almost done, need to add a few more scenes here and there
Outside in the taxi Yoshio whisled. The land of her childhood streached around them, blinding sun reflecting off red walls. Riyadh, the main capital. Old gazoline powered cars navigated the wide streets, constant horns blearing. Larger than life airbrushed 3-D drawings of bearded goverment leaders on billboards, ornamented with swirling beautiful Arabic. Same as she remembered it. The men still wore the traditional clothes and the women, well, they stayed at home. The more the rest of the world changed, the more Saudi Arabia refused to, clinging to its old ways of traitional Islam. "And I thought Iran and Iraq were hot." Yosho said in japanese turning around in his seat, filming. "Let me get some panoramic shots Tashi, for the kids back home."
In the evening, after they had checked into the hotel, showered and relaxed, Yoshio knocked on her door. "Tashi, you ready?" He was 23, and she only a 15 years old girl, so he waited patiently untill she opened the door. Tashira was carefully following the Arab customs and was dressed in soft off white cotton pants, long sleved shirt and wore no make up. The only unusual thing was the streak of pink in her jet black paige boy cut hair. Her room was spartain, but it had air conditioning, humming softly. Her net gear charging was carefully set on a wooden desk probably no less than 100 years old. He never took his off, constantly kept it live, constantly recording. A total Net-head, always scouting for a story. He didn't even like to update his hardware for it was becoming smaller and smaller to the point where it didn't look "cool" at all.
"This place we are going to visit tonight. As I understand it is designated for teen boys only and no girls are allowed inside, right?" Yoshio asked her as they walked down the corridor. "SO we will be doing some ground breaking there, eh? How much did MTV have to pay them?"
Tashira smiled at him. "Of course they balked at first, but never underestimate our boss. He was even able to secure us the interview with Shadora."
The club was the usual dark, high celling room, colorful lights cutting through. It is half full with dancing teen boys, all dressed in light clothes. The music is surpisingly modern, a fast techno/trance that could just as easily be played in a fashionable Berlin, or London dance club. Her eyes immediatly caught an out of place figure of a boy standing close to the wall. The boy looked just like all the others, tall, lanky, with the usual wide soft cotton pants and shirt. What set him aside was the old long-obsolete beat up laptop on his hip wired to an eye camera and the sneering smile on his face. He was busy recording, and working the portable keyboard, quick bursts of typing then he would straighten up and look around. He spoted them and he raised his eyebrows looking amused and intrigued. Ignoring him, Tashira and Yoshio checked all their equipment over and prepaired for her broadcast. As she was signing off, a deep voice next to her sais "Hello, you are Japanese, are you not? Do you speak Arabic?" It is the teen boy.
"Hello." she answered politely. "Yes, I am a foreign journalist on assigment from MTV-Nippon. I am covering..."
"Woo, that is great, you DO speak Arabic!" he interupted her.
"Wonderful! I am named Cush." he smiled, "So you came all the way to report on THE most popular arabic teen band right NOW? What, are they THAT famous in Japan too?"
"Yoshio doesn't speak much arabic but I do." she answered. "And yes, they certainly are. Their videos were just introduced and our kids have become obsessed with them. Especially the boys with the singer. We are not here only for them, I will also be reporting on the general music scene in Saudi Arabia. I have several popular clubs to visit, several other pop stars to interview..."
"Yes, she is cute, they can dance, and they can almost sing." the boy continued, sarcastic smile on his lips. "What a rip-off eh?" the last sentance in quick English. "I bet you are jaded enough to walk through this assigment with your eyes closed. What I want to know is how do you always find new things to say? Well, too bad, I guess the audience back in Japan only wants fluff. If you wanted though, I could offer you the oportunity to see REAL kids, making real music in our country. The REAL underground stuff, not this garbage, the people who care and make music for the love of it, NOT for profit."
Tashira blinked at him. "Let me make sure I am understanding you right. You JUST met me a minute ago and you are already offering to take us to "a real Saudi Arabia underground concert" put by ordinary arab kids?"
