A Quality of Grace: Part Five

A Quality of Grace

By Vasilis Adams A.

If you have yet to read the beginning of this story then click here to read part 1, click here to read part 2, or click here to read part 3, or click here to read part 4.

Part 5

Teach me, like you, to drink creation whole
And, casting out my self, become a soul.
--Richard Wilbur

A cozy new world.

Unite to obliterate identity.

The irony made Chickbrow quiver in his car seat.

The irony charred and chipped away at his innermost tenets. But the promoters of all that went wrong with the world had not the vision, the boldness and virtue freedom needs to breathe and live. So they choked freedom. Smothered it under the guise of 'planetary civism'. And their brave new children attempted what wise men dread.


The new order of things to come was to be a supranational Earth.

The by-product, a form of totalitarianism that would have stunned Orwell. Chickbrow had mastered well the old volume. It had been given to him by his grandfather. Chickbrow had not neglected any of the other's words.

"There must be an antipode," the old man had told him, back then in the thirties when Chickbrow was still in his teens.

"It's the pivotal point of any kind of Democracy. There has to be either bona fide opposing political parties, or nations. Communism may have posed a threat after the second great war, but as well had been a check and balance on our Democracy: what Democracy needs in order to be in good health.

"When the Soviet Union collapsed, and China adopted the Chart of Limited Free Enterprise, the West fell in the very selfsame rut a score of others had fallen. No threat. No contention. No controversy or opposition. Presumption. Smugness, conceit, coquetry or self adoration. I call it being spoiled rotten. Democracy has to have debate to survive. None of that cute stuff. Too much agreeing degenerates it. It can happen to countries just as easily as it can to children. To young or old nations. Particularly to ones that have never felt the stomp of a conqueror's boot on their native soil. Have not endured defeat. Not suffered humility. Vanity, like that in oligarchy, is a flaw easy to detect but difficult to rectify. Because it suits the handful who govern. Power is never easy to step down from, David. But in the history of mankind there has never, never, been enlightenment in power. Never has--a smidgen even of--good come out of it."

The sachem, what they used to call grandpa--a Ph.D. in Social Science and an Assistant Professorship at Harvard Government School seemed as good testimonials as any--taught one thing and lived another. He had done this to survive the anachronistic despotism that somehow creeped in and managed to rule unchallenged over half of the world for nearly half a century.

The wealthy half.

"Before it had become through-and-through ripe," the old man had told him, "and impose itself by force in 2020, tyranny had been noiselessly but resolutely slithering like a snake closing in. Oppression had been smoldering like smokeless coal before the flash of fire, for more than a full twenty years."

Chickbrow's grandfather in all modesty was set on besetting his damage over the greatest number of top honchos over the longest period. He was part Hammurabi, part Confucius and Alexander, a Che and a Nathan Hale. But most of all he was a true American if there ever was one. To the marrow, a Brave.

"Babylon, Egypt, Rome were not brought to their knees by conquerors from outside. They were vanquished from within their own stockade by narcissism and abandon. By their own over-confidence."

The third millennium, Chickbrow reflected, was going to be full of surprises. His own removal from the space team had been one. And racism had everything to do with it. It seemed there is a cycle in history in which some form of intolerance prevails speechlessly. The circumstances, in this century as well as the previous one, were favoring the Hi-Tech informer, the corporate yes-man, the company infiltrator.

Definitely not the redman.

He checked his progress en route. He was still more than fifty kilometers from his destination.

"The place is going to pieces. Who heard of monopolizing transportation?" He tried to shake off an avalanche of black thoughts.

He fixed his eyes upon the road ahead.

One day he had been orbiting over Tibet. His observation ports lavished with the prominent, clear, frosty peaks of the Himalayas. Unexpectedly, he had been swept by an abrupt, powerful desire to about face outward and shoot away, far from this place until all of the Earth was behind and all the stars clearly ahead of him. He had resisted it, finally to bank down towards Las Vegas Spaceport and land, as he had times before.

