the flickering lights of the airport... He banished the image, concentrated on the job at hand. 溺y dear sir,・Mr Catheter said, 妬f you feel rejected, maybe you should see a psychologist.・ He lowered the umbrella enough to offer Croon a cheesy grin; Croon also saw the remnants of two black eyes. Then he pushed a button and sharp spikes punched out from the vertices of the umbrella. Spinning quickly, he started tunnelling down the hall. 添ou池e involved in this, I know it,・Croon said as he retreated to the front foor. 的 don稚 know if you put her up to it directly, but you know something.・ He was coming to the grim conclusion that Americans couldn't play (and these were god-damned actors!) when Thr0w-Back came up and made a complete goose of himself (Hindenburg was his archetype). Spotting Croon alone at his table and being taken by his flex he ambled over, pulled up a chair and said completely out of context, "Do you work out?" Yes! Croon thought. Here was an obvious fuck-up, a clear victory. Freed from the game he changed texts, hoping Thr0w-Back was fast enough to follow, "Cletus, Cletus, I know in the past I may have done you wrong, right? But I promise I will never, ever do you wrong again." "Why, you don't say," Thr0w-Back said, "Cas Croon!" "At your service," the aforementioned said. Thr0w-Back slapped his back like a pizza-maker pressing dough, literally squeezed the breath out of him, rambled something about four years... you said you were going to write... how the fuck's your ass... "I'm taking care of it," Croon said, desperate for release. You see, while Croon's appearance changed every four weeks, Thr0w-Back had dedicated his adult life to a single design: a Neathandal Man replica complete with stooped forehead and hairy back. "So, you heard it was Boogie Nights?" the ape-man said. "But who the fuck invited you? You should have told me you'd be in town." "It was all rather sudden - like your conception," Croon said. "Dude, we've got to talk. We've got a chance to make mega, mega bucks..." "Dude," Throw-Back said, "we are mega, mega bucks. Let's play first, huh? I got a few people you'd love to meet." LONG AFTER sunset Croon and the ape-man were jammed in an outdoor spa smoking cigars and talking about the good old days, their missions to Algeria and Angola, various chemical experiences and endless nights in casinos and opium dens. Croon was still wearing his hat; there was some girl dressed in nought but a snorkel beside him. "Great party, man," he said. "I see you haven't lost your style. Nor your capacity to afford that style, might I add." "Man, I'm doing what I can. The coke trade hasn't been the same for years, ever since Murdoch shunted half of Hollywood down to Mexico. I'm afraid martial arts and the porn industry's become my primary market." "Well that's what I'm here to talk to you about: new business opportunities. And martial arts." The girl with the snorkel came to the surface, and Croon introduced himself. "Scubagirl," she said, then plunged back underwater. "As I was saying, we have a chance for mega earnings. How does $6 million dollars grab you? All for about three days work." "What have we got to do, kidnap the Pope?" "How'd you guess? No, we just got to pick up some kid who's a karate champion out at Encino, and then take him to perform at this birthday party in London." "Who wants him, a martial arts paedophile freak? You know I won't work for paedophiles." "Nah, he's no paedophile. He just digs street fighting." CROON AND Thr0w-Back had it all worked out: they were going up to K2's club on Friday night to catch one of his shows, and then they were going to sign him up for a UK tour. That gave Croon two days to kill. He wanted to do some more research on the kid and also on the two men who'd hired him, because he still couldn't work out why they wanetd him so badly. After six hours on the Net rummaging all of his faithful search engines, however, he was even more uncertain. Sure, Dirk had a homepage and sure, it was full of his philosophies and links to rewind sites. Sure, there were also recordings of some of his juvenile recordings and sure they were jamming. But it wasn't enough to explain why two Texan ex-pat billionaires were willing to fork out eight million Euros just to see him play. Like if the kid was that remunerative, why didn't he have a record deal? The Web search was getting nowhere, so Thr0w-Back suggested something to take their minds off things: a trip to their favourite theme park, a legend on the adventurer's circuit: LA's Magic Mountain. THE MAIN attraction in the McDonald's pavilion was a VR network called Greed Works. It was a corporate strategy game in which players had to advance their interests without violating the set parameters of their character. Because he was the king of the simulcra, Croon expected to whip Thr0w-Back's ass. "Hey, I've got more subtlety than you give credit for," Thr0w-Back genuinely offended. Croon looked at his friend's ape-like profile, the tufts of hair piling out of his death metal singlet, and couldn't help but cackle. "All right, let's make it interesting then," he said. "$5000," Thr0w-Back said, and started clambering into his extra large smartsuit. Croon followed suit, they pulled on video helmets, a "disbelief suspender" punched through his skin and the pair were transported into the electronic world of McSpace. After a short narcotic shock Croon recovered his wits and noticed the following proclamation scrolling down his inner view: The program opened with the old chromatone theme tune of the Tom Baker period. How odd, Croon thought - he was a Bakerphile but he'd never seen this installment. Even more surprising was the first shot of the TARDIS control room: Jane garbed in a spider silk gown and fluro muslim veil, K9 bursting hip-hop from speakers in his sides. Spider silk and hip-hop! Croon thought. They put Baker out of commission in the 70s. Then the Doctor appeared from behind the console, a mass of