Loading...
Menu

A Time-Travel Story Part 7 / The Final Confrontation

A TIME-TRAVEL STORY

 

Part 7: The Final Confrontation

 

 

By Eve Human

 

 

Published by Eve Human at

Shakespir.com

Copyright 2017 Eve Human

 

 

This book is the 7. part of a seven part book-series, please read the preceding parts before you start reading Part 7:

A Time-Travel Story Part 1/David and Jonathan

A Time-Travel Story Part 2/Hope’s Strange World

A Time-Travel Story Part 3 /The Builder of the Time-Mashine

A Time-Travel Story Part 4/ A False-Flag Conspiracy

A Time-Travel Story Part 5 /The View from High Above

A Time-Travel Story Part 6/ This is War

The download of all these books is free here on Shakespir.com

 

 

 

 

 

Once we have reached the facility’s parking-lot we find Vance Drake to have arrived already. With him are Tom, Jim and Jesse, who I have seen last early this morning. They have taken cover behind a row of trucks. We park the car behind them and get out.

With his hands Vance signals Mr Wang, Ms Alba and the Professor, where to hide.

I know that Vance’s team includes at least thirty more men, though they are all out of sight. Under no condition should they be noticed prematurely by the guards..

At any given time of day or night, fifteen heavily armed guards are patrolling the vicinity of the underground facility. Most of the citizens of Nephilim City have no idea what those guards were guarding, since what can be seen above ground is nothing more than a rather small and inconspicuous building surrounded by a parking lot and a green park, one of the few green spots in the city.

Vance looks at me: “It’s up to you now,” he states.

I don’t answer. I know it well.

You’ve got your gun ready?” Vance asks

I reach into my pocket and answer with a nod.

I take a deep breath and square my shoulders. Leaving everyone else behind I start walking in a steady, deliberate pace toward the facility’s only entrance.

I’m alone now.

 

***

 

 

The scene had faded and David opened his eyes.

He looked at Hope though he did not know what to say to her. He had just discovered that her whole world was in danger of destruction. How can you comfort somebody about something like that? …

So he blurted out a totally irrelevant fact: “I could understand all of the Interlingua.”

Hope only nodded: “You are much more connected to my mind now.”

After a while David stated something even more irrelevant: “I understand now why you didn’t like that dress on the billboard.”

Hope nodded again.

Finally David asked: “What happened after that meeting?”

Hope took a deep breath and so erupted:

“Everything happened, everything! Nothing was the same anymore!

“Ms. Keilar send a note straight to the International-Help-Board because everyone in the village agreed that the information Jonathan Galt had given us was of an importance far beyond the district and even beyond the nation.

“She also made the village-council-meeting public on the Peace-Web. Within a day, all of it had been translated into Interlingua, and one day later, the meeting had received over two billion clicks on the Peace-Web.

“The whole world had seen it. Can you imagine that, the whole world?”

Hope’s voice sounded sad, not proud: “Counting those clicks was no fun at all, just…” Hope sighed.

David nodded: “I understand.”

Hope went on: “On the same day the International-Help-Board decided that the village of Spesaeterna would be put under at least two weeks of quarantine, since nobody could be absolutely sure if Luscinia, Jonathan, and Natsuki were not already infected by that 90% Virus, as we came to call it.

“And then there were those words Jason had said: “It’s us or them now.”

“It was as if those words were somehow in the air. You could hear them everywhere, first in our village and after that from the other villages on the Peace-Web.

And you could feel the fear behind those words—the fear, it was like a permeating odor all around you, you could smell it with every breath, you just couldn’t escape from it.

“Even the younger children who didn’t know what had happened, like Sissy and Lillebro and my chan Cindy, were afraid. And I couldn’t comfort them because I was too afraid myself. And when I went to talk to my grandparents, I heard them fighting with each other, something I had never seen or heard before.

A scene appeared where Hope, Sissy and Lillebro were standing behind a half-open door. The voice of their grandfather could be heard shouting:

“We have to defend ourselves, Faith, we have to.”

Hope’s grandmother sounded desperate: “But not like this, Ben, not like this. The First Principle…”

She was interrupted by her husband: “There is no other way. Do you want your daughters to be killed? Think about Charity and Suzie, think about your grandchildren, about little David and about Suzie’s boys Matty and Jimmy. Or do you want your granddaughters be forced into one of those Venus Projects—our Hope and little Faith forced to…to…, think about them.”

Hope’s grandmother could now be heard crying, while a white-faced Hope was trying to drag her younger siblings away from the door. All their faces were tear-stained.

The scene faded and Hope went on, her voice now sounding more and more desperate:

“And Great-Uncle Professor—he who had always had all the answers for everything, he wouldn’t talk to me, just wouldn’t talk to me at all.

“When I asked him, he said he couldn’t say anything about the matter and that he had to work. When I yelled at him, asking him how he could work on his stupid time-machine at a time like this, he said nothing, only locked himself inside his lab.

“On the second, day I banged on his door, and banged and banged and didn’t stop until he opened.

“I told him that another village-council-meeting had been scheduled for the next day and that he had to say something to the people of the village because everybody was so afraid. Yet he just shook his head.

“He said that nobody would want to hear from him now…nobody.

“And with that he closed the door in my face and locked it. For the next several days, I didn’t even see him for meals.

“When I tried to talk to my Mamma, I couldn’t reach her. She was being kept busy all the time, she wrote to us.

“Before all this had happened, we talked to her every day on the Peace-Web. And now she wouldn’t talk to me or Sissy or Lillebro. They couldn’t understand it and neither could I.”

Hope was now deep in her own world, where the children had been emotionally abandoned all of a sudden by the people who were supposed to care for them, protect them, and comfort them. Her familiar world was spinning out of control.

And the sad story wasn’t over yet: “Three days after the first meeting, the second village-council-meeting was held. As usual it was in the evening, however on the morning of that day, two representatives from the International-Help-Board had arrived.

“They had decided to take the risk and stay with us even during the quarantine because they urgently needed to talk to Jonathan Galt and Luscinia Callahan in person. And that’s what they did all that day; they called it an interrogation. And then they got in contact with the rest of the International-Help-Board. We would find out at the meeting what had been discussed.

“We sempais met once again at Jenny’s place. This time not even Ameenah had any doubt that the meeting would concern us. And besides, all the parents already knew that we were watching. My guess is that no adolescents or older children existed in the whole village who were not watching…and the grown-ups didn’t care anymore.”

Once again the living-room of Jenny’s family appeared in David’s sight, together with the meeting-hall projected on its wall. Like all those times before, David closed his eyes to follow the scene, already feeling Hope’s fear and despair.

The first rows of benches and desks looked different from when he had seen them before, for now they were occupied by only three people—two men and Ms. Keilar. The men, as was obvious from their clothing style, were not from Hope’s village.

Ms. Keilar was already standing and in the process of introducing the two men:

“As you have probably heard, we here in Spesaeterna are being visited by two representatives from the International-Help-Board.”

Ms. Keilar pointed to her left:

“This is Mr. Nawakwi from the village of Kawaza in the district of South Lwanga in the nation of Zambia.”

Mr. Nawakwi got to his feet to give a small bow to the audience. He was wearing a black and gold patterned shirt, black trousers, and a round red cap on his head.

Now Ms. Keilar pointed to her right to a man in a black kaftan who wore a red, yellow, and blue patterned kufi on his head.

“This is Mr. Avineshwaran from the village of Any Kampung in the district of Tioman in the nation of Malaysia.”

Mr. Avineshwaran also got to his feet to give the audience a polite bow.

Ms Keilar continued: “At the request of Mr. Avineshwaran and Mr. Nawakwi, I have invited Ms. Luscinia Callahan and Mr. Jonathan Galt to this meeting, although neither is yet a citizen of our village, and besides that, both are under the age of being able to join the village-council under normal circumstances. They will therefore not be able to participate in any decision making. However, they will be allowed to answer questions directed at them.”

Mr. Henry Darby, who at the last meeting had also spoken out opposing Ms Keilar, got to his feet again: “I formally protest. The participation of outsiders and non-citizens is highly irregular. It might be considered a violation of our sovereignty.” He was obviously a stickler for rules and procedures.

Ms. Keilar was hesitant for a moment, eventually she directed herself to the whole audience: “Does somebody else support Mr. Darby’s protest?”

Only four hands went up.

“This means we will have to take a vote. Does the village-council allow the representatives of the International-Help-Board to be present?”

The people in the audience could be seen pressing their right hands to their desks. Numbers appeared on the projection wall, and with a click, they turned into percentages: “97% YES, 3% NO,” a computer voice stated.

Ms. Keilar looked up at the wall and declared: “The decision has been made

.” After that she asked a second question:

“Should Luscinia Callahan and Jonathan Galt be allowed to stay during this meeting?”

This time the result was: 99% YES and 1% NO.

After declaring the decision to have been made once again, Ms. Keilar explained one more exception to the usual routine of village-council-meetings:

“The representatives for the International-Help-Board have also asked that this meeting be recorded as usual, however that this recording should simultaneously be published on the Peace-Web, and that therefore all the discussions should be held in Interlingua.”

And so Ms. Keilar set the third and final question before the village-council: “Should we hold our meeting publicly on the Peace-Web in front of the whole world and in Interlingua?”

This time it took several minutes for all the votes of the villagers to come in. Hope could guess why it took so long; people had to think about it.

Wouldn’t it mean a loss of sovereignty for Spesaeterna to let the whole world in on this, their village-council-meeting? And Hope knew how extremely important sovereignty was for the people of Spesaeterna. Though on the other hand, wasn’t this issue a matter concerning all the villages of the world?

When the result came in this time, Hope saw that it was narrow: 95% YES and 5% NO. If there had been any more NO-votes, there would have had to be a discussion. Yet it seemed that most people were far too eager to go on with the meeting, so the sovereignty issue, so highly valued before, had now become secondary. And so for the third time, Ms. Keilar declared: “The decision has been made.”

She continued, now speaking in Interlingua: “First I will give the floor to Mr. Nawakwi.”

Mr. Nawakwi got to his feet, the desk-pulpit rising in front of him, and started to speak in an accent different from that of Ms. Keilar though nonetheless easily understandable: “Honored members of the village-council of Spesaeterna.

“We from the International-Help-Board are indeed grateful to all of you for the prompt report you sent after your last village-council-meeting.

“The vital information you gave us immediately allowed us to react with no loss of time.Of course, the first thing we did was to stop all further transports of exiles and trading-goods to Orange Country.

“Knowing full well that this would make the de-facto rulers of Nephilim City, which seem to be those members of the Transhumanist Society, suspicious, we had the maglev personnel claim toward the border-guards some problems with the power-grid. Of course we also knew that this excuse would only work for a day or two.

“One of the Board-members then had an ingenious idea.

“We would next tell the border guards that the villages of the world had complained to us about the exorbitantly high demands of resources which Orange Country was making on them for taking in their citizens as exiles; therefore it had been decided that from now on, only one third of these demands would be fulfilled.

“Of course we could be sure that this lowering of the price would not be accepted by the Orange Country immigration officials. The negotiations could certainly be drawn out for several weeks.

“However, we also knew that once the absence of Jonathan Galt becomes clear to his father and the Trans-humanists, their suspicions can no longer be averted. Their reaction might be an immediate attack with the biological weapons.

“We have therefore begun to request the evacuation of most of the people of the villages surrounding Orange Country, except for some volunteers who would be dressed in air-tight suits.

“We also have asked all the current stationary volunteers and project-supervisors from the ice-breaking missions to transfer to the region of Orange Country and place themselves in a wide circle around its borders—far enough away so as not to be seen by the border-guards. And as you know, we have also asked all the villages of the world to provide those volunteers with air-tight suits.

“All the ice-breaker ships, both from the Arctic as well as from the Antarctic regions, are currently on their way to surround Orange Country’s seacoast. We have also discussed with experts what kind of measures we can take to prevent any attack from those biological weapons built in Nephilim City.

“We are in the process of surrounding the physical wall with a new electromagnetic anti-insect wall. However without knowing the specific genetic make-up of those insects, this protection might be ineffective.

“We also have experts studying the stealth-fighter and missile programs of the Dark Ages in order to find counter-measures which will give us a timely alert in case those air-vehicles are being launched. Though once again, it will take us some time to provide these effective defenses and ways to respond to any air-launches.

“Another problem we face, as we learned from Jonathan Galt, is that while the production shop for the parts needed by those fighter air-vehicles are located in an ordinary industrial building in Nephilim city, the finished vehicles are hidden in a deep underground facility. That facility also contains the laboratories where the viral weapons are produced, as well as the genetic laboratories.

“There is a large security apparatus surrounding this facility. Nobody can enter unless he is authorized by the leaders of the Transhumanist society.

“As you probably know, there has not been a war in the world for nearly two hundred years. The weapons of the past have been dismantled. No new ones have been built.

“Yes, we use efficient tools for many purposes and projects, yet neither laser ice-breaking tools nor stun-guns would be able to penetrate this underground facility, nor fight off those heavily armed guards surrounding its entrance. Practically none of our tools would be of any use against the threats we are now facing.

“However, as has been pointed out to us by thousands of messages from all over the world, there is one single tool which would be effective enough.”

Now Mr. Nawakwi took a deep breath, knowing full well that his next words would drop like a bomb-shell: “It is the thermonuclear ice-breaking device.

“As you might know, the International-Help-Board has a production facility for these devices at the edge of the Antarctic continent. Ten of these devices are being produced and used every year. They function according to the nuclear fusion principle, similar to the principle of the sun, where hydrogen is fused into helium.

“The process releases an enormous amount of heat and energy. No other device allows us to melt enough ice, to counter the enormous new freezing that occurs during every winter along the Antarctic glaciers. These devices are always being transported by the flag-ship of our ice-breaker fleet and subsequently launched in unmanned air-vehicles called drones, and operated by remote control from a ship which is stationed 300km away from the projected impact area.

“This device penetrates several hundred meters into the ice and creates temporary rivers of water flowing into the sea. A device that penetrates the ice to that depth will certainly penetrate rock and the concrete of an underground facility. And with its enormous heat, it would destroy any biological weapons together with any transport system for those weapons.

“However, we have no way to limit the effectiveness of this device to exclusively target the facility we want to destroy. Any use will also lead to the destruction of all of Nephilim City and even some of its surrounding villages.”

A loud murmur could now be heard throughout the hall, while the children in the living-room looked at each other, speechless and horrified.

Mr. Nawakwi continued raising his voice above the noise: “The possibility of using the thermonuclear device has in the last couple of days been widely discussed throughout the Peace-Web. And from the messages we received it has been discussed in Spesaeterna by some of you, as well as in thousands of other villages.

“However an alternative has also been suggested. It was Mr. Wang from your village here, who came up with this alternative plan, having first enlisted young Jonathan Galt for it. Mr. Wang has been in contact with many scientists from villages in all parts of the world, so I will now ask Mr. Wang to present this proposition to you.”

Mr. Nawakwi sat down. Though before Mr. Wang was able to get to his feet, Ms. Alba, whom Hope knew well as her grandmother’s friend, had gotten up and started to speak in an authoritative voice:

“Most of us here in Spesaeterna have already heard Mr. Wang’s suggestion.

“And most of us agree that it is not a good one.

“It will not solve our problems and eliminate the threat we are under.

“There are many variables in it that cannot be accurately calculated.

If anything goes wrong, the world will be in even worse danger than it is now, while we don’t have nearly enough time to prepare our defenses, as Mr. Nawakwi has pointed out.”

