Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2019
“Don’t we have a policy of not taking money from fucking perverts?” Tim was not faking being quite angry and it showed in his voice. He was talking across the boardroom table to Attard, who, as usual was fiddling with one of his gourmet Columbian blended cigars and seemed happy and calm at the prospect of smoking it. Tim, who had cut down on his intake quite recently, found the sight rather irritating.
Young cut in; she was Board Secretary and made sure no-one ever forgot it. “No Tim, there was discussion after the Nazi Holocaust investigation the year before last, but the board deadlocked and in the absence of a clear directive from the shareholders, the matter was effectively shelved.” Atttard swooped in for the kill; “The ratings figures on the feeds are clear Tim, our end users are pretty pervy themselves. They aren’t watching the various main release feeds for historical education, but for pure titillation and the bio-monitors are confirming that as time passes, the end uses are getting Pervier. We are middle men we take projects from the feeds and deliver product. They take their subscriptions at their end – the more sex and violence the better, for everybody; and anyway, it all actually happened, we aren’t making any of it up.”
It was one of the central columns of Tr00 publicity – patently true and difficult to argue against.
“But in concentrating on the negative we’re polluting the present, violent attacks are at an all time high – the streets are a war zone.”
“The news media needs to make a profit too, Tim,” Attard pounced.
“Both my nieces have been mugged in the last month!” Tim felt weak, falling back on the truth. The projects always seem alright, like the Nazi Holocaust job – final, total proof that the Holocaust didtake place and the final eradication of the arguments of the so call “Holocaust deniers” – until it went on release and it turned out that the deniersliked being proved wrong and were watching parts of it over and over – and masturbating.
“The thing is Tim, it happened.”
“The thing is, Attard;” Tim didn’t use his first name, on purpose, “I think we’re making the world a worse place by concentrating on the negative aspects of life.”
“And when we try something that’s supposed to be positive, everybody turns off, remember that feature we did on Jesus? Practically nobody watched it except the ones who were waiting to watch Jesus to fuck Mary Magdelene so they could masturbate – good work there by the way.”
“Thanks.” After all the worthy philosophy, some lusty bonking had turned Tim on too, and he was sure his reactions had transmitted through his Locus work.
“But this, there’s no question about this. This isn’t an unexpected interlude between the Messiah and his girlfriend. This one is just straight-out perversion. On purpose.”
“Oh come on Tim, how could you possibly know that?”
“Owen, I’ve been there. In my university days I spent a year living in Italy, moving cities, in the months I lived in Naples I visited Pompeii at least once a week.”
Attard hadn’t known that about Tim but he had no difficulty believing it.
“The Project briefing says the place is called “The Villa Of the Mysteries” and its purpose has defied explanation by archeologists for hundreds of years”
“are you saying you know something generations of archeologists don’t?” Attard spoke with the air of a rat-trap slamming shut on an unwary mouse.
“Well seeing that all theories are shortly to be proven or disproven, one way or the other by the Locus; I think now is the time to put up or shut up Tim – and to make it all even more interesting, what do you say we put a little wager on your theory, say 1,000 McPhees?” Attard was all buttery charm and easily earned at least double Tim’s annual pay but one thousand McPhees wasn’t extravagant to Tim either, who wasn’t a betting man.
“Sure thing Patrick.”
“Tim? You haven’t already checked your theory out?”
“No, Mr Attard, I haven’t.”
“No offence; it just occurred to me.”
“None taken, it’s a good idea it’s just this sort of situation doesn’t present itself often.”
The way that Attard was looking at him made Tim uncomfortable.
“So,” said Attard, “this large house or villa is set, perhaps terminates, the walk from the city gates. It is renowned for its fabulous frescos which, it is believed show the initiation, in sequential images of a maiden into the cult of Bacchus, the wine God. The God of parties and carousel. There are various rooms in the place that have identifiable purposes; The room with two ovens was obviously a state-if-the-art gourmet kitchen; there was a steamboat, a hot room and facilities for making wine,”
“Later.” ‘ Tim broke in.
Momentarily nudged off- stride Attard looked over.
“Later than the period of use I’m talking about – or earlier, it doesn’t matter.”
“That sounds a bit slapdash Tim-what do you mean?”
“Look, we’re talking about a large expensive house in the suburban/rural fringe of a holiday resort town, over the period from when it was built to when it was buried by the volcano; during the time it was standing, what with the way the world works, it was undoubtedly re-purposed a few times. My theory is that it started life as a clubhouse for the cult of Bacchus and then went through multiple incarnations before finishing up as the “Villa of the Mysteries” at the time of the eruption. It’s the final incarnation that I’m interested in.”
“ And what was it then?”
“That’s what nobody can work out.”
“Except you, of course.”
“As it happens. I do think so.”
“Well if you wouldn’t mind putting your mouth where your money is, do you think you could bring yourself to fucking tell me?”
“The thing is, I grew up in a small seaside town; so I have an advantage the average archeologist doesn’t – I understand how the places work. People think they go to such places to get away from it all, but really they don’t. What they want is more of the same – but slower paced and with fresh air.”
“Go on.” “I grew up in a town called Laurieton, on the East coast of what used to be called Australia. Have you ever noticed how small towns all have a building that used to be a cinema? Back then remote towns were out of Tv transmission range and”
“Get on with it!”
“Um, the most important thing they had to do was, entertain the tourists. You see, you don’t go on holiday to do nothing – you go on holiday to have fun and people are creatures of habit with their fun, they develop tastes, then they want more of the same. They like cinema in the city, they want it on holiday too, but without the knife-fights in the popcorn queue – They want it the same, but preferably better.”
“Get to the point.”
