Chapter Twenty Nine

They led the Gypsy, blindfolded and bound, from the room. Behind the robot-conduit-contingent entrained to followed. They took an elevator to the roof. On the white gravelled roof high above Marrakesh two helicopters were waiting: a large two rotor machine with U.S. markings onto which the robot party embarqued. The second was a perspex-domed bug-eyed little chopter. Kali was put in the seat of one eye. Strapped in. A monk got in to crouch behind her pushing the muzzle of his machine gun against her ear. "This will be on you all the way. Stay cool, sister."

A jelabaed figure entered the pilot's eye seat beside her. A jerk of his neck threw back his hood and a wild eyed Arab treated the blindfolded gypsy to a toothy grin before screaming, "We fly! We fly! Inchallah!"

They landed in a garden in Tangier at night amid blazing searchlights. The big chopper was there before them. But no sign of Carlo. Three black limousines were on hand. Kali was led to the middle car. She sat in back between two heavy brown habited monks. Their faces looked like southern sheriffs faces. There hands were crossed in the long dangling sleeves of their robes across their chests, the muzzles of two pistols brushings her bosoms.

Meanwhile, in the Grand Socco Morocco, night time, Mohammed looked on: the three Cadillac limoed in and parked by the gate to the Casbah. The first and third car sprouted jelaba who cleared that corner of the square. They were a law to themselves.

Kali, blindfolded and gagged, left the second car with her monks who roughly guided her through the Casbah warren, through unnaturally deserted passages. Soon torch flames lit the walls of pathways now personed with monks and technicians and jelabaed mysteries: personnel.

They came to a guarded door panelled in hewn yew, embellished with carved signs. A brass plaque with writing in several languages: Arabic, Japanese, German, and English, announced:- "Institute for the Advancement of Free-Enterprise and…"

Kali didn’t have time to read further. The monk guarding the door opened it. The escorting monks led her inside.

Through her blindfold Kali sensed that the room was dim lit, though to her third eye it had a misty bright appearance. It hummed with electricity - the same waves they’d used in Marra to block the robot. And again ozone, but now too the reek of sulphur.

The room was down below them, a cellar, and Carlo was there before them lain out on a cold white table. Again the Kirlian lights wormed over him. Banks of instruments surrounded him. And personnel. Drinking Pepsi. A group of technicians were examining the robot’s cranium. One of the techs was attempting to skewer a hole through the robots skull with a dental drill, but the drill wouldn’t bite. Several surface electrodes had however been secured.

The monks led Kali down stone stairs. It was a long room, stone walled, but dry and warm. No smell of damp amid the ozone and sulphur. For the most the cellar was dimly illuminated by torch and candle, but over the centrally placed operating table, hospital-theatre style spotlights blazed. The wall across from the stairs was banked with computer consoles flashing. It was only after reaching the lower steps that Kali was able to see the end wall with its huge ceramic mask, a face. Holes for the eyes, nose, mouth. Beyond the ceramicked wall there appeared to be another room, or furnace. Through the gaping mouth the floor beyond was a yapping fire of snake's tongued flickering flames. Blue flames, lapping, wicked and alive. The blank eyes of the mask leered green blue.

"Ssss," hissed the sonics. "Ssso you are here, Remove her mask and bindings," whispered the insubstantial voice.

The monks removed Kali's blindfold and gag.

"The gardenia in your hair: throw it in the air," lisped the voice. The nearest monk grabbed the now wilting flower and tossed it into the air. In a flash the air, and flower, were cracked by a globe of electric blue lightning. Acrid smoke rose. Thin black ash drifted towards the floor.

"We will be left alone, but do not be mistaken. You are in my power." The attending monks and technicians, in response to some secret signal, left the room. At either side of the great mask wail, at either corner, stood two massive Nubians, arms folded across their chests. From their temples protruded small white tusk-like horns.

"We can peak in private," said the voice. "The Nubians do not hear. They have no ear ossicles." (The Nubian's horns were antennae. They were wired.)

"Well," whispered the voice. "Who am I?"

"No name can say it," Kali. "So you are dead," she continued thoughtfully, for this was the first that she knew of it. " is dead, and the spirit of the Berber hides in the flames."

"Yes," lisped the flames, "And no," it whispered. "That robot and his accomplish butchered my corporal, it is true. But no one can force me to leave this plane(t)." He swallowed the ‘t’. "Opposition has turned me to fire. My powers are argmented."

