A Quality of Grace: Part Seven

A Quality of Grace Part 7

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, or click here to read part 5, or click here to read part 6.

Part 7/h3>

Anthony Lovesigh waited patiently in Champ.

He exhaled.

Champ the chimp, too, exhaled.

Wasn't it enough that he had spent the last four years in a wheelchair, expecting death to knock on his door at any minute of any day? To have his brain removed and encapsulated in an ornery machine? Be bounty hunted by insubordinate and conspiratorial insects?


That was not enough.

Fate had marked him for well more; had strewn his calvary with all manner of ensuing affliction. The most recent, his imprisonment in a ridiculous monkey's hairy body. All for trying to save a doomed Earth. A mother Earth that screamed to be helped and which expired on a year to year basis from her peoples' stupid mistakes. Peoples he wanted to take faraway, to distant stars so as to alleviate Gaia's back-breaking load. Give her a breather. Free her from a besetting cancer that would soon suck all life from her.

But beyond all else, his heart ached, and at the same time thrilled in anticipation, at the prospects of using his new fringe, perchance to reach her.

"Dr. Lovesigh," interrupted the man holding the phone and on whose lap Dr. Lovesigh glumly sat reflecting. "Excellent news. Fingle found him!"

Chickbrow's enthusiasm was quickly sensed and conveyed. And all hell broke loose for Lovesigh. He did two somersaults, land jarringly on a hard floor, climb up an exposed conduit, fling himself across space and swing breezily and single-handedly hanging on a fluorescent light fixture.

"Quick!" Lovesigh cried, fighting for possession of the chimps speech centers and its incongruous mouth, "sho-ho-w him a banana."

"Here, Champ--," coaxed David Chickbrow, Managing Director of Mite Industries Special Projects Division, and procreator of the professor's most recent misadventure. "Banana, boy!"

Champ plummeted down, all of five meters, waded to the other and climbed back on the lap. Chickbrow could not help but witness the chimp's eyes glow with some sort of delight. He wasn't at all surprised.

"Tha-ha-nk you."

Granted that his host this time was benign and an exceptionally stocked subject of high technology implants that provided him with a consortium of new, and some fascinating even, abilities to toy with: telekinesis, libraries of memory, marginal speech and detection of telepathic waves, a vastly improved biochip synergistic processor, and more. Dr. Lovesigh, nevertheless, hard as he tried could not cope with or have any control upon the beast's strange feral moods and bizarre, sometimes extraordinary and uncannily, 'human' reactions and appetites. No one possibly could, whether inside or outside the beast. Who wants another person under his skin, and for who knows how long.

"Low tones, Chickbrow, ple-he-ase," he managed to say between bites, chews and gulps. The chimp ate humbly stealing quietly glimpses at his bearer.

Fingle came again the next week, hoping to make more sense out of things.

"Abe," the President lit his cigar, "you'll be doing it for the World Confederation. There's nobody out there with your experience involving these four 'somewhat' idiosyncratic but basically benign gentlemen. It's their brilliance we're seeking, not their temperament. Just don't get personally involved. And you'll see things clearer."

Fingle took out his handkerchief and brought it to his forehead. He is sober and all there today, Fingle thought relieved. "Three, Mr. President. The fourth is still a chimpanzee."

He had as much as he could take, with all three. He had already sent in his resignation from what he called 'the animal farm' when the President himself asked to see him this second time.

"How unfortunate. Nothing could be done with Dr. Lovesigh yet?"

It turned out to be a very short session. Simply Xenon's Chief Executive had not accepted his resignation. Also Fingle had never seen the man in such complete candor and disquiet.

"All hope is lost without him, Mr. Fingle."

Fingle's handkerchief automatically covered his nose. "There persist difficulties in that area as well, Mr. President." Awesome ones, he said silently.

President Marcus closed his eyes and expelled a deep sigh.

"I didn't mean it to sound so final, sir," said Fingle, and blotted his forehead with a fresh, dry handkerchief. "We got the body from Dr. Bludrose, and purged the Omega of the convict's reckless soft-brain backup. The cause of our problems all along." Still, something nagged at the back of Fingle's mind.

The man across from him shook and nodded his silver locks, silently, his face riddled and grave.

"Tomorrow we'll be transferring Dr. Lovesigh from the chimpanzee to the new body."

"Is it safe--I mean going through the Omega again?"

What threats had Xenon expelled to drive the man to such a state of despondency? "Bludrose has eradicated all trace of the soft-brain program--the cubed I had shown you, Mr. President," Fingle repeated, to get the man to relax.

Fingle had paid for that cube in blood and raw pain. But he wasn't the only one. Seeing Lovesigh ricochet from light fixture to light fixture as Champ took his daily morning exercises--well, it's not easy for an acrophobic.

A rosy, broad grin produced and accentuated what very few people knew to exist on Fingle's otherwise straight, pinkish face. An adorably charming dimple.

"Want to mete out some of the joke, Mr. Fingle. Or is it privy?"

"Not at all, Mr. President," Fingle said. "Dr. Lovesigh's and the chimp's genes simply don't seem to mix so well."

"The new body should be safer. Less violent."

"...lobotomy...Inherent violent mental attitudes." Just then, Chickbrow's words of a few months ago struck Fingle like a blow from a mallet. Abruptly, the grin faded and the dimple evaporated.

Fingle's face turned utterly solemn. He weighed how much longer Lovesigh could remain inside the monkey against the proclivity of mal-traits--as those possibly dormant in the awaiting convict's body.

"Safer, Mr. President?" he said, feeling his stomach sink.

Mite Industries Special Projects tracking sector resembled a hybrid of the Wall Street Exchange at peak hour and, what used to be, the Strategic Air Command at drill-time.

Chickbrow left the vault door behind. An orchestration of whines and clicks commenced when electronic locks and hydraulic tumblers secured it.

NASA was never like this.

"Obsessed clowns."

He felt entombed within Tutankhamen's Pyramid.

Several familiar faces scurried by, hardly aware of his presence. Paranoia in their eyes.

Knitted brows straightened and the frown lines on his forehead smoothed out. His stride quickened. On the way to the complex center he unbuttoned his collar.

The place reeked of sweat and souring coffee.

The double, glass doors whooshed shut when he crossed the threshold and entered the glazed island, cutting off the noise asunder.

"What's up?"

"Sorry to get you up," Jeremy said, his back to him, his eyes darting over three monitors. "We got a winner here." He shot a glance at a digital read-out then back to the monitors.

Chickbrow propped himself against one of the modules.

Mike Stromberg's raspy voice groaned next to him. "Take a look." He handed him a pad and scooted to his console.

Chickbrow pinched his ear. "Give me relative course shift."

"Twenty-eight degrees, eight minutes..."

"Just rough stuff, Mike."

"...and accelerating."

"What's pulling our little mascot?" Chickbrow's black- looked into Jeremy's light-blue eyes.

"Gravity." Jeremy tried to remain calm. He knew better than to antagonize that falcon gaze. Something about that look gave Jeremy the spooky feeling that he was on trial for his life. The feeling may have been incited by his boss's rather gaunt face, his spearing fixed look and withdrawn smile. Still...Jeremy had been with him all through the five years, attending him as if Chickbrow's edict was a mark on Jeremy's performance. Jeremy weighed painstakingly before he spoke again. "Came out of the jump to reconnoiter..." eye pressure, "...as per standard procedure..." An acrid burning scalded his empty stomach, "...and got locked in a gravity well."

"Try rocketing loose?"

"We'd waste precious fuel--"

"More precious than risking the project?" The lean man walked to a stack of print-outs.

Nothing. Nothing recorded but interstellar vacuum.

As if reading his thoughts Mike returned, "Vacuum doesn't have an attraction field," for an instant their eyes locked, the voice went flat, "equal to a mammoth sun."

Mike Stromberg, short and stocky, got up and headed for the door. It was time to make his rounds and initiate the countdown Chickbrow was so set on, pump ship too. The two glass blades hissed open at his approach. In streamed the buzz and din beyond. He paused a slight, "The jump pods are kaput. Lucky we got telemetry," the door hissed behind him.

That'll rattle him up some, he thought, and bolted for the head.

The two men inside the transparent shell remained silent. Through the thick glass of the control center Chickbrow saw a hundred hustling figures, all toiling to save SEPTOR and its crew of two.

Thirty days had gone by since Ark 1 hurdled into the artificial fringe and outward into far off space to chart a course for the Orion Constellation. The follow-up was to be a massive manned mission, the first of its kind. If SEPTOR was aborted it would mean--the end of Lovesigh--and perhaps humanity.

"David, thrust countdown program instated--scheduled for one minute fifty seconds. Three five-second shots. Anything over--"

"I know," Chickbrow said putting aside his concerns. They had measured the attitude jets' and retro's fuel with an eye dropper.

He turned to Jeremy, "Give me spherical electronic and visual scan--maximum range."

In three strides he was over the other's shoulders scrutinizing the computer display.

"One minute thirty-five..." Jeremy began sequence confirmation.

Above their heads a cube five-by-five-by-five meters holographic lattice burst into life. Twinkling flecks of bracing, effulgent glimmers surged from it. Eyes from everywhere swang to it.

"Instrument scan still nugatory."

Chickbrow looked up--and heaved air in his lungs. "A plunge into forever," he murmured, and drew back two steps.

He squinted: myriads of stars and a quarter of the Galaxy. A shock of aglow, vanquishing everything else.

Jeremy's voice dithered, "What you see is what you get."

"Magnify." Chickbrow was deaf.

"It's empty out there--nothing but faraway stars and black space."

"Normalize image."

"Forty seconds."

It must have been Jeremy's tone that made Chickbrow hear the words.

"What did you say was out there?"

"...stars, space, the Milky Way..."

"Something else."

