Purify - Chapter 7 Continents Ilford and Romford
Lisa and Carrie decided to split up and take a continent each. Since they didn’t know what to call the two other thirds of Guger they settled on continents Ilford and Romford.
Lisa took Romford, the slightly larger of the two. She managed to get passage on a livestock freighter as a deck hand assistant. Quite what a female deck hand assistant’s job was she wasn’t sure but she would pick it up as she went along. She judged this to be part of the whole ‘getting to know Guger’ experience.
Meanwhile Carrie was trying to get a passage to Ilford. If she couldn’t bluff her way on board she could always use the Cammie to sneak aboard a ship. However, she didn’t want to have to hide away all the time and so she tried her luck applying for minor jobs on board the many small pleasure boats that plied their trade between the straights of Ilford and the Southern Continent (that the girls had decided to call Stratford). Finally, she got a job on board a twenty berth mini cruiser that was sailing for Ilford via a series of six short island hops. On board with her were a group of Ilfordian sales managers returning after doing some business on Stratford, two members of the Stratford church clergy and a senior Stratfordian diplomat (with his entourage). Carrie thought that this could be a very educational voyage.
It turned out that Stratfordian marine cuisine was easy to prepare consisting, as it did, of fresh Gugerian yak meat (eaten raw) and pureed (also raw) Gugerian root vegetables. She contemplated the idea of actually cooking something for these people but decided that they would be eating cooked food if they wanted cooked food and so she had better not rock the boat. (As it happens, it was simply the case that it had not occurred to the Gugerians to cook their food and, had she tried it, Carrie would have transformed Gugerian cuisine for the remainder of the planets short future. But that is another story).
It was the church men who first approached Carrie in the kitchen. They were not part of the social circle of the other passengers and were obviously lonely.
“How long have you been a chef on board this vessel?” asked one, as he stood in the doorway to the galley.
“This vessel?” asked Carrie rhetorically, “this is my first time on board this ship,” she said and then added, “You don’t travel much yourselves do you?”
“Not really,” came the reply, “My name is Spludunikov,” he added, “and this is my colleague, Tripockeen.”
“But you can call us Spud and Trip if it makes it easier for you,” quipped Trip who had now drummed up enough courage to poke his head around the door from where he had been hiding.
“My name is Carrie,” said Carrie, hoping that the suit’s translator would render her name into a suitable Gugerian equivalent. She was always alarmed to hear herself say Carrie but then realised that the suit had said something Gugerian and then translated it back to her as ‘Carrie’ as it had said it. Anyway it must have sounded OK to the Gugerians as they now entered the Galley and took the seats at the end of the Chef’s dining space in the corner.
“Why are you going to, to, - why are you travelling with us on this occasion?” she said, realising that ‘Ilford’ probably wouldn’t translate very well.
“We want to stop the war,” they said together. Carrie tried to look startled when they mentioned the word war but she knew it was coming. “Is it THAT serious?” she asked, po-faced.
“Oh yes!” said spud, “The government has placed the entire continent onto a pre-war alert.”
“Yes, I am afraid what Spud says it true. Unless the other two stop treating us like third class citizens then I fear that our president will show them why he thinks they should listen to him,” Trip added.
“But what can you two do?” asked Carrie. “I mean, no disrespect, but you are but two and there not that many openings for priests to address presidents.”
The men appeared both shocked and hurt at this suggestion. Spud spoke first, “They will see us as they are obliged to see any clergyman who wishes to speak with them. I don’t know where you were taught, young lady, but where I come from, we respect the church,”
“Respect the church” concurred Trip.
“Yes, Respect the church,” the men did a funny hand jive as they said this and clearly expected Carrie to do the same. She tried to mimic their hand movements and must have got close enough so the priests were satisfied.
“OK, so they’ll see you but what can you say that will cause them to change their minds and save instead of destroy?” Carrie was beginning to hope that these two crazy religious holy men might even succeed in their mission, perhaps with a little logical support from her.
“They have to.” “Respect the Church” said Spud and Trip in turn. It was then that Carrie realised that they were only talking about somehow not destroying the church’s extensive real estate and not just the believers. She decided that, like all religious people in her eyes, they were misguided fools who would be wasting their time without anything concrete to offer the ‘powers that be’ in Ilford.
Later that night, Carrie was strolling on deck, thinking over what the priests had been saying, when she bumped into the member of the Stratfordian royal family.
“Good evening young lady, we haven’t been introduced, my name is Prince Zukotu and who might you be?” he asked.
“I might be Carrie,” said Carrie, almost getting used to hearing her name spoken in Gugerian.
“Ha! Amusing as well as pretty and why are you on board this ship for this particular trip? The captain tells me you just want to get to Iccithawar, is that true?”
“Yes, your Lordship. I like to explore and this year I want to see as much of Iccithawar as possible.” Said Carrie, hoping that it would satisfy the prince.
“You can call me Tooie, most of my friends do.”
“I am your friend now am I?” said Carrie.
“I hope that we can be friends,” said the prince, “tell me, what are you going to see first in Iccithawar?”
“I want to get to the capital city first, take in some of the old buildings maybe the parliament?” said Carrie, secretly hoping that they had parliament in Ilford or Iccithawar.
“Now, you see. I can help you there,” said the prince, “I have a meeting with the Iccithawar parliament just two days after we land. Please say that you will keep me company until then.”
Carrie couldn’t believe her luck, being hit upon by the prince of Stratford of all people. She was unsure of the Prince’s intentions and of how she was expected to behave in the public presence of a member of the royal family, if indeed her presence was going to be public. So she decided to find out some more about the customs and intentions of the prince before agreeing to his offer.
“Why, Prince Tooie, you are playing with me. What would a prince want with a poor hired help? What would your Public say? And don’t tell me that a handsome Royal such as yourself doesn’t have hoards of eligible your ladies swooning at his feet.” The translator had to work overtime to try and keep up with all the idioms in Carrie’s speech but it must have managed it as the prince smiled and said simply, “There are but being a prince allows one to choose ones company. You interest me, Carrie. You’re not intimidated by me as other women are. I can talk to you and I like talking with you. Say yes and I promise to take you to the Parliament of Iccithawar.”
Carrie was persuaded. She agreed to the Prince’s offer on the condition that he allowed her to finish the trip still as the ship’s chef and the prince, though confused by the request, said yes.
For the remainder of the passage, the prince spent a lot of the time in the Galley talking with Carrie. She learnt a great deal about the rising political tensions on Guger. She found out that the inhabitants of Ilford and Romford both looked down on the Stratfordians as if they were little more than primitives. They used them only as food suppliers. (No they didn’t eat them! They ate what they farmed). This had always irked the Stratfordians, so much so, in fact that they had developed their own independent nuclear deterrent from scratch, just to show that they were capable of great science as well (the nuclear weapon being the epitome of science at the time).
It was hard for Carrie to make her imaginary Stratfordian life sound realistic. She longed to be able to tell him of the things she had seen that he would not believe. Of the attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion or of how she watched c-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhauser gate*. But she could not reveal her true identity just yet for it would jeopardise the mission to somehow prevent this planet’s nuclear destruction. Having a prince take you to the Parliament building on his own peace mission was her best chance to achieve that goal.
For the first time since setting sail, she wondered how Lisa was faring on her mission to get to Romford.
(*Homage to Philip K. Dick)