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2206 : Window Onto A New World Book I in The Threshold

Chapter I – Homeworld

By

Christopher Stewart ★ Bookcast Edition – February 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Christopher Stewart

★ All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

★ Bookcast Edition - February 2012

★ This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Prologue

I

must admit I was shocked when they contacted me to contribute to this document. After

all, I knew none of the major actors of this astounding drama at the time, not personally anyhow. At first, I refused because of the memories I have associated with that year. But seeing how insistent they were, I finally gave in. I trust it's a necessary passage on the road to maturation. I suppose those areas of my psyche could use more love to heal completely. When I asked why they wanted me to write about that year in particular, they argued that I was one of those who had actually experienced the effects of the crises. Whereas the others had only been remotely aware of the circumstances back then, mostly via the media, I had survived them. And I couldn't argue with that. My role seems so insignificant though, in comparison to theirs. It's frightening what they can do with all this new technology. Apparently, they've pinpointed one specific weekend when many of the crucial conversations took place, between only a handful of individuals, and which ultimately gave rise to the world we now live in. I guess it's euphemistic to say that upheaval was in the air. It's fascinating to look at those events in hindsight, and realize how it could have all gone awry. And yet it didn't. I wasn't involved in any of those exchanges. I only made my entrance a little later. I know it's a clichĂŠ, but had I known then what I've learned since, I wouldn't have done half of what I did. So, I imagine I should be grateful for my past ignorance. It could hardly have happened in any other way. Mysterious ways indeed ! In retrospect, 2206 was one of the worst years of my entire life. In fact, it was the worst. Still, everything started to shift around the end of that last quarter. I was about to turn 38. I'm not quite sure of my age anymore, with all that travelling. Not that it truly matters anyhow. My father had just died, and my mother and I were homeless. I recall finding a roof was nearly as difficult as finding a job. But then again, there were tons of people in our situation. The Chancellor was probably the most decried the Federation had known at that point. Economies were collapsing in the wake of the global financial crisis. The unemployment rate was skyrocketing. The climate of the whole planet was weird and threatening to get weirder. Our land became worthless because of it. Cynicism and individualism prevailed. I bet the Allenists were having a ball. It was the gloomiest period ever. Perhaