Multicoloured Sector System. By Marc Fiszman.
On September 1, 1919, little Lord Mivok was propelled into the world, enlarging an already large family in D1.460-Node, a sulphur-mining community near the southwestern tip of the sector. Even by the standards of the day, when so many in the outlying regions were struggling for the simplest item, this family was devastatingly poor, and Lord Mivok was frequently made to suffer for his "crime". He felt these affronts in a terrible way, describing in his diary the "fearsome voltrons which rain their hot acid upon me" and the "father who becomes as a writhing blackness, drawing me down through his bubbling liquids". Written by a young man of two, it is clear that this was a prodigious youth, one with the potential to achieve great things, if only he be granted the sliver of an opportunity.
After six rough years of above-ground acclimatisation, bespectacled Lord Mivok joined his father in the vicious fumes of the sulphur pits (as per the traditional common bondage) . Those first weeks below tended to be dreadfully painful for every young lad, but the lungs had undergone a gradual initiand the past several years, breathing in the diluted yellow clouds, and such is the wondrous adaptability of the kishkahn specimen, they tended to swell to a not exorbitant degree, so that soon they were clear, and boys became men.
Sadly, this was not the case with Lord Mivok. He had always been a delicate child, prone to bouts of strange illnesses which no one understood, and the regular beatings his father had inflicted on him for a good portion of his first three years (things having become rather less violent following Hovan's promotion) had greatly weakened an already fragile constitution, which now responded with such grotesque lung inflations that the boy was often unable to breathe. He looked to his fellow miners for assistance, of course, but his pleas were met with insults and mockery -- even from his father and five muscle-bound brothers -- and even when he found some slight defender, the pull of the norm ensured his complete isolation from the herd:
'Ehh, c'mon li'l minch! Get ye bignikin' pick in't pack hinner.'
'Ach, lay out then ol' sod, Micklen. Can bignikin' nowt breeth.'
'Eh, wot-say, Frankie? Were't defend tha li'l skinny raskil, snatch o' lad, weet liks'm clouds n'useless lik a li'l girlee?'
'Ach, mebbe ye right, Micklen. Mebbe ye right. Ah sweart giv'n o'er.'
'So sez it then, Frankie.'
'Shows art mean't.'
'Ehh, okey dokey. Hey-hey freako, wot ye be weazin' fer? Bignikin' li'l girlee.'
The boy was utterly disconsolate, abandoned by every man available, and so he turned to the other sex, particularly his sisters, Zor and Zar, good hardy girls with a sure hand at the stove, who contrived an ingenious plan to extricate the little one from the sulphurs before his lungs exploded and he died (for their wibblies suggested he was the Silver Boot).
'Dear Zor,' said Zar, 'we know that our little one is very 2-Modal, what with the fantastic stories he tells over the dinner table. I have also noticed a nascent talent for 1-Modal discourse, though this is generally overwhelmed by his 2-Mode. Perhaps if we can help him to develop this discourse and mix it somehow with his 2-Modal expressions, he will reveal himself as the Silver Boot.'
'So says Vonitok,' Zor said. 'And yes, perhaps it is he. For yes, the wibblies, and it does indeed "just feel oh so very right". But the development you speak of will likely take many years, since he clearly has much to learn. And don't forget that the mixture is just the beginning, for then come transport, research, withdrawal.'
'Ah yes, very true. And yet, the way things are going, the poor boy will be dead by year's end.'
'Indeed...though now my mind twirls, I begin to wonder if we might use the start of the mixing to effect his escape from the sulphurs. For note, dear sister, that as he develops his 1-Mode, he will become a more effective debater, perhaps to the point of garnering crust. If it can then be shown that there are substantially more units to be earned through debate than the mining work, the father will likely release him from the traditional common bondage. For as much as the father has punished the boy, still he cares for him and wishes only the best.'
'Interesting, sister. But do you really think there are units to be made that way?'
'Well, I can't say there are official jobs in D1.460-Node which relate to fine talking (he is, of course, barred from this incestuous node's political sphere), but what if we create some kind of debating competition involving the groups of petty official boys who return from Up North on the weekends? Perhaps there could be a series of preliminary bouts leading up to a grand finale with a monetary prize.'
'Correct me if I'm wrong, worthy sibling, but you seem to be suggesting a huge final debate, perhaps at the annual Squiggley Fayre, six months hence, by which time the petty officials will be so frustrated by our young one's indomitable debating skills that they'll throw huge amounts into the incentive barrel.'
'Precisely. What say you?'
'I say: let us on.'
And so they onned, carrying sickly Lord Mivok to the banqueting hall each Saturday mid-afternoon, when the petty officials and their newly returned boys feasted on the finest meats and ales (served, of course, by the miner fathers and their miner sons (though never Lord Mivok, who was usually in his cot recovering)). Since the sisters felt the father would scuttle their plans if he witnessed the build-up , Zar would enter ahead of the others, snuggling up to him while wondering if they might go for a quick stroll along the canal. The man's love for his Zar was such that he could never refuse, and once they had exited, Zor would carry in her poor little brother and seek out the combatant she and Zar had observed in their rings; for the sisters had planned the whole thing with the greatest of diligence, scheduling the precise number and intensity of battles leading up to the Squiggley climax. They would ease the lad in, just as he had supposedly been eased into his mining work, except here he would strengthen, would grow more adept in the subtleties of effective debate, since this was an area to which he was naturally inclined, not some mass-designated task which took no account of the individual.
Once Zor had spotted the right petty boy, she would set Lord Mivok on his feet, slap him to half-attention and instruct him thusly:
'Little Lord Mivok, listen. I know that you are tired, sick and weary. I know that you spend your workweek descending into a toxic yellow smog, where you are abandoned by the herd because they think you unmanly. It exhausts you, this mining, and I 2-Modalise you would much rather spend your Saturdays resting in the newly renovated hovel, steeling yourself for the next round of sulphurs. But know that there is another path you might follow, the way of debate, an alternative source of units through which you might make your escape. And know that these battles with the petty boys are sharpening your 1-Mode, mixing that tool with your already well-developed 2-Mode, so that you are developing a new tool, a new way to approach things, and perhaps you will achieve something great in the future. So come, Lord Mivok, and show us your strength, for we are in the hall and it is time to debate.'
And Zor always delivered these words with such womanly conviction that Lord Mivok would rise boldly from his sulphurous slumber.
'Which is it today?' he would ask, calm and determined.
'There,' she would say, thrusting out her arm. 'Now go, dear brother, and do us all proud.'
Those first encounters were done in a snap, and as Lord Mivok's reputation for debate grew, so his vitals were restored and enhanced. He still suffered like no other in the pits, for no amount of fine talking would ever force his poor lungs' adaptation to the sulphurs. But come the weekend and the support of his sisters, he was strong as a giant, ready for any foe.
The plan proceeded just right, the frustrations of the petty boys becoming as a heat, which quickly spread to the officials themselves. Tougher laws were enacted and many people suffered, but still they took comfort in the efforts of Lord Mivok, this youthful warrior growing stronger by the day, tall now and fierce in the eyes.
It was the night before the Fayre and all was quiet in D1.460-Node. Lord Mivok sat in his room on his cot, eyes shut in meditative repose as his sisters bathed his feet in a warm water bath, spiked with good lemon and a mélange of herbs. He had become much more a man these past few months, and they knew he was almost ready to leave this place and enter the wider world. Just one more debate, split the funds 50-50 with the father, and he would be free to leave, free to assume the mantle of the Boot. They patted his feet dry and eased him under the covers.
'Now rest, little one,' they said. 'Your time is coming.'
'Good night, dear sisters,' he said. 'Good night, dear brother,' they said. And they turned to the middlings. 'And good night to you, sir and sir.'
'Aye,' said the middlings.
'And may we always be together,' Lord Mivok said to his sisters.
'Yes, little one,' they said. 'Of course, of course.'
But the wise Zor and Zar knew that the next day would mark their final day of (physical) communion, for he had progressed as far as he could in their (physical) presence, and now he needed to walk alone. They kissed his forehead, then left the room and made for their quarters.
'I'm wondering if perhaps we should show him the Scroll,' Zar said. 'I know that we decided to wait for the first inner signpost, but there could be some useful material for the debate.'
'I think not,' Zor said. 'It would only confuse him.'
'Then perhaps once the debate has concluded. Something to guide him over the next several years.'
'No, sister,' Zor said, turning to Zar as they stopped at their panel.
'We've agreed that the Scroll should only guide him to the second signpost, not the first. To show it now would interfere with his natural development. He will have it once he has personally fused, to assist him with the final design; but certainly not before.'
'So we wait for the rings.'
'Yes, for the rings. For the rings will glow as never before...'
'Very well. But I would suggest we not keep it entirely to ourselves during the waiting period. Perhaps when we become schoolmistresses, as is our plan, we can use it to instruct the pupils.'
'Agreed. For every young person should take some metaphysics with his or her baking. But just little bits -- just little chocolate chips -- and even then disguised, for to reveal the naked truth of such things would drive the poor children insane (or at least to considerable distraction).'
The sisters nodded and engaged deep eye contact, then entered their room and slipped into their cots, Zor turning to the wooden bureau between them, flipping the lid and removing four rings, quite beautiful things, one with a gold band and three with silver, and all of them set with large, round rubies.
'Here,' she said, passing two silvers to her sister. 'Let us put on our Priestess rings, so that we may dream the best dreams for our Silver Boot. And let us wear them in public for the first time tomorrow, during the debate, so that we may give him a nice little boost.'
The sisters put on their rings -- one on each middle finger, the gold on Zor's right -- and said their prayers in praise of the seer, turning to each other at the end and smiling the smiles of an ancient time.
'Good night then,' said Zar.
'Good night,' said Zor. 'And remember to dream for the Boot.'
It was unusually cold that night, with a howling wind and lashings of rain, but the morrow broke warm and clear, with dew on the leaves, the squawk of the chittermonk. The family sat downstairs around the kitchen table, quietly slurping their bowls of hot porvak; the girls blue-frocked, Lord Mivok white-suited, the middlings sackclothed and the others in standard fare.
Occasionally, one of them would rise and approach the warrior, crouching down and offering best wishes, bestowing sometimes a feather or small pendant charm. By the time the porvak was finished, all except the father had made the journey, for the man begrudged the young ones their deception and was extremely angry, hiding behind his journal and rattling it wildly whenever the mother or Zor tried to engage him in conversation. Yes, perhaps he did want the best for Lord Mivok, but we must remember that this was a traditional man, one who had quietly accepted his lot and devoted the past 40 years to the sulphurous work, while this upstart boy wanted to break with the bondage. His brothers had all committed themselves to the pits, so why not the li'l minch?
When the chittermonk squawked the turn of the hour, Zor rose and gathered the dishes, while Zar went outside to ready the shavs. The mother wouldn't be coming -- she couldn't bear to see her little one attacked in wordplay, even though he assured her it was actually quite fun. The three eldest boys would also not come, for this Fayre was thought to belong to the young people, not mature folk like themselves. But the two middlings would be there, and of course Zor and Zar. And the father?
'Are you sure you won't attend, father?' Lord Mivok asked him.
'Eh, wot-say, boy?' came the gruff response from behind the journal.
'Father, it would so please me if you would present yourself at this grand finale. As you know, there is a possibility I shan't return at the conclusion of said.'
'Aye, ah know't, boy. Ah know't.'
'Father, you strike me as sad. Please don't be like that. If I win, you know that I shall present half of the winnings to you and mama, and it will likely be sufficient to cover several years of expenses (remember that Hovan intends to take wife soon), enough perhaps that you might retire early from the underground work.'
The man growled and emerged wide-eyed from his journal. 'Well mebbe ah'm no' wantin' a quit ma feeld.'
'Oh father, come now. Please don't be upset with me on perhaps our last day together. All I can say is that I hope to present you with a considerable sum, at which point it shall be proved that I can exist apart from those hideous fumes.'
The father shook his head and returned to his journal, rattling it wildly each time the boy spoke. There would be no more talking with the man that morning. The boy had said all that he could, and now he must collect his suitcase and make for the Fayre.
So off he went to join the others, Zor and Zar sitting up front in the buggy, while Lord Mivok and the middlings deposited themselves in the oak-panelled cabin, a quite beautiful contraption which Hovan had purchased for the parents' recent anniversary.