"Yes." he answered. "You seem like an inteligent person, you probably know all this" he indicated the surroundings with his hand "is ALL faked. Carefully controlled by the goverment. Look at it. How many girls do you see? Doesn't the realization that girls are not allowed here offend you?" he grinned, obviously pleased with himself for using the foreign term.
"Then think about the "scoop." he quickly continued. "That is your assigment right, to report on the music scene in backwards Saudi Arabia. I am handing you a story, a hot story. Gonna take advantige of it?" the last sentence in English again.
She knew he was trying to impress her, but the intense look into his enormous black eyes appealed to her. "English is good." she offered. "I speak it too."
"I wish I can practice more it with somebody." he quickly jumped right in, "I only learn English watching net shows. And let me assure you, you WILL be safe with me. I am kind of well known." He was right, Tashira had already noticed the several kids shadowing him and carefully acting like what? "His friends or bodyguards?" she wondered.
Her journalist instincs were kicking in and suddenly, on whim, feeling like a perfect fool, she decided to accept his invitation. "I must inform my employers back in MTV-Nipon about this and ask their permition." Tashira gave him hope. "and my techie Yoshio must also agree to come. Not that I do not trust you, but our system will keeps a live lock on our position at all times, checking our heart rates and other vital signs."
"That IS good" he grinned, "that way we will NOT lose you then."
"Diezel." he explained, reading her expression. "Sorry about the smell, that is all we can afford."
"We" was the 5 other teen boys riding in the back. "My commarades" he had said.
An older arab boy was the driver. Cush has a short very intense conversation with his friends, involving lots of arguing and hand waving, which Tashira isn't allowed to listen to. Finally Cush comes back with a huge victorious smile on his face. He had won also. Yoshio grinned back. Tashira rode with Cush in the cabin, while Yoshio and the other boys crammed themselves on the flat bed. The boys all carry various old computer equpiment, tighted together with tape, even a small beat up portable UPS battery with wires dangling. It looked live, working. Tashira decided they were some kind of arab hackers. She wanted to interview all of them but the rules had to be figured first. Yoshio will be pals with them in under 10 minutes anyway. Tech geeks were the same all over. They were already checking each other's stuff out.
She sat in the middle of the cabin, and Cush squeezed close to her.
"So", Cush began, "Mind if I ask you questions?" It is so rare to get foreigners in our land. This is a priceless opportunity for me."
"Certainly." Tashira told him. "and I have questions of my own, too, please."
"Good," Cush said nodding his head, keeping his eyes on her face as the truck jumped on the rough unpaved road. "So, how did you decide to come to Saudi Arabia in the first place to report on the arabic music scene?"
"This is our middle stop." Tashira told him. "We just came in from Bahrad. We have spent the last 2 weeks in Iran and Iraq. Saudi Arabia is the most conservative of all the Muslum states, but we have pre- arranged interviews with several people here. Next places we are going to visit are Siria, Israel and Egipt. I was chosen because I speak Arabic and I lived here when I was a kid at the turn of the century. My father is an Arab. Yoshio came along because it is not really a good idea for a 15 years old girl to travel alone, if you can forgive me saying so."
"How interesting!" Cush sounded genuine fascinated. "But all those countries do NOT really conform to the old tired pop culture formula of the US and Japan. True, we also market "pop music", but in my opinion, this decidedly outdated 20th century phenomenon goes hand in hand with mass-production, media owned by super corporations and middle class consumer base being force-fed mindless mediocre crap to fill their empty lives. Which we plainly do not have in our Muslum world."
Tashira was taken back. He was already arguing with her. She fingered her shoulder strap thinking of a responce, then slid her hand down and turned her recording gear on.
"So you are saying "pop culture" is all obsolete?"
"Pretty much. See, the "consumer" phase the US, Japan, Europe went through is almost over. It all started a little bit before or after World War 2 with factories chain producing marketable goods. Their best planners knew the time of oversaturating and enviromental damage will come, no matter how much they tried to deny the facts. Now their economies are in shambles. It does not matter really why and it will take too long to explain, but it will be up to us to begin cleaning the mess they left everywhere and it is not gonna be pretty. They were so proud of their "information economy" and kept preaching how their profits will keep on going up because of the internet. At the end, capitalism is a sham. It is as artifical as communism." It had to crash. I studied it all, stock market, means of productions, ets..."
