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A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Peace

In a Deep Well

Dan DaminghaAutumn succeeds to the late Berlin summer: gold streaks appear through the foliage of the Tiergarten, and along the canal. Step by step life resumes: Sarah – Melissa – Helga, and Julian. In his searching mind, it is a pentagram, and one vertex is still missing. Does he expect Gabrielle, the historian? Or, perhaps, the older Melissa? He cannot tell, but he knows, that someone would soon be there, completing the magical polygon.

The three women often go out in Neukölln, or Kreuzberg, walking, cycling, shopping, or to exercise in an exclusive women-only gym Melissa had discovered in Schöneberg. He does not feel excluded, rather the opposite. He has started relishing a kind of daylight solitude, in the full knowledge that later in the day, or the evening, they would be four again. On the banks of the Landwehr canal the chestnut trees are wearing their cloak of mystery, as he runs, tireless, breathing in the essence of the city, all the way to the Spree, and back to their place.

Now at the apex of her modelling career, his sister has written to him from far away places, attentive, caring, even flirting. She joins them for one long weekend, at once blending with the other three ladies as if she has just left yesterday. They talk of fashion, of the approach of winter, of Jane’s new assignment in Russia, and of books. Sometimes Julian surprises himself, as he imagines being at the bottom of a deep dry well, as Toru Okada once was, listening and seeing a small sector of the sky from far down, awaiting the special ray of the sun.

In the evening they invade Italo, and he recalls the many times he has been there, alone with Sarah, with his wife and Melissa, and as they are tonight, the completed pentagram. The Berlin night sky is clear, and the air chillier that it has been in recent days. The candles light plays on the faces of his friends, Melissa smiles at him, blows him a kiss.

On Monday morning Sarah and Melissa take Jane to Schönefeld, to catch her flight to Saint Petersburg. Julian stays at home with Helga, talking about the East, and what could happen next, as they sip coffee. Mahler floats in the fresh air of the lounge, teasing the morning sunlight. Helga is pessimistic about peace, and talks about “their” findings on the years that preceded the first world war: how the slide to war had happened, despite, or maybe because, of the fear that very prospect inspired to most people. She explains that war has its logic, and that beyond some threshold, that logic takes over human destinies, whatever governments and people attempt to do: then the future is no longer controllable by human will. It is not merely the interplay of alliances, promises and prejudices, the consequences of fear, it is the work of the Devil himself. Julian looks at his friend, incredulous. Helga is evoking evil, a weird, anachronistic, unscientific concept, for her exceptional mind. He has surprised her using clichés before, and wondered if it was her way to tell him she had abandoned all pretence of superior knowledge. She smiles, acknowledging she has been caught.

Julian sees that Helga has changed, in subtle ways. In the middle of their conversation they stop, looking at each other in silence: she holds his gaze, and, at the end, he is the one who surrenders. He is much in love with her face and expressions, remembering how cold and icy she used to be, once upon a time. He can no longer pretend ignoring her sensual lips. Sarah calls to say that Jane’s flight is delayed and they are keeping her company as she waits. She gives instructions to Julian for lunch. Helga and him decide to go out shopping. The other two will meet them later at the little coffee shop in Bergmannstraße.

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.

 

Voices

MindAlone, in a crowd of strangers, or in deserted streets, he feels her gaze: she’s watching him, her calm loving eyes forever binding him to her. Twice now he has walked to a woman he thought he recognised, and twice, at the last second, he saw his mistake. Then, he hears her voice, not only in his sleep, but awake, when he lets his mind wander. He’s decided for now not to conclude: onset of mental distress, or overheated inspiration.

From the small balcony, he can see the buildings at the street junction with Monumentenstraße: colourful fronts, small flower displays on the window sills, silent doorways. He takes pictures at different times of day, observing the city’s lights playing on the roofs and alleyways. Four floors below, on the pavement , someone is growing a miniature city garden at the foot of a chestnut tree.

Observer and observed, he meshes with the objects and inhabitants of the city. Soon, he will walk to the Brandenburger Tor to join in the celebrations of the Worldcup. He’s never felt more inspired, his writing flowing, from the scenes out on the street, from the faces of youth, the smiles, the limitless freedom, to the pages.

On one of his nighttime walks he tried to discover the entrance to the apartment on Jägerstraße, and of course found nothing. It has been some months now since he last visited the place, in his dreams. The details are still vivid in his imagination: the art objects in the lounge, the paintings, the long balcony, the view over Gendarmenmarkt. He has not asked Sarah any question about the apartment, as if he did not want to break the spell.

For now, Sarah and Melissa are somewhere in France, perhaps up on the high plateau of the Gévaudan. The two of them went off, giggling, in his wife’s battered holiday Peugeot, after the girl tenderly embraced him, kissing him full mouth, under Sarah’s indulgent stare. In their loveliness, their pictures, two women in various stages of nakedness, and postures of intimacy, are everywhere in the studio: a permanent exhibition of his passion.

In the morning he goes running for a couple hours along his beloved canal. The chestnut trees now in full leaves, their welcome shade protecting lovers and runners. And, always, those eyes watching him, and her voice floating, as a crystal stream, in the peace of the city.

Where do you write best? #DailyPost

LandwehrkanalWhere do you write best?” asks Melissa one morning. They are enjoying a lazy breakfast in the studio on Eylauer Straße, a few days after the half marathon. Julian thinks for a few seconds, then replies: “Here of course, I love this place, and the more so when you are here!”

“Which is almost permanent!” laughs Melissa. “And I love when you are working, just a little jazz in the air, and the city in the background, our quiet street…”

Julian finds Kreuzberg inspiring, the ideal place for creative thinking. When he wants to take a break – he tends to work best in the morning, while Melissa practices her yoga on the rug – they walk through the park to Bergmannstraße and sit at one of the small café terraces, or take a walk along the canal, on the Maybachufer. For Julian, his writing is now inseparable from this peace, the tranquility he finds in the tree-lined streets, the parks, and Melissa. For she’s become his muse, the indispensable companion, his fellow runner, his soulmate.

The book is progressing well, the story unravelling, meandering between the mystery which inhabits the heroine, and the greater myth born from her dreams. He understands that the contrast between his space, their space, the peace therein, and the maelstrom of the novel, is part of his inspiration: in their space lives the real Melissa, in the novel, Melissa the ghost.

A singular passion

Watch tower in TreptowShe finally admits it: she’s attracted to him, the quiet walker, sometime runner, she meets here and then, as if their paths had to cross. One morning, as she runs past the old guard tower, she notices him near one of the wooden benches, as he is changing into his running gear. She hides behind a tree, to better observe him; she now looks at his body, the sparse but vigorous frame, his supple and determined moves.

He does not see her, and starts running toward the park, at a regular and tranquil pace. She follows, at a safe distance, and when he accelerates a little, she adjusts her own steps, her eyes firmly fixed on his shoulders.

She’s the faster runner, and soon she’s level with him, slows down to his pace, turns to him, wave. He smiles, says hello. That smile… she thinks. She offers to run with him for a while. He accepts with a small gesture, as if to say “why not?” She tells him she knows where he lives, and that she does not think he is from the City. He says she’s right, he’s only one of the City’s many adopted sons. She says his name: he’s surprised, she can sense, but does not ask her how she knows.

She tells him she’s been stalking him, peacefully, without bad intentions, ever since they met along the canal, several weeks back. She knows where he lives, his apartment, his name on the door. She’s been studying his habits, where he goes in the evening, the Italian restaurant in Kreuzberg, his favourite bar, where he shops, where he parks his bike.

He’s silent for a while, as they run, in steps, deep in thoughts, on their own. Finally he says: “if you know so much about me, then you may know also how much your name means to me.” She does not know, but she guessed there was, somewhere, sometime, in their separate lives, a reason for them to meet here, in this City.

She senses his inner strength, his resistance to seduction, perhaps his unwillingness to sacrifice his inner peace. Now she wants him, badly. But she knows better than rushing him. She says: “Please forgive and accept me, I won’t annoy you, or invade your privacy anymore, I am asking merely to be the girl you take with you from time to time, like this. I will not try to be the other Melissa.”

For several minutes he says nothing. She’s worried he’s about to chase her away. What he says then touches her deeply, and she feels triumphant.

