The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Physics

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.

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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.”

Dear, so dear brother… (sisterly #love)

Jane I am ever so pleased to see you Julian: you look well, you have left behind the worried eyebrows you wore for some time. I know Melissa and you are reconciled. I can tell from your look and hers. And I know what you think: she’s perfect isn’t she? She’s no ghost from the past that young woman, but someone who cares for you, who admires your work, who follows your progress. She reads what you write, she’s made comments on her page: have you visited her page Julian? She’d follow you everywhere if you were alone. I’m smiling as I say this. She cannot and would not compete with Sarah: they also love each other very much… But I know you know that too.

I now think that the past matters very little. Yes of course you have your memories: but you live in the present, don’t you? At best those images – for that is what they are – are a mere backdrop, perhaps material for your writing, an inspiration for some short story, or maybe even your next novel… Your life is now. Sarah says what you learnt from Gabrielle and Elga has made you think again. I am glad. Hopefully this will find its way in your writing too: not a remembrance of things past, but our futures, our future, yours, Sarah’s, Melissa’s and mine. I feel that we are now inseparable. You know that Melissa and I are lovers. Looking back at our first meeting on Chi, it was inevitable. She cannot love you as she no doubt wanted, so there is me, your sister (I sense your puzzlement). This way she won’t trouble you. And I must say, I don’t regret anything: she’s a wonderful companion, she loves Sarah, and, yes, she still think of you as the unattainable young man she, or whoever preceded her, knew long ago.

But let’s not stir the nostalgia: we enjoy our relationship, Melissa and me, and we love you deeply, brother. Melissa says that Elga was impressed by Sarah and you, the way you listened. I understand that she – Melissa – and Elga are often corresponding. She also said that to understand the science the coven has at their disposal, you need to think of nanotechnology, the art of molecule-level engineering. They are working at the pico level, a millionth time smaller in scale, making engines from particles, building new assemblies with those electrons and pions our physicists are still struggling with. You know the recent asteroid, the one that crashed in the Urals breaking a lot of glass? Melissa said that, while she could not be sure, she thought the coven uses asteroids to spread planets with small “observers”, tiny recording devices that feed back all sorts of measurements, not only in the visible light spectrum, to their labs… Amazing isn’t it? I can see that Melissa admires them, with reason. By the way, Elga will pay a visit here soon. Mel will let us know when and where. I love you.

Your sister, Jane.

So vast is the Universe

Elga There is a bright wood fire on the beach with low seats around it. We make ourselves comfortable and listen to Elga. We can hear the sound of the waves and the crackling of the fire: I feel time moving extremely slowly and wonder once again at the science who brought us together here. Elga says:

“Let me explain first some of the things you need to know about us beyond what Gabrielle has already told you. Like you we are individuals organised in societies. Since we have been science-based – I think this is the right description –  for much longer than you have, we started contributing – perhaps the right word is influencing – our evolution a long time ago, say, back several tens of thousands of your millennia. We now live in collectives, what you would possibly call covens, although as individuals we still have autonomy. For example Gabrielle – not one but a cluster of us – is nearly on her own in your world, but all of us can follow and are aware of her actions and interactions on Earth. This way of life has led us early to take an interest in other societies and other intelligent species.” As Elga speaks I observe my companions: Sarah and Jane are listening intensely, Melissa’s looking at Sarah, smiling. Gabrielle appears deep in thought, eyes closed behind her thick glasses, and I guess she may be communicating with others in the coven.

“So it was, continues Elga, that some of us became specialised in space exploration. By this I mean not only geographical space exploration, but also the physics of space time, and the complex engineering techniques that eventually led us to what we can now achieve: near instantaneous transportation. We made many mistakes at the beginning: we lost people in ill-planned premature adventures, we got frustrated at not meeting anyone “out-there”, a feeling that some of your own scientists know well. After several millennia we understood that time was the issue: intelligent life is plentiful in the universe, but synchronicity – the wide enough overlap between two civilisations to permit communication and meaningful exchange is only a small probability. Again some Earth scientists have come to that conclusion too, but the consequences have not been drawn yet. So the project was born, and we called it the Search… We had to acquire the ability to travel through the entire space time continuum in order to meet others. At that point we influenced our biology again, and this led us to virtual immortality, although we no longer see it that way. This allowed us to colonise our own galaxy over about three millions of your years, and took us to yours, the Milky Way. Relatively recently we came to your world, to Earth. Sol and her system was noted for its relative friendliness to intelligent life. So when you finally appeared, we were not that surprised.” Elga paused, as she and Gabrielle appeared to be both somewhat absent. Minutes passed. Then Gabrielle appears to wake up. And Elga resumes her story: “The project has several aims, the most important is to support and observe – as innocuously as possible – civilisations with good prospects for lifespan. By this we mean societies that are capable of technological and scientific development with low risks, or manageable risks, of ruining their environment or sinking in warfare, and thus are probable candidates for some synchronicity. Another is the protection of our own species and our allies’ against any malevolent species that could become a danger to advanced intelligence, the “high risks” cases. There is third one, which is to prospect for past civilisations that may have perished, and research the reasons for their disappearance, what you would call cosmic archeology.” I am looking at Elga and she is looking at me, a direct gaze that signals to me that she, or “they”, is searching my mind. “I understand, I say, what you meant by “special roles”… You meant that we are to help you, maybe provide evidence, for the Search to assess whether we are in that category of potential risk to you…” There is another pause. Sarah and Jane are now looking towards me, and so is Melissa. Elga appears to be thinking, her classical face suddenly showing a range of feelings. It is Gabrielle who answers me: “Yes, Julian, you are witnesses, and also part of the evidence we need”.

Husband, brother, lover…

Melissa

Sarah, Melissa and Jane are talking, they are talking about me. I know this because I am sitting upstairs, working on this story, the story of us, and I can hear their voices downstairs in the lounge, laughing and suddenly quieter, almost whispering.

What surprises me most is how comfortable Sarah and Jane are, holding a normal conversation with Melissa. Indeed is it Melissa? Is my long-dead friend really back with us, or is it an illusion created in our minds by Gabrielle’s sorcery? I still don’t know. Sarah and Melissa meet often, in this house or in Gabrielle’s old house, which Sarah and me have started calling the “time capsule”. I have told Sarah about Gabrielle’s tale of space-faring and teleports, and she smiled, she smiled knowingly. “I have no doubt that Gabrielle’s knows a lot about stars and galaxies” she said, “and I know also that now you believe everything she tells you”, she added with a kiss on my nose.

I fear a conspiracy: the three – or is it four? – women in my life, my wife, my sister and my old friend back from the dead, somehow conspiring to make me believe a fairy tale. The old space travellers, a civilisation of awesome power, colonising not one but several galaxies… Last night Sarah made tender love to me: the moon was shining a spectral light through our window, and I could see Melissa’s smile on my wife’s face. Am I being possessed? Is Melissa a devil? The three of them are having a good time and I feel a slight pang of jealousy, as if I were excluded form a very select club: Jane’s clear voice rises, she’s telling a story. My younger sister is so beautiful. I am surrounded with beauty, and afraid of interrupting a conversation which is about me. I asked Sarah if she thought the black holes tale made any sense. Her reply was slow to come, and she finally said: “our physics breaks down on the horizon of a singularity, we have no way of knowing what goes on inside, or even if there is an inside…” She thought a little longer, then said, “the only thing I know is that their existence is more than a lose hypothesis, they must exist for the universe as we see it to make sense…”

Later on we talked about dark matter, and about experiments designed to prove its existence beyond doubt. Sarah’s view seems to be that Gabrielle has given me a very simplified view of what really happens in space travel. But she does believe Gabrielle comes from “elsewhere”, and probably far away. Sarah’s theory seems to be that Gabrielle may come from our future. I am suddenly aware of silence downstairs, and then of Melissa’s voice, and I listen.

My friend is talking about the old town, our town, the narrow streets, the small shops and museums we used to visit. Jane is asking her about the school. The school… There is something unreal about what they say, as if they were watching a film of my youth, as if they could access any second of my past.

I hear Sarah’s steps in the stairs. “Would you like to join us?” I sigh. Melissa and Jane are talking in low voices, deep in one to one conversation. There is a hologram floating above the reading table near the fire place. It takes me some time to recognise what it is: the old church in my town, in vivid relief. Sarah says: “Melissa has a collection of those. It appears that they can reconstruct the past too…” Then I realise the hologram shows the church as it was before the war, and my mind slides back to my childhood.

