Job vacancy: Eco-Terrorist. Apply now!
Su-Lin blinked, and captured the notification on her Wrist Band Reader. She read the alert again.
Job vacancy: Eco-Tourist Guide. Apply now!
And so, she had applied though it was not her dream job. Su-Lin wished it had been for the position of an “Eco-terrorist”. At that moment when the notification flashed up, she had really thought that the Thirteen Original Malayan States’ Peoples’ Party was seeking the Space Colonisation Generation to impersonate eco-terrorists so that it could deal with them efficiently and effectively, gaining the people’s loyalty and confidence. The prospect had excited her, but sadly, that was not the job they were seeking to fill.
Being an Eco-Tourist Guide was neither as dramatic nor as glamourous as being an Eco-Terrorist, but Su-Lin actually enjoyed the challenges of learning new skills. Firstly, she had to dress the part. This was not hard as the personal Groomer Robot she had been given helped her to upcycle her existing wardrobe into believable outfits every eco-tourist would be proud of. She had only had to buy a pair of rubber slip-on shoes to manage the mangroves and riverbanks. Secondly, she had to be fit enough to trek and explore various sites that would appeal to the couch potatoes viewing her efforts on their phones or home screens. This was also not that difficult as Su-Lin had been practising Authentic Tai-Chi exercises five mornings a week since Surrogate Grandmother had taken over her upbringing after the Fifth Sulu Rebellion that had brought a wave of Sulu pirates all the way into the Bornean hinterland. Even so, the agency required Su-Lin to train on the Reality Rock Climbing indoor apparatus and at the caves on the outskirts of Kuching city for a full month before she could start her first assignment. The training continued in between assignments and when she was given only half-day tasks. This was necessary as Eco-Tourist Guides were expected to be fit and tireless.
The hardest skills to learn were all the information about endemic wildlife, indigenous people and cultural activities in the areas that had been deemed suitable and educational for eco-tourists. Nothing was worse than an eco-tourist guide who did not genuinely know how to navigate the terrain or who had to keep looking up information or consulting her Pocket Robot Translator. Actually, there was something worse: an Eco-Tourist Guide might give a careless explanation, an inaccurate historical recitation or deviant interpretation of nation building activities and the Security Task Force would have to intervene. The worst that could happen would be the taking out of a recalcitrant Eco-Tourist Guide who might be disseminating ideas that would harm the Thirteen Original Malayan States Peoples’ Party line. No one said that being an Eco-Tourist Guide was easy. There were always new skills to learn, new doctrines to memorise, new hurdles to overcome delicately.
Su-Lin had survived nine months – the gestation period of a human. Not bad, she told herself, as she prepped for her new Level 3 assignment. She had been assigned to a group of eco-tourists who had a three-day eco-holiday package that took place covered the Cultural Village, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and Bako National Park. This package was going to stretch her newly acquired skills, but Su-Lin wasn’t going to give up or beg for an easier assignment. She had already successfully completed twelve Level 1 jobs, but only three Level 2 assignments in the past nine months. It would not bode well if during her performance appraisal, it was discovered that she had refused to take on a higher-level assignment. One of her key performance indicators was to successfully complete at least one Level 3 task during her first year of service. This was going to be it. Besides, Su-Lin had set herself the goal to be the first Rookie Eco-Tourist Guide to complete a Level 4 assignment within her first year. This was going to clear the path for her to break the existing record held by Dian-Fossey 13. Secretly, Su-Lin was ashamed for Original Homo sapiens that a clone held the record for earliest completion of a Level 3 task. In her opinion, that just wasn’t right.
Day 1. Su-Lin detested children so the hardest skills for her to learn and practice had been patience and tolerance. In this eco-tour group, five out of the 24 tourists were children. Su-Lin couldn’t decide if she was more revolted by the moody adolescent who was rude to everyone especially his mother or the whiny six-year-old who couldn’t let go of her robot puppy.
Happily, a ride on the Melanau Flying Fox – swinging from the pole suspended high above the ground – the original bungee jump – shocked the moody adolescent out of his superiority complex and gave the six-year-old something to laugh about. The Orang Ulu sape band soothed the adults who had never been out of their City Block before and gave the less fit a chance to catch their breaths. As expected, the blowpipe competition turned adult men into competitive children trying to show off though the most accurate shooter turned out to be a young mother with a keen eye, a steady hand and big lungs.
Buoyed by the morning’s success and after an authentic lunch of bamboo chicken, forest ferns and Bario rice, Su-Lin had taken the group to Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. There, the tour group had enjoyed the cool forest air and the combination of realistic taxidermied and holographic orang-utans, gibbons and sun bears. To top it all, the visitors were educated in the air-conditioned museum by the holographic William Hornaday describing the life of the Asian great ape, the orang-utan.
Day 2. After a peaceful night at an Iban family-run homestay (decorated with glowing artificial skulls to hint at their headhunter’s past), choppy waters and crocodiles lurking nearby did nothing to diminish the tour group’s enjoyment of the boat ride to Bako National Park. Su-Lin made sure they all wore life-vests, even the moody adolescent who claimed he was a lifeguard at the community swimming pool near his home and didn’t need one. They had all waited until he had put it on before setting off; three each riding in a boat with a boatman. Su-Lin was in the last boat to dock at the jetty at Bako National Park, and when she had paid the final boatman, she saw that a longboat was moored nearby. It bore the inscription The New Rainbow Warrior 33 and that should have been warning enough.
The eco-tour group had just registered, dropped off their luggage and headed towards the mini zoo to see actual live wildlife, and not the holographic versions they had seen at Semenggoh, when a bomb blew up the supplies at the national park’s canteen. As the park rangers raced to check the damage, a second bomb had gone off, destroying the park’s headquarters. Donning masks of the disgraced Malaysian Prime Minister of the late 20th and early 21st century who had been tried for embezzlement, the Eco-Terrorists freed the bearded pigs, proboscis monkeys, silver langurs and long-tailed macaques from the mini zoo. Scampering amid screaming eco-tourists and startled park rangers, the bearded pigs and nonhuman primates snuffled and grabbed, ate and snatched. When the animals had disappeared into the forest up the Telok Pandan Kecil trail, the masked Eco-Terrorists unfurled a banner that read: “Let Wildlife Live Freely; Jail the Usurpers who stole Wildlife Homes!” Then, they boarded their longboat and took off for the mainland. The smallest and slightest prime minister – Su-Lin thought she must be a young woman – waved jauntily at the eco-tour group and the park rangers as the longboat left Bako’s shores.
Su-Lin realized that these were real Eco-Terrorists and not the Government’s models. What would it take to become a real Eco-Terrorist? It wouldn’t be easy, but she had always found learning new skills a positive challenge. Su-Lin thought she would be make an excellent Eco-Terrorist herself. She was filled with lots of knowledge about the endemic wildlife of Sarawak and believed they should live freely in the national parks (after all, what were national parks for anyway?), and she was as fit or fitter than 90% of the nation’s population who were doomed to live in City Blocks, draining the country of its natural resources and forcing the precious few mobile Homo sapiens, clones and robots to do the real work keeping everyone alive. Perhaps she should change her mind about breaking Dian-Fossey 13’s record and aim instead to find those prime minster-masked Eco-Terrorists. It wouldn’t be easy, but they had skills she wanted to learn.