Jeremy rolled his eyes, "Uhm, 'Nothing but faraway stars and empty space'?"

"No. You said, 'black space'."

"I did?"

"Freeze it!"

The firmament's motion halted.

"Automatic countdown in twenty seconds--mark!" Jeremy wedged-in between ticking seconds.

"See it?" Chickbrow pointed. His eyes were tacked on the block of midnight that floated in air before them, towering above their heads.

"Urania the Muse of astronomy." Jeremy vied for some humor. "It's the Orion spiral of the Milky Way, David. That's all we've been staring at. Nothing there we haven't looked at before--"

"--Looked at, but didn't see." Chickbrow's face, the next instant, was flush with Jeremy O'Brien's, his mouth practically chewing on the other's headmike. "Autocount! Acknowledge new sequence. Ten minutes...mark!"

Chickbrow got his own head-rig on, "Mike, tell somebody to get Professor Krell on the secure line. And beat feet back here."

Mike Stromberg puffed and grappled with the throng of scuttling bodies that jammed the aisles. He halted, sputtered a few words to one of the crew. Then shuffled and shimmied his way through the rest of the beehive.

"No good firing those pip-squeak rockets," he disputed, mumbling to himself. "The pull on the puny craft is five times their top output.

"No way, Chickbrow!" he declared now to the throng, his nerves tired, his body clammy and sticky with sweat.

"Finished with the beacon?" Lovesigh prodded, locking SEPTOR's rocket controls into sync mode with Special Projects, and getting back to the half-done programming and computations.

They had distanced themselves equally far from each member of the binary star. The sheer forces were awesome on the hull, but it slowed them down enough and kept them from being swallowed up. It gave the Earth team time to prepare, check and recheck calculations of numerous scenarios. The temporal space-time continuum fluctuated dangerously close to discontinuity. This meant two different and diverging space-time realities. A new matrix of probabilities was being inbred as Lovesigh and the others toiled. Soon, the possibility was always there, the continua could divide to spawn more probabilities, and, ad infinitum. Already their time was slowing down compared to Earth's.

"Good God! They'll all be old men by..."

But something nagged and troubled Lovesigh. It hectored him with little regard for his priorities. And barren of respect for precedence.

Surrounding the craft were haze-shrouded sectors of otherwise black empty space and ahead the swirls of the pumice-black and rust-red vortex generated. Stars oddly enough did not take to the proximity of such disruptive forces. Although a few strayed at times and gouged into an eroded anomaly, and erupted the anomaly.

Lovesigh sat lotus fashion on the matted deck.

The chimp today feasts on his mood of silence, he thought.

He whisked his hairs off the silky filaments of the fiber optics and espied towards the large bulbous beacon fastened to the cabin's center.

"Bo's'n Champ! Report!"

Champ, in his goatskin briefs, waived his sinewy arms over the lackluster dome. To Lovesigh's mind came caricatures of demons prancing around hellfire, the ones he had seen in his books.

"Checking the quantatron," Champ hollered back.

"Your 'magic' touch no doubt," Lovesigh said, catching his scruffy kelembia under his legs. "All I taught you gone to waste?"

The chimp pantomimed with more gestures. Now his hands traced and his fingers pampered the onion head of the beacon like a clinician practicing the treatment of a pregnant woman. One that gave birth to fields so dense and finely tuned to direction and displacement that not one photon of light could breakout of their hold. Shadows so empty and black were these that they discharged such suction- and vacuum-capturing energies so as to rip off chunks, whole clumps off, the very quintessence, the infinitesimal grain of the known and unknown Universe. To capture all in the net. No known energies to man could escape the fine steel-glass lattice, the plexus of the optic fibers net.

"The pauper mystic," Lovesigh mumbled, somewhat less preoccupied, under the snarled hairs of his fat mustache. Then louder, "The exotic little chimp-Pan, complete with a manly, hairy chest."

"I prefer lost soul to Pan," replied the chimp.

Lovesigh had called it lost soul once or twice before. Deservedly, he thought. In a Galaxy of stars, planets and space-time the monkey would insist that all these were simply the foreground. Behind which thrived a spectral stuff he labeled 'the grain', packed with phantom particles that permeated the vacant span of the universe: God-grain he called it.

And all this since he had found the chimp vagrant and wandering around the jump pods and beacon which it had supposed to have been programming for their leap into the anomaly--but blind as a field mouse on the outlying ship's solarium some days before. A scrawny shaggy-skin creature plodding aimlessly under hot white light. All skin and bone with a gaping hole--where only a dent had been before--big as his toe, between its epicanthic, chestnut-brown eyes.

Lovesigh grinned. "Remember how many hours you were in that kiln, chimp?"

"Enough," Champ came back.


Enough not to yet have recovered, Lovesigh thought. Lost still in inky holes and whorling twisting devils. He shook his head and spurred his new hands to tease away at the optic fibbers' snags and snares.