She was stunned and just lets him continue.
"I don't have to teach you the 2 basic laws of capitalism, right?
1- Always expand into new markets and 2- Always use somebody as economic slave to manifacture products and goods cheaply. Now the new laws in USA are amusing to say the least. Look how easy the Internet made it for people to swap "hot intelectual property". So the Americans and Europeans changed their laws, and now send people to jail if their cops find illigally copied music or movies. They even declaired some software illigal to have. An American caught breaking the "Millenium copiright protection" law gets as much time today as their drug dealers, ha-ha.
The Americans especially are so upset about losing world dominance in every field including music and movies they have to now resort back to looking and finding enemies and arab terrorists everywhere and now bomb Iraq every year or so. Their military-industrial complex is the only thing keeping their economy alive and are currently bombing Libia again. The great new Internet economy never really materialized for them. Nobody makes any money on the Internet. We here studied all the mistakes America, Japan and Europe made and now we are ready to do it our way here too. We combine music and technology together."
The sky was enormous, velvety black with stars jumping up and down in it. Tashira looks at him, beautiful asian eyes seriously studing his face in the ghost green of the instruments panel, deciding if he was joking with her or not. She adjusted the net glasses on her chest, making sure he was framed correctly in the shot. Cush smiled. Her gear was several years beyond anything he had seen and he had trouble deciding what he liked more - her or her gadgets. "Most of the other countries in Asia today have joined the modern world," he continued, "India, look at all the changes going on in China right now, while our problem is just the opposite. You DO know that Saudi Arabia is ran by one family, our royal king's, right?" here he sneered, with open hatered. They are in absolute power, making sure things stay the same as they are and do NOT change. We are still a primitive medieval society by the rest of the world's standards. They are robing the country's oil reserves and getting richer while preaching Islam because it suits them. Now they are finally begining to get worried, seeing how technological developments are taking their power away little by little. They will not hesitate to use force against the slightest disobedience. Trust me, they are NOT stupid."
"Yeah." agreed the driver. That was the first time he has said a word.
Tashira looked at him and he shyly returned her gaze. Cush smiled.
"See, even El NataS'h agrees with me. El NataS'h, this is Tashira. Tashira, this is El NataS'h. She will tell the rest of the world about our fight for freedom from thyranny."
El NataS'h grinned at her.
"How did I get into all that?" she asked herself silently. Her journalist's instincts had been right, as usual. There was something much more importaint than a bunch of arabic punk kids here making music. This boy was involved in changind his world, or at least trying to. "Mind if I use all that?" she asked suddently. "I am sorry, I was recording you, I should have told you before hand, but..."
In the back of the truck Yoshio had already began the techie heads ritual of showing the boys his gear, using lots of gesturing. Cush laughed at her.
"Certanly. I knew when you started recording me. No problem. Only if you air it unedited, just like it is."
"Tell me more." she prompted him, blushing, greatful he couldn't see it in the dark.
"It's simple. Well, to ME it was. Look, I made this JPEG graph several years ago to explain it to people quickly." He punched a few keys on his portable and presented her the screen. "Here is the Babilonian civilization, the Egiptian, then the Greek, the Roman, the Italian Renessance, right here Spain becomes a world power because it had a fleet of ships, here the industrial revolution starts," his finger tracing a visible line going from right to left across the world globe. What do you see?"
"As the world develops the point of influence moves west." she answered amazed. "It already has jumped across the Pacific ocean durring the 1990s and today is here, somewhere in Asia." she added pointing.
"Yes" he agreed, pleased. "Either China, Pakistan or India are set to become the next world super powers. The problem is this also brings stress reactions too." She noded, knowing how close india and Pakistan had come recently in exchanging nuclear strikes. "Originally I was a math student." he explained. I kept on seeing all this patterns, as early as a little kid. So I educated myself. The Internet helped. I could log on and access world libraries, The Britanica, US Library of Congress, ets. I belong to several math message boards, Usenet discussion groups, the works. I wanted to become a mathemation, but my family was so poor. Only rich kids can afford to get good education here."
