The Lost Commons
IT WAS GCUMM who saw the traveller first. Some minutes later Hob saw him also as he came over a dune, a minute and ambiguous figure that shifted and dissolved and formed again in the heat haze. Hob rang the bell five times and twenty minutes later they heard Jack Delfan cursing as he climbed the shaft. He emerged and came to Hob and Hob pointed.
There he is. Just like she said.
Delfan looked at Hob and then he looked at the crone who sat with the girl in the shade. He squinted at the horizon for some time and then he went to the drum and filled a bottle of water and picked up the .577 Westley Richards where it leant against the trunk of the rapture tree and he walked out to meet the stranger.
Delfan came over the crest of a dune and found the man just below the summit on the further side. He was dressed in tattered stained military solartect and he was crawling on his hands and knees.
I have tried, said Jack Delfan, to vanish from your world.
Please, said the man. Just some water.
A lean dark face with a fine nose upon it like a ship's keel. A full mouth and sensual, if soured a little by over-activity of the brain. Which took place behind the high and noble façade of the forehead.
Here, said Delfan. And he offered the water and the fugitive took it and knelt back on his heels and drank.
Thank you, he said.
Do you have more? Can I fill my containers? Please. I am pursued.
Jack Delfan stood tall above him. The .577 hanging easy in his right hand.
You be a deserter?
That be military gear.
I took it off a corpse.
There are many dead.
Jack Delfan taking his time to think about that.
So what are you? Tinker, tailor? Hm? Murderer? Thief? Rapist?
I wrote something. It went viral.
I thought they'd stopped that.
They would if they could.
A hairy eyebrow lifting on the upper slopes of the patriarchal visage.
What said you?
I suggested that as the secretariat extracted total disclosure from citizens, that as the mechanics of the system demanded that in order to live, to exchange units for food, the motherdrive knew everything about us, down to the weight and consistency of our morning stool, and I say that literally, because in the sanctum's the plumbing now has native intelligence installed as a matter of course, I suggested that, as this was the case, the Protector's financial dealings should be open to public scrutiny. In fact, I insisted that this was the one privacy that all citizens must cede. That all transactions be disclosed and publicly accessible. Economic justice demands economic transparency. Is it too much to ask that the rich tell us what they earn? We already know that the poor earn nothing.
Delfan stared aghast.
They'd film a man's arse while he was at stool?
They have the legal right to uptake all relevant information.
What is relevant about the consistency of my turd? Thanks to the beans I push them out silky smooth every morning in foot long lengths. And that is nobody's business but my own.
Delfan roaring at the fugitive as though that unfortunate man was personally responsible for the outrage.
What do they want to examine your evacuations for? What perversions of the mind can lead them to this?
To get medical treatment you have to be part of World Aid. And World Aid say they are in the business of risk. They prefer to spot a problem early. You get a message on your tablet. Suspected cancer of bowel. Please contact your designated medi-provider. And if you want to do that you'd better be clocking in regular to the labour pool and have units to spare on your chip. Which is not easy since the secretariat pirated the blockchain and the currency went to shit.
He lifted his thumb to show a crude stitched scar down the pad of it.
A comrade cut it out. But they were getting heartbeat, aspiration, temperature. Rumour is, they've been sequencing our DNA for years. Helps them track us down when we don't pay the interest on our debts.
The one percent are usurers. The rest of us are debt slaves. Capital has stolen the commons.
They'll be charging us for sunlight next.
With automatic deductions for both heat and light, separately accounted. It is being discussed.
Jack Delfan nodding slowly. Lifting his thumb to show his own scar.
The fugitive smiled then and rose and offered his right hand and Jack Delfan took it and the fugitive winced a little at the strength of his grip.
Come, said the patriarch. I can offer shade, water and little food.
They'll be coming after me, said the fugitive.
So the fugitive followed Jack Delfan to shade of the rapture tree where he was recruited with fresh water from the lake and tins of beans and corn and even Qhilika.