Lovesigh didn't like it. Blind and branded would make it hard to work with the chimp. Lovesigh thought, stretching back his numbing shoulder blades, got to teach him survival; awareness that dangers stalk a blind chimp. Half dead he was in that sea of light.

"Your way with the feel and touch can't cure you."

Ah, but how did the ape manage to pick up a still-burning 'star'? Or whatever had come through the hull without as much as making a pock in it? Did it with naked hands at that. And lived to tell about it.

Lovesigh coughed and returned to the present with a pinched sour look on his face.

Got him a pair of bloated hands. Two charred balloons hanging down his sides. A useless chimp you had to feed and toil over like an old nanny for days.

"'Old nanny' indeed!" Lovesigh pouted.

Yet, since then, the gouged chimp, in its restlessness, betrayed an eerie flair.

Lovesigh flinched.

Champ had begun to read books!

More than books!

Read things on the metal vessel using every exposed inch of his body (but the puffed up hands): the country's restless history of the ship's wall material; the civil strife and political unrest of the continent the steel floor plating came from; of the optic fibbers' origin and the worn life of the slaving women sweating in sooted radio-active workhouses, who toiled for months over the machines and raw ingots that produced the unimolecular optical twine. Lastly, the chimp had touched its head upon the beacon.

"Part of a great ship, the great arks that hang around Earth. The beacon summons--" and Champ had suddenly plummeted into a mysterious, almost catatonic silence.

"--the little 'stars'?" Lovesigh had added excitedly, bending over and mildly shaking the rehabilitating ape.

Lovesigh had to wait.

"The arks," Champ had dribbled out much later, "the optic fibers computer, the beacon, this ship...are not the means by which to be saved."

"Gibberish! The Arks are ready and supplied. Waiting to free humanity from the oncoming catastrophe--"

Lovesigh looked away. "But where did that tiny 'star' come from?"

"They are only spores." The chimp looked rather uncomfortable.


"Yes. Spores of sustenance."

Then the chimp had faced unblinking the rising shine of one of the pair of suns coming into the ship.

"What sustenance, chimp?" Lovesigh had gruffed.

"Our sun is a positive aperture," the chimp had continued, "to networks vaster than the matrix of your fiber optics net. It has black, negative, counterparts--everywhere." It had raised a twiggy arm and Lovesigh followed it as it swept across a map of the Galaxy on one wall, and stopped at its other spiral.

Lovesigh had allowed himself a crooked smile, "Sol?"

"And elsewhere. All anomalies, even those that fringes simulate, harvest all loose energies, into separate super-condensed stuffs."

"The place of our origin? The little star had come from there?" Lovesigh's voice was low and shaking.

"Yes. But not star, man, and not only from there. They come from everywhere, from here as well." Champ had clammed up after that.

Lovesigh made a face and squeezed his smarting angel eyes. He glanced at the beacon and the chimp. With the passing of these few days he had come to know better. He challenged less and less the ape's accuracy, or ask how he knew. The chimpanzee proved seldom wrong.

And was a beggar for trivia.

"Explain 'arsis', Champ."

"It is the accented or stressed syllable in a metrical foot," Champ spoke while he worked, "as distinguished from thesis or the unstressed syllable."

"Sein und Zeit."

Champ, Lovesigh saw, took a hefty breath. "It is the analysis of man's 'being in the world'..."

Chickbrow pointed to the screen, "the source of our problem, Mr. Fingle." He waited a while. The other studied the heavens in front of him.

Fingle shrugged. "Can't say I follow."

Jeremy and Mike nodded in unanimity.

"Space is colorless, Mr. Fingle, empty space that is. It's not totally black. There is background always--direct, reflected or refracted light, gamma and cosmic rays, and a variorum of energy fields. The Universe does not stop because it cannot be seen.

"Yet, there, near the binary," he indicated by enclosing an area in a dotted red window, "the Universe--as we know it--does in fact stop." He pointed to the broad-spectrum meters lining the screen's bottom. All were pegged at zero radiation--and then some.

"That," he pointed to the gossamer of sparkling dust, "is the Orion spiral as SEPTOR sees it. Twenty-eight degrees longitudinally, the highlighted area, is the source to which our craft is being diverted. So strong is the interference that it disrupts our tachyon reception even."

"That spiral arm is thousands of light years from SEPTOR," Mike countered.

"It is, but," Chickbrow shrank two arrow-head cursors on a small segment of the window, "it doesn't quite fit, does it? Black emptiness in the middle of an otherwise densely populated spiral?"

"Debris cloud, dark matter," Mike contended.

"Having such an intense gravetic field?"

Jeremy angled his head to one side. "Too regular shaped for debris. Can't help visualizing something close, something between the Orion spiral and us. A planet maybe." His head now leaned the other way.

"A meteor or a planet reflects. Debris too. Even a neutron star nucleus. That," Chickbrow pointed, "radiates nothing. Like it's hollow."

"A hole!"

"All the fuel in the world wouldn't pry us loose. Wrong I was, Mike."