'Agin, weh wish't ye well,' the middlings said to their brother. 'N'weh say sorree fer treatin' ye lik bitterike dahn pit.'
'Thank you, brothers,' Lord Mivok said. 'Apology gratefully accepted.'
'Weh know ye be plannin' a quit tha feeld n'mek fer Oop Narth. Bet if ye stay, weh promiss a werk be'er fer ye.'
'Thank you, brothers, that is more than kind. Now tell me, why are you wearing those dirty brown sackcloths? Is it some kind of penance?'
'Aye. Weh does't fer ye, sweart giv'n o'er.'
'Thank you, brothers. You have healed my heart.'
'Weh plannin' a change in't weet soots in cuppla mins, 'owevah.'
'Of course. I quite understand.'
'Ready, boys?' Zar called from above.
'Aye,' said the middlings.
'Yes,' said Lord Mivok. 'Let us make for the Fayre.'
And Zor cried out: 'Heeyar now, Blossom! Heeyar now, Pitsun!'
And then they were off, the two chestnut shavs galloping through the forest at a fine old pace. The youngsters were laughing, singing and jolly, for the air was clear and the trumpets were blowing for Squiggley Fayre, that one day a year when all was serene, when the common folk would slip into their finest and parade around like old-style royalty, mixing with the like-suited petty officials and their kin, and acting as if they were all part of the same social class.
Blossom and Pitsun stormed through the main gate, and Zor expertly manoeuvred into one of the few remaining slots, for the field was filled with shavs and buggies, bright balloons and people with flags. The young ones descended, still laughing and singing, and while Zar and the middlings headed off to explore some of the amusements, Zor and Lord Mivok strolled awhile in the quieter areas, before slowly making their way to 1-Tent.
'How are you feeling, little one?' she asked.
'It is strange, dear sister,' he said. 'Certainly I should be nervous at such a time, and yet I feel exceptionally calm, almost as if I could just stand there and the perfect sequence of arguments and counterproposals would flow from my specimen. Still, I wouldn't say no to some final words of encouragement.'
Zor smiled at her brother with great affection. 'Try always to remember, dear brother, that we are as blips in the grand scheme of things, single moments in the universal order, and that what seems to us disjointed and separate, is in fact a smooth-flowing oneness. Bear that always in mind as you search for your special task, for it is never as complicated as we would make it.' 'That was beautiful, sister,' Lord Mivok said. 'I thank you.'
And the siblings stopped, smiled, embraced, then continued in silence, arm in arm. The tent was full as they entered, thousands of people arranged in a ring, eagerly anticipating the imminent finale. In the front row sat Zar and the middlings, a bright blue sandwich on the smartest white, for the brothers had changed into their high-fashion suits and were looking most proud and handsome. A luxurious red carpet had been spread in the middle of the performance zone, a plush round arena for the knights of debate. An ale barrel stood at its edge, overflowing with notes, coins and gems.
Suddenly the lights dimmed and the distant thwump of a powerful drum announced an ominously tribal rhythm. Thwump-thwump-thwump came the drum, as Zor, standing with her charge at the edge of the zone, handed him his microphone and kissed him gently on either cheek, then took her place beside a middling, the sisters turning to each other and smiling and nodding, then slipping on their rings and looking straight ahead, as they stretched out their arms and began to twist them as dancing snakoors.
And thwump-thwump-thwump came the drum, as the sisters twisted, then suddenly stopped, straightening their arms and holding them still, palms facing down, then slowly inside; and then they gently clapped their hands thrice, the bands of their rings connecting with unusually loud and reverberant tinggggggggggs. As the rubies glowed with a powerful light, the girls turned their palms upwards, vibrated them extremely quickly for a few seconds, then withdrew their arms and nodded at something in the distance. It was time.
And thwump-thwump-thwump came the drum, as brave-faced Lord Mivok, invigorated by his sisters' unusual performance, strode to the middle and stopped by the barrel, setting down his suitcase and inspecting the valuables, and noting that there was plenty to effect his escape. I will leave this yellow place soon, he thought, and enter into the outside world -- a cleaner world -- where I will employ my debating skills with all of my might in the quest for my special task.
And thwump-thwump-thwump came the drum, as a spotlight flared and flashed to the entrance, to the silver curtain which blocked the way, which now swung open as Lord Mivok turned, and in marched a column of 15 black-clad people, ranging in age from a crawling baby to a codgerette, and all of them led by a tall, bronzed, bare-chested youth, with powerful muscles and shiny black tracksuit bottoms, and a big, black drum which hung from his neck. And thwump-thwump-thwump-thwump, perfectly matched to the steps of the column (though not the crawl), and bathed in light from above.
The crowd were mesmerised, eyes wide and ooohing and ahhhing, and soon they were clapping along with the drum, some even standing and starting to moan, swaying their heads and bobbing up and down, waving their flags in slow-motion sweeps. The spirit was infectious and soon most of the crowd were up on their feet, clapping and moaning, swaying and bobbing, their glazed eyes fixed on the multi-generational procession, and particularly on that youth whose name was Fosselok.
Fosselok was the son of Kimrod-Kichar, the despotic chief petty official (CPO). He was a dark and supremely intelligent young man, who brandished his 1-Mode like a Borkian broadsword and thrashed at all who would cross him, even those young ladies who might have offered him care and affection. He had the power to unite and divide, for while, unlike the officials, the common folk despised him, like the officials, they couldn't deny him, so irresistible was the draw of his 1-Mode. He was, in other words, the perfect target for the grand finale, and he had quickly agreed to Zor and Zar's proposition, for he hated Lord Mivok and would make him know who was the cleverest chap around.
Fosselok gave a final almighty thwump and came to a halt at the carpet's edge, beside the barrel and opposite Lord Mivok, who had moved to the other side. The crowd continued to clap and moan, sway and bob, as Fosselok detached his drum and passed it to his father, who handed him his microphone and bowed to the ground, before leading the column away. Fosselok waited until they had taken their seats, then strode inside and stopped in the middle, crossing his arms and puffing his chest. He stood like that for a minute or so, smirking across at his thin white opponent, who while just as tall, seemed much less substantial. Lord Mivok stared back and held his nerve, then slowly made his way inside, stopping a couple of feet from Fosselok, who gave an arrogant snort and spat something green, then raised an arm and instructed the crowd:
'Dear noble citizens of D1.460-Node,' he said. 'I ask you to cease now your clappings, moanings, and so on, and sit and extricate yourselves from the collective trance my entrance has set upon you, so that you might pay proper attention and determine the true victor in this Great Debate (you've all read the sign, I presume; no acronym).'