El NataS'h looked at Cush and nodded in agreement again, like he had heard this conversation many times before
. "Control of the flow of information is priority one. Always has been. But when the US created the Internet, they made a serious mistake, they didn't think about the consequences. The rest of the world picked it right up, and now the genie is out of the bottle and there is NO way to put it back in." Cush seemed like he was warming up for another of his long speeches.
"You are preaching." she smiled at him.
"Yes, but are you converted?" he shot back, his intelligent black eyes staring at her.
Tashira opened her mouth, confused, and changed the subject immeadiatly. "So, you are NOT just a bunch of arab punk kids making trash music. What exactly are you doing?"
"Ever heard of Freenet? it is a distributed type network, started in 2000 in England."
"We copied the advanced design and we set up our own..." Here the truck jumped over a ditch in the road, making the kids in the back to utter "Aouuus" in unison.." a network. Putting up "punk shows" is just for networking purpoices only, we recruit the kids who come to the shows. Then the real work begins. We give them classes, we look at who has certain abilities, and we organize meetings, we hunt for places to live, for work, ets. The problem is we are just a "bunch of no good-trouble making poor bastards" in the eyes of our king's goverment. That is why they just passed a law forbiding private unsupervised or unmonitoried computer networks. We either open it up or we will be forced to shut it down. We are now in the eye of the hurracane." It can go either way; we give up or we fight. We have decided to fight."
There was a silence in the truck as Tashira digested all he had said. She felt as she just had opened a door and stepped into a completly different universe than the one she existed in. But then, she had felt like this for the whole month ever since her assignment had started.
"Cush..." she began gently. "They, I mean your goverment..."
Everything she wanted to say suddenly seemed shallow and pandering. The two arab teens were both staring at her waiting for her reply.
"I understand how backwards they are, believe me, Japan is going through a simular cultural revolution right now, following our 12 years reccesion of the 1990s. We had to shake ourselves from that blind love we had for the US and everything American..."
Cush shook his head. "You do not seem to understand. Here, if you decide to go against the ruling class, you simply end up dead. They do not allow disobedience of any kind. What we are doing is putting our lives on the line."
"This is Tashira Hakakikan, from MTV-Nippon! If only you can be here, everybody! This is simply amazing! I am actually standing here, somewhere outside of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, attending an underground concert organized by and for the Arabic kids themselves!"
She is forced to shout her last words, as the first band begins performing. The singer sweating, half naked, dressed only in dark wide pants, grabbed the mike and roared something too quick for her to catch in gutter Abaric. The audience cheerfully agreed with him. Tashira turned 180 degrees around, carefully framing the audience in one wide panoramic shot. There was no stage, the band simply stood in the center of a wide high ceiling room. She was right next to them, as arranged by Cush. A wide circle of kids surrounded them gaping at her as much as at the band. She wondered again about ear damage. To the left, Cush watching her proudly. The kids at the door appeared to worship Cush and his "commarades". They had let them all inside immediatly, for free. A lot of the boys insde knew Cush too, he introduced her to them. Everyone seemd really impressed how Cush was able to bring in a real journalist. She didn't see any girls and was going to ask Cush later about it. For now, Tashira had a report to do: "The place is um, appears to be an old building, of unknown kind, made of clay walls, with flat roof. I was practially blinded and led here as a prisoner, as the location is kept secret untill the last possible moment! The name of the band performing is the Barking Dogs! Let's listen to them please!"
The "song" consisted of 4 teen boys banging machine like tribal rythms on various "instruments" and screaming their heads off in unison. The audience was eating it all up. She remembered the old terms "howling metal" and "industrial music", dating back to mid 1980s when japanese performers like Masonna and Merzbow would come on stage and more or less make random unpleasant torrents of wild disjointed noise. This was different, much more organized, millitant in its insistent beat, strongly affecting the body and the mind. Almost like a message.
