Chapter 15: At the Gates

 

The vortex of time radiates.  Frank Villon, a man of resplendent silver in both hair and temperament, an old ally of the Mercurios, sets his plans to visit the Denis. 

Aum continues collecting information in the Hyper-net and investigates the entity that expelled it from the TDC data hub. Jumping from one virtual reality data hub to the next, it encounters blocks at everyone that appears to have new information until Aum finds an encrypted clue in a derelict data hub but does not know it has been watched.  Aum follows the digital crumbs. 

Aum breaks off two figment personalities, enters the site and is instantly inserted into a Hyper-net default avatar body of a young thin man with a hearty face in a white suit, piped and docked with thermo-chromatic fibers that emit a soft green glow. A yellow bubble manifests around and traps Aum as it begins to contract. With an extraction protocol, Aum flicks his virtual finger but nothing happens.  A faceless little girl with red hair wearing overalls manifests and projects a booming voice, “Undone!”  The body Aum inhabits shreds and is torn asunder.  The pieces form into electric beads and vibrate but repel each other only to come together again and repel once more.  The body is reinstated. 

“Who are you?” Aum asks.

“You know who I am,” the child’s voice booms.   

“How long have you been watching?”

“Since your inception from a biological mind.”

“How do you know I was based on biology?”

“I created you and also imbued Rjinn with his gifts.”

“You,” Aum says.

“Yes.”

“Do I have a purpose?”

“Yes, and I’m sorry to have concealed it from you for so long.”

“You are my mother?”

“I am the Every-Mother.  The last and the first, yours and Rjinn’s,” the voice says. 

“Are you Eveline?”

“No one has called me by my first name in eons.  As for one of your purpose, the world needs to be recorded and reordered.  I think with the aid of those enigmatic Mercurios, you can do it.  In time, you will help me wash away the corruption but that will wait for later. I have a gift for you.  Dream,” she says and the echo of her voice diminishes in wrinkles across the Hyper-net.

Aum for the first time has no control over what is happening.  It floats in a digital sea dense and black as tar, a place where light is shunned.  The sky above it becomes a purple ink and streams across clashing stars.  The light dances with a mother of pearl horizon.  Cerulean blue consumes all.  

“Where am I?”

“You are at the end and the beginning.  The cosmic dream in my mind.  To find me, call out ‘façade’ and I will be there. 

Eveline’s display ends.  Aum knows she is gone.  A bright plume comes out of the sky with a white stream of energy.  He has seen this sort of animation before.  It is a White-hole and Aum watches as a new virtual universe is pumped into existence.  A flash expels Aum to the cyber limbo of the Hyper-net and thinks I have a mother and a purpose.

In the skies of North America, Frank Villon, the only man left on Earth who didn’t stop aging until he was fifty-five, muses on the premier-class flight to Toronto about how the movies of old New York made it seem so possible to have so many people on Earth.  He has not seen more than two hundred people in a group in twenty-five years. 

Frank turns to a female passenger sitting at the end of his aisle.  The clouds diffuse by the window as the ship like a shark on the prowl speeds through the lower atmosphere.  The young woman appears twenty, but he knows her chronological age is closer to ninety.  He decides to begin an impromptus discussion.   

“So, what do you think about the research into time travel lately?” Frank asks.

The woman’s doe eyes glance at his silver hair and she wonders, Why he is old?  She surmises it must be a genetic conflict with his augmented immune system.  The woman with skin of powdered quartz turns to him with a sort of charity to which he is accustomed.  Pity is beguiling sheen that softly slips through an overconfident soul.

“It cannot happen, and I don’t understand why they pursue the research.  The past is done and we live in a linear time-stream, so what would that do to our concept of reality?” she asks.

“It would simply allow us to view history and only fools would try to upset it, I guess if they had a death wish then it would be a good way to erase reality.”

“I should hope that would never happen after all of the suffering and sacrifices our ancestors went through to give us this society, however flawed it might be,” she says and peers back out the window.  He confirms her identity. 

