It always annoyed Reference 488, et cetera, 230 that his OH, ovarian host, insisted on calling him Noughtie well into his adulthood. Today, she was being more cussed than usual. It was typical of her to blame him. He felt guilt rising again in his stomach and was in danger of losing his hold on his sense of civic duty.

He said again, more loudly, "You know as well as I do, there is nothing we can do, OH. We all have to obey the law."

It surprised him that his OH and he had managed to reach the platform at all. So far, her resistance had been manageable. Somehow, he had succeeded in cajoling her onto the monorail and staying on as far as the Necrocity interchange. To his greater surprise, he had indeed enticed her onto the one-way descalator, he trying to talk softly, she yelling, as they travelled. The heated exchange was testing for him, dragging from his very guts acquiescence to maternal authority. However, the Journey of a Lifetime hologram counsellor had briefed him well and he was exhibiting all the tolerance and empathy he could muster, keeping eye contact, acknowledging her anxieties and offering inducements. The doc-who bag had cost him an inconvenient number of asias, but his strategy seemed to be working as his ovarian host accepted each proffered inducement, fine coat, matching hat, scarf and gloves. He festooned her with jewellery and filled her arms with flowers (two of them authentic) and chocolates (ten per cent cocoa). 230 was relieved that they had arrived at the allocated departure point without the unpleasantness of calling in the Journey of a Lifetime Enforcement Officers.

The transporter was already at the platform, doors open. The most tasteful of interiors glowed softly before them. Beside a simulated rosewood table elegantly laid for afternoon tea, the hologram of a young man appeared, smartly suited in Niney's favourite shade of blue. He smiled, holding out his hand.

"Its time, Niney. Welcome aboard for your Journey of a Lifetime." His accent was impeccable, his voice smoky, inviting yet firm.

The theme from Rachmaninov's second piano concerto began to play. 230 was pleased he had remembered that her favourite vidzip was 'Brief Encounter' from the first half of the twentieth century.

Keeping to his brief for this tricky moment, 230 chipped in, "They tell me it's a great journey."

His ovarian host made the fierce face that stirred his innards. She was pursing her lips and moving her eyes rapidly from side to side. She was being what 033, his sperm progenitor, used to call 'impossible'.

The small crowd at the neighbouring carriage was waving and calling, "Bye, Gramps!" They, at least, were behaving perfectly normally; his OH, however, was becoming an embarrassment.

He repeated the counsellor's mantra to himself, 'Be patient. It will soon be over'.

His OH was looking down at her feet. He followed her gaze: all he could see were the new shoes he had bought her.

"Oh, look at that!" she exclaimed. Her tone signalled that something was severely wrong, that whatever it was, he must see to it immediately and that, if he did not, the consequences could be even severer. On the other hand, should it be, 'more severe'? She had him doubting his judgement again. He automatically placed his hand over his mouth and cleared his throat. He squinted. Then he corrected himself. It didn’t look nice to squint. It made him look stupid, she told him. He leaned forward. He could see nothing irregular.

"Oh, Noughtie, look!"

He bent over to peer at her shoes. Then it all happened so painfully and suddenly that he was caught off guard. It began with a jarring, very hard blow squarely to his jawbone.

*

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