April 15, 2008

ABM James Jones knelt eagerly beside his Stream screen. He fidgeted with the controls whilst keeping an eye and an ear glued to the fuzzy display.

“Hello. Hello. Can you hear me on your side?”

[An Indian voice]:
“Yes, we can see you and hear you. You are having a problem?”

“I can’t see anything. I think I’ve done everything right. Yeah, I’ve even entered the crypto-ma-jiggy number I was given.”

[An Indian voice]:
“That is okay. I think your G button is on the wrong setting. It should be nineteen point five seven. Can you try that?”

Jones adjusted his G and was startled at the wall-sized, peering young face that confronted him. Extreme.

“Err, hi. I am expecting the Universal House of Justice.”

[An Indian face, smiling]:
“Isn’t everybody sir. Sorry, I am joking. I am Nandan and am making sure the communicate is working perfectly. Yes, let me finally position the camera for maximum coverage – we have a full House this morning.”

[UHJ member Kevin Thompson]:
“That appears to be everything Nandan. Thank you very much for your fine work. Probably time for breakfast now eh?”

“It is indeed. A very early start this morning. Can I get anyone anything from the canteen?”

[Mr Thompson]:
“No thanks Nandan. That’ll be all. We will communicate you if we need your expertise.

James, Allah’u’abhá, we’re all here and, well, over to you.”

“Allah’u’abhá. Okay. Everybody, this fine gentleman is Brian Pain. Brian, well, this is the Universal House of Justice. In session.

Right, well, we all know why we’re here. Brian is currently contracted to QBP, a company that is processing the so-called Layla repository on behalf of Mark McGuire. He’s a Baha’i, of course – Brian that is, not McGuire – and, well, I think Brian should take the floor now.”

From a low couch, Brian leveraged himself up to his full height.

“A great privilege to talk to you all. I recognize many of the faces from my visit to Haifa. Yes, back in 46. Of course, it’s unlikely that you’d remember a face in the crowd.”

[Mr James]:
“On the contrary Brian. I would think we all recognize you. You do stand out in crowds, you know [smiling].

Besides, I’ve seen you perform. I can’t say that it’s my bag but my grandsons in the US were big fans.

And Mr Jones here, he’s told us about your fine endeavours on the Stream forums. That’s hard work right there.”

“Thank you very much, Mr James. As they say, it’s a dirty job but, you know. Anyway, it’s just my little contribution. I can’t even begin to think how the members on the House shoulder their immense burden.

Right, as I’m sure Mr Jones has told you, I’ve seen some of the early packaging of the Layla repository and, to be frank, I got very angry. I’ve set up this screen over here to show you what I’m talking about. Mr Jones is communicating you a copy as we speak.”

[Mr Erfanian]:
“You have a copy of the repository?”

“No. Not the full thing, just a package of about twenty scenes. Bear with me and you’ll see what I mean.

Right, gentlemen, I’ve gone over this presentation in my head many times today and, though it makes my blood boil, I’ve committed myself to sharing my knowledge with you as succinctly and dispassionately as I can.

First, from a technical perspective, the Layla repository is corrupt. That is, the data stream is corrupt. It doesn’t conform to any known Stream protocol. It plays but I’m not sure why. We had to recalibrate our tools in order to edit and format it and make packages such as the one I’m about to show you.

Next, as I was getting up to speed with the environment and learning to use the recalibrated tools, I spent time sitting next to our team leader Janette. She held many hushed discussions, some with our big boss Mr Cimpton, about what they called ‘versions’ of scenes and what should be done about them. Now, we’ve just had a company wide order sent out telling us not to talk to anyone about the repository and that everything is okay again. Straight to the point, I’m sure they are tampering with the data to get the outcomes they want.

Then, Janette had the whole team working on a specific request from the big shot himself, McGuire. He wanted to know about ‘interesting and private’ scenes. I got to speed review some of the output as a quality check and saw a lot of stuff that was anti-Baha’i. I’m telling you when they show this the Faith will be dead in the water.

