The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Category: Alien

A Probabilistic Analysis of the Fermi Paradox

Just a thought… 1500 years later…

I thought it appropriate to post this paper here, among the pages of an incomplete dream…

physics4me

Evan Solomonides, Lisa Kaltenegger, Yervant Terzian
The fermi paradox uses an appeal to the mediocrity principle to make it seem counter-intuitive that humanity has not been contacted by extraterrestrial intelligence. A numerical, statistical analysis was conducted to determine whether this apparent loneliness is, in fact, unexpected.
An inequality was derived to relate the frequency of life arising and developing technology on a suitable planet in the galaxy, the average length of time since the first broadcast of such a civilization, and a constant term. An analysis of the sphere reached thus far by human communication was also conducted, considering our local neighborhood and planets of particular interest. We clearly show that human communication has not reached a number of stars and planets adequate to expect an answer.
These analyses both conclude that the Fermi paradox is not, in fact, unexpected. By the mediocrity principle and numerical modeling, it is actually…

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Metamorphosis

HelgaHelga came to visit him, one autumn morning, when his women had gone out to take a look at the new mall. Hearing her knocking quietly at his door he knew, immediately, who it was, as if her visit was a preordained moment of his life.

They smiled at each other, and finally he hugged Helga. Holding her in his arms was a strange feeling, like rediscovering a well-loved mistress after many years of absence. Openly, he admired the black hair, the steely eyes, the full lips, and she seemed to return the compliment. She made herself comfortable on the sofa, and looked at the book he had been reading. He went to the kitchen and made coffee. When he was back in the lounge she kissed him, a long and passionate kiss, as if to say that she was back in his life, a very human being, a woman of flesh and blood.

She said they had lost their bet, and that the war would continue, implacable. He thought she meant the group that had attempted to force peace, and disarm the “powers”, but in his mind the time and place of those actions were shrouded in mist. She was pleased he had renewed with Melissa, and Julian understood she meant Melissa of Köpenick, not his long-dead childhood friend. Suddenly he understood everything: step by step he checked the facts with Helga, her head resting on his shoulder, her hands around his knees. Yes, Melissa, the ghost, had been an intermediary, a go-between. No she was no cyborg, but a real being whose love had taken back to him, through a painful metamorphosis, the kind of journey he was himself embarked on now, with Sarah, and, still, with Melissa’s help. Julian asked about Gabrielle. Helga told him then that Gabrielle had returned to her studies, moving back to a time closer to the “Great War”. “They” had not given up, but had realised it would take much longer to influence human destiny decisively. So their friend, Gabrielle, had been asked to research the origins of the war more deeply.

He asked Helga if she was staying in the city, and she replied she wanted to. She would like to come back and meet with the three of them. He wanted to ask her more about her circumstances, whether she was alone in Berlin, but hesitated to hurt her privacy. She said she missed him and Sarah, and regretted to have disappeared the way she had to. They were silent for a few minutes. Helga sipped her coffee, looking at him. He returned her look, smiling. He had noticed the simplicity of her clothes, the absence of makeup, the slightly longer beautiful dark hair. She stood up, and said she would be back. This time she hugged him, the way a longtime lover could do, and kissed him, lips on lips. And she was gone.

 

Searching

~ Julian

Otto Steinert Looking back at the past year I have to ask myself: where have I been, and who am I, in reality? On this word, reality, hinges the whole question. As I look out of the window at the January rain falling on the already water-saturated garden, I try to make sense of my failing memories. What comes back to me, in small clouds of sights and sounds, is that what my reality was?

Sarah says “yes, and no”, and I am tempted to call my wife a sophist. But I don’t. I know she’s right, as some of those remembered instants were once real for me, for her husband, the man called Julian. Julian walked on Regent Street, he had a phone call, he visited her page on Facebook… He went to Brooklyn, to Paris, to Berlin. He saw  the missiles on the compound, in the dark pine forest, he saw the blond guards on duty at the new Chancellery. He ran with his wife and his sister around the Tempelhof airfield. All that happened, but other fragments may have only existed in his mind – or did they? How do I tell the difference between what happened, and what could have happened? For me, now, I cannot tell.

So, the question who am I? – That question is legitimate. If part of my life is an imaginary story, am I the writer, or, am I the story? And who writes that story? Am I a character in someone else’s book? And what’s her name? What is the writer’s name?

There is another question haunting me: was the writer, if that was the way it was, was she human? As she wrote those episodes in Julian’s life, was she looking on his past, or her future? Was she anticipating a life not yet in his, her – reality?

Sarah listens to me, from time to time asking me to retell a scene, a dialogue, as if she was analysing this work: “her” novel. But it is all disjointed, my memories are not contiguous, there are gaps, and many, many inconsistencies. Some characters appear in distorted roles, not their “real” functions, or professions. Take Helga, for example. In my memory she’s “Elga” – and she is not from this world, she’s from a far away galaxy. But Helga is our doctor, she is real, she exists not merely in my reality, but Sarah’s, and our friend Gabrielle’s too.

“It will all make sense, finally,” says Sarah, with the smile of patience itself.

“Yes, but even if it does not, does it matter?” I ask in reply. We hug.

Image: Otto Steinert, via Inner Optics

On the threshold (preamble to Book 2)

les-sources-du-nil:  Akira Satō  佐藤 明  From  Elga ~ We know we can win, overcome the objections and fears that obscure our collective judgment, and get the result we want: shape humans to our image, and save ourselves, project ourselves into a new future… But we have not shut our eyes to the dangers. Humans are a clever species, primitive, in their science, in their awareness of their wider surroundings, but clever in the way wild predators are. Many of us think that they cannot be trusted. But on the scale of our own evolution, up to where we are now, what does “trust” mean?

We have engaged with their planetary organisations, we are communicating with their leaders. They have an innate sense of where profit can be, so they are interested. Removing their weaponry under their very eyes did it, such a simple thing. Their best corporate minds are exercising themselves to think of possible applications! We know that some of their scientists are almost in the state of denial about it all: it cannot be done, it’s against the laws of physics. Others are already working, silently trying to decipher what we have given them: the first steps towards the truth.

Then there is Julian. The human being with the unique genetic make-up that may make it possible, if we chose to sacrifice him, to regenerate ourselves: a probability in a billion, if left to chance, but we have the science to improve those odds. This science has produced the woman Melissa. So much has already been achieved, and we must be patient. But we know: Melissa and Julian are a unique pair, and if we lose them, we have to restart form the beginning, and, on this world, it may then be unlikely to succeed. Our chance is here, now, and we must take it.

Sarah ~

We have now been in Berlin for four weeks, working on the tasks assigned to us by Gabrielle. We are absorbing the incomparable atmosphere of this city, my city. What a change for us after the long months of anxiety in London and New York… Julian is now deeply engaged in the group that is considering demographics, genetics and gender. He was at first very surprised to see that he was there the only non-scientist. Most of the group members are biologists, medical doctors, or mathematicians. The majority of the participants are female, and originate from outside the US and Europe. The introductory meeting did not spell out who was to head this work, but of course it is Gabrielle herself. We – Melissa, Julian himself, Jane (who has now joined us from her last fashion show in Tokyo) and me – have been discussing Julian’s role every evening in the little flat in Kreuzberg. We have not concluded anything yet. Julian is still only a nearly silent witness to the deliberations. Yet Gabrielle makes clear to him almost everyday how important – essential she says – his participation is.

Melissa and I are part of the environment work group, led by Katsumi, the Naval officer and biologist who is, in our view, someone very highly placed in the hierarchy of the Great Power to Be. This appears to be the larger group and has participants from all over the world, with perhaps a majority from Asia  and South America. However North America and Europe are well represented too.

The daily routine in the Chancellery, or at the Russian Embassy where some of the other strands meet (the military certainly meet there, we are not sure where the diplomatic group meets, it may be in one of the many government buildings in Unter den Linden) is very regular and fixed. The day starts at eight sharp in the same room of the Chancellery we started in with a brief (fifteen to twenty minutes at most) meeting of all groups recapitulating the day tasks, and stating progress made expressed as percentages of the whole work programme. The start of the conference proper is still a month away.

Early morning the four of us ride to a gym nearby and we exercise for an hour, followed by a simple breakfast on the Potsdamer Platz. Jane then leaves us to ride back and work in the flat, chiefly on the phone to her many correspondents through the world, and preparing the next show. She goes out to run for a couple of hours in Templehof most days. Melissa and me then leave Julian and we join our respective groups. The day finishes at five with a short break for lunch.

A pattern clearly appeared in the environment work group a few days after we started. The group was provided with an impressive library of films, documents, videos, interviews and other material and the first task was to draw up a list of the most pressing priorities on climatic changes or suspected changes. The next step, where we are now, is to identify the obstacles to a comprehensive world wide agreement on policy making. In other terms we are trying to plan a redo of Kyoto. This time procrastination is no option.

Katsumi, who turns out to be from a wealthy Chinese-Japanese family from Northern China, holds several PhD’s from Asian and US universities as well as a doctorate in medicine from Tokyo University. With us she wears the most sober and yet exquisite traditional Chinese clothes. Her agenda is clear: to obtain agreement from the participants on an agenda for a follow up treaty on carbon and other environmental issues. Water is also part of this picture. This will become part of the decisions of the conference.

Julian is less clear than we are on the direction taken by his group. However he knows from informal contacts with other participants that Gabrielle is looking for a proposal on demographics and the role of women in the new order. Some participants have strong views as to what this should be. Julian thinks that Gabrielle won’t reveal the  real aim of the group for some time. The UN general secretary is rumoured to be here for most the conference once it starts.

