I woke early after another restless night. On my way to the shower I bumped into Vincent and told him about Hiro’s comment regarding an Elvis concert. He looked intrigued and when we all met at the breakfast table he indicated that he’d done some quick net research.
“Elvis Presley was a big music entertainer in the 20th Century-he died in the 1970’s sometime. Look here– I printed this off from a wiki entry: “The Church of the Living Elvis is a successor Cult to The Church of Elvis the King and the Second Sway. The second coming of Elvis was officially deemed to have occurred on January 8th 2085, and during his Reign the King, amongst other pronouncements indicated that he would never again leave the Faithful. The Church was re-organised as The Church of the Living Elvis in 2114, and since that time there has always been a Living Elvis. The current Elvis has apparently reigned since 2155. It is speculated that The Living Elvis may be a surgically altered impersonator, or more esoterically a clone, or even a clone with memory transfer of one or all of the original Elvis’s. The Church isn’t saying, and the speculation helps to maintain interest in The Living Elvis.” ”
“But get this”, said Vincent “The original guy was prolific. You’ve heard of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’?”
“A classic” piped up Sylvie, “ It was the system-wide hit by Vanilla Bob and the Blue Nymphettes in Christmas 2148: we all had posters up of Bob in our school-that hair…” She looked at Maria who in turn looked completely blank.
“Yeah”, said Vincent, “But that was a COVER- apparently this Elvis did the original back in the 1950’s.
“In fact loads of the stuff we know is covers of Elvis material. Naughty Ninja Nuns doing ‘It’s Now or Never”-that’s an old Elvis number too.”
I found this hard to believe and I’d been a fan of the NNN’s in my teens-I still have the Holo Vid of Sister Cerise dancing in her Wimple and bondage gear in my Travelling Chest, but I didn’t want to own up to it.
“He can’t be a clone” suggested Sylvie ”While we can re-grow body parts-the full body growth and memory transfer stuff-it is science- fiction.”
“Maybe- unless you’re vastly wealthy of course. Who knows? My bet is on some sort of coaching and surgical alteration, but either way the Church is a very rich organisation-it’s acquired most of the licensing rights of the originals over the years- so it must earn a packet. The Living Elvis tours as well-apparently he is in the middle of one now, and is on his way to the inner worlds. Hence the Mariner concert next week. The upside is they appear fairly harmless- this Elvis guy doesn’t claim divine provenance or to be the holder of universal truths or anything- he just claims to be The Living Elvis .”
At that moment Elvis appeared at the breakfast table and bid us good morning. We ate and chatted generally, but he seemed to be holding back on something. Eventually he spat it out.
“Look man I got a problem-you have a Rover don’t you?”
I replied in the affirmative and he explained his position. Essentially he was on the run from his management, his army of hangers-on and the Church People: not permanently, but he wanted a few days to himself to get his head together before the big Mariner Concert next week. His officials had provided an endless list of excuses and appointments as to why he couldn’t do this, so he had slipped off, boarded a train, arranged with the magrail company to drop him off at Black Rock (1 million credits apparently to stop the train-because he’d read about the Black Rock once in a Mars guide…) and come to the hotel. Unfortunately he’d had a run-in with one of the mining boys yesterday, and had basically “kicked his butt out the door”, and he now realised that there was intense interest in him. It was only a matter of time before the Church people appeared in Black Rock and so he needed to disappear-he wanted us to help with our Rover. I looked at Sylvie.
“There are some farms and homesteads dotted around the Outback-I could ask one of them to put us up a few days-especially if Elvis could make it worth their while- it is the tough life for these small farms and homesteads.”
To this Elvis readily agreed, and Sylvie was able to contact a family called the Godalmings, who ran some sort of vegetable growing business in the Outback-about 50 km from Black Rock-far enough out to be isolated and difficult to find, but not too far. Elvis primed the Hotel Owner to bamboozle and mislead the Church Searchers when they turned up, and we got our stuff and loaded up the Rover-Maria, Vincent, Sylvie, Elvis and myself. Laura wasn’t feeling too well, and Derik and Denise were recovering at the hotel.
The drive wasn’t very long; we headed the mile or so out of town towards the Golden Road, and then headed west for about an hour. Sylvie then headed off to the north west following a transponder beacon, and in less than two hours we approached the homestead- consisting of a couple of dome units and some outbuildings, and two very large greenhouses. Beyond one of the greenhouses was a jumble of chaotic terrain leading towards a large spine of rock, on which we could see mounted yet again one of the ubiquitous Outback Weather stations.
As we entered the module we were greeted by a middle aged man and woman who introduced themselves as Tom and Mary. They lived here with their daughters Anna (19) and Louise (10), and their son Mike (14); there were also two hired hands-Manuel and Achmed . They made their living growing vegetables which were supplied on a regular basis to the three or four mines which operated within a 100km vicinity-in fact they were busy preparing for a collection which was to take place in a couple of days time. They let us get settled in before lunch in an hour; I shared a bunkroom with Vincent, Sylvie with Maria and Elvis got a room to himself.
Elvis was all charm over lunch, and held the Godalmings in the palm of his hand I think-his simple manners struck a chord with them. I noticed Anna cast more than a single look in his direction. Tom explained that he was sorry he couldn’t offer us much to do in the way of entertainment-but if we wanted to help with the packing and general jobs about the place we were more than welcome. I for one was more than glad to do some manual work for a change- I was paired with Achmed- a quiet young man with a scar on his face, of Arab origin I think.
The food at least was fresh and very good, and after an afternoon’s labour and a session in the gym, I was ready for a shower and bed. In the main room I could hear Elvis gently strumming his guitar and singing what sounded like old folk and religious tunes, for the entertainment of the household