“I am an old man, so I fail to understand your interest in me… You should know that I have in me more than memories: I am haunted. But I know also that you are not the other Melissa.  But, if you wish, you may be that girl, my guide, shall we say, in the city of Faust.”

Kreuzberg

2 On our bikes

 At 6 CET I wake up: the light through the half drawn curtains filters to the two graceful naked bodies, lying across from me on the large bed – our bed. Sarah holds Melissa in her arms, their breathing in perfect unison. I am overwhelmed by their beauty. Without the usual pinch of diffused jealousy I see them as a perfect couple, my wife and my lover…

In the little courtyard outside, birds are still celebrating the morning on the tall lime-tree. I get up careful not to wake them, anxious not to disrupt the wonder of their sleep.

I shower – warm water never feels so cool as in Berlin – and walk to the kitchen to make coffee: here I use the ground coffee Melissa bought thinking of me. Soon the aroma of brewing coffee diffuses through the apartment. I hear the low sound of a radio playing across the street from the balcony. Kreuzberg is so amazingly quiet…

An hour later the three of us are jogging in the direction of Tempelhof. Soon we reach the Airlift memorial and the terminal building, and run to the entrance on the side road. My two companions are fit and easily distance me: I have to keep up! We start on the long tour of the airfield, Sarah and Melissa accelerating to an easy 10k pace, I am already sweating profusely. We pass other runners who look appreciatively at my companions.

The whole tour will take forty minutes at this pace. As we are approaching the long curve, past the civilian crews scanning for ordnance and old WWII weapons, another runner overtakes us, slows down and start running even with the ladies. I hear Melissa greats the stranger – a tall woman in a blue track suit and fashionable sneakers – then the three of them laughing. It dawns on me that the runner is no other than Elga. I am now struggling to keep up with the three ladies who have gradually accelerated their pace. Sarah turns round and smiles, signals to me all is well.

… Back home, and still with Elga in a joyous mood, the ladies decide to have a common shower, and I will wait my turn. The majority decision is to go to the Tiergarten for a picnic. We, the three of us, later have an appointment at seven at the Chancellery…

We take bikes and ride towards the Potsdamer Platz. I am again struggling to keep pace with my three companions who giggle all the way. As we manoeuvre towards the Tiergarten I notice two or three military vehicles moving in the direction of the Bundestag. The ladies chose a spot not far from the Siegesaüle. While I was having my shower they did some shopping. Suddenly I am interested to see if Elga will drink and eat as a human; perhaps I am somewhat puzzled when she does, still laughing wholeheartedly at Sarah’s and Melissa’s jokes. The four of us have a congenial and relaxed time. Elga finally excuses herself, saying that she would see us in the evening at the pre-conference meeting. She rides off in the direction of Unter den Linden. It is only then that I notice her escort: four soldiers on bikes, wearing the uniform of the élite Grenzschütz guard. They are armed, and they are all women. Sarah’s looking at me smiling, as if saying “stop worrying, you are in good hands…”

Kreuzberg

1 Near Viktoria Park

DSC_0490 So much has changed… Those roads are now perfect, thin ribbons bordered by trees; and today the flow of traffic is out of the city, towards the northern coast and the forests of Brandenburg, it is Friday. Driving from the North-West easing the car into Kreuzberg is light work. Soon we find the street, and with her usual flair, Sarah navigates me to a parking space just in front of our door. I feel her eyes on me: it is her city, and she awaits my reaction to the new Berlin, now at peace.

We pick up our bags. Bicycles are locked randomly on railings and scaffoldings on the wide sidewalk. The air is warm, the street quiet. Sarah unlocks the door which closes silently behind us, and we walk up to the third floor. Melissa is standing at the entrance to the apartment, smiling. She and Sarah kiss for an eternity. We walk in, drops our bags, and then Melissa hugs me. The apartment is delightful, airy, a small balcony opening on the side street, trees and small shops, bicycles, summer dust…

Keith Jarrett plays in the background. In white shorts and a green T-shirt that reads NO SURRENDER! Melissa looks stunning. Sarah thinks so too, and soon the two of them disappear to the bedroom and shut the door. I find the stack of documents from the federal government I am expected to study closely in the meantime. I feel elated: the dread that overwhelmed me during the journey is now gone. Sarah said before we arrived that, here, in this city, she felt invincible. Her new intimacy, or should I say, her deeper intimacy, with Melissa, is for me an enchantment. What else could a man ask for? Two beautiful lovers in love with each other…