And the crowd sat down and were quiet (though sometimes bobbing). Fosselok nodded, lowered his arm and returned to his foe. 'So, Lord Mivok,' he sneered, 'I hear from your sisters, the Captains Zor and Zar, that you wish to engage the node's finest mind in 1-Modal combat. Is this true, or no?'
'Yes, Fosselok,' Lord Mivok said. 'It is so.'
'Good, then let us begin. Lord Mivok, I posit that you have no chance of winning this debate because your "arguments" [finger-thing] are simply weird, twisting, colourful pictures. While these might have done the trick with those lesser-minded fools upon whom you have feasted these past six months, they certainly won't cut the mustard with me. The sickening 2-Mode is floaty and insubstantial at the best of times, but in debate this is especially so, for we are here to engage the cold steel of our 1-Modes, not prance about like idiot clowns. To sum up, Lord Mivok, it is my contention that while you can fly with the best of them, your "arguments" [finger-thing] lack the sharp, straight lines through which they may be applied to, and informed by, everyday circumstance. Your style is therefore corrupt and inconsequential. And I leave you.'
The crowd stood up and started cheering, waving their flags and tossing their hats, as Fosselok paraded about the carpet, lifting his arms and smiling and nodding. Lord Mivok, meanwhile, was shaking and shivering, his throat clogging up with a sickly fear, as he suddenly realised that Fosselok was right, that he hadn't really engaged those other boys in debate, but had simply overwhelmed them with exotic 2-Modal forms. His reputation as a 1-Modal champion was a complete and utter sham!
As one boy continued his victory march, the other stared out through the noisy semi-darkness, seeking support from those two good sisters, who now turned to each other and smiled and nodded, then ran through their mystical ritual once more, twisting and turning, clapping three times, then turning, vibrating, withdraw and a nod. And then they rose, linked arms and flowed to their brother, stopping before him with four rings aglow.
'Be strong, little one, be strong,' they said.
'Sisters,' he gulped, 'is...is it true?'
'There are some grains, as indeed there should be. But you must know that you have grown tremendously as a debater these past six months, that you have indeed debated with the steel of your 1-Mode, and have done so brilliantly. He says what he says because he is afraid. He knows he cannot defeat you fair and square, and so he wishes to cause you to doubt your abilities, to beat your retreat like a shav-whipped dogrel. Dear brother, you must never question your perfection on account of the jealousies and weaknesses of others. Now have faith in yourself, and do us all proud.'
Lord Mivok shivered as his sisters turned and returned to their places, but this time it was a most exciting vibration. He knew they were right, knew how Fosselok had studied him during the preliminaries, how he had often stood up and stormed off angrily, his troupe of supporters snorting after him. Yes, Lord Mivok was fond of colourful things, of creating strange pictures and sending them floating around. But he had indeed developed his 1-Mode, had learned to apply it in structured debate, employing sound arguments bound by everyday circumstance. Yes, his sisters were right: all he needed was faith in himself. And he lifted an arm to hush the crowd, then pointed the other towards his opponent, calling him back with a flick of his microphone. When the crowd had settled and a smirking Fosselok had returned, Lord Mivok stood tall and addressed him:
'No, Fosselok,' he said, 'that is simply untrue. You speak as you do to confuse the people -- particularly the commoners whose champion I am -- to have them filter my valid arguments through your suggestion that I am all floaty colour and no cold steel. You know full well the hold you have over them (even once they have snapped from their trance), a power you would use to compensate for your rather incompetent style. For let's face it, sir, while your lines may be straighter and sharper than any other's, your discipline leaves a lot to be desired. And...I leave you.'
'Preposterous!' Fosselok spat.
'Oh really?' Lord Mivok said, arching an eyebrow as he warmed to his task. 'Then tell me, sir, why is it you would always depart my battles with the "lesser-minded fools" [finger-thing] with such an angry turn of countenance? Why, it seemed almost as if you were afraid of the prospect of our near-inevitable encounter.'
'Absurd! There is no substance to your claims. None whatsoever!' And Fosselok opened his arm and looked to the crowd, forcing a ghastly smile. 'Dear simple, honest little citizens,' he said, 'surely you won't allow yourselves to be deceived by the pretty charms of this tricksy wordsmith. Remember that we are interested here in straight, cold steel, not the floaty land of 2-Modal nonsense.'
But it was too late for that, Lord Mivok having clearly employed the 1-Mode in his rebuttal, and the lights came up as the common folk rose (along with a few of the esteemed officials), flexing their biceps to indicate Fosselok, then sticking out their arms and turning their thumbs downwards: the notes, coins and gems were Lord Mivok's! He whooped and twirled and clicked his heels, but when he looked to his siblings to share his joy, he found the middlings asleep and his sisters had vanished. Oh well, never mind, no time to worry, and energised by his victory, he leaped a downed and weeping Fosselok, making for the barrel and taking half the spoils, then depositing the rest beside the middlings, along with a note: "For Mama and Papa. With affection, Lord Mivok." He then rushed to the parking field, hopped into the buggy and shouted triumphantly:
'Heeyar now, Blossom! Heeyar now, Pitsun! Away from this place and off to Up North!'
And so began Lord Mivok's rapid ascent through the realms of politics, law and business (after some time spent training in various Grand Institutions). He had discovered a tool -- this 1-Mode -- which he could use to advance his interests in all sorts of areas, and the more he employed it, the more he enjoyed it, so that he began to turn from his colourful forms, increasingly regarding them as childish claptrap. He became known as a man with a fearsome 1-Mode, a master of straight lines and sharp, pointy things, and this greatly pleased him, since he had learned that the world revered straightness above all other things. By now Lord Mivok was a wealthy, well-established lawyer/businessperson in D1.1-Node, highly regarded by the most significant people and regularly appearing in all the right journals. He had grown into a tall and slender young man, with full lips, a long, elegant nose and wonderfully smooth skin from the sulphurous accumulations. The fire had been less kind in other departments, lending his cheeks a noticeable yellow tinge and denying him the last of his hair in his 15th year; but all in all he was an attractive kishkahn, particularly in the white suits and black brogues he was wont to assume, and the fairer sex would now and then fling themselves at him.
