IN 2013 THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT approved the one-off influx of 120,000 economic refugees from the failed states of the African Horn -- Ethopia and Eritrea. The press claimed it was a gesture of charity to the starving African masses but the true reason, naturally, was paranoia: long-range analysts had pinpointed Ethopia as a terror breeding ground and Europe wanted to sweep that swamp clean. The plan was called "cultural sterilisation". If you sterilise a million female mosquitoes and then release them into the wild, male mosquitoes waste their seed and the population drops. That was the theory, at least. Get these budding suicide bombers of the future into Europe, the heart of the Civilisation, teach them how to behave, then send their children home as proponents of Democracy and Decency. Terrorism would be sapped at the source. Naturally it didn't work out that way.
In the meantime, Holland was the African Horn of Europe (France was the new Arabia), and the country was starting to win Olympic gold medals in long distance running. Cassius Croon barely caused a stir as he strolled the canals and crack alleys around the notorious Centraal Station, a joint in his hand and flowers in his hair. He had an Arabic expression at the ready, for any situation, and unlike most Dutch, he knew how to conduct himself in a mosque.
He'd worked for the CIA, MI5, Mossad, a host of industrial and corporate clients... and when Russia privatised its security apparatus he'd probably work for them. He was one of the most renowned agents in the world, a legend of deep surveillance... and now he was tracking down one lousy war criminal who'd probably die before he came to trial. To make matters worse, Bäbel's telco didn't even have a decent percolator. No, it's not worth it, he thought, fighting the onset of mild panic. It's just not worth worrying about.
His train pulled in, he found a seat, and he began his cross-town trip to Kreuzburg. To fill some time he got out his notebook and logged on through netlinks in the arm-rests. He was still pissed off about the briefing Catheter had given him and was sure there was more info out there. Taking a long shot, he typed Bäbel's name into a Germanic search engine. To his great surprise, a page opened with a burst of colour and the words:
Christ, Croon thought. That was poor even for EuroCore!
The homepage continued:
Go naked for a sign.
Organize a strike in your school or workplace on the grounds that it does not satisfy your need for indolence & spiritual beauty. Poems scrawled in courthouse lavatories, small fetishes abandoned in parks & restaurants, xerox-art under windshield-wipers of parked cars, Big Character Slogans pasted on playground walls, anonymous letters mailed to random or chosen recipients (mail fraud), pirate radio transmissions, wet cement...
All Quiet on the Marie Celeste
Bäbel had sure gone to some trouble preparing for this party, Croon thought - her place looked like a Tolkienesque wonderland. Murals of elves and nymphs covered the walls, runes, real fir and oak branches dangled from doorways... incense and marijuana filled the air. Flames guttered in butter lamps, parchments coiled and uncoiled, busts and carvings competed with humans for aesthetic acclaim. It was a field of praise. Croon looked around for Bäbel as he stumbled into the room, feeling oddly awkward... spied her angled over a desk on the far side of the room. She was chatting to a young man dressed in green latex and laughing, and they were reading what looked to be an ancient scroll.
>>Bäbel<< Croon said, approaching her. She looked up rather startled, then took her leave with a quick nod and soft word to her friend. She regaled Croon with a wide smile, said >>Cassius, so glad you could make it.<< She produced an ornamental tea-pot just steaming with warm pleasures.
Croon looked at the tea and burst out laughing.>>Bäbel, you know how I feel about these things<< he said. >>I'm a coffee kind of guy.<<
>>Man, didn't she tell you? << the guy in the green latex said. >>This is a tea party.<<
Looking around a bit blinky, Croon did indeed notice most of the people in the room were drinking tea. More ominously, some them were clustered in small groups playing boardgames on the floor, rolling die, even shifting chess pieces. What the fuck!
>>All right<< Croon said, >>I'll drink<<. But no sooner had he swallowed his first mouthful did he spit it all out - >>Oh god, what is this?<< he said. >>This don't taste like any tea that I've ever drunk before!<<
>>It's called Kombucha tea, and it's brewed from the mystery of mushrooms<< Bäbel said. >>You ferment it by growing mushrooms in ordinary tea. When mushrooms grow on the top, scrape them off and you have the culture for your first brew. Good for the digestive tract, this tea. I got my 'shrooms from a friend in Australia, he got his from Malaysia. So you could say this like a single organism, this tea.<<
>>A 10 million petalled fungal blossom<< the green man said >>blooming through the digestive tracts of the world.<<
>>Uggghh<< Croon said, spitting out his second mouthful. >>Man, you Germans have got some crazy tastes.<<
>>What do you mean, you Germans? << the green man said. >>Well the hell are you from?<<
Croon took a large, shame-faced draught from his cup.>>Er, I was referring to people of the Germanic blood<< he said.>>You see, I might be German, but racially I'm descended from the tribes of Madagascar, with a bit of New York City house nigger thrown in for good measure. I didn't mean to cause any offence.<<
>>You didn't offend him<< Bäbel said. >>Anyway, there's no such as Germans under my roof. In my place everybody's just a citizen of the world.<<
Interactive photographic map of the entire world!
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