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by Robby Charters
© 2008 by the author www.RobbyCharters.co.uk ISBN: 9781461073550
The year is 2020. We have people living on Mars, but haven't sorted out life on earth yet. In an age of robotics and rail-less magnetic trains, life at the bottom is probably worse for the ware. Pepe doesn't know his true identity but his existence poses a national security threat !e li"es in an abandoned construction site with Po# his $sister$ President %on &uan 'le(ente# a )uadriple*ic# brain linked to (assi"e co(puter syste( includin* killer robots# is poised to destroy any threat to his power# and the hunt is on !elp co(es +ro( a youn* co(puter hacker na(ed ,aul# and an a*ed (ystic na(ed -tsuko# and a +ew others .ut will that be enou*h to sa"e Pepe/ $3.99 USD in Kindle Version or All Other E-Book Formats (Smashwords Edition) $8.35 in for Print Version at Amazon.com www.RobbyCharters.co.uk Excerpt (first 3 chapters):
small boy with squeegee no shoes, making a living as all grown men should
0he *iant 1lash -ni(ation holo*raph rotated slowly abo"e the intersection# depictin* 2eneral %on &uan 'le(ente# president +or li+e# +lickin* his eyelid# breakin* into a toothy *rin as thou*h he were really lookin* at you 0he caption said# '3030# 'ardo"ia's year o+ "ision' 4t looked creepy at ni*ht
.ut ri*ht now there were still (any hours o+ dayli*ht le+t 55 too (any +or Pepe !e looked down the line5up now waitin* +or the next *reen# and *roaned 0he bucket was hea"y and dri"ers were always in a bad (ood this ti(e o+ day
!e counted his takin*s a*ain 13 %inarios 6ot enou*h 7ith a *runt# he li+ted his bucket and walked down the island to the +irst sedan he saw 55 a 8ercedes 0he windscreen wipers i((ediately went on '9kay# okay: 1reakin ti*htwad:' !e had to side5step to a"oid a (otorbike !e could see &ose doin* the next row# already at work on a Porsche 0he next was a "inta*e !onda -ccord# petrol powered# but in "ery *ood shape Pepe's s)uee*ee handle was lon* enou*h +or a boy o+ his si;e to reach to the
(iddle o+ the windscreen 55 i+ he stood on tip5toe# and the car's body wasn't too wide %one !e went to the dri"er's window 0he dri"er <ust sat there# lookin* strai*ht ahead '=p yours then# >cu(ba*:' he shouted# showin* the appropriate +in*er !e'd heard o+ a kid keepin* a baseball bat nearby +or such occasions 55 *ot hi( in trouble thou*h .ehind that# was a lorry 55 too bi* 0he next was too old +or the dri"er to be interested .oth the body and the exhaust +ro( the petrol en*ine showed it %itto +or the next three 0hen a taxi - +ew intersections 7est was >an 8ichele >)uare# ad<oinin* 'a(ino ,eal# ?a 1onta's +inancial district 0here# the expensi"e (akes outnu(bered the cheap ones 0he air was cleaner because they all had electric en*ines# and the takin*s were *ood .ut it was worked by a *an* 0hey'd beat Pepe i+ they cau*ht hi( anywhere near there !e sure wasn't <oinin* no *an* 55 as *ood as bein* a sla"e: >o(eti(es the *an* tried to (uscle in here as well# but the local boys wouldn't ha"e it 2ood thin* the *an* didn't think it was worth +i*htin* o"er 4t was close enou*h to the %ockyards slu( co((unity +or the local boys to (ake hell +or the *an*sters# but +ar enou*h not to be clo**ed with lorries carryin* *oods into the docks 0wo (ore (otorbikes ca(e throu*h - 'itroen switched on its wipers as soon as it saw hi( 0he dri"er o+ a "inta*e @ios *a"e hi( a hal+ %inario to lea"e his alone - +ew (ore cars down was another 8ercedes !e let Pepe wash his windscreen# and paid hi( two %inarios +or it Pepe's lon* blond hair and blue eyes so(eti(es worked +or hi( >o(e dri"ers liked cute little boys and *a"e hi( extra (oney 6ow he had to hurry 0he li*ht would chan*e any (o(ent 0he next car was an old blue !yundai 55 stank o+ petrol exhaust !e wouldn't bother 0he dri"er thou*ht otherwise '.oy# boy: 7hat about (ine/' Pepe obediently be*an runnin* the s)uee*ee across the windscreen !e was an old skinny -sian (an with a thin white beard who looked as thou*h he belon*ed in a 'hinese kun*5+u +il( !e wore a *rey +elt hat and an old tweed <acket &ust then# &ose ran past 'Run, Pepe! Police!' Pepe looked up 0he police(an was walkin* slowly a +ew cars behind 4+ he ran now he'd be spotted !e ducked near the dri"er's window and poured the re(ainin* water onto the pa"e(ent in case he had to run +or it !e (i*ht ha"e to now 55 the li*ht had chan*ed 'Aou li"e in the %ockyards 'o((unity# yes/' said the dri"er Pepe nodded '2et in 4 take you ho(e ' Pepe opened the rear passen*er door and slipped in 0he police(an walked past# eyein* the( suspiciously 0he windscreen was still hal+ co"ered with (uddy water 0he tra++ic be*an to (o"e 0he !yundai was already in the le+t turn lane# so that was handy BBB 4+ you approach +ro( under the (otorway and o"er the railway tracks# you'll see a *rocerCnewsa*ent to your ri*ht -cross +ro( that# on your le+t# be*ins the street that *oes down the (iddle o+ what's known as the %ockyards 'o((unity 6ext to the shop is a plot o+ *round do(inated by a wide shade tree# with *rass *rowin* where"er the *round isn't tra(pled too (uch 6earby is a rusty slide# so(e swin*s# and a broken see5saw 4n the shade# there are +our stone tables with drau*hts boards tiled into their sur+aces 0he old (en han* out here on clear e"enin*s
narrow *ap between two houses was <ust bi* enou*h +or Pepe and Po's skinny bodies 7here the back wall o+ this house (et that o+ the one beyond# they crawled under the +loorboards to the next +ootpath .o(eo's boys were deter(ined this ti(e 9ne was standin* beside the hole and another# at the opposite end o+ the alley 0hey both be*an runnin* towards the( .ed buildin* was subdi"idedE they were built behind each other# on top o+ one anther# *oin* as (any stories hi*h as the residents dared 4t was a di++erent world +ro( the rest o+ the city ..couple o+ .ehind the(# they heard cursin*# and then +ootsteps hurryin* to *et to the (outh o+ the next alley 4+ they hurried# Pepe and Po could *et there in ti(e to disappear into yet another street 0hey (ade it 0here were (ore turns here and there# but they picked up another tail Pepe's and Po's ad"anta*e was# they knew where they were *oin*# whereas their tail had to pause at each turn to see which way they went 0hey could also +it into s(aller cracks .why is the door just sitting open? '.ut the tail had lon*er le*s 1inally# they +ound the(sel"es approachin* the shade tree by the newsa*ent# but +ro( the opposite direction +ro( where Pepe had le+t it .. 'Aou know we need the (oney ...oberto and -ntonio# were sittin* at the +ar table by the parkin* lot 6earer to Pepe and Po was the old (an !e (otioned to the( '!e said he'll help us#' whispered Pepe Pepe led Po +orwardE (akin* sure the old (an blocked the( +ro( the "iew o+ the two across the way# who were lookin* in the other direction anyway .esides# (y school trousers *ot a hole Fids lau*h at (y bare bu(:' ..couple o+ .ut 2rand(a sewed the( yesterday:' Grandma's got company -. Pepe stopped short# *rabbin* his sisterGs ar(# ' R!"#!:' he whispered Po sti++ened '7h5what shall we do/' ''o(e:' Pepe knew a short cut 55 throu*h 9ld 8an -driano's house# in by the +ront door and out throu*h a hole in the back# into a corridor to the next alley 0hat one dead5ended into the sa(e brick wall that cut o++ the end o+ their row# but here# there was a hole in the wall that the locals cli(bed throu*h to *et to their <obs at the docks .0he old -sian (an went and sat at one o+ the tables !e told Pepe# '-ny ti(e you need help# you +ind (e here# okay/' Pepe nodded a 'thank you'# ran down the street# wonderin* i+ the old (an li"ed under that tree 4+ so# why had he ne"er seen hi( there be+ore/ Past a row o+ shops# Pepe turned into a s(all alley !ere# he plun*ed into a tan*led network o+ +ootpaths criss5crossin* a "ast <un*le o+ dwellin*s (ade o+ e"ery buildin* (aterial known to (an 4t was as (uch a <un*le o+ people as it was o+ tiny dwellin*s D"ery possible (odi+ication was (ade to each structure so as to +it (ore people -ny (oderate si.but who? 'Dr 55 4'll *o to(orrow#' he said hurriedly That oice! 'Pro(ise/' That has to be.o(eo's boys were perched on stools at the little espresso stand on the corner near his ho(e 9ne o+ the( eyed hi( as he ran past 7hile this always (ade Pepe ner"ous# the look in that eye this ti(e (ade his heart skip a beat !e hurried a bit (ore !e turned the corner and slowed to a walk next to Po on her way ho(e +ro( school '!i ' 'Pepe: 7hy you ne"er *o to school/' >he looked up at hi( The house.o(eo's boys# .
oberto notice the( <ust now/ 7as he blind/ '7hich way to your house/' asked the old (an Pepe pointed to the street corner '-nd your "isitor# what does he want/' '2onna take us away to work#' said Pepe '.o(eo suddenly popped a *rin '4t's "ery nice o+ you# >ir# to point all this out to (e .o(eo's (en ran out o+ an alley 9ne was talkin* on a (obile as he went 0hey looked this way and that# and ri*ht at the old (an with the two children# and then ran to look elsewhere Pepe and Po looked a+ter the(# (ysti+ied 0hey turned into a +ootpath -t another turn# there was one o+ the (en Pepe had seen at the espresso stand 0he old -sian (an tipped his hat as they passed !e nodded back and *ot on with watchin* e"erythin* that (o"ed !is (ate was at the end o+ the path <oinin* their alley Pepe looked at the old (an# and then at Po >he returned his *a.o(eo was speechless -tsuko continued# '-n art dealer is "isitin* this week +ro( Paris !is na(e is &ean5Pierre .e# lookin* as con+used as he 0hey arri"ed at a s(all ho"el# and heard the un(istakable "oice o+ .o(eo#' he went on# '4'( thinkin* about a picture o+ a horse in a pasture bein* led by a (an wearin* a blue o"ercoat 4n the back*round is a +ar( house such as you will +ind in parts o+ !olland# and o++ in the distance# a wind(ill ' 'Dr 55 yes# 4 had a picture like that in (y son's bedroo( ' said .ut what i+ 4 decide to sell the paintin* and keep the children/' '0hen# 4 assure you# you will +ind "onsieur .aplin*er 2o to the 6ational 8useu( o+ -rt to +ind hi( 4+ you take your paintin* +or hi( to look at# 4'( sure you will +ind it (any ti(es (ore "aluable to you than these two children ' 0here was a lon* silence .'4t's okay#' said the old (an '7alk with (e 0hey won't har( you ' $ow did he %now they were gonna harm us? 0he old (an led the two children past the table where .ut you already work:' '9nly when 4 want to .oberto and -ntonio# and they knew hi( !e knew they were lookin* +or hi( and Po !e knew exactly why 7hy didn't .o(eo '-tsuko is (y na(e 4 think 4 can o++er you so(ethin* o+ (uch (ore "alue to you than these two children ' &ust then Pepe and Po e(er*ed into the s(all plywood roo( '-nd what (ay that be/' '%o sit down# sir#' said 2rand(a '0hank you# 8ada(#' said -tsuko !e sat down in the re(ainin* ar(chair 0he other was occupied by .aplin*er's (ind clouded !e will +ail to see the (arks o+ the +a(ous painter# and no one will disco"er it +or .oberto *lanced at the( brie+ly# but went back to lookin* e"ery which way# as thou*h expectin* Pepe and Po to be hidin* in the bushes so(ewhere Pepe knew both .ut you're considerin* han*in* it in your *uest roo(# yes/' .o(eo ' and you'"e kept it in your stora*e closet since .ut they (ake kids work all day and beat the( 'n don't *i"e the( nothin* ' '7hy does he think he can put you to work/' asked the (an '2rand(a owes hi( lots o+ (oney ' '2rand(a *a(bles too (uch#' retorted Po 0wo (ore o+ .o(eo#' said the old (an as he led the way throu*h the door 'Aes# a *ood e"enin*# 4'( sure 7ho are you/' said .o(eo 0he two children cowered behind -tsuko '8r .o(eo +inishin* a phone call# snappin* his (obile shut# and then sayin* to 2rand(a# 'Aou know we'll +ind the( 0hey can lie down under the +loorboards until they drown in their own crap# or we'll *et the( when they co(e up +or air 55 unless you deli"er the cash ' '2ood e"enin*# 8r .o(eo's boys were .
e(e(ber 7hen you need help# +ind (e under the bi* tree by the play*round ' BBB 1or about a year# they didn't need help 4n +act# Pepe was a *ood boy and went to school e"ery day 2rand(a was a *ood *irl and re+rained +ro( *a(blin* -ll the (oney she earned +ro( washin* and ironin* people's clothes went to +ood# clothes and school supplies 0hin*s went well 55 +or about a year BBB 4t was bath ni*ht 2rand(a's *iant wash5tub was on the +loor in the (ain roo( 4t was the kind o+ tub one ne"er sees any (ore# with a tall back# (eant +or bathin* in D"en 2rand(a could use it# which she usually did a+ter Po and Pepe had had their turns >he'd closed the windows and door# then discreetly step in with her towel about her# and slip her body down into the war( water while holdin* the towel where it was >o(eti(es Po would scrub her back 0oni*ht# she didn't *et the chance Po had had her bath 55 she always went +irst while the water was clean 55 and was puttin* on her ni*htshirt Pepe had <ust stepped in >ince Po ne"er *ot all that dirty# the water was still +airly clean +or Pepe Pepe also pre+erred to keep the +ront door shut when he had his bath 0he curtains on the two windows were also drawn 6ow# he was scrubbin* hi(sel+ .o(eo# +inally '4'll take the paintin* +or .aplin*er's appraisal 4+ you're wron*# 4'll be back +or the kids ' 7ith that# he was o++ Pepe and Po hea"ed a si*h o+ relie+ Pepe collapsed on the +loor between the two ar(chairs# while Po went to help 2rand(a +ix a pot o+ tea 0he children were too shy to ask )uestions# so 2rand(a and -tsuko did all the talkin* '0hese two don't look like brother and sister#' co((ented -tsuko 4ndeed# Po's hair was dark# as were her eyes !er +ace was round# where Pepe's was thinner and (ore pointed at the chin '0hey are not#' said 2rand(a 'Po is (y *randdau*hter 8y dau*hter 9l*a le+t her with (e when she was a newborn in+ant >he's *one so(ewhere to work 55 abroad# 4 think Di*ht years a*o that was >he said she was brin*in* her +or (e to look a+ter# so 4 thou*ht she would only lea"e the one 4 was out buyin* *roceries when she ca(e and 4 ca(e ho(e to +ind the little boy# (ust ha"e been two years old# holdin* the baby 4 had not heard o+ a boy 55 no one in (y +a(ily had a two5year5old boy# and he doesn't look like anyone 4 know 55 but the nei*hbours told (e she le+t (e both children 7e call her Po 55 her (other ne"er told (e her real na(e 55 and 4 na(ed the boy Pepe 1ro( the "ery +irst# he took such *ood care o+ Po that 4'"e had no trouble treatin* hi( as a true *randson ' '!a"e they no papers/' en)uired -tsuko '4'( sure Po has a birth certi+icate so(ewhere 4 don't know which hospital 9l*a *a"e birth in# nor who her boy+riend was at the ti(e >he hasn't contacted (e since Pepe# o+ course# has no papers that 4 know o+ ' '!ow (any children do you ha"e yoursel+/' '0wo dau*hters 9l*a and ?ucinda ' '7hat would their surna(es be/' '9l*a ne"er (arried ?ucinda was +or a whileE to a 8r 'ali"eris# but she went back to usin* her (aiden na(e 55 the sa(e as (ine 55 8onte*ente ' -tsuko looked thou*ht+ul '?ucinda 8onte*ente 55 h(((( ' '6o# 9l*a was the (other#' corrected 2rand(a '4 ha"en't seen ?ucinda +or at least 15 years ' '9h# yes# certainly#' said -tsuko !e +inished his tea# and took his lea"e '.100 years ' 0here was another lon* silence '9kay#' said .
ut 55 where's 2rand(a/' cried Po# clutchin* the wet clothes as Pepe dra**ed her out the door '-nd you're not e"en 55 oh (y 2od:' 0he +la(es were practically lappin* Pepe's bare botto( as they ran D"en at a sa+e distance# e"eryone was too preoccupied to take any notice o+ Pepe 0here# he put on the sli*htly o"ersi.wall o+ +la(es was co(in* towards the( Po returned with a shirt and a pair o+ trousers that 2rand(a had washed +or so(eone else 0hey were still da(p 0here wasn't e"en ti(e to put the( on '?et's <ust *o:' Pepe said# *rabbin* her by the wrist '.5but they're '&ust +reak'n *et the(:' '.2rand(a was down the +ootpath towards the wall# talkin* to 8ar)uitta about so(ethin* Pepe thou*ht he s(elled s(oke !e sni++ed a couple o+ ti(es and decided (aybe it was <ust a burnin* tire so(ewhere !e went back to scrubbin* >o(eone started shoutin* so(ethin* outside Pepe couldn't )uite hear what it was 8ore people were shoutin* People outside were runnin* Po cried# 'Pepe: 4 think there's a +ire:' Pepe stood up '2et (y clothes:' '7here are they/' 2rand(a had put the( to soak in a basin '-nythin*:' shouted Pepe '0here's so(e boys clothes han*in* on the line in back:' '.i*ht ' >he hurried out the back door Pepe opened the door a crack .e <eans and tee shirt Po had only her ni*htshirt 1ro( an e"en sa+er distance# they were able to stand around lon* enou*h +or the reality o+ the situation to set in 0hey walked about lookin* +or 2rand(a 0hen they sat down on so(e newspaper and leaned a*ainst a wall to wait +or her to co(e and +ind the( Po started to cry Pepe put her ar(s around her to co(+ort her like a bi* brother should 0hey waited 0here was no one to put her ar(s around Pepe to co(+ort hi( as a 2rand(other should !e didn't know until then how (uch he lo"ed his *rand(other !e be*an to cry 0hey sat there and waited +or *rand(a !e ne"er thou*ht until now about how nice it was to ha"e a ho(e to return to !e cried so(e (ore# and still they waited !e hadn't realised until now that one day# he (i*ht ha"e to use so(e o+ the thin*s he'd learned# such as cleanin* windscreens# and keepin* out o+ the way o+ bad blokes 55 <ust to sur"i"e !e stopped cryin*# but he held Po e"en ti*hter '4'( *onna take care o' ya# Po#' he said >oon# she stopped cryin* 4t was as thou*h she were thinkin* the sa(e thin* as he 0hrou*h blurry eyes# they watched the tops o+ the +la(es until the residents (ana*ed to put the( out 0hen the +ire bri*ade arri"ed 0hey ne"er did +ind 2rand(a BBB 1ranco 1abiano thou*ht he s(elled a story 55 it wa+ted in throu*h an open window +ro( the direction o+ %ockyards !e le+t his +a(ily to the care o+ the ni*htly soaps# ran upstairs and opened a window 0here it was 0his was no bon+ire .
&uch is 'ardo ian politics.e+ore anyone was able to obtain buildin* (aterials# a whole section was already +enced o++# and the (achines were hard at work di**in* a +oundation +or a buildin* pro<ect that they had in the books +or a lon* ti(e# but ne"er *ot around to tellin* the residents 0hey certainly weren't talkin* to 1ranco 0he construction workers weren't residents o+ the %ockyards 'o((unity 0hat was only natural# o+ course# as any cooperation +ro( the residents would be considered an act o+ betrayal 0hat's also why there were hea"ily ar(ed (en *uardin* the peri(eter o+ the new construction site -s +or the ho(eless residents# they were +ortunate that there had <ust been an election +or 8P# so old ca(pai*n posters were in abundant supply +or use as buildin* (aterial -t least one o+ the candidates pictured in the posters had pro(ised housin* +or the poor 0hou*h he lost his bid# at least he deli"erin* on his pro(ise '.y the ti(e the news hit the streets# 1ranco was already workin* on a +ollow up storyE and a story# there was# indeedH ..!e *rabbed his (ulti(edia di*ital recorder# (ade sure his press pass was in his wallet# and was soon o++ on his (otorbike !e had to wea"e in and out o+ a tra++ic con*estion# so he *ot there <ust a+ter the +ire bri*ade 0he +ire was out by then anyway 0here was still enou*h action *oin* on to (ake a story 4t (i*ht e"en (ake a corner o+ the +ront pa*e !e walked around inter"iewin* who(e"er he could# and pointin* his di*ital recorder around# talkin* into it as he went 4t would all be recorded in "ideo# but whene"er he saw (aterial +or a still shot# he'd press a s(all button# and it would dra(atically increase the resolution !e'd edit the shots he needed later >ocial workers were also there assessin* the da(a*e >o(e people +ro( 8ercy !ouse were talkin* to co((unity leaders about brin*in* in buildin* (aterials 1ranco knew so(e o+ the( !e recorded what he could# put it all to*ether and uploaded it to the newspaper's ser"er (inutes be+ore the deadline +or late news 0hen he went ho(e to catch so(e sleep BBB .' was 1ranco's concludin* co((ent +or that sound byte 4t was late a+ternoon already 1ranco *rabbed a cup o+ co++ee and a pastry +ro( the newsa*ent and walked o"er to a stone table under the trees to re"iew what he had captured in his recorder !e selected "arious se*(ents o+ audio# ran the( throu*h the speech5to5text +unction and then edited that# usin* the writin* pad sur+ace 9nce he had a story# he went throu*h his "isuals to select still shots 1or these# he inserted links into the text 9ne o+ his collea*ues was chasin* up "arious o+ the powers5that5be to collect state(ents 0he copy editor would add those in later 7hile 1ranco's bit was uploadin* to the ser"er# he downed the last o+ his co++ee 0hen# he noticed a +a(iliar +ace at the next table 4t was the old &apanese (an he'd once (et in the co(pany o+ his +riend# 1ather -ntonio# +ro( 8ercy !ouse '7hat brin*s you here/' he asked '4'( waitin* +or two children Perhaps you'"e seen the( 55 a boy with blond hair# a *irl# brunette/' '4'"e seen hundreds 4'( a+raid that won't help ' 'Aes# 4'( sure you ha"e#' the old (an si*hed '4+ they re(e(bered# they would ha"e co(e by now ' '4 don't suppose they could ha"e perished in the +ire/' '6o# they're not dead#' said the old (an# *ettin* up '-t least 4 know that ' !e walked to an old blue !yundai# *ot in# and dro"e away .e+ore daybreak# a couple o+ bulldo..ers had crashed throu*h the wall <oinin* the burned out part o+ the nei*hbourhood with the docks .
. (e ha e made many technological ad ances. it is with joy that 1 again sit be)ore you and share with you the glorious success story. "y $eart +oth /earn 0or TheeJ I>ceneH 1ront "iew o+ the Presidential PalaceJ I1ade toH Presidential %eskE . (e now ta%e you to the Presidential Palace* I8usicH 'ardo ia.ut %on &uan 'le(ente has a special reason ' . but we can truth)ully say they ha e certainly .osa decided not to in+or( her +ather that she was already up on the state o+ the cine(ato*raphic art 8ost o+ what passed +or 'li"e action' +il(s were really .osa 8aria poured water +ro( the kettle into the s(all teapot# and the stea( wa+ted upward# brin*in* the +ra*rance o+ *reen tea with <as(ine >he set the teapot on a tray alon* with a hal+5pint *lass -tsuko pre+erred his tea out o+ a *lass >he brou*ht it to hi( in his roo( where he was still reclinin* on his (attress on the +loor '2ood (ornin* Papa ' '-hhh# *ood (ornin*# *ood (ornin*#' he answered# as he sat slowly up >he set the tray on the +loor beside hi(# +illed his *lass and handed it to hi( '>o# dau*hter# what is the news o+ the (ornin*/' .ut it looks so real:' '-hh# you are thinkin* o+ those +il(s you saw when you were youn*er 6o# . we ha e been enjoying unprecedented prosperity on e ery le el. we celebrated 3434. I peep. the 6uality o) li)e has risen.. and we are embracing new opportunities that we could ne er ha e dreamed possible under the monarchy.eal 1inancial district and shoppin* centresE crowds (illin* around durin* lunch hourJ -s you can readily see.uan 'lemente -ddresses the . This year.ut he looks "ery healthy ' '0hat# . I quake and wish I hadn't (e interrupt this program to bring you the )ollowing special* President +on .osa 8aria# is not hi( you see ' '. 'ardo ia's year o) 5ision.double/' '6o# a co(puter ani(ation !e doesn't trust doubles ' '. These nine years ha e been arduous.2 I find a curtain I wonder. 7blah-blah-blah8 BBB . 2ast year.osa 8aria -ni(ation has co(e a lon* lon* way since then 8ost heads o+ state use it now >o(e are lon* dead# and they still li"e on the 0@ screens o+ their adorin* constituents .ation.osa 8aria sat down on so(e cushions beside her Papa '0he 2eneral *a"e his speech last ni*ht 0hey're *oin* to replay it on the news this (ornin* ' 'Aes# the 2eneral 6o doubt he said that the econo(y is i(pro"in*# that ad"ances are bein* (ade in all areas o+ concern# etcetera# etcetera#' yawned -tsuko '-ll lies# 4'( sure# Papa ' '0ry not to be too cynical !e speaks the truth Partly anyway 0he (iddle class econo(y has i(pro"ed tre(endously# as well as his own lot# e"en i+ his health is deterioratin* ' '. which is The Republic o) 'ardo ia. I1ade inH @iew o+ 'a(ino .epublican +la* in the back*roundE 0he President enters and takes his seatJ PresidentH "y )ellow 'ardo ians. we reap the abundant )ruit o) yours and my labour.
