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Words, you might not know:Hide. doormat, fold, neatly, row, ashtray. CHAPTER ONELooking for a house 'It's all right, Rick



doormat, fold, neatly, row, ashtray.

CHAPTER ONELooking for a house 'It's all right, Rick. It's only the post,' she called.Six or seven thick brown envelopes lay on the doormat. Marilyn picked them up and took them into the kitchen. Rick was sitting at the table. He was finishing his breakfast.'Is there anything for me?' he asked.'They're all from estate agents,' she said. 'I hope there's something this time.'She put three envelopes down in front of Rick, and began to open the others herself. They had been looking for a house for three months. They were tired of the small flat, and they were tired of paying rent every week. They had been saving to buy their own house for nearly two years. They began looking through the letters from estate agents.Rick looked up. 'Here's one,' he said. 'Listen. Perfect first home. Two bedrooms, large living room, modern kitchen, bathroom, garage, small garden. And it's in Balmoral Avenue, on the new housing estate. $68,000. What do you think?''What number is it?' she asked.'Er... let me see. Thirty-five. Yes, thirty-five Balmoral Avenue.''That's funny,' she said. 'I've just been reading about the same house. Look, here's an advert from Norman and Naylor. I phoned them yesterday.''Ah, my advert's from Burchill and Bradley. Yes, it's the same house. Well, that's normal. They've put the house with two estate agents. Which one shall we phone?''It doesn't really matter,' said Marilyn. 'Give me the adverts. I'll phone when I get to work.''Work ... yes, what time is it?' said Rick.'Oh, no! It's nearly half past eight. Come on, we should hurry ... if you don't want to be late again.'Rick and Marilyn hurried out to the car. On the way to work they talked about the house. A lot of their friends lived on the new housing estate, and they'd been looking for a house in Balmoral Avenue, or in one of the roads near it, Sandringham Drive or Osborne Way. Marilyn stopped the car outside Rick's office.'I'll call the estate agent, and I'll call you later,' she said. Marilyn worked in an office near Rick's. She usually had the car because there was more parking space at her office, and because she finished work half an hour earlier than Rick.?CHAPTER TWOAppointment to view Marilyn hurried into her office, and put the two adverts down on her desk.She telephoned Burchill and Bradley at five past nine. The phone rang several times, then she heard a voice. 'Hello, this is Burchill and Bradley Estate Agents. This is a recording. I'm sorry, there isn't anyone here at the moment. The office is open from nine thirty until five thirty. If you would like to leave a message, we'll call you back.'Marilyn put the phone down. She didn't like telephone answering machines. It was easier to call the other estate agent. She looked at the advert again. There it was, Norman and Naylor, 513216. She called the number.'Good morning. Norman and Naylor. This is Mrs Adams speaking.''Oh, good morning,' said Marilyn. 'I've been looking through your adverts. I'm interested in 35 Balmoral Avenue. I wonder if I could see it?''Ah, yes,' said Mrs Adams. That's easy. The owners of 35 Balmoral Avenue are both out at work all day. They've given us a set of keys. I can take you round the house at any time. Today, if you like.''Could you show us at lunchtime?' asked Marilyn. 'My husband and I both work too. But we're free from twelve thirty until one forty-five.''That's all right. I'll meet you outside the house at ... one o'clock. Will that be all right?''That's OK, yes. We'll see you then.''Do you know where Balmoral Avenue is?' said Mrs Adams.'Oh, yes. We've been looking for a house on the High Trees Estate.''Right. I'll be outside the house in a blue Ford Mondeo at one o'clock, then.''Thank you,' said Marilyn. "We'll be in a white Volkswagen. See you at one.'Marilyn felt very excited. They had seen a lot of houses in the last few weeks, but she felt really interested in this one. She phoned Rick at work, and told him about the appointment. They agreed to meet outside Rick's office at twenty to one. CHAPTER THREETheir first house Rick was waiting when Marilyn arrived at the office. He jumped into the car, and they drove to Balmoral Avenue. They parked behind the blue Ford Mondeo. Mrs Adams got out, and came to meet them.'You know, it's much nicer when the owners aren't at home,' she said. 'Yоu can ask as many questions as you want.''Yes,' said Rick, 'and you don't have to agree when they tell you how nice the green and orange paint is.'Mrs Adams laughed. 'That's true... now let me find the right keys. I've got so many sets of keys in my bag.'Mrs Adams found the keys, and opened the door. Marilyn and Rick had been looking for a house just like it.'It was built just over two years ago,' said Mrs Adams, 'and it has everything you'll need ... central heating, a modern kitchen, and it's been decorated very well. The carpets were put in two years ago, and the cooker and fridge are included in the price. The kitchen's beautiful. Come on, I'll show you.'They went into the kitchen. 'Have you got any children?' said Mrs Adams.Marilyn and Rick looked at each other. 'No ... not yet,' said Marilyn.'Well, there's an excellent school just down the road, and you can see the garden from the kitchen window ...'Everything was easy. That evening Mrs Adams took them to see Mr and Mrs Barclay, the owners of the house. They were very nice people. They were moving to a bigger house. Marilyn and Rick agreed to buy the house. Two months later it was theirs! They moved in during September. They spent a lot of time painting and decorating. The house didn't really need decorating but they enjoyed doing it. They had been living in rented flats for years, and this was their first house. The weekends were wonderful. They painted, cleaned, decorated and worked in the garden. By Christmas the house really seemed like home. CHAPTER FOURA ghost in the house? The first of the little surprises came early in January. Marilyn and Rick arrived home, as usual, just after six o'clock one Tuesday evening. Rick opened the door, and went into the kitchen to make some tea. Marilyn followed him in. 'Rick,' she said, 'did you pick up the letters in the hall?''No,' he said, 'you know I didn't. You were just behind me.''Well, that's funny. Look, the post arrived after we'd left for work. It always does at this house. So, usually it's lying on the doormat when we get home. Right?''Yes,' said Rick. 'Why?''The post isn't on the floor now. It's in a neat pile on the table, next to the telephone.'Rick followed her into the hall. There were four or five letters in a pile on the hall table.'Maybe ... maybe the post arrived earlier than usual today. Perhaps it arrived before we left for work. Maybe we picked it up, put it there, and forgot,' he said.'No, I'm sure not,' said Marilyn. 'You see, I was waiting for this letter. It's from Wendy. I was thinking about it on the way home.'The next surprise was two weeks later. They had been out to dinner with friends on Wednesday evening, and they hadn't woken up when the alarm clock rang. Rick woke up at twenty to nine. They both got dressed quickly and left home without breakfast.They didn't make the bed, and they left their nightclothes on the floor. They were usually very tidy people, but there wasn't enough time. When they got home, Rick went upstairs first.'Marilyn,' he said, 'come up here.'Marilyn walked into the bedroom. The bed was made.Everything looked neat and tidy. She pulled back the bed covers. Rick's pyjamas and her nightdress were folded neatly on the pillows.'I'm sure we didn't make the bed,' she said.'Did you come home at lunchtime?' asked Rick.'No, of course not. I never do. There isn't enough time.''Well, you had the car,' he said.'No, I worked through the lunch hour today. We were busy,' she said. 'Rick, is this a joke? Did you ...?''I didn't come home either,' he said.'Then, we forgot,' said Marilyn. We made the bed and forgot we'd done it. We drank a lot last night. I mean, we forgot those letters a couple of weeks ago.'There were a few more surprises in the next few weeks. Once they found the letters on the hall table again. Another time the bathroom light was on. Rick was annoyed. He always worried about the electricity bills.'Did you leave the bathroom light on?' he said angrily.'No,' said Marilyn. 'Anyway, you were in the bathroom after me this morning. Rick, you're beginning to forget everything.'Another time they were late for work, and they left their coffee cups on the table. When they got home, the coffee cups had been washed up, and were standing on the table.Rick laughed. 'Maybe there's a ghost in the house,' he said. 'A very tidy ghost.''Don't be silly,' she said, 'it's a new house, not an old castle. There's no ghost.'Suddenly there was a flash of lightning, and the noise of thunder. It started raining. She looked out of the window.'Rick,' she said, 'there isn't a ghost, is there?'They both laughed then.They didn't laugh at the next surprise. They had been out to dinner, and they got home late. They were both tired. They went into the living room.'I'll make some tea, Rick,' said Marilyn. "You look in the newspaper and see what's on television.'She went into the kitchen.'Marilyn,' called Rick, 'where's the newspaper? I can't find it.'She came back into the living room. 'It was on the coffee table. I put it there this morning.''It isn't here now,' said Rick.They looked everywhere for the newspaper, but they couldn't find it anywhere.'I'm tired of this,' said Rick. 'Let's have a drink.'He went to the cupboard to get the bottle of whisky they had brought back from holiday two years before. They didn't usually drink whisky, and the bottle was nearly full. Rick opened the cupboard, and there was the newspaper! It was folded neatly, and it was lying next to the bottle.'Why did you put it in here?' he said.'I didn't. I was reading it before we left for work, and I put it on the coffee table,' said Marilyn.'I haven't opened this cupboard for weeks,' said Rick. 'Anyway, neither of us would put the newspaper in here. What's happening?'Marilyn sat down. 'Rick,' she said, 'you don't think there is a ghost here, do you?''What? A tidy ghost? I've never heard of a tidy ghost.''Why not?'Rick sat down too. 'But it's a new house.''Maybe someone died here. Maybe one of the Barclays' parents lived with them. Maybe they died here,' said Marilyn.'Or maybe there were houses here before . . . before the High Trees Estate was built.''I don't know,' said Marilyn. 'Maybe we should ask Mr and Mrs Barclay. We've got their new address.''We can't,' said Rick, 'it sounds so silly. "Excuse me, Mr Barclay. Did you leave a ghost here? Did you forget to take it with your furniture?" I can't ask them.''Well,' said Marilyn, 'I'm going to the library tomorrow lunchtime. I'm going to discover what was here before this house was built.' CHAPTER FIVEA visit to the library The next day, at twelve thirty, Marilyn hurried to the Sandbourne Central Library. She went over to the man at the desk.'Excuse me,' she said, 'have you got any books about the history of Sandbourne ... old maps, anything like that?''Oh, yes,' he said. 'What do you want to know?''Er, I'm interested in the High Trees Estate area. I live there, and I've always been interested in history.''Well, come over here, we'll have a look.'Marilyn followed the man to a shelf of books about the history of the area.'I'm very interested in old stories ... ghost stories ... things like that,' she said.'Ghost stories?' he said. There won't be many ghost stories about that area. It's all new.''Er ... what was there before the housing estate?' asked Marilyn.'Well, that's easy. It used to be High Trees Farm. They knocked down the farm five, maybe six years ago.''Have you got an old map?' she asked.'Yes, I'll find it for you,' said the man.When Rick came out of the office, Marilyn was waiting in the car. She opened the door.'Rick,' she said, 'I went to the library today.''Why?' he said. 'You don't believe there really is a ghost, do you?''I found an old map of the area,' she said. There used to be a farm. The estate is built on an old farm.''So?' said Rick.'I looked at the map. The farmhouse used to be where Balmoral Avenue is now. It used to be right in the middle of Balmoral Avenue.''Yes?''Well, our house, number thirty-five, is right in the middle of the Avenue. Perhaps our house is just where the farmhouse used to be. I looked in another book. The farmhouse was built about two hundred years ago.' 'That doesn't mean there's a ghost! There are thousands of old houses with no ghost stories. Anyway, I don't believe in ghosts. And neither do you.''Until today,' said Marilyn. 'Can you explain about the newspaper in the cupboard? The letters? The bed that was made? The clean coffee cups? The light in the bathroom?''We've been very busy,' said Rick. We've been busy at work, and we've been working hard in our free time on the house. We're forgetting things, that's all.''I hope so, Rick,' she said. 'I hope so.'They arrived home. Marilyn opened the door and turned on the light. There, on the hall table, was a neat pile of letters. CHAPTER SIXMurder at the old farm A week later there was another surprise, and this time they had a row. It was the worst row since they had got married. They got home, as usual, at six o'clock. Rick went into the living room. 'Marilyn,' he said, 'what's this?'The ashtray, which was usually on the shelf near the radio, was on the coffee table. A cigarette end was in the ashtray.'Who's been here?' said Rick.Marilyn picked up the ashtray. 'Look, Rick,' she said, 'you told me that you had stopped smoking. You know that I don't like smoking.''It's not mine,' he said. 'I haven't had a cigarette for more than two years. Have you been home today?''No, I haven't,' she said. 'But somebody has. I've never smoked. You know that.'She picked up the cigarette end. There was red lipstick on it. She showed it to Rick.'A woman's been here,' she said. 'What's happening, Rick? Who is she?''A woman ghost that smokes Marlboro cigarettes,' he said.'It isn't funny, Rick,' she said. She went to the door. 'I'm going out for a walk. Don't come with me. I want to think.'Marilyn walked along Balmoral Avenue. All the houses were the same. They had all been built two years before. She walked round the corner into Osborne Way. There was one older house at the end of Osborne Way. It had been there before the estate was built. An old man was working in the garden.'Good evening,' said Marilyn.'Good evening,' he replied. 'It's a lovely evening, isn't it?''Yes,' she said. 'Er ... have you lived here for a long time?''Oh, yes, my dear,' he said. 'I've been living here for thirty years.''Do you remember the old farm ... the one that used to be here before the estate was built?''High Trees Farm? Of course I do. I used to work there.' The old man walked over to her.'Who lived there?' said Marilyn.'Why are you interested in High Trees Farm?' he said. You're from one of the new houses, aren't you?''Er, yes,' said Marilyn. 'I'm very interested in history ... the history of this area.''Well, the farm belonged to old Giles Varley. He lived there by himself - since his wife died, that is. He was a strange man. Nobody liked him very much. I didn't. He used to be a very difficult boss, you see. Everything had to be in the right place. "Don't put that on the shelf!" he used to say to me. "Put it in the cupboard!" And the house . . . I've never seen a place as clean and tidy as that house. His wife had always been a very tidy woman, and he wanted to keep the house the same. Yes, poor old Varley.''What happened to him?' said Marilyn.'Don't you remember?' said the old man. 'It was in all the newspapers six or seven years ago.''We didn't live in Sandbourne then,' said Marilyn.'It was sad,' he said, 'very sad. They never found the murderer, either.''The murderer?' said Marilyn.'That's right. He was murdered in the old farmhouse. A robber, that's what the police thought. I found the body, you know.'Marilyn felt suddenly cold. 'I see,' she said. Well, thank you. It's been very interesting.''Good night, then,' said the old man. Marilyn turned round and walked home very slowly.When she got home, Rick was in the garden. They had bought a small tree at the weekend, and Rick was putting it in the front garden. He called to her.'Marilyn! Come here. Look at this!'She walked over to him. There was a hole in the ground for the tree. There were a lot of old bricks in the hole.'So,' he said, 'there was a building here before they built this house. Do you think it was the old farmhouse?'Marilyn felt cold. 'Rick,' she said, 'come inside. We'll have a cup of tea. I've got something to tell you.' CHAPTER SEVENThe ghost appears A few days later, both Marilyn and Rick caught flu. They felt terrible all weekend. On Monday neither of them felt well enough to go to work. They telephoned their offices, and decided to spend the day at home. It was a boring day. They both had headaches, and they spent the day in the living room. Rick watched videos, Marilyn read a book from the library, Ghosts of Sandbourne and East Wessex. At half past two Marilyn suddenly looked up.'What's that?' she said.They heard voices outside the front door. Then they heard the sound of a key in the lock. Rick jumped up. 'What ...?'They heard footsteps in the hall.'It's a very nice hall.' It was a man's voice. Rick and Marilyn looked at each other. Then the living room door began to open. Marilyn took Rick's hand. Two men and a woman walked into the room. They stopped in surprise.'What are you doing here?' said Rick angrily. 'Oh, I'm terribly sorry,' said one of the men. 'I thought you were out.'He turned to the man and woman behind him. 'Oh, this is Mr and Mrs Patterson. They're very interested in your house.''And who are you?' said Marilyn.'Oh, I'm sorry. Of couse we haven't met. I'm Michael Webb. From Burchill and Bradley. I'm very pleased to meet you, Mrs Barclay.''I'm not Mrs Barclay!' said Marilyn. The Barclays moved months ago. Last September.'Rick was laughing. 'Ah! I understand! You're the tidy ghost.'Mr Webb looked worried. 'The tidy ghost? I don't understand ...''Yes, the tidy ghost,' said Rick. He turned to Marilyn. The letters, the nightclothes, the newspaper ...'Marilyn was laughing too. '... the lipstick on the cigarette, the coffee cups, the bathroom light,' she said.'I'm sorry,' said Mr Webb, 'I really don't understand.''We bought the house from the Barclays. We bought it through Norman and Naylor ... and you're from Burchill and Bradley, the other estate agents!' said Marilyn.'Oh, I see!' said Mr Webb. The Barclays never told us that the house had been sold. I've been showing the house to people for six months. I am sorry. The Barclays gave us a set of keys, and told us to show people the house when they were at work.'Marilyn smiled. 'And you've been tidying the house for us, haven't you?' she said.Mr Webb looked uncomfortable and embarrassed. His face was going redder and redder.'Er, yes,' he said. 'You see, I usually arrive before the people that want to see the house. So ... I've been coming in and ... er, tidying things.''And the cigarette with lipstick?' said Marilyn.'Yes, I'm sorry about that. I brought a lady to see the house, Mrs Green. She wanted a cigarette while we were talking about the house. I forgot to throw it away. I remembered later in the evening. Didn't you know that it was someone looking at the house?''Well, no ... we didn't,' said Marilyn.'Oh, dear,' said Mr Webb. 'I hope there wasn't any trouble about it.''I thought ...' Marilyn looked at Rick. 'I thought my husband ...' Then she felt sorry for Mr Webb, who was very embarrassed. 'I thought my husband had started smoking again,' she said.Mr Webb remembered that Marilyn had said 'the cigarette with lipstick'. He went redder again.'I'm very, very sorry,' he said.Marilyn smiled. She looked at Mr and Mrs Patterson, who were looking embarrassed too.'It's a pity,' said Mrs Patterson. 'It's a lovely house, and it's a lovely area.''Yes, well, it's my fault. I'm sorry I've wasted your time,' said Mr Webb.'It isn't your fault,' Marilyn said. The Barclays didn't tell you they had moved. Look, can I get you all a cup of tea?''Yes, please take a seat,' said Rick. 'I know that Mr and Mrs Collins at number twenty-nine are trying to sell their house. It's just the same as this one. Perhaps we're going to be neighbours!'Mr and Mrs Patterson sat down. Mr Patterson picked up Marilyn's book which was lying on the coffee table.'Hmm,' he said, 'Ghosts of Sandbourne and East Wessex. I hope there aren't any ghosts round here.''Oh, no,' said Marilyn, 'there aren't any ghosts round here. They're all new houses.'She went into the kitchen to make the tea. They had had a cup of tea and a sandwich an hour earlier, and she hadn't washed up. There, on the kitchen table was the teapot, and a neat pile of plates and cups. She opened the teapot. It was clean! 'But...' she said. Then she heard a laugh behind her. It was Rick. 'Don't worry,' he said, 'it was me. I came out and washed up half an hour ago. Don't you remember?'

Space Affair



Peter Viney

Words, you might not know:

starship, shift, trap.

 

CHAPTER ONEBeta 4297 Gareth climbed out of the freezer. He knocked a few small pieces of ice from his clothes, and stood up. He shook his head. A freezer technician was standing next to him. She was wearing a silver metal suit.'Name?''Gareth ... Gareth Palmer.''Number?''Beta 4297.''Job?''Garden Technician, Class Four.''What are six threes?''Eighteen.''And nine fours?''Nine fours are thirty-six.''Where are you?''On the New Adventurer.''Where are we going?''To the star Orelia. Planet Five.'The freezer technician put down her pen. She turned to the doctor. 'He's all right. No problems.'She turned back to Gareth. 'You're OK, Beta 4297. You can go to your room. Dinner will be in forty minutes. Report for work at 18.00 hours.'Gareth walked out of the Freezer Room. He was always a little nervous. It didn't happen very often, but every two or three months, someone didn't wake up, or they did wake up but they couldn't remember who they were or what they were doing. He thought about Philip. Philip was a garden technician, too. When he woke up last year he was like a baby. He couldn't speak or feed himself. They put him in the hospital for tests, but there was nothing they could do. They had to kill him. There was no room on a starship for passengers.Gareth hurried to his room. He wanted a shower. That was always the first thing you wanted after two weeks in the freezer. He found his room, stopped and looked at the sign on the door. ROOM 543ALPHA 3461BETA 4297 He opened the door and went in. The room, as usual, was empty. He took his key from his pocket and opened his cupboard. He took out a work suit and laid it on the bed, and then he took off the metal freezer suit, and put it in the cupboard. He got in the shower, and turned on the hot water. He felt better immediately. He stood in the shower for two minutes, then the shower turned itself off. Two minutes was the longest time you could have in the shower. Then he saw something in the bottom of the shower tray. A little piece of gold metal.He picked it up. It was an earring. A small gold earring. 'Alpha 3461,' he said to himself. 'So, Alpha 3461 is a woman.' He smiled. He had never met Alpha 3461, of course. She was in the freezer now. She was going to be there for two weeks, then Gareth had to go to the freezer, and Alpha 3461 could come back to the room for her two weeks. Alpha and Beta workers never met. There were a lot of rules. You couldn't leave anything in the room. Everything had to go in your cupboard. Nobody ever asked about the other workers. It was easier. Gareth put on his work suit. He put the earring on the table. He looked at it for a minute. He knew nothing about Alpha 3461. They had used the same room for three years now, and they were going to use it for seven or eight years more. He didn't know what she looked like, how old she was or what she did. CHAPTER TWOThe New Adventurer The New Adventurer was a Type 7D starship. All Type 7 starships worked on a two-shift system. There were two shifts of workers, and each shift spent two weeks in the freezer, then two weeks at work. During the time in the freezer you didn't get older, so that after a ten-year journey through space, you were only five years older.The journey to Orelia Five took ten years each way. Most of the people on the starship would stay on Orelia Five, but you could return to Earth if you wanted to. Without the freezers, people would be more than twenty years older when they got back. The freezers cut this time in half. Scientists on Earth were working on faster starships, and they were working on better freezers, too. Two weeks was the longest safe time in the Type 7 freezer. In the ten-year journey to Orelia Five, about one per cent of the starship's crew would die in the freezers. When the scientists tried four weeks, more than thirty per cent died. At six weeks it was one hundred per cent. So they used two shuts. Alpha workers were awake for weeks 1 and 2, Beta workers were awake for weeks 3 and 4. A few of the crew, the two captains, the most important officers, and the freezer technicians worked a different shift. They were awake either for weeks 2 and 3, or for weeks 1 and 4.The biggest problem was the time in space. Everyone knew about the first Type 1 starship. It left the Earth in 2235 on a 75-year journey to the Centauri star system. But when it arrived in 2310, it found thousands of Earth people were already there.The first starship that arrived on Centauri was a Type 4 which left Earth in 2281, and arrived on Centauri in 2289. Between 2235 and 2281 scientists discovered the Hyper-Drive engine, which was much faster than the old Type 1 and Type 2 starships. The second ship to arrive on Centauri was a Type 3 which left Earth in 2275, then a Type 2 which left in 2250. Last of all was the Type 1 from 2235. You didn't know what was going to happen because it was impossible for Hyper-Drive starships to communicate with the Earth. Perhaps when Gareth's Type 7 starship arrived on Orelia Five they would find that a Type 8 or 9 was already there. CHAPTER THREEWho is ALPHA 3461? Gareth reported for work in the gardens at 18.00 hours. The gardens were one of the most important parts of the starship. They had plants from Earth for the new colonies on Orelia Five, and they also produced food for the starship. The plants cleaned the air on the spaceship, and produced oxygen.Gareth walked over to his control desk. Gareth controlled the oranges and lemons. He looked at the computer terminal. Everything was all right. Alpha 6558 had done a good job during his two weeks.He thought about Alpha 3461. He didn't know what her job was. He pushed some buttons on the computer. A list of garden technicians appeared. He read it quickly. So she wasn't a garden technician then. He couldn't get information about any other jobs.He walked over to the orange-farming area. The trees were very small, less than two metres high, but each tree had more than a hundred oranges on it. Gardening and farming were two of the most important sciences. There were millions of people in the star colonies, and food had to be produced very quickly in small areas.Gareth looked at the water pipes. They were all right. He was still thinking about Alpha 3461. He wanted to know more about her.Gareth finished work at 04.00 hours. On Earth, 04.00 was night time. In space it wasn't important. He went back to his room and changed his clothes. It was time for a meal. Restaurant Area Number Three was nearly full when Gareth arrived. He took a tray and went to sit at a table with some friends, Mohamed and Hiroshi. They were Starship Hyper-Drive technicians.'Hi,' he said. 'I'm happy to see you're both awake again.''It was a good day,' said Hiroshi. 'Everybody woke up.''How do you know?' asked Gareth. When there was an accident in the Freezer Room, it was usually a secret.'I've got a girlfriend in the Freezer Room,' said Hiroshi. 'She told me.'They finished their meal, and went to the Sports Area. There was a football match at 06.00 between Area 3 and Area 9. They all wanted to watch it. They sat down next to a tall woman. They didn't know her, but she was wearing a freezer technician's uniform. Area 3 won the match easily, 12-1.'That's the best score I've ever seen,' said Mohamed.The tall woman smiled. You weren't here last week,' she said. The Alpha team from Area 4 scored fifteen.'Gareth thought for a moment. Of course! The officers and freezer technicians worked different shifts from everyone else. So they met people from the Alpha shift and the Beta shift! He turned to the woman.'Er ... you don't know Alpha 3461, do you?' he said.She laughed. 'There are 9,000 people on each shift!' she said. 'Anyway, I can never remember numbers. What's his name?''Er... Alpha 3461 is a woman,' he said.'OK, what's her name?' said the woman.'I don't know,' said Gareth. He felt stupid."What does she look like?''I don't know,' said Gareth again. 'I don't know anything about her.'The woman looked at Gareth. 'Then why are you asking about her? You shouldn't ask about people on the Alpha shift, you know.'Mohamed got up. 'Come on, Gareth . . . let's go and have a coffee,' he said.They sat down in one of the coffee rooms near the Sports Area. Mohamed looked at Gareth for a moment.'Who's the mystery woman?' he said.'Oh, she's the one that has the same room as me,' said Gareth.'How do you know that she's a woman?' said Mohamed.Gareth told him about the earring. Mohamed looked worried.'Gareth, you know you shouldn't ask questions about her. If that freezer technician reports your conversation, you'll be in trouble.''Why?' said Gareth.'Oh, come on, Gareth! You know the rules as well as I do!' said Mohamed.'Yes, I know the rules,' said Gareth. 'I know them, but I don't understand them. Why shouldn't I ask about her?'Hiroshi moved forward. 'I don't really understand, either,' he said, 'but they always keep the two shifts apart on starships. I think it's because there are 9,000 of us on each shift, and we're locked up together for ten years. When we arrive on Orelia Five, there'll be 9,000 new faces - 9,000 faces that we aren't bored with.''Yes,' said Mohamed, 'it may not be very important, but it's like all the rules on a starship. You have to obey all the rules one hundred per cent. If we question the rules, it will be impossible to go on.''So we must obey with no questions at all,' said Gareth.'You know that, Gareth,' said Hiroshi. We all knew that before we left Earth.''Forget about this Alpha woman,' said Mohamed. 'Really, it's the best thing to do. ' CHAPTER FOURProblems in the Freezer Room It was the last day of the Beta shift. Gareth was in his room. In half an hour it was going to be time to go to the Freezer Room. Gareth got into the shower. Very carefully he put the earring on the shower tray where he had found it. Then he took a small white flower and put it down next to the earring. He hoped the cleaners would be too lazy to check the shower. They hadn't checked it last month. The small flower was from a lemon tree. If the cleaners found it, there would be trouble. It was forbidden to pick flowers from the garden area. Nobody had seen Gareth when he picked it earlier in the day.When Gareth got to the Freezer Room the door was closed. A starship policeman was standing outside.'You'll have to wait for a few minutes,' said the policeman. 'We're having a small problem.'Gareth could hear screams from inside the room.'What's wrong?' he said.'I shouldn't tell you,' said the policeman, 'but it's one of the cooks. He doesn't want to go in the freezer. He's frightened. He says he wants to stay awake until we get to Orelia Five.''What's happening?' said Gareth.'What do you think?' said the policeman. 'We're putting him in the freezer. If he's still making trouble when he wakes up in two weeks, we'll have to ... well, you know what we'll have to do.'Gareth knew. Five minutes later the door opened. Gareth went in and walked towards the freezers. He climbed into one. Before he started to fall asleep he thought about Alpha 3461. 'I wonder if she uses the same freezer, too?'Two weeks later, as soon as Gareth left the Freezer Room, he hurried to his room. He closed the door and walked round the room. It looked empty, as usual. He looked in the shower. No earring, nothing. He had his shower. He felt sad. What had he been hoping to find? He didn't really know. He got out of the shower and went over to the sink. He wanted a drink of water. He turned on the tap. Nothing happened for a second, then the water came out suddenly. A piece of paper came out with the water! He picked it up. It was wet. He sat on the bed and looked at it. Dear Beta 4297,Thank you for finding my earring. And thank you for the flower. You mustn’t do anything like that again. It’s dangerous for you! I’ve often wondered about you. I don’t know anything about you. I know you are a man. You didn’t clean the sink very well, after you shaved, and the cleaners are not very careful in this area of the ship. Well, we’ll meet on Orelia Five. Until then, good luck!Best wishes,Alpha 3461 Gareth read the note several times. It was dangerous for her, too. He should throw the note away, but he couldn't. Now he really wanted to know about Alpha 3461.He went for dinner. As he walked into the Restaurant Area, he saw the policeman again.'Hello,' he said. What happened to the cook?'The policeman looked round quickly. 'Be quiet,' he said. 'I'll be in trouble. It's forbidden for me to talk about it. Let's just say - there was a problem with his freezer. He didn't wake up.''You mean ... they killed him,' said Gareth.'I didn't say that. There was a problem with his freezer. And you should forget this conversation. I'm going to forget it.'Gareth thought for a long time about the note. On the last day of his shift he sat in his cabin, and wrote to Alpha 3461. Dear Alpha 3461,Can I call you 61? Or can I call you by your real name? I'm Gareth Palmer, and I'm a garden technician. I'm 26, and I come from London in the United European District on Earth. This is my first space trip, and I'm going to stay on Orelia Five, so it's probably my last space trip, too. I don't know why I want to know about you, but I do. But I don't want you to do anything dangerous. You know what happens to people who break the rules. Be careful! Very best wishes, Gareth Gareth put the note carefully into the tap. He was smiling as he went to the Freezer Room. He wanted the next two weeks to pass quickly. CHAPTER FIVEAn Educational Program Gareth nearly got into trouble when he got out of I the freezer two weeks later. As usual, the freezer technician asked him questions. When she said, 'Name?' he said, 'Gareth Palmer.' But when she said, 'Number?' he replied 'Alpha 3461,' because that was what he had been thinking about. He quickly said, 'No, sorry, I mean Beta 4297,' but he had to have half an hour of tests. He hated the tests. They didn't hurt, but he wanted to hurry to his room as quickly as he could. At last the doctor said that he was all right, and he could go.He went to the sink at once. It was there! He read it immediately. Dear Gareth, This is stupid and wrong. But I want to know about you, too. I had to write this note. My name’s Sara Lopez, and I was born on Centauri Three. I’m 23 and I’m an educational technician. I work on the self-study computer programs and my special area is the history of space exploration. I wrote the new program on the history of the Centauri colonies. It’s in the library now. I finished it this week. You should look at it, especially the piece on the first colony in 2298. Write again.Best wishes,Sara Gareth smiled. As soon as he finished dinner he hurried to the self-study library. He walked along the row of people in the library until he found a computer terminal that no one was using. He put his things on the chair and went over to the library technician.'Hello,' he said. 'I'm interested in the history of the Centauri colony. Have you got anything?''Let me see,' she said. 'I think there's a new educational program.'She gave him a small green disk. He walked back to his terminal. Hiroshi was standing there.'Hi, Gareth,' he said. What are you doing with a green disk? Green disks are history, aren't they? I didn't know you were interested in history.''Er ... yes, I am,' said Gareth. What are you doing?''I'm looking at a program about Japan. My great-great-grandfather was Japanese. He was the first one in our family that went into space, you know.'Hiroshi went to a computer terminal on the other side of the room. Gareth sat down, put on the headphones and put the disk into the computer. The program was very exciting. Gareth watched the hologram pictures of the first starship landing. He asked the computer to move to 2298. He saw a hologram of the main city on Centauri, and listened to the computer voice. Suddenly he sat up! The computer voice was saying:'And now, entertainment. The first Centauri television station opened in January 2298.'The first programmes were old videos from Earth. In May they showed the first programme that was made on Centauri. It was a comedy, and it was called Gareth, I think I love you. The Centauri television station made many TV programmes after that, and they were popular everywhere.'Sara! She wrote the computer program! Gareth went over to the desk and got some more programs, Television in the 23rd Century, A Short History of Centauri, Television on Centauri, and some others. There was nothing on any of them about Gareth, I think I love you. It was a secret message to him! Gareth spent hours on Sara's program during that shift. There were no other messages, but while he was watching the program, he thought about Sara all the time. He could meet her in seven or eight years, but how could he meet her before then?The next day he returned to the self-study library. He asked the library technician about programs on Centauri. She didn't seem very interested.'But I've got a lot of questions about it. I want to speak to the education technician that wrote the program. Is she ... or he ... an Alpha or a Beta?''I've got no idea.''But you must have some information. There's only one self-study library.'The library technician pushed a few buttons on her terminal.The person that wrote the program was a ... Sara Lopez. We only have the name. But I've never met her, so I'm sure she's an Alpha. Of course, you can't speak to her.''No, of course not. Could I leave a message?''Well, that's forbidden.''It's a question about the program.' That's all right.' Gareth left a message. Dear Programmer,I am interested in the history of television on Centauri. Your program talks about television in 2298. I saw a programme from Centauri once. It was a very old one. I saw it on an old video. It was called 'I love you too'. When was that programme made? Please reply.Yours,Garden technician, Beta 4297 A year went by. Gareth put notes in the tap every two weeks. When he got back from the Freezer Room there was always a note waiting for him. He spent hours in the self-study library. Sara usually put little messages into her computer programs. He wanted to meet her, but it was impossible. CHAPTER SIXAn Accident In The Garden One day he woke up in the freezer. His eyes opened. Two freezer technicians were standing over him. One of them spoke. 'Beta 4297 is awake, Doctor.'The doctor hurried over. 'Are you OK? You know who you are, don't you?''Yes,' said Gareth.'We haven't got time for tests,' said the doctor. 'We've had to wake you up early. You've only been in the freezer for three days.''Why?' said Gareth.There's been an accident in the garden. There was an explosion in the pipes to the orange trees. They need your help. Go there now. Don't change your clothes, you haven't got a room. It's the Alpha shift.'Gareth hurried up to the garden area. All the garden technicians were working in the orange area. He didn't know any of them. The Chief Garden Technician came over. Gareth knew him, because he worked weeks 1 and 4, like all the officers.'Gareth, we need your help. The orange trees were in the explosion. We have to save them.''Right,' said Gareth. 'Where's Alpha 6558?' Alpha 6558 was the garden technician who worked on the orange and lemon trees on the Alpha shift.'Carl - that's his name - was hurt in the explosion. He broke his leg. He'll be OK, he's in the hospital now. That's why we had to wake you up.'Gareth worked for nearly twenty hours on the orange trees. There wouldn't be any oranges for a few months, but he was able to save the trees. The Chief Garden Technician was waiting for him.'You'll have to use Carl's room,' he said. 'I've had your things moved there.''Right,' said Gareth.'And we'll have to change you to the Alpha shift. I'm sorry, all your friends are on the Beta shift.'Gareth didn't say anything.'You'll have to stay on the Alpha shift for three or four months. There's no one else that knows about oranges and lemons on this shut. The Beta shift will be all right. Jose can do your job there.''I can change to the Alpha shift for the rest of the journey, if you like,' said Gareth.'Yоu don't mind?' said the Chief Garden Technician.'No, not at all,' said Gareth. He was wondering when Sara finished work.'All right. I'll show you where Carl's room is,' said the Chief Garden Technician.Gareth felt very happy.The Chief Garden Technician looked at him for a moment.'Stop smiling, Gareth. I know why you want to work on the Alpha shift.'Gareth felt cold suddenly.'Yes, when they moved your things to Carl's room, they found these.' He showed Gareth some pieces of paper. They were Sara's notes. He hadn't wanted to throw them away.'I told the policeman who found them that you were . . . that you were writing a romantic book. I also told him that you were the only person that knew enough about the trees. He agreed to forget about it.'The Chief Garden Technician showed him Carl's room on the plan of the starship.'Now, you go and get some sleep, you need it,' he said.'Yes. Thank you,' said Gareth.He walked slowly out of the garden area. Carl's room was downstairs, and to the left. His old room was to the right.Gareth smiled again. He turned right, and began to walk more quickly.

 

Love or money

Rowena Akinyemi





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