‘Always the same,’ said Celsius. ‘In winter, the temperature is only ever referred to in Celsius but come summer, people insist on talking about 70s, 80s, 90s or even 100 degrees.’
‘Human beings are pretty simple,’ replied Fahrenheit. ‘But even I don't see anything terribly exciting about it being 32°F whereas freezing point or zero degrees Celsius is clearer. It’s not true, though, to say that Celsius temperatures are never mentioned in the summer; it’s just that 100°F is a lot more evocative than 37-point-whatever-it-is.’
‘But still,’ insisted Celsius. ‘Why can’t humans stick to one measurement instead of faffing around?’
‘You spend too much time in the company of numbers, Celsius,’ said Mercury. ‘You’re catching their obsession to have just one definitive answer to everything.’
‘Well, you never hear me mentioned without a number close at hand, do you? It’s always 3° Celsius or 24° Celsius. It’s probably a bit of a grey area as to whether I identify closer with words or numbers.’
‘Ah, grey areas. They’re pretty much my natural habitat,’ said Cloud. ‘But I’m perfectly comfortable in the company of numbers. I spend a lot of time with 9 and he’s OK.’
‘Wish we could get more grey areas or clouds for a few days,’ said Fog with a sigh. ‘I struggle in this weather.’
‘Hotter the better if you ask me,’ said Shade.
‘One thing’s for sure,’ said Weather. ‘Here in the UK, we’ll always be talked about.’
Correspondent’s attention wandered during this exchange as he noticed two men at another table who were engaged in conversation even though their voices didn’t seem to rise above a murmur. He leaned across his table, nudged Fog and nodded towards the two. ‘Who are they?’
‘Oh, that’s Mumble and Mutter. They’re not the easiest to chat to although they’re quite animated today.’
‘They’re not happy about the comments from that BBC chap on actors who don’t speak audibly.’ said Fog. ‘I’ve had to listen to Mutter and Mumble a lot recently; I’ve been spending time here with Murk. I was told that I have to absorb his duties.’
‘God, more cuts! How did Murk take the news?’
‘Hard to tell. You don’t really get a clear answer from him.’
Correspondent noticed that Mutter and Mumble had beckoned him over to their table so he joined them and strained to understand what they were saying. It proved to be a gradual process, akin to tuning a radio to find the best frequency. After a minute, he could follow the cadence of their dialogue and another minute later, he could distinguish enough words to allow him to guess the remainder and the context. He heard the words “BBC…newspaper man…quote us” and realised they were waiting for a response.
‘Sorry, I didn’t get all of that. Yes, I’m involved in journalism but I’m not sure what you want me to do.’
Mumble raised his voice slightly allowing Correspondent to hear most of what he said: ‘We thought a newspaper man like you…here to get a quote from us. We don’t see…BBC guy’s problem…different tones and voices. Can you imagine, for instance, The Godfather without Brando mumbling his way through the Don Corleone part?’
Mutter held up his hand and pointed back towards the Meteorological group where Mercury had pushed back his chair and stood up.
‘Look over there…Mercury’s rising. It’s going to be another hot day,’ said Mutter and giggled. They continued in this vein until Correspondent took advantage of a break in the conversation to say that he had to leave. He walked to the C-block and joined some of his friends – Conspiracy, Clever, Crusade and Code among them – in the Crow Bar. They talked about surveillance in the real world and the plight of Edward Snowden with the general consensus that Snowden should be seen as a hero for drawing attention to infringements of civil liberties.
‘But it’s hardly that much of a surprise. I mean who doesn’t think that internet service providers aren’t in cahoots with governments?’ scoffed Clever.
‘I don’t see why that should be taken as a given, Clever,’ replied Crusade.
‘Aren’t you being a bit naïve, Crusade? And a bit forgetful too in view of all the campaigns you’ve been involved in.’
‘I just don’t see why anyone can assume that monitoring takes place on that sort of scale. There’s no empirical evidence, is there? It’s just the say-so of somebody who probably has their own axe to grind.’
Clever shrugged, Crusade further defended the integrity of government agencies and the conversation moved on but Conspiracy was oblivious to the chatter around him. He peered at Crusade and thought that this certainly was something of a volte-face on his friend’s part…the evidence that government agencies had been allowed access to private e-mails, etc. was pretty much incontrovertible as large software and internet companies had tacitly admitted their collusion. So why did Crusade dispute this? It was strange.
Incognito arrived in the Crow Bar to meet Crusade and the two left saying that they were meeting Algorithm when he finished his work in Fibonacci House. Conspiracy’s gaze followed the two as they left.
‘You know what?’ he said as the door closed. ‘I’m convinced that there’s been something different about Crusade ever since his disappearance around Christmas time. He claimed that it was because he’d been rejected by what’s-her-name, umm, Treason but he seemed to get over that pretty quickly. As well as that, there’s something mysterious about his new lady. I know for a fact that she helps words to change their identity and I heard that she was involved in both Treason and Crusade’s disappearance. It’s almost like some sort of collusion between the three of them.’
‘Am I correct in assuming that you have a theory, Conspiracy?’ Clever asked.
Conspiracy looked away, grimaced and then turned to face Clever, Correspondent and Code.
‘Now, I know you’ll tell me I’m reading too much into this…’ Conspiracy smiled ruefully as the other three all nodded. ‘OK, who is Crusade hanging around with these days? Most of the time, that is.’
‘Incognito and Algorithm?’ prompted Correspondent.
‘Yes. One of whom, Algorithm, spends much of his day working with numbers and producing mounds of data and statistics. Crusade’s other half is a woman who specialises in undercover disguises and was instrumental in that whole business at Christmas and Crusade, himself, is now an apologist for nefarious goings-on in the human world.’
‘Well…Crusade, Incognito and Algorithm; what are their initials?’
‘Oh, come on, Conspiracy. I know it’s the silly season but CIA? The heat’s gotten to you.’
‘You may scoff but take it from me, there’s something not quite right about Crusade these days.’