ut Papa: !ow can you say that/ 0here's not e"en a kin* any (ore:' '9ne has only to look# .osa 8aria tried to 'look' .ut there's so (uch rich culture to be *ained +ro( studyin* 'ardo"ian literature ' 'arlo Pri(a"era (ade his entry -tsuko and .osa 8aria stood up to *reet hi( '6o# no# please# sit down:' said 'arlo .ut# how/ '?ookin*' was a sub<ect her de*ree at 9x+ord didn't co"er 8aybe# now she was back ho(e with Papa# she'd catch it '0oday#' said her papa +inally# 'we (ust "isit your +riend# 'olonel Pri(a"era ' BBB 0he section o+ the (otorway that approached the ?a 1onta city centre was ele"ated# co((andin* a "iew o+ the %ockyards slu( co((unity# and the docks beyond 9nly the new buildin*# still under construction# dwar+ed the (asts o+ ships that towered o"er the ho"els o+ the "ast slu( 4t was already approachin* 30 storeys 0he blue !yundai was <ust now passin* by '0hat# .ut yes# the lot o+ the poor has worsened .osa 8aria# is the bi**est headstone 4 ha"e e"er seen ' BBB ?aurinda# answered the door and let the( in 8ar*herita Pri(a"era (et the( in the loun*e# and sent ?aurinda to +etch the colonel -s they waited# the two ladies do(inated con"ersation -+ter co((entin* on the nice decor# .ut the use o+ co(puter ani(ations by heads o+ state was a new one on her 'Papa# you knew Fin* ?oren.aul back to school yet/' '6ot yet 0he 4nternational >chool doesn't start their new ter( until next (onth 0he 15th# 4 think !e's in the co(puter roo( Aou (i*ht *o and pay a "isit later i+ you want !e always en<oys your "isits 4t puts hi( in a better (ood D"er since you helped in his play *roup ' '!e's )uite *ood on the co(puter# isn't he:' '4 say he is: !e does nothin* but sur+in* the 4nternet and playin* those e"il *a(es they play these days: ' -tsuko broke in# '!is Dn*lish is )uite *ood# yes/' 'Aes !e has his -(erican +riends o"er# and his accent is exactly like theirs 7e can't understand what he's sayin* (ost o+ the ti(e: 4 only worry about his 'ardo"ian 0hey treat it as a +orei*n lan*ua*e course# like 1rench# or &apanese# the sa(e way 'ardo"ian schools teach Dn*lish:' -tsuko said# '.etter ones now# 4 dare say ' '%on't $dare say$ it unless you know it +or a +act 'ynicis( will blind you# .osa 8aria# 4 did Aou were a little *irl then 4 would ha"e presented you at the royal court but +or the coup d'etat.o de la 1onta# didn't you/' 'Aes# .co(puter *enerated !ardly anyone used actors any (ore 9nly top stars +ro( yesteryear e"er (ade (oney these days# and that was by sellin* the ri*hts to render their likeness as an ani(ation 0he stars' na(es appeared in the credits# thou*h the co(puter ani(ations were usually (uch better actors than their hu(an na(esakes e"er were .osa 8aria# but not with these eyes ' 0hey sat in silence# as .osa 8aria said# '4s .osa 8aria Aou (ust always see thin*s as they really are#' said -tsuko '.ut it always was only a se(blance wasn't it# Papa/ !as 'ardo"ia e"er truly +ul+illed its destiny/' '4t has co(e close 0here were *olden a*es in history when the kin* was ri*hteous and the Fni*hts o+ 'ardo"ia were "aliant and the people happy 4 +eel the ti(e will co(e a*ain soon ' '.' '0hin*s were di++erent then# weren't they# Papa ' 'Aes# they were# thou*h they weren't per+ect by any (eans 0here was certainly an excuse +or a re"olution 9ne can always +ind excuses ' '.ut the di++erence 4 a( pointin* to is# the Fin*do( o+ 'ardo"ia# then# was a se(blance o+ what it was (eant to be ' '.
ritain towards beco(in* a republic ' '>o# (y +riend# it sounds like you are as supporti"e as e"er o+ %on &uan 'le(ente's re"olution 4 would stron*ly su**est that so(e ti(e# you stand away +ro( his shadow +or <ust a (o(ent# take a *ood look around# and +or( an opinion o+ the way thin*s are# independently o+ the 2eneral ' '8y opinions are (y own#' retorted 'arlo '-nyone can see that it was a ri*ht (o"e 0he (onarchy had beco(e e"il# as all (onarchies ulti(ately do 7hy# e"en the Fni*hts o+ 'ardo"ia reco*nised that 0hey sanctioned the (o"e 4'( sure you ' '4 was not present on the day they sanctioned the (o"e ' '.eally# what do you think/' '4t could be wise +or (e to reser"e co((ent until 4 hear what you think ' '7ell#' 'arlo took a deep breath# '!e's certainly taken us into the (odern a*e 6ew technolo*ies are bein* used in co((unications# the econo(y is i(pro"in*# people are happy# we're no lon*er a backward# old +ashioned $banana state$ ' '.odri*ue.aul 0he co(puter roo( was up the corridor 0he nu(erous pla)ues had (essa*es like# '%an*er Kone'# '9++icial 8a+ia .ut now we are a net e9porter o+ "arious co((odities -nd we're no lon*er a 5 er ' '8onarchy/' su**ested -tsuko 'Dxactly#' said 'arlo# 'and it (ay interest you to know that there are (o"es in 2reat .osa 8aria '!a: 0he .usiness'# '.aul lau*hed '6ot a+raid o+ spiders# are you/ 4t's okay# it's +riendly ?ook:' -s .odri*ue.aul '4 can inter+ace it throu*h (y co(puter !ere# try these on ' !e handed .aul#' she said innocently '7hat are you up to/' '9h# nothin* 5 <ust +oolin* around with this ' !e picked up a re(ote and a lar*e (etallic spider instantly ca(e speedin* across the roo( to .8ore s(all talk '>o#' said 'arlo# when the con"ersation *ot *oin*# 'what did you think o+ the President's speech last ni*ht/' '8y dau*hter thinks his ani(ated *raphic looks )uite char(in*#' said -tsuko -+ter so(e polite lau*hter# 'arlo said# '.aul was hurriedly (ini(isin* "arious windows +ro( his co(puter's desktop while turnin* around to +ace her '!i:' '!ello .aul's (other in"ited her o"er# when the si*n on the door said# '.eware o+ 'ookie 8onster' >he pushed the door open slowly and beca(e aware that .ut we ne"er *rew bananas 7e always i(ported the( ' '.osa 8aria sat down across +ro( .osa 8aria had already heard all the theories about what happened to the in+ant prince# and the "arious pretenders that had sur+aced >he excused hersel+ and went to +ind .odri*o *a"e it to (e !e's a robotics expert 55 says its latest technolo*y ' .aul worked at the re(ote# it walked slowly up to .osa 8aria's +oot and be*an tappin* it with a protrusion +ro( its +ront end '4t's sayin* $!ello$:' '0hat's cool: %id you <ust *et it/' '8y uncle . case:' retorted 'arlo '0he (onarchy is *one +ore"er 4 don't know why anyone would think it worth while to ad"ertise such a clai( ' '0hen why has the 2eneral *one throu*h so (uch trouble to "eri+y it/' asked -tsuko .eware o+ (an5eatin* plants'# etc 0his was where she had +ound hi( the +irst ti(e .ut surely they (ust ha"e in+or(ed you /' '6o ' 8ar*herita interrupted# '7hat beca(e o+ that boy# was it the adopted son o+ >i(on .osa .osa 8aria '9h:' >he <u(ped backwards throu*h the door . /' '0he one they clai( is the prince/' answered .
odri*o is )uite expert in that +ield ' -tsuko looked at his watch 0hen he turned and looked strai*ht at the spider '-h# .aul to (ake his shockin* disco"ery ' .osa 8aria had no idea what he (eant >he knew that to pursue the sub<ect would only lead to (ore cryptic state(ents '%oes the 9rder o+ the Fni*hts o+ 'ardo"ia still exist/' she asked instead '-s lon* as two or three ri*hteous kni*hts o+ the order are still ali"e# it exists# thou*h it (ay be crippled +or the ti(e bein* 4t's happened be+ore in the history o+ 'ardo"ia# since pre5.osa 8aria was controllin* the spider# lookin* throu*h the lenses "ia the @.aul was a pre5 schooler# their papas had beco(e )uite close +riends# despite their contrary political opinions ' so# the 2eneral# his condition has beco(e worse/' she heard her +ather say 'Aes -lready# he's con+ined to a wheelchair#' said 'arlo '!e'll soon lose all control o+ his li(bs ' 8ar*herita said# '8y brother has been workin* on a (obility syste( to *i"e hi( the control he needs throu*h a co(puter ' 'Aes# .aul# '4 ha"e to *o now ' '!ere# push this key 4t will (ake it trace its steps back a*ain ' 4((ediately the "iew throu*h the @. (ask showed she was turnin* around and (o"in* back down the corridor at double speed# peepin* a*ain into all the sa(e roo(s on the way BBB -s soon as it e(er*ed +ro( 'arie*a ?ane# the blue !yundai +ound the ra(p to the (otorway -*ain# they were passin* the slu( co((unity '7e had to lea"e when we did#' said -tsuko# 'or it will be too late +or youn* .8aria a @.osa 8aria# there you are 4t's ti(e we (ust *o ho(e ' 8aria told . head set# which *a"e her +ull peripheral 3% "ision >he could also listen throu*h the ear phones 4t was as thou*h she# hersel+ were the spider '4 can spy on people with this can't 4:' she said 'Aeah# try spyin* on the +olks in the loun*e:' >he be*an walkin* the spider throu*h the corridor# peepin* into "arious roo(s on the way '0his is so cool:' -t the end o+ the corridor# she turned it ri*ht into the loun*e area >he peeped around the corner 0here were the older people still deep in con"ersation D"er since .ut#' continued her +ather# 'all thin*s will so(e day be restored Perhaps you will then +ill the roll o+ the Prophet ' .osa 8aria said# '-re there still one or two others besides you/' '4 sense there are others ri*hteous Fni*hts still in hidin* 4t was the 2eneral and the -rchbishop# in their capacity as Fni*hts# who set the sta*e +or the 2eneral's re"olution 4n the early days# i+ it were known that such a (o"e were (ade without the Prophet present ' '0hat would be you# o+ course ' ' it would ha"e led to a serious scandal >uch a (o"e (ust be a unani(ous a*ree(ent !ow they acco(plished that# 4 don't know ' .osa 8aria was sure that he did know >he thou*ht she knew hersel+ '.o(an ti(es# that the Fni*hts ha"e risen +ro( the ashes to restore the 'ardo"ian 7ay ' '4t's sort o+ like the society in The 2ast 'rusade that protected the !oly 2rail/' 'Aes# i+ you (ust co(pare it to the decadent -(erican +il( industry ' -+ter a pause# . head set 'Aou control it with this ' !e pointed to a contraption that included a couple o+ <oysticks and so(e buttons -+ter a +ew si(ple instructions# .osa 8aria had +irst introduced the( back when .
