Sunday 29 January 2023

Sunday Serial: The House of Clmentine, Chapters 13 & 14 by Gill james, orange juice




Despite the freezing temperature Kaleem decided to jog home. It was the middle of the night and he was returning from his tenth session with Take Down Clementine. This way he had time to think. What he'd found out this evening had totally shocked him. He'd spent a couple of hours talking it through with Clem and some of the others.

It had all been disturbing enough. The House of Clementine had operated on Terrestra, Zandra and Zenoto for centuries. It had controlled the banks and of course, whoever controlled the money pretty well controlled everything else. It hadn't been the politicians in the end. All they could do was work with what was in front of them and pretend they were achieving something so that they could massage their own egos. The House of Clementine was directed by just a small group of determined individuals in the beginning. Not all descendants were admitted to the House. They had to prove they had the right attitude first.

Now Clem's group wanted to find all of the people involved and take them out. Not kill them but keep them imprisoned.  Take Down Clementine would also need to prove themselves to all the other people and those in charge. And some of those in charge might well be members of the House.

Then tonight he'd had the greatest shock of all: the One World Community bureaucrats were entirely controlled by the House of Clementine.

Kaleem paused for breath. He had a slight stitch. He stretched his side to relieve it. The cold now bit in sharply. He would have to get going again or he might just freeze to death. The One World Community, though. It was actually corrupt as well.  His idea had been to find out what people didn't like and rectify it. Now it looked as if the whole organisation needed to be dismantled and something new must take its place.

He longed to talk to Rozia. She would have something sensible to say, he was sure. He'd have to be careful exactly how much he told her and it was much too late to call round now. Perhaps he could offer her and Petri breakfast tomorrow. Yes, that's what he would do. He jogged on. He'd get up early despite getting to bed so late.

The thought of seeing Rozia lifted his spirits somewhat. He found some more energy and doubled his pace.                


The Cherry Bowl on the fifth urban ring was quiet today. It had been a good choice. The cherry-coloured furnishings and the large veriglass windows made it pretty and light. The food was good, he knew. This was a place used more in the holidays and today was a normal working day. Life was settling down again on Zandra.

Kaleem toyed with his napkin nervously. Would they come? He hadn't actually spoken to Rozia. He'd left a message in the middle of the night. She hadn't replied.

The waiting droid hovered near his table. "Would sir like some coffee whilst he's waiting for his guests?" said the machine.

Kaleem waved the droid away. He was much too nervous to eat or drink yet.

The doors swished open at last and in they came. My, they both looked so well. Kaleem stood up as they made their way over to the table.

"Can we have pancakes, Kaleem? I want pancakes." Petri jogged his hand up and down.

"You can have whatever you like. Of course you can."

Petri beamed.

"So what's this all in aid of?" asked Rozia as she studied her menu screen.

"Oh just celebrating the fact that we're making some breakthroughs."

"Really?" She looked away from the screen. "Can you tell me anything?"

"Not a lot. But I just wanted your opinion; just how important is it that we keep the One World Community intact?"

Rozia frowned and her eyes grew round. "Really important. Naturally. How can we not have the One World Community?"

"But suppose we found out that it was corrupt?"

"Is it?"

Kaleem shrugged.

"Well, if we had to get rid of it because it was corrupt, we'd better replace it with something else similar but without the corruption. Pretty quickly."

So ordinary people were still mainly in favour of the One World Community. He decided to change the subject. At that precise moment the droid arrived. 

"Just toast with honey and tea for me," said Rozia.

"Have more, if you want."

"Pancakes," cried Petri.

Rozia shook her head. "We can't stay all that long.  I'm doing some work for Nazaret today."

"No news about your credits?"

"No. And your parents are being so kind. It's only fair that I should do something to pay them back. I'm editing one of your father's reports."

Kaleem turned to the droid. "Yes pancakes for the young lady and toast and honey for me as well. With coffee."

The droid trundled back to the kitchen and just a few moments later reappeared with the order. They talked as they ate mainly about Petri's progress. She was steaming ahead on her dataserve course.

"No more problems with her drugs?"

"No, that was a complete mystery. Everything's fine."  Her communicator bleeped. "Look, I'm sorry. We must go. Is it okay if I leave you to settle the bill?"

Petri pulled a face.

"Of course. Let Petri stay and finish her pancakes. I'll bring her along later."

Petri clapped her hands. "Thank you, Kaleem."

Rozia smiled and nodded then got up from the table. "See you later."          

Kaleem waved to the serving droid which then trundled over to him. It took just seconds for him to align his iris to the scanner. He held his breath as he waited for his payment to go through. He was now slightly nervous every time he accessed his credits because of what had happened to Rozia.

He needn't have worried. The transaction went through smoothly. 

They were just about to stand up and leave when a couple came in. Goodness what a nice surprise. He hadn't seen them from months. Petro and Tulla. He hadn't even realised they were back on Zandra.    

"Don't rush off, mate," said Petro. "Stay for a catch up?"

Kaleem quickly introduced Petri. She stared at Tulla with her mouth open. Hardly surprising: Tulla looked so much like Rozia. He hoped she wouldn't say anything.

