Archive for courier

Lucky Courier

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by javedbabar

“Damn!” said Sophie to herself and then thought, I hate it when that happens. She picked up the phone and dialled a number. “Hello, it’s Sophie here from Lucerne Village Hall. I seem to have missed a delivery. I was here all morning; how did that happen?”

“Hello Sophie. This is Daphne from the Customer Services Team. I am sorry about your delivery. We’ve had a few problems this morning. Shall I reschedule it for this afternoon?”

“That would be great. If I’m not in my office, the courier can leave it at the reception desk in the other building. That’s always manned.”

She had considered saying, wo-manned but that would sound stupid.

The courier came again two hours later. There was a single fingernail tap on her window, and then a happy face, brown, but more golden in hue than his uniform. She motioned for him to enter, and he bounded in with a small, heavy parcel. She hadn’t been expecting anything. Was it a present from someone? Sophie liked surprises.

“Good afternoon, Miss Walker. I am sorry about before. I am new to this area and didn’t know that other building was related to yours. How many of these buildings are village offices? Oh, all of them around the garden? This must be a nice place to work. How long have you worked here? You seem well settled in…”

So much talking, thought Sophie, does he get many deliveries done? Maybe it’s because he’s new and wants to build customer relationships. Mr Chatty. She should ask him something too. “Where were you before this? In a different territory?”

“I am originally from Salistan,” he said.

Uh-oh, thought Sophie. He thinks I’m asking where he’s from. Why do immigrants always assume that’s the question? “I mean your delivery territory.”

“Oh sorry. Before I was working in the New City, but now I am in Lucerne.”

“That must be a big change for you.”

“Oh yes, but I like it. I don’t care about having a big house or big car. I just want a simple life, where I can hold my head up without people pointing. I want to make my family proud.”

Sophie was about to ask if they were still in Salistan, but he continued.

“I almost became rich, you know. At the horse races I said as a joke to someone to bet on a thousand-to-one horse. The woman put a hundred dollars on it, but the bookie closed before I could put my bet on. That horse won! That woman won one hundred thousand dollars! I saw her dancing. I was going to go up and congratulate her but there were so many people crowding around her that I left it. I was happy for her.”

Sophie started saying, “Did you…” but he was off again.

“At the casino once, I did become rich. You know that gambling is forbidden by my religion, but those machines are irresistible. It is only one coin and you never know what may happen. Lady Luck may be on your side. I won the hundred thousand dollar jackpot! It was like the Gambling God gave me what he owed. The bells were ringing, lights were flashing, and coins flooded out. They told me later that was all for show. The real prize was a big cheque for the money. I was married then, and my wife couldn’t stop laughing and laughing. In the car on the way home, we talked about all the things we would do together, but then I saw the look on her face. It said that she didn’t want to do them with me.”

Sophie didn’t know what to say.

He continued, “That’s why I am here in Lucerne working as a courier. Would you please sign for your parcel? I have a good feeling about it, why don’t you see what it contains.”

Sophie’s eyes flashed like lights on a pinball machine. There was a card saying she had won everything she had ever dreamed of. She just had to call a special number, which she did later that day. Immediately her mortgage increased by a hundred thousand dollars, which was transferred to an account in Salistan.

Carrier Bird System

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by javedbabar

Sharon watched Pinku rise into the sky. She always felt a pang of sadness when a bird left her hand, knowing there was a chance that it would not return. They were trained to return, the same or next day, but you couldn’t be sure. Birds were a blessing to the humans remaining.

It was hard to believe that people had once eaten pigeons – beings whose brave adventures now kept us connected in far-flung territories. The flatlands were all taken; humans who had not escaped were captured and killed.

Communities remained only on the mountains at each end of the Lucerne Valley – the larger one in the meadows atop Mt Alba, and smaller one in Mt Negra’s caves. They were in regular communication by CBS – the Carrier Bird System built upon an aviary bequeathed to the village. The tropical birds were beautiful but not sustainable, and were a luxury in difficult times. Their flesh was eaten and their feathers used for decoration. But the pigeons, hawks, and eagles proved useful. They were nourished and trained.

Sharon wondered if a hawk would have been better for this mission. The message had seemed important to her, and she had alerted her commander upon its arrival. The Signal Corps were meant to relay “but not absorb” messages’ contents, so if they were captured no secrets would be betrayed. Her commander had said to send a pigeon.

Her brother had built the coop himself. Its design was ingenious. When a CBS courier arrived, wires sounded a bell, alerting the guard. Then he or she would remove the steel canister from the bird’s neck or back, decode the message, and relay it upward.

She’d heard that carrier pigeons had flown only one way originally, towards home; hence the common term for them, homing pigeons. But the Signal Corps had trained them to fly both ways, by making them feel that Mt Negra was home and Mt Alba was their feeding station. Hence they flew happily between them, managing the 160 km round trip in a day.

Pinku hadn’t returned by dusk. She began to worry, and again wondered if she should have selected a hawk. She had seen some hawks during her surveillance of the valley; even eagles back early from their winter sojourn in the Gulf. Could a hawk or eagle have got the better of Pinku? It was unlikely. He was a smart bird, always flying close to the tree line, not leaving himself exposed. She had a worse thought – were they cultural, rather than natural, predators? Maybe enemy forces had trained their own birds.

She’d better send a hawk. She prepared another coded message and selected Bubbly to deliver it. As she saw him rise into the dusk sky, she saw an eagle rise with him. Hawks were faster, but eagles were smarter and stronger, and generally got the better of any fight. She knew right then that Bubbly was gone.

Sharon prepared a third coded message, and called forth Azeem. You couldn’t treat eagles like other birds. You had to treat them like people.

She said, “Azeem, my beautiful bird, my powerful companion, I have a request for you. Would you please deliver this message to Mt Alba by daybreak, and then return safely home?” Azeem stood still as she affixed the steel canister, and then was gone. She saw his back shine silver in the half-moon.

The next morning she saw glittering air in the valley. At first it seemed a flock of birds reflecting sunshine, but then she realized that it wasn’t birds. They moved too deliberately, taking no advantage of winds and thermals. If anything, they were pushing against them.

But one shape among them moved differently, and dodged from side to side, dropping down suddenly and swirling. It was Azeem.

When he dropped heavily beside her, she saw he was injured. His breast and wings were bloody, and his feathers tattered rags. “What happened to you, brave bird?” she said as she opened his canister. As she unrolled the hand written message, she had a brief recollection of digital technologies. They were now of no use to humans; 100% too dangerous to use.

The message when decoded read, “Urgent. The machines have adapted. They are no longer confined to land and water. They can fly now. Evacuate immediately.” Sharon looked up and saw a swarm of small aircraft, all remotely controlled like toys, but deadly ones, seeking out humans.