I’m as loyal and as committed to the Cause as anyone could be but if I was shown this, and didn’t know about the suspect background, I’d be out in a heart-beat. Anyway, that’s where we are. Let’s start and, just a warning, some of this stuff is adult rated.


Scene 1 – The Big Bang
A man and a young woman sit glumly at the table in a quiet and compact living room. The man is well-half-dressed in a luxurious purple dressing gown. The young woman, still shower wet, is burrowed and huddled into an over-sized white T-shirt.

The room has various shades of shadows but, outside, it’s fine and sunny and beautiful in Haifa. A huge gust of warm morning air billows by. It doubles back on itself and bursts in through the open window to heat the young woman’s face and ruffle her hair.

Feeling that warm touch, the young lady turns to the window and surveys the Shrine of the Báb – just a stone’s throw away.

“I love you Ahmed.”

“We’ve been foolish Afsi, nothing good can come of this. They know about us now. We have nowhere to go. You can’t stay here and I must stay here.”

“No, Ahmed, you can come to Germany, my family will help you. They will see what a good character you have.”

“No, Afsaneh, your family won’t help. They can’t. Anyway, I must stay here.”

Afsaneh stands up and walks round to the opposite man. From behind, she rests a cheek on his curly, black hair and tenderly massages a bulbous bump on his temple.

“We can work it out.”

“It’s too late Afsi. Now that it is out in the open they will watch us like hawks. You are young Afsi, get on with your life. I have made my decision. I am sorry for getting your hopes up.”

Afsi is defeated.

A knock. Ahmed calmly gets out from under Afsaneh and turns to her with an air of the-way-it-has-to-be. He checks his dressing gown is drawn and moves off to answer the door.

Afsaneh freezes as Ahmed’s arm nonchalantly guides Adnan and Shirin Erfanian into the room. Horror. And all wet with a bedded look about her. Her family had reached out from Germany, from Kashan, from the House of Justice and seized her in unimaginable sin. And she fell faint.

Mrs Erfanian bent down and aided enfeebled Afsaneh to a low cushioned couch.

“It’s got to end now Ahmed. We’ll take things from here.”

“Yes, you’re right Adnan. We’ll see what happens.”

Ahmed slouches down to the ear of Afsaneh.

“Afsi, please forgive me. I asked the Erfanians to come over. They will take good care of you. Go with them now.”

Afsaneh’s shocked gaze remained fixed on a rug and she clung to Mrs Erfanian’s arm. Inside, she was mortified. And full of hatred for this callous Covenant Breaker who she had somehow developed deep feelings for. All a lie. She should have known. He even took one for the road before casting her off. My God, what a disgrace.

The Erfanians coaxed her to stand. They placed an arm over each of their shoulders and began to manoeuvre her out into the bright Haifa life again. Mr Erfanian looked broken-heartedly and tenderly at the girl then back to Ahmed. He nodded respectfully and gave a light beat to his chest with his free fist. Ahmed reciprocated.


“How about that? You know what it is? The clue’s in the title. It’s the conception! First data on the repository. He is Ahmed Afnan. The Covenant Breaker. Layla is a Covenant Breaker – so this story goes. And…”

[Mr Thompson]:
“Yes, we are following the gist of it. Can you stop it there Brian? I think the House needs to review the remainder in an atmosphere of private consultation. You say there are about twenty scenes or segments?”

[Brian, disappointed at this unexpectedly early end to his presentation]:
“Yes, there are. I’ll send you over the list of scenes that have Baha’i references in them if you wish.”

[Mr Thompson]:
“Yes, thank you Brian. That would be a great help.”

It was then that Brian put forward his suspicions concerning the Apostinals and the Edinburgh Crew.

“The other scenes don’t get much better. It’s beyond belief how far they’ve gone this time. Let me assure the House that I stand ready to provide whatever service I am capable of. Whatever I am asked. Any service.”

Mr Thompson again thanked Brian, this time for his loyalty and service. And promised that they would be in touch. He thanked Mr Jones. There would be fervent prayers. He smiled melancholy and closed the communicate.


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