ank o+ 'ardo"ia buildin* 55 all the i(portant locations he knew o+ on 'a(ino .osa 8aria was a nice person >he always (ade .ut she'd ne"er understand hackin* !e heard the starter o+ the old petroleu(5powered !yundai whine a (inute or two# until the en*ine (ana*ed to co(e to li+e .aul *ot a shock . (ask# it showed hi( he was inside a buildin* so(ewhere# and the the scene was (o"in* about 4t was s(ooth# like lookin* out o+ a robot on wheels 4t took hi( into a roo(# and a robot ar( went out and picked up a paper +ro( a desk 4t turned around and went into another roo(# where so(eone was sittin* at another desk !e opened his (outh and spoke# but there was no sound .aul worked +or the rest o+ the a+ternoon to *et the sound con+i*ured ri*ht .'8e/ .aul +eel *ood about hi(sel+# especially when she *ot excited about one o+ his thin*s# as she did <ust now .ack to the co(puter !e (ade sure the alar( syste( worked this ti(e 4t wouldn't be a *ood thin* i+ Papa or e"en ?aurinda walked in on hi( and saw what was on his screen 6ot that they'd understand it 55 <ust too (any )uestions# and too (any lies to keep track o+ -t least .aul could tell 4t could *o +ast i+ it needed to# but usually it was (o"in* slowly down the corridors 55 as thou*h the one controllin* it had style !e was in a di++erent buildin* +ro( where the other robot was 4t was +ull o+ @ictorian +urniture# old paintin*s and +ancy (irrors 4t entered a roo( . (ask in# but it didn't work 8aybe he wasn't con+i*ured properly !e had spent all (ornin* tryin* to work the pro*ra(# redirectin* this circuit# then that one and al(ost had it 0hat was the (o(ent . (ask !e tried plu**in* his @.osa 8aria didn't ask a lot o+ )uestions 6ow# where was he/ !e had started explorin* this cool web site last week 9ne o+ his school +riends had shown it to hi(# and *a"e hi( the password 4t was so(e sort o+ access to a network o+ ''0@s in all sorts o+ places !e could touch this icon and suddenly *et a "iew o+# say# >an 8ichele >)uare# touch there and see the 'ardo"ian >tock Dxchan*e# or (aybe choose a di++erent an*le o+ the sa(e place# or the .wo(an/' '6othin* in the laws o+ 'ardo"ia +orbids it ' BBB .osa 8aria walked in# and she had +un with the robot and all that !e didn't realise until now how (uch his head needed a rest 6ow# he was (akin* the last ad<ust(ent 7hen he put on the @.y supper ti(e# the sound was workin* -+ter they had eaten# .eal !e could e"en see who was *ettin* on and o++ the (a*netic train at each o+ the stops 0his was so cool: 7hen he tired o+ that# he looked at one (ore portal that he had noticed on the site 0his re)uired another password 55 a chance to try the code breakin* pro*ra( o++ a '% his +riends had been passin* around 0he pro*ra( had run all 0hursday ni*ht# and 1riday (ornin* .aul went to the window and watched it lea"e the co(pound (hen will the old man e er go electric? .aul had the password !e didn't want to steal anythin*# or *et any ad"anta*e or anythin* !e <ust wanted to say he'd done it -t 13 years old# that (eans a lot !e lo**ed on to the security installation# or sur"eillance hub# whate"er it was# usin* his +riend's password 0hen he tried the portal a*ain# with the one pro"ided by the code cracker# and *ot throu*h 4t went so(ewhere else alto*ether -t +irst# he couldn't +i*ure out what it did 0here were so (any de"ices !e read the script with his text editor 4t was si(ilar to the de"ice that ran his @.aul took it +or a spin !e tried it on a couple o+ di++erent de"ices# and they all worked per+ectly 0he last one was a (uch cooler robot than the rest# .
odri*o's +ace ' you're <ust not *ood at (aintainin* secrecy ' 0here was a clic%.odri*o +or (any days now# he *ot sick a*ain .+ew days later# .odri*o i((ediately stood up '!ello 8r President ' =ncle . as bullet holes appeared on =ncle . (ask# and hit the co(puter's power switch without botherin* to lo* o++ 0hen# he sat# breathin* hea"ily >uddenly# he *ot up and ran out o+ the roo( and down the corridor to the toilet 0here# he "o(ited 0hen he went upstairs to bed !e was sick +or a week BBB .0here# sittin* on a so+t chair was :ncle Rodrigo: =ncle .aul as '8r President' be+ore .odri*o liked to tell <okes# but he'd ne"er addressed .ut this was no co(puter *a(e: !e ripped o++ the @.aul be*an to reco"er !e actually ca(e down +or break+ast -s soon as his (other wondered out loud why they hadn't heard +ro( =ncle .odri*ue.odri*o's chest# and he slu(ped to the *round -t +irst# . clic%.look o+ terror spread across =ncle . clic%. was a*ain in si*ht 'Aour ser"ice has been "aluable# and 4'( sure they would co(e in handy a*ain so(e day# except 55 un+ortunately ' .ut he wasn't addressin* .aul had the sensation o+ ha"in* shot an ene(y in a *a(e o+ (ol)enstien .aul '8r Portali#' ca(e a (ore (etallic soundin* "oice '9nce a*ain# it is *ood to see you 4 wish to show you (y *ratitude +or the "aluable ser"ice you'"e *i"en (e ' '4 take it e"erythin* is in workin* order/' 'Aes# 8r Portali D"erythin* is workin* as desi*ned 0he (aintenance robots work per+ectly 0here is no lon*er any need +or hu(an interaction apart +ro( (y own ' '>o# 8r President# we could say that the test phase o+ the pro<ect is co(plete ' 'Aes# your ser"ices ha"e been o+ ut(ost "alue Please +ollow (e ' 'Aes# >ir# 8r President ' 4((ediately the "iew swun* around# as thou*h on a swi"el# showin* an exit throu*h the door and into the corridor# down a ways# and then into another roo( 0he new roo( was plain# no pictures on the walls# no +urniture# a tile +loor '8r Portali ' 0he "iew swi"elled back# and =ncle .
u* o++# old (an ' -ntonio si*hed 0he car in +ront was (o"in* !e shi+ted his 1ord into +irst and (o"ed slowly +orward BBB Pepe was now bi* enou*h to reach the (iddle o+ the windscreen with a shorter s)uee*ee !e could also do (ore cars in a sin*le red li*ht ..in* past# as Pepe walked down the island towards the intersection !e wondered how Po was doin* Po was better at be**in* than Pepe# so she would do the outdoor (arket where the tourists went to look +or bar*ains .ut he still didn't *et enou*h (oney 0hree %inarios +or the old (an's windscreen was nice thou*h 8aybe toni*ht they could eat 'til they were +ull +or a chan*e 0he cars were now whi. but we ha en't sorted out li)e on #arth yet! -ntonio *a"e the boy three %inarios !e looked pleased '!ey 55 you e"er need help# you can +ind (e at ' '.ut that was too +ar away -nythin* could happen to her D"ery +ew hours Pepe would *o to +ind her to (ake sure she was okay 4+ they had enou*h (oney between the(# they'd *et so(ethin* to eat !e would *o (ore o+ten# but it would take hi( away +ro( doin* windscreens# or polishin* shoes in the barbershop on 'la"ente >treet# so he'd (ake less (oney 0he shoe polishin* was really &ose's <ob 0here was (ore (oney in that than doin* windscreens Pepe only did it on days &ose didn't +eel like workin*# which was usually when he had (ade enou*h the pre"ious day to spend the next one sittin* in the corner sni++in* paint sol"ent >o(eti(es Pepe did it the +ollowin* day too# i+ the sol"ent (ade &ose too sick to work BBB &ose was one o+ Pepe's oldest +riends 55 since school days 0hey played truant to*etherE they'd stick up +or each otherE between the(# they were a (atch +or any school yard bully &ose was one o+ those kids Pepe would do anythin* +or 0hen# one day# &ose stopped co(in* to school Pepe went to look +or hi( at his house !e didn't ask around 55 he <ust looked -ll he saw was &ose's papa# pissed as a rain barrel# and carryin* on like an ani(al# tearin* into anyone that (o"ed Pepe didn't (o"e !e <ust looked 0here was no si*n o+ &ose !e thou*ht he knew why .3 the smell of solvent sounds of youthful street wisdom working kids live here 0he +loatin* holo*raph si*n that used to say '3030# 'ardo"ia's year o+ "ision'# now ad"ertised 9++ice3030# bundled +ree with that co(pany's ?inux %esktop +or s(all businesses -s always# there was the picture o+ the white bearded +ounder 55 rather re(iniscent o+ the ones o+ the Fentucky 'olonel that used to *race +ried chicken ad"erts 0he 1lash -ni(ation had hi( lookin* back and +orth# (akin* eye contact with the (otorist and then bea(in* at the alternatin* screen shots on his ri*ht in which the nu(ber 3030 +i*ured predo(inantly 4t wasn't 3030 any (ore# but e"eryone liked the nu(ber 55 as thou*h <ust sayin* it would put you up a pe* or two 4t see(ed to do that +or the 2eneral -nd as usual# 9++ice3030 was released two years late .ut -ntonio didn't care 0he world o+ 3030 and ?inux desktops had nothin* to do with what he saw be+ore hi( now 0o the blond haired boy doin* his windscreen# it (i*ht as well be 1930 (e ha e people li ing on "ars.
