LEADERS - not followers

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fourth Millennium (7)


4 New Year (cont)

As time passed by at a snail’s pace, it became increasingly a concern to Starling, that no ‘quest’ progress had yet been made. By January 2nd, he began to fret. Nightingale attempted to alleviate matters, by stating that it was still only hours after the New Year holiday, and there was still the charade of meeting Maple later that day, to consider.
“Patience,” he reminded Starling, “is a virtue. That’s what my old grandfather used to say, when he was still alive.”
Starling accepted the mild reprimand, as it was intended; a shrewd, although rare, item of common sense from Nightingale.
“You’re right, of course, Nightingale. Let’s put the quest to the back of our minds, for now, and I’ll make my way to the ‘Official’ Headquarters, and get this meeting with Maple out of the way.”
“Good for you, Starling. When do you expect to return?”
“I’ll get it over and done with, as quickly as possible. Give me a couple of hours.”
“Right you are, Starling. Have a successful meeting.”
“I will; that’s already guaranteed. You know what these real government reps are like; all talk and nothing constructive to say. Underneath, they’re as shallow as a damp patch on a wooden plank; just about as thick as a wooden plank, as well.” Starling was impressed with his own ironic simile, and gave credit to the bus driver who had brought them to Sector 4735; Robin.
“His influence,” Starling breathed, “must be beginning to rub off on me.”
The meeting was as brief; its outcome as successful, as Starling had predicted.
Maple, also as predicted, lapped up the ‘fantastic ideas’ that Starling presented. He missed, entirely, the irony of the meeting. He was completely unaware that was it not for his own shortcomings as an effective communicator; his chosen and dedicated profession, after all; the meeting would be as unnecessary as the repetitive directives it was his job to deliver to his apathetic; at best, audience.

On Starling’s return, he was confronted by Birch, who was anxious to talk to him.
“Starling; you’re back at last.” Birch declined to mention that he had, himself, only arrived back at the house, a matter of minutes ago.
“I’ve been gone less than two hours; and it was official business I couldn’t get out of.” Starling defended himself.
“Yes, I realise that. How did it go?” Birch knew nothing of the object of Starling’s meeting.
“Predictably,” Starling answered, simply.
This comment brought a smile to the face of Nightingale, who delivered a double thumbs-up signal, in acknowledgement of Starling’s success.
Starling nodded to his friend, in appreciation of the gesture.
“Great; I always said you were the man.” Birch lied enthusiastically to ‘the man’ he’d only known for a little over two days.
“What is it that you’re so anxious to talk to me about, Birch?”
“I met a man today; a contact; for you know what.”
“Oh, really?” Starling successfully disguised his growing excitement.
“Yes, really; I wouldn’t lie to you, Starling. This contact; he wanted to meet with you, but he set a condition. He said, if you really are who you say you are, then the meeting can go ahead for sure; tomorrow morning, at ten. Don’t worry; I’ll get you there; providing, of course, you can pass his test. He told me you met someone recently; who gave you something; a small object; as well as what my contact called a ‘password’.
Does this riddle mean anything to you, Starling? I’ve got to get back to him with the answers, before the end of the day.”
“What do you need to tell him exactly?” Starling asked.
“Five words, basically.
First word; the name of the person who gave you the…thing.
Second word; what it was; a rough, but accurate description, he said.
Third and fourth words; it offered two views. That’s his words again. What were they?
Fifth and final word; this ‘password’.
Can you help me; us; yourself? Do you have any idea what he was getting at?
“I think so.” Starling reached into his pocket and began fondling the coin Robin had presented to him.
“Tell me then; it might be important.” Birch understated, in apparent ignorance.
“Are you ready? Repeat after me. I’ll say it slowly; in order.
The words are;
One; Robin.
Two; Disc; silver disc, actually, but I think just ‘disc’ will suffice.
Three; Head; profile of a man. Again, I think just ‘head’ will suffice.
Four; Building
Five; Robin – that’s not a repeat of the first item.”
Starling found it necessary to repeat the exercise several times, before Birch was able to consign all five words to memory, and repeat them himself without hesitation. Starling gave credit where it was due, and was suitably impressed by the fact that Birch even remembered that the disc was silver-coloured, and the head it depicted, was the profile of a man. Just to make absolutely certain, he showed Birch the actual coin, and continued to test his memory, at regular intervals, before allowing him to return to his contact.
Birch’s absence lasted no more than an hour. He returned, smiling.
“Five out of five, Starling.” Birch was beaming. “You passed! Congratulations! Now he wants to see you…and the disc…tomorrow; at ten.”
“Real progress at last; thanks Birch; I was beginning to wonder when things would start to happen.” A less than honest admission to the frustration that had been welling up in him since he’d arrived in Sector 4735.
“You’re welcome, Starling. I may not be fast, but I am good.”

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski
Click Fourth Millennium (6) to go back to start of Chapter 4
Click FORBIDDEN to start at Chapter 1
Click Fourth Millennium (8) to read on