Fortunately Petro rescued them. He grinned at Petri.  "My name's like yours a bit, isn't it?"

She giggled and nodded her head. "Oh yes, it is."  

Kaleem nodded and soon they were enjoying some good Zandrian hazelnut chofas. It almost felt like the old days when he had first come to Zandra in disguise.  

"But why have you come back? I thought you really liked your work out there." 

Tulla sighed. "We do. Of course we do. But there's obviously something going awry here and we thought we might be able to help. We're also not sure how much longer we'd be welcome there, anyway, given Zandra's current attitude to the One World Community. We decided to quit while we're ahead." She looked down into her lap. 

Kaleem noticed she had gone very pale.

Petro rubbed her arm. "It'll be fine," he murmured. He turned to Kaleem. "We've put ourselves forward for special home intelligence and we've been accepted. We might even be working with you."

Kaleem smiled. "That would be cool." Though actually he doubted whether they would be allowed into the Take Down Clementine project. "Talking of work, I'd better get going." He stood up.

Tulla and Petro also got out of their seats. Petro grinned. "No good asking you what you're up to, I suppose?"

Kaleem smiled and shook his head.

Petri was now wobbling his arm.

"I know," he said. "Grown-up talk. And yes. It's high time I got you back. Rozia will wonder where we've got to."   


It had been good seeing Tulla and Petro again. It was always the same problem, though, wasn't it? He always knew too much and couldn't tell. Oh well. Best not to dwell on it.  He had another meeting with Clem again in less than an hour. He dropped off Petri and started to make his way to where he'd arranged to meet Clem. 

A huge crowd had gathered around one of the public information screens. Kaleem recognised at once the face of one of the most loved Zandrian actors, Karlo Dunston.  Of course he knew him well: Karlo had played Kaleem in the film they'd made about his first trip to Zandra.

"I do this with a good deal of sadness," said Karlo. "But I feel I can't risk losing contact with the One World Community.  For me, it's bigger than Zandra.  Therefore, I have applied for Terrestran citizenship. My mother is half Terrestran and I think I'm in with a very good chance. That way I can continue to be a citizen of the One World Community."

This was intriguing. How did the actor come to have a mother who was half Terrestran? Even before the poison cloud, Terrestra had been a lone planet, barely connecting with others. It was rather ironic as well that Terrestra of all planets was now one of the most enthusiastic members of the One World Community.

He looked at Karlo's face. Did he look Terrestran? Maybe a little. Of course, they'd done an excellent job of making him look just like Kaleem for the film but he'd always put that down to clever use of make-up and CGI. Maybe there was a Terrestran element to him after all.

"You can't be persuaded to change your mind?" asked the droid presenter.

Karlo shook his head. "Zandra no longer feels like home. I'll be leaving as soon as possible."

"Even though Zandra has no plans to leave the One World Community?"

"It's too risky. I have to be where I can feel at home." 

The screen went black. The crowd dispersed. No one said a word.
















Clem had not turned up for the meeting they'd arranged. This wasn't the first time and Kaleem was sure it wouldn't be the last. It would now just be a matter of waiting until Clem contacted him again. He most surely would.

He was quite pleased to relax in front of the dataserve. He contemplated calling Rozia but decided against it. It was always a delicate balance between letting her know that he cared, that he would always be available if she needed some help, and smothering her. He hoped, though, that she would contact him.

He could find out nothing about Karlo Dunston. This was only the actor's pseudonym and strict protocols prevented his real name being revealed. In fact it had been quite brave of the actor to admit that he was one quarter Terrestran. Given enough time, Kaleem would be able to hack into the systems. In fact, he could probably quite easily access Hidden Information or even Golden Knowledge if he went on to the Terrestran servers but even he might get into quite a bit of trouble for this: he didn’t actually need to find out about Karlo. He had been tasked with something bigger. Hacking into systems to which he sometimes had access anyway was a bit of waste of time although it helped to keep his skills fine-tuned. 

But even the Executives, even Tyler herself, had no idea about the House of Clementine. He would have to find out more before he could disclose anything and anyway his role wasn't to disclose but to reconcile or find a third way.

Would finding out more about the poison cloud and the cave system help? Would his parents know more? His father had come secretly to Terrestra, hadn't he? 

Nazaret apparently was in a meeting. That too was a puzzle. What was so urgent about crop control that they had to meet in the evening?

"He didn't say why it was so important," said Marijam. "But he is worried. Can I help?"

"I was just wondering what it was like in the caves on Terrestra – and before. And if any other Zandrians had ever been to Terrestra."

"Goodness. What do you want to know about all of that for? Best forgotten isn't it?"

"Perhaps. But why was Terrestra so reluctant to communicate with others? They might have got more help with the poison cloud."

"Well, they did eventually, didn't they?  Hence: your father."

"Okay, but why be so secretive?"

There was a brief silence, then Marijam sighed. "We were so proud of our disease-free society. We wanted to keep it that way." There was another pause. "Then you came along."

"Sorry about that." He never had quite got over being the one to bring disease back to Terrestra. "What was it like, living in the caves all of the time?" He knew a little about it; he had lived in a cave when he was younger and then again when he'd lived in the Z Zone with Rozia, but he had been able to go out of the cave into the fresh air. He couldn't imagine what it was like never leaving the cave system.

"Well, we didn't know any other way. The caves were all we knew. Your grandparents spent half of their lives down there. Why don't you talk to them?"

That would be a good idea. He could make a long-distance call.  

"Thanks. I might just do that."

"Just one more thing before you go. I have heard that some Terrestrans went to Zandra just before the poison cloud became so bad that we all had to go underground.  So, there may be some more Terrestran blood on Zandra apart from ours. Were you thinking of Karlo Dunston?"


"Well, let me know if you find out. I'm curious too."  


The caves felt familiar and yet they were not how he remembered them. The dampness and gloom that contrasted with the fresh air and the light. The long way down to the apartment from the surface. And the even poorer caves in the Z Zone where he and Rozia had been so happy. He didn't remember this though. This was somebody else's story.

There was no way out. One cave just led into another. There were mirror systems that allowed light from the surface into the caves. It was a dull light though. The sky when you looked up at it here was overcast by a greyish-green cloud. Terrestran light, he remembered had always been bright. Zandrian, too. Where was this place?

The air was stale and a little musty. The back of his throat was choking. He was walking with the others. He didn't know these people but they seemed to know him. They smiled and nodded. He smiled politely back. Nobody spoke and they were all hurrying. Their pupils were huge. They seemed to look right into you, as if they could read your very thoughts.  

He had to get out. He knew that. He didn't know how or why.

"This way," said a voice.  It sounded as if the speaker was standing right behind him and was whispering into his left ear. He turned, but there was no one there. A hand grabbed his arm. "Come on. Follow me," said the same voice.

He found himself in a darkened passage. The ground was rougher underfoot. "The shuttle is almost ready. Just keep on following. Don't say anything."

His adjusted to the dark and he could make out the outline of his companion who kept his back to him.

"We'll soon be there," said the man. He sounded older, maybe like an Elder. It wasn't one he recognised though and he certainly wasn't dressed like an Elder.  In fact, Kaleem had never seen such an extraordinary costume. Yes it was still a tunic and trousers but the tunic was longer than normal and the trousers much baggier.

The passage opened in to a flood-lit area. A rush of fresh air greeted Kaleem.  He realised that he was now outside of the cave system. The man turned to him. Now he recognised him but still he couldn't think where from.

"You're ready?" the man asked.

He wasn't sure. He didn't know what this was all about. He had the feeling though that he ought to. He nodded.

"No regrets?"

Kaleem shook his head.

"Right then. We'll proceed to the interplanetary craft."

A shuttle craft with a droid driver stopped in front of them. They both stepped in.

The shuttle sped off across the concourse, rounded a corner, crossed another huge open space and then slowed so that it could make its way through a narrow archway. A new space opened in front of them and there she was: a rather old-fashioned looking space craft but nevertheless gleaming white and looking full of hope. 

"She's all programmed ready for your crossing to Zandra. They're all waiting for you and your expertise." The man bowed slightly and invited Kaleem to walk towards the entrance of the space craft.

About the Peace Child Series:

Book 1 The Prophecy
Kaleem Malkendy is different – and on Terrestra, different is no way to be.
Everything about Kaleem marks him out form the rest: the blond hair and dark skin, the uncomfortable cave where he lives and the fact that he doesn’t know his father. He’s used to unwelcome attention, but even so he’d feel better if some strange old man didn’t keep following him around.
That man introduces himself and begins to explain the Babel Prophecy – and everything in Kaleem’s life changes forever.    
Book 2 Babel
Babel is the second part of the Peace Child trilogy. Kaleem has found his father and soon finds the love of his life, Rozia Laurence, but he is still not comfortable with his role as Peace Child. He also has to face some of the less palatable truths about his home planet: it is blighted by the existence of the Z Zone, a place where poorer people live outside of society, and by switch-off, compulsory euthanasia for a healthy but aging population, including his mentor, Razjosh. The Babel Tower still haunts him, but it begins to make sense as he uncovers more of the truth about his past and how it is connected with the problems in the Z Zone. Kaleem knows he can and must make a difference, but at what personal cost?
Book 3 The Tower 

Kaleem has given up the love of his life in order to protect her. He now lives and works on Zandra. A sudden landquake, not known on the planet for many years, destroys many of the forests his father has planted to bring life back to the planet. The new relationship Kaleem has helped to establish between the Terrestrans and the Zandrians is also under threat. A third party gets involved and Kaleem has to use all of his diplomatic skills to keep everything on track. Mistakes cost him dearly and he looks set to lose Rozia for a second time. The Babel Tower mystery, others mysteries and sadness plague him. Can he find a way through to fulfil his role as the Peace Child?
Find out more here.  

Gill James is published by The Red Telephone, Butterfly and Chapeltown.  

She edits CafeLit.

She writes for the online community news magazine: Talking About My Generation

She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing

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