This night, as he approached the central facilities through the familiar network complexes, he could not help but notice the lighted Mite Industry symbol blaring back at him atop the Administration and Management Building. It was a chrome triangular insect head--that looked more like an inverted pyramid having two dark amber eyes--with two copper antennae-feelers rising to form an incomplete triangle that enclosed a cast bronze and sea-green Earth.

Soon, he hoped, he would run through that gap in the antennae triangle that pointed, and gave access, to the sky. And see the stars. See them as he had never seen them before--up close. He did not realize until then how much he had missed being out there.

When he thought of those who were responsible for his being taken off the space program as active astronaut and placed in this gopher hole--Chickbrow felt ancient inborn instincts surface and surge out in an uproar. He beheld in his mind's eye images of bows and arrows, spears, and streaks of red and black paint on sweaty tense bodies, and listened to tom-tom's beat to the raucous of stormy dances around a blazing fire all night long.

Poverty groups were all over. Beggary and abjection had been herding to such degrees so as to make Chickbrow's sad at heart. People were fed up with the standardization of their lives, of having others choose for them. They were not software, a routine, a program of repetition. They were sentient beings, a humanity conscious and alive. They had initiative and wanted to use this incentive.

Chickbrow shook his head. Maybe the individual citizen in a world of eighteen billion was a petty subject-matter. So what, if a few million went under.

"They can't manage this planet," he said, loosening his collar. "They've established that much."

He just wanted to sink into himself and come out when it was all over. Nothing was more sorry than a poor act, a performance sans artiste, a doggoned flop of a show.

"You sure made a mess," he heard himself mumble. "You didn't miss a thing--and people want out. It still doesn't make sense." He tried to figure out what more the government men wanted? "We're making complex sky-scrapers, and they're tumbling down on us. Where is it taking us?"

He broke off his soliloquy, heavyhearted.

Chickbrow's color had roots, and this didn't let him forget it. He was the native here. All others were immigrants. They were the conquerors. And they screwed up what they had conquered.

The conquerors had massacred his kind. Maybe they're getting a taste of divine intervention, he mused.

"If a God of the Christians could exist, why not Spirits of the Redmen? Now, maybe it's their turn. Mortals cannot kill Spirits and Spirits, as do Gods, bring nemesis," his grandfather had told him.

Chickbrow had come from a proud lineage.

He sometimes shrugged it off.

But it was not false pride.

And he was not ashamed of it. He simply made concessions where he had to. And occasionally he became irked with all that he saw go on around him.

At cycles like these he reverted to methods modern society had lost from memory. He journeyed high on a mountain. Above the cloud of smog. He stripped his clothes off. He needed to feel the sun and cold needle his skin, penetrate deep inside him; to sense life effervesce in him fighting the heat and cold off--thus live. He breathed the pure biting-cold oxygen deep inside his lungs. Feel it slowly transform him into a closeness with all that surrounded him...up there high. Let the islands of puffy white clouds, a stone's throw above his head, in a deep indigo sky, have him.

After...he was the calmest man in town. No pills, no alcohol, no nicotine, no gorging himself with trash food. No skull-joy helmet to pacify him, no holographic media so as to keep him tucked nice and safe inside....

Going outside for a stroll was frowned upon in NovaAmerica. It bucked its motto: Quiet, Order, Security.

He produced a lemony smile and touched some keys on autodrive. He didn't really have to be on a mountain top.

Or be completely naked.

But it helped.

Jeremy, the bespectacled mite-tech, tapped Chickbrow on the shoulder. "We're ready."

Chickbrow glanced at Fingle and the two-star Space Force General next to him. "Are we?"

Fingle eyeballed the General and gave a quick nod to Chickbrow.

They crossed over into the deep, twinkling wing ahead of them which was engulfed in a sea of flittering fireflies.

Brilliant profusions of splintering lights spangled and shimmered where Mike Stromberg, another mite-tech, stood, his head bowed, next to one of OMEGA's terminals modified with I/O audiovisual and holographic faculties.

Fingle cleared his throat.