And what of our evenings? Since Jane joined us we meet at the Gendarmen Market every afternoon after work. Jane is waiting for us in a little café which has the merit of discretion and old Berlin charm, near the French Dom. There we take stock of the day and decide the programme for the evening: Jane usually comes up with good ideas – there is so much to do in this city – and often too with cinema or theatre tickets! Invariably we ride back to the apartment to change and cuddle. For we have succumbed to a wave of lust, to an irrepressible desire for each other, which has no bound. We have given up any pretence: I, Sarah, and Jane share Melissa, Melissa and me share Julian. The four of us adore each other in a way which has made me forget all our doubts. One thing intrigues me more and more though: the way Melissa has adopted my way of walking, my style, even my clothes, and, dare I say it? My way of making love. Julian is over the moon. So am I.

In the Chancellery

The Chancellery, Berlin We are at the entrance of the long steel and glass building that adorns the long perspective in front of the Bundestag. Sarah and Melissa are standing, superb in their sober grey suits and white silk shirts: they have adopted the same hair style, and today they are both dark red, and wear sharp black high heels. They also wear black lipstick. There is today an unforgiving coldness to their beauty. We walk slowly to the gate, welcome by a platoon of  dark-blue clad officers. I notice their badges which I do not recognise, I notice the blond hair tightly held under the strict berets: the Chancellery is guarded by women warriors.

We walk in as part of a small group of  about twelve guests. Classical music – is it Schubert? – floats through the endless glass corridors. Late afternoon light filters through the large windows. We are all assigned specific seats through specific doors. We are shepherded by the silent guards to one of the larger conference rooms in the building. As we enter the room one guard invites Sarah and Melissa to follow her, while another guides me to my seat. My wife and lover disappear through a side door.

I sit back and look at the audience which slowly fills in the large auditorium. Guards in uniform stand at all corners. Large flags of the United Nations and the Federal Republic, as well as the Union’s, ornate the wide stage. The auditorium is large enough for three or four thousand people. Schubert plays on. Sarah’s and Melissa’s seats remain empty for another half an hour. I then remember that we were given portable audio guides as we entered the building. I connect mine. There is a live broadcast, and on the little screen one can observe the speaker. It is a man, in USAF uniform, and I immediately recognise the officer who was our host in Brooklyn. He’s introducing the programme for the conference and explains the purpose of this pre-conference meeting.

I stand up to let a group of journalists access their seats a little further on the same row. They are all women. I notice an insignia on their jackets. Soon Sarah and Melissa join me, smiling, stunning in their suits and shiny makeup. Sarah kisses me lightly on the cheek and insists for me to sit between her and Melissa. Melissa briefly touches my knee. As I turn toward her I see she wears the same insignia as the journalists. So does Sarah. Then it comes to my mind that this is a smaller, more discreet version, than the one worn by the Chancellery guards. It’s an eagle seizing a small sphere. In the middle of the sphere is a heart.

On the stage now stand four people. One of them is Gabrielle. I also recognise the Chancellor herself, the same US officer, and a tall woman in a Chinese military uniform, perhaps a navy officer. As the four of them stand to attention, Schubert stops and the audience stands up for the German national anthem. The three of us know the words and the melody well. It is a moving moment. As the audience sits back a film appears in the background of the stage, silent. But the Chancellor stands up and speaks. She introduces the conference, states its main purpose, which is to launch a universal movement for peace and the end of all wars. The film shows the horrors of recent conflicts, then switches to views of recent meetings and diplomatic events. The Chancellor introduces Gabrielle – I hold my breath – as “our friend from the East”. No mention of the Coven or of Andromeda… The eagle and the sphere emblem appear on the screen. As the Chancellor concludes her introduction Gabrielle stands up. Her voice is high and clear, without accent. Her German is perfect, the online translation equally so. The portable audio device gives us fifteen language options. Gabrielle’s words reach my consciousness as Sarah takes hold of my hand. There will be four strands of work for the conference: diplomacy, military disarmament, environment and, demographics and “gender”.

I feel dizzy. Gabrielle explains the purpose of each strand, and expands on the diplomatic work undertaken by the UN, the Great Power and her competitors since the last crisis. Then the USAF general talks about the military side of the conference. Fluently he describes the work done so far, since the “disappearance” of the missiles in East Asia. He mentions the recent crisis in the Middle-East and how this is being resolved “to the best interest of mankind”.