"They are kinda like our lazy jobless "punks-kids"" she thought, scaning. "But much more political and orginized. Like the punk groups all over Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.
Her equipment worked flawlessly, instantly recording, digitazing, encripting and sending the signal over to the MTV-NIppon satelite. 21 century tech. Good old Yoshio was really getting into the music too. He and his new techie friends were already banging their heads together. The Barking Dogs performed for about 40 minutes, using metal trash cans, led pipes, metal drills, hammers on sheets of metal with no guitars at all. Immediatly after, another band took the stage. Their name was Build and Collapse. They were much worse than the first band if that was possible. Huge old speakers poured out emormously powerful sintesized construction type noise with the beat so heavy, it made the whole building vibrate under her feet. The boys really liked the band and an all out frenzied dancing began. About 10 minutes into the set, a commotion from where the exit was attracted Cush's attention. He streached above the dancing kids to get a better view, quickly turned, put his hands around his mouth whisling long and shrill. He was infront of her in one long step.
"Keep calm please!" he told her, "But we have serious problems. Local police are here."
Tashira's blood went cold. She continued recording automatically and tried to look above people's heads. Yohio edged over and Tashira quickly shared the developments. Yoshio was estatic. He turned around and continued filming. A scuffle was already developing not far from them, as the police began plowing through the kids, arresting them left and right.
"We must go NOW or they will arrest us!" Cush calmly told them. "Quickly."
"Follow me." grabbing her hand he bent and plunged into the crowd, using his body skilfully to open a path. The crowd's noise masked his words. El NataS'h followed closely behind.
"WHAT?" she screamed in japanese.
"We ALWAYS prepair before hand, and we know all the available exits." Cush panted, his hot body against her. "This way."
"WAIT!!" she told him. "We MUST wait for Yoshio! He is a bit behind."
"Yes" Cush agreed. "But if we get separated, people have been assigned especially to help him."
He pushed her into a small opening in the wall. Behind them a sudden yell of pain cut short.
"Wait!" she pleaded. "Let me see where Yoshio is." Truthfully she wanted to see if she can get a few shots in, instead she screamed as she saw a riot-geared policeman club a kid right in the face with a baton. Cush wasn't even listening anymore, dragging her away, two of his "commarades" closely following them and El NataS'h huffing and puffing because they carried 2 miniature servers connected to a heavy looking portable UPS battery.
The tunnel was so low she had to bend in half to use it. It lead to a small dark room. Cush used a flashlight, and opened an enormous wooden closet. The light revealed a dark claustrophobic hole, filled with dancing dust.
"In, in, quickly. Go straight, but you see the exit, stop!" he told her. El NataS'h nervously whispered to her to be careful.
Her adrenaline pumping Tashira plunged into the darkness and is amazed to see an exit, an irregular hole with a slight light coming in. Muffled screams sound not too far away. Cush peered outside carefully. The old truck is parked about 20 meters away and 4 of his friends are involved in a rocks throwing match with several advancing policemen equipped with riot gear.
Cush cursed, and told her: "We are going to make a run for it. Are you ready? We must do it now, or my commarades will not be able to hold off the police for long. They are trying to protect you and me. Here, let me grab your hand. On 3! One, two..."
"Wait," Tashira pleaded, "Yoshio...We have to wait for..."
"NO TIME." Cush interrupted her. "Yoshio will be fine, he is right behind us, people are taking care of him. Now GO, GO!"
She almost tripped on a rock, Cush grabbed her waist, the surprised policemen yelled at them to stop, his friends defending the truck charged them in return. Cush practically throws her in the truck, and as El NataS'h started it, he jumps on the running board, lips pulled back, teeth bared, cursing in juicy arabic. Just then several more people come running out, and she recognized Yoshio among them. A policeman threw himself at the truck and to her horror, El NataS'h ran right into him.
They made a wide turn around the building and Tashira knew she will never forget the moonlit scene infront. Just then Cush managed to get inside the truck's cabin and slammed the door.