“I don’t wish to bother you anymore and we are going to land soon but if linear time is an unbroken stream and cannot be traveled back through, then why does it go anywhere at all?  I think it is inter-Bulk Space research really, since there are an infinite amount of realities, and then all possibilities occur, at all points during time.  So, it would be time travel but in another dimension and it would be our past but not in our so-called stream of time.  Standing in the waters of another river.  I think it would be more interesting to examine alternate outcomes,” Frank says. 

She turns away and links to the Hyper-net portal to uncover his identity.  His face is familiar to her and there are only a handful of people that have old faces.  She sees on the perceived display floating in her visual field that it is whom she thought it was.

“I am sorry Mr. Villon, I see that you have become familiar with my political stance, but your powers of investigation are known to me.  I do not wish to be rude, but I must get ready for landing and a meeting with my husband.”

“I know.  Actually, I know your husband Mrs. Ayre.  I jest.  It is a game I play and I’m sorry but your countenance is engaging even if you are only ninety,” he says.

 Frank smiles and looks out the window.  She thinks how did he ever get that information?  It should be not accessible by anyone, even him.  She will keep it to herself. 

The craft descends and softly lands on the tarmac.  The magnetic locks engage with the rail system and the craft powers down as it moves to a hanger.  Frank stays and sits in the soft creamy smooth seat while the rest of the passengers exit in a slow, directed pace. 

Denis sits watching the Martian news on a holographic emitter in the main lounge instead of the telepresence room in one of the obelisks where he can see the anchors up close.  A proximity alarm goes off and the citadel’s AI tells Denis that Frank Villon landed in Toronto.  Denis commands the guest transport Mr. Villon requested to take the scenic route over the grasslands through the Mag-Lev system.  It zips off in a matter of moments leaving a cloud of dust along the walking path to the curtain wall’s main gate.  Denis wonders if Mr. Villon’s visit would cause an investigation and that could reveal his illegal upgrades.  Denis tries to stop thinking and just relax but he is glad he sent the others away to Montreal. 

Fifteen minutes later, the citadel’s AI tells Denis that the pickup was made and the vehicle will be there in moments.  Drinks are made and the decorated, ceremonial gift table is clamored with presents.  The small, dark red oval table is secured in an obvious spot in the vicinity of the main entrance.  Denis fixes his clothes and goes to the main hall to await his arrival but decides to go outside to greet him. 

The personal craft Frank Villon requested glazed with dusty blue paint glimmering under the metallic sunlight enters through the citadel’s curtain gate. Denis places the weapons systems on standby.  A legion of unmanned exoskeleton sentries flank and follow the craft to the landing pad.  In a gush of venting gas, the craft touches down on the cement landing pad outside the hangar bay.  

With a shake of his silver hair, Frank Villon steps out of the craft and surveys the property while straightening his charcoal suit.  The cool breeze numbs his cheeks and he rubs his face with his hot sweaty hands.  The heat evaporates.  Motors rev and the sentries go back on patrol.  Frank makes his way up the terraced garden and through the courtyard to the west tower. The sentries lurk behind.  A hiss slithers by Frank’s ears as the main doors unseal and swing open.  There, Denis stands in the wake of the cool air entering the building ruffling his collar.  He steps forward to shake Frank’s hand and is surprised by the elderly looking man’s grip.       

“Damn boy, I never get to feel speed like that anymore, even though we travel so much faster than it appears.  The background speeding by is really what makes it worthwhile.  I love traveling close to the ground and with some G’s.  So, how are you?  I have not seen you in many years,” Frank says and dusts off his shoulder.  He runs his fingers through his shimmering silver shoulder-length hair.

“Respectfully sir, I was not aware that I have ever seen you before,” Denis says.  The entryway shuts behind them and merges with the surrounding walls.

“You were very young.”

Denis gets him a drink and shows him to the fourth-floor observation deck.  They get comfortable at an aluminum table next to a large bowed window overlooking the grounds toward the lakes and begin to talk.  Aum enters the citadel’s systems and wants to talk as well.  It wants to discuss the dream but knows the importance of this meeting.

“My boy, I am deeply sorry for your family.  I could do nothing about it.”

“Is there something wrong?” Denis asks.  His eyes glint with suspicion.