Now Ms. Keilar got up, and directing herself to Ms. Alba, her voice sounding stronger than before, she said: “Ms. Alba, you are right; many of us have already heard and discussed the gist of Mr. Wang’s suggestion, while others have not, and neither have most of those watching our meeting on the Peace-Web.

Therefore we will first allow Mr. Wang to present his ideas and afterwards we will discuss their feasibility. Mr. Wang, you have the floor now!”

Mr. Wang cleared his throat and began: “In cooperation with a group of scientists from thirty-seven villages in several different nations, young Mr. Jonathan Galt and I have put together a plan of how to protect the world from the 90% Virus, as it is now called, and to disrupt the production of transmitter drones which would spread the insects slated to transmit the virus.”

The clearing of his throat hadn’t helped; Mr. Wang’s voice still sounded hoarse, harsh, and grumpy as he put forward: “Since we have this alternative, there is no way whatsoever by which we can justify the use of the thermonuclear device. It would fundamentally violate the First Principle.”

Ms. Alba was on her feet again, contradicting vehemently: “It would not violate it! The First Principle demands the respect for and protection of all human life, and it states that all human beings are of equal value. This means, of course, that ten billion individuals, one third of whom the older Mr. Galt is attempting to eradicate from the face of the earth, count more than the two million individuals living in Nephilim City plus the less than one million living in the surrounding villages of Orange Country who might somehow be affected.”

Ms. Keilar interrupted: “Ms. Alba please, Mr. Wang has not yet finished his presentation. Mr. Wang, would you please go into the details of your suggestion; later on, we can start discussing the moral questions.”

Ms. Alba sat down and Mr. Wang nodded and then started his explanation: “Mr. Nawkawki has pointed out correctly.

“The biological weapons and the air-vehicles used for transmission of these weapons are produced or stored in a deep underground facility.

The entrances are guarded both by men and by computer programs. Only those who work in those facilities, persons who have lived in Nephilim City for many years and have been screened by the Transhumanist Society can get inside this facility.

However there is one person we know and we can trust who will be able to enter said facility and who has access to every single one of its laboratories, storage halls, and file-registries. That person is Jonathan Galt, the son of John Galt, who is the leader of the Transhumanist Society.

Jonathan’s absence from Orange Country has not yet been noticed and will not be for another two weeks. After that, he can return the same way he came.

“Once inside the facility, young Mr. Galt can obtain the files describing the genetic make-up of the virus as well as of the genetically-engineered insects. With this information our medical scientists will most likely be able, within a matter of days, to produce the particular anti-viral medication needed to counter any possible infection, and our electronic specialists will be able to configure the electromagnetic anti-insect nets and give this information to all the world’s villages so that all housing-facilities can upgrade their anti-insect protection.

“We have also already begun to design a plan for how Jonathan Galt can disrupt the further production of those biological weapons and even sabotage the air-vehicles without being detected. The details are still being worked on by our associates, who are biological and computer scientists.

Though they all predict good chances of success. The disruption of the work of those production facilities for many months will give us ample time to update our anti-insect defenses, as well as our satellite observation defenses, and to modify our laser-equipment to the point where they can destroy any air-vehicles being launched from Orange Country. Technical engineers, laser scientists, and scientists versed in satellite observation techniques all agree that with unlimited resources provided by all the villages of all nations, these defenses can be fully operational less than five months from now, and they can be partially put into place within a month.” Now Mr. Wang paused for a second.

This gave Ms. Alba the opportunity for her response:

“This all sounds a bit too good to be true. First we have to rely on the unproven words of those nameless scientists regarding their untested methods of protecting us, and second, for most of the plan we have to rely on one person. Someone we have only known for such a short time.

“Remember that at one point in the last meeting only three days ago, Luscinia Callahan called Nephilim City ‘hell’. If that place is anything like ‘hell’ then Jonathan Galt can be considered the son of the devil.”

A murmur could be heard that seemed partly shocked and partly in agreement.

Ms. Alba continued: “At this moment it seems as if this young man is betraying his own community and his own father. How do we know that in the next instant he won’t just turn around and betray us?”

After hearing this comment, Jonathan Galt got to his feet, and barely waiting for the desk to rise, he protested:

“I do not consider the Transhumanist Society to be my community, although my father forced me into it.

“I also no longer consider Nephilim City as my village, even though I grew up there.

“And most certainly do I not consider that I owe my father any loyalty, although he might see my coming here as a betrayal.

“However by taking my mother from me and imprisoning her in his Venus Project, he betrayed us both a long time ago.

“My loyalty lies with the memory of my mother and with my friend Luscinia and with all of humanity. And I hope that one day Luscinia’s Deer-Community will become my community as well and, if all of you will accept me, that Spesaeterna will become my village.”

Jonathan Galt looked around pleadingly at the people attending the meeting. And with that, it became quite clear that his words and attitude had won him many points. The sympathy had shifted. He sat down again.

Ms. Alba sensed that attacking the young man directly would now harm rather than further her case, so she took a different road:

“Even though young Jonathan Galt will try his utmost best to get inside the underground facility and bring us back the information we need, there is no way for us to know if he isn’t already suspected.

His absence might quite possibly have been detected or someone may have found out that he was with his mother before she died. And even if he gets inside, he might be detected while he tries to get hold of the information or tries to sabotage the production. Or he might be apprehended on his way back. There are so many ways in which the proposed plans for this single young man can fail. And if they fail, we can expect an immediate attack for which we are not yet in any way prepared.”

Mr. Wang now interrupted: “Jonathan Galt will not be alone. I will go with him and there will be several other volunteers. We are planning to free as many women as possible from the Venus projects. We have been in contact with many of the villages who in the last few years have sent women into exile in Orange Country; all of them will allow their former citizens to be repatriated.

We will also help Jonathan to evacuate both of little Natsuki’s parents, together with the other people who have helped Jonathan and Luscinia, because all of those people will be in mortal danger when the second part of the plan will be put into action, namely to connect Orange Country once again with the Peace Web.”

At this revelation, Ms. Alba lost all of her composure:

“What are you saying? Have you lost your thinking faculties altogether? Has your mind gone half way to heaven, or should I rather say, half way to hell?”

Ms. Alba was not the only one who was shocked. An elderly man, a Mr. Bayne, got up and asked Mr. Wang: “Don’t you remember why Orange Country was cut off from the Peace Web in the first place?”

“I do remember,” Mr. Wang answered.

Mr. Bayne went on in an agitated voice while lifting his hands into the air: “Those image-stories, those horrible Dark-Age image-stories, they still have them; Luscinia Callahan was telling us about them.

“Historical scientists like me have done research on the phenomenon when, within a single generation of the Dark Ages, the culture of most nations was changed to the point that nothing seemed important any more except for the protection of coupling rights. Even the right to life became secondary.

“Those image-stories, combined with adolescent hormone confusion, were the cause. If we open the Peace-Web to Orange Country again, this might happen to us, and in thirty years, all of our villages will look like Nephilim City.”

“Yes, Mr. Bayne,” Mr. Wang replied in his usual grumpy manner, “you have discussed this theory many times with me in the past. However since we last talked together, I have done some research on the Peace-Web and have found that there is another theory being discussed there.

“In this theory, some other historical scientists explain that the cultural changes were not caused by image-stories combined with adolescent hormones, rather by the actual power-structures of the Dark Ages. It was those power-structures which, via the multi-national information offices which were called mass-media, changed the fundamental ideas of many Dark-Age societies.

“Those image-stories were no more than a handy tool to keep most everyone within those societies in a state of permanent adolescent turmoil. It was a deliberate strategy to create conditions where coupling rights were the only rights considered to be of any value. Those conditions would become the way leading to the ultimate goal of their strategy, namely that of depriving the emotionally stunted populations of all other rights, including the right to life and the right to procreate. All those earlier rights would eventually be turned into mere privileges doled out to individuals by powerful rulers hidden behind a centrally-controlled bureaucracy.

“Although these plans never came to full fruition, coupling-rights nevertheless became the smoke-screen behind which a lot of oppression could be hidden while giving individual citizens a subjective and quite illusionary feeling of being free. They also gave whole nations a feeling of superiority over other nations with lesser coupling-rights. The lack of those particular rights in other nations sometimes even became a convenient excuse for hostile actions taken against those very nations.

Mr. Wang now stated with emphasis:

“We do not live under the same power-structures as were present in the Dark Ages or as are present in Orange Country. Even if some Dark-Age image-stories would soon be floating around the Peace-Web, they would be unable to fundamentally change our thinking, even that of our adolescents.

“We have taught our young people responsible thinking from a early age. While hormone fluctuations might cause occasional slip-ups, still, most of our adolescents are, in general, far more mature than most grown-ups were during the Dark Ages. Actually I can tell you that I am so confident about our young people that I would suggest they be given even greater responsibility by being allowed to participate in village-council-meetings.”

Mr. Bayne protested: “I have to tell you, Lee—I mean Mr. Wang—that I disagree profoundly with those theories you mentioned….”

A middle-aged woman in soft green clothing interrupted. Her name was indicated as Ms. Talim and Hope knew that she was one of the principle owners of the largest production shop:

“At this moment we cannot discern exactly which of the theories is right—yours, Mr. Wang or yours, Mr. Bayne, though it seems to me to make no sense at all to take the risk of opening the Peace-Web for Orange Country. What could ever be gained by that?”

Mr. Wang defended his ideas: “The gain would be that once again, reason would enter Nephilim City. I am convinced that it was we here in what Orange Country people call ‘the outside world’ who actually created the very problem which is now threatening us.

“By cutting off the people of Orange Country from us, we have also isolated them from our way of reasoning and thought. By sending all of our grown-up rule-breakers there, we have created the pressure cooker that inevitably now threatens to explode around our ears. If we open the Peace-Web to the people of Nephilim City, we will in effect be giving them a valve to reduce the pressure. Or in plain words, they can talk to us and we can talk to them.”

“And you really believe that talking to someone like John Galt would change his mind?” Ms. Talim’s voice clearly showed how much she doubted that possibility.

Mr. Wang sMr. Wang shook his head: “Probably not, however he is not alone over there. Once the people of the Orange Country villages hear that the Transhumanist Society had planned to deliberately use some of the biological weapons on their own citizens, there will be resistance to their rule just like when the people of Nephilim City find out that as a reaction to those plans, they themselves are under threat of total destruction by the outside world.

“There will possibly even emerge resistance from within the security agencies themselves.”

“It might lead to changes,” Ms. Talim repeated yet added, “or it might not. You can’t guarantee that, can you?”

Now a Mr. Jennings had risen to his feet: “And while we wait for the changes, which might or might not happen in Nephilim City, we will have this Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, possibly forever.”

Mr. Wang denied that possibility, saying: “Not forever!

“In fifty or sixty years, Nephilim City will have practically died out. Nearly all the women were over 25 years of age when they arrived. After having worked in the Venus Project and being injected with infertility chemicals for five years, there should barely be anyone able to have children at all, either because of their age or because of partial or total infertility.

“Both Luscinia and Jonathan told me that they saw only few children in Nephilim City. And since there would be no more exiles being sent there, the place would inevitably die out within a few decades.”

“And in the meantime,” Mr. Jennings snapped, “those transhumanists are breeding thousands or even millions of their little Alpha monsters!”

“That is rather unlikely, Mr. Jennings,” said Mr. Wang, contradicting this horrific vision.

“According to scientists who have studied the data of Dark Age genetic manipulations in plants and animals, these processes are extremely unstable and unpredictable. We know that John Galt did his first genetic experiments on human beings over thirty years ago while still living in his own village. It has taken him such a long time to create a single viable baby. It might take him just as long for the next one.”

Mr. Jennings was not convinced: “Maybe…or maybe it will take a much shorter time. But you heard him--that little monster will have the intelligence of ten humans. What if he uses that intelligence to out-think all of our defenses against the 90% Virus? What if he makes a new one that's even worse? What if this intelligence-monster thinks up even more lethal weapons against us?”

“It’s just a baby, a single little baby,” grumbled Mr. Wang.

He was trying to put things into perspective: “And even if the transhumanists would be able to make a thousand babies like him, all of them ten times as intelligent as ordinary human beings, the collective intelligence of a billion people would be able to out-think them a million times over.”

“It isn’t a human baby, Mr. Wang!” Mr. Jennings bellowed, still agitated. “It’s something totally different. You heard that John Galt. This thing has an extra pair of chromosomes. He called it post-human; I call it a monster.”

“No, I disagree,” Mr. Wang stated firmly.

“This baby is a human being; whatever John Galt has called him is irrelevant. There are babies born all over the world with chromosome abnormalities, most often suffering from Trisomy21, which is an extra 21st gene. It doesn’t make them less human!”

“That’s different,” Mr. Jennings rejected the argument.

“This one was created particularly so he won’t have the capacity to feel compassion…a heartless monster.”

Mr. Wang now said with an unusually soft tone in his voice: “It is sad that this little boy was deliberately given such a limitation. However you know, Mr. Jennings, compassionate behavior can be a result of a feeling, and it can also be the result of logical thought.

“A society whose members lack compassionate behavior towards one another is an unstable society on the verge of self-destruction. If this little boy is indeed as intelligent as Mr John Galt claims him to be, he eventually will figure that one out.”

“However, John Galt and his trans-humanists are certainly not intelligent enough for that,” inserted Ms. Alba, once again taking charge of the discussion, “though they are intelligent enough to develop weapons which can kill us all.

“Mr. Bayne is right; opening the Peace-Web to Orange Country is dangerous on many levels. Besides endangering our way of life, it might at this moment in time even endanger our very survival.

“For Ms. Talim is right as well-there is nothing to be gained in that, yet there is a lot which is put at risk. Once the Peace-Web is open for them, they can find out everything about the defenses we are planning to build right now, and find even better ways to destroy them.

“And Mr. Jennings is also right: Nephilim City is a Damocles Sword hanging over the whole world—one which needs to be removed before it falls on us all!”

“Still Ms. Alba,” Mr. Wang insisted, “we made this sword ourselves. In all the long years of my life, only two people were exiled to Orange Country from Spesaeterna, one of them being Luscinia Callahan, who shouldn’t even have been sent there at all, since she was far too young.

“The situation is similar in all the other villages to which I’ve been talking—one, two people, maybe even three, permanently exiled in the last seventy years—no more.

“Couldn’t we have found another way to deal with those single individuals? Couldn’t we have perhaps tried temporary exile, like we do for adolescent rule-breakers?

“If we had given them a chance to come back home instead of sending them all permanently to one place, they would never have been so deeply influenced by Dark Age culture. Something like the Venus Projects would never have been invented; men would not have developed so much hatred against women that they could hurt them in the way they hurt our Luscinia Callahan.

“Power-structures like the ones we see there would never have been formed if those people had lived among us, nor would a Transhumanist Society ever have been founded.

“Come to think of it, if we had allowed John Galt to go on dreaming about his stars, he might not ever have gone down the dark path he did.

“Remember Patricia, I mean Ms. Alba, when this young man came to Spesaeterna full of enthusiasm, trying to convince us of his plans, trying to get us to support him? And how we put him down, telling him that the plans were impossible and wasteful?”

“Yes, I do remember,” Ms. Alba stated, “and I also remember that even at the time, John Galt was an arrogant young man without regard for opinions other than his own. And his plans were wasteful of resources, and without a useful purpose.”

“But they were dreams, Patricia, dreams,” Mr. Wang stated softly.

“Some people have a need for dreams and should be allowed to have them, no matter how useless they seem to others. And in all ages, men have looked up at the stars and dreamed about them. Maybe it’s time to dream again.”

