True to her word, Sariel left him after a little while. But not before Chess managed to say what had been on his mind for the past two weeks.
“You know you’re in danger here,” he said quietly, grabbing her hand as she moved away from him. They had found some kind of storage room, with a dusty floor and dim lighting, and his back was against a pile of boxes.
She shrugged and, with a graceful movement, brushed away some long hairs that had fallen across her face. “Danger is everywhere.”
Chess moved his hand to her slender shoulder. He could not stop touching her. “If they fear you -- and they definitely seem to -- then they must know they’ve given you a reason to hate them.” He watched the light sparkle at the edges of her hair as she moved. He would not willingly let go of her again. “What did they do to you?” he asked quietly.
“They did nothing to me,” she snapped, withdrawing from his hand. “They can do nothing to me.” Agitatedly, she grabbed for her bag, gathered her skirt, and stood.
“Wait!” He scrambled to get to his feet amid the tangle of his jeans and leaned too heavily against a tower of boxes. By the time he had steadied them, she was out the door and gone.
He did manage to speak with Sariel again, sporadically, over the next few days. Twice, they met up and went to shelter together. The rest of the time, they divided the duty between them. Once, on the way through the overgrown garden, Chess dared to mention Ileana.
“I think she could help us,” he suggested. “She really wants to do something good.”
Sariel looked appalled at the suggestion. “The boss man's bitch,” she spat out.
“She's not like him,” Chess protested, following her through the dense wall of leaves.
Sariel impatiently tugged her bag past a bush. “She would get us kicked out -- or worse.” She stopped walking then, and turned to give him a bemused look. “Ah, yes: she’s your princess...”
Chess swallowed hard and did not say anything further on the subject.
The next time that Sariel had to leave for a week, Chess threw himself into his computer efforts, working mostly on Razor’s projects but, at intervals, also researching the samiz transmission idea. Some days, he lost all track of time passing, only realizing that he had missed all of the meal hours when the moon began to gleam through the window of the computer room. Then, he would grab a small bite to eat in the process of gathering food for shelter. On those nights, sore from all his hunched perching on the folding metal chair, he crawled, sighing, onto his cot and rapidly fell into dreamless sleep.
It was a while before Ileana showed up in the computer room again and, by then, Chess had managed to increase their data speed significantly. It was still going by mainstream routes, however, which bothered him because it could be cut off or – worse – tracked. Right now, Razor’s operation was probably much too small to come to anyone’s notice. But the enterprise would grow -- thanks, in part, to Chess’s own efforts -- and, eventually, it would be large enough to hit someone’s radar. Which made his research on samiz technology important for Razor, too.
“Everything seems so much faster, lately,” Ileana said, smiling quizzically. “What did you do?”
Chess leaned back in his chair. He was feeling pretty good about his success so far. “Magic,” he answered with a hint of a smile.
“Magic, huh?” Ileana said with a laugh. “Oh, I suppose you got that from the witch?”
Chess’s mood sank instantly. “Not you, too!” he groaned, half-turning back to the computers.
“What did I say?” Ileana cried. “I was just kidding! I know you hang out with her.”
That news started Chess’s heart pounding. But, he told himself, trying to stay calm, it did not mean that anyone knew about shelter. But they were being noticed, and it was only a matter of time.
“Actually,” he said, a bit hesitantly, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.”
Continued next page...
“Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.”
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Again thinking back to the time of those tenth grade English classes, I remember that there were two things that made life bearable in those early high school years: Monty Python and my best friend, who not only introduced me to the comedy group, but put up with me during the year or so when I spoke almost exclusively in badly-remembered, wildly inaccurate quotes from their shows, movies, and record albums. We each stayed up until that precious hour, twice a week, when the syndicated show was aired on PBS -- even though the television volume had to be low because the rest of the household had gone to bed, and each time promised a frustrating job of tuning in the station with those completely analog UHF dials, nearly akin to a resident of occupied Europe searching the airwaves for the Voice of America.
The members of Monty Python created satire that was brilliantly funny because they were not merely goofy or cynical. Before they mocked things, they learned about them. The British members of the group attended the prestigious Universities of either Oxford or Cambridge, and one was qualified as a doctor of medicine. Overall, their writings show a solid understanding of the history, politics, and society that they ridiculed.
Watching them, I gained an education in history: from the Spanish Inquisition to Scott of the Antarctic. I also learned that it can be an intelligent pursuit to question authority, the conventional mores of society, the blatherings of politicians and other talking heads, and basically, everything that anyone tries to get you to take on trust. The idea of “it’s funny because it’s true” was never more relevant than in this context. The writers of Monty Python showed genius at times. And most of them are still going, making noteworthy and sometimes difficult art.
Apparently, the upcoming year will be a great time for Monty Python fans, with Monty Python Live in July 2014, and Absolutely Anything coming out in 2015.
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