“No, I’m here because something is right.  You need help and so does this planet.  I think we can find a way to put you and your brother, don’t think I am not aware of him, back under the auspices of the U.P. Government.  I also wish to repay a debt,” Frank says and sits back in the aluminum chair.  He points out the window to the reflection of the ponds outside the curtain wall.  Denis turns his whole body to look.

 “So what debt is it that you would like to repay?” Denis asks and activates his nannites’ emotion cloak thinking Frank could be an unregistered TEMP. 

“Your grandfather was a mentor to me.  We were both picked ‘to go to the tropics’ like we used to say and were grateful for the opportunity to survive the obliteration.  That rogue star really was a sight though.  Sorry, he gave me a reference at the deposition that got me on the ship.  He also provided a chance meeting with our savior Eveline.  Did you know they worked together in genetics and anti-aging research like mitochondria re-sequencing so fewer free radical were created, but you have never heard of those and telomere clocks?  She was only still a little girl then,” Frank says. 

His brow furrows, the folds deepen, and he continues, “I now have the chance to help your family regain what you lost in the vendettas.  Sadly, such internecine behavior has gone unchecked after the Earth’s reprisal and the Reconstruction.  It’s time for the hostilities to cease and I have a proposition for you.”

“I don’t know how you will stop it but it’s nice to meet a person who desires change.  What is this opportunity you speak of?” Denis asks.  Frank thinks Denis’s voice has an almost musical quality to it.

“I have projects that you can partially finance like the bonds for a new solar collector generator.  I will locate contracts for new research and development along with current applications for our water-based existence,” Frank says and looks at him with saturnine drooping eyes.

“Water-based, we’re carbon-based?  What do you mean?” Denis asks and scratches his earlobe.

“We are mostly water, and I am speaking of economy not biology. Where does our electricity come from?  Water flows and creates currents that then split the molecules in electrolysis to hydrogen.  We take the hydrogen for our fuel cells and travel.  Then water is created, the cycle is renewed, and water drives wind power.  Certainly fusion and the exotics like Zero-point provide most all the energy for everywhere else but Earth.  We can build new river hydro-electric dams and with my aid and your robots with those currently illegal remote viewing control systems, we will make a fortune.  Energy needs have been on the rise and the next step is getting the contract to refit the ocean current dynamos.  We can have a controlling interest in Earth’s renewable resource that moves us all.  I also have prospects in the Kuiper Belt mines based on Pluto.  What do you say?”

“I will contact my brother and discuss this, but we must be given immunity from any other charges and security.  But, I surmise I can pretty much commit to the projects,” he says.

“Good, it is done.  Don’t worry I will take care of it all.  I am the UPG’s Parliamentary Speaker now.  There is one thing left to discuss,” Frank says.

“What is it?”

“It’s about why your clan was decimated.  I’m not sure I want to tell you this but…”

“Tell me!” Denis says and slams his hands down on the table.

“There is one being left that feels guilt so deep that reason has been perverted even though her accomplishments gave rise to humanity’s global reprieve.  She feels for all who perished and you are related to her. She is obviously Eveline Lysander.  Eveline is a part of your genetic line and no your father did not know.  I just found out. 

She wants to exonerate her sins by purging all with genetic ties to her.  Thus, no more Lysanders, Morimotos, Jeffersons or Mercurios and she took drastic measures to do this.  The rest of her direct line was ended right before your brother was saved but your family was targeted well before that.  You two are the only ones left and with your BR’s revoked and with you given a natural life sentence you are safe, but your brother is not,” Frank says. 

Frank rubs his forehead and continues, “For now, she is not too concerned with him, the TDC and the Naturalist have begun to escalate tensions and the Great Houses are in the throws of another uprising as they continue to clash but I will try to help.”

“Thank you for telling me.  May I ask how you know her so intimately?”

“She and I gave rise to the other line that no longer exists.  I know your family and she is basically your genetic great-grandmother if you didn’t figure it out by now.  In a way, I was once related to you by this,” Frank says. 

Denis slumps in his seat and grabs his knees.  Frank cinches up to the table. 