It seemed like the perfect existence -- and for a while it was -- but gradually Lord Mivok began to tire of himself, recognising in his most honest periods of reflection that he had sacrificed some essential nugget in shifting his focus almost entirely to the 1-Mode. He felt that he understood the problem, that he knew what it would take to realign himself, but he was afraid of what might come with a loosening of his attachment. And so he continued in the same way for several years, delightfully involved on the surface, a miserable darkness beneath.
It was during this difficult period that Lord Mivok and a comrade, Captain Hnuk, broke from their law firm and founded Dylan River Systems (DRS); on the very day, in fact, that 1-Acceleration officially came into being -- April 15, 1947 . The company was originally envisioned as an idea lab for political campaigns, a kind of high-energy think tank where a politician's strategists would submit their existing plans for review by Lord Mivok and Hnuk. When a plan arrived, the two men would spend one day and night in intense preparation, then enter into furious debate on the following morning, neither having slept and each manufacturing a certain position, so that super-sharp argument might take place. By the end of a session, the plan would have passed through all sorts of thrustings to arise as something quite fine; false, in a sense, but 1-Modally convincing and quite up to the task.
As DRS-modified politicians started winning elections all over the place, the firm's reputation grew and business flourished. DRS soon employed over 500 of the very brightest young things, spread over four levels of a very tall, very boxy building, with new departments having been set up to improve strategies (particularly of the sales and marketing varieties) in the more commercial domains which quickly came to dominate the DRS portfolio. Lord Mivok and Hnuk continually refined their confrontational methodology to better leverage the company's expanded resources, devising an ingenious internal structure built on so-called catatrons, small teams comprising a researcher and six assistants ("catatronics"), who had been grouped together according to various statistically significant incompatibilities. Catatrons were housed in the boxiest offices, and there were constant showdowns within and between them, so that people were always fighting with each other and didn't know whom they could trust. Research conducted according to the carefully delineated processes of this System of Catatron-Style Investigations (SCSI) effected tremendous increases in 1-Modal heat, and the reputations of the two co-founders rocketed.
But all was not well beneath the surface, as Lord Mivok's self-doubt continued to press. He was often incapacitated by his concerns, not just for himself, but for all the fine minds about him, young people whose potential was, he felt, being wasted -- corrupted, even -- by this violent SCSI. For while DRS might have been a tremendously successful operation, Lord Mivok increasingly held that its reputation for research excellence was unwarranted, partly because the catatrons generally didn't believe in their data and were just adopting positions for the sake of heat, but mainly because the 1-Mode had been granted too dominant a position, resulting in a prescriptive, derivative kind of analysis. Of course, none of this would have bothered the clients, since all they cared about was plugging in the results, selling their goods and services, and becoming hugely successful, and this was invariably the case when one applied a DRS report. But Lord Mivok felt there must be a better way to collect and analyse data, a system where results were obtained less through contrivance and confrontation, and more through an encouragement of the individual researcher's creativity; a system where recommended strategies would improve a client's position not by reinforcing the old ways of selling things, but by creating and expanding new ones. And the clients themselves would be involved in the creative implementation of these strategies, so that while their success would be assured by the quality of the underlying data, there would be different ways to apply the results, whole new campaigns for the MGs [marketing gurus] to come up with, creating more opportunities in the future.
Lord Mivok tried expressing his concerns to his comrade, but Hnuk would simply brush him off, confidently declaring that with the amount of units rolling in, there was absolutely nothing to worry about it. But Lord Mivok knew this research was wrong, and as his disturbance festered within him, so it began spreading to those around him, so that conflicts started arising outside the catatron system -- such as outside in the car park over the parking slot hierarchy, and downstairs in the cafeteria over the healthiness of people's meal choices -- and the SCSI heat began to cool. Inevitably, the quality of the firm's work suffered, and as more and more clients defected to other catatron-based processors (for DRS had been widely imitated), Lord Mivok readied himself for a dramatic last stand (while sitting).
'Look, this is absolutely ridiculous,' Hnuk said across the conference table. 'We were doing amazingly well with our Dylan River Systems, bringing in the units and dramatically improving all our clients' sales and marketing strategies, particularly since this TR1 [First Technological Revolution] thingy -- this metanet, these termices, which have afforded us such spectacular efficiencies, so many new ways to attack each other. And look how well-regarded our system is in the market research community, this brilliant SCSI whose methods are being copied all over Mona. But was that enough for little Lord Mivok? Oh no, of course it wasn't! You just had to screw with the thing, didn't you? Just had to introduce inappropriate tension into a formerly smooth-running operation, didn't you? Bappit, Lord Mivok, you've made it impossible for intelligent people to work here, and now it's all falling apart. We've lost 80% of our clientele in the last three months, and just this morning another 50 researchers/assistants handed in their notices. That's 200 in the past week!'
'Hnuk, I am sorry,' Lord Mivok said. 'What you say is true. It is all my fault. And yet, I cannot continue in the manner you would prefer, that way which has admittedly brought us great success and a large supply of units. Either things have to change, or I must go.'
'What are you talking about?'
'I am referring to the dangers of excessive 1-Modalisation, both in market research and all manner of things. The fact that healthy thinking requires that the 1-Mode be combined with 2-Modal discourse.'
'Oh bognok,' Hnuk sighed. 'Is this the brap with Zorro again?'
'Her name is Zor, and yes, this does derive somewhat from her comments on the mixture of processes. To quote: "And know that these battles with the petty official boys are sharpening your 1-Mode, mixing that tool with your already well-developed 2-Mode, so that you are developing a new tool, a new way"'
'Yes, yes. I've heard it all before. But where do you read in that the suggestion that to identify with the 1-Mode is any way detrimental to one's progress in the world?'
'Not exactly there, but recall my sister's pronouncement just prior to the Squiggley showdown: "Try always to remember, dear brother, that we are as blips in the grand scheme of things, single moments in the universal order, and that what seems to us disjointed and separate, is in fact a smooth-flowing oneness. Bear that always in mind as you search for your special task, for it is never as complicated as we would make it."'