Ms. Alba had no time for dreams at the moment: “And then John Galt started dreaming about creating a new humanoid species and destroying the old one. Would you have supported him in that dream as well?”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Mr. Wang now sounded annoyed.

“What I meant was that we all have helped create the conditions that led to the problem we now have, and that we need to find an ethical way to deal with it.”

“We cannot change the past,” Ms. Alba declared.

“We have to deal with what is now. And right now we are all in terrible danger and there is only one sure way to remove this danger and protect ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.”

Hope’s grandmother leaped to her feet: “But there are also children over there, Patricia—I mean Ms. Alba—innocent children!”

Now Ms. Higgins, another friend of Hope’s grandmother, interrupted: “But Faith, Mr. Wang himself said that there are not many children being born in Nephilim City.”

Hope’s grandmother continued without a pause: “And there are women there, women who are innocent victims of all the oppression going on in that place, like our Luscinia!”

“Not innocent, Ms. Morgan, as you well know.” Ms. Higgins no longer sounded like she was talking to a friend.

“They are all exiles, all rule-breakers, even Luscinia Callahan…or have you forgotten what she did?”

Now Mr. Callahan was on his feet, red in the face with anger. However before he could say anything, Mr. Wang had once again begun to speak:

“We do not believe in killing rule-breakers as they did in the Dark Ages. And Ms. Higgins, doesn’t your Christian religion command you to forgive those who have done wrong?”

Ms. Higgins shook her head: “The Christian religion does not prevent us from acting in self-defense. I believe that God himself has now given us the information we need and therefore the opportunity to protect ourselves from destruction. And the Bible has a passage which tells us about the Ammonites—a people beyond redemption, evil to the point that even God commanded that they should be violently destroyed.”

Hope’s grandmother was now shaking her head saying: “Most theologians interpret this passage quite differently today. My brother says…”

Ms. Higgins interrupted: “Your brother, Ms. Morgan? Isn’t he the one who was best friends with that John Galt, a scientist himself, working on the same things with him? Of course he would support and save his old friend, even at the expense of the life and security of everyone else.”

Now Hope was utterly shocked; she had nearly forgotten what her great-uncle had told her years ago. Though there could be no doubt, this was the same John Galt who had been her great-uncle’s friend.

Hope shuddered.

Still how could they blame him for this, for a friendship that had ended so many years ago? Now Hope realized what her great-uncle had meant when he said that they wouldn’t want to listen to him.

Hope looked around the room at her own friends. They were all avoiding her eyes, or so at least it seemed to Hope, all except Ameenah, that is. Sitting next to her, Ameenah whispered in Hope’s ear: “Professor Morgan is a good man. I know that.”

Hope turned her attention back to the screen, to now see her grandmother crying and hear her grandfather shouting: “How dare you, Ms. Higgins?! You who have been in our home so many times, you whom my wife considers to be a friend, how dare you to insinuate that my brother in law…”

Ms. Higgins, red in the face with anger of her own, did not answer this, instead she turned now to Mr. Wang with her voice at the breaking point:

“As you have reminded me of my religion, Mr. Wang, maybe I should now recall what I know about yours. Could it be that you do not care about the safety and life of all of us because in your religion, a human life doesn’t really count for much?

“After one failed attempt at a life, you just turn around, get reincarnated, and try again. It might be news to you, but for us, there is only one chance to get it right and we don’t intend to have that chance shortened.”

With this, about thirty people had jumped up from their seats, all shouting at the same time. And a second later another fifty or so had gotten to their feet as well.

The screen-wall was now so crowded that the letters of the names of those projected could no longer be distinguished from one another. The sound coming from all the loud-speakers was deafening.

Finally the ear-piercing noise of a bell sounded which drowned out even the shouting. The rest of the noise slowly decreased, eventually stopping altogether and so did the sound of the bell.

The silence was thickly filled with anger. Only one voice could be heard breaking through, that of Ms. Keilar saying

“Everyone sit down, please! Now!!”

Reluctantly, all those who were standing obeyed. Only Ms. Keilar remained standing behind her pulpit.

Her voice sounded decidedly authoritative: “All this has been highly irregular. We do not use ad hominem attacks in a village-council-meeting. Neither do we make insinuations about other citizens’ thoughts or intentions. And we most certainly do not make any negative remarks about other people’s religions. The latter is a serious case of rule-breaking, unless you, Ms. Higgins, as well as you, Mr. Wang, are ready, right here and now, to make your apologies.”

Mr. Wang was the first to stand: “I am truly sorry, Ms. Keilar, and my deepest apologies to you, Ms. Higgins, for making the issue into a religious one. I hope you will forgive me.”

Ms. Higgins was now standing as well, still red in the face, although it seemed now to be rather from shame than anger. Bowing to the authority of the much younger Ms. Keilar, Ms. Higgins said formally: “I accept your apology, Mr. Wang, and I also ask you for forgiveness, as well as you, Ms. Keilar. I don’t know what got into me; I’m just so worried.”

Ms. Keilar declared: “Your apologies are accepted. And we are all worried at the moment, Ms. Higgins. However, this must not be allowed to break down the unity of our village.”

A murmur of assent could be heard, although it seemed slightly reluctant.

“Now Mr. Wang,” Ms. Keilar continued, “have you finished presenting your plans and your arguments in support of them?”

Mr. Wang shook his head: “I’m nearly finished, however with your permission, Ms. Keilar, I would like to make two more points:

In the last couple of days, I have heard many times in the village and also from citizens of other villages via the Peace-Web, that ‘it is either us or them’.

“This notion is what was guiding all the wars throughout the Dark Ages, as well as all their economic dealings.

It was only when the dualistic ideology of ‘either us or them’ was replaced by the notion of ‘we’—that we all belong to one human family—that the Dark Ages faded away and our age of peace could arise, based on the First Principle.

“This leads me to the second point: That destroying Nephilim City and the people inside via a thermonuclear device is, no matter what we try to tell ourselves in justification, the ultimate violation of the First Principle, which states in no uncertain terms that human life is sacred and must always be protected. By eradicating those people, we will eradicate our own foundation.

“It is the adherence to the First Principle which gives us trust in one another, even in people who live in places farthest away from us. It allows us to be generous without fear of losing something. It allows us to overcome all differences of opinion with patience and dialogue. Yet by trying to save our world and our way of life in such a murderous way, I fear that we will lose both. This is what I see in our future.”

Ms. Alba had once again gotten to her feet, talking in a soft and reasonable manner now: “I can understand your fears, Mr. Wang, though what you think you perceive is nothing more than a vague feeling, with no reasonable argument to back it up.

“As you have pointed out yourself, the First Principle demands the protection of all human life, yet it also states definitely that all human beings are of equal value. Protecting the lives of the ten billion people who live on earth right now from the lethal danger posed by barely two million rule-breakers who live in Nephilim City is simply an act of self-defense which could never be called murder.

“It is therefore not a violation of the First Principle.

“It will not lead to any loss of trust or generosity or patience.

“It will have no impact on our ability to dialogue. Nothing will change!

“However, having to live in constant fear—that might easily result in a loss of trust.”

Ms. Keilar could now be seen listening to Mr. Avineshwaran, the second representative from the International-Help-Board. She nodded and started to speak: “It looks as if the arguments cannot be concluded tonight. And I have now been informed that the International-Help-Board has decided that another village-council-meeting should be held here in Spesaeterna in three days’ time.

“This one will also be transmitted directly on the Peace-Web. At that time, Mr. Wang, as well as Ms. Alba, should once again present their arguments and any new arguments resulting from discussing this matter in the villages and on the Peace-Web.

“Following that, there will be a 24-hour time-period for discussion in all the villages of the world, and at its conclusion, all people from all villages outside Orange Country can vote on these two options.”

Mr. Avineshwaran once again whispered in Ms Keilar’s ear. This time she looked surprised, yet she also nodded and continued to speak:

“It has also been decided that since we have so little time before the rulers of Nephilim City will become suspicious and possibly start the attack against us, there will not be the customary re-voting and further discussions needed to reach 95% agreement.

“There will only be the one vote. And whichever plan gets over fifty percent of the votes will be executed.”

While a murmur went through the hall, the scene faded in front of David’s eyes to be replaced by Hope sitting on the bench next to David, looking sad and afraid.

So that was it. That was the burden that had weighed on Hope’s mind since David had first met her. He thought it now rather astonishing that enmeshed within all that turmoil, Hope had still shown him and his world so much interest.

“How do you think your people will decide?” David asked her softly.

“They’ll follow Ms Alba,” Hope answered sadly.

“In our village and all over the Peace-Web, people are asking each other which way they’ll vote. And it’s nearly the same everywhere. From every ten people, seven or eight will vote for Ms. Alba and only two or three for Mr. Wang.”

“And what do you think?” David asked in an even more careful tone.

Hope sighed: “I can understand why so many would follow Ms. Alba and decide to use the thermonuclear device. They are so afraid, so terribly afraid of war, and of becoming a victim. I’m scared, too.

“And still,” she hesitated for a second, “I believe Mr. Wang is right. If we kill them, we might destroy ourselves in a different way because we would be violating the First Principle.”

Hope sighed more deeply than before:

“And then there is Mamma, my own mother. When I came here last night and told you about my Mamma being on a fighting assignment you thought she was bombing and killing people and now this is exactly what she is going to do. She will be responsible for the death of two million people or more.”

David shook his head: “I had thought she was a soldier until you explained to me about her fighting the ice-age. And now I assume she really has become something like a soldier. But she is one of many, so whatever happens will not be her responsibility.”

“You don’t understand, Uncle David,” Hope disagreed, “it will indeed be her responsibility.

“You see, after I did the victim scenario last year, my Mamma started to train for ice-breaking missions—because of me, she told me. Because I was so brave, she needed to be brave as well and honor Papa’s memory.

“And so she trained and trained and trained in all specialties. And she passed all the needed qualification tests. And so when she put herself on the project supervisor list, one of the representatives from the International-Help-Board must have spotted her name.

“And because significant fewer people volunteered for ice-breaking missions since my father’s accident, it was decided that having the widow of the deceased supervisor as the organizing supervisor on the flagship of the ice-breaker fleet would set a good example.

“And that is why my Mamma is the leading organizer of the whole ice-breaker fleet. The thermonuclear devices are stored on her ship, and she would have to give the command for launching.”

David looked at Hope in utter amazement: “Your mother, the seamstress, is now the commander of the whole world’s Navy?”

Hope shrugged listlessly: “I guess in your time you would call it that.”

David realized that this was nothing Hope was proud of.

She continued to tell her story: “I tried to call Mamma so many times during the last few days. Yet she just sent messages back that she couldn’t talk to me right now; she didn’t talk to Sissy or Lillebro either.

And when I finally had reached her, I only begged her to come back home. But she said…”

Another scene started to form, with Hope standing in front of a projection wall in what seemed to be her bedroom.

Her mother looked pale and drawn, though she was talking soothingly: “I can’t, my little Hope, I can’t yet.”

“But Mamma, what do you think about all the terrible things and about the plans? I’m so afraid, Mamma.”

“I know, Hope. Everybody is afraid. Yes, I do believe Mr. Wang might be right.”

“If you agree with him you can’t do this Mamma,” Hope sounded desperate.

“You can’t be on this ship, you shouldn’t be. What are you going to do if the world decides to…?” She couldn’t even say the words.

Hope’s mother nodded slowly: “Then I will have to follow those decisions.”

“No Mamma—let somebody else do it! I know you, you wouldn’t be able to live with that guilt.”

Hope’s mother shook her head: “Should somebody else have to live with it? I was chosen to be in this position. It is my place now.”

“No Mamma,” Hope protested. “You were not God-chosen! Those representatives chose you. It is not your place!”

Again her mother shook her head: “The representatives of the International-Help-Board did not decide that I would be here exactly at this exact moment in time. They like everyone else didn’t know what would happen. This is the place where I have to be at this time, Hope.”

Someone calling “Ms. Morgan” could be heard in the background, so Hope’s mother said apologetically: “I’m sorry, Hope, I have to go now. I love you. Please tell my little David and Faith that I love them too.”

And with that, she turned off the communicator.

“Mamma, Mamma,” Hope called out to the empty wall, and she pressed her face and hands against it, sobbing silently.

The scene faded. The present-day Hope also had a tear-streaked face.

Yet pulling herself together, she went back to her story: “And then, after all that, Great-Uncle Professor finally talked to me again

“He found me in our apartment just after I’d been talking to my mother. He asked me to follow him to his lab. And there he told me that he had just finished his time-machine, and that now somebody could go further back in time than only one or two days.

“Normally I would have been really interested and excited, however at that moment I just didn’t care. The past was the past and was long over, however the present was in danger of being the end of the world or at least of the world we all know.

“But then my great-uncle said that the person who would go back in time would be me. And that is when I did feel excited, thinking I would be going back to my Papa. I could warn him, the accident would never happen…Instead Great-Uncle Professor said I would be going back more than 200 years to some ancestor of ours, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, and I was to prevent him from jumping in front of an underground transport train to commit suicide.

“Before I could recover from my surprise, my great-uncle explained to me about the data-container which held the information needed to figure out the space-time-coordinates where this ancestor could be reached. He said that this small container had been in the family for generations, and his grandmother had given it to him when he was a boy my age. Yet most of the data had been destroyed and he had only been able to decipher a small part of it.”

Once again a scene from Hope’s world started to form before David’s eyes. Though immediately David realized that this one he had seen before. It had been only this morning, although it now kind of seemed like an eternity ago….

Hope was standing in front of some strange machine. She was facing her great-uncle, David remembered she had argued with the Professor, pleading with him to help her safe her father instead of being sent back to the Dark Ages.

The Professor was now talking: “.. all I can tell you is that I know for a fact that you cannot save your father. Yet you will be able to save another human life, and bring this person out of a dark place.”

“He lives in the Dark Ages. I can’t bring him out of there.” Hope was now pouting.

As if having accepted Hope’s rejection of his appeal, Great-Uncle Professor had now turned his back to Hope while adjusting some dials at his machine. He hesitated for a moment, eventually he spoke in a soft, clear, and calm voice: “Yes, this man does live in a dark age, however what surrounds his mind is even darker. The girl who went back in time to meet him was called Hope. And I believe that this Hope was you and that you are the only one who has the ability to lead this ancestor of ours out of his own darkness. Though he lives in a time and a culture we do not understand, his life – like everyone’s life—is still of value. And it is in your hands now.”

The Professor turned around to face Hope again: “You do remember the First Principle, don’t you?”

That stopped Hope in her tracks. The First Principle…once again, the First Principle—people were arguing about it, accusing each other of having forgotten it. How was it to be interpreted in a time like this?

And now her great-uncle was going on about it too, interpreting it in his own way, as a principle that even concerned the past.

It didn’t make sense to Hope, and still, she couldn’t say no.

“All right I’ll go,” she conceded. “But why now?”

Her great-uncle looked at Hope and said softly: “Because it’s time.”

This sounded bizarre, Hope shook her head in disbelief. Time for what? What was her great-uncle thinking? He sure had a strange sense of timing.

As if reading her mind, the Professor gave the strange explanation: “You might learn something.”

Now Hope felt a surge of anger bursting out: “From the Dark Ages? Yeah, right! Mr. Galt learned from the Dark Ages how to destroy the world and most of the people in it.”

The Professor shrugged as if this didn’t matter at all: “So you will have to learn something else, won’t you?”

Hope was unconvinced yet while still grumbling in her mind, she had given up open protest, asking for some practical information instead: “How long do I have to stay?”

