By now visiting the cave in the hills had become a regular Saturday activity. The children’s parents had been convinced as well that the children were spending time in the hills as part of the school’s nature club activities. It was good for the children however that they did not inquired more deeply into the activities of the nature club during the parents teachers association meetings for they would have discovered that though the nature club did exist, it’s activities were limited to strolls within the school lawns followed by boring lectures by the botany teacher.
That week the children were excited for they were going to be visiting a new land. But the excitement was mixed with anxiety for the children wanted to help Smelly who they had begun to consider as friend by now. They hoped they could find the necessary information in the land of knowledge and be able to use the knowledge to take their friend back to his home. The gnomes were ready by the time they reached and they wasted no time in setting out on their mission. Smelly accompanied them while Bracken was not with them.
As they stepped into the cloud, they were greeted by huge glass buildings towering over the landscape. As they entered one of the buildings, they found the view inside even more breathtaking than the outside. The place looked really plush with granite flooring and posh sofas to accommodate guests. There were Liquid Crystal Display screens all over the walls flashing all kinds of information. A smart looking woman in business suit sat at a desk in the middle of the room. Fierce looking guards stood on either side of her. The children slowly approached her. “We have come to seek some information”
She lifted her nose in the air and addressed one of the guards, “Take them to one of the LCD machines and ask them to key in the details.” With that she turned away from them and began to look intently at the computer screen in front of her. The guard led them to one of the terminals and taught them how to enter the information. The screen has an user friendly interface which meant they could easily answer the questions that were being asked; however they were clueless why they were being asked so many questions and what they had to do with their business in hand. But they patiently answered question after question and finally the screen came out with a response. “Please deposit Twenty thousand credits and you shall receive the date and time of your appointment with our Information Officer.”
The children looked at each other. They did not have much money. The boys had some 300-400 Rs. each. The girls had nothing. Off late the girls seemed to have developed a propensity for losing money. Later on discussion with the gnomes they had found out that it was the effect of the pay backs from the land of bargains. They would continue to lose their money till all their pay backs were cleared. The children looked at the gnomes. They looked equally clueless.
Then Doc spoke up, “This land eagerly gathers information from all the lands. Maybe we can trade some of the knowledge from our land for some credits.” They went up to the nearest terminal to figure if there was a possibility of submitting knowledge. The machine directed them to another building. With great difficulty they found their way to the mentioned building. Every building looked so like the others. Even the inside looked exactly the same. They were again prompted a barrage of questions and then given bar coded slips and directed to knowledge booths in yet another building.
Again they were back to building hunting. This land was getting to be too tiresome. It seemed liked they had spent 3-4 hours with hardly any progress. Finally they managed to get to the booths and submitted information about their world, the latest news in the world and their personal lives. It took them two hours before they were done and they were again directed to yet another building to collect the credits they had earned. They made their way to this building and finally they obtained the credits. They counted the credits – they had exactly twenty nine thousand and five hundred credits. They heaved a sigh of relief and went back to the first building.
They once again had to feed all the information. Finally they were back to the screen asking for money and this time they were asked for twenty three thousand. Seemed like time increased the value of information! Anyways they had no option but to cough up the dough. When they deposited the amount, the message propped up – “Your appointment with the Information officer is schedule in 288 hours from now at Building 14. Please be there on time.”
288 Hours! That was twelve days! Surely the land would have moved off by then. No way could they wait till then. One of the other applicants saw their forlorn faces and came up to help. On hearing about their problem he replied, “Why don’t you try the express service option.” He helped them find the right option on the terminal and soon another message popped up, “Please submit ten million credits for an immediate appointment.”
Grumpy got so furious that he gave the machine a violent kick. For once the others kind of empathized with his behavior. They too felt like smashing all those greedy blood sucking machines into pieces. No way could they find this kind of money. As they walked out with their heads hanging down, they heard a voice behind them. “Psst”
A thin man with an unshaven face, a battered hat and a greasy old coat was peeking at them from behind a large truck. He motioned them to follow him. They did not like the idea of following this shady looking fellow. But they did not really feel like returning empty handed. They wanted to try every last resort and were curious to see what this strange man wanted with them. Even if his intent was malicious, they outnumbered him by a large number.
The Magical Cave I: A Cave in the Hills <<<< The Magical Cave X: An Serious Discussion << >> The Magical Cave XII: Omnius