!e ne"er saw hi( a*ain until a+ter their +irst week on the street# a+ter the %ockyards +ire BBB .ut he en<oyed han*in* out ?ater still# when it looked like the sober tourists had all *one in# Pepe and Po pooled what resources they had# bou*ht spon*e cake# pita bread and a chocolate bar +or their supper# and started ho(e BBB -t least they had so(ewhere to *o ho(e to 1or their +irst +ew days# be+ore they +ound this place# li+e had been hell 2ettin* any sleep at ni*ht was next to i(possible -ll the *ood places were taken 55 and by all the wron* people >o(e were +or (e(bers only 55 you had to <oin a *an* 9ther places see(ed okay# but you ne"er knew when so(eone would co(e alon* and 55 you know 0hey cried a lot in those days 0hey'd cry +or 2rand(a 0hey'd cry because they worried about what to do next 4t was really a lot harder li"in* on the street than Pepe had thou*ht 8aybe there was no choice but to <oin a *an* 0hen they bu(ped into &ose &ose was *lad to see Pepe too !e showed the( where he li"ed# and told the kids there that Pepe and Po were cool 4t was a rusted steel and concrete5slab a++air about six stories tall 4t had been a construction site once# but be+ore they put in the walls# the contractor# or the owner# (ust ha"e run out o+ cash and decided to call it )uits 9r (aybe they had so(eone like .y the ti(e Pepe reached the intersection# the li*ht was red a*ain !e started doin* a 0oyota 'orolla -part +ro( ne"er ha"in* enou*h to eat# and worryin* about Po# li+e on the street wasn't so bad once you *ot used to it !e liked the independence 0he secret was knowin* what to do# when to do it# who( to trust# when to call so(eone's blu++# when to play it cool# where to *o when you need to be alone# to sleep# to crap 0he old (an that *a"e hi( 3 %inarios a while a*o could be use+ul 4+ he kept *i"in* out 3 %inarios at a ti(e# that is 0he dri"er o+ the 0oyota *a"e hi( hal+ a %inario 8aybe he shouldn't ha"e been so bad to the old (an 4t's <ust that he ca(e on 55 well 55 like a con (an tryin* to *et his con+idence !e didn't ha"e the +eel o+ a con (an# thou*h .taxi dri"er si*nalled +or hi( to do his !e *a"e hi( one %inario 8ust ha"e *ot a bi* tip 6ow# the street li*hts were startin* to co(e on# so Pepe called it a day BBB 0he best be**in* is done in the late e"enin*# but not the windscreen washin* Pepe would han* about the (arket# and i+ he had any hal+ %inarios to spare# he'd play a "ideo *a(e 0hat wasn't o+ten -t least he'd keep an eye on Po# because that's also when so(e bad blokes were about .o(eo breathin* down their necks 55 7hate"er 4t wasn't a bad place i+ you didn't (ind the walk D"en thou*h the buildin* was close to the shoppin* area where Po be**ed# you had to *o back# al(ost to where Pepe did his windscreen washin*# and *o up a lane# past lots o+ houses and on to a dirt road that dead5ended ri*ht at a concrete wall 0he way in was throu*h a hole in the wire +ence that ran alon* the dirt road 4t was hidden behind a bush# and only so(eone the si.e o+ Pepe and Po could *et throu*h it >o(eone with hea"y duty wire cutters could probably enter another way# but they hadn't done that yet .ut you can't be too care+ul 0he dri"er o+ the 8ercedes not only started his windscreen wipers but started the s)uirter as well &cumbag! .
a)uel's# loose and bouncy 7hene"er .ra.a)uel also li"ed on their +loor with her two youn* brothers# Pierre and 8ichele 0he three o+ the( be**ed at the sa(e (arket as Po 0he boys *ot bi**er handouts People like little boys with lon* curly hair 55 especially i+ they're twins 0heir +ather was a .a)uel and her brothers out to play in the park with so(e (oney +or lunch 7hen they *ot back to the +lat# it was e(pty 0he landlord threw the( out# and a +ew days later# they +ound the hole in the +ence 0oday Pierre and 8ichele were runnin* about with a tube o+ toothpaste and a tooth brush each Pierre held his up +or the( to see as he pranced by '.i* deal:' scorned Pepe '>o you *ot teeth clean'n stu++ ' '.ilian i((i*rant o+ -+rican extraction# while their (a(a was born in Paris o+ a ?aotian (other and a 2uinean +ather 0he kids looked part black# part so(ethin* else 0he twins were al(ost identical# except that the rin*lets in Pierre's hair were ti*hter# (ore typical o+ an -+rican 8ichele's hair was (ore like .a)uel did up their hair in ti*ht braids# they were harder to tell apart 0hey used to li"e in the western town o+ 1lorissa# where their papa worked in the hybrid electric (otor +actory until it went co(pletely robotic# and didn't need hu(an workers any (ore >ince the +actory e(ployed the whole town# there was nothin* +or it but to (o"e to ?a 1onta to +ind work -ll the a"ailable <obs were )uickly snapped up by 1lorissian ex5+actory workers# so Papa had to try di++erent ways to *et (oney !e *ot arrested +or robbin* a shop 9ne day# not lon* a+ter that# 8a(a sent .et you don't *ot any#' said Pierre '%on't want any ' 'Aour teeth will rot and +all out then ' '6o they won't ' 'Aes they will ' '6o they won't: .ac)uel yelled >he was bein* *ood today >o(eti(es she'd <ust let the( *et on Pepe's ner"es until he punched up one o+ the(# then she'd be onto Pepe like a bull terrier >he'd always be cool a*ain later on thou*h 0hat's the way she was Pepe and Po sat down on the ed*e o+ the +loor# where they had a "iew o+ the street below# and the *iant *lobular 8aLana 'a+M and 6i*htclub +loatin* in the air hal+ a kilo(etre away 0hey ate their spon*e cake and chocolate stu++ed into the pita bread 0heir +eet dan*led o"er the ed*e .0here was also a pond across the dirt road +ro( the hole 55 a s)uare one du* +or a +oundation# but +illed with water +ro( the rain 0hey'd so(eti(es take their baths there# or <ust *o +or a swi( ?i"in* with 2rand(a# Pepe had started to *et s)uea(ish about takin* o++ his clothes to take a bath# but not any (ore BBB 4t was well past (idni*ht when Pepe and Po crawled throu*h the hole in the +ence# and cli(bed the stairs that went up the (iddle o+ the buildin* 8ost o+ the kids li"ed on the third +loor Pepe and Po pre+erred the +ourth# as it was that (uch sa+er# and they en<oyed the "iew -s they passed the third# they s(elled paint sol"ent 0he boys were in a circle not +ar +ro( the stairs &ose was with the(# thou*h he nor(ally slept on the sa(e +loor as Pepe and Po Pepe had tried paint sol"ent once# but 2rand(a cau*ht hi( at it 55 ca(e down real hard on hi( >o did Po 0hen# at school they scared the crap out o+ hi( about what substance abuse would do to his brain !e saw what it did to &ose !e knew i+ it did that to hi(# he wouldn't be able to take care o+ Po any (ore 4+ she *ot raped# or *ot taken away so(ewhere# he would ne"er be able to li"e with hi(sel+ 0hen he'd <ust waste the rest o+ his li+e sni++in* sol"ent# wouldn't he: .u* o++:' 'Pierre# )uit be'n such a brat#' .