The Professor had already turned around to adjust something on his machine, and answered in an absent-minded manner: “It might take a while, a couple of days probably. Just until you are quite sure this man won’t try this suicide thing again.

“You’ll know when you can come back. His name was David, by the way, like your brother and me.”

“And how will you know when to bring me back, Great-Uncle?” Hope asked, surprised at the vagueness of his answer.

The Professor gestured to Hope to sit down on something that looked like a dentist’s chair which was somehow connected to a tube which rapidly thinned out circling the room in spirals several times, finally exiting through a hole in the outside wall.

While he fastened some connections to Hope’s forehead, the Professor explained: “I don’t have to know. You control the process yourself. You decide when you are ready to come back.”

The Professor was now preparing a needle. Hope felt a sting in her left arm as she was connected to an intravenous feeding device. It must have contained something more than liquid food, for Hope started to feel drowsy. Though she had one more question: “But Great-Uncle, if I had said no, would there have been another girl called Hope who would have gone back in time?”

The chair had now turned into a gurney, Hope’s head enclosed in a helmet was connected to the spiraling tube. The drowsiness had increased so she could barely hear her great-uncle’s answer, which sounded like a far-away soft echo: “No, my little one, it would have always been you, because you care…”

The scene faded and dissolved and David opened his eyes to see and hear his time’s Hope talking to him: “And that is how I came to your time, Uncle David.”

He smiled at her, feeling a deep surge of emotion for this brave little girl: “And I am so glad that you did! In spite of everything that is going on in your time, you still came to save me. Thank you, Hope, so much.”

Hope smiled back: “I’m also glad I came, Uncle David, I really am.”

With this she frowned, saying: “Yet I do wonder what my great-uncle meant when he said that I care, because though I feel sorry about it now, at the time I really didn’t care.”

David shook his head: “You’re wrong, Hope, you always cared. You are such a caring person. You care about your friends and family and about the people of your village and your world.

And you care about your First Principle, enough to even save a stranger from the Dark Ages.”

“You’re not a stranger, Uncle David!” Hope contradicted him.

“Not anymore,” David replied.

“No, what I mean is, you are my great-”

“So what?” David interrupted her.

Now she started laughing and David joined in, mirth arising at how they were related though generations apart, coming from different worlds, once complete strangers yet now they were friends.

The darkness had been lifted from Hope’s mind and from David’s. And David noticed that darkness had also lifted from his world. Night was slowly giving way to an early dawn.

And they weren’t alone any more either. David could hear a loud rolling sound coming closer. Two teenage boys on skate-boards were approaching on the side-walk. When they had nearly reached the alcove in which David’s bench was hidden, he heard a screeching sound just before one of the boards came to an abrupt halt, indicating that something was wrong with it. David also heard a stream of cussing containing exotic obscenities he had rarely heard outside movie theaters, indicating that something must also be wrong with one of the skate-boarders.

“I told you it was still too dark,” the boy continued with more typical language, “I hit a hole back there, one I couldn’t even see. It was a dumb idea anyway to go out so early.”

The other boy had come to a halt and rolled back to his friend. “At this time of day, the ramp in the park will be free,” he defended his idea. “In a couple of hours it will be crowded already. And this early in the morning, nobody is around on the streets either. We’ve got a good practice ride, building up lots of speed. And after all, I’m the ‘King of the Streets’.”

“‘King of the Streets’?” his friend sneered.

“Who gave you that name?”

“The old Battram did … well kind of,” the ‘King of the Streets’ replied. After that he added with obvious self-mockery in his voice:

“She told me last month that I was so dumb that the streets were all that would be mine. And if the streets are all mine, then I am their king—it’s only logical!”

With this, the boy jumped with his board onto the street.

And there he took a large curve, and while stretching out his arms imitating Leonardo Di Caprio from Titanic, or more likely, one of its many spoofs, he yelled: “I am the ‘King of the Streets’!”

Through the silence of the receding night, this made quite an impressive echo.

With a small jump, the ‘King of the Streets’ landed back on the side-walk in front of his friend.

On a more prosaic note, he said: “Let me look at that wheel of yours; maybe I can fix it.”

And while the ‘King of the Streets’ attempted to fix his friend’s skate-board, the latter kept the conversation going: “The Batty woman, you say? I had her last year in English class. And if she is right, well I guess that I’m the ‘King of the Chair’.”

“What chair?” asked the ‘King of the Streets’.

““You know, the one you get strapped to with all those cables, and then you get fried… ” his friend explained.

“Cables? … Oh, I see,” he chuckled belatedly, “you must have really made her mad.”

“I nearly burned down the school!” The grin in the boy’s voice was clearly audible.

“Oh I remember, that was last year in March,” the ‘King of the Streets’ said with the same grin in his voice. “Three fire-trucks came and everybody got evacuated. So that was you!” He added slightly disappointed: “It wasn’t a big fire though.”

“More or less just one waste-paper basket, but lots of smoke,” his friend reminisced.

“What happened?” the ‘King of the Streets’ asked while violently yanking at one of the skate-board wheels.

The other boy explained: “The math teacher didn’t show and after a while, we thought nobody else would either. And then one of the guys was handing a joint around, and when it was my turn, suddenly in walked the Batty, big as life, as the substitute. So what was I supposed to do?

“I took a perfect shot, straight into the basket. She didn’t notice anything at first. But there must have been some plastic stuff in there. After maybe half a minute, a cloud of smoke was coming out of it and everybody started coughing. And Terry, who was sitting next to the basket, nearly keeled over and everybody started screaming. And that’s when the fire-alarm went off and you know the rest.”

“But how did the Batty know it was you?” the ‘King of the Streets’ asked while spinning the wheel with his fingers.

He had successfully loosened it.

“I don’t know,” his friend shrugged. “Maybe she’s a mind-reader or something. Or maybe she always thought it was me when anything happened, even when it wasn’t, well, not always anyway.” Once again that grin was in his voice: “though usually the Batty was right….”

“Try it now, it should run again,” the ‘King of the Streets’ said, as he handed over the skate-board to his friend. Both of them started rolling again. Passing David on his bench, they gained speed, yet the next second he heard a big crash and the sound of a whole lot of metal hitting the ground.

A woman seemed to have come out of nowhere.

“Bad boys, nowadays, bad boys nowadays, bad boys…” she was shouting.

And David recognized her voice, although it sounded far more agitated than when he had last heard it. It was the shopping-cart woman whom he had already met twice in the last twenty-four hours. David assumed that most likely she had come from a path in the park where she might have been sleeping on one of the benches.

Her shopping-cart had overturned, its contents cascading into the street.

“Come on, let’s split,” yelled the ‘King of the Streets’.

At that moment the old woman’s shouts turned into an ear-splitting inarticulate scream.

A car was approaching fast, threatening to crash into her belongings. Desperate and still screaming, the old woman hurled herself into the middle of the street and down on her knees to pick up one of the bags that had landed there. David tried to jump up, yet he fell back onto the bench, his feet being totally numb and his head spinning with dizziness. However David’s help wasn’t needed. Like a speeding arrow, the ‘King of the Chair’ had flown into the street. He grabbed the old woman, and with all his teenage might he dragged her back to safety while the car swerved and careened by.

“Lady, you can’t do that,” the boy muttered, nearly out of breath. “You have to be careful.”

The old woman struggled in the boy’s arms, intent on getting back to the street to save her belongings.

However her screams slowly subsided and were replaced by a lower whimpering sound.

“Dude, come back and help me,” the boy called out to his friend.

The ‘King of the Streets’ turned and reluctantly joined him, muttering: “She’s crazy, this one, totally crazy. How can she do that, running in front of that car, just for that junk?”

“That junk is all she has,” his friend said softly, while still somehow restraining the old woman.

Turning to her he said just as softly: “Lady, you don’t have to go into the street again. We are going to pick up your stuff for you and put it back.”

With that, the boy gently set her down on the sidewalk and so he heaved the shopping-cart back onto its wheels.

The ‘King of the Streets’ shrugged and started to pick up the first offending bag in the middle of the street, which seemed to contain a couple of cheap religious statues made of plastic.

He picked up a few knives and spoons nearby which had spilled out of another bag, as well as a small pot which had rolled farther away.

The other boy stuffed those things back into the bags and arranged them in the cart.

Within a couple of minutes, everything was back where it belonged. The old homeless woman had stopped whimpering. Though when she turned to the street, the sound began again, and pointing with one hand, she indicated a small brown paper-bag which had landed a bit further down the street.

The ‘King of the Streets’ ran to pick up the bag and return it to her. The old woman opened it to scrutinize its contents. Out of that bag she pulled a large cookie which seemed not to have even crumbled. She pushed the cookie under the nose of the ‘King of the Streets’. The boy looked surprised and not too pleased.

“Take it,” his friend told him. “Just take it.”

The ‘King of the Streets’ received the cookie with a slight frown, while the old woman pulled out another cookie from the same bag, which she handed to his friend.

“Eat!” she told them in a scratchy voice and finally pulled a third undamaged cookie out of the bag. She took a big bite from her cookie and so the boys, a bit reluctantly though, started to nibble on theirs.

“It’s not bad,” the ‘King of the Streets’ commented surprised and added belatedly: “Thank you.”

The other boy thanked the homeless woman as well, though she didn’t say anything, already looking past them in her usual way. She only gave them a small nod with her head, while finishing her own cookie with a few more big bites. After that she took hold of her cart again and started pushing it along the sidewalk, monotonously talking to herself just the way David had heard her the other two times he had seen her. Yet somehow it was to a slightly different tune than before: “Good boys nowadays, good boys nowadays, good boys…” She slowly walked down the sidewalk. The rattling of the pots, pans, and silver-wear and the screeching of the cart-wheels accompanied the soft sing-song of her voice.

The boys were still finishing their cookies. “My Granny used to bake cookies which tasted just like these,” the older boy commented thoughtfully. “

You know she raised us, my sister and me, when we were little, because my mom…, oh you’ve seen my mom, you know why. But then a couple of years ago, Granny got sick and she’s now in a wheelchair and they put her in an old folks’ home.” The boy sounded sad.

He took another bite of his cookie: “You know she taught me to read, even before I got into kindergarten, Granny did. She always used to say that when you read enough books, then in your head you will own the whole world.”

“The whole world, that’s more than the streets,” his friend commented.

“And more than the chair, that’s for sure,” his friend grinned. “I think I’m gonna visit Granny today. I haven’t gone to that place for a while.” He nodded to himself with determination. In an uncharacteristically shy voice, his friend uttered a question: “Do you think your grandma could teach me to read too?”

And more as his usual self, he claimed: “’Cuz the Batty sure can’t.”

After swallowing his last cookie-bite, he added as an afterthought: “I guess she’s got too many kids to teach.”

“Sure, Granny can teach anybody anything,” his friend proclaimed proudly, “even you, dumbo!”

This earned him a shove into the ribs, which was promptly returned.

“If we take a couple of spins on the ramp and then roll down to the old folks’ place, we’ll make it just in time for breakfast. Granny always shares. And I’ll ask her about the reading stuff for you.”

The boys had gotten back on their boards, turning down a path into the park. David thoughtfully watched them disappear behind the trees. Neither of the boys had even noticed his presence nor eavesdropping.

Even before David looked at her, he could feel that Hope was now crying. However this time it wasn’t out of fear, despair, or sadness.

These tears came from a heart touched by a deep all-encompassing feeling of love. They were tears of recognition, even of joy.

Once again David was taken by surprise. He could sense Hope’s feelings, though he could not for the world take a guess at what had caused them, except that it had something to do with the small scene they had just witnessed.

Sure, one of the boys had rescued the old woman from being run over by a car, yet after all, it was he and his friend who had been responsible for the crash and the overturned shopping-cart in the first place.

Hope shook her head: “You don’t understand! Why don’t you understand? We’ve seen the First Principle! Right now we’ve seen it, the beginning of it, the new beginning!”

David was at a total loss; he truly didn’t understand.

Hope took a deep breath, steadying herself before she began to explain: “Just about everywhere in the whole world, every mother will tell this very story when she explains to her little child about the First Principle, about how every human being is of great importance for the whole of humanity, and every human being is of infinite and unchangeable value.”

“What story?” David asked, still nonplussed.

“The story of the old woman, the two boys, and the three cookies, of course,” Hope replied. She began to narrate:

“Once there was an old woman who had no place to live and all her few belongings she kept in a wheeled cart. And because of this, everyone thought that she was of no importance at all.

“And there were two boys on wheeled boards and everyone thought that they had no value because they were poor.

And they were also rule-breakers. But when the wheeled boards smashed into the wheeled cart, the whole world changed.

“The boys saved the life of the old woman, because her life became important to them. And the old woman gave the boys two of her last three cookies because their lives became of value to her.

“And from that moment in time, those who had lost the First Principle would find it again in their hearts, and because of that, the future was saved.

“The whole world changed and the future was saved because of an old woman, two boys, and three cookies….”

Hope whispered the end of the story more to herself than to David.

After another deep breath she turned to him, explaining:

“Thousands of image-stories about this can be found on the Peace-Web, and thousands of songs. All children act out this story or sing a song about it in their first year of school.

“When we go through the victim-scenario, we learn to fear war. We learn it here,” Hope pointed to her head “and here,” she pointed to her heart.

“However long before we learn to fear, we learn to love, to love the First Principle… through this story.”

She shook her head in wonder:

“This is why I am here now. This is why Great-Uncle Professor said it was time. He somehow knew. He wanted me to see this…to see it now. And to bring it back home. To tell the people of Spesaeterna about what I’ve seen, at the next meeting when the whole world is listening.”

Hope paused, breathing heavily, doubt and fear setting in:

“But how? I’m just a child, not even an adolescent,” she said, still talking to herself:

“They’d never listen to a child, never. They would not even allow me to attend the meeting. I won’t be able to tell them. It’s impossible, absolutely impossible!”

“Listen to me, Hope,” David, trying to get her out of her self-absorbed doubt and despondency, looked into her eyes, and talking with great urgency, he listed:

“It was your great-uncle, Hope, who was once John Galt’s friend, yet your great-uncle chose a different path than his friend did.

And so it was your great-uncle who built the device that allowed you to travel in time and to observe and learn from the past and see what you have seen right now.

“It was Luscinia, a girl from your village, who befriended the imprisoned wife of John Galt and the mother of his son Jonathan. And because of this, Jonathan Galt and Luscinia Callahan, these first people who came back from Orange Country, chose to come to your village with their terribly important information.

“And it is your father who was killed by a Dark Age explosive.

“And therefore it was your mother, his widow, who was chosen to command the ice-breaker fleet, which has now become the whole world’s sea defense force.

“And it is you, Hope, who have been the only person ever to be able to travel back over two hundred years in time.

“And there you have met the father and sister of Marco Santini, the very soldier who saved Farouk and allowed him to see humanity in his enemy and so made it possible for Farouk to become a man of peace and his experience the victim scenario of your world.

“And it is you who have seen what your world considers to be the original scene of the First Principle.

They will listen to you, Hope!”

David thoughtfully looked down the road, where the old woman with her shopping-cart was about to turn a corner. In that moment the first ray of the rising sun lifted above the horizon and seemed to shine exclusively on the old woman, transforming her appearance.

The colors of her knitted cap started to glow in red and blue, and the hair coming out from underneath her cap reflected the gold of the sun, while her cart gleamed silver. And to make the illusion complete, her boots and the wheels of her cart seemed somehow to float above the now glittering street.

David blinked and the illusion was gone.

The old homeless woman had turned the corner and was out of David’s sight, and the whole street was now bathed in the red-golden morning sunlight.