The documents set out the role of the support team – us among others – in the Coven’s conference, named “Towards Universal Peace”, and the supervising role of the German authorities during the proceedings. I understand that the main conference is taking place in Unter den Linden, in one of the government buildings, with working sessions in other places, including the Russian embassy. The three of us have separate briefing notes in sealed envelopes. I decide to wait for the women to reappear before I open mine. I walk to the kitchen, open the fridge, and observe that Melissa has done a clever shop of everything Sarah and I love, inclusive of dry Mosel wine. I pull three lovely glasses out of the rack and walk back to the lounge, setting the glasses on the table. Then I fall asleep on the couch.

Sarah wakes me up. Melissa is behind her opening a bottle of Mosel. The two of them  are not wearing much, and I am stunned. We toast to our success and a happy outcome to the conference. For dinner in a few hours Melissa has invited us to a local Turkish restaurant a block away. Sarah sends me to refresh and change in the bathroom, while the ladies get dressed. Suddenly, I realise I have surrendered – to them.

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.

The Beautiful City

La Seine à Paris Early morning we walk slowly hand in hand along the river. The pavements are being washed, the sky a luminous well above our heads, above the city we love. We have come to the capital city to reflect, make love, and try to forget the strange adventure that beset us with the return of Melissa in my husband’s life, our lives.

Julian is taking pictures of the left bank as we make our way towards the Tuileries. There is still very little traffic, and a few pedestrians, looking forward to the sunlit day. I feel at ease with this place, the historic buildings, the light that permeates the stones, the trees, the wandering tourists. And I know that my husband wishes, in his words, to be reconciled with his birth place, perhaps also find an inspiration that has eluded him since the day he saw Elga among the military of the Alliance: that sight frightened him more than anything that he had witnessed before.

It has been three months now and we haven’t heard from Melissa, or from Gabrielle. We are aware that things have started changing in our world: the divided country in the far East that nearly brought us to the brink of war is now trying to reconcile its two halves. The Great Power to Be appears to have taking the role of benevolent mediator, and its competitor, the Great Power, is suddenly seeking peace… But we know better than expecting a miracle. Julian has bouts of despair when we hear of massacres and demonstrators being persecuted, tortured, killed, there and everywhere. There is a long way to go, but things are moving.

We cross the Seine on the little foot bridge, its edges decorated by thousands of small locks with painted initials. A year ago there was still space for more, now we smile, we would find it difficult to fit ours anywhere along the metal fence. A couple walks towards us and smiles, the two young women looking at me, then at Julian, our shorts, our short hair. They giggle and walk past. We stop and turn towards the sun, past the statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf. My arms around Julian’s shoulders I kiss him, full lips, searching him. “I wish Mel would call us or at least email us, or something…” Julian says looking at me deep. “Stop worrying”, I reply, holding him tighter still, “nothing can happen to her, as we know…”

We are now walking through the small streets of the left Bank, and I know it’s a bit of a pélerinage for my husband: he’s retracing the steps of his youth. The city is around us, immortal. We buy mineral water at a small shop, ran by youngsters, the taller boy smiles at me, I could be his mother. We walk to the rue Sébastien Bottin, and Julian says the name has changed to that of the great publisher whose offices are still there. Julian takes more pictures. We walk across the boulevard, stopping for another hug.

Lips On boulevard Raspail we stop at the bookshop and stay there an hour, browsing. The  manager takes a definite interest in me, her grey eyes inviting; oblivious Julian picks up the review – a double issue about Proust – and a biography of Flaubert. I chat with the manager who gives me her card, Julian pays for his books, and we walk towards the Luxembourg. It is now a little warmer, my arm is around Julian’s shoulder, in steps we enter the garden. People are playing tennis on the courts. We find a couple of chairs near the statue of Verlaine, Julian drops his bag, we kiss for long minutes, enlaced.

Hours later, in our room, near the République, we make love till exhaustion, which does not happen for two hours. As we get showered and dressed, taking our time and teasing each other, my telephone rings: it’s Gabrielle, who invites us both for the next weekend. She gives me an address, in New York.

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.”

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