"I saw Yoshio. We missed him by a minute." she informed him.
"And I lost most of my net servers." breathing heavily he told her.
"Where are we?" she asks, looking around and rubbing her eyes. "I mean what city? Are we safe?" Cush grunts. ""Safe" is a relative term. Yes, we are safe for now, but do not take the black glasses off, keep yourself covered with this chadora and do not make eye contact."
Chadora is the cloth the arabic women wear in Saudi Arabia, from their hair to their feet. She is surprised as many other western people before her how it helped to keep her cooler.
"This is NOT a city." he continues. "It is an outpost, a stopping place for travelers to rest and buy any necesary supplies they might need. Started as an oasis and became a village. Let us get some tea, and see what we are going to do next. Let me do all the talking."
"I need to go back to Riyadh. How much will your friends help Yoshio?" "We do not know if it is a good idea to go back to Riyadh. We need a new plan of action, Tashira."
The village is a dozen buildings more or less lined up to make a lonely dusty steet. 2 old men with a dog are sitting under an adobe watching them. Cush aproaches them and gets directions to the coffee house. They sit down and are served by an old woman who curiously stares at Tashira's face.
"I am sorry about the whole mess I got you into." began Cush.
"I know." Tashira quietly said. "But that was the reason I came with you, right? As an observer. Guess I got more than I barganed for. Now explain to me exactly what you and your friends are doing. If you can tell me."
"We live in a squat. We have a community. We realize how Saudi Arabia is being held back by the current goverment and we are trying to change that. We are building a distributed type Freenet network. We..." Here the old woman served them tea and sweet pastries. Tashira doesn't feel hungry at all, but Cush insists she eats. She finds the pastries too sugary for her taste, but the tea is delicious, rich and creamy.
He begins again: "We KNEW it will get noticed sooner or later, it was too good to be true, we KNEW sooner or later the goverment will take notice of us and try to shake us down." He sighes. "I guess the time has come."
Tashira studied his face, nods at him to continue.
"But we took certain precausions, see? A distributed network is kinda impossible to take down comepletly, because all the nodals on it work independently from one another. When my servers got confiscated last night, it didn't affect our total net one bit. The data is everywhere. But now they have gone the extra step, and may soon accuse me and others of being radical subversives. The police may certainly arrest me, and since I am just a poor nobody, it is all over for me. But others will take over."
Tashira looks out at the empty street, the quietness of the place, the blinding sunlight, all combining into a heady psychidelic trance. The evens of the past 24 hours have left her numb. She is exausted, and has trouble concentrating. The heat is making everything vibrate with crystal halucinigenic quality. Her tea cooling infront of her. The two young boys at the door caught her eyes, and grinned, big white teeth flashing from brown faces.
"So what are you going to do next? How do I fit in? Do you still want me involved as well?"
He nods. "Yes. We were so very lucky last night. We barely escaped. El NataS'h ran over a policeman. Truthfully speaking, me and him are in deep trouble. It is up to you to decide if you want to continue being with us. Personally, I do not recommand it. You have done so much as it is. Go back and spread the story of what is happening in here. As for me, now, I cannot go back to our place, I cannot use a computer, for my account is probably monitored. Meanwhile, the situation is advancing. I must contact our friends in other cities and warn them to take the nessasary steps to secure our network. I do not know how I can do that, for the Internet is vary tightly controlled here as you may have noticed. Soon, if NOT already our faces will be on every cop's hot most-wanted list printing on his old Pentium III machine." He snorts. "So as you can see, I have a big problem on my hands..."
"How about using wireless?" Tashira asked "We in Japan..." He stopped her quickly. "Yes, but we do not have those here yet. We are much worse than England, Russia or United States combined when it comes to our goverment snooping on us how we use the Internet. I cannot just go down to our local Internet cafe and rent to use a machine for half an hour."
