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- What was that, Frankie? Gunfire? Bruno put down the beer and looked surprised at his friend.
    - Ah, just the regular crap on the news, the cops putting away some of those blasted `truders, Frankie mumbled uninterested without turning his head. His eyes were glued to the topless waitress while his fat fingers were playing with some coins on the bar-desk, - yeah, those bastards are getting more and more impudent each day.
    - But the telly is not on, Frankie! Bruno pointed a tobacco-stained finger at a large screen that was hanging unsupported in the air close to a wall full of dusty sports-pennants and old postcards. His skinny, tall body was a sharp contrast to his stocky mate at the bar-desk.
    - What? You're kidding! Frankie forced his eyes reluctantly away from the girl, and turned on the barstool with a deep sigh.
    - You see? It's not on, somebody must be shooting outside! Bruno scratched his sharp nose and looked a little scared.
    - So turn it on, you dope, so we can see what this is all about!
    - Yeah, Frankie! Good idea, Frankie! Will do! said Bruno keenly, raised his lanky body and started to hurry across the empty floor. There were only the two of them in the small bar besides the girl behind the desk, who was dressed in a metallic miniskirt and nothing else besides make-up.
    - Sit down, you stupid boozo, what do we have Nicole for? Hey, Nicole, push one of your pretty nipples on the TV-button, channel five!
    - You're not supposed to tell her to do things like that, Frankie, it's against the regulations! Bruno looked distressed from Frankie to the girl who had climbed on to the counter behind the desk and in a most awkward position was trying to push her breast against a small control-panel on the wall close to the beer-tap.
    - «Against the regulations, against the regulations...!", Frankie mimicked. - What kind of sissy are you? She's a cybo, have you forgotten?
Shut up your silly trap and let's see what's going on outside!

The picture on the screen showed four-meter high waves thundering at a huge wall of large concrete blocks.
    "The seawall at Sandford Point is getting close to it's completion, the news-commentator's polished voice filled the room, - and the Prime minister has assured that there will be no more problems with floodings..»
    - That what she said last month too, just before the Birkshire seawall broke, Bruno mumbled and took a large sip of his mug.
    - Hey, Nicole, what's that for? I said I wanted to se what's happening outside, not the blasted news! Frankie slammed his fist in the bar so that both Bruno and the coins jumped in the air.
    - «Hey, Nicole, push one of your pretty nipples at the TV-button, channel five», the coarse voice of the stocky man came from the girls red lips, and then changed to her normal sexy voice, - you are looking at channel five, Sir!
    - Go and fry your circuits, you bloody cybo-punk!
    - Can I use the microwave, Sir? The waitress turned around and tried to put her head into what looked like a old fashioned microwave-oven from the nineties.
    - Stop it Frankie, please! Bruno's eyes were as begging as his voice, - she will do it, you know, and then what will happened? We'll be kicked out of here. No more beer tonight!
    - OK! OK! Hey, Nicole, stop acting like a lousy standup comedian! Just switch to the correct channel so we can see what's going on outside!
    - The camera to the world outside is on channel fifteen, Sir, Nicole said polite and touched the control-panel. With a long-nailed finger.
The seawall disappeared, and after a five seconds commercial for the beer they were drinking they could see a close-up picture of a solid-looking door.
   - Voice-activated, please ago ahead, a polite voice from the screen invited.
    - OK, turn your damned camera around so we can see what the heck is going on! Frankie shook his head impatiently while Bruno stared motionless at the screen with foam of beer dripping from his unkempt mustache.
    The camera started to sweep slowly around. The wall besides the door was of gray, unpainted concrete.
    - Zoom out and keep it moving!

The street outside was empty. It was hard to tell if it was day or night. It was not really dark, the streetlights were on. A kind of fog seemed to whirl in the air, and glittered almost like snow in the beams of bright light.
    - Do you want a commentator, Sir? The polished voice cut through the sound of wind.
    - Yeah, thanks, that'd be great!, said Bruno and looked a little scared at Frankie when he realized that he had been the one giving the order.
    - You are now looking down Runburn Road. The weather is fine with some smog. There are however possibilities for a few poison-clouds, and we recommend you to use Rill's all-weather-dress if you are going out. Rill's are developed by leading scientists and tested under the toughest conditions,. They are also on a special sale today, so just...
    - For God's sake shut up!, Frankie snarled, - Skip the bloody commercials and just zoom onto were the sound of gunfire is coming from!
    The voice died away without protests, and the camera zoomed slowly in at dark shadow a few blocks down the empty street. The smog made it hard to see what it was, but a hundred meters or so further away they could spot another shadow, obviously following after the first. The sound of gunfire was a lot stronger now, amplified from the screen.
    - See, Bruno, what'd I tell you? Just the cops chasing some of those `truder-bastards, Frankie shrugged his shoulders and turned back to the bar. The girl was now licking her lips and caressing her naked breasts while looking teasingly at the stocky man.
    - But Frankie, this is our neighborhood, Bruno protested and pulled his left earlobe. Deep wrinkles had appeared between his bushy eyebrows, - I have never heard that the `truders have been this far into Clintonville before. The PM said that most of the `truders already was helped out of the country, you know!
    - For Gods sake, what are you? A miserable funk? Can't you bloody see that the cops are taking care of the problem right now? Just like they always do. I thought we had seen enough of this boring shit on the news?
    - But why do they have to shoot the `truders, Frankie? They are people, you know!
    - «They are people you know...», for Gods sake, Bruno, you're giving me the creeps! Haven't you got into your stupid brain that this is our country? Our country! They are trying to steal our country, steal your home, steal your food and your beer! They are the bloody enemy!
    - But they could not help that their country was flooded, Frankie! It was the greenhouse effect, you know, we polluted the atmosphere so much that the south-pole to melted and the sea-level rose more than thirty feet! Bruno eyes ping-pong'ed from Frankie to the screen. - Their homeland was flooded, thousands of people drowned and more than fifty millions had to flee for their lives! How could they help that, Frankie?
    - Yeah, yeah, yeah, but that don't give them any bloody right to come here and steal our country. We have always taken care of our own problem here in our homeland, they should bloody well take care of their own as well!
    - But where else should they go, we had already promised that we should help them if something happened to their low-lying country? And it wasn't their factories and cars that spewed tons and tons of carbondioxide into the air every day for centuries! It was ours!

Frankie looked a little surprised at his barmate. Bruno's arguments gave away that he might be a more educated person than his worn clothes and untidy look tried to give the impression of.
    - Yeah, they were never clever enough to become as civilized as us. They were wasting away their time under the sun while we built our country. We sweat for our country's development in the factories, died for our country in the wars, while they were crawling like dirty bugs in their rice fields and propagated like rabbits in their palm-leaf huts. Shall we take the blame for that, eh?
    - Well, we could at least... Hey, Frankie, look at that! Look at that!
    Frankie pulled reluctantly his eyes away from the cybo-girls bosom and cast an unenthusiastic glance at the screen. The first dark shadow was much closer now, while the second still were a block away.
    - See what? That bloody `truder? Don't worry, the cops will get him soon. Can't I drink my beer without you bothering me all the time?
    - But, Frankie, can't you see? Its a child, it's just a young boy!
    - So what?! If the cops don't stop him he will soon be breeding more damned `truders trying to steal our country! Come on guys, get over with its!

The camera zoomed in on the darks shadow. It was not a boy. It was a young girl, might be ten or eleven years old. The black hair was standing out like a galloping horse's tail, and the her eyes were that of a wild mare lassoed for the first time. Blood was running down her left cheek from a small wound just above her temple. She was gasping desperately for air, but kept on running as fast as her scrawny legs could carry her. She seemed to be heading straight for their door.
    - Hey, it is a girls, and she is coming this way! Bruno turned to Frankie with his mouth hanging wide open.
    - Yeah, guess she has seen our blasted camera moving, not much else moving this time of the day in our part of town, Frankie said irritated and clasped his hands together, - what the heck are the cops waiting for, they must have had her zoomed inn for quite a while now?
    - Might be they don't like to shoot a girl, Frankie! Bruno was biting on a fingernail with a look of distress.- She is just a young girl, she have come together with her parents, you can't blame her for that.
    - Oh yeah? So you like `truder girls, do you? You ever tried one, Bruno-boy?
    The girl was rushing towards their door.
    - What? Tried what?
    - Tried one, laid one, you know...! Bruno made an obscene gesture with a straight index finger and two fingers on the other hand forming an O.
    - Me, no, no I never... I don't... I...,why do you...? Bruno blushed and looked away.
    - Just joking, old pal! Frankie looked smugly from Bruno to the girl behind the desk and then to the screen with growing interest. - Hey, look at her now, they have almost scared the shit out of her! Yeah, boys, go for it! Come on!

He laughed and slammed his fist in the bar-desk: -Come on boys! Get her! Get her!
The girl was rushing up the steps to their door, and they could see her heaving chest and hear the air rushing in and out of the open mouth. Then her face filling the whole screen. Her eyes were big and black. Scared, very scared.
    - Please.... pleeease..! The desperate words thundered out from the screen.
    - Hey, Nicole, turn that bloody volume down a bit! What are you trying to do, blast our eardrums?
    - the door..! Please... help me!
    - Let's let her in Frankie! I can't look at this, they gone kill her! She is just a girl!
    - Hey, what did I hear? Frankie shook his head and looked with disbelief at the other, - save a bloody `truder, and get a lifetime sentence for hiding her?
    - She hasn't done anything, Frankie, she's just a young girl!
    - You must be hot on those dark-eyed bitches, ey? Frankie cast a fast glance at the half-naked girl behind the bar. - Well, I can understand in a way. With only these cyber-girlies around I wouldn't mind try some real meat for one times sake myself... I would not mind at all, not at all... His words died slowly away and then he looked at the screen with new interest.
    - Yeah, might be we shall let her in for a while, and then throw her out again before the cops find out where she has g...!

The sharp bang of a gun thundered from the screen. The girls begging eyes widened, looked at the camera with pain and disbelief, and then she slipped slowly down and out of sight.
    - Got that light-footed `truder, whoever is in there! The stout figure of a uniformed cop filled the screen. He smiled bravely into the camera and showed thumbs up. - Well, you can sleep well tonight, this one won't bather you! Neither will her family. And don't worry about the mess outside, we'll will take care of it. G'dnight folks!
    - He shot her, Frankie, he shot her! Bruno cried with a shrill in his voice.
    - Yeah, what did you believe the cops would do, take her down town, book her into a hotel-room and sing her a lullaby? Bruno turned away from the screen, emptied his mug and gave a loud belch. - Well, the show seems to be over for tonight, and I'm getting tired of all that bloody jawing of yours. I guess its time to hit the sack.
    - But Frankie, we could have saved her, they should not have shot her, she was just an innocent...
    - `night, Bruno! Frankie sighed, bent over the desk and flicked a switch.

Everything disappeared. The screen. The bardesk. The cybogirl behind the bar. A small spotlight on a naked ceiling cast a yellow beam on a skinny man. A skinny, tall man with nicotine-stained fingers sitting in a chair in an small, empty room in front of a tiny control-panel. The walls were glowing for a short while and then went blank.
    The man rose with an effort from the chair mumbling quietly to himself.
    - Well, well, well. You can't win in these role-playing VR-games every time.. Oh well, might be I'll give it a try again tomorrow night...

"The Wold Outside" is a science fiction short story written by Terje Dahl
Terje Dahl's homepages - click here

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