David looked at Hope. Had she seen that? Of course she had, she could see what he saw. And so he confirmed his earlier words, with something he knew would convince Hope, however at this single moment in time he believed it himself with all his heart:

“Sometimes there are miracles….”

Hope looked into David’s eyes. She squared her shoulders. She was a person who had been given a difficult responsibility, one she had not chosen for herself. She was to carry the heavy burden of truth to her people, not an easy burden to carry, but a necessary one. And now she was ready to carry it… because she cared.

“I have to go now,” Hope said.

David nodded.

“Bless, Uncle David!”

“Bless, Hope!”

The image faded, Hope was gone and David was alone now.

 

***

 

 

 

You took your time!” John Galt sneers at me with his usual mix of impatience and disappointment. In his view, his son’s time should be reserved for work and physical training—nothing else is of any importance.

I keep my eyes on the ground, mustn’t let him see too much in them, answering only with a slight nod.

But my father isn’t finished yet: “It was a woman, wasn’t it, a young girl?”

Now I stiffen up. The image of Luscinia has been in my mind since I entered the underground facility. The thought of her gives me strength. Has my father guessed something?

The girls from the projects are too old for you, aren’t they. But that’s still no reason to waste a whole three weeks in the sea-villages.” John Galt is on the wrong track; I can relax.

You gave me permission for a three week vacation,” I murmur defensively.

My father replies, waving my words aside:

I said at most three weeks of absence, hoping however you would get over your itches much earlier than that. And I agreed only because you promised to get rid of that distracted attitude of yours which had made your work an exercise of utter mediocrity the last few months. And I really hope you now have done so.

With the new insurance fees being implemented at the moment, in a couple of months we will be able to open a whole new group of projects with much younger women, starting at the age of twelve. There should be plenty of choices for you inside and no more need for a long vacation.”

John Galt spits out the last word as if it is something which leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

A surge of anger starts flooding my mind now, together with images of little Natsuki and her desperate parents. I finger the gun in my pocket, tempted to use it right on the spot. But I know I can’t afford to strike out in anger at this moment – there are far too many people around.

As usual, my father has chosen to put me down in public, here in the gene-research lab, with all his ten lab-assistants secretly watching while pretending to work.

He has always enjoyed an audience for his tirades. He believes it to be character-building for his son, that it would spur me on to a higher standard of excellence.

But the anger I now feel does have a good effect. It’s clearing my mind of nervousness.

My voice is now strong and totally calm as I contradict:

You are wrong, Father. I did not waste my time during the last three weeks. I only needed a bit of fresh air to allow me to think more clearly about our work here. And having done so, I have come up with a few suggestions of my own, some of which you might find quite interesting. But I would like to present them to you in private, in your office.”

For once I’ve caught my father’s attention. However, the slight sneer I see on his face before he wordlessly turns around tells me, that he does not have much confidence that his son’s suggestions would be to his liking.

And yes, John Galt is most certainly right, this time. I can barely suppress a grin while I follow my father.

Once inside his office which is dominated by a giant computer with its dozens of monitors – the control-center of the whole facility – he turns around, giving me an expectant glance.

My first suggestion,” I begin as I pull the gun from my pocket in one determined move, “is to terminate your work altogether.”

The look of sheer incredulity on John Galt’s face is followed by a look of horror the moment I pull the trigger. My father crashes to the floor in convulsions.

The scientists of what I had once thought of as the outside-world have modified the stun-guns normally given to “travelers”.

Mine is made of a sturdy organic-fiber material so as to be undetectable by the metal-detector gates at the front entrance. And like those carried by my companions, the voltage this gun produces is much higher than usual, putting any target out of commission for several minutes.

And these guns have another even more useful function:

Held directly to a person’s neck and with a quick push of the blue button, they become syringes through which one can administer an anesthetic. The duration of the effect is somewhat dependent upon a person’s body weight, but is usually around two hours.

Before I use the gun’s anesthetic function, though, I have one more thing to say: “It’s over, Father! The world knows and they are prepared now. They are also ready to destroy you—all of you—if you try something like this again. Believe me, you can’t win!”

I push the button.

What are you doing?! What is…”

I wheel around in shock to face the person who has just entered the office. As if by reflex without a moment’s hesitation I press the first, the yellow button on the multifunctional gun and the shot hits the target.

The man is Mr. Wurner, my father’s partner and second-in-command at the facility, the only one who can come unannounced into John Galt’s office.

This is a stroke of good luck. I use the syringe function on Larry Wurner now. To have that guy taken out of commission, will make the whole operation a lot easier to get through. I look around at my father. He is already sleeping peacefully.

I’m satisfied. I can now approach my father’s computer, the main one for the entire facility. I know that John Galt changes the access codes for his staff on a daily basis, though from here in the office, I can get at them all. I know my father’s own code, unchanged from probably the first day the facility has been operational. I enter this code into the system… nothing…

I try again; still nothing; and a third time with no effect. The computer stays silent, not even displaying an error message.

I feel desperation rising up in me. All the preparation, all the contingency plans…and now I can’t even get simple machine access.

The information contained in this computer is vital for the defense of the outside world against the biological weapons’ system my father has built. And also for this current operation to succeed, I need access so I can turn off the security system and get into the bio-sweep programs.

What should I do?

Try again a few more times or just proceed to the next step and instead of distracting the guards, just force them to open the gate?

Maybe once I get the Professor inside, that man can find another way into the system—he’s supposed to be a genius, isn’t he, just like my father?

Suddenly an epiphany hits me. Of course… how could I have been so stupid?

My father has no need to change his password since he has a much better way to secure his data. His computer is bio-data activated. Why haven’t I ever noticed that before?

I turn around and pick up my father’s unconscious body, drag it across the floor, and having to use all my strength, I finally heave him up into the chair. I press my father’s left hand to the touch-scanner and open his eyelids with two fingers to allow the computer’s inbuilt camera to scan the eyes.

That starts the machine working.

Now I’m able to connect the small cables from my modified wrist control directly to each of the eight ports of the computer. This modification has been necessary because Nephilim City technology is based on Dark Age models and therefore is incompatible with the evolved technology of the outside-world. However with these modifications, the information contained in the computer will be converted into readable patterns. Magnified to penetrate the facility’s thick walls the information is subsequently being received by the Professor’s wrist-control and from there will be transmitted via satellite to the eagerly waiting scientists all over the world.

Simultaneous data transmission in progress; estimated transmission time 10 minutes,” is now written on my wrist-control.

This was it then. I take a deep breath. Soon they’ll have all the data, including the bio-data of the engineered insects and the virus, together with all the variations on which my father has been working.

Whatever happens from now on, even if none of our teams makes it back alive, with this data the people of Spesaeterna and all the other villages will still know how to defend themselves.

Though getting the data is only the first step; slowing down my father’s work is crucial as well. And for that operation, I need to get into the security system. I type feverishly and in a minute I have the codes to disable the system. Yet first I need to program the delays. In fifteen minutes all doors will open and all security cameras will go off-line.

In twenty minutes a security alarm for bio-hazards will sound in one after another of the nine bio-weapons laboratories and their adjacent storage rooms. The bio-sweeps inside them will proceed in another two minutes each.

And finally, in exactly 55 minutes, a computer-virus transferred from my wrist-control – the most malicious virus the computer scientists of the outside-world have ever programmed – will start to infiltrate the system, wiping out all data and destroying the complete soft-ware of the facility’s entire network.

Everything is now prepared and I can finally allow my father’s limp body to slide down from the chair to the ground; he isn’t needed any more. Satisfied, I look at the unconscious heap lying at my feet while waiting for the transmission to finish. It feels good to see my father like this, so good….

I’m in awe at the speed of the transmission of the enormous amount of data stored in my father’s computer. The progress-hating outside-worlders for whom my father feels nothing but disdain have, within only a few days, created a device for extracting data ever so much faster than anything Nephilim City has ever come up with.

The transmission is now complete and I disconnect my wrist-control from the computer. I need to hurry now and get to the front-entrance before the system shuts down and alerts the guards.

I leave the office after first pushing Mr. Wurner’s body away from the door. Closing it securely behind me. I hurry on, forcing myself not to run.

Hello Jonathan! Did you have a good vacation?” It is Orrin Miller, a junior assistant with whom I’m on friendly terms.

I force a fake smile on my lips: “Sure Orrin, it was great. I’ll tell you all about it. But now I’ve got to do something for my father, got to hurry. You know how he is.”

Orrin grins understandingly and allows me to pass into the elevator.

Once up at ground-level I slow down, walking in an easy pace. Nothing must alert the guards.

Terrence and Dragi are still on duty at the front desk today. They know me well, as do all the others, that’s why they didn’t do any thorough weapons checks when they let me inside, something that’s normally done on everyone else.

I greet them again with a nod and explain: “My father thinks there might be something wrong with the metal detector gates. He wants you to check them right now!”

As always the guards do what they are told to do.

Once their backs are turned, I pull out my gun and stun them. Though before tranquilizing them, I tell the withering men on the ground: “Once you recover, you must get out of here. My father will be extremely angry and out for revenge, and you will be the first in his way. Go and hide and maybe you can even leave the country. We will take over the surveillance system so the chips in your necks can’t be tracked for a long time. He won’t find you easily.”

I proceed to use my syringe device on the guards. I hope they have heard me; of all the employees in the facility, they are the most innocent. They have no clearance into the labs; they really don’t know what is going on here.

With a single touch on the controls I open the gate.

About two dozen people are waiting outside, Mr. Wang, the Professor, and Ms Alba at the front. Behind them are Jim Lavon and Tom Parshon, most of the others I don’t know. A few motionless bodies are lying at their feet. The team has obviously succeeded in overwhelming the outside guards.

There is no time for introductions or other preliminaries, so I just ask: “Did you get all of them?”

Vance Drake emerging behind the Professor nods and answers: “We’ve got fifteen, that’s the number isn’t it?”

Yes,” I say curtly.

The whole group now enters the facility and gather around the security booth. I point to the monitors on the board: “We need to take out the other guards before the system goes down and the alarms turn on. As soon as that happens they will be on high alert and will have orders to shoot any suspicious strangers.”

Tom Parshon reassures me: “Don’t worry, we are shielded. That ancient weaponry cannot penetrate our electronic shields.”

This surprises me. I hadn’t been informed about this kind of individual protective weaponry before.

Noticing my surprise, Tom grins:

Modified solitary pulses,” he explains, pointing to his right wrist.

We’ve tested them already—two of those outside guards shot at us before we had gotten a good aim at them. “

Now Vance interrupts impatiently: “First tell us on what floors the guards are located! After neutralizing them we’ll meet Mr. Wang and Professor Morgan in front of the hangar for the stealth-fighters. That’s on the first level below, isn’t it? We’ve got the nanobots with us.”

I know that some of the nanobots have been programmed to attack any kind of metal, others silicone, and still others glass; once again, a modified technology re-developed enormously quickly.

Within a minute Vance has finished studying the monitors and the floor-plan, and after giving his team members instructions, they all set off in different directions.

Mr. Wang, Ms Alba, and the Professor stay behind for a couple of minutes to inform me about the progress of things outside the underground facility:

When the satellite gave the signal of the end of transmission the operation at the security center had begun. With Pedro Allegri’s help Darryl’s team of nearly 200 men is now safely installed inside, most of the operators in there have already been taken out of commission, the doors to the tracking center have been blown open and the disabling of the tracking center’s computers has started.

Now we hear the first alarm sounding, filling the entrance hall with echoes as a computer voice blares:

Bio-hazard leak, Laboratory One! All personal into decontamination! Bio-sweeps will commence in two minutes.”

Mr. Wang and the Professor hurry along to the elevator for the hangars, their next destination while I walk with Ms Alba to the other elevator and press the button to go down to level minus 3.

I notice that Ms Alba is no longer holding the communication device with the fateful red button in her hand. This means that she considers the fail-safe measure to no longer be necessary. She is convinced that the mission has succeeded sufficiently. Nephilim City will not be nuked.

I heave a deep sigh of relief – we all have a chance to get out alive now. And like me Ms Alba is now clutching her gun instead.

Together we walk along the corridor, zapping and anesthetizing everyone we meet. The first couple of times I feel the same twinge of guilt as when I stunned the guards, for it is obviously a painful procedure. However I know it is necessary.

[_ While none of the facility’s staff is armed -except for the guards- still, if all of my father's employees were to work together, they might easily overwhelm the small group of infiltrators. And the other even more urgent danger is that somebody might leave the facility and warn the thousands of security enforcers outside before all the clandestine operations are completed. _]

Yet with every person I zap, it becomes easier. I keep telling myself that they deserve it, all of them; they get what is coming to them.

Until I meet Orrin, who having shed his bio-hazard suit, is just now leaving the decontamination chamber of Laboratory Five. For a second I hesitate, and so one of Vance’s men who has been stationed there to take out everyone leaving the chamber, takes the shot instead.

Seeing Orrin’s friendly face turning from surprise to horror and watching him convulsing in pain on the ground makes me realize that causing that kind of pain is not something that I should get used to.

The first bio-sweeps have already started. The computer-voice is sounding: “Bio-hazard leak, Laboratory Nine! All personal into decontamination! Bio-sweeps will commence in two minutes,”

It’s followed by: “Bio-sweep is now proceeding in Laboratory Three!”

Yes, everything is going as planned. I know exactly how the bio-sweeps work.

First ozone gas, similar to that used to decontaminate the workers in their bio-hazard suits, will be sprayed everywhere via a sprinkler system. Subsequently a high-heat laser-sweep will make sure that no biological material survives in either the labs or the storage containers.

Now it is time to go to the genetic labs. And just as I have programmed it from my father’s office, the doors are open and no more access protocols are necessary.

Of the ten men I had previously encountered in the lab, only two are still inside. Ms Alba stuns them instantly while I use my gun’s syringe function on them.

Ms Alba reaches into the bag she is carrying and wordlessly hands me one of the can-shaped nano-bot containers made from organic fiber-material. We both know what to do with them. We slightly press the dispensers on top of the containers. And by systematically spraying every work-station, we destroy the equipment needed to create new post-human embryos.

Eventually we proceed to the adjacent room. Only one man is inside here. Before Ms Alba can zap him, I stop her.

That’s Mr. Tanner, my teacher,” I tell her.

Mr. Tanner doesn’t show any surprise. He even looks pleased.

You made it to the outside-world,” he states matter-of-fact. “I’m so glad. It’s what I have hoped for.”

He turns to Ms Alba: “You are shutting down the facility, aren’t you?”

Ms Alba answers: “For as long as possible.”

Good.” There was deep satisfaction in Mr. Tanner’s voice.

You should come with us,” I suggest. “My father will be angry when he wakes up. He will try to find a culprit, and he might even blame you for the things I have done.”

I won’t leave without the baby.” Mr. Tanner points at the large glass-wall behind him. Through the glass one can see into a small room fitted out as a kind of nursery. Baby Alpha is sitting on a carpet, studiously arranging some small building-blocks around him, seemingly sorting them according to color. He has already built a tower with the red blocks.

He is not human,” I hiss. “He will be incapable of any feeling for you – why should you care about him?”

I think you are wrong, Jonathan,” Mr. Tanner replies calmly. “And even if you were right, it makes no difference to me. It seems I may have left something important out of your education, Jonathan.”

I won’t leave this little boy not because of what he can or cannot feel but because he needs me. For your father, little Alpha is nothing more than a tool for his grand plans. However in spite of what your father has done to him, for me he is still only a little boy. And he needs someone to tell him that, just like you once did, Jonathan.”