scarf and thick brown curls. "Well," he said, "we ought to be arriving on Gamelon soon. We stand to make a tidy fortune, the way my luck's been going." "Are you sure you're appropriately dressed?" Jane said. "I thought you said this was a funky-assed casino planet?" The Doctor draped a fat gold chain around his neck and stuck a cigar in his mouth. "Now I'm ready," he said. But even as he said these words the TARDIS was knocked sideways by a massive jolt, and the Doctor was thrown to the floor. "What happened?" Jane screamed, to which the Doctor replied, "For God's sake, stay down!" He punched a series of buttons on the console, hurriedly scanned a read-out. "My god," he said at length. "Doctor, what's going on?" "An unprecedented rift in the time-space continuum. It could only mean..." "Doctor, mean what?" "Shhh! We're materialising." The TARDIS wheezed slowly into the world of form. The Doctor turned on the scanner, and the three beheld the outside view: it looked like the inside of a house. There was a window in the distance, framing grey sky and sea. "Is it Gamelon?" asked Jane, who couldn't see because the veil had slipped over her eyes. "Hardly," the Doctor studying a few more read-outs. "According to these coordinates, this is the Earth. We must have been knocked off course. I'm going outside to investigate." "Don't leave me behind!" Jane found the Doctor in the outside room studying a framed poster on the wall. It was adorned with the large letters Nirvana but the Time Lord was more interested in the frame. "Hmmm," he said, tapping the glass. "Late 20th century, 1990s I'd say." He then walked to the window and took in its broad panorama, the boats in the sound, the style of surrounding architecture. "North America, Pacific sea-board," he said. "I'd say Portland... no, Seattle." There was a rustling sound from the next room, and K9's ears pricked up. "Armed humanoid approaching," he said. A door crashed open, and out came a scruffy-looking fellow with straw-tinted hair. Kurt Cobain, doped the eyeballs on heroin, advanced with a pistol levelled on the alien intruders. And he said, "What the fuck's going on here?" The Doctor didn't freak out or put up his hands or anything so reflex. Instead he said with perfect aplomb, "Ah, glad to see I haven't missed the fireworks." He casually walked over Cobain, pulled a brown paper bag from his pocket. "Jelly babies?" Cobain threw the bag on the floor, shoved his barrel into the Doctor's head. "I ought to blow your brains out right now!" he said. 30 Flirt: Part IV "I FEEL disgusting," Fatma said. "I just don't know what to do." "I thought you'd cut your contact with him?" Ishmael said. Fatma sighed, turning over in bed to reveal the nape of her neck, the devastating smooth of her back. "He writes, he tells me things. Stupid little things. He sends me presents." "Do you love him?" Ishmael was being cruel here. "Maybe, maybe I love him." But she pointed her finger at Ishmael smoking on the windowsill of her apartment, said, "I swear to God I love you more!" It was little consolation to our Palestinian: while he was a New Age man he was nonetheless an Arab, and he felt uncomfortable letting women take the lead in anything. Even this recent habit of sleeping in her apartment unsettled him. But as he hated the idea of oppression even more he said with as much concord as possible: "What time's your flight leaving?" "Seven," she said. "Is he going to pick you up at the airport?" "Yes." "What are you going to tell him?" "What do you want me to tell him?" "Huh?" "It all depends on you," she said. "I want you to tell me if there's a future, a future between you and me. Yes or no, is there a future?" "I can't see the future," Ishmael said. "You don't have to see the future if it's there. Yes or no!" Fatma was an Arab too, and she felt just as uncomfortable as Ishmael about the concept of the "equal relationship". The little voice inside of her was doubtless saying: Please, please tell me to stay. And doubtless Ishmael could hear that little voice. But things never being so simple in love and war, he needed more time to consider. He needed time to decide. "What time's your flight to LA?" "Seven," she said. "All right, I'll drive you to the airport. I'll be back at 5.30pm." "Where are you going?" "I'm going to see the future," he said. DECEMBER 2011 in Cairo, and everyone was talking about the Mosque of Al-Aqsa. The siege was into its fifth month, with no diplomatic settlement in sight. Even moderate Egyptians were now conceding that war was the only viable solution. Middle-aged men were being called up for duty, while gas-masks and plastic sheeting were joining all the usual disaster items in the shops on Midan Tahrir. Like everyone else, Ishmael had been thinking a lot about the war: namely, what role he was going to play if and when it broke out. Yassar Arafat had called on all Palestinians, men and women, to return to PLO-controlled territories for one final hurrah against Zionist persecution. That sounded reasonable, but Ishmael didn't want to end his days as a foot solider fighting house-to-house skirmishes in the suburbs of Ramallah. There was more to war than that! If this was going to be the last war in human history he wanted the mother of all posts: you know, like assassinating the president of Israel or something. Hijacking a cargo plane and crashing into the heart of Tel Aviv. He wanted to go out in style. Needless to say, falling in love with Fatma Fahni was the worst possible thing he could have done at such a time. They had been together now for three months, and she was just about to leave to the US for a two month business trip. But in two months time, Cairo could be Africa's first Hiroshima. Ishmael couldn't leave the Middle East at so critical a time, no matter how much he yearned to be with her. He could ask her to stay, but dirty religious wars had little space for pampered millionaires. Not unless they paid for the weapons, of course.