Explanations: when shards from the gypsy's crystal had lodged in the Berber's heart in Murmur, his spirit had fled through the gateway of his plastic ring, fled through transistors and transducers into the computer. Here the Berber's spirit gradually reconstituted and adapted itself, linking in with and taking over the corpus animus of the computer.

Behind the fire baked mask in a dungeon in Tangiers, dim basement hole, fire flared, flames licked the air matrixed into the computer. Here burned the Berber's will.

Kali stood facing the hollow eyed mask, gazing into the flame room aura. Her scalp tingled. She scratched her hair. Sparks jumped. "Well," she said. "To the point. Why am I here."

"I see we are no nonsense and to business. This is good," hissed the electrically transmitted voice of the flames. "Since I was augmented I have learned many things. For instance, I have established beyond doubt that the shaggy dog is not human. The world is under attack by alien beings. So my dear Kali, you and your Lodge must assist us in resisting and conquering this extraterrestrial. We must unite to protect human destiny. You will aid me."

"Before we can discuss this, you must release Carlo," said Kali calmly.

"I would you ever other wish, my dear, but this I cannot do. The robot is a creature of the shaggy. He must be dismantled to search for clues. It is necessary. I am sorry."

"Then I cannot help you."

"What!" the flames whispered in mock surprise. "You will let humanity go to the dogs?" The flame flared. Lights blinked rapidly on the console-bank. The spirit pulled strings. "Watch. I will fuel… and, think again."

The door at the head of the stairs opened. Night time beyond showed through. Silhouetted figures. Four jelabaed hoods carrying, spread-eagled brutally between them, face down, a young girl. They carried her down the stairs and over to the mask and simply fed her through the mask's mouth into the flames. She struggled, crisped and perished.

The jelabas left the cellar. The door closed.

Kali felt sick to her stomach.

In the fire a vague form began to take shape. The image of the Berber appeared, emerged, larger than life, immersed in flames, but liquid, insubstantial: the Berber's form crystallised: but before achieving solidity it began to dissolve again.

"Soon," hissed the fire itself. "Soon I will walk forth a luminant being." The form dissolved once more into its constituent anarchy or flame, and communication resumed, as before, through the crackling loud speakers. "Your spirit is robust," the speakers cackled gloatingly. "Shall I incorporate you? No. You will co-operate. Never has the world been in so much danger. Never! The aliens must be exterrestriated. Think of the consequences of leaving it among us! No one will be safe. Make up your mind. You have till ten: one, two..."

"Alright," said Kali. "We negotiate. How about I talk to some friends about helping you, and you return Carlo to me, now, as a sign of good faith."

"But why are you so attached to this alien artefact? What good is this robot to you? He is not up front. When I have recorporated substantially I will take it upon myself as a sacred duty to gratify your every. I,, will sate and satiate you."

"That's a good one," said the Gypsy. "Oh ha. I think I'm going to laugh. Yes. I am going to laugh," said Kali, mother of worlds. And she did. She began to heave, to convulse. " Hoheywhoho. Oh dear me, going to piss myself!" she screamed. "Yes I am. I’m going to piss myself laughing. Hahhoeheeheho." Still shaking with mirth, Kali lifted her skirts, spread her legs, arched back, and fountained a great stream piss through the mouth of the Berber's mask. The fire spat, coughed, and ebbed! a large part damped, and a great cloud of steam rose and hung thick misty in the furnace chamber. Kali pissed pints. Slowly the mist in the chamber coalesced into a small white floating egg-like shape. For an instant the "egg" seemed solid. Then, in that instant, it burst, like a bubble, seemed to invert, and disappeared.(footnote)

The greatest part of the Berber's fire was doused. The Nubian slave stirred chaotically.

Kali dropped her skirt and ran over to Carlo on his couch. She yanked him free of the surface electrodes, and hoisted the now writhing robot onto her shoulder. She hastened to the stairs, up the stairs, halfway up the stairs and the door at the top was beginning to open. She was three steps from the top when the mock monks and jelabas started pouring back through. She heaved the robot at them. It scythed through them and as the robot's head crossed the threshold into the alley, Carlo became reanimated and turned on his foes like a windmill. Resistance was insignificant.

"Come Kali my love," the robot cried. Kali and Carlo fled into the Tangiers night.

"We will refuge to El Stone," they decided.

please send illustrations to Norman Allan

Chapter Thirty