Ominous Horizon - wonderful free eBook

Alien Confliction

Confliction. This is a new word. Its meaning is fairly obvious. Confliction is the process of setting up, promoting, encouraging or designing conflict. Note that confliction refers to the actual effort put into creating a conflict. It covers all those deliberate things which happen before the conflict is established. Confliction is meant to refer to a deliberate process. It is the effort to establish a conflict. We do not have to be concerned here with why anyone would want to establish a conflict.

Edward de Bono, 'Conflicts'

Chapter One

Threats from an Unknown Source

David Nichol Caine got out of bed when the alarm rang at five am. He showered, shaved and dressed rapidly.

He combed his hair. There were only a few grey ones among the brown even though he was past his fiftieth birthday. Years of service in the tropics had left him with wrinkles around the eyes and mouth, but his skin was still firm under his jaw, and his eyes were quick and alert. He had a rather long face, with an amiable expression overlaying a natural decisiveness and a good intellect.

He turned out the bathroom light before entering the bedroom where his wife was still sleeping. All he could see was a sprawl of dark hair on the pillow, and the curve of a cheek below. He smiled and leant over and kissed her. Pat mumbled something and turned over, hugging the pillow.

That was a poor surrogate for a husband, thought Caine, but better than the choice some women made. RAF officers' wives had to endure long absences and marriages were hard when a large part of the husband's work was classified. It debarred whole areas of conversation, and in the opinion of the Caines, talking to each other was what kept marriages going. Pat had in her time frequently had to give advice to distraught young wives, snatched from a farm cottage or a Council estate into bleak Married Quarters outside a dust-driven airbase. Once the honeymoon was over, young couples in a foreign country with no friends and no recreation, isolated from the culture by their ignorance of the language, were under great strain.

Caine's had been the easier job, talking to the men, because he could tell them to spend more time with their wives and make it an order (with a twinkle in his eye). Pat refused to tell him what advice she gave the wives. He supposed she encouraged them to put the marriage before the RAF: the Base Commander's wife spreading sedition.

As he went downstairs he,could hear Hannah setting the breakfast things. There was a murmur of conversation; Richard, his young son, who was a passionate early riser, must already be attacking the cornflakes and arguing with the German au-pair for more raisins.
He went through the dining room, his footsteps echoing on the parquet floor, and entered the kitchen. This was large enough to hold a table at one end, where they usually ate, divided from the cooking area by a work-top. The kitchen was a mixture of pale orange, yellow, and varnished pine cupboards, with a large window overlooking the Caine's back garden. It was the family's favourite room.

He gave Richard a hug, and smiled at Hannah, a thin intense girl with dark eyes. She was making coffee in a disciplined way.

"Good morning Group Captain," she said.

"David," he corrected. She had been with them for five weeks. He liked Germans, their efficiency, their unflappableness, their love of life and beauty. But sometimes he wished Hannah was a little less formal.

Hannah brought him the toast and coffee which was all he allowed himself, in this coronary age. His job was stressful enough without adding to the risk by indulgence. Pat had protested when he refused even to eat healthfood margarine, but he told her he intended to die in bed - with a leer and a slap on the bottom - and she had looked thoughtful and put the stuff back in the fridge.

Richard had eaten his breakfast with his usual gusto. Caine could not recall ever having seen him bored, and sometimes wondered what he would apply his enthusiasm to when he grew up; it was hard to imagine the boy in any particular job because he seemed to spread too widely to be confined. Now he pushed back his chair, carried his bowl carefully to the sink, and bounded off to work on his latest balsa glider.

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