The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Hiroshima

Face to face

Crystal ball I have been summoned: in the night Gabrielle’s voice instructed me to be at her place in the morning, and I was told, politely but firmly, to go on my own.  I tell Sarah, and we talk briefly about what we could expect.  Sarah thinks it might have to do with the offer, that of parthenogenesis.  The Coven may have realised the human females won’t give up their males that easily (“I’ll tell them to go and clone themselves!” was Jane’s reaction, the more remarkable since my sister’s tendencies are well known).  So “they” may want to appraise me of an alternative plan says my wife.  I am skeptical, for I believe now that “they” are indeed all powerful: why should they care about what we think?  Sarah thinks that I am giving up the fight too early, the Coven wants something, and we are not sure what.  Their objective is evidently not mere destruction: they have a goal, and we need to find out what that is.

So I set off just after dawn, and an hour later I am walking the narrow street, deserted at this time.  The chill of the morning air seems sharper here and I walk faster until I reach the long wall and the small door.  The door is unlocked and as I cross the threshold it shuts closed behind me.  “Come in Julian” says Gabrielle’s voice and I slowly reach the end of the corridor.  Gabrielle and another person stand in the room I know so well, in front of the bay window.  It takes me a few seconds to recognise Elga.  Gabrielle signals me to take a seat on the sofa near the chimney.  As on the first time I came to this house a wood fire burns brightly, projecting an eery light in the room.  The two women are sitting in front of me, their backs to the window.  Elga looks now much different from the attractive creature Sarah and I met several months back.  Her long black hair is wrapped in a complicated bun, held by a deep blue metallic ring.  But her clothes… She wears a grey suit reminiscent of the spartan Mao-Tse-Tung tunique, but well cut, buttoned up to her chin, which fits her athletic body well.

I am waiting for one of them to speak, and remain silent. We observe each other for long minutes.  Then Gabrielle addresses me, in a slow voice intended to convince.

“Thank you for joining us at such short notice Julian.  We have to share with you, and through you with your friends if you judge it wise, of a decision the Coven took a few hours – that is for you a few weeks – ago.”  Gabrielle pauses and I look at Elga, who is not smiling but, rather, looking at her companion as if in deep reflection.

“The Coven has now realised the inanity of suggesting a violent solution to what we see as your predicament, and to the risks this may present to us in the future.  Equally we understand how unpractical it would be to impose a ban on your ways to reproduce yourselves…” I am waiting for what is, inevitably, going to follow, but I am wrong, have been wrong all the time.

“Elga is going to explain what we are going to do, as you know she represents the Coven here, you could say, she’s in charge of this sector of your galaxy on our behalf…”

Elga then speaks, and her voice conveys immense authority, and a slight veil of impatience.

“You know that Gabrielle and I have had some difficulties in convincing many of our own about the value of giving you and your species time to evolve further.  In part our problem is due to your use of atomics, and the continuous violence which appears to characterise the way you attempt – and fail – to resolve conflicts.”  I am aware of Elga’s eyes firmly fixed on me, of her beautiful face showing nothing but an implacable resolution.  “We have considered many ways we could intervene without destroying you.  In truth, for many of us, the survival of your beautiful planet is far more important than yours, as a species.  However we have concluded that attempting one without the other may prove costly, for you, and for us.”  Elga pauses, and I am thinking of the meteorite in the skies of Russia.  “So, we have come to this conclusion, unanimously: we have to intervene directly in your affairs, neutralising some of the fatal moves some of your governments may be tempted to make, in one word, practise what you would call a ‘humanitarian mission’ – with a difference, we have the means of obliterating any resistance.”  We are silent, I am listening to the fire, reliving our previous meetings, and Gabrielle finally speaks:

“We have 100% coverage of all of mankind’s present conflict areas and strategic sites.  As you have probably guessed we have spent the past few years developing an extensive – shall we say – spy network of a fine mesh of which your science cannot conceive.  Suffice to say that the same mesh can be used to destroy weaponry of any size and power, from long range missiles down to a single hand gun. “

Elga smiles and adds, suddenly back to a more congenial stance: “We knew you would understand Julian.  Now, what we want you to do, is to explain the situation to your friends.  Melissa has been informed and she will help you prepare the drafts.”

I am waiting, the drafts of what?  Elga resumes, now smiling broadly: “You are going to write to the ten or so top newspapers in your world, explaining the situation in your own words.  You should know now, that people are going to take what you say seriously.”

A gentle creature

M31Parsecs from Earth, somewhere in the Andromeda nebulae, also known to mankind as NGC 224, the creature Melissa knew as the woman Gabrielle, her Angel, was in deep computation with her coven. To say “she” was there, is however a misnomer: her mind – that second order system of connected gas synapses no human physicist or neurology expert would have recognised as a brain – was in a vortex of communication with a trillion others, such as herself.

This did not happen often, but the circumstances were exceptional. For the first time, ever, on a small world, among billions of others “they” had visited in the course of their long history of exploration, a primitive creature had developed a sense, that hitherto “they” had only observed in a handful of others, all much more advanced in the scale of evolution than her own species was.  The girl Melissa, the small, fragile  creature that Gabrielle had brought back from the dead, was beginning to listen to the vortex. Not every mind in the coven was enthusiastic about this development. Earth, a mediocre size planet of the Sol system, on the edge of the galaxy human beings call the Milky Way, and a neighbour of Andromeda, was host to a species, who for many in the coven, was the epitome of how wrong evolution can be, a cruel, primitive people, who care neither for themselves nor their world, and who, in the future, few believed would care for their galactic neighbours.