In his desperation, he went around to see his old buddies MK and Mustafa Hasan. He phoned them first to organise a meeting at the old Wimpies burger joint. Mohammad was the one who answered the phone.

"They're busy now," Mohammad said, "they've got a lot of work to do. They haven't got the time to get mixed up with the likes of you!>>

"What's that supposed to mean?" a teenage boy in a basketball cap was banging on the side of the phonebox, waving a phonecard earnestly in the air. "You know what I mean? I find it disgusting." (And this was from the guy Ishmael sprung having gay sex in the toilets at Misr el-Qadimah!) "Why don't you just go back to that woman.>>

"She's a patriot," Ishmael opening the booth's door to swing a kick at the rambunctious teenager. "Imshee x x !" "She's a leech!" Mohammad said. "Your problems are trivial," Mustafa said. It was about 46 minutes later at that renovated Wimpies joint, Ishmael having convinced the Fatimids to give him one last chance. "Why don't you just go back to that condominium?" "Mustafa, you're the one who introduced me to decadence," Ishmael said.

"Our decadence is subversive!" Mustafa hissed. Ishmael noticed he was wearing a gun... and this time around it didn't look like a cap gun.

"You have to understand I didn't go there for the easy life, to spend Gaddafi's money," Ishmael said. He had never seen The Blues Brother, so he didn't hear the irony of his words: "I was on a mission from God.>>

Mustafa had seen The Blues Brothers, so he burst out laughing. "Bullshit," he said. "You just wanted a sugar mommy.>>

Ishmael leaned back in his seat, exasperated. Imagine his confusion! Torn one way by love and the other by his dedication to the cause, he desperately sought a Middle Path. What he found was the Zero.

"Don't think," MK said, "we don't recognise the tactical benefits of your predicament. We appreciate them very much. You may be in the jaws of the dragon, but at least the skin is softer there.>>

"The Devil seduces with his lies," Mustafa said, "but every lie has a kernel of truth. Discern the truth, and you shall have a role in our Holy War!>>

"What... what do you mean?" Ishmael said.

Mustafa removed the pistol from his holster and held his arms aloft in a hugging gesture. Ishmael instinctively entered the embrace. "Go, go to America," Mustafa said softly. His arms folding around Ishmael's back, the cold press of steel on his cheek...

When Ishmael came to it was the terrorism ward of the Cairo American Hospital. A busload of Canadian tourists were in the next room, groaning through the aftermath of a Giza mortar attack. Ishmael opened his eyes to see the blurry figures of nurses around him, a doctor dribbling liquid out of a syringe.

"Jews>> Ishmael said.

This caught the doctor by surprise, and he paused with his needle hanging in the air. "Good, good," said the nurse, equally perplexed. "What in particular about Jews?"

