The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: United States

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.”

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.