# who used to work there# thou*ht it traded *enuine shares# but outside the li(itations nor(ally i(posed on licensed +ir(s 'ardo"ia was the ideal place +or that# as knowin* the ri*ht people could a"ert what +ew restrictions did apply# especially since they didn't sell to .(an said so(ethin* like that to (e 2i"e (e three %inarios ' '7hat he look like/' asked .ald# white hair around 5 like this# bi* nose# talks like a +orei*ner ' '0hat's 1ather -ntonio 0hey *ot a place +or kids to stay ' '6o way:' retorted Pepe '-in't *onna *o li"e in no orphana*e ' '-in't no orphana*e >aid you can lea"e whene"er you want ' '0hey <ust say that ' -+ter a while# .a)uel '.a)uel ca(e and sat next to Po Po asked# '7here you *et the toothpaste/' '?ady +ro( 8ercy !ouse ' '8ercy !ouse/' 'Aeah# 1ather -ntonio's place ' '%idn't see no one +ro( 8ercy !ouse ' '0hey were o"er by the park *ate ' '7hat she say/' '>aid we *otta clean our teeth and stu++# or our teeth will +all out ' '0hat all/' '-nd eat +ruit and "e*ies and less cake and candy ' '2i"e you any (oney/' '6o# but said i+ we need help# *o to 8ercy !ouse ' Pepe broke in '.0hey ate in silence# and a+ter that# sat there watchin* the li+ts +loat up and down +ro( the top o+ the 2lobal 'onsu(er 'entre into the 8aLana 6i*htclub ho"erin* abo"e 7hy they didn't use that technolo*y to build space ships# like in the (o"ies# Pepe could ne"er understand 4t was cool to look at thou*h# such a *i*antic thin*# up there all by itsel+ .a)uel *ot up to lea"e BBB Pepe and Po had snu**led up under their blanket a*ainst the stairwell wall '.ut they (i*ht take *ood care o+ us#' said Po# 'like 2rand(a did ' '4 can take care o+ you -in't let'n no 8ercy !ouse people take you away ' -+ter a lon* pause# he added# 'besides# you're (ine 6oni *a"e you to (e ' '7ho's $6oni$/' '=sed to take care o+ (e ' '7here/' '%on't re(e(ber >he called (e $&aki$ or so(ethin* 5 anyway# she said# $Aour Po# &aki Nor so(ethin*O# take care o+ her $' 'Aou ne"er told (e that ' '6e"er told anyone be+ore &ust +aintly re(e(ber it 5 like the +irst thin* that e"er happen to (e 4 <ust know 4 *otta take care o+ you ' '7asn't (y (a(a was it/' '6o#' Pepe said slowly# as thou*h he were tryin* to re(e(ber -+ter a lon* pause# he said# '4 sort o+ think be+ore that you were one o+ the 0elletubbies ' '!uh/:' Po waited +or a (ore sensible explanation -+ter a while# she said# '4 still think it (i*ht be *ood in 8ercy !ouse ' Pepe was asleep BBB 0hou*h 1ather -ntonio (uch pre+erred his <eans and tee shirt# today he wore his black shirt with the backwards collar !e was expectin* a "isitor !e had <ust paid so(e "isits hi(sel+ earlier that day >ean 9'!ealey had in"ited hi( to his tradin* roo( +loor to *i"e a short spiel on his work with ho(eless street children -ntonio had told a hu(orous anecdote about one o+ the kids# >ean passed a hat around and the brokers *a"e *enerously -ntonio wasn't totally sure what kind o+ place it was 55 i+ it was e"en a licensed brokera*e .o.
o. sounded i(pressed '4'( not lookin* +orward to it# that's +or sure ' '6ot easy to *et alon* with/' '!e *ets alon* okay 6o proble( with that !e *ets alon* a bit too well ' '. was in his own ele(ent# with his salary paid by his old boss !e was translatin* children's case histories +or the sponsorship pro*ra(# and 1ather -ntonio was chattin* hi( up between appoint(ents 'Dxpectin* (ore "isitors/' asked .'ardo"ians 0hey phoned to other countries 6ow# 1ather -ntonio was back at the !o(e# sittin* across +ro( .o. .otten(eyer#' said . had beco(e burned out with cold callin* all day +or three years Fnowin* that . 0hat was the nickna(e o+ the lady who cracked the whip and kept all the o++ice sta++ in line where 1r -ntonio would ha"e been too lax to do so hi(sel+ >he also kept 1r -ntonio's schedule +ir(ly in hand# and unwanted callers away '4t (ust be ti(e 2ood day .bit o+ a slea. ' !e went out o+ the *lass5enclosed o++ice >ure enou*h# it was ti(e +or hi( to *o downstairs and strike his pose 9n the way# he stuck his head into 8other 'lara's o++ice 'Please say a prayer +or (e ' '4 will#' replied the elderly nun BBB 'Puite a place you ha"e here# -ntonio#' said the -rchbishop '0hank you#' said 1r -ntonio 0hey had <ust (ade their exit +ro( '8ada( Kudu's' art roo(# ha"in* +irst looked at the co(puter roo(# the ad(in o++ice# and the dor(itories 0he pre5 school set had entertained the -rchbishop with a son*# which he pretended to en<oy '.o. had done charity work in the past# >ean 9'!ealey donated his ser"ices to 1ather -ntonio's 8ercy !ouse 6ow . 'Aes 6o less than !is !oliness# -rchbishop 1elipe 8onterosa ' '9h:' .o.o.o.e# is he/' -ntonio lau*hed# '&ust re(e(ber# 4 didn't say it 0hat's an interestin* choice o+ words# but 4 didn't say it:' '!ere co(es 8iss .ut not )uite what 4 would ha"e expected o+ a children's institution#' the -rchbishop continued 'Aou (ust re(e(ber# Aour !oliness# that these aren't your typical children#' said -ntonio '0hey look like nor(al children to (e !ow are these any di++erent/' '0ake any nor(al child# such as you and 4 when we were youn* 0hey're terri+ied o+ the dark# they're a+raid o+ bein* le+t alone# they're a+raid o+ what they'll +ind on the streets at ni*ht 0hey "alue the security o+ ho(e and that's what keeps the( there 4+ you tell the(# $>hape up or 4'll throw you out#$ they'll shape up rather than +ace their ulti(ate +ear 0hese kids ha"e li"ed outside on the streets# and ha"e decided it's not so bad Aou na(e it# they'"e already seen it 4+ you (ade any such a threat to the(# they'd say# $0o hell with you#$ and *o ri*ht back to li"in* on the street ' '0hat's where you (ust use *ood# old +ashion +orce#' said the -rchbishop '-t present# they co(e to us o+ their own +ree will 0he (o(ent we start usin* +orce# word will *et out# and they'll stay away by the dro"es# and we'd ne"er *ain that trust back ' '4+ you had *o"ern(ent cooperation# 4'( sure you'd ha"e no trouble +illin* your dor(s ' 'Aes# and with the addition o+ bars on the windows and double steel doors# we'd be a (atch +or any prison 4 think we ha"e enou*h o+ those in 'ardo"ia already without (y help ' 'Aes# indeed#' s(iled the -rchbishop !e looked around so(e (ore '0ell (e# -ntonio# with such potential (anpower# what pro+itable use ha"e you (ade o+ the(/' .o.o.
ut 5 you *otta help (e ' '!elp you what/' '2et (e so(e clothes 5 *i"e (e yours +or the day 5 4'll do anythin* Aou can polish shoes +or a week ' '4'll *et you so(e clothes Aou stay here 'o(e# Po ' &ose i((ediately wrapped hi(sel+ up in Po and Pepe's blanket .lon* way# -ntonio 4n addition# your cooperation would help to +acilitate a better relationship between you and the national diocese 4 ad"ise you to *i"e it serious thou*ht ' -+ter a pause# -ntonio said# '1irst o++# how (any *raduates o+ your $institutes$ ha"e honest# *ood payin* <obs# (ay 4 ask/' -nother pause 'Aou don't *et the point# do you:' said the -rchbishop '9n the contrary# Aour !oliness# 4 *et the point only too well ' '4ndeed:' 4ndeed# -ntonio had his news +ro( sources that would turn a typical priest's +ace red 0he -rchbishop hurriedly took his lea"e 1ather -ntonio saw hi( as +ar as the (ain door o+ the courtyard leadin* into the street 7hen he reached his li(o# the -rchbishop turned +or one last look .*rin spread across his +ace 'Aes# indeeeeeed:' !e *ot into the back seat and his dri"er *lided the car down the (ain street o+ the %ockyards 'o((unity towards the entrance under the (otorway BBB Pepe was with his 6oni a*ain >he was *i"in* hi( a pi**yback ride so(ewhere 55 so(e place beauti+ul 0here was also a (an with a pleasant +ace and blond hair -s soon as he saw hi(# he said# 'Papa:' '&aki:' answered the (an Pepe rolled o++ 6oni's back into his ar(s but those weren't Papa's hands that were shakin* hi( now 'Pepe! (a%e up!' 0he coarse whisper belon*ed to &ose Pepe opened his eyes and blinked 0he sun was well abo"e the o++ice towers on the Dast side 1or the(# it was early Po was still snorin* '7hat do you want/' Pepe said *ru(pily 0hen he noticed &ose was stark naked '7hat the 55 : !a"e you lost it/' 'Pepe: Aou *otta help: 4 been ripped o++:' !e also didn't look well '7hat happened/' '454 don't know 4 *uess 4 was a bit hi*h 4 went +or a swi( in the hole 7hen 4 *ot out# 4 lay down +or a while 55 (ust'a +ell asleep# and 5 and 5 so(eone took all (y clothes ' 'Aou (ust'a been *od5aw+ul hi*h:' '7ell# yeah 5 er 5 we tried the white stu++ last ni*ht that 'icero *a"e us to try ' Po stirred and woke up '7hat the 55 :' &ose was shi"erin*# e"en thou*h it really didn't see( all that cold '.'8anpower# Aour !oliness# re)uires adult (en and wo(en# which we ha"e in short supply -s you see# we ha"e (ostly boys and *irls 7e (ake (en and wo(en out o+ the(# by encoura*in* the( to +inish school and teachin* the( a trade 9ne o+ our ex5boys now has a lucrati"e business and is one o+ our (ost re*ular donors >e"eral (ore ha"e returned as "olunteers 4 can take you to "isit others who now earn an honest li"in* ' 'Aes indeed# yes indeed 6ow# what i+ 4 were to reco((end so(e o+ your (ore able children +or on5the5<ob trainin* at one o+ our institutes/' '4 think 4'"e heard about your $institutes$ 6o thank you 4 think 4 pre+er the way we're doin* it here ' '7hat 4 a( proposin* would *o a lon* way towards sol"in* your +inancial proble(s .