Visions filled Ishmael's mind, swelling with the pain: Al-Aqsa... the Temple... a burning in the sky. "Crowds, I see crowds," he said. "They're cheering him." His inner view suddenly rose from ground level, morphed into an archtectural blue-print of Jerusalem, hatcheted in the deconstructionalist style. The pain was terrific. Through throbbing lips he said, "A New Earth. Al-Quds. The bride...>>

"He's delirious," the doctor said.

Looking down at the blueprint beneath him, Ishmael located the golden dome of Al-Aqsa. There seemed to be a huge crowd around it, a thicket of pencilled heads. Suddenly they all looked up. Ishmael thought for a moment they were looking at him, and even raised his hand to offer them a feeble wave. But they weren't looking at him.

TO COMPREHEND Thr0w-Back and the whole Rewind phenomenon you must consider the nihilism of 00s thought. On every conceivable level society was groaning towards collapse. Global warming had gone from speculation to fact but despite the hype, world governments couldn't implement a solution. The human population was rising at an almost hyperbolic rate, and the environment was struggling to cope. Whether they believed in it or not, most people had read Revelations and knew the Mayan calendar expired in the year 2012. Reprints of the centuries of Nostradamus were selling heavily across the developed world. It was, in the words of the tabloids, the biblical "End Days". The decay was reflected on every concievable level of society. In Europe it had led to the dominance of sampling, the belief that the only innovation could come from the reconstitution of the past. In the Middle East, futureshock was taken to its logical extreme through institutionalised fundamentalism. Asia was awash with apocalyptic cults who thought that since the world was about to end, they could indulge in a bit of mass murder and destruction in the meantime. And in mainstream North America you had the pinhead nostalgia of the revivals movement. This was on the surface, of course - there was always an underground. Rewind was the big underground movement in California. Like classic movements it arose spontaneously when a number of thinkers independently arrived at the same conclusion: humanity was fucked. Thr0w-Back came to this conclusion about 2001, just before his first major foray into crime. He was watching TV with a few of his buddies and this program came on about Homo Erectus, a chilled-out cousin species of man which inhabited southern Africa two million years ago. The program followed a Homo Erectus pioneer who left the security of his tribe to venture into the wilderness, kind of like a wandering mystic. He got lost, ended up in the desert and was eventually clubbed to death by a band of Homo Sapiens. Before he died, however, he stumbled on an outcrop of mushrooms and hungrily devoured them. About an hour later and it was like The Flintstones on DMT, the brother having visions of the miracle of fire, how to use tools and the virtues of vegetarianism. Before he could actualise any of those realisations, however, he was clubbed to death by that band of marauding Homo Sapiens. What impressed Thr0w-Back was not the tragedy of the story, which had obviously been given the Hollywood treatment, but rather the way it affected his buddies. When the dude left his tribe, for instance, they dissed him with calls of "Loser!" and "Where the fuck's your woman?" When he walked into the desert, they threw corn-chips and nuts at his ass. When he was clubbed to death, they actually applauded. Thr0w-Back's buddies were not normally so callous, and he got the uncomfortable feeling they had either been possessed or were channeling... like some primeval human groupmind. Or maybe they were just reflecting the inbuilt aggression of their species. The aggression which had extinquished the spiritual race of Homo Erectus, and was now threatening to extinquish every other life-form on earth. That day Thr0w-Back realised Homo Sapiens had finally met his match: himself. Lying in bed listening to the police helicopters and road rage gunfights on the nearby freeway, he wondered what kind of world it would be if Homo Erectus had survived that Holocaust on the African savannah one million years ago, and Homo Sapiens was the one in the museums. Other stoned Croon ideas: 1. Ishmael becomes confused by his growing sense of love and a divinity which he can't reconcile with his more traditional Islamic belief. In a sense, Ishmael is the leader of a new religion, but I have to depict the journey in emotional terms. In other words, I have to develop a decent story out of Ishmael's conversion to his new religion, I can't just rely on one heroin induced vision, which is what I have done so far. Naturally, this could take some time. But if Croon is serialised over what could well be a longer time-frame than first intended, what's the rush. Let's allow this novel to expand gradually: this is the Divine Plan!! Other note: Mention theory of Rennaissance in Book III centred on Ishmael, when I get up to Book III! (It could be a while!) Ishmael as a guru (through italic book reference, Dune-style) relates the story of a person he was healing being a Roman guard in a past life (that's why he constantly went to Israel). Nature attacking this house because people who live here attack it! Technology of the future will use perceptual motion, utilising natural phenomena. FIRST CONTACT (c)opyright Rob Sullivan 1988-2024. Contact the author for all your criticisms and feedbacks.

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