'Very pretty, Lord Mivok. But I'm still not getting it.'
'Hnuk, if my sister was right, each of our lives is essentially an undifferentiated blip in the grand scheme of the universe.'
'And do we not possess 2-Mode as well as 1-Mode?'
'Well yes, I suppose. But as we age, we learn that it is the 1-Mode which shines brightest, that it is through aspiring to the highest 1-Modal development that the disturbing 2-Mode may rightly atrophy, allowing us to undifferentiate, or unify, ourselves and make our best way in the world.'
'So you agree that a person's blip is essentially undifferentiated?'
'And do you agree that each of us possesses both 2-Mode and 1-Mode?'
'In principle, yes, for I do not believe it is possible to wholly extinguish the 2-Mode. But in practice, there should be no recourse to it, and thus I would say that a person's blip is essentially undifferentiated.'
'And what of the special task?'
'What are you talking about?'
'The special task to which my sister refers, that special task which is ultimately the cause of our undifferentiated blipness, that special task which truly marks our progress in the world.'
'Well,' Hnuk said, eyes bulging and mouth strangely set as he swept an arm across the room. 'Isn't this a special task, Lord Mivok, this DRS company we have created? Perhaps it isn't so clear right now, what with the unfortunate effects of your infectious disorder. But wouldn't you say that just a few months ago, this DRS of ours was an ideal manifestation of the 1-Mode?'
'I would. Or at least a very good approximation.'
'Then where's the problem, dear boy? Here is our special task, this DRS, the cause of our joint undifferentiated blipnesses. Come, my friend, let us leave this place and celebrate with a meal, then return tomorrow and start to make things as they were. I'll get my coat and meet you at the front.'
'One moment, Hnuk. For I am not so sure this company is a special task, at least not as presently constituted.'
'But why not? You've seen how well it undifferentiates people. It strikes me as the most special task ever!'
'That's because you define undifferentiation as a concentration of the 1-Mode and an atrophy of the 2-Mode, while for me it refers to an integration of the two, a perfect balancing. For me, undifferentiation is achieved through acceptance, not denial. The trouble with this company -- with this SCSI -- is that it overemphasises the 1-Mode, and is therefore a "balancing" [finger-thing] through denial. Since SCSI isn't the cause of genuine undifferentiation, it cannot be a special task.'
'But surely you cannot argue with its success?'
'Yes, Hnuk, it has succeeded. In financial terms, at least. But this has come about by reinforcing old structures and denying creativity, even on the part of the MGs -- the advertisers, PR [public relations] experts, etc. -- who are forced to mine the same old paradigms.'
'And what's wrong with that? Until you started spreading your disturbance, our clients were successful, the units were rolling in, our researchers/assistants were appropriately tense. I don't see the problem, Lord Mivok.'
'The problem, Hnuk, is that I suspect there is a more effective method of conducting market research, one which integrates more of the 2-Mode to improve not just the health of our researchers/assistants, but also the quality of our reports; one which would make our clients just as successful, while giving them some creative freedom in selecting and applying strategies.'
'Oh yes? Well let's say I'm not particularly interested in the health of my researchers/assistants (though to be honest, they seem -- or seemed, at least, pre-disturbance -- perfectly healthy to me). If the current system is making our clients successful and pulling in the units, why change it?'
'Quite simply, because there is only so much success it can produce. Note that since we're encouraging clients to leverage old ways of selling things -- encouraging them to basically repeat the old ways and not create anything new in their applications -- there is a finite pool of success from which they may drink. Over time, the pool empties, until eventually there is no more success to be had. And also note that as the number of catatron-based research firms increases, so too does client exposure, moving us ever faster towards the inevitable demise of the system. With the new method, however, the pool of success is enlarged each time a client takes a creative strategy and employs a creative application. The client's success is therefore assured both now and in the far future.'
'I see. And what would it take to implement this new way of yours?'
'As we have already discussed: a proper balancing which integrates the 2-Mode.'
'Integrate the 2-Mode?'
'Any other way?'
'No. At least not as far as I'm concerned.'
'Then I think we must part, Lord Mivok. This thing is a mess. I leave it all to you. Goodbye now.'
'Goodbye, Hnuk. And the very best of luck with your own special task.'
And so the two co-founders parted ways, leaving just Lord Mivok to run DRS. He politely released the remaining employees -- for they were a reminder of the old way, the catatron method of excessive 1-Modalisation -- and cleared out every office except his own, where he would sit at his termix from morning till night, pondering how he might infuse the company with his newfound commitment to modal balancing. He had spent so long both revering the 1-Mode and suppressing his aversion, that he was having an extremely difficult time envisioning this new research method, and on several occasions he came close to saying 'Oh, bognok it all!' and returning to the abandoned SCSI. But something deep within told him that he was back on his path now, reconnecting with his special task, and he knew he could never go back.
Late one evening, slumped in front of his termix as usual, Lord Mivok's thoughts turned, as they so often did these days, to those good ones, his sisters. He had learned from the middlings that following the finale, Zor and Zar had returned to the hovel, packed up their things and departed D1.460-Node, never to be heard from again. He had been so occupied with the 1-Mode since his own departure that in all these years he had spent all of 10 minutes wondering what had become of them. But ever since the break with Hnuk, he had found himself thinking about them more and more, often describing moderately colourful thought forms relating to their possible whereabouts and happenings. It was just such activity he was about to indulge when a knock at his panel announced the cleaning girl. He lifted himself up and prepared for a little idle banter about lipstick and boys.
'Good evening, Captain Mopsy,' he said, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
'Good evening, Lord Mivok.' The voice was deep and husky, a far remove from squeaky little Mopsy, and when Lord Mivok opened his eyes, he beheld a curious little woman floating towards him. She was young, about 20, with white skin, high cheekbones and a tremendous black bezhive, a wavy tube reaching a foot in the air; and wrapped about her was a thick black fur coat, which descended all the way to her shiny black high heels.
'What's this?' he said. 'Where's Captain Mopsy?'
'She's taken the night off,' the woman said, halting in front of Lord Mivok's desk, hands in her pockets and legs astride.
