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The Oak Bowl

Down to the last detail, the Oak bowl was a traditional twentieth century vegan cafe. Not a jot of tech in sight. Oak paneled floors, woven bamboo stools and pure beautiful sunshine streaming in through the door and windows. The aroma of decaf and freshly baked gluten free muffins filled the air.

A young white man with a hipster beard and horn rimmed glasses sat tuning his guitar in the corner. He wore a denim shirt over a Black Sabbath t-shirt and a pair of faded Levis that flared out over his brown Sketchers.

Other musicians were gathered around him. A small drum set, another guitar, a sax and a young red head with a microphone. Black Sabbath gave an opening strum and they were away.

"May the circle, be unbroken, by and by Lord by and by,
There's a better home awaiting, in the sky Lord in the sky."

As the music played on patrons entered the cafe and took their seats quietly. Two waitresses moved from table to table with their pearly white smiles and chequered aprons.

"Your my Oasis, the place I can go, when the world around me is out of control. When the the noise and the faces got me feeling like I'm breaking in two."

A few hours later the music had stopped and the denim clad guitar player was sat centre stage sipped on his coffee while he addressed the room with a warm familiarity.

"Everybody is so obsessed with power and politics, money and sex. What does the City do about it? Nothing. Mars was our chance for a new start, a new Eden, with a new truth." He eyed his congregation as he lifted an Apple from the table and took a bite.

"How are we supposed to respect a government that treats God's chosen as criminals. Locking them up and worse?" He stood and walked over to a nervous looking woman who sat nursing an untouched bowl of soup, her hands shaking. "Tell them sweetheart." He squeezed her shoulder to give her encouragement and she looked into his eyes, her own welling with tears before speaking,

"They came and they took my baby." There were gasps around the room, "my little girl was special, she was blessed so they took her. And, and now.." She broke down in tears and the preacher placed his hand on her head.

"These same heretics tried to take me when I was but a child because I was touched by God and they did not want to believe it. They called me sick, broken... glitching. Well we all know how that worked out." He laughed and around then room his followers joined him. He looked back to the woman,

"God willing you will see your baby again."

"Thank you." She breathed.

"Amen." Someone called from the back of the room.

"Brother Mark you made it!" The preacher walked up and embraced the man before turning to address the room.

"Mark returns to us from grave. He triggered the explosion that has brought this City to its knees. His sacrifice has brought us home. How can we ever repay you?"

Mark waved and grinned and between his teeth hissed, "You could fix me up with a new Shieth like you promised Logos."

The preacher turned and fixed him with a level stare, "Here I am the Preacher. Remember that." His smile did not break but his eyes flashed murder and Mark went pale and mumbled his apologies.

"Get the man and drink a something to eat." the Preacher called out pushing his companion off into the crowd. He began to mingle then, offering words of encouragement and enquiring after his flock.

He came upon a group of his faithful talking to a new convert and sat to listen.

"The machine teaches us that greed and violence are an abomination. Oracle has gone the way of ancient Babylon on earth and must be cleansed." That from the short red headed singer.

"At OSEC they say we make things better," the newcomer replied, "It's why I signed up, but it isn't like that."

"OSEC serves the corporations," a blonde man interrupted, "It is the instrument of a corrupt system."

"I agree, its all bull shit, but I'm just not sure about this God of your or about the..."

"The bombings." Logos finished the man's sentance and his followers looked up towards him with adoring eyes.

"It broke our hearts to do what we had to do, but honestly, is there any other way that the corporations would stop and listen?"

"I... I don't know."

"You can make a difference here friend, you truly can. We are on the verge of creating a new mars where all men and women are equal and the violence we see every day is a thing of the past."

There came scream from the far end of the room as someone suddenly vanished.

"OSEC," Mark called over, "They have a Neophyte scanning the Grid and an extraction team skin-side."

"We are one with the machine!" Logos cried out before extracting himself from the Grid. The slogan was echoed around the room and his followers popped back to reality one by one.

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