Tashira defeatedly sat back. In 2000 England had re-routed all of their Internet traffic to pass through a special node manned by spook from the England MI5 secret service, all in the name of security and catching "Internet criminals". The goverments of the world powers finally woke up to the threat of what the Internet represented and amazingly acted rather quickly passing laws and legislations, making sure all loop holes were covered. She remebered the case of the retired Army major Paddy Roy Bates who took over an old former World War II anti-aircraft platform in 1967 off England's coast and how several American cyberpunks tried to create a company named HeavenCo there as a sort of "data heaven" to escape government scrutiny. Nothing came out of it, since no goverment would accept them as "legimate" nation.
"Use my head comm gear then." she suggests. It has 1500-bit encription, and it's wireless. You should be able to calibrate it to work with the local soft. We can also download any nessesary soft off anywhere too, since it won't use your local net at all, but directly connect to our satelites and from there onto the Wide World Net."
"If we do that, you will get in trouble with your boss back home, will you not?" he smiled humorlessly. I have heard about the famous japanese work ethic."
She blinks, quickly lifting the cup of tea to her lips to cover her confusion. His black eyes are oh so nice...She swallows.
"It doesn't matter, it is only a job." she replies. "Besides, think how famous I can get, people will want to interview me and probablty I will get many job offers!"
Cush manages a real smile this time. "A girl with a sense of humor. How rare that is! You are such a treasure! Let us go now, we wasted enough time here."
Squating in the shadow of the truck she helps him get the heavy dark blue goggle glasses around his head, tightening the straps, making sure the sound worked, then gave him a quick run through the drop-down menues. El NataS'h watches with deep interest.
"It is really nice it is all in Net English and not in Nihonjin Hiragana or Katakana." Cush laughs. Otherwise I would need a few years. "Mercy!" he digs into the function which gave him a 3-D map of the World Wide Net. "From here I can log onto ANY system- JollyNet, FreeNet, FreedomNet!!! And I can transmit up to several Gigs per minute! Live! No wonder the airport cops hassled you over the equipment! If they only KNEW!"
In the truck again, El NataS'h driving, she watched Cush's pure geek excitment. Cush is working the menues like a pro, logging on for short time, asking for attention, spilling quick burst of encripted techno/gutter speak, then moving on.
He finally removes the goggles. It has taken less than 10 minutes.
"All done. I am sure your employers are aware of what I have accessed?"
"Yes, of-course, but they don't really monitor my usage, they have no reason to." she replies. "Maybe now they do..."
They continue back to Riyadh, traveling along dirt back roads, throwing a cloud of dust. Tashira doesn't waste the opportunity to make sure all of her filmed footage had made it accross. She leaves several detailed voice emails to her boss, exlaining at great lenght what had happened. Then she falls asleep again from sheer fatigue. Last thing she rememebers is Cush taking over the driving. She wonders if he is old enough to drive.
Trouble caught with them several kilometers before Riyadh, in the form of a road block. Solders are checking each passing car carefully. A van with satelite dish and a forest of antenas is parked aside the road.
The solders are armed. Cush stops the truck, instantly waking both Tashira and El nataS'h up.
"Keep calm." he tells her, his face grimply set. "It might just be a standard check, nothing more. We have them often. Make sure your hands, your face are all covered up. DO NOT look up and DO NOT talk. You DO have a noticeable accent. There is a box under your seat. Take it out and you will find it has a double bottom under all the tools inside. Stuff some of these dirty rags on top too."
She understood, quckly stripped all her equipment, and stuffed everything into the box. She left her monitoring devices attached to her skin however, since the arab customs would forbid the solders of directly violating the taboo of touching strip search her.
After a nerve racking 23 minutes wait it was finally their turn.
"Yes, officer." said Cush. "Oh, yes? And who is this?" the solder said, and pulled her chadora back from her head, then stood gaping at her.
"Hey!" he exclaimed. She be a nice oriental pretty girl! Young too!"
Tashira looked at him, her face a dead mask, slant eyes ice cold. Women didn't have any rights here. Even if...
He grabbed her arm and roughly pulled her off the truck. El NataS'h gasped. The solder held her close, foolishly grinning into her eyes.
His breath smelled of tabacco...The other solders laughed...