'I see. Well, there's a little dirt on the window. And if you wouldn't mind trying that stain on the carpet over there. Very sticky. No idea what it is.'
'I haven't come to clean your office, Lord Mivok. I have come to help you with your special task.'
'And what makes you think that a little cleaning girl would be of any use in devising a revolutionary new system of market research?'
'The fact that you've just hired me as your SCOO [secretive chief observations officer].'
'What? That's rather presumptuous of you, young lady!'
'Not really, for I simply present the truth. And now, to work.'
And the woman closed her eyes and breathed deeply through her nostrils, then opened her eyes and stared deeply into Lord Mivok for several minutes, during which time he found himself unable to speak or move. When she was done, she nodded and jumped her feet together, then floated around the desk towards Lord Mivok, extending her arms with white fingers drooping, the blazing glory of two ruby rings...
'By the deuce!' he said, just released from her capture. 'Those rings look just like--'
The woman rattled her fingers and a burst of electricity shivered up Lord Mivok's spine, dropping him down, all nice and fluffy. She stopped behind him and removed his glasses, then reached into her pocket and withdrew a silver tub of lemon-scented balm, which she began to massage into his scalp. He moaned, felt himself transported to a land of never-ending beauty, and then, suddenly, everything went black.
He woke up slumped on his desk again, his glasses beside him, blurry sunlight streaming through the window. He lay like that for a while, gradually recalling the encounter with the woman and wondering if it had all been a dream. And then he became aware of the smell of lemons, and when he touched his head, he found it rather slick.
'Good morning, sir,' came a voice from ahead, that same deep voice from last night.
He slowly lifted himself up and turned to the front, slipping on his glasses as he looked over his termix to the floor by the wall, where the woman was sitting cross-legged in her fur, studying him as she sipped from a glass tankard of frothy black ale. She lowered her brew and wiped her mouth, then smiled and patted the floor beside her. He stood up carefully -- for he was still rather fluffy -- and made his way over, sitting down to her left as she looked ahead, taking a draught from the glass in her right hand, as he eyed the ring on the middle finger of her left hand: silver band with a large, round ruby, just like the ones his sisters had worn. (Though hadn't Zor also worn a golden one?) The woman lowered the glass and set it down, and he saw the ring on her right middle finger, the same round ruby, banded with silver.
'Who are you?' he asked, turning towards her.
'A friend,' she said, turning as well.
'What's your name?'
'Seven. Pretty, aren't they?'
'The rings, Lord Mivok, the rings.' And she wiggled her fingers in a magical way.
'Oh yes,' he said. 'Very pretty.'
'Do they look familiar?'
'Actually, yes. My sisters had rings just like that.'
'The good ladies Zor and Zar?'
'What? You know my sisters?'
'Indeed. For I was a pupil of theirs. Still am, I suppose.'
'A pupil? You mean they're teachers?'
'Yes. Once you left for Up North, they became schoolmistresses in D1.315-Node, which is where they are now, teaching away, alive and well. And they have asked me to send you their apologies for not contacting you these past several years, but they felt it was better that way, leaving you to seek your special task alone. And even now they will keep their distance.'
'Yes, of course, of course...' And he looked ahead and into the distance, recalling the great service his sisters had done him, how much they had helped him, how he had never properly thanked them... And ah, but it would be good to see them again! But of course, they knew best. He nodded to himself and returned to Seven.
'All is well?' she asked.
'Yes,' he said, 'all is well. So, schoolmistresses, eh? And what is it they teach? Home economics, or some such?'
'Oh no,' Seven chuckled, 'not quite. Of course, they started with the baking and bed-making sciences, just like every other woman teacher of the time (and most of the current crop too, of course). But attitudes softened and the metaphysics instructor passed away (under rather mysterious circumstances), and they eased themselves into his stead.'
'Metaphysics? The study of meta?'
'Well yes, there is that. And of course, the metanet (though of course, they called it something else before its official discovery). And then there are all sorts of other things. For more generally speaking, metaphysics is the study of that which transcends.'
'I see. How interesting... And perhaps not overly surprising, given the comments they'd sometimes make about the universe and such.'
Seven smiled and tapped her bezhive, then looked ahead and extended her arms, clapping three times, just as the sisters, the bands connecting with those same long tinggggggggggs and glowing ever so slightly. 'Indeed, oh indeed,' she said, returning to Lord Mivok.
'And did they give you those rings?' he asked.
'Yes,' she said, looking down and studying them. 'A most magic appearance, by way of the gold.' And she smiled and nodded in fond recollection, and the two of them were quite awhile. And then she drank and turned to him. 'They told me much about you,' she said. 'Your difficult childhood. Your escape from the sulphurs. Heading out for your special task.'
'Ah yes,' he nodded, 'the special task. That special path along which I have made such precious little progress.'
'Oh?' she said, with "just so" faux-novelitude. 'But I hear this DRS of yours is a huge success. Or at least it was until a few months ago.'
'Yes, I suppose it was. In its own way. But it was never aligned with my vitals.'
'By which you mean a 2-Modal deficiency, an improper balance.'
'Yes...how did you know about that?'
The woman smiled. 'Let's just say I have...sources of information.'
'I see. Well, yes, I'm trying to come up with a new research method, one which integrates the 1- and 2-Modes, expanding the pool of success by respecting both researcher and client creativity.'
'Sounds very interesting.'
'Sounds it, yes! But the tricky thing is realising it. I've been sitting at my termix for several months now, tapping away at theories and formulae, clicking bits and pieces as I scour this nascent metanet thingy. But I just can't seem to make the breakthrough. I tell you, Seven, it is a difficult thing indeed to revolutionise one's field!'
'No doubt,' the woman nodded. 'Though I wonder if part of the problem is your complete denial of the old ways of doing things, your refusal to leverage some of the old methods -- or at least some parts of said -- in creating a base for this new DRS, this 2-DRS. I understand that the catatron system, taken as a whole, was over-1-Modal and therefore corrupt. But there must have been some positive aspects, particularly with you somewhat in charge.'