There is an orchestra in the street, people are dancing, children in old-fashion clothes are playing, horse carriages ride past a small group of people standing on the pavement: but those are not my memories but someone else’s… I look at Melissa: her green eyes are fixed on me, she’s smiling, Sarah’s hand is on my shoulder.

Wisdom and renewal

 Melissa was talking to him in his sleep about higher mathematics, about the marvels she was learning with her new teacher. Her new interest in physics amazed him, his recollection of her was of a rather simpler type of girl: how she had changed… But he was trying to follow, she was so keen for him to understand, she was talking with passion, of their future, of the new sense of her own existence, her search for him. She said she would never give him up, she was learning to achieve something: to reach him in his world, the world of the living.

Adoration Sarah and him had stopped calling her “the ghost”. For his wife, Melissa was “your friend”, or, when she felt playful, “your personal alien”. For him she was a new person, who inhabited the body – or more precisely – “a” body, for now inaccessible, so much like that of his long-dead school friend. The girl Melissa of his present had the memories, and much of the spirit, of the other Melissa, but she was a different being. Her difference was her modernity: she was a woman of the 21st, not 20th, century, despite the old fashion style of her Page. For a start the “modern” Melissa was talking to him in his sleep: talking, not appearing, and she was talking to convince, possibly even educate him. Her sentences were as clear as crystal, and, in the morning he remembered everything: what she said about her studies, her teacher Gabrielle, the new chapters of physics and mathematics she had just learnt. She was indeed busy, and seemed to absorb sophisticated mathematical and modern physics concepts and theories that were already beyond Julian’s grasp. He did not understand what she was leading at by telling him about her studies, and how it would allow her to “reach” him. Evidently she knew of a link between the two, between her new knowledge and “their” promised intimacy.

However he was no longer anxious about her, nor thinking about his “lost years”. She – or someone – had carefully edited her Page, which now was more accurate, and only contained what, to him, looked like original material. It also went beyond their “story”, which, for Julian, was reassuring. He visited her page regularly and had started to write on her wall. What he wrote was comments on what he’d heard in his sleep, reflections on the work she’d told him about. He’d checked some of the articles she quoted during her conversation, and it was all genuine. She was reading very recent papers on astrophysics, astronomy and quantum physics, that were far beyond the comprehension of a college girl, or even most graduate students. For he saw her as she was when he left: same age, same looks, same appearance to the living. And indeed Melissa had confirmed, via her Page, that she was as she had always been since her “return”, more than twenty years ago. Sadly – he thought – he could not meet her, or, at least he could not yet: in his dreams there was, always, an expectation that that “barrier” was not final, that Melissa would find a way. His rational mind was telling him it was all a fable, that there was no such thing as coming back from the dead. But the beautiful fact was he did not see it as that anymore, but rather, as a subtle reincarnation, one of these rare miracles of genetics that, once in a millennium, created an identical twin, but remote in time from the sibling. The first Melissa had died, of that he was certain, but someone who was very much like her, had been born, and was looking for him.

Sarah thought the two of them, her husband and whoever it was who was claiming the person of Melissa, suffered from a sweet delusion. She did not have a complete theory of what had happened in reality, but she imagined a friend of both of them, someone who had known them both in their youth, perhaps one of the “jealous” girls of Julian’s college memories, had somehow picked up Julian’s current whereabouts and created the “myth”: she would be Melissa, reconstructed and, ultimately, reincarnated. Julian was sharing all his dreams with his wife, so that Sarah, herself not a mediocre physicist, knew of Melissa’s work and had concluded that the person behind it all was a serious scientist or mathematician. In her view this confirmed the prosaic nature of the phenomenon Melissa: a real living human being, who was pursuing something that might have started as a joke, or a bet. But Sarah would not speculate where this may lead to: she was just keeping note of what Julian told her about the night’s voice.

So Julian was deep in his work, and was beginning to follow a new routine. His dreams recurred once or twice a week, which was enough to keep his mind awake to Melissa’s progress, without becoming obsessive. Most of his awake time he did not think too much of his friend, but concentrated on his writing, and on his wife. Then, one night, Melissa said she wanted him to meet her teacher, Gabrielle.