e would look as thou*h he were tryin* too hard 0here was a watch display case ri*ht there Pepe pulled Po behind another rack 0hey put the clothes under her skirt and tucked the( into her knickers '2o look at those watches 4'll *o throu*h the door the nor(al way 'o(e to (e when 4 call you Po obeyed Pepe went throu*h the entrance o+ the depart(ent store# and o++ in the direction where Po could (ake it look natural to +ollow hi( throu*h the *ap !e looked around !is heart stopped Po was surrounded by security (en 9ne o+ the( was li+tin* her skirt re"ealin* the clothes +or &ose 7here did they all co(e +ro(/ -s they be*an takin* her back into the depart(ent store# Pepe un+ro.e to +it co(+ortably throu*h >o(eone Pepe's si.5but ' '4 said scra(:' 0he security *uard li+ted his blud*eon .e (icrochips sewn into the +abric 4t would dissol"e in the +irst wash but *ettin* the( past the detectors would be a proble( .BBB 0he stalls in the outdoor (arket would ha"e been easier pickin*s# but they weren't open yet 0hat's why Pepe and Po's workin* day didn't start till (uch later 0he 2lobal 'onsu(er 'entre# down the street# was <ust openin* its doors 0hey (ade +or that 0he security *uard at the door said# '!ey you: 6o be**in* allowed in this buildin* ' 'Dr 55 we're lookin* +or school supplies# >ir#' said Pepe '0hat way then %on't han* about:' 7hen they were out o+ si*ht# they (ade a beeline +or the depart(ent store 'hildren's clothes were on the second le"el 0he shoppers hadn't started to co(e yet .security *uard noticed the( and be*an keepin* an eye on the( Pepe could tell# but he acted as thou*h he didn't notice !e pulled Po o"er to a *lass display case +ull o+ scale (odels o+ the 8ars space station# and the 8ars shuttle 0he case was locked anyway# so the security *uard would think they were <ust kids *awkin* at the latest toys >oon he walked on Pepe looked around be+ore (akin* any (ore (o"es 0he ones in char*e o+ the boy's clothin* section were doin* so(ethin* around the till 4+ they went now# they could slip behind the rack with the boy's <eans and (atchin* tee shirts without bein* seen Pepe *rabbed Po's ar(# and they were o++ 0hey +ound so(ethin* that would +it &ose 6ow# how to *et it out/ Pepe put the clothes under his shirt# on his ri*ht side# and *ot Po to walk on that side o+ hi( -head# by the entrance# were the shopli+ter detectors 0he clothes probably had those new hi*h5tech thread si.etween one detector and the wall# there was <ust enou*h roo( +or so(eone Po's si.e# and ran a+ter the( !e had no idea what he was *oin* to say 8aybe he'd *rab her at the +irst chance and run 8aybe he'd do the 'bi*5brother5sent5by5(a(a5to5+etch5 nau*hty5sister' thin* 8aybe '>cra( kid:' '.+ew attendants were arran*in* thin*s a bit Pepe knew this wasn't the ri*ht ti(e o+ day +or it# but he wanted to *et it out o+ the way so they could (ake enou*h to eat# the(sel"es .
ut# you could still lose her 0here won't always be help nearby .ut 4 do hate lies ' '4+ you truly hated lies# you wouldn't need to co"er up ' .13 year old boy like you can only do so (uch ' Pepe was silent '4 ha"e a *ood +riendE one 4 think you'"e (et !is na(e is 1ather -ntonio !e could take *ood care o+ both o+ you Po would be (ore secure there than you could e"er (ake her ' Pepe was silent !e knew -tsuko was ri*ht !e'd (o"e into the 8ercy !ouse 55 +or Po's sake '!ow do you know so (uch about people/' Pepe asked '7hen you know and lo"e 0ruth# !e lets you in on (any secrets ' '!ow do you *et to know this 55 er 55 $0ruth$ bloke then/' 'Aou be*in to lo"e 0ruth when you hate lies ' '.0he (en and Po were enterin* a side roo( Pepe scra((ed# out throu*h the entrance o+ the depart(ent store# into the (iddle o+ the (ain +loor o+ the (all 0here# he stopped 0ears were +illin* his eyes !e was shakin* all o"er !e looked around 5 he didn't know what he was lookin* +or 5 he was desperate -t a table by a cappuccino bar he saw a +a(iliar +ace .e+ore he knew what he was doin*# he went towards it 4t was the old -sian (an that had helped the( once be+ore '-h 5 Pepe# what is botherin* you/' '0h5they'"e *ot Po:' sobbed Pepe '0h5they're *onna take her away:' '7here is she/' Pepe pointed '0ake (e there#' said -tsuko !e took Pepe by the hand# and Pepe led hi( back into the depart(ent store# and to the little door he'd seen the( enter -tsuko knocked '4 understand there's been a proble( with (y dau*hter#' announced -tsuko# as soon as they answered the door 0here were a couple o+ security *uards and another couple o+ (en in business suits# and a police(an 4n the (iddle was a "ery +ri*htened Po '>he's your dau*hter# is she/' 'Aes 4+ she has done any da(a*e# 4 will co(pensate ' -+ter a bit o+ discussion# they a*reed to let her *o '6ow# 4 wish to pay +or these clothes#' -tsuko said '4 know o+ so(eone who will need the( ' 0hey let hi( pay# they put the cloths into a shoppin* ba*# and they were o++ '7ho are the clothes +or/' asked Po 'Aour +riend# o+ course 4sn't that who you wanted the( +or/' '-re you really Po's papa/' asked Pepe '4 ha"e (ade (ysel+ Po's papa# and yours +or the ti(e bein*# until you +ind your own ' 0hey went towards the li+ts# and took one down to the under*round parkin* area 6ot +ar was the blue !yundai BBB 0he children told -tsuko where to turn# so he parked the !yundai next to the bush by the wire +ence 'Po# you take the clothes up to your +riend 4 wish to speak to Pepe 7hen you'"e *i"en hi( the clothes# please co(e back 7e'll ha"e so(e (ore to discuss ' >he crawled under the bush with the ba* 'Pepe# you al(ost lost so(ethin* "ery dear to your heart today ' Pepe nodded '>he is a dear precious *irl Aou were *i"en an i(portant <ob when your 6oni *a"e her to you ' !ow did he know about 6oni/ '.
a)uel -tsuko (ana*ed to stop +or a (o(ent at the side o+ the road# and Po yelled out the window to her .'!uh/' Po returned '&ose's burn'n up with +e"er 7e ha"e to help hi( ' -tsuko said# 'Pepe# you *o up with Po now# and help hi( down the stairs -t the 8ercy !ouse they can care +or hi( until he's better 4+ he wants he can stay there# or he can co(e back here to li"e ' Pepe went up with Po# and to*ether# they *ot hi( dressed and helped hi( down to the blue !yundai BBB 0hey took the lon* way around and passed near the outdoor (arket Po spotted .a)uel and her two little brothers (o"ed in &ose *ot better in a +ew days !e stayed on a +ew (ore# and then (o"ed back to the old construction site $0.uk .35 in for Print Version at Amazon.RobbyCharters.a)uel wanted to co(e too# but Pierre and 8ichele were out o+ earshot 0hey'd <oin the( there later BBB Pepe decided he liked it at the 8ercy !ouse Po was happy# and so was he 0he next day# .com www.99 USD in Kindle Version or All Other E-Book Formats (Smashwords Edition) $8.co.
but Pierre and Michele were out of earshot. you go up with Po now. We have to help him. and help him down the stairs.' Atsuko said. and so was he. Raquel wanted to come too. Jose got better in a few days. $0. *** Pepe decided he liked it at the Mercy House. They'd join them there later. or he can come back here to live.uk . The next day. 'Pepe. Raquel and her two little brothers moved in. *** They took the long way around and passed near the outdoor market.'Huh?' Po returned. and together.com www. and Po yelled out the window to her. Po spotted Raquel.99 USD in Kindle Version or All Other E-Book Formats (Smashwords Edition) $8. He stayed on a few more. they got him dressed and helped him down to the blue Hyundai.35 in for Print Version at Amazon. and then moved back to the old construction site. If he wants he can stay there.co. Atsuko managed to stop for a moment at the side of the road. At the Mercy House they can care for him until he's better.RobbyCharters.' Pepe went up with Po. 'Jose's burn'n up with fever. Po was happy.