Gabrielle was arguing that even if only one such being was showing an extraordinary property, a promise of a change in the species’ evolution towards a brighter future, then it was a duty to foster such a change, nurture its success. The opposition was strong, and many posted the view that they should leave that world to its destiny, and its inhabitants to their unavoidable fate: self-destruction. They had good arguments. Recent history – that is that of a few millennia – showed no hope whatsoever of anything other than a ruthless disregard for life, and the life of the mind. Passionately Gabrielle countered such arguments citing literature, the human arts, their courageous efforts to eradicate diseases and nature catastrophes. She knew there was more at stake than Melissa’s fate: the coven could vote for a total evacuation, and, although this would take much longer, the eradication of the species.

She was questioned again and again on the lessons of her long sojourn on Earth – after all, she was one of the rare specialists to have stayed there, after Hiroshima and the Holocaust. Her immense computational power struggled to keep up with the questions. The coven would not reach a decision for some time yet. Their collective brain, that huge cluster of trillions of associations, would still take time for reflection after all the known facts had been processed.

Back in Melissa’s world, she, and a short bespectacled woman were in deep discussion too. Melissa was smiling, she knew she would meet her lover soon. All thanks to Lagrangian mathematics. Gabrielle felt very close to that human being, dangerously close.

Battlefield

AlienMost of us left when you started exploding nukes, only a handful of historians and specialists remained, and I was one of them. Explaining the horror we felt is probably beyond my abilities in your language. Suffice to say that we have been around, on your world, for at least half a millennium of your time, but this was beyond all the horrors we had seen before, worse than the sack of Beijing, worse than Borodino, worse than Verdun, even worse than Stalingrad: wanton destruction of a defenceless “enemy”.

Still my job was, still is, to bear witness, observe, document and ensure all the evidence was collected, so that one day, perhaps soon, a decision could be made – should we let you continue killing each other, or should we put an end to it, for the sake of the rest of us. It had happened before, but, of course, you have no knowledge of it, as this was well before you, far away…

That year I was researching what you call “modern history” in that small town, in the middle of what has been, through your ages, a battlefield. Humans have been butchering each other on that plain since the stone age. Savage battles took place there, a mere few years before, when you started using the nascent power of your new industries to forge weapons. Already we were appalled then, silent witnesses to inept massacres. But what you will later called the First World War – more of a sinister civil war in our view –  was merely a harbinger of worse to come.

So it was that one evening, I was musing around the town, looking at buildings, taking scans of artefacts buried in the ground, listening to the rich electromagnetic and psychic mix always arising from human settlements. I came across a little lane, and immediately I could hear the familiar sad tune, a dying human being, in the thralls of a violent end. How often have we been there: listening to the cacophony of death. I know you would not understand: our perceptions are shaped by the quality of our sensors, and in that domain there is simply no comparison between us. You still have differentiated limited senses that, at this stage in your evolution, allow you to ignore most of what goes on around you – fortunately, since your brains are not yet able to engineer the filters necessary for clarity and processing.

I easily located the soon to be dead being: a young woman who was lying in a pool of her blood in an unlit corner of the lane. The mix of pain, longing and other violent feelings she emitted surprised me, a veteran of many such observations. Her forearms had been cut deep, and she had already lost a lot of blood. Some beast had strangled her and she was hardly breathing when I arrived. Even I could not have saved her. I knew that, within perhaps a few seconds of her time, she would die, and all those memories, thoughts, beliefs would disappear. I just took a snap decision to save that precious load, and scanned her mind, an operation that took longer than I thought, so that I had to sustain her a little, to ensure I had captured everything. She had beautiful green eyes – human beings are sometimes stunningly attractive. Whether she realised I was there I am not sure, but suddenly her body was quieter, and before her heartbeat disappeared, I took a sample of her genetic and endocrine material. Other humans were around nearby and I had to leave. As a rule we avoid unnecessary contacts.

We rarely intervene: we are, as you would say, mere scientists. Doing good, as you understand it, is a concept we don’t fully apprehend in your context, still now. How can the most ferocious and pitiless species in the known universe have, at the same time, that travesty of “morality”? In any case, we cannot fully recreate a human being, not perfectly. We can restore her mind, recreate the body, but there is always something missing, as if, at the time of death, something had escaped, irretrievably.

Her name is Melissa, she was about twenty human years old when she was murdered. We get on well. She has a fatal longing for that boy she knew, and step by step, she coerced me in finding him. I am not sure it is a good idea. But she was so excited when we did. I helped her with the technology, so much had already changed by the time she reached again the age at her death. Surprisingly, not many of you have yet realised the power of some of your own creations. For example the fact you have developed simulators, evidently still quite crude, that mimic real life. In my experience this is just a beginning – as a matter of fact, as so often in your short history, it starts with “games”. You excel at that: wars and games…

Poor girl: I am fond of her, her fragility, even now, when she is, by human standards anyway, pretty close to immortality. I know that she’s trying to contact him, see him, and it worries me a little: I am, after all, responsible for bringing her back from the dead.