3. COW PARSLEY

3. COW PARSLEY

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE CASE OF MERCURY RISING, 3

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Igor was more patient than I would have believed possible because he had to wait for an hour before Angelina, dressed in a colourful loose geometrically patterned top and black leggings that emphasised the perfection of her legs, put in an appearance, looking as bright as a new shiny sixpence.

It’s so good to see you again, Igor,” she said, smiling, “I hear you’ve gone mad?”

Possibly,” he agreed, smiling back at her. “But I have a pressing problem and fear for the future of life on this planet if I don’t solve it soon. And by life I mean human life.”

Angelina nodded. “Sounds a bit drastic,” she said quietly. “How does a video stream of a geriatric stripper dancing on a table have anything to do with Armageddon?” She was referring to the elderly Mildred Kampinella-Plonker who had been recorded stripping before the cabinet ministers on a polished table in Downing Street.

He smiled at her. “Nothing,” he said, “if that was all I was bothered about I’d have offered it to our idiot prime minister for nothing, just so he could enjoy reminding himself how stupid a supposedly intelligent man can be. But you can’t suppose that I made just the one set of dentures, surely?”

That perked me up a bit. I thought I’d seen something glinting in his mouth when we’d been in the medieval boudoir and maybe that was what it had been: a second set of dentures with an almost unlimited capacity for recording in his special diamonds using goodness knows what technology.

You have more?” I asked.

Angelina smiled at me and then at him. “Of course he has,” she said brightly, “after all, he wouldn’t have been so careless with the ones we spent so much effort tracking down earlier this year if they were all he had. No, I’m certain he’s probably got a dozen, all filled to overflowing with dancing ladies stripping down to their skin!”

He shook his head. “Not so exotic,” he sighed, “I only managed to secrete the one in the cabinet office for the powers that be to show off in front of, and that was at the PM’s request. You see, he didn’t believe they would work and wanted to use his usual bull-headed tactics making me look a fool when I tried to demonstrate them. The others, and it’s not quite a dozen, regrettably, have been used to record other stuff.”

I raised one eyebrow. “Other stuff?” I queried.

He nodded. “Foolishly, I’ve gone along the lines of weaponising keck. You known what keck is? Otherwise known as cow parsley, it grows just about anywhere, in hedgerows, along roadsides in the country, and I’ve got the capability of easily transforming its DNA so that anyone who touches it even briefly is touching something more dangerous and potent than the worst nerve agent you can imagine. One brush against the least smidgen of keck and you’re dead. Get walked on by a fly whose wing brushed against a leaf of keck as it flew by and you wouldn’t survive above half an hour, and that half an hour would be filled with the most wretched pain imaginable.”

Angelina had gone pale. “But cow parsley grows just about anywhere, as you said, Igor. There’s not a person who wouldn’t accidentally brush against a sprig of it, a leaf, maybe, even if he was on the look out for the stuff. It’s just about everywhere.”

Igor nodded. “That’s a fact,” he said as if it wasn’t much of a problem, “and it’s why I’ve got to get rid of the formula of the substance that creates so lethal a weapon out of such a common plant. You see, it’s a gas, harmless to humans in itself, but one molecule of it blowing with the wind is enough to lock itself onto the biology of keck and make it into a proliferating and powerfully lethal weapon, more dangerous than nuclear bombs, more savage than the most pandemic perverse virus you can imagine, and most certainly capable of stripping this planet of humanity in a matter of months. And I’ve got that particular gas’s formula locked into a tiny diamond where it is virtually indestructible, and if it gets into the wrong hands then it’s bye-bye Royston and Angelina, farewell Blinky and Igor, welcome the eternal odour of flesh decaying in every corner of the globe where mankind has trodden.”

That’s terrible,” gasped Angelina.

What possessed you, Igor?” I asked, “what drove you to create such a terrible thing? I thought you were a man of peace, And yet…?”

He sighed. “I am a man of peace,” he said slowly, “and I find conflict reprehensible. Have you any idea how glorious this planet would be if there wasn't the instinct for war and victory stitched into our DNA? If there wasn’t the need to condemn others, even those who share our own biology, as lesser beings and in need of destruction in order that our own genes march alone and unchallenged into the future… think if what a wonderful planet this would have become if we were all like that. All sorts of things that we take for granted may well have been conquered by now, like death...”

You think so?” gasped Angelina, “even death? You think we might have managed to create immortality?”

He sighed. “Who can tell? So I was hoping to create a gateway into what might have been a wonderland, but my efforts went astray. There was a bi-product of my magical serum and it is the formula for that serum and its bi-product that I must destroy before anyone else gets their hands on it. The formula is recorded in a diamond and that diamond (together with a few others that might be potentially dangerous) must be destroyed.

That is what I want you to do. To go where, and this might sound like a cliché, where no man has gone before. To go into space, in a rocket I have built that has the unique property of needing no fuel other than a few torch batteries as back-up to solar panels, and out towards the sun where you will be able to shoot the diamonds towards that fiery centre of our solar system and destroy them and what they contain before mankind is destroyed.”

It all sounds a bit far-fetched,” I muttered.

I know,” he said, soberly, “and, if you recall, so did the diamonds. That’s the trouble with really good science. It stumbles across things that are far-fetched, and sometimes they need to be destroyed before they destroy us.”

And sometimes you need idiots like us to destroy them for you,” I muttered, “which is my fancy way of asking why you can’t be the one to fly to the sun and destroy your wretched diamonds? After all, it’s you who created them.”

He shook his head. “I would,” he said quietly, “but there’s quite a chance that I wouldn’t make it.”

But we would?” demanded Angelina.

You almost certainly would,” he said, “but you see, I’d most probably die before I got there and end up missing my targets and decomposing in a spaceship that is uncontrolled and might go just about anywhere, out beyond the solar system, maybe, with its deadly information on board. You see, I’ve got a condition that’s terminal, another bi-product of the serum I developed, Just leave it at that because I really don’t like thinking about it.”

But what would be the harm if those diamonds went into the endless blackness of space where surely they’d be no risk to man nor beast?” I asked.

He smiled at me. “There’s a tiny chance they might come back here,” he said quietly, “and that would never do, would it? And there’s always the future to think of. Even a distant future on a distant world. So I want you to go, before I … before I die, and the less said about that the better.”

There was a sudden silence as three people stared at each other, and thought deep thoughts.

© Peter Rogerson, 15.02.20



© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

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4. GRAVITY 4. GRAVITY

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson