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by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Chapter Fourteen: Adam

Tyler tumbled about five feet down a vertical shaft, landing with a thud and an oomph.

"OOMPH," he grunted, his body sprawled in an ungentlemanlike manner on the orange dirt.

"Why not you use the ladder?" Cali questioned, climbing down the ladder conveniently placed on the wall for just such a purpose.

"Ooowww," he moaned in response, blindly groping the floor in search of his abused spectacles. He returned them to his face, dirtier than usual.

Through smudged lenses and a newly stirred cloud of orange dust, Tyler recognized an unmistakable eerie green glow. As if to mock his original entry into Leornia, the tunnel was bathed in the emerald ambiance created only by the green glowing stick plants of the trees. Rather than growing wild, these green rods were fastened to the walls of the Instructors' tunnel at regular intervals. From ground level, Tyler saw the tunnel extend into the twilight at least a hundred yards before disappearing around a gradual bend. The passage was four feet at its highest, ample height for a Leornian instructor, but an uncomfortably crouch for human students. Cramped though it was, considering the alternatives -- flying reptiles and the like -- it was like spring break in Cancun.

Rising to hands and knees, Tyler surveyed the narrow tunnel laying before him.

"Where does this go?" Cali queried.

Leonardo searched his occasionally befuddled brain for a response. "We... uh... the instructors have tunnels covering the entire valley. They go from the trees to every village in the valley."

"Then we can get back to the trees from here?" Cali asked, "And back to the end of the economics path?"

Leonardo nodded.

"Let's go."

Cali hoisted her water bag onto her shoulder. Tyler grabbed his own bag of fruit. Leonardo carried the small pouch of estoffe. Led by the Leornian, they moved silently into the twilight.

Leonardo's size 'advantage' let him travel much faster than the two learners. Even though he kept his pace slow, he managed to create a widening gap. Cali could have kept up, but she held back to keep contact with her lethargic companion.

Tyler's less than active college lifestyle was taking its toll. After several hundred yards, he stopped, plopped against the tunnel wall, and pulled a fruit from his bag. Sensing this, Cali stopped as well.

"I don't know how you can eat so much of that stuff," Cali said as he chomped the fruit.

Tyler playfully pushed the half-eaten fruit towards her. She just as playfully pushed it away. Instead she took a small drink of water.

"Now that's refreshment," she said, splashing a few precious drops on Tyler's nose.

Tyler wiped his nose several more times that necessary and said, "Oh yuck!"

Not knowing his two companions had stopped to frolic, Leonardo continued on, almost disappearing into the twilight.

"No time for rest, Tyler-guy," Cali motioned toward the rapidly moving Leornian.

"Please..." Tyler begged in vain.

The twosome scampered after the Leornian. While Cali quickly closed the gap, Tyler huffed and puffed and soon fell behind.

Unable to maintain the accelerated pace, Tyler stopped, fell to a prone position onto the tunnel floor, and shot puffs of orange dust into the air with each breath.

"I'll catch up with them in a moment," he said to himself, breathing heavily. "But first, some fruit." He reached into his bag and pulled out another piece. He ate it slowly savoring each bite. He then closed his eyes. "Rest for a moment, let me rest." His heart pounded.

His rest was short. A horrendous noise echoed through the tunnel. He instinctively curled into a protective ball. The monster landed softly on the tunnel floor in front of him. It croaked, then meowed, then adjusted its wings. Tyler opened his eyes to see his on-again, off-again, companion -- the cat-faced flying frog.

Recalling the frog's potential relationship with the evil professor, Tyler cautiously said, "Oh, it's you. Where have you been?"

Perched on the dusty floor in front of Tyler's face, the disinterested cat-frog said nothing, but it did blink its eyes.

"I wondered what happened to you," Tyler continued his one-sided conversation, careful not to let on that he and his companions questioned the flying creature's loyalty. "Do you have a 'significant other' you're not telling us about?" The frog turned its cat-head to the side and blinked slowly.

Their conversation was cut short when Tyler heard Cali's faint, but distinctive voice echoing through the tunnel, "Tyler what are you doing back there?"

"Well beast," Tyler said, rising to a crouched walking position, "I guess we'd better get going. He hoisted the bag of fruit onto one shoulder. "You coming?" The frog-cat fluttered to a seemingly natural perch onto Tyler's other shoulder. Startled at first, Tyler quickly adjusted to his chauffeur's role.

When Tyler finally caught up with the other two, Cali questioned cautiously, "Pick up a hitchhiker, eh?"

"What can I say?" Tyler grinned nervously.

After an hour of uninterrupted and uneventful travel, they reached a fork in the passage. Leonardo paused.

"What's wrong?" Cali asked.