“Right, the thing is, I went to Pompeii and I felt right at home. They had all the normal shit you do in the sun with the kids – boat rides fish’n’chips, swimming, fishing, a heated baths complex – and the ancient Roman equivalent of a Imax cinema.”
“A cinema with a very big, very high resolution screen – a late twentieth century attempt to produce the effects of an input helmet; on multiple people at the same time.”
“Will you get to the fucking point?”
“Fuck you; You asked – the dominant entertainment in Rome was not cinema;”
“It was the arena; or as the Romans called it, ‘the Circus’ – the setting of gladiatorial conflicts – the place where prisoners were fed alive to wild animals. Where sometimes prisoners were tortured to death for the amusement of the crowd.”
“I’ll torture you to detain a fucking minute”
“The blood, gore, and pathos were incredibly popular with the crowd – a roman showed his or her true mettle by not showing empathy with the suffering at the circus – while obviously gaining pleasure at the spectacle and, of course, betting on the fights. The thing was the circus in Pompeii, had on advantage over the big arenas in Rome. Oh sure, they got the big purse gladiator fights, massive set pieces and the prisoner holocausts but they had one disadvantage – They’d gotten too big. You couldn’t really see if a gladiator match was fixed unless you were right up the front, and those seats were far too expensive, so only the rich got the full effect, a good view of the wounds, being able to hear the bones break, being able to smell the blood, everyone else was watching something like cavorting ants on a saucer.
Ok! Ok! The thing is, the arena at Pompeii was much smaller, everybody was closer to the action – It was a perfect example of smaller being better – if you like your murder in high detail.”
“You know, none of this is about The Villa of the Mysteries. None! It’s *All *off the point!”*
“It fucking isn’t! The thing is Pompeii was a typical holiday town, the same as you’d find anywhere, even, well, not now, not anymore. Town Its not different, its similar in its differences! The town where I grew up, had a very nice cinema, never crowded. After I’d left, they built an Imax theatre, people came from miles around.”
“The. Villa. Of. The. Fucking. Mysteries.”
“Big building. Expensive two stories surrounding a small central courtyard. Courtyard fenced by solid brick wall about two metres high. Now Romans were small in comparison to us, the size of children, roughly. I was a young man, not fat like I am now,” he patted his large girth. “And I could barely get over it, before security told me to fuck off.”
“The place was a priceless archeological site, not a jungle gym.”
“I was young. And it turned out not to be priceless after all, didn’t it? Just very expensive, I’m sure the new town they build there will be very pleasant.”
“It’s always unpleasant to be an idealist when politicians are involved.” The statement was rather more philosophical than was normal for Attard who had been known to advocate political assassination for elected officials shown to be guilty of lying or corruption but it did nothing to calm Tim who was firmly in favour of exactly the same penalty for officials who took bribes to sell archeological sites for modern development. He attempted to console himself with the certain knowledge that the Villa of the Mysteries and indeed Pompeii itself would always be present for the Locus, even if the site was covered by a twenty-storey concrete parking garage.
“So your theory Tim?”
“The main Pompeian amphitheatre was good entertainment at a good price for the common holidaymakers who can down from Rome on the big Triremes. The Villa of the Mysteries was top class entertainment for rich connoisseurs who wanted something special; probably something to order, and were prepared to pay for it.”
“Finally! Do you know what time it is Tim?”
As it happened they had less than fifty minutes before the fusion station came on line and delivered the power they need.
The villa actually looked slightly more bedraggled and decrepit in the Locus than it did in the images that had come with the contract file. The back of the structure was partially covered in scaffolding and men worked on the walls as men have for the last thousand years, neither too fast, or too slow but rather just fast enough to convince middle management that they were neither dead or incompetent.
“They’ll be repairing damage from the earthquake of 5 February 62 AD…” His eye caught the bug in the lower right corner.
“Still? Fuck! that was nearly ten years ago! Either this lot are on some sort of maintenance contract or the place was rubble after the earthquake.”
“Let’s see inside.” Attard had no real interest in the plight of the workers, after all, he was upper management.
Tim ghosted the Locus through the locked front gate and through the big wooden red-painted doors. Light glowed in iron braziers each side of the entrance and the glossy paint glimmered. The inside of the interior courtyard was exactly as Tim had described , except that the two metre barrier walls had been covered with a coat of whitewash and bright braziers lit the space from their positions in all four corners. The space between the top of the barrier wall and the awning above was filled with a heavy, taut rope net. Evening was over and the night was well settled in when things started to happen. The sky above the little courtyard was a deep blue and the stars stared down as cold and as hard as diamonds. They delivered the two men first, a big black unpleasant looking man and s small one with a face like a ferret and more white in his eyes than was comfortable. The sedan chairs arrived an hour later, shown into place by a flunkey who managed to walk backwards while bowing. The sedan chairs were placed on portable wooden trestles that had the riders lying at the same height as the top of the wall, with a perfect view of activities beyond it, well within arms’s reach.
Attard was surprised and gladdened when the big black man actually killed the small high speed ferret man. It was almost a fair fight. The Ferret man had a knife which he slashed his opponent with, often, spraying the white walls with livid splashes of bright red. Then he stabbed the black man directly in the penis and was almost instantly rewarded with a high kick to the chest that sent him flying into the wall hard enough to break multiple ribs. The black man then leapt into the air and landed both feet on his opponents body.
The fat bald man in the right hand chair clapped ironically. They delivered the girl ten minutes after the victor was removed from the premises. She couldn’t have been more than twelve and she cried piteously and begged for mercy. The fat man spat in her face so she sat in a corner and cried there. Tim set the Locus to wide-angle, handed control to Jensen and went to the tearoom for a cup of tea and a bowl of noodles. He had no desire to watch more. He had seen them deliver the lion already, it was downstairs, waiting, and besides- it had all already happened