The lady in Navy uniform then introduces the environment part of the programme. She’s evidently an expert. The screen displays a series of views describing threats to the planet, as seen from space. The speaker describes the mathematics of carbon reduction. I wonder how many in the audience follow her exposé. Suddenly Gabrielle is back to the fore. I must have missed the last minutes of the environment presentation, lost in a dream. At first I do not understand what Gabrielle is saying. The screen is again full of equations, this time about demographics. Sarah holds my hand tighter. Melissa says something, very low, in my ear. I shiver. Gabrielle is talking about her people. She talks about their ancient history, how they overcome the threats to their survival, how they conquered Space. She says that it is now mankind’s turn to make the choice: survival or self-destruction through dark ages. The audience is totally silent. No one moves. The film is now showing old newsreels. Soon Gabrielle concludes that one of the objectives of the conference is to achieve agreement on population control, a condition of peace. As she sits down, smiling, the Chancellor rises, wishes the audience a positive experience during the conference, and explains that we will be individually called in, in small groups, for the follow-up debriefing.

As I am called in my companions stand up with me and escort me holding my arms along the corridors. I cannot believe what I heard, what is happening. Sarah and Melissa guide me through another corridor and a flight of steps. Melissa knocks at a door and walks in, followed by Sarah who ushers me in. We follow another short corridor and stand by another door. Gabrielle opens the door. She smiles at my companions and shakes my hand.

“You are a lucky man, Julian”, she says in her softest voice, “thanks to your friends your conference will be only hard and interesting work.” At those words Melissa hugs me. There is a new strength in her taking hold of me. I am invited to sit down in one of four comfortable leather chairs that face a wide bay window opening toward the Bundestag. I feel my destiny is no longer mine to control. Gabrielle was not threatening me, but merely stating a fact.

“Julian, you may not have followed all of the presentations this afternoon, there was a lot to absorb. You have been attached to the demographics strand of the conference. You should know that you are one of a very small number, a minority, of non-expert male participants, invited to join us for this project.”

What Melissa said to my ear a few minutes back was: “Trust us.”

Longing

Longing She misses him: since coming back from New-York Melissa is longing for Julian, more so than ever – and she’s been longing for him for ever. She’s no longer sure of his thoughts, of how he sees her now, of his feelings towards her. In Brooklyn she must have appeared to him as part of the gigantic plot that he now knows involves the Pentagon and the Coven, and probably others. She read the terror in his eyes, she saw him gripping Sarah’s hands as they both understood the implications of what the general was saying. Has she lost him?

She ought to call Sarah, cool and loving Sarah, but she dares not. What would happen to her if Sarah rejected her? For Melissa knows that Sarah’s her friend, maybe more than just a friend, for as long as she does not see Melissa as part of the threat. Being a threat to Julian: that would turn Sarah into a formidable enemy. And Melissa knows that, for the Coven, Sarah’s role is essential: she is the key to Julian, and Julian is the path. On that Melissa knows the truth: she was chosen because of Julian, her ancient friendship with Julian. Gabrielle seized the opportunity, and so Melissa survived, did better than survive.

Gabrielle and Elga are now in deep consultation with the collective. The Coven is preparing the Berlin conference, one thread among millions, in a whirl of deliberations and mathematical – Melissa wonders: mathic? – computations that even her could not follow. Elga… How strange that she – but she’s no “she” of course, but a conglomerate of particles that long left their living anima, always asexual, far behind – that “she” tried her charm on Julian, after all that Melissa had explained.

“They” have their own blind corners, things they don’t appear to really understand. They have their weaknesses, otherwise they would not need that association with the Great Power, and the Power to Be, perhaps other darker powers that Melissa does not know about. They need the path to conquer this world, Melissa’s world, and for now, the path is one individual in the entire universe: her college sweetheart, Julian. Melissa relaxes a little. She sees several futures, in one of them, Sarah, Julian and herself overcomes the fear, and clear the way for the Coven to exit from their lives, without pain. But there are others, other futures. She knows, and shudders a little. She thinks of Tosca, of the mock execution at dawn, which turns out to be real. She thinks of  Berlin…

Melissa brushes the sinister vision away. At heart she is a positive person, at heart she is not afraid of demons. But Julian may be, always was, even at school, he had that irrational fear of the hidden fiends, of ancient secrets, of bewitched objects… Oh… how protective she felt towards him then, him: her young street fighter, he with the clinched fists… Melissa’s in a dream, she’s moved back in time, to the small town where they both lived, where it all started. She stands in front of the gate, she’s waiting for him, she sees him, joking with other boys – he sees her, waves to his friends and walks towards her, that triumphant smile on the thin lips – a young god… He always knew how to kiss her, and of course she wanted more…

The phone rings and pulls Melissa out of her dream. It’s Sarah. They chat politely, then Sarah says: “My husband is away for a few days and said he will join you in Paris, and please let him know when you want to meet, that’s the message he asked me to give you…” Melissa tries to think quickly, Julian’s away? “Sarah, could you come too?” She could almost hear Sarah smiles: “Mel, the two of you deserve a bit of intimacy, you have to give Julian time with you, just the two of you. I trust you both, and you can understand why I would be a bit of an obstacle – he needs to find you again…” Sarah’s voice trails off. “When he’s back please come to us as soon as you can: then we’ll have a party, I’ll invite Jane too.”

So it is, Sarah has given her the go-ahead, in the city where Julian was born, his city. A thought hits Melissa, a twist she had not thought of before this instant: has Sarah been “recruited”?  Has the Coven enrolled beautiful Sarah? She scans her memory of the meeting in Brooklyn, Gabrielle and Elga, and herself, and then Sarah and Julian, Sarah looking as if she is sheltering her husband. But she also sees Elga and Sarah exchanging a smile, more than once. But why should Sarah be tempted? What does she have to gain? Security for her husband and herself? And if this happened where does that leave her, Melissa, the go-between?

Soon she shrugs off that thought. Sarah’s has one mission: protecting her husband. Melissa knows she would not stop at anything for Julian’s sake, but there is no value in enlisting now, when she knows too little. Later perhaps, after Berlin, when they know. For now Sarah thinks Melissa’s good for Julian, it is simple.

Alone in the little house in East London Melissa’s planning the Paris meeting. She wants to chose the location of their meeting carefully: a public place but not one where Julian would feel crowded. Maybe the old arena, the roman amphitheater? Then they can walk rive gauche, perhaps aim for the Luxembourg? Of course he knows the city inside out, he lived there, and met Sarah there first. Melissa’s troubled by another thought: they did not stay, they moved to London almost immediately, indeed, they got married in London. Was there a reason for Julian to leave the city he loved, so soon after meeting the woman about to become his wife?

She’s soon distracted by the familiar tremor of air and sounds in the house: one of them, may be both – or more – have arrived. Soon she’s faced with a smiling Gabrielle who is still adjusting her human appearance. The fluid contours materialise, the face still indistinct… It takes no more than twenty seconds. “So, Gabrielle says calmly, you and Julian are going to meet one to one?” Melissa smiles, she knows “they” know everything, they hear everything, and her teacher, wise Gabrielle, is a master at sieving through all that their sensors capture, particularly if it involves Julian or his wife.

The two of them update each other, silently. Soon Melissa’s appraised of the Coven’s current state of play for Berlin. She also learns that Elga is in Moscow. The wheels are turning.

Sunset

Clair de TerreThe meeting in the Brooklyn safe house lasts for hours. The aerial view of the city is wiped out from the wall, replaced by a zoomed high-resolution picture of where we are, the vast warehouse, outside in the street first, then a roaming view across the corridor we had followed on our arrival, and, finally the room where we sit. Sarah and I look at each other, she later said I was as pale as a ghost. The general explains that these views are taken, live, by a drone above us at an altitude of twelve hundred meters. There is a silent pause. Then I say: “I do not know of any sensor capable of that level of precision across solid walls.” Everyone is quiet, then Elga breaks the silence. “You are right Julian. We have used” – I notice the “we” – “a US Airforce drone, but also a little cloud of Coven-technology sensors, controlled through it…” I look straight into Elga’s blue on blue eyes, then at Melissa, I see them both smiling, and behind those smiles I cannot avoid thinking of alien minds, calculating, unassailable to any human being. At that moment I am convinced that my friend is there, but she no longer is the woman I had known, but someone – I hate the thought of thinking “something” – completely different. I also sense that both of them, certainly Melissa, are determined to convince me that it is not the case, and I saw in Melissa’s face the beginning of seduction, as if saying “Look at my soul, Julian, can you challenge my humanity?”.

The general resumes his exposé. The Great Power, her competitor in the East and the Coven are cooperating for the benefit of peace. The GP needs some of the Coven’s technology to achieve her goals. So, important and complex negotiations are taking place. There is a need for discretion, even secrecy, but also carefully tailored information to be presented to the public – a worldwide public – other than through the ordinary channels of commercial TV, radio and newspapers. They will be involved, but the new Alliance – the general actually uses the phrase “the new Alliance” – is creating its own channel. And this is where we come in, the three of us, Sarah, Mel and me…

There is danger, the general continues. Some countries and interests have deep suspicions about what the GP is about. There are jealousies and fear. Incidents may be misrepresented. False news may frighten the public. The conference in Berlin will be the locus for an official launch of the New Alliance. The general pauses, as if to let us reflect.

In a soft voice Gabrielle speaks for the first time. “Melissa and I are moving to Paris in order to prepare for this. You two are invited to join us next month. We have much to discuss to get you up to speed. For the time being the small town is off limits.” I am tempted to ask what is off limits and why, but a look from Sarah convinces me to hold back. The general concludes his account by asking us if we have any question. To her credit Sarah realises that I am in no emotional state to reply. “We are grateful, she says soberly, for your trust and, smiling in the direction of Gabrielle and Elga,  that of our friends here. As you all know, in turn, Julian and I have entrusted Melissa to give us support as we endeavour to serve the cause of peace.” Everybody is smiling and Elga, yes, Elga comes to me and hugs me. Soon, after saying good bye to the general, we are walking down the corridor to the lift. Our guard is waiting. This time both Melissa and Gabrielle are with us. As Melissa drives us out of the warehouse, we are on our way back to Long Island for the evening. A grey van is following us, its windows reflecting the sunset light.

In Brooklyn

Hope, by George Frederic Watts (1886) Melissa drives us at the top permitted speed, avoiding the slower traffic on the turnpike with remarkable skill. This morning she wears black jeans and a blue shirt, her beautiful hair held in a severe bun: her face is taut and serious and she wears no makeup. Sitting next to Julian at the back, as she requested, I observe on the front seat  the holster, with the black and flat handgun, the same as she drew out yesterday at our arrival on Long Island. The uniformed officer who came out of the house at that instant would not have stood a chance, had he shown himself to be a foe: our friend had him framed, her steady hand still as rock. To me her posture then was a revelation: the calm and impeccable hold, feet well positioned on the ground, legs a little apart: a trained marksman or assassin. I did not share my reaction with Julian. I think he admires Melissa more than ever, and she frightens him already enough.

We are on our way to meet Gabrielle and Elga again, this time in very different surroundings. Melissa told us last night that we would meet the high ranking Great Power officer, who is now the official liaison with the Coven. We know that after the flurry of media speculation, following the press conference Melissa and Julian attended, there has been a lull. Television channels have been especially sober in any reportage related to the Coven, or any event attributed to it. The name is now out, and no-one knows for sure who it is or what it is for, other than promoting world peace. No extra-terrestrial, let alone galactic,  connection is suggested anywhere. The tone of the few articles is only sober and respectful: journalists have been told by their editors to keep it that way, or else.

We reach the freeway in the direction of Brooklyn. Melissa explains that our escort – a grey SUV with reflecting black windows which has been trailing us since Long Island –  will now precedes us and that another car will take its place. Soon enough a dark blue van is on our tail, I cannot see inside either but notice the tall antenna on its roof.

As we reach Brooklyn Melissa slows down. We are sandwiched by our escort, front and back. After half an hour through the streets Melissa turns off and the car faces what looks like a massive warehouse. The SUV is in front of us, soon a huge metal door opens and the three cars move in. The door closes.

The escort wears dark overalls and masks. They carry short machine guns. Melissa leads us towards a staircase, preceded by two armed masked men. The stairs lead to a small room with a lift. There is no button or visible control near the lift. It opens, we walk in, the door shuts without a sound. We exit the lift a few seconds later, I think we went up. We now stand in front of a closed door of polished wood. Julian presses my hand, and I can feel his anguish. Then the door opens: Gabrielle is on the threshold, smiling. She signals me to walk in, followed by Julian and Melissa. The door closes silently, I guess our guards stand now by the door.

I follow Gabrielle into a wide corridor, between walls painted a pale ochre. Paintings of boat races and aircrafts ornate these walls. Turning round I see that Melissa is leading Julian by the hand: she smiles and signals me that all is well. Gabrielle opens a door at the end of the corridor: it opens into a large well lit office, and near a massive desk in its middle stands Elga. She is absolutely stunning, her long black hair to the shoulder, wearing a grey suit that perfectly renders her athletic shape in a way I find immediately disturbing. Behind the desk stands a tall man with a crew cut wearing the four stars of a US Air Force general.

Gabrielle does the presentation, and then hugs me. Julian and I shake hands with the general. We are offered comfortable seats and coffee, that Elga serves herself. Julian sits between Melissa and me. I notice that Melissa left the handgun in her car.

The general welcomes us and says how happy he is to meet us at long last. He refers to the press conference but not to the missiles. Then in the quiet and firm voice of a man used to be listened to without fuss, he says that Melissa, Julian and me have been invited to attend a conference of the four largest military powers in the world: the Great Power herself and her Asia challenger, the Russian Federation and Japan. The military Alliance will be also represented. The conference will take place in the fall, in Berlin. Another round of coffee is being served. I relax a little, Elga smiles at me, the general stands up and invites us to look at the view. Then I notice that behind us, where the door stood, is al large bay window. The view is that of the whole of New-York City and a good slice of New Jersey, as if we were at a very high altitude, perhaps a kilometre high. And maybe we are.

In the Forest

The Coven Two uniformed officers are waiting for us at the new rail station, a place I used to know well, but now so completely changed as to be unrecognisable. Melissa and I wear sober travel clothes. On the train from the capital we have discussed the article which was published two weeks ago initially in six countries, and then reproduced in virtually all the major newspapers of the planet. The article, titled “Time to Make Peace” contained the pictures of the missing missiles, quietly resting on trestles in what appears to be a vast warehouse, and a short text Melissa and I had prepared calling for world leaders to disarm and invest the considerable resources so freed in curing the ills of the world.