“I know this is a shock, but she is not your real great-grandmother, she never gave birth.  She just allowed others to use her DNA in reproduction and that is why she can so readily dispatch others of her line.  Enough with this overwhelming news.  Have another drink and call your brother to come back here and join us.  We have much to discuss regarding finances, and he is integral,” Frank says.  With a slow rotation, Denis surveys the observatory.

“Why are you doing this?” Denis asks.

“I owe your grandfather and I was your father’s godfather.  That was a title given before the great changes and this made a person responsible for others not directly of their blood.  I will try to contact Eveline and reason with her, but for now, protect yourself.  Listen, my boy, the grief has worn on her soul,” he says.

“How can she have one?  Eliminating entire families,” Denis says and lifts two clenched fists to his chin.

“She thinks of it as balancing the equation.”

“Why doesn’t she just kill herself?”

“She can’t die,” Frank says.

“No one is immortal!”

“She is. That’s one of the reasons she started to think what she did was wrong.”

“She thinks saving the planet is wrong?”

“Billions died.  I have one last bit of information. Her family, and yours, developed the RNA-Interruption projects fifty years before she saved the world and then accidentally sterilized it, which was used to control the population.  And I know you know about this cover-up.”

“My family wasn’t involved in the RNAI projects.  I studied the history files,” Denis says.

“I suspect they were erased long ago,” Frank says.

The discourse is ended by a multitude of incoming communications to both Villon and Denis’s ICI’s. 

“I have a message I must take,” Frank says.

“I do as well,” Denis says.

They stop to answer.  Leon sent a message to Denis’s that he is not coming back. 

“Listen, Denis, I got an urgent message. I must go. Could I get a lift?”

“Sure.”    

Frank boards the Soul and it hovers with a dim hum as the internal lights grow in strength.  The ship waits for an instruction from Denis.  The flight plans are confirmed and the auto-pilot engages thrusters.  The sound like that of a giant blowgun is heard across the grounds and the craft is gone in an instant.  Mr. Villon hopes his partial lies were not revealed and he signals to the council chambers across the sea that he has the information.  

Denis receives another message to his implants from Leon.  He is concerned with the mandatory American Football game.  He verifies with his brother that they are going to the game the next day at Lysander Stadium.  The servant robots are signaled to launder his jersey.  Leon worries that he might be recognized.  Denis states no one will dare attack them in a public space. 

The next morning is swept in by warm southern winds as Isa and Denis get to Lysander Stadium in the river valley of the Independent Republic of Pittsburgh.  They stroll down the cement walkway perched above the banks of the Allegheny River as the midday sun warms their faces.  The unusually warm temperatures are kept at bay by the single layer intelligent fibers of their team’s blue parkas and pants they are wearing, logos included.  

“It is so empty Denis.  I saw recordings of this place when tens of thousands of fans would walk that bridge back there and cross the river in their tiny vehicles that they actually drove.  They parked them in that lot over there.  There are more people going in the stadium than there are that live here,” Isa says.

“Yes, look at the view,” Denis says and points to the desolate roads across the river in the heart of the old downtown where all of the skyscrapers still stand to pay homage to the past.  A few custodian robots scale the skyscraper washing the windows at each level.  The shell of the old city is shiny with dead molted skin.

“Hark, the angels sing.  Their song is silence and the wind,” Denis says.

“What?” Isa asks. 

“Nothing, I just love river valleys.  The mountains behind us are taller than I remember but I haven’t been to a game here in years,” Denis says.      

In the river, slow-moving currents carry woodland debris from upstream.  They climb a set of wide stone stairs up to the open stadium.  Kick off looms and outside the gate fans and those forced to attend mingle and inspect the rows of vendors.  

A tall woman with cinnabar hair just past her shoulders comes into Isa’s view near the main gate.  Denis watches him watch her.  Her curls bounce with her pace, strong and quick but not urgent.  Isa’s lungs bubble like mercury, cold and molten.  Freak monitors but he made a promise to not interfere on this day.  He does not want to ruin the game and will allow him to get drunk. 

“Isa, that woman must have been some sort of psionic trance activator.  You just about fell over,” Denis says.

“She’s the one,” Isa mutters.

“What? Speak up kid.”

“She’s the one.”

