Monday 1 October – Day 27 of 30
Steve woke up this morning surprised to find that he was not in his sleeping space in The Star. He was still seated across from Arthur C. Clarke in the food tent where they had been having tea yesterday afternoon. They must have been mind-locked for more than twelve hours. He knew they were close to solving the problem of how to initiate communication from The Cloud to The Earth.
So what had broken the trance? Steve looked around. Some early morning diners were arriving, but they were steering clear of the two of them, choosing tables at a good distance away. The serving staff did not approach them.
Then he saw a quartet of familiar figures coming towards the tent. Douglas Adams, the only person who knew what was going on with Steve and Clarke, had spent the night in his own sleeping space, but this morning he had recruited John Lennon, who had recruited Gandhi, who had brought Siri along. The four of them entered and stood in a circle around the table. Steve must have picked up on their brain-waves; that’s what broke his trance.
No one said anything. Then Gandhi gently put his hand on Steve’s shoulder, and Steve began to cry. He was shocked at his reaction. What was happening to him? The tears were coming fast and soon he was sobbing. He buried his face in his hands, embarrassed, confused, humiliated.
Meanwhile, Clarke maintained his rigid expression, eyes closed, posture erect, apparently unaware that he was surrounded. Siri bent down to look in his face, touched his cheek, and turned to Gandhi with an expression of great concern.
“He’s not going to respond,” she said. “He’s lost, perhaps forever.”
Gandhi did not react. His focus was on Steve, his friend. He didn’t know Arthur C. Clarke, and had no stake in the man’s fate. He pressed more firmly on Steve’s shoulder and put his arm around him.
Siri took charge. “Go to the Lab,” she told Doug Adams. “Get someone to come quickly. Tell them to bring a stretcher. I doubt that he can walk.”
John Lennon was feeling awkward. He was uncomfortable with the scene—Steve crying, Gandhi gently but sternly holding him, Clarke unresponsive, Adams running off to the Lab. He started to edge away, but Siri stopped him.
“Don’t go,” she said. “Steve will want to see his best friend when he recovers. He’s just having a catharsis. It will be over soon. Sit down here and wait.”
John did as he was told. Slowly the crying stopped, the sobs ended, and Steve opened his eyes. He looked at Siri, at Gandhi, and finally at John.
“Hello, mate,” John said. “Feeling better now? I’ve got a great idea! How about I’ll Cry Instead?”
Steve burst into laughter. Irrepressible, irreverent John! Always ready with a song lyric.
“Yes!” he said. “Sing it to me!” John did, and the crisis was over.
When Doug arrived with the Lab attendants, the four of them were happily ordering breakfast, chatting together as though nothing had happened. Arthur C. Clarke was strapped onto a gurney and wheeled away. Doug took his place at the table. The food arrived. Just another day on The Cloud.
Only Gandhi and Siri realized how close Steve had come to being lost, like Clarke. They would talk about it later, between themselves. They needed to find a way to protect Steve from himself.
(to be continued tomorrow)