"I'm... uh..." Leonardo apologized, "I'm not certain which way to go? It's been a while since I've used these tunnels. I think one of them goes to the trees and the other goes to a village. But I'm not sure which goes where."

"Tyler?" Cali turned to Tyler, "Can you give us a direction?"

Tyler closed his eyes and pointed to the tunnel on the right, "That goes to the trees."

"Good," Cali said, "Then we go to the right."

Leonardo blinked.

"It's okay?" Cali said, realizing Leonardo was unaware of Tyler's ability, "Tyler has a way of pointing the correct direction. He hasn't been wrong yet."

Leonardo started forward, then hesitated.

"What's wrong?" Cali asked. "I'm sure Tyler's correct."

"It's not that," he said slowly. "I'm just... just... not sure I should go. They sent me away. I don't know if they will let me return. Perhaps you two should go on without me."

"No!" Tyler protested. "We're going to help you if we can. You have to come with us... into the trees."

"Yes," Cali agreed, "You will come with us. Once there, we'll talk to the professor. I'm certain he can help."

Leonardo still hesitated. "Then we should go to the left, not to the trees, but to the village."

"Left? Why left? Why the village?" Cali queried.

"I think..." he frowned, "No, I'm certain that the leftward path leads to the village where I first lived after leaving the trees. One of the locators there can help us. I believe his home is near the mountain. His name is... what is his name?" Leonardo thought. "Is it Aaron? No, maybe Andrew? Wait it's Adam. Yes, that's right, Adam Smith."

"Adam Smith!" Cali exclaimed. "An economist?"

Leonardo gave her a quizzical look, "Economist?"

She shook her head, "Never mind."

Leonardo continued, "He knows many of the instructors. He talks with them frequently. He can contact my friend from the economics path... what is his name?" Leonardo reconsidered the question that he had posed earlier.

Cali nodded, "Sure, why not? It's probably the best thing to do."

They took the left-fork of the path.

With each step, an obscure thought bounced inside Cali's head. Finally a question took form.

"Leonardo," she began, "I've been wondering about something. I know you used to be an instructor, but now you're a locator, right?"

Leonardo nodded.

"Well then, why can't you find anything?" she asked, feeling a little awkward once the question came out. "I mean you had trouble finding the opening of the tunnel and you didn't know which way the tunnels went just now."

Leonardo's laugh eased her awkwardness.

"Just because I'm now a locator doesn't mean I can find objects or directions. Locators only locate learners. That's all," he said without apologies, taking previously unrealized pride in his new occupation. "While we occasionally locate learners here in Leornia, our main job is to locate learners in your world."

"Well, that's funny," she consider Tyler's surprising ability, "Then why is Tyler able to locate objects and point out directions?"

Lacking any interest in the matter, the former instructor simply answered, "I don't know." This question might have fueled the fires of curiosity at some earlier time in his life. But not now. Not as a locator.

The question ceased to be a topic of discussion. It did, however, continue to smolder Cali's curiosity.

After what seemed like an eternity for the poorly conditioned Tyler, the tunnel's end was reached. A ladder on the wall led up a vertical shaft to the surface. Tyler and Cali stood upright for the first time in hours. Leonardo scampered up. Tyler and Cali followed closely behind with their humanly version of a scamper.

They emerged onto red grass at the edge of a village. Like a poor duplicate of the Leornado's home village, this one sported a large domed structure surrounding by several smaller one. Scores of Leornian locators also wandered idly about. Not counting the apparent absence of purple fruit, the biggest difference was that this village edged up the side of a mountain.

With fruit bag, water satchel, estoffe pouch, and cat-faced frog, the three travellers walked the final few yards into the village. They were greeted by a small throng of Leornian locators. In a scene reminiscent of the day before, one timid locator was hesitantly pushed forward to welcome the learners. Then Leonardo stepped in.

"We are looking for..." Leonardo began confidently, but the name slipped from his memory.

"Adam," Cali whispered.

"Yes... of course," Leonardo acknowledged. "We are looking for Adam. Could you direct us to his home?"

Cali almost offered Tyler's location talent, but decided otherwise.

The leader of this village pointed at a structure on the upslope of the mountain. "I will take you there," he said, anxious for this rare opportunity to help learners.

As they walked, Leonardo said, "I stayed with Adam when I first left the trees. I knewn him when I was an instructor. He talks frequently with the instructors. He can get a message to... uh..." he paused, once more trying to recall the name of the economics instructor that had eluded him.

"Sounds like Adam is a pretty important locator," Cali said, her curiosity kindled again. "I take it not many locators associate with the instructors?'

"They used to," Leonardo responded. "But, instructors don't need locators, and locators can't buy information, there's little contact. Except for Adam."