Alright,” I agree after a moment’s hesitation and a look at Ms Alba who has neither said nor indicated in any other way what she thinks about the matter. “Take him with you.”

Without hesitation Mr. Tanner opens the door to the nursery, goes inside, and picks up the baby. Alpha starts to grimace, obviously not wanting to be disturbed in his task.

And when they come out of the nursery I can hear him wailing petulantly: “I want my blocks, I want my blocks!”

I turn to the other door leading from the lab.

However Mr. Tanner blocks the way: “Jonathan please, don’t destroy the maturation chambers—there are babies inside.”

They’re not human,” I protest once again. “And besides, you should know that my father destroyed literally thousands of those embryos, calling them failed experiments and non-viable.”

Some of them are viable now,” Mr. Tanner replies while he leads us a short way into the room, pointing at the first machine on the left. “Look, over there is Alpha’s twin; he’s got the same DNA as Alpha. With near certainty your father will let him live.”

“[_ That's Alpha's clone, you mean” I spit out looking at the wired glass container where an about six month old fetus -floating in a murky fluid- seems to be sleeping, while the monitor above registers a steady and regular heart-beat. _]

The name “Betha” is inscribed on an electronic tag at the lower edge of the container. Baby Alpha, perched on Mr. Tanner’s arm, has stopped wailing for the moment and has bent his head to the side. He seems to be observing his supposed twin with quite some interest.

I hesitate and once again give Ms Alba a questioning look. Ms Alba looks from Alpha to the fetus and back again, she just tells us: “Let’s go.”

While we are leaving the laboratory, Mr. Tanner unexpectedly shoves Alpha into my arms, claiming: “He looks like you Jonathan.”

Maybe,” I agree, “the way he thinks about himself, my father probably used his own DNA as a foundation for that one.”

No,” Mr Tanner says patting Alpha’s head, “he needed fresher stem-cells, so he used them from an umbilical cord he had stored… your cord.”

I feel sick now, I haven’t known that one. My father had tried to create a more perfect edition of me… yes, that fits.

Mr Tanner turns away: “I’ve got to get his medication from the dispensary before we leave. I’ll be back with you in a minute.”

I thought he’s supposed to be the perfect humanoid specimen, what does he need medication for?” I ask in surprise, while disgustedly eying the small engineered alternate version of myself from up close. Alpha’s return gaze is just as suspicious.

I’ll explain it to you later,” Mr. Tanner replies. “Go on, I’ll catch up with you,” he added while already hurrying around the next corner.

Strangely enough, Ms Alba has barely said a word during this whole time with Mr. Tanner. I have expected her to protest loudly when I suggested taking that non-human baby with us, yet she hasn’t. Instead she has even agreed to spare the maturation chambers with the embryos inside. Quietly and without any explanation, she slowly walks side by side with me toward the next elevator.

Suddenly we hear a loud yelling coming from behind us: “You bastard, I should have known it was you all along.”

My heart stops. I know the voice only too well. And of course I’ve also known all along that my father’s office is directly opposite the dispensary. Why has he woken up already?

I shove the baby into Ms Alba’s arms and run to the source of the voice as fast as my legs will carry me.

You put it all into my son’s head, didn’t you? You viciously deceptive senile traitor! And you were going to poison the mind of my post-human boy as well! You dirty bastard should never have been born. I won’t stand for it, never again…”

I hear a scream of pain which was abruptly cut short. With dark foreboding, I turn the corner, gun ready.

The scene I encounter now is more horrifying than my worst fears.

Mr. Tanner, still clutching a large brown bag presumably containing Alpha’s medicine, is collapsing slowly to the floor while John Galt is pulling the knife from my teacher’s abdomen, causing a fountain of blood to spray both of them.

I pull the trigger and my father also convulses to the floor. I drop the gun and instinctively kneel down next to Mr. Tanner to press on the gaping wound in a futile effort to stop the bleeding. Yet the knife must have hit an artery, and the blood keeps spilling out through my fingers.

Don’t die, Mr. Tanner, oh no don’t die!” I plead desperately. Still life is steadily flowing out of my teacher.

It was all my fault, all my fault,” I now start to mumble. “He didn’t get the whole dosage of the anesthetic.

I should have made sure, injecting him again. Why didn’t I do it, why?”

Not your fault, Jonathan,” Mr. Tanner’s voice is weak, every word seems to cause him enormous effort, yet they contain a deep urgency. “You must promise me… you take care of the baby … promise. My little Al…”

Mr. Tanner can no longer talk, yet the urgency is still in his eyes.

I promise, I promise, but don’t die! Please don’t die…,” my voice a mere whisper, now. I have started crying silently while I watch a thin line of blood run from the corner of Mr. Tanner’s mouth, dripping from his chin onto his throat.

Mr. Tanner closes his eyes and stops breathing while I continue staring at him.

At this instant I hear the familiar zap of a stun-gun. I turn around to see my father, knife in hand, convulsing and nearly falling on top of me. I didn’t even notice my father getting to his feet. However Ms Alba has, and there she stands with the baby in her left arm and the gun in her right hand, breathing heavily.

An inhuman cry escapes my throat. I turn to my father and rip the knife out of his cramped fingers. It is the scalpel he occasionally uses for his dissections. Why he kept it in his office I will never know.

And now John Galt, the ultra-genius-scientist, has murdered Mr. Tanner with the primitive tool of a simple knife. Kneeling over my father, I start screaming hysterically: “You are the bastard. You are the evil monster who should never have been born… and neither should I,” I add in self-loathing.

I clutch the knife with both of my bloodied hands and lower it towards John Galt’s face. Flooded by a rage beyond anything I have ever felt before, in my mind I already see myself stabbing the knife straight into both of his eyes, his mouth, his throat, and in the end completely cutting him up, piece by piece, turning every inch of him as bloody red as the whole world around me appears at this moment.

No Jonathan, don’t do it! Stop it!” Ms Alba’s piercing voice rips me from my fantasy.

What do you care,” I hiss at her. “You wanted to kill him yourself – and everyone else here, everyone in the whole city, remember?”

Yes,” she says, her voice softer now, “but you didn’t, Jonathan.”

And still more softly: “Neither would your mother or Luscinia….”

This brings me back to myself. I start breathing again.

No, Luscinia would never want me to do this. And there is no way I’d be able to justify it to her either.

John Galt is not worth losing Luscinia for.

He has never been a real father, never cared about me like Mr. Tanner had. And neither Mr. Tanner nor my mother would have wanted this.

I drop the knife and getting to my feet, I kick it as far away as I possibly can while Ms Alba kneels down next to John Galt – still holding the baby in her other arm – and administers the anesthetic. She turns to Mr. Tanner’s body to pick up the bag with Alpha’s medicine.

Until that moment the baby has been surprisingly quiet, observing a confusing scene he most likely does not understand.

Though as we turn to walk away he starts to protest.

Stretching his small arms in the direction of the body on the ground, he cries: “I want Mr. Tanner, I want Mr. Tanner!”

You can’t have him,” I hiss at the child, I don’t have time for that right now, “he’s dead.”

The wailing only gets louder.

It’s going to be alright, alright…” Ms Alba begins rocking and soothing the baby.

Your big brother Jonathan will take care of you now,” she croons, and with that, she pushes the child back into my arms taking me by surprise.

Once again I look at the baby with little affection, my cynicism returns: “Two sons of the devil, eh, Ms Alba?”

Ms Alba shakes her head: “I was wrong. I’m sorry I said that.”

The lines on her face have deepened, for the first time making her look her age of 70 plus. Taking one last glance over her shoulder at the unconscious man on the ground she adds: “He is just a pathetic sample of a human being. And you, Jonathan, are nothing like him.”

She pats the baby on the head, repeating: “Your brother will take good care of you. And his future wife Luscinia will be the best mamma you could ever wish for, Alpha.”

What is mamma?” the little boy asks

Somehow my heart softens toward the child in my arms.

A mamma feeds you and hugs you and keeps you in her arms.

And she makes you feel warm and safe,” I explain, faintly remembering my own childhood.

I want Mamma,” says the little boy who has never been in a mother’s womb. In a low voice he starts keening: “I want Mamma, I want Mamma.”

It was less of a demand now, more of a humming to sooth himself and quench the fear of abandonment, as though trying to find peace in the sound of his own voice.

A surge of warms washes over me and I feel that I’m falling for the child. I’m sure that Luscinia will most certainly fall for him as well. The exhausted baby’s head lies now on my shoulder and I whisper in his ear: “You will see her soon, very soon.”

And while the baby falls asleep, Ms Alba and I are walking down to the elevator and from there to the entrance hall where we meet Mr. Wang, the Professor, and the others.

Seeing me with my blood-stained hands and clothes, everybody gasps, yet Ms Alba only shakes her head: “Let’s just say we succeeded in spraying the gene-lab with the nanobots. The trans-humanists won’t be able to rebuild for quite some time. The rest I’ll explain to you later.”

But who is that?” Vance Drake asks, looking suspiciously at the sleeping child.

Isn’t that the Alpha-thing, the king—or was it the prince—of the universe?” Sarcasm is dripping heavily from his words.

I just shake my head and state decidedly: “This is my little brother Al, just Al.”

Vance Drake sneers shrugging he turns away. The men of his team murmur among themselves although they don’t comment aloud. I gather they think, that after all, this whole thing would not be their headache nor that of their own villages.

And whatever this child is – human or non-human, if they accept me back in Spesaeterna with him – the people there will be the ones who will have to deal with him. Vance Drake glances for a moment at Mr. Wang and the Professor, however their faces are non-committal.

We all leave the building together, though Vance and his team part into a different direction from the Spesaeterna citizens and me and the baby.

The Texans won’t leave for at least another day.

While walking through the big parking-lot, Mr. Wang informs Ms Alba and me about his and the Professor’s exploits.

We sprayed every single one of those planes, including the engines and the control-boards. Within a couple of hours everything will look like Swiss cheese,” Mr. Wang boasts, uncharacteristically exuberant.

Swiss cheese…this nearly brings a smile to my face, thinking of Mr Tanner, however instead I sigh swallowing my tears. Living in Spesaeterna, I might one day have the chance to visit the place Mr Tanner had loved so much. We will go there together, I decide here and now, Luscinia, me… and Al.

Ms Alba is now informing the others in terse phrases about what had happened to Mr. Tanner and why we have taken little Alpha along. This puts a damper on the joy of the day’s successes, and everyone falls quiet until we arrive at the car.

When I try to hand the baby over to Ms Alba, the child almost wakes up.

Ms Alba shakes her head and states to everyone’s surprise: “I can drive the vehicle.”

Her face transforms into the first smile I have ever seen on it.

In the village where I grew up a long time ago, they still had these kinds of vehicles and I learned to drive them.”

She takes my keys, hands over the brown bag she is carrying to the Professor. Finally she sits down in the driver’s seat with Mr. Wang getting in beside her.

The Professor and I take the back seats.

And sure enough, Ms Alba is indeed quite competent at driving the car, carefully making her way through the traffic-filled streets of Nephilim City.

The Professor, reading from his wrist-control, informs everyone about the progress of the rest of the operation.

[_ Darryl's team has now completely taken over Nephilim City's security center without incident. They have shut down the surveillance system which controls the neck-implants, the country-wide camera- and microphone system as well as the communication lines of the security enforcers and the line to the military training camps which are located outside the city. And of course they have sprayed all systems with nanobots. _]

The evacuation of women from the projects has now begun as well. Cass Dakota reports that all 494 volunteer teams are now in place, one in front of every single Venus project, and they have started to enter them and offer the women inside a way out of the country.

Patrick’s team has successfully placed their load of nanobots at every work station within the drone production plant, and the destruction of the whole facility is well underway.

So far none of the teams have encountered any serious resistance. No weapon fire has been able to penetrate any of the volunteers electronic shields. Guards and security enforcers were easily disarmed and their weapons have been destroyed.

However, once the rulers will have restored communication with the troops from the training camps outside of the City, a more efficient resistance can most certainly be expected. This is the reason why the whole operation has to be concluded as fast as possible, if the volunteers want to avoid major blood-shed among the refugees.

My father’s inventions and Nephilim City’s weaponry were never a real threat to the outside-world, were they, with all that technology you adapted so quickly and easily” I state the fact in a low voice so as not to wake the baby.

Killing half of mankind and taking over the world was certainly nothing more than a grandiose pipe-dream of the transhumanists,” the Professor agrees.

However if they had taken us by surprise, they surely would have done immense harm. Many people would have been killed and many more would have suffered terribly. It’s a good thing you came in time to warn us.”

I think about my father lying there next to the dead Mr Tanner. Soon he will wake up and so will Mr Wurner. Their dreams of replacing humanity with a new species in a world without women will not have changed. And they are not the only ones who cherish those dreams here in Nephilim City.

I shudder.

The hatred of those transhumanists is still there,” I tell the Professor in a low voice. “Eventually they will adapt their technology, just like you did, and this will enable them to try again.”

Looking at the back of Ms Alba’s head I add: “The Sword of Damocles is still hanging over mankind.”

The Professor nods: “It’s always been there. We call it the human condition. However, this sword is not hanging above us; it is hidden deep inside us, piercing us, threatening to cut away every bit of decency, integrity, compassion and love. With every act of violence committed or accepted, it chops off a bit more until nothing is left except hatred and greed.”

I consider this and reluctantly have to agree. Today I’ve felt that sword in my own heart just as strongly as I have felt the knife in my hands.

Ms Alba stops the car. We have arrived at our destination. We leave the car behind and enter the alley on foot. A volunteer I don’t know, although he obviously recognizes us, is guarding the alley entrance. He wordlessly ushers us in. Once we are past the shields we see it to be much changed from this morning. This time it most certainly is no longer empty.

A long line of people in several rows are now waiting their turn to climb down into the sewers. They are mostly women, though also a few couples with children are among them. I notice Nanami and Pedro Allegri near the front of the line, and I’m glad. Their daughter has cried herself to sleep nearly every night the last couple of weeks while Luscinia tried to comfort her, promising her that her parents would soon pick her up. Now soon Natsuki would see her parents again.

While Nephilim City’s security forces are still in disarray and suffering from the lack of communication-capabilities with their superiors and their headquarters, they have not yet detected the origin point of the infiltration and the escape route of the refugees.

I expect that this might change in a few hours. However the plan is that by then under the supervision of Darryl Kenneth and the other Texans dozens of new routes will have been established. And hopefully a series of transmitters will be firmly installed for the transmission of messages from the outside-world to the Orange Country population. If things go well these transmitters might become a permanent link for the whole country with the Peace-Web. However this outcome is still a big uncertainty.

Like everyone else, our group is now waiting patiently our turn to climb into the sewers. At the end of the tunnel the quarantine tents await all of us.

When its finally our turn I’m glad to see that already provisions have been made to lower small children down into the sewers in a basket.

First Ms Alba, after her Mr Wang, the Professor and finally I myself climb down the ladder. And while I’m waiting for Alpha’s basket to be lowered, the Professor, who is still standing next to me watching the descend, remarks randomly: “This will not be an easy child to raise.”

I give the Professor an annoyed look. Of course I know that. I’ve been taught in great detail what John Galt’s experiments are supposed to do to Alpha’s brain. On top of those deliberate changes will be the general unpredictable side-effects of messing with nature.

I carefully lift the still-sleeping baby from the basket and place the child’s head on my shoulder. Dire predictions won’t make the job any easier.

After walking side by side for a couple of minutes in silence, the Professor repeats his forecast: “He will be difficult to raise,” adding, “just like I was.”