"Dr. Lovesigh...Dr. Lovesigh, can you here me?"

What was Dr. Lovesigh stirred, and gathered the parts of himself into a focused wedge of self awareness. It took him, it seemed, forever to get a fix on himself and vanquish the jolt of realization that he was not quite all there, that most of him was missing.

Chickbrow gestured to the tech to raise the gain.

Both speakers and monitors jumped to life.

"Never thought I'd be so glad to hear your voice," came the dull guttural gargle through the audio. Flat, emotionless. A belching sink siphon might have burped the same way.

Big bold letters appeared on the screen and two printers hummed.

The men looked at each other.

Fingle loosened his tie and mopped his face with his handkerchief.

"How do you feel, Dr. Lovesigh? I do not understand all your words...enunciate more slowly and articulate succinctly." Fingle felt his face was on fire.

Michael, standing beside him, looked his way and cleared his throat, distinctly.

"Ditto." The same textureless voice sounded, but more intelligible now, better-defined. "I am alive. But unattached."

"The interface programs," Chickbrow cut in, "haven't run yet."

He halted, then commenced over, altogether retarding his pace, in check, molding each utterance individually. "YOU ARE NOT LINKED ONE HUNDRED PERCENT WITH THE REST OF THE NETWORK--YOU DO REMEMBER THE PROCEDURE?"

"Nothing wrong there--memory is intact. But..."

A pause.

"But, what, Dr. Lovesigh?" It was Fingle again, sweating profusely.

"Somebody else in here."

"It is your backup being generated, sir, before interfacing. Last minute measures decided--" Chickbrow lapsed an instant, "--by higher ups. Duplication will be down to your chromosome configuration. It's as far as we can go."


"Dr. Lovesigh?" summoned a red-faced Fingle. "Dr. Lovesigh!"

"It couldn't be any of your doing?" The metallic voice had a slight baritone to it.

"I don't usually make decisions--"

"Should've made this one."

"--but for this one," mumbled Fingle panting, and glancing around him for cheer.

"A damn intelligent one. Credit to you!"

For a moment, Fingle bristled, but only for a moment. His eyes grew and his mouth pinched. His face couldn't decide whether to grin or scowl.

"Can you describe it in there?" interceded Chickbrow. His eyes swiftly scanned the life-signs readouts and the recording equipment.

"...in the middle of a lush nondescript lattice--no, tangle. But see and hear you clearer now--"

"That's the anesthesia wearing off," put in Chickbrow. "In a few minutes the detoxins will purge your cells."

"Along with the other feller, there's an echo too."

"That,s the recorders--"

"No, I'm on to the recorders. This is something else."

Fingle's eyes were on Chickbrow.

"Dr. Lovesigh, it may be your duplicate. We can isolate that once the backup is completed--ten minutes' time," assured Chickbrow.

"No qualms with that. One of me in here bungling through is enough to cope with. There're all sorts of weird flack loose throughout--quick things, flickering and flashing in sheer space."

"Your awareness is recuperating. You're experiencing more of your environment," Chickbrow said. "It is your new body, Professor, welcoming you."

"That conglomerate of...oh hell. How do I say, 'glad I could make it'?"

Chickbrow grinned, "You just did."

"Dr. Lovesigh," Fingle hesitated, "how does it feel in there?"

The pause this time was longer, and with each second Fingle felt in dire need of something. Air--he was holding his breath.

"A hard dream. A movie in a nondescript space with some firebolts swishing about. Not much to work with."

Chickbrow, "You're not hooked up to the whole system, Professor. In a few minutes, with your assent, you will be. Or, whenever you're up to it."

Fingle prickled.

"You got your breath back, Mr. Fingle, but I still detect discontent."

"Time, Dr. Lovesigh," the other whispered, "is of the essence. The monkey is almost ready."

"So am I, Mr. Fingle. So am I."

To be continued!

Copyright 1997 by Vasilis Afxentiou

Vasilis is from Athens, Greece and can be contacted at: vafx@hol.gr

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