"Yea, but you got them sharp eyes of a falcon," Mike snorted.

Chickbrow loosened.

"Never told us how you came by that name." Fingle briefly took his stare off the monitors.

"Baptismal mischance."

Chickbrow half-remembered the night's dream. But the sensations were fully present. Feelings of protection and security. He was glad his grandfather's spirit decided to make amends for the minor oversights, and looked over him now.

He hedged a spell, then, "I was a month-old papoose when my mother left me with visiting gramps at the pueblo so she could go and get some grubs from the Post store. Mom kept a chicken coop behind the hogan. Supplied us fresh eggs and poultry meat. But it didn't have any door to it. Gramps was sachem, tribal chief. And partial to autonomy, and his daughter too. So the fowl roamed like steer over open pampas. Mom returned to find me being pecked by a flock of newly-hatched chicks. Nothing catastrophic, but my eyebrows gone and...the name."

A high-pitched whine from Mike's console intruded.

"Dr. Krell on the line," a nondescript voice called out.

"Put him through." Chickbrow hunched his shoulders and flipped the com switch. Then to Jeremy, "Tell countdown to keep us posted every minute on the minute. The last minute, every ten seconds."

Seven minutes remaining, the speaker echoed.

"Lately you've been reading more than me. And some fancy software at that." Lovesigh grunted. "But I'm no dimwit, makeshift soothsayer."

The chimp turned from the beacon and blinked at him once.

"You think I don't know the difference of a quark and a muon, a neutrino and a tau, an anomaly and a sun?" he said, pushing himself up from the matted decking.

Champ hunched his shoulders.

"What else can you call them? They've been 'stars' since we were thrown here."

"They are not just stars," Champ said, patiently and returned to pampering the cylinder that was the beacon.

"Twelve hours ago there was a whole swarm of them outside, like giant glowflies, surrounding this probe. And twelve hours before that...and before that. Why do we attract them?" Lovesigh stubbornly grilled on.

"Why us?" He had observed them gleam and glow through the visors and monitors. "Why here, Champ?"

Champ worked mutely, pushing at keys. Securing the beacon and doing his routine checks.

"The little star, or part of it, you had left behind sprouted an oasis, right in the midst of our vivarium, overnight. What are they that they are able to flourish such potency?" Lovesigh went on, in spite of the churning in his chest.

Champ did not turn from the beacon. "This, the greenhouse, we, help summon them to this place."

Lovesigh snorted, but deep down he was beginning to allow room for more reconciliation, without further cavil.

He crochet gently with the thimble-tipped fingers over the last configuration on the gossamer optic fiber plexus. At times a harpist could not render more grace. But now he felt apprehensive, sapped and preoccupied. The convict's body that they had given him was not all that young, or strong.

The intertwining abruptly gave a rippling surge as the final sheers were restored into their individual mesh. Lovesigh rubbed his tearing orbs and his shoulder.

Shortly after, a jet acre scooped off the ship and billowed above it dividing the emptiness of interstellar space, threatening to hoist them up after it. Four tie lines stiffened.

"More slack," he shouted. The snare, he watched on one of the monitors, rose higher still, spreading as it did, till it no longer bulged. Now the oblique flossy quadrilateral hovered rigidly like a huge black slab ripped out of a starless night sky.

Lovesigh tapped on the keys of his computer, testing one of the rising carbon steel twines. "It's over us, and holding, Champ."

"Before the night is out you too will see, fisherman of stars."

"More pauper's prophesies?"

The chimp turned away, as though the faculty of speaking stung it. The shifting light from the consoles in the otherwise darkened cabin bleached all sparkle from its already dim eyes. Robbed even the whiskery dimness from the hollow cheeks.

Lovesigh did not like the shadow on the chimp's face.

"Champ, what is Information Rate of a Source?"

Champ seemed to brighten a bit, "A number that measures the observer's average uncertainty on what letter the source will produce next with regard to past data concerning the message and a statistical knowledge of the source."

"Keats...any verse or two."

Champ looked thoughtful.

"Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."

Lovesigh detected more clouds gather on the chimp's puzzling countenance.

"That sums it up, Dr. Krell."

A long silence followed.

"Dr. Krell," Chickbrow called into the communicator, "are you still there?"



A sigh, "I'm only sorry I'm not at the center."

Four minutes remaining.


"I heard, David."

"Shall I stop the countdown?"

"Might as well. It makes no difference. A minute to us may be a day to them. We can't synchronize. But there's still instantaniety in communications!"

Chickbrow glanced at the other three.

"The time continua are different. Too late for anything, but--"

"There're accelerating. Reception is breaking down," Chickbrow reported. All four stared at the intermittent and erratic rips and wavering stars on the crackling holograph above them.

"It's slowing down our tachyons. Time's gone haywire all over. Unbelievable!" Dr. Krell muttered. A few seconds of silence hung like stale air. "No wonder SEPTOR cant jump. Tachyons can't function at light-speed, or below it."

"Damn! Dr. Krell. So--so sorry."