As at the beginning of that long and hard day, the Professor gives me another encouraging smile, with this he picks up the pace. I remind myself that this man is also the great-uncle of the little girl with that story, Hope Morgan.

Having taken over the brown bag from Ms Alba, the bag containing Alpha’s medication for which Mr. Tanner gave his life, the Professor is now walking several meters in front of us. I follow him slowly and carefully. Every step brings me and the baby closer to the end of the tunnel, to safety and to Luscinia’s embrace.

As I listen to the sleeping child’s breathing, somehow a heavy burden is lifted from my shoulders. I think about Betha and the other genetically-engineered babies in those maturation chambers and I’m glad that Mr. Tanner persuaded me and Ms Alba to spare their lives. And I know with certainty that Luscinia, after all she has gone through herself, will be just as glad that we have done so.

And regardless of what John Galt has done genetically to these children, I’m certain now that between Luscinia, myself, and the Professor, there is plenty of hope – at least for my little brother Al.

 

***

EPILOGUE

 

When David woke up it was already afternoon. The sun was shining through the windows of his basement apartment and gave everything a more friendly and soft light than it had the days before.

David did not feel the despair he had felt two days ago, yet still he felt lonely, as if a part of himself was missing.

And then came the doubts, like a destructive wave overtaking his consciousness. Had yesterday really happened, had the night before, Spesveniat Station?

David checked the pockets of his jacket. Yes, the subway ticket, a bus-ticket and a ticket for the observation platform on the Vempire State Building were all in one pocket and in the other one he found a business card from Antonio Santini, proprietor of the Bella Italia.

He had indeed talked to Mr Santini yesterday, and there might be a chance that tonight David would be offered a new job.

This wasn’t enough for him, though. Mr Santini hadn’t seen Hope, nor had the people in the subway, the bus or on the observation platform.

Yet now David remembered the one person who had seen her, Jeremy Johnson.

To be sure someone who had a for others invisible little green man following him around was not exactly an impeccable witness. And still David needed him.

Jeremy had seen Hope, and David would be able to talk with him about her. It wouldn’t bring her back of course, yet at least it would make her more real.

And David wanted Hope so much to be real, far more so than he wanted the job Mr Santini’s friends might be offering him.

However Jeremy was a homeless man. Where in the world do you find a homeless person?

And then David remembered: St. Mary’s, of course.

Jeremy had told David that he would have stayed there if the place hadn’t been full and that he sometimes borrowed books from a Sister Veronica who worked there.

David showered, shaved and dressed carefully, making sure nobody would take him for one of the regulars, when he would arrive at the shelter.

Before he left the apartment his glance fell on his laptop on the coffee table. Yes, there was something important he had to do as soon as possible. He had to write down Hope's story and his - from the very second he had heard her voice first to the one when she had left him -, if she was real, that is.

And so David took his laptop along, he might eventually use any waiting time for writing.

Although he hadn’t payed much attention to it before, David remembered he had passed by St. Mary’s shelter before. It wasn’t that far, just on the other side of St. Francis Park, not far from the Bella Italia either.

When David walked down the street along side the park he looked out for the shopping-cart woman. She was nowhere to be seen, neither were the two boys he had seen last night. They hopefully were just about finishing their school-day, David thought, and maybe they went again to “Granny’s” after that.

On the other side of the street, right opposite the bench he had been sitting on for most of last night, there was a computer supply store.

Of course, David thought, there was something he needed urgently. He entered the store to buy an USB-key. And yes, the first one on display was silver-colored and in a rounded tube-form, exactly the one he needed.

When David arrived at the shelter, about seven or eight men were already waiting in the yard, some sitting on the two benches in front of the house staring quietly into the air, a few more were hanging around talking with each other.

When David asked them about Jeremy Johnson he got a few empty stares and a couple of heads were shaken.

A man with a shaggy beard said: “Jeremy’s slept here last night. He talked to Sister Veronica in her office this morning, and then he was off.”

The man pointed David to the open door. David thanked the old man and went inside. He came into a kind of reception area. Nobody was behind the counter at the moment, though the chairs, a couple of benches and an old sofa were all occupied.

One large door was marked soup-kitchen. It was still locked. Through the glass-door David could see a few men cleaning up and washing the floors. They seemed to be homeless themselves.

Another door was marked accommodations. It was locked also.

A third small door marked office was open, giving the view of a small room, where a nun in a blue habit was sitting behind the desk facing the door. She was writing something into a ledger.

When David knocked at the open door she looked up and smiled.

David smiled back apologetically, and brought up his question: “Excuse me for disturbing you while you are so busy, Sister. However I was told that you have talked to Jeremy Johnson this morning. He is a friend of mine and I really need to talk to him. Could you maybe tell me, where I could find him right now?”

“At the moment Jeremy should be on a train to Castleberry Alabama,” the Sister smiled even brighter and her voice had a joyful note when she added: “He is going home.”

“Home?” David was disappointed and confused at the same time. “It was only yesterday when Jeremy told me, he couldn’t go home. He couldn’t bear it to see the children back there…”

“Yes,” the Sister nodded, “he used to say that. Yet this morning he had changed his mind. I had the ticket ready and paid for him for a long time, a donation from a veteran’s society. It just needed a date stamp on it. And this morning he told me that he was ready to go home. A couple of friends had convinced him, a Hope Morgan and a David.”

The Sister scrutinized him for a moment. Knowingly she stated for a fact: “You must be David.”

“Yes, Sister,” David apologized, “I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself before.”

He asked somewhat cautiously: “Is… Mr Green still with him?”

“Yes and I believe Jeremy will need his Mr Green for quite some time still,” the nun smiled again, “I am Sister Veronica, by the way.”

David nodded: “… to tell him that he is still human,” he added.

“Jeremy told me that your friend Hope was a bit like Mr Green,” Sister Veronica commented.

Now David looked embarrassed while explaining: “She’s gone back home again, was only here for a couple of days,” he insisted: “She wasn’t quite like Mr Green, not really.”

The Sister nodded thoughtfully: “She was here, when you needed her, wasn’t she?”

David sighed and admitted: “Yes, she was, she really was.”

“Then, that’s all that counts,” Sister Veronica concluded.

David nodded in cautious agreement while he changed the subject: “Jeremy told me about you, Sister, and that you used to loan out books to him, Dickens mostly.”

Sister Veronica laughed softly: “Yes, Jeremy is an avid reader. He also thought that you might be coming here some day, for a book maybe…”

David smiled: “You never know, Sister, I really might be coming here one day. Though for the moment I still possess a library card.”

Involuntarily however, his glance fell on the well-stocked shelves behind Sister Veronica’s desk. Yes, Dickens was predominant, next to the life of several saints. On one shelf he made out several bibles in different languages, which was natural. And right next to them on the same shelf were two Korans, one in English and one in Arabic.”

Following his astonished glance Sister Veronica commented:

“There aren’t only Christians who come here to the shelter, you know.”

Finally David’s eyes were caught by a small book right below the religious classics.

It was titled “A Brief History of Time”.

He pointed to it asking: “Have you read this one?”

“As a matter of fact I have,” Sister Veronica stated to David’s surprise.

“What do you think about it,” David asked. “when the author explains the universe without a god.”

“Does this challenge my faith, you mean?” Sister Veronica stated David’s implied question.

Shaking her head she answered:

“I do not need God for explaining the universe to me, yet I do need Him to explain myself.”

Now David was intrigued: “Yourself, Sister, how so?”

“Do you know the story about Moses and the burning bush?” Sister Veronica asked.

David remembered vaguely something his Icelandic grandmother had read for him from a children’s bible a long time ago. He nodded.

Sister Veronica went on to explain: “When the voice of God talked to Moses from inside a burning bush Moses asked God by what name his people should call their God. And God answered – tell them “I Am who I Am” has send you.

God is the ultimate “I am”, the one who exists and is conscious about his existence. And He has made us as little “I ams”, beings who also consciously know about our own existence.

Different from all other living beings on earth we are also capable to ask the great question why?

And so for us little I ams the God who made us becomes the great You above us.

And whenever I lose the connection to this You above me, soon I also lose the connection to you who are here right in front of me. You will become an “it” an object to be used abused and discarded.

And once this has happened then the “I” in me will also fade away in time. My own life will now become an object no different from all the other objects, one to be used and abused, only to be discarded eventually when one day it loses its usefulness.”

Sister Veronica stopped for a moment and the deep thoughtful glance she gave David made him somehow uncomfortable. It seemed to him as if she looked straight inside him, in his deepest corners detecting there his darkest secret, seeing him standing right below the digital clock on the Spesveniat subway station two nights ago.

Fortunately for David’s composure there now arose a noise from the adjacent hall. Somebody was shouting angrily to be answered by a second angry voice.

Sister Veronica looked behind David “I’m sorry I have to take care of something now,” she said, “though you are quite welcome to come back any time, if you want to continue our little chat. However if you want to talk some more right now, you could go next door,” she pointed to the right.

“There is always someone there with an open ear and never too busy to listen.”

With this Sister Veronica hurried past David to calm the storm which was brewing together while it still was at the shouting stage.

Slowly David left the shelter. Sister Veronica had made him uneasy. There were things he rather wouldn’t want anybody to know, anybody except Hope that is…

Next door to the right of St. Mary’s shelter was St. Mary’s church, of course.

David thought about Hope. Jeremy Johnson had told Sister Veronica about her. This should be the confirmation for her real existence David had yearned for, shouldn’t it?

However of course the doubts were still in existence, Jeremy was after all not quite the most reliable witness.

But then, Hope seemed now at least more real to David than before he had talked to Sister Veronica.

What was she doing right now? Preparing for the village-council-meeting probably.

Would they listen to her, even allow her to attend? She probably was talking to her great-uncle or to Mr Wang at this very moment…

At this moment? David laughed to himself. Hope wasn’t even born yet, wouldn’t be born for another 200 years…if she ever was real, that is…or is real, or will be real….

David sighed, time now seemed more and more like a paradox, inexplicable or at least incomprehensible. He looked at the church. He would never enter such a place for himself, whatever Sister Veronica might suggest, though he wished he had gone there yesterday. Hope would have liked it, David thought.

And so nearly in spite of himself David entered St. Mary’s Church.

It was rather dark inside. The color stained windows didn’t allow too much daylight in. The brightest spots were the row of lighted candles below a near life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary on the left side of the church, slightly removed from the main altar.

Sister Veronica had been wrong, David thought, there was no priest there at the moment, nobody to talk to. A couple people were there praying in the benches, though. Those people surely had no time to listen to him.

David walked up to the statue of the Virgin and the candles. To his own surprise the statue fascinated him. The artist must have been a modern one. Mary was not portrayed as white, European looking as in most other portrayals of her he had seen before. She looked far more like the middle-eastern woman she must have been in reality.

Yet the artist had put something even more intriguing into his work. It lay in the expression on the face and in the posture of the figure. Or maybe it was the candle-light that did the trick. Still somehow this statue reminded David of Hope, as he had seen her last, a young woman who had accepted a heavy burden and was ready to carry it to the end, because she cared so much…

“One candle 50 cents,” said the sign on the small collection box next to the rows of candles. David fished in his pocket. He found 2$ and 10cents in coins. On a whim he fed them all into the slot and took a candle lighter starting to light one of the unlighted candles:

One candle for Hope and her world, which was in so much danger, he thought. The next one was for his own world, which was in even more trouble. And a third one… David hesitated for a while and so he decided. This one was for himself and his own future. And a fourth one… No, David shook his head, three were enough. Hope would have liked three.

After a last glance at the statue David turned around and slowly walked out of the church.

Once outside he took a deep breath. Shaking his head he asked himself what had gotten into him. Lighting candles, really, wasn’t that the height of superstition?

Well nobody had seen him, so what difference did it make? It was just that the last couple of days had taken a toll on his sense of reality and reason.

However Hope, yes Hope was a different matter altogether. Whatever reality she was or was not in, it didn’t matter, David would have to do this one thing regardless. David fingered the USB key in his pocket.

He was going to write down what he remembered of yesterday and the night before. Yes, especially the night before, those time-space coordinates Hope had been telling him about, he needed to write them down, just in case…

David turned into the direction of the Bella Italia restaurant. Mr Santini was expecting him after all and David was hungry.

He had made up his mind. Yes, he would take the job, if it was offered to him. And yes, this would surely put him back on the “club’s” radar again.

Thinking about the independent journalists who had been “suicided” with two bullets in the head or gone to a fiery death in an exploding Mercedes, David knew that place would not be the safest in the world. He had been to his own hell and back again. Life looked good now, and he most certainly wanted to live it for quite a bit longer.

Seeing Hope and her world in his mind David took another deep breath. There are times for caring and for taking risks. Right now was one of these times. First however, he needed to write about Hope.

He stopped in his tracks.

No, he didn’t want Mr Santini to look over his shoulder while he was writing down the story of an invisible child and a suicide attempt. That might put a real dent into his new job prospects.

David had just passed the “Everyday’s Diner” and so he turned around having decided that this was the best place to start with his story.

He had eaten in that particular diner a couple of times before. It was clean, the food was passable and the service prompt. And most important once you ordered they would allow you to sit undisturbed for as long as you wanted. He had seen others using their laptops in there before.

David entered the diner and looked for a table close to the back. He found one in a rather dark corner not far from the kitchen entrance. On the next table a young boy was sitting in front of his soda drink, his head deep in a book, his school-bag next to his chair.

On the table on the other side a young family with two small children was just leaving and David expected that this meant that his corner would be quiet enough, since the diner was now nearly empty and new customers would probably choose better tables.

When the waitress came David ordered a baconburger with fries, which was the price-reduced special of the day, and so he took out the laptop from his bag.

How should he start such a strange story, one that might or might not be read some time in the future…?

It should start with a personal truth David decided:

In the darkest of moments, in the deepest of voids where nothing was left but despair, hope came. She was still small…tiny even…though one day she would be born.

..or rather might be born, of course he couldn’t be sure, would probably never be. Once again these nagging doubts were disturbing his train of thoughts.

David sighed. He looked up. There was some commotion, someone had hastily passed by his table, so close David could feel a draft and smell a not so pleasant odor. The young man made his way to the next table where the dishes with half-eaten meals were still standing. The children of the young family had seemingly not been all too hungry, though this man obviously was. David smiled, this was the third time in two days he had noticed a homeless person, apart from the people in and around the homeless shelter, of course.

David must have seen homeless people before every day, he just hadn’t taken any notice of them. He guessed this man to be quite young, in his early twenties probably.

And by his haggard looks the young man was most likely on drug-withdrawal. He didn’t sit down at the table instead he kept standing while hungrily stuffing a handful of french-fries into his mouth.

The waitress who had intended to clear that table turned around to busy herself cleaning another table.

Suddenly somebody burst out of the kitchen. From his posture and his uncomfortably loud and dominating voice David needed not to guess twice that this was the manager of the diner who kept yelling abuse at the homeless man. The young man turned around in a hurry and on his way out he grabbed another handful of fries and a half-eaten hamburger.

With his first victim gone the manager now turned to the waitress: “What have you been thinking allowing that piece of trash stealing food from us? And don’t you tell me you haven’t seen him. I watched the whole thing.”

The waitress didn’t deny having seen the man, in a low and apologetic voice she replied: “He didn’t really steal from us. The food was paid for already.”

This wasn’t good enough for the manager: “Not by him it wasn’t. If we let the likes of that one in here to leech from our tables while stinking out the whole place, in no time at all we won’t have any paying costumers here whatsoever.