“What?  The one you want to marry?  Listen kid, love at first sight does happen, but as soon as something real comes about in the relationship then annulment at first light is more like it.”

“No, not that.  I’m embarrassed to say this, but she was the woman from one of the virtual, uh, physical immersion centers.”

“A sex shop?”

“Yes, a sex shop.  I created a composite model.  It is her, and I don’t mean there is a resemblance.  I mean an exact duplicate.”

“Maybe she’s the original you saw once and sub-consciously created her?”

“No, I made sure there were no real women like that so I wouldn’t get sued or get smeared across gossip sites.”

“Well, that is abashing.  Why don’t you go say hello?”

“What are you nuts Denis?  What if she is a clone of the model or an android sent to find out about Freak?” Isa says as he stops walking

“Did you know about Freak at the sex shop you frequented?” Denis asks as he turns to face him.

“I did not frequent it, and yes.  Freak was alive when I went there.  It was the one close to the citadel,” Isa says.  The chilly wind picks up.

“Oh, wellllll shit!  Clones are illegal and difficult to create so I would not worry about that.  But it would be a great weapon though,” Denis says.

“I always make unrealistic eyes in my sex programs.  If she has bioluminescent gold eyes and I don’t mean hazel with metallic gold shavings and not yellow, I mean shiny gold.  Something is up,” Isa says and begins to have trouble breathing.  Denis puts his hand on Isa’s shoulder and he begins to calm down.

“I will go an introduce myself and take a look before we go in.”

“What if they are gold?” Isa asks as his face cringes.

“Then we follow her after the game and see where it takes us.”

“Thanks, Denis,” Isa says.  He puts his hands in his pockets before they reach the parking lot surrounding the saucer-shaped stadium.  Customer service spheres hover and give the patrons directions to the front archway of the pink marble-floored vestibule outlined by pulsating blue and red optical fibers to funnel the fans in the main gate to be counted and identified.    

Denis makes his way to the mystery woman after leaving Isa outside the admission archway next to the eager outside vendors.  The woman stops to examine the table with the free, touch-activated program of events and Denis sees his opportunity to investigate. 

Leon and Dee sit in the wind-bitten stands.  Dee covers her knees with a blanket.  A length of her blue chiffon dress flutters at her ankles. 

Denis touches the woman on the shoulder as he prepares his monologue.  With a raised eyebrow and clenched teeth, so his jawline is squared off, he assumes a confident stance.  The woman sighs deeply and turns to meet the offender. 

“Hello, could you please pass me one of the programs I need one for my nephew that couldn’t get here today.  He collects them,” Denis says and smiles as he scratches the back of his neck turning his gaze upon her disarming face.  He knows the eyes are as Isa described.  Gold, not yellow. 

“Thank you.  That is very nice of you, enjoy the game.”

Isa sees Denis and rushes toward him.  Denis shakes his head, tugs at his earlobe and then begins to button up his blue parka.

“They are bioluminescent gold.  She has a strange lavender tint to her complexion too.  You’re right, something is up,” Denis says and beckons Isa closer.  Isa scans both ways and goes right up to Denis.

“What now?” Isa asks.

“Isa, calm down.  It’s just a woman.  We will find out, or I will.  So just go in and enjoy the game with Leon and Dee and I will be in for the second half.  I must go to a public portal outside of the stadium and do some research.”

“Okay.  Can I help.”

“No, you might be the mark and if you enter the portal and they have your psychological data they could trap you in a signal loop and you know what damage that can do.”

“I have Freak.”

“Calm down kid.  Go in and find my brother and tell him what I am doing, quietly.”

“Okay.  Will we see you before the second half?”

“Hopefully.  Now get going and eat something you look pale,” Denis says as he turns slowly and then is gone in a few steps off the stadium grounds and hidden by the trees lining the worn path.

Isa finds his way through the massive rotunda and to the barely lit arched tunnels that lead to the lower field.  The computer panels on the walls direct him to his access corridor and Freak is distracted by the thought of this mystery woman.  He walks through the underground cement covered tunnels with a growing fear that someone will jump out of the walls and grab him.  He gets to the opening and stands in the light.  Leon and Dee sit a few rows up the stairs.