"We need a miracle."

Fingle sweated lavishly.

"SPECTOR is slick as a bullet, or a jumbo cannon shell." Krell finally spoke again. "Its jacket--the outside layer--is steel-glass, designed to withstand nominal micrometeor impacts and permit minimum conductance to extraneous fields. Its durable, solid, and, I believe, it will cushion near-relativistic acceleration stresses."

Chickbrow looked at an ashen Fingle.

Mike and Jeremy cued their agreement by nodding.

"It may. Not much of a choice, is there?" Chickbrow said.

"Splendid. And now the miracle..."

While the twin suns and the anomaly between them, and the beacon spawned the stars, the expanse of net would offer protection by capturing them. Lovesigh puffed as he and Champ, with hands now completely healed, together unfastened and lugged the tarnished, grim mass of the beacon into the vivarium. Stationed it directly under the greenhouse's transparent bubble ceiling and the net's geometric center.

Champ loped about barefoot. Lovesigh regarded the chimp with no less awe.

The feel is guiding its steps. Never tripping, never bumping. What more do those eyes see? he queried silently.

Lovesigh could not quell his yearn to see. Curiosity conjured up all manner of visions in his burning mind.

A sliver of pearly sun, one of the double giants, lingered yonder on the false horizon that was part of the overhanging net's edge. Then just a cyan glowing from behind the trammel. Lovesigh lumbered to the heavy steel taffrail around the gallery deck of the vivarium. Leaned his weight on it. He gazed over a measure of tranquil azimuth through the steel-glass bubble. He abided, waiting for the stars to come. Not long and the glum dead expanse will do the dance of light, he thought. His rumination then wandered.

Green and blue vistas of a far away world drifted his way. One so markedly deferent from all this. One his parents had reverently, and often nostalgically, revealed to him bit-by-bit. Had lived on in harmony to the end of their lives. A world Alexi wanted to reform...and one Alope adored.

"Mending airy circuit nets," he whispered, longingly, privately, "knitting kisses over a pretty velvety body--Alope, Alope, such gentleness, such pristine beauty, to lose a lifetime so early in life." Lovesigh reminisced twenty years past.

All that, had been before they and SEPTOR passed through the arched gateway of the fringe that the ark produced ahead of them, the open paradox in the warp and woof of the space between the vortices of the universe. Via one of the biggest man made anti-anomalies. And were expelled here, at the Galaxy's other spiral. The back of beyond.

But what of the world left behind; a world that was rapidly being depleted of its life sustaining properties, robbed of the life force which made it wondrous and rare? A world cheated of reason and balance.

Lovesigh had heard grim tales and gossip meandering around of disparaged ones who had chosen to leave it by dying. A creed of believers that would thrust themselves without the protection of steel-glass into the shadow of artificial anomalies, as that cast by the beacon, and disappear. It was said that they sought escape in solitude and new frontiers. Liberation from the people-swarmed, people-consumed continents--from people packed together like hives and hunted singly relentlessly for merely objecting to the status quo--by siding with a conjecture of an old, unproved hypothesis.

The creed initially emerged as a bizarre coalition of beliefs in the ancient faith and a recent but untested theorem. The archaic scriptures spoke of a life after, and the theorem had supported that all information entering an anomaly is preserved--the code of life included...

Anyway, Lovesigh thought with camaraderie, for most citizens there was not enough to this way of life to care any more.

In the twentieth century the Nazi party had the SS and the Gestapo. The twenty-first had the Intranational Government Party with its figurehead Presidents and their councils, the government men backed by the PATOS constabularies, and SIA. McCarthyism, the Klan, the Secret Police and the Sekuritatt were soap operas next to SIA. SIA overlooked and coordinated everything. Had people killed. Legally. On rumor alone.

"...NovaAmerica, we shall baptize this cleansed, prevalent and neoteric federate nation..."

But the trouble with the world had started long before. Somewhere around 1995. A few years after the other collapse, that of the Soviet Union.

"Uppity jackanapes," Lovesigh now articulated his indignation straightforwardly. "Ideals, like free economy, need checks and balances." He blinked several times facing the splendor he confronted through the vivarium's dome roof. It was as though he saw her...and in seeing her it boosted the courage in him. "Ideals need laws based not on any one reigning society, but on human values--no one nation is better or worse than another, Alope. People have the same organs and color of blood, all over. A bounded geographic piece of property does not change a peoples' humanity. The history is different, the customs and habits, the roots too. But not the nature of feelings; pain to a Bedouin is pain to an Eskimo, anguish from loss to death to a Kashmiri is anguish from loss to death to a Porto Rican."

Still, he wondered about the SIA dragnets.

Their damage to him, personally, had been a living death, ever since they...

But being rash now wasn't going to solve anything. Although the generals were too caught up in their surviving at present to pay attention to a raving old clump, the icy-blue-eyed, short-cropped, hay-haired, stoolies, roaming the streets, mingling with the crowds, pretending to be someone else, were omnipresent. How many had infiltrated his premises? That's why he had insisted that his manservant be from outside the country. Of old family kin. From good ol' and free Scotland.