“This is not a soup-kitchen neither is it a homeless shelter. This is a business and not a charity, even though your name tag might suggest otherwise!”

The manager poked his index-finger at the waitress Charity’s breast and she took a small step backwards.

However the manager wasn’t yet finished with her: “And while talking about that I’m going to add that this is not a child-care center either. I’ve noticed this kid of yours having been sitting here for over an hour. When is he finally gonna go home?”

Now Charity’s voice sounded protective: “He has a right to be here, I have paid for Mathew’s meal and he is drinking his soda now.”

The manager wasn’t contend: “He finished his meal an hour ago and drinking a glass of soda doesn’t take that long.”

“Please, Mr Sanchez,” Charity was now pleading, “Matthew has lost his grandmother only two weeks ago.

“My mother used to take care of him, while I was working. He just can’t go home into an empty apartment.”

The manager now was lowering his voice which was getting a sleazy quality: “And I should accommodate you and the kid in that matter, shouldn’t I? But when have you ever accommodated me?”

With this he once again came closer to his waitress and reached around her to touch her lower back moving his hand downwards. Charity took now two steps backwards until she was pressed against the counter.

“Now don’t you come the virgin Mary over me,” the manager hissed, “or where did this brad of yours come from? Immaculate conception maybe or what else, Miss Morgan,” the manager emphasized the last two words with a sneer.

David’s view went involuntarily over to the next table and onto the young boy sitting there. The little guy had by now his head buried even deeper into his book, while the hands in which he held it had become snow white.

“Check, please, check!” David yelled out. The manager turned around with a surprised look on his face.

He somehow hadn’t noticed that he had had an audience. He hurriedly went back into the kitchen, while the waitress approached David’s table.

David looked up at Charity Morgan’s face, her eyes held the beginning of tears.

And then he was struck dumb.

Those eyes, the color of them, so intensely blue, he only had seen this color once before outside a movie-screen…and this so recently.

Charity Morgan, he thought, Charity Morgan, he should have known, should have guessed…

David had never believed in love at first side. He was too reasonable for that.

Though the feeling, which engulfed him at this moment was overwhelming.

Charity Morgan was not a beautiful woman. She was in no way overweight, however she was short, which made her look sturdy. Her face was unpainted and her hands which now were writing David’s check on a pad looked as if beside waiting tables they had done a lot of dishes as well.

David guessed Charity to be his own age and at the moment she didn’t look a day younger, instead with deep shadows under her eyes her face showed signs of fatigue by sleepless nights and recent grief.

Neither did Charity Morgan look as if she ever would have the sophistication and classiness Tina had. Indeed she had not the slightest similarity with any of the girls or women David had ever dated. By all normal considerations Charity Morgan should not be David’s type at all.

Still there it was, this feeling of speechless awe and elevation rushing through his mind and veins touching every fiber of his body, a feeling beyond reason, one he had never experienced before.

David Ragnarsson was in love with Charity Morgan, though he knew he had to be careful to not let her see it.

What could he say to her that wouldn’t scare her off, that wouldn’t make her think he was crazy, maybe even dangerous?

“You shouldn’t let that guy treat you like this,” David muttered, and right away he recognized that these were the wrong words.

Charity’s glance at him spelled out: This is none of your business, yet still she answered politely if reluctantly. “If one needs the money, one hasn’t much choice in the matter. Jobs aren’t there on every corner nowadays.”

David nodded understandingly and with this he had an epiphany: “I know about a job, that would be perfect for you. A friend of mine owns a good family restaurant located just a couple of blocks from her. And he needs a new waitress right now because his daughter is close to the end of her pregnancy and he doesn’t want her to work that hard any more.”

David had sounded too eager and Charity Morgan looked at him with a bit of suspicion saying: “I doubt your friend would want me. He probably has dozens of girls lining up for the job.”

David shook his head: “He was about to advertise only today.”

And before Charity Morgan could voice any objections David added: “I will call him right now.”

David pulled out his cell-phone, glad he had charged it last night for the first time in weeks and dialed the number on Mr Santini’s business card.

Santini answered right away, recognizing David he sounded excited: “I have talked to my friends and they will be happy to meet you tonight. What time could you make it?”

“What ever time is convenient for your friends,” David answered honestly not pretending he was busy in any way.

“However I called you for something else now. If the waitressing job is still available I have here a young woman who would be perfect for it. Her name is Charity Morgan and she has a whole lot of experience in the business and she is diligent and reliable.”

Mr Santini answered without hesitation: “The job is still available, the ad wouldn’t appear before tomorrow. And since you vouch for this Ms Morgan I will take your word for it and she has the job. Just bring her here right away, so I can talk to her and she can sign a work-contract.”

David looked at Charity Morgan’s doubtful face and then at her son who was no longer reading his book looking at David and his mother following their exchange with curiosity.

David directed himself back to Mr Santini on the phone adding:

“Ms Morgan has a young son of primary school age, a quiet boy who reads a lot.

He needs a place where he can sit after school reading his books.”

“No problem at all,” Mr Santini answered, “I’m sure we can find a quiet place for him to read in peace.”

David thanked Mr Santini, assured him they would be at his place within the hour and hung up. He then relayed Mr Santini’s words to Charity. She had a look of doubtful reluctance on her face. The whole offer had come too fast and out of the blue, too good to be true. There certainly must be some flaw to it.

And then she remembered: “I can’t go right away. I haven’t gotten my paycheck yet for last month. If I don’t give at least two weeks notice, Mr Sanchez will reduct those two weeks from my pay-check. It’s in the contract. I can’t afford to lose that money.”

David shook his head decidedly: “You won’t lose that money, I’ll see to that.”

David got out of his chair walked over to the kitchen entrance and loudly called out for Mr Sanchez. This took the interest of the cook and another waitress who had been chatting in there.

When Mr Sanchez came out of his office behind the kitchen David informed him without preliminaries that Ms Morgan had been offered another job and needed to leave his employment right away.

“She has to give two weeks notice or it will be drawn off her paycheck,” Sanchez grumbled.

“She will leave right away after she has been paid in full and nothing will be drawn off,” David stated firmly.

“She signed a contract,” Sanchez insisted.

“This contract is void,” David replied, “since with the sexual harassment going on which I myself have witnessed only a few minutes ago you are in breach of any contract.”

“You can’t prove anything,” Sanchez claimed.

“You are wrong about that,” David contented, “the courts will most certainly take my and her words for it.

And if I’m not mistaken Ms Morgan will be able to present some other witnesses as well. David gave the other waitress a scrutinizing look and she answered with a barely visible nod of her head.

“And what I’m quite certain of,” David added, “is my conviction that the owners of the franchise would not be in favor of retaining a manager who has caused them the inconvenience of a hundred thousand dollar law-suit against them.”

“A hundred thousand dollars? Don’t be ridiculous!” Sanchez was fighting a losing battle. “Alright, she’ll get her pay-check.”

While Sanchez pulled out his check-book David commanded: “Don’t forget to include today.” He turned around to Charity who had followed him into the kitchen. “When did you start work this morning”

“Nine o’clock,” she answered.

“This makes another 7 hours,” David concluded. “Unless you also want some compensation for the harassment you were inflicted upon, Ms Morgan?” Charity Morgan shook her head.

After the manager had written out the check, David scrutinized it. It was a pitifully low amount for a whole month’s work, still Charity Morgan only nodded and pocketed the check.

“I have to change out of my uniform,” she said and disappeared behind a door in the back of the kitchen. The manager had already retreated into his office. David nodded toward the other waitress and the cook, and went back into the diner.

He told the young boy Matthew, that his mother was getting changed and afterwards they would go together to the restaurant where she would get a new job.

The boy nodded: “That’s good,” he said, “we didn’t like it here.”

“What are you reading,” David asked the boy. Matthew showed him wordlessly the cover of the book before he started to pack it into his school-bag. It was Harry Potter – The Prisoner of Askaban.

David smiled: “I read those Harry Potter books when I was a kid. I was only a couple of years older than you when the first one came out.”

Matthew nodded: “I have read them all. That is, grandma read the first two to me and the others we read together. I always read the first sentence and she read the rest of the page.”

Now Matthew looked sad and David understood well why Matthew was re-reading the books right now.

David nodded: “My mom bought the Philosopher’s Stone for me. However she was sick already and I read it to her, while she was in the hospital.”

“Did she die there?” Matthew asked

David nodded and added: “Though not before we finished the book. She told me she liked it a lot.”

“My grandma liked those books, too,” Matthew commented, “and me also. Except we didn’t like the beginning of this one.”

“You didn’t?” David asked

Matthew nodded: “In all the books Harry was good and never mean. In the last book he even saved his worst enemy from being burned by the flames. But here in this book he blew up his aunt.”

“Well,” David defended the fictional hero, “he didn’t really hurt her. She just flew away like a balloon. The ministry people brought her back and she was alright afterwards. And she had said something really, really bad about his mother.”

Matthew wasn’t persuaded: “It still was wrong. You can’t just blow up anybody even if they say something really, really mean about your mother.” David realized that now Matthew’s grandmother was talking through the mouth of her grandson.

Matthew looked into the direction of the kitchen entrance and David understood that seeing somebody turned into a balloon might have been a tempting image for Matthew a few minutes ago, one he now thoroughly rejected.

“I think,” David concluded, “that Harry was rather sorry for what he had done. And in the end of the book, if I remember right, Harry spared the life of the guy who had been responsible for his parents’ death, didn’t he?”

“Yea,” Matthew nodded, “Wormtail.” He was still looking at the kitchen entrance.

At this moment his mother appeared. Matthew jumped off his chair and shouldered his bag. He was ready and only too eager to leave this place.

Charity however had still a slightly doubtful look on her face. David noticed the small golden cross that now was visible in the neckline of her blouse.

Of course, he thought, he should have known. Thinking about it for a moment and surprising himself he somehow didn’t mind at all.

They left the restaurant and walked down the road in silence.

After a couple of blocks they turned around the corner.

When the Bella Italia was already in their sight Charity abruptly stopped and asked a most sensible question: “Why are you helping us?”

Although the question was quite direct, her voice had a soft melodic ring to David’s ears.

David looked at Charity. The sun was falling on her light brown hair giving it a red-golden shine.

What should he answer, David thought, that he loved the sound of her voice, the color of her eyes or the shimmer of her hair?

“Because,” David started slowly, “I don’t like when people are treated badly,” adding: “And because I like your name.”

This caught Charity a bit by surprise, still she smiled. And this smile transformed her face and David decided that he had been quite wrong in his earlier assessment of her in the diner. Charity Morgan was indeed beautiful, actually she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life.

“My name?” Charity repeated surprised but then she explained:

“It’s kind of a family tradition. My mother’s name was Hope,” a fleeting shadow fell over Charity’s face however she banished it right away and added, “and my sister’s name is…”

“Wait, let me guess,” David interrupted her, “your sister’s name is Faith.”

Charity smiled and nodded..

“So this is a Morgan family tradition.” David assumed

Charity shook her head: “No actually it is a O’Malley family tradition. That’s my mother’s maiden name.”

David nodded stating: “Though I like your last name too.”

Now Charity laughed out loud: “Morgan? In case you think we’re related to the banking dynasty, you would be quite wrong.”

Now David laughed: “I would never have guessed. But really, I do like the name Morgan and I think that you should never change it.”

“You mean I should never get married?” Charity laughed this time a bit coldly. “Don’t worry there’s not much chance for that.”

David shook his head decidedly: “I’m quite certain, that one day you will get married, still that doesn’t mean you should change your name. We live in the 21.century after all.

“Women don’t have to change their names any more when they get married, sometimes the men change theirs.”

Now Charity was intrigued: “And why do you think the name Morgan is that special that I shouldn’t change it?”

David explained: “Because of its meaning.

“In the country I was born in, my father’s country Morgan, though spelled a little bit different with an u instead of an a, it means morning. And á morgun means tomorrow.”

“Morning and tomorrow, that’s nice,” Charity mused, “like in the song from the “Annie” musical, “the sun will come up tomorrow.”

Now David smiled broadly: “I’ve seen the show on Broadway when I was a kid. I went there with my mother.”

Charity smiled back: “I’ve seen it as well with mine. Maybe we even were at the same performance.” And she admitted: “Though all the time throughout the whole show I kept wishing that Annie would find her real Mom and Dad. I was a bit disappointed in the end.”

“Disappointed? What do you mean?” David laughed, “she got adopted by a billionaire.”

“Yeah,” Charity sneered slightly, “a billionaire called WAR BUCKS.”

“You noticed that?” David asked. “You must have been a rather wise little kid.”

“No,” a small shadow fell again over Charity’s face: “Though I did have a wise mother.”

David was quiet for a second as a shadow fell over his own mind, when he remembered that being raised by a multimillionaire grandfather had not been what it was cracked out to be either.

He shook himself out of his dark memories and stated: “Still the song was great wasn’t it, the one Annie was singing when she still was a run-away orphan. How did it go?”

Charity thought for only a second and then she started to sing with her soft voice in low tone “The sun will come up tomorrow…” and David not bothering to keep his voice low fell in line: “…bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow – there’ll be sun!”

Now David hesitated, yet Charity went on with David once again falling in line: “Just thinkin’ about tomorrow – clears away the cobwebs, and the sorrow – ‘til there’s none!”

Now both of them were at a loss, grabbling for the rest of the lyrics in their minds.

Matthew had followed the conversation with growing astonishment. He watched when these two grown-ups who should know better where making fools of themselves in the middle of the sidewalk.

And then they didn’t even remember the lyrics. Matthew shook his head, yet decided that he had to help them and so went on with a clear boy’s soprano: “When I’m stuck with a day – that’s gray – and lonely,”

While Charity whispered in David’s ear: “We’ve got it on DVD,” Matthew went on: “I just stick out my chin – and grin – and say – oh!”

Now both Charity and David were falling in line with Matthew: “The sun’ll come out – tomorrow – so ya gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow – come what may.”

And there they were in the middle of the sidewalk of a small street in the South-Bronx of New York City, walking slowly toward the “Bella Italia” singing their heart out, not caring one bit about those other folks staring at them. They were three crazy people, one little one and two grown-ups declaring in loud voices to the whole world:

“Tomorrow! Tomorrow! – I love ya Tomorrow! – You’re always a day away!”

And while repeating the last line David thought:

“Tomorrow means hope,

Hope Morgan

***

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

 

Here I would like to thank all my readers who have followed Jonathan, David and Hope throughout the whole book.

This book could not have been written without the help and encouragement of my friend and editor April and without the feedback and encouragement of my first readers.

Neither could even a single letter been written without the work prepared and the inspiration giving to me by thinkers, writers and poets from all times and places in human history.

***

 

 

 

NOTES:

For more information about the book, its content and the comments from the author on why she wrote the book and the meaning behind certain passages, as well as behind the names of protagonists and fictional places,

you are invited to her blog : Eve’s Thoughts

or to her youtube channel: [+ Peace Thoughts+]

You also could check out the facebook-page: A Time-Travel Story

Or follow and contact: EveHuman on Twitter


A Time-Travel Story Part 7 / The Final Confrontation

The people of Spesaeterna discuss their options. Hope witnesses the beginning of the First Principle. Jonathan confronts his father, however he makes a mistake that has lethal consequences. David looks for Jeremy Johnson and encounters Sister Veronica instead. And finally he meets with the most important person for his future and for Hope's.

  • Author: Eve Human
  • Published: 2017-10-02 20:20:28
  • Words: 27287
A Time-Travel Story Part 7 / The Final Confrontation A Time-Travel Story Part 7 / The Final Confrontation