"Why Adam?" Cali asked

"He makes estoffe."

"Estoffe, eh? That sounds like a important job," Tyler countered.

"Not really. I suppose someone has to do it," Leonardo thought, "I hear it's a messy job. I don't know of anyone else willing to pay for the information. Adam's been doing it for so long that he's probably used to it. In fact, that's why he has so much contact with the instructors. Like the rest of us he forgets. He regularly buys the estoffe-making information from the instructors."

"You mean locators have to buy the same information from the instructors over and over?" Cali asked.

"Why yes," Leonardo stated, "locators forget after a while..." He paused realizing he was now talking about himself.

"Well that's quite an operation the instructors have going," Cali continued.

"What do you mean?" Leonardo asked defensively.

"Selling the same information to locators over and over again," Cali answered.

Leonardo countered, "It's not the instructors' fault that locators forget. It's not easy being an instructor. There's no fruit in the trees. There used to be a lot of water there, too. But even that's drying up. The trees were once so lovely, a bright green. But now they're turning that awful yellow."

Cali thought it best to drop the subject.

Led by their new Leornian guide, they approached a small structure tucked against the mountain. The guide smiled and motioned towards the structure. "Adam," he said.

Leonardo thanked the guide, who then scampered back down the mountain, taking scores of otherwise idle locators with him. With nothing better to do, a few remained.

Leonardo stuck his head and pointed ears through one of the openings in the structure and called, "Adam. We are looking for Adam Smith. Are you in there?"

In a moment an elderly looking locator stuck his head through another opening. He eyed the bags Tyler and Cali were carrying, then slowly crawled from the structure.

"And what do you have for me?" he asked reaching for Tyler's bag. "Did you bring the fruit that I need?"

Tyler reflexively moved the bag from his reach.

"We are not here to sell fruit," Leonardo said.

The older locator eyed the three suspiciously. "Then what do you want. I won't tell you how I make estoffe, if that's what you think."

"Don't you remember me, Adam?" Leonardo asked.

Adam eyed Leonardo for a long moment, then said, "No."

"It's me, Leonardo," the former instructor said, "You helped me when I left the trees. I stayed with you. Don't you remember?"

Adam sized up Leonardo, then stroked one of his ears.

"Leonardo?" he asked. "You were an instructor weren't you?"

Leonardo nodded, pleased at even this modest degree of recognition.

"I suppose I remember you," Adam concluded. "Why are you here? I don't need information."

"I'm no longer an instructor," Leonardo said, hiding the pain. "I'm not here with information. We need to contact an instructor. We thought you could help us."

Adam nodded again, "I can help you." Then eyeing Cali's bag he said, "For a drink of your water."

Cali pulled the water bag from her shoulder and politely obliged. The elderly locator took a small drink.

"That's very good," Adam said. "The instructors have a lot of water in the trees. But they don't share."

Leonardo wanted to correct Adam. To tell him that the water was almost gone. But he didn't.

"Who do you want to contact?" Adam asked wiping his mouth.

Leonardo once again tried to recall the name of the economics instructor's. "What IS his name...? Morton... Milton... Mark..."

"Mark?" Adam asked.

"Mark?" Leonardo asked back. Then he thought. "Yes Mark... that's it. Yes, I do believe his name is Mark, Mark Twain."

Cali smiled and nudged Tyler. Tyler wasn't sure why she did.

"I can get word to Mark, but it will take time," Adam said. "You," he motioned to Leonardo, "can wait inside my home. But I'm afraid you two," he nodded toward the students, "are too large."

Leonardo declined the invitation and Adam disappeared into his structure. They found semi-comfortable seats on the side of the mountain. The cat-frog perched on a nearby rock.

"He seems like a nice fellow," Tyler observed.

Leonardo nodded, "I understand that he seldom needs fruit anymore. Locators used to bring him bags and bags several times a day."

"What does he do with this fruit?" Cali wondered.

"He makes estoffe," Leonardo answered.

"Of course," Cali said, chastising herself for lack of insight, "What else would you use. No wonder there's so much estoffe."

"Actually," Leonardo said, "There's not as much as there once was."

"That seems rather strange," Cali observed. "There's plenty of fruit available and everyone wants estoffe. Why doesn't Adam make more?"

"I don't really know," Leonardo said, "He just doesn't."

Adam poked his head through one of the openings. "I can't contact Mark," he said. "He's busy with a learner."

Leonardo received this answer with mixed emotions. While disappointed that their meeting would be delayed, he was glad to hear that an instructor was busy with a learner.

"Is it a learner on the path or the real world?" Leonardo asked.

"The real world, I think," the older locator answered.