"STOP!" Cush suddently yelled from the inside of the truck. "She is the daughter of our ambassador in Japan! If you do ANYTHING to her, there will be hell to pay...!" He didn't finish as another of the solders yanked him outside of the truck and hit him on the side of the head with his rifle. "Shut up, you!" Cush went down, out cold.
El NataS'h let out an animal yell and jumped out. Big as he was, he still was no match for the older and bigger solders who quickly overpowered him. Five minutes later he was down on his face in the dirt with the solders tighing their his hands behind his back.
A bit later, in the oven like van.
"Is that true? Is it true your father is an ambassador in Japan? You look oriental." the captain asks her. They had taken all her gear away, stripping the monitoring devices off her skin. MTV-Nippon will be in panic 10 minutes from now.
"Yes." she answeres. My father does works for in the Saudi embassy in Japan. My mother is Japanese." "Well, I am sorry for the bad treatment then." he immediatly tells her paling visibly. What were you doing with that bunch of poor bastards? Did they kidnap you? Are you hurt?"
Tashira manages not to laugh into his face. He narrowes his eyes.
"Is it true?" her father asked. "Is it true what they said you have done?"
Her heart beating fast, she counted backwards to 1 from 5 and replied in Arabic: "I do NOT know what I have been accused of doing." "I see." she heard him say, from far, far away. "What do you expect me to do now?" He is using arabic too.
Tashiar defeated, didn't know how to respond. The silence streached untill she managed to speak again.
"I am sorry father. I have not broken any laws as far as I know and I am a japanese citizen. But it was my duty as a journalist to take advantige of a very rare oportunity. I followed it. I expect nothing from you, all I ask is that you contact the Japanese embassy and MTV-Nippon and inform them of my situation. I just had had a forced vaginal and anal examination I did not agree to and I am still bleeding. I demand to be immediatly turned over as japanese national to the Japanese embassy. I also request political asylum for Cush, the boy who got arrested with me. I believe his life is in danger here." Her father had groaned when he heard her using the word "duty" and was breathing heavily when she finished talking. He knew the arab police was also monitoring the conversation. His words were very very slow as he answered:
"I understand. I will do as you requested. Take good care of yourself Tashira, and good bye."
"Tell mother I am fine and not to worry too much. Thank you father and good bye." The line went dead in her ear. Tashira swallowed her tears and looked at the 3 arab officials frowning at her.
"I am all done, thank you. Now can I get sanitary pads of some kind?"
Tashira was asleep and dreaming of a series of unconected images when a soft touch woke her. Her father was standing by the bed, accompaneid by 2 grim older Arabs.
"Come on" he said looking down at her. "we must go NOW. We have been given an hour to leave. A helicoper is waiting on the roof, to fly us to the airport, where a plane is waiting."
Tashira got up without saying a word. He gathered her only bag, and led her outside holding her hand firmly.
They did not speak untill the plane had left the ground. Then her father turned toward her.
"Tashira, the police will not let us even talk to Cush. They said he was a dangerous subversive and a criminal. Yoshio is safe. He is meeting us in Bah'rad. I am sorry. This whole incident has turned into an international farce with you, me, the Japanese embassy and MTV-Nippon in the middle. All your fans in Japan have gone crazy, demonstraiting infront of the Saudi Arabia embassy, jamming MTV-Nippon with phone calls insisting that you be released immediatly. You made the evening news in Japan, United States, all over the world really. That is how the Japanese goverment got involved and a deal was agreed on. Your visa has been revoked and I was warned. MTV-Nippon has denied all involvment, instead placing the blame fully on you. You have lost your job. Your recording equipment has been confiscated and appearantly destroyed. You will make a statment when we land in Japan, but you will agree not to do any interviews.
The funny part in this whole business appearantly began when the news about the police crack down and your involvment appeard on the Internet. It was simultaniously posted anonimously on several places at one time, hackers defacing several web-news places incliding World CNN and writing about your rape. The japanese embassy has demanded that an offical investigation. is under way."
He was calm, staring straight ahead as he said all that. Tashira cried, and let him trank her.