Sunday 23 April 2023

Sunday Serial: The House of Clementine, Chapters 37&38, by Gill James: orange juice



Kaleem's communicator buzzed as he entered the street of his apartment building. He was glad to stop running. He was almost out of breath. He'd been determined to keep going, even though he thought his chest was about to explode, but at least now he had an excuse to pause.

"Send," he said.

"Urgent ... sooner ... videos. Look."  The signal kept coming and going. What was going on? This never happened these days. Particularly not on Zandra.

"Stupid signal," Kaleem muttered. "I'm only a few metres from my apartment.  I'll look on the dataserve when I get in." He couldn't be sure that the person at the other end could hear him. In fact, he hadn't been able to identify who had been speaking to him. He couldn't even tell whether it was a man or a woman.

He carried on. There was a lift already on the ground floor, though, when he got in so he took it.

Seconds later he was in the apartment and could already see the red light on his dataserve that told him he had messages.

"Open," he commanded.  

Ah. Jadee Elliott. She must have news from Zenoto.


She answered straight away. "It's getting worse," the correspondent said. "Exton is really making a mess of things.  In fact, he's being quite dangerous. Look."

A video clip loaded. A Zenoton droid presenter was interviewing Exton. Even before the man opened his mouth Kaleem sensed something bad, perhaps even evil. His face. Those piercing eyes again and that supercilious smile. Only they'd become even more threatening.

"So, President Exton, what are your plans for continued connection with other communities?"

Exton now smirked. "We want to connect with as many other planets as possible but we're restricting movement into Zenoto. We'll still allow Zandrians and Terrestrans in – for the time being."

"How can that help you connect with others? Surely that's going in the opposite direction?"

Now Exton really did smirk. "Oh we want connections.  But they have to be the right sort. Everything must be carefully negotiated first."

"I see. And what about your plan to return to a monetary system on Zenoto?"

Exton's grin got bigger. "The Zenoton way is fraught with problems. We're getting greedy. We're going to have to learn to pay for what we want. To earn what we get. This lack of token representing labour and raw materials is too idealistic. Even if it's still working to some extent here on Zenoto it won't elsewhere. It will be open to abuse. We need to be more pragmatic."

"But what do the rest of the Zenotons think?"

Exton laughed. "They voted for me, didn't they? This was a campaign pledge." 

The clip faded and Jadee came back on screen.

"I can't believe that most Zenotons really think that way," said Kaleem.

"No, it doesn't seem likely, does it? We think the Zenotons have been manipulated."

"Really? By whom?"

"We have no idea. We're rather hoping you'll be able to find out."

Something stirred at the back of Kaleem's mind. Something Clem had said about the House of Clementine. Could it be?

"There's more. It gets worse."

Another video clip loaded. It was another interview with Exton. This time, though, it was a Zenoton presenter.

"So what is the point of this barrier? Surely normal entry controls on the ground would be sufficient?"

Exton laughed. "No, not at all. By the time they've touched down on the planet it will be too late. There’s too much danger that hostile visitors may storm onto the rest of the planet."

"But won't there be a high cost in terms of labour and raw materials? And then in labour to operate it?"

Exton sat back in his sessel, put his hands together and crossed over his fingers. He then shrugged and opened his hands. He grinned.  "The ideal opportunity for introducing the new monetary system. The units of currency will be called Zens."

"This is a huge step."

"Isn't it? Just what the planet needs."

Kaleem shook his head.  "I can't see Zenotons liking this."

"Not all of them do. In fact they're pretty divided. Look."

The video clip stopped and another started loading.  

Kaleem was shocked to see two huge groups of Zenotons marching on the Zenoton streets. A few scuffles were breaking out and some of the Zenotons were throwing things at each other.

"Unbelievable," Kaleem muttered. The Zenotons he knew were peace-loving and always ready to negotiate. "What are they doing?"

"Listen closely to their chants."

"Zoom," Kaleem commanded the dataserve. Straightaway he could see the expression on some of the Zenotons' faces. Pure hatred. On both sides. "Keep Zenoto pure. Say no to money," he heard one of them shouting. 

Kaleem gasped. "360 degrees."

The video panned round. Now he could hear the other side. He could now hear another. "Bring back sanity. Stop the shirkers."

A female Zenoton punched the face of the male he'd just heard. Blood streamed down his face and he crumpled to the ground.

Kaleem shook his head. "This can't be happening."

"Unbelievable, isn't it? They've definitely been got at, don't you think?"

"They must have been."

The dataserve buzzed indicating that there was another call coming in.

"Send," they both said at once. 

It was April Septimus.  The chief executive was pale and her forehead was pulled into a frown. "More bad news from Zenoto. We're going to bring the mission forward."

Kaleem felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. "So what's happened?"

Executive Septimus sighed. "He's threatened to attack Lupino."

Jadee frowned. "That's that little independent planet isn't it? Not too far from Zenoto?"

"Yes, that's right. They've been trying out their total annihilation weapons. Without much success, I'm pleased to say, but that can change. The One World Community has tried to negotiate positively with them but Exton says that is taking too long. He's threatening an attack. There is every danger that he could instigate a full scale war. It would be extremely destructive in all sorts of ways."

"So how soon do you want me to go?" asked Kaleem.