"That's great," Leonardo could not hide his enthusiasm.

Cali and Tyler were less enthusiastic.

"Do you know when he will be through?" Cali asked. "Do you know when we can speak with him?"

Adam shook his head, "I'll keep trying." He ducked back through the opening.

As they waited, the frog-cat suddenly jumped into flight.

"I wonder where it's going," Cali asked suspiciously. "Probably to report our location to the evil professor."

"Oh come on," Tyler countered, "It's not a spy." But he convinced no one, least of all himself.

They waited patiently as the day turned to afternoon. The blue sun moved across the sky to it's inevitable meeting with the mountains behind them. From their lofty position on the mountain-side they could see the entire expanse of the valley. It remained a breath-taking sight for the two students. The smooth surface of the red grass was disturbed only by the spattering of purple Locator villages.

It was, however, an unchanging and ultimately boring scene. That's why the line of locators moving across the valley was so easily noticed. Cali spotted them first, but wasn't sure if they were locators, puppy-snakes, or some other horrendous creature. As they came closer, though, their Leornian nature was clearly evident.

"What do you think they're doing?" Cali asked Leonardo.

"I don't know," he responded.

They watched as the half-dozen locators approached the village, then worked their way through the hodge-podge of buildings, then came directly to Adam's structure. They carried large bags much like Tyler's.

Taking no notice of the two students and the former instructor, the six new arrivals stopped wearily outside Adam's structure. In a moment, Adam popped his head through an opening.

"Very good. Very, very good," he said as the locators unloaded the bags of fruit. "This is plenty for now."

After counting the unloaded fruit, the elderly locator reached through one of the openings in his structure and retrieved a bag. He stated, "Two tokens per bag." The six locators nodded as they crowded around him, eagerly watching as he pulled large purple discs from the bag. While each was roughly the same size, no two were quite alike. He handed two discs to each supplier. The six locators grabbed their empty bags and started down the side of the mountain. But one stopped.

"Could I trade these for estoffe," he said to Adam. "I need to make a hammer."

The older locator nodded, "Certainly, let me have your bag." He grabbed the other's bag and his tokens, then slowly crawled back into his structure. He returned moments later with the bag partially filled. The younger locator graciously took his bag and left, catching up with the others.

As Adam ducked back inside, Leonardo noted, "This is good to see. The instructors must need estoffe. That's good."

Cali thought for a moment, then asked, "I take it that he was paying for the fruit with those round things?"

"Yes," Leonardo responded. "Those are tokens. We don't like to carry estoffe if we don't have to. It's heavy and messy. Most of us store our estoffe and use tokens instead. Adam keeps much of our estoffe here in his home."

"And that's what the last fellow was doing, trading tokens for the estoffe?" Cali asked. Cali was increasingly intrigued. "When instructors pay locators, do they give them estoffe or the tokens?" she asked.

"Estoffe of course," Leonardo answered, "And locators give instructors estoffe for information."

"But in the valley," Cali continued, "everyone uses tokens?"

Leonardo nodded once again, "It's easier."

A large smile broke over Cali's face, she then slapped her leg. "How about that?" she laughed.

Startled, Tyler asked, "How about what?"

"Adam is distributing fiat money," she responded. "He stores estoffe, then issues tokens. While estoffe is commodity money, because it has value in use and value in exchange, these tokens are more like fiat money, they have very little value in use."

Clearly disturbed, Leonardo reached into his pocket and pulled out several tokens.

"Don't worry," Cali reassured him, "As long as everyone in Leornia is willing to use the tokens, you have nothing to worry about. That token is as good as estoffe."

Her reassurance seemed to work.

Afternoon passed into evening, as they waited for Adam to reappear. The blue sun, not nearly as bright as it had been the day before, dropped behind the mountains. Tyler ate a little fruit, Cali drank a little water, and they waited.

With the encroaching darkness, Adam poked his head through one of the openings.

"I have contacted Mark," he said. "He will meet with you at Biology test #7. It's not far from the edge of the trees, near at the base of the mountain. But it will cost you two pouches of estoffe."

Leonardo was at first distressed, then he grew angry. "Two pouches," he said, "That's outrageous. We don't have two pouches. Does he know it's ME?"

Adam nodded.

"I thought he would give ME a special rate," Leonardo said, failing to hide his bitterness.

"Don't worry," Adam offered. "I'll give you the estoffe... in payment for my drink of water."

He produced a pouch similar to the one Leonardo carried. He looked first at Tyler, then at Cali.

"I don't think I've ever met learners," he said. "Thanks for stopping at my home. Whatever your reason for going into the trees, good luck."

He disappeared into his home.


Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not to be quoted without permission of the author.

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