Of course, as signatories of the article we promptly had visitors. Besides, we were not hiding, having signed our joint real names. It is Sarah who opened the door to the four secrete service men and the one woman who knocked at the door of our house in London. Melissa was still with us. The interrogation had lasted three hours. They wanted to know where we had been to take the picture, and also how we knew. We told them the truth: Melissa had received the pictures by post, yes she had the container, no she did not know who had sent them. Which was nearly true too. As for the origin, and the why, and the how, in fact we did not know much more than they did. We said nothing of the Coven.

So now the military men who meet us, hand over badges to us that are passes to the place they intend to drive us to. Melissa and I sat politely at the back of the command car. The four of us are silent until the driver takes a narrow road I think I recognise. Soon the road is bordered by dark pine trees that appear very old. Yes, I know where we are going, and so does Melissa. I feel her taking my hand in hers and she squeezes. I remember the place: as children we played around it despite interdiction from our parents. It was merely a few years after the end of the war: the Great Power then had troops still stationed in this area which had seen so many battles. A regiment of combat engineers were barracked on this campus hidden in the woods, which dated from the 2nd Empire. As a small boy I had tried to get a glimpse of what was inside, and perhaps to be there near the gate when the huge trucks came out, full of strange machinery and of those tall soldiers who smiled at us kids and threw oranges – oranges in the starving country! – at us. Was Melissa then one of the little girls that roamed around the camp, perhaps hoping for more than oranges?

The car stops at a gate, guarded by armoured vehicles. I recognise a truck with twin ground to air missiles. The perimeter is guarded by armed military police, and a little inside we see huge satellite dishes: the international press is here, closely monitored by soldiers armed to the teeth. The car moves inside the perimeter, takes a long road towards what appears to be an airfield. The place is even bigger that I remember, perhaps it was widened during the years of the Cold War?

We now see the warehouse, in fact a large building that may have been a helicopter or light aircraft hangar. There is a little reception for us: four officers and one civilian. The officer – a general – who appears to be in charge, wearing the national uniform, greets us as our escort drives away. “Monsieur Dutoît, Mademoisellle Baudoin, it is a pleasure to welcome you here. I am at present the commanding officer here.” He then proceeds to introduce his colleagues: an Air Force man who represents the Great Power (there are several platoons wearing various national uniforms in front of the hangar), and three officers of which we assume one is from the small country that did fire one of the missiles, the other two members of the Alliance. The civilian is introduced as the representative of the Great Power To Be. We exchanged handshakes and polite smiles. The officer resumes: “We want first of all to thank you both for your cooperation, and coming all the way to this place. Of course you are both from military families and have a deep sense of duty.” We are then led towards the entrance of the hangar. Inside a double line of soldiers guards the missiles, that lie on the trestles behind a short electrical barrier. White overall-clad scientific types are busy around the three sinister but impotent objects. The press corps has been corralled into a little square in front of a long table where our guests and us are soon invited to sit.  Armed soldiers stand behind us. The journalists look a little subdued, there are s dozen television cameras directed at the two seats where Melissa and I now sit. The local officer makes the introduction. His speech is concise and without too much emphasis on the strangeness of the situation. Here we are, the two hitherto unknown humans who have written the text that called for world peace exactly at the time when an act of hostility was neutralised by an unknown power. The general stresses the fact that the whole situation and much of the information we have provided to the military authorities are classified: this will be the only opportunity the international press will have to ask us questions. Then the questions rain on us. Melissa answers most of them, smiling, in full control. I guess she has been briefed by Gabrielle. The journalists start asking from her personal questions. The general intervenes firmly. I am then asked if I have a clue as to who hijacked the missiles. The prepared reply has been agreed back home with the secret service agents: I do not know and expect it is a friend of the United Nations. Indeed I see as I speak the United Nations colours against the back wall of the hangar. The session is over in half an hour, The press is asked to leave the hangar and rejoin offices that have been placed  at their disposal on the campus. Then our group walks slowly to get closer to the missiles. The Great Power officer says: “You will have noticed the presence of Colonel XX – the man we believe to be from the divided country where the missile was fired – which is helping all of us a lot. We recognise though that there is yet no explanation as how the three missiles got here. My friend general YY, our host, has explained that the camp was still under military authority and safeguard, and has been since the war, but there was no witness of the missiles coming here. This hangar was locked…” We shake our heads without comment.