After the conversation with Jadee Kaleem showered, drank a frega and went straight to bed. Despite the drink, which was normally so relaxing, his mind kept jumping. Zenoto was a long way away anyway. This was possibly the most sinister mission he'd had to date. There'd been danger and intrigue before. The whole way he'd got into this in the first place had been pretty scary; he'd been so ill when illness had not existed for centuries on Terrestra, the whole mystery of the Babel Prophecy had been complex and puzzling and at first Razjosh, his mentor, had seemed really strange. That was all solved now – more or less – and if anything seemed trivial compared with what was happening at the moment. Now he was facing this huge problem on Zenoto and one that was equally puzzling on Zandra. And then there was Rozia and Petri. They were now on their way to Terrestra.

Terrestra. He hadn't really checked out that much what was going on there. Nothing had come up in the news channels. Could it be, though, that something sinister was also happening there?

He leapt out of bed and darted into the living area. "Find news from Terrestra," he commanded the dataserve.

The machine whirred into life. A Terrestran news channel opened on the screen. A droid newsreader was reading out a report about health care. All seemed to be well. In fact they were making good progress. Perhaps Petri would be all right then. It didn't look as if anything sinister was happening there. No brown tunics.  No sign of the House of Clementine. No one calling anyone else a snazzy boy. Maybe he could stop worrying.

He may as well go back to bed. He poured himself another frega, drank it quickly and made his way to the bedroom. He put on some music, so low that he could hardly hear it. This particular piece was supposed to soothe people who were having difficulty sleeping. It must have worked because he was soon fast asleep and dreaming.     

There were thousands of brown shirts marching. He couldn't work out where he was. It could have been Zandra or Zenoto. Or even Terrestra. It had indicators of all three. Thousands more Zenotons, Zandrians and Terrestrans looked on.

"The brown shirts are trying to take away Human Rights," said a voice behind him. He couldn't help shuddering when he heard the voice. It couldn't be, could it? It certainly sounded like him. But he'd died. How could he be talking to him now?  "Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need.""

Kaleem tried to turn but he still couldn't. "So why are all these people here?"

"You know you're dreaming?"

"I think so."

"Well, these people are symbols. The Terrestrans are affected as well."

"But they didn't seem to be, in the news broadcast I just watched."

"It is yet to come."

"Why can't I turn round?"

"You can. You just don't want to."

"I do."

"Do it then. Go on. Make the effort."

Was he really stopping himself seeing Razjosh? Was he afraid? He made one last effort. Then he was facing his former mentor. He was there, solid and full of life. He wasn't a ghost and he wasn't a holograph. He was real and he was speaking to Kaleem now. But of course, this was a dream.

It still fazed him seeing Razjosh so close up. At last he managed to speak. "So why is this happening?"

"There is some underlying discontent. We need to flush it out and reassure the people."   

"Why do so many of the Zandrians want to leave the One World Community?"

"It's the same problem. So many are afraid of something. They no longer trust the Community."

"But isn't it better to stay in and fight for any necessary changes from the inside?"

Razjosh nodded and chuckled. "We both know that. They don't. You have your work cut out, young man." He laughed again. "I'm glad it's you and not me."


"Seriously, though, the Community must stay whole and become pure."

"How can we make that happen?"

"You mean how you can make that happen. It's up to you, now. I'm not really here. The usual diplomacy. All those techniques I showed you."

Kaleem sighed. "Are they being got at?"

"What do you mean exactly?"

"Is somebody manipulating them?"

Razjosh turned away from Kaleem. He muttered something to himself.

"What's the matter?"

Razjosh turned back. "Have you heard of the House of Clementine?"

"Yes. You know about that as well?"  Kaleem's ears began to thud and his mouth went dry.

Razjosh nodded. "It's been around for centuries. You do realise that we're dealing with Golden Knowledge here? This isn't even merely Hidden Information. The House of Clementine has connections with controlling organisations that go back for centuries and they made their mark even on Terrestra before the time of the poison cloud. There is something at the very core of it that represents pure evil. You need to get that core out."

Now Kaleem went hot and then cold.  This mission was getting bigger by the minute.

"Find the core. Find the core. Get it out."

Razjosh faded and Kaleem found himself facing a Zenoton who was looking at him with a question in his eyes. Kaleem couldn't work out what he was trying to ask. 

Suddenly a Terrestran in a brown tunic jumped out of the crowd.

"Hey, Snazzy Boy. Don't you meddle."  He tweaked Kaleem's ear.

Kaleem woke up. 

Only a dream then. Well, he'd known that, hadn't he? No wonder he'd dreamed about Razjosh, though. It had been useful to get his ideas about the Community and about what was happening on Zenoto. It was reassuring, too, to think that Razjosh may have known about the House of Clementine.

Meeting his former mentor made it clear to Kaleem that he needed to work out not so much what he had to do but what his attitude needed to be to his work. Yes, it was absolutely clear: he had to be enthusiastic. He didn't need Razjosh to tell him, either, that this was somehow connected with the House of Clementine. Yet because Razjosh had told him this it seemed more certain. Razjosh, was dead though. So it wasn't really Razjosh but a part of himself that had become like Razjosh.

This was the biggest challenge ever.

And now he was up for it.     

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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