Lovesigh had enough sense not to lacerate his roots. He did not find trustworthy people who commingled and fused impetuously. He slighted all those who pretended to eradicate their rootstock in an onrush of world confederated enthusiasm. He had misgivings about people who ignored, were ashamed of, their ethnic backbone. The theory of 'no national boundaries', tended evenhandedly, could work. But not the clause of 'no history or origin from hereon'.

Here the melting pot, for Lovesigh, had melted.

People needed their history to feel safe and belonging. To have a country and identity was not nationalism or even patriotism but a home to return to, and the birthright of each and every human being to their personality, character and uniqueness. It was the inherent right to be the individual in the human being and not the clone, to be the variety of natural selection and not the forced one. The right to have(to declare it loudly and clearly) choice(and not to fear it) differentiated us from the animal kingdom. Any psychologist would have said that much.

But arrogance does not ask.

It blunders.

In its blundering it wroughts up misery.

There is a critical point in population explosion, as there is a critical mass in stars--exact same thing. Pass this limit and a star cannot contain its own mass, explodes. Similarly, Democracy fails. Its bonding institutions falter. Democracy is a luxury when survival becomes the imminent question. Constitutional government transmutes into mob rule when foods are 'dusted' with poisonous(carcinogenic) preservatives, when clean drinking water costs a bar of gold, and oxygen no longer comes from surface greenery but from cloned kelp.

Mob rule is anarchy. It is the harbinger of insurgence. From here things can go either of two ways. Towards dictatorships and/or communisms. Or, if the population reduction is at a maximal(enough people had been killed by insurgence), it can go as far as an interim Democracy of a sort--as in The Sub-confederations of Reformed China and India. Neither of which is survivable in the long run.

These are only transitional phases, as is the exploding star or nova, Lovesigh considered staring at the conflagration beyond the dome. Once burdening mass is gotten rid of, the new star stabilizes temporarily, or permanently if enough mass had been trimmed off, and becomes a white dwarf--smaller but manageable. The same applies to populations: when they are diminished enough they can be managed by Democracy. Otherwise, the cycle is repeated again and again until natural stability is reached. The laws of nature, the laws of statistics and probability, apply to human populations as they do to stars and everything else everywhere. The force that must be generated by people to overcome these natural tendencies has to be exponentially huge. The force de facto that is generated by people is very, very minor in perspective to the Universe we are part of, in which we live.

Hope lies in the stars, Lovesigh reflected, and took a longing breath. Only if people could see. So many Earths out there, waiting for us. And much, much more, Alope.

Lovesigh's face lit up for that instant. His cheeks grew peachy with a trifle blush of crimson. Who knows what more the good professor saw out there. What manner Universe his extraordinary mind had visions of.

But it's no excuse to leave a spent Earth behind. Because we will do the same with each new world, and it will go on and on. No. We must learn here and now good housekeeping. Or no telling how many Earths we'll mangle. The Universe is bounteous, but not there for man to rape. We must curb being pampered children and learn to respect the laws of Nature, the very same laws everything in existence abides by. Because if we can destroy an Amazon and an Africa, we can destroy a planet. No difference.

But people must have strong roots in principle and good breeding to respect and tolerate each others differences and heed the world around them.

He brought to mind how the great experiment had failed. How people felt lost without their ancestral heritage. Their roots. Roots hold a tree up through a gale. Roots of a wholesome history bequeath to their citizens wholesome pride, and not false pride. Without rootstock people withered. Or invented, like the generals, an illusional heritage. For the generals it was to be in the future, this El Dorado of a legacy.

A convenient promise in more ways than one; they would have it their way or no way at all:

"Instead," they would bombast, "of a passive, inactive history, mold a dynamic one in the future."

And clench to it like rats to a life-line for dear life. Lovesigh's thoughts wallowed in sundry sarcasm, caustic as it was to him; a lifelike but speculative future of plushy but empty-of-fact delusions and of promises without one strand of collateral. A Garden of Eden, minus the flowers. Valhalla, Inc. The Elysium fields, lacking green. Nirvana and Sons. An Islam's Paradise, but without the milk, the honey and the virgins.

He pondered, unnerved, on a history in the making, of its futuristic biasing, prejudice and leanings.

The onset of the history in question had begun its industrious illustration back in the '20s. The maniacal implementation of delusion at its outbreak. It had commenced with a somewhat farcical, but dead sure bravado which still persisted, ostensibly untainted:

"If our past history is not a solid ally of our aims, then we shall mold our history anew from an unshaped yet future," declared the generals. "...We will operate on the patient of history so as to bring the ailing patient back to health...things that have not happened, but are likely to transpire, like in our history of events, our history-in-the-making, shall be made to happen to the degree and scale that they do in fact take place unmistakably, and upon the severest of penalties. To generate a propensity of upheld government-endorsed historical expectations we shall..."

"How can you mold a future history?" sober people around asked, confounded. "How does one produce history artificially? As you do pop corn? Where and when does a past history stop and a future history commence?"

So after this decree, and progressive failure in this scheme, people wanted and demanded to know where they had come from, just as to where they were going. A plural society does not have to obliterate genealogy, kinship, derivation, they contested.

And were shot at.

Folk contended for the governments not to migrate swarms of people around the globe.

But, divide and conquer, the governments did.

So they detached even more ethnic groups from their place of nativity, and truncate dangerously lingering ties everywhere. Within governments, too.

It mattered not to the harmful rulers that it had been discovered that ethnic origins, geography and climate, quite often dictated a person's health diet; sun exposure vs. melancholy and depression; the presence of the sea and swimming as hydrotherapy for those with genes holding from islands or coastal regions. Ignored basic soundness of physiological facts like that of blood type and which revealed the nutrition that was most beneficial and less harmful to that individual. One who had type O blood was not compatible with the same kind of intakes as one with type B.

"Nature is the melting pot," Lovesigh talked to her, and Champ stared up at him from where he worked, "in nature's own unique and biding time process." People cannot force on people, Lovesigh conceded silently now, ethnic blending and assimilation by ethnic obliteration any more than they can by forcing ethnic cleansing, as history had taught. As international communism had educated, in itself, when it tried to abolish without regard all history having no benefit to communism.

Now, after the USSR experiment, the newest and biggest, and most tragic, experiment of them all trundled the three biggest continents bringing them to there knees. It was again due to mule-headed, unruly escapades, corruption and neglect, lead by a handful of cloak and dagger terrorists, a phony treaty organization compiled from dregs of warmongers and riffraff mercenaries, down-and-outers business upstarts, ragtag scavengers of exploitation, and slag religious social climbers calling themselves proselytizers, or revivalists, and such nonsense. As expected, the principal territories of the Americas, Europe and Asia reeled headlong into the decimation of what once had been a fairer, nobler yet sober, a more balanced sovereignty.

The SIA, this quintessence of global power, through the generals and police who were the constabulary authority of PATOS, and the plasmatic, or the fictive and appointed, governments they had spawned, was attempting just that: To have each nation in the form of a small simile of the world. To shotgun formulation and standardization so as to make their hitch of control all that much easier, practical and long-lasting, on people too preoccupied to organize opposition.

However, you don't experiment against your data and the verdicts--the precedence data--of history. This legacy had been left to us, Lovesigh silently defended, by supreme sacrifices and victories. And, if nothing else, has taught people not to force nature's hand. You don't coerce evolution. It took the nature of mankind hundreds of thousands of years--perhaps millions--to develop, and through natural adaptation and acculturation mechanisms to effect a balanced world community. You cannot force-feed evolution upon people, social or physical, as you stuff oats in geese, through funnels. You keep your hands off peoples history, their roots and heritage. Otherwise, if not society, the nature of society will respond. It will kick back--and here Lovesigh used a no no word--rebel.

But Europe, North America and Parts of Asia did attempt it. Ventured to forge a world without countries.

The outcome: Pandemonium and wholesale killing.

Ahh, but computers too can be an insidious lot, Lovesigh now admitted in a change of mood. A life-sustaining planet the computers had said for this locality of the galaxy. They had packed the probe, their ark, like Noah's Ark, greenhouse, vivarium, terra-forming equipment, a monkey with half the libraries of the world in its brain. But as yet, no life-sustaining planet. But two naked suns, and a gapping black cosmic garbage-disposal right smack in between. Luring SEPTOR like a fly to light--black light.

Lovesigh felt a tugging at his sleeve and turned from his ruminations. Champ stood beside him sullen as never before.

"Eat before the shine rain comes."

Champ's eyes were straggly and melancholy. In its extended hand was a flat plate of seasoned gri-gri meat and green herbs.

"I'm not hungry." He watched by the lantern's glow the luster-speckles in the other's irises and it reminded him of the stars' glory. Lovesigh's voice softened. "A heavy stomach does light work."

Champ's other hand now fondled the plate.

What's eating the chimp? It was not like him, this discomfiture. Lovesigh could not explain.

"It is tin with a ceramic layer baked on." The chimp commenced to scan the plate's history. "It comes from a sky ship's galley."

"Read me its age," Lovesigh asked, forgetting more important things.

"Older than you, Lovesigh. Much older. The metal was mined on the other world. So were the minerals of the coating."

"Earth, blind chimp. Earth, the blessed."

"Yes, Earth." Champ patted the plate. "Gaia."

"Earth, Gaia, no matter--we are its seedlings scattered, by intention or not, here: a mote of matter in parched space amidst dunes of invisible lethal radiation and sterile seas of vacuum and illusive cryptic little 'stars' to harvest, instead--instead of--"

He lulled.

"--of fruit-bearing green turf and pregnant frothing blue surf. They come, Dr. Lovesigh."

To be continued!