The general invites us  to a small office on the side of one of the hangar’s walls. Several other offices are occupied by the “scientists” and telecommunication equipment.  “You have been very helpful to our colleagues in London. I want to make sure you know that at any time if you wish to make an additional statement this will be welcome. We will keep the press off your back, both of you. On the other hand we would be pleased if you were also available to us, by telephone on a 24 hours/ seven days basis.” He smiles. We know. The Asian “civilian” then speaks to Melissa in a courteous and fluent voice, in perfect English. “Miss Baudoin, the general is too much of a gentleman to bother you with historical details. Nonetheless I wish to let you know that my superiors – as he says that I know that he must be himself a pretty high ranking officer in the developing Air Force or Navy of the Great Power To Be – are very interested in your lineage.” Melissa smiles. I suspect her true identity has been manipulated by Gabrielle to skip the difficult question of her real age. I look through the window of the office at the three missiles. I have no doubt they have been teleported here. But why here? Why are all the paths leading to the Coven converging on this little town? “Yes, resumes the general, we expect new developments and your help will be invaluable.” Then the Air Force man asks: “Do you have any question for us?” We have expected this and Melissa has the answer: “Sir, she says smiling, we wish the request in the article we wrote, to have some effect for all the people of the world.” They all smile and the general says that the fact that they are here, talking with us, in front of the international press, shows very well how seriously the article has been taken. I remember the words of Elga. Part of me feels a sense of dread: how seriously is really a matter of how quickly the world governments will act. They invite us to a simple lunch in the officers mess. At the table sit officers in many different uniforms, in conversation in a variety of languages. Then, as if in a dream, I see a woman in uniform who is talking in Russian to a tall officer of the German Luftwaffe. It is Elga.

Peace

Peace Sarah and I are walking on the pebble beach, along the shore of the bay we both love and think of as our reflection ground.  There is no-one else this morning, the air is cold, the sky grey, and only the cries of the seagulls pierce the silence.  We have left the car in the small village, after hearing the latest news from East Asia.  Before we left home for the one hour drive to get to the village, Sarah talked to Melissa who said she would be with us the following weekend to help me with the article.  Sarah thought Melissa was  up-to-date on my meeting with Elga and Gabrielle, and had received her own instructions from them.  I agreed that there was a plan, whatever it was, and that my old friend was part of it.  We walk silently for a while, and then Sarah, holding my hand firmly in hers, tells me what we should do…

– Julian, we know that they can manipulate space and time.  We know also that our minds have no secret for them, indeed they know more about our past than we know ourselves.  What we do not know is what is the part of  manipulation – of our thoughts, our senses – and what is “real”, if this makes any sense…

– It does , I reply, and I know what you are leading at: that resistance is futile… 

The news this morning was that the small Asian country, that had for several weeks be making war-like noises in defiance of the rest of the world, had finally fired a “test” missile across the border to her southern neighbour.  It appeared that anti-missiles batteries, installed by the Great Power near the border, had responded, and two missiles had been fired intended to intercept the intruder.  This was the nightmare scenario the world had feared: an incident leading to retaliation, and the onset of war.  However, in this instance, none of the three missiles had reached their intended targets: they appeared to have disappeared into thin air, literally.  The Great Power had immediately recognised that it did not know what had happened to its missiles.  Tracking cameras had followed the weapons’ trajectories, and everything had gone to plan, but suddenly the cameras showed nothing: the missiles had gone.  The small country was so far silent.  Its powerful ally in the North, the Great Power To Be, had denied any involvement, and reiterated its call for restraint.  The news had not surprised us, other than by the rapidity of events.

– From what Elga has told you, resumes Sarah, we should expect whatever warning we issue through the press to be believed.  This calls for some evidence: the highjacking of those missile may be it…

– As you said, they manipulate matter at the sub-atomic level, theirs is a pico, rather than nano-technology, a millionth time smaller than what we have achieved so far!  Nonetheless it will take some time for the truth to sink in don’t you think?

Sarah is silent for a few minutes.  We stop at the one of the wooden benches above the beach, surrounded by dunes and pale grass shivering in the wind.  We drink from a thermos of hot coffee.

– We have to follow the events, she says, and prepare what they want, some kind of announcement… Something that will start explaining to the world that game is over… 

– Yes, they told me to use my own words…

– This is where they need you, us.  Their understanding of our psychology is still weak, despite Gabrielle’s long experience down here, despite Melissa who should have been under their observation ever since she was reborn.

– Have you thought that their power of simulation may be greater than their understanding?  Their mind is, after all, collective, it must be very hard for them to think in terms of a society – a species – of individuals?  From what we learnt from Gabrielle the Coven must be centuries, perhaps even, millennia old (of our time)…

– Yes, they have the looks, and the language, and know the geography.  They told you that they have monitoring sensors – atoms, perhaps even particles – everywhere.  But that does not equate with understanding us.

– But where will it stop?  OK, they are demonstrating control, and assuming they do neutralise the military, what is next? Is it certain that their only goal is to preserve this world, and somehow protect us against ourselves?

My question does not expect an answer yet.  Evidently we do not know, and will know only once mankind has accepted the facts.  How long will it take?

We resume our walk, along the shore, towards the next village some five miles further south.  Sarah kisses me, smiles, and laughing:

– I am just happy they stopped those missiles you know!

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