'Well, that's very kind of you, dear lady (though these sources of yours are starting to worry me!). And yes, now that a certain blockage has loosened, I suppose I can say that there was some good in there. Like the basic idea of the catatrons, these small teams of researchers and assistants working on their projects alone, then running up against each other, so that there was an exchange of information across the entire system. Of course, the way we had it, people were always fighting with each other -- researchers fighting with their assistants, catatrons fighting with catatrons -- since that would greatly increase 1-Modal heat and supposedly improve the quality of our research. But with the new approach, I see the assistants supporting the researchers, see the catatrons supporting each other, a creative exchange within and between. So I would keep the catatrons, but shift the emphasis to co-operation and creativity.'
'Very good, Lord Mivok. And what else?'
'Well, I also liked the basic idea of the research, that we'd study different markets and present clients with improved ways of selling their goods and services (albeit through reinforcing the old ways of selling). But, as aforesuggested, I'd like to present results in a form which respects a client's (and associated MGs') creativity. As in the old way, the client should be assured success through the quality of the research, but he should have some creative freedom in applying the results, helping to create the strategies rather than strictly adhering to a predetermined pattern, and one designed by people who, let's be fair, can't possibly understand the day-to-day workings of a particular business as well as the client himself.'
'So a more...malleable kind of research.'
'Yes...' he said, looking up and away, 'and one which focuses more on underlying issues, rather than the surface layer...' He squinted, lip-pursed and nodded three times, then rose to his feet and began pacing about the office, finger-lipping as he addressed the carpet. 'Though I wonder if we might say energy instead of issue, for we are talking here of something less rigid, less constrained by the word- and number-based forms. Something closer to the essential stuff of ideas, floating, free-flowing. Yes... We'd still need to use the rigid forms, of course, something definite at the surface for the client to connect with, something definite to help guide his application. And the surface would need to connect with the energy... So we'd take the surface, change its appearance...some kind of super-advanced processing, perhaps... So these termices, perhaps, these strange little boxes we use to create our reports, to store our data, process our data; taking what's there -- the pages of text, charts and diagrams, the pages of formulae, calculations -- and running it through some kind of termix program, some kind of super-advanced processing thingy, opening up into different forms, less rigid forms, more flowing, more colourful, which could then be studied, increase the connections, create the connections, and then to the client...yes, of course!' And he clapped his hands and rushed to a grinning Seven, crouching before her and wobbling somewhat. 'The 2-Mode, Seven, it's the 2-Mode!' he said. 'That mode of my youth. Those swirls, colours, those wild, floaty things. What we need is a little more colour. We need to describe our research in colour!'
'Very good, Lord Mivok,' said the woman, bright-eyed. 'But you mustn't forget the importance of the 1-Modal forms, both as a support for data collection and analysis, and as a reference for creative application.'
'Yes, of course, of course! For without those references, the research would shift too far into the 2-Modal realm, would have little to no applicability to everyday circumstance. So we must be firm, even as we are colourful. Firm above and the colours below!'
Seven laughed and passed Lord Mivok her ale, her rubies pulsing with light. 'Excellent, Lord Mivok,' she said. 'Your sisters are no doubt most pleased. Now drink and be merry, for we have much work ahead of us.'
'Ah, Seven, it's colour! It's colour!'
The next several decades were a whirlwind of activity. Lord Mivok installed Seven as his SCOO, while he assumed the position of CEO (chief executive officer), shutting down the office to break with the old and moving from the capital to a more remote location, a newly built complex in D1.16-Node which was considered much better suited. For the first few months they ran things alone, she helping to extract and manifest his vision, and when things were ready, new staff were hired, the brightest and boldest minds they could find (though far fewer than before), including, for a short time, my teenage parents, for each summer DRS offered internships to the most talented students.
It was a radical innovation, this 2-DRS. The idea was to create a market research base which, while possessed of straight lines and sharp, pointy things, also had curves and colourful pieces, encouraging an integration of the two modes of thinking. Researchers were now divided into docatatrons (akin to co-operative versions of the old catatrons), of which there were five, each represented by a different head of research (HoR), and each assigned a different special colour: red (R), orange (O), yellow (Y), green (G), blue (B). The cluster of offices belonging to each docatatron were painted that colour; HoRs and their assistants ("docatatronics", six per HoR) printed their reports on pages bordered with that colour; the dominant item of clothing each HoR and associated docatatronic wore was that colour; and so on.
The research itself was divided into two phases: the primary, 1-Modal phase and the secondary, 2-Modal phase. The primary phase comprised data collection and initial analysis, the straight-line approach where data were obtained through various highly methodical processes (super-focused focus groups, super-deep depth interviews, database extensions, metanet extractions, etc.); broken down and analysed using various complex formulae; and then represented with words, numbers, charts, and so on. While the 1-Mode was obviously doing most of the work here, there was always colour in the back of the HoR's mind, spreading out and infusing the data. And not just the HoR's colour, for there were frequent overlaps among the docatatrons, as HoRs moved about and interacted, chatting with comrades in a red office, a green office; mixing together in their blue suits, in orange suits; so that they were working together, helping each other, because things were less tense, more flowing, more colourful; so that each of the colours touched each of the HoRs, spreading out and infusing the data.
So a given HoR's data felt all of the colours, a fact made apparent during inter-phase processing, when the team of brilliant DRS technicians would pass the report through a super-advanced termix algorithm, a special converter for each client industry, taking the words, numbers, charts, and so on, and turning them into swirls of vibrant colour, a twisting form on the termix screen, with the special colour dominant and strands of the others twisting between.
This form was called a Template, the raw material of the secondary phase, and after including a copy in the report (as an animated, floppy disc attachment), the HoR would study it, looking for ways to build stronger connections, to add some touches of his own creativity: tapping keys and clicking buttons, to shrink things, enlarge things, to speed things up and turn them around, then stopping the motion when things "just felt right", with the special still dominant and the others "just right". The form which resulted was called an Essential, a colourful strategy built on primary data, and the HoR would print it on the back of the report for the client to study once he'd gone through the first.
This highly original new method of multi-modal research became known as the Multicoloured Sector System (MSS), and it was unique to DRS, since other firms lacked the technical expertise to generate accurate Templates. Understandably, MSS was initially regarded with some suspicion, but as 2-Acceleration advanced and the people began to open to the 2-Mode, more and more clients tried it and enjoyed it, spreading the word, so that more people came, and DRS became more successful than ever (particularly following the transition to holopad technology).
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