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Virtue's Reward

A Dystopia for Those Who Have Lost Faith

By Craig Young

Phil Hastings felt the wind whip past his gelled quiff, as the Porsche accelerated away down the M25. He checked his watch, and the subliminal namecode on his windscreen referred to the download report from the satellite narrowcast he'd requested from Thorndon. It was winter back home in Wellington, but he was living through the summer of a successful election campaign, with himself as antipodean architect.

He liked London. The nightclubs, the shopping, the opportunities to get ahead. At the party the other night, someone from Saatchi and Saatchi had made headhunting noises in his direction. Oh well, why not? The power and wealth back home were minimal compared to what might be his in a city that appreciated his value.

Shit! A group of animal rights protesters were blocking the road. He smiled without warmth as the Deterrent System automatically cut in, and the nearest anti-vivisectionist received a painful electric shock.

He laughed as his car closed on the wine bar where he was meeting Daniel this evening for drinks and a chat. Dan was a magazine editor for one of the British-based comics enterprises. He wished he could remember where he'd met him, perhaps at a science fiction convention back home, in the days when he'd still been involved with that subculture.

He gratefully accepted a glass of chilled orange juice at the table.

‘So how was the meeting?’

‘I was chatted up by a woman named Sita.’

‘I thought you were a happily married gayboy.’

Philip laughed. ‘Still am, mate. No, it was for Saatchi's. I recognised her straight away, that's why old Bryan suggested I come to the party.’

‘Lucky bastard.’

It had been a great evening. As he got up to leave his fellow New Zealander, Dan handed him a videocassette marked ‘An Unearthly Child.’

‘What's this...? Looks like a cheap recording of some sort...’

‘I don't know. Someone named Ace or Deuce or Joker posted it to me. Whoever it was, the letter was rambling and incoherent in places. Said that it was some sort of conspiracy. That they were wiping out all memory of ‘him’, whatever that means.’

‘Nutters. You get them all the time. Tell you what, I'll see if I can find anything at Forbidden Planet.’

He almost missed the reference in the updated Nicholls:

PROFESSOR X (1963). A BBC pilot for a proposed television series that never eventuated, which dealt with an eccentric elderly professor, his grandchildren and a teacher, who travel to prehistoric Earth in a blue 1960s police box -

With a derisive snort, he shut the book. What a ridiculous idea, even for a children's series. No wonder it had never got off the ground.

Later that evening, Dan recorded a requested pornchannel film over the scratchy, black and white images.

The CIB fished up a severely burnt young woman in her early twenties from the Thames during the night. She died on the way to hospital.

Philip laughed as he described the concept to Sita. ‘A quaint toddler's phantasm. Who believes in white knights on steeds, or garrulous old men in transcendental phoneboxes, for heaven's sake?’

The tone was staccato. It belonged to a man who was devoid of conscience and compassion. He no longer believed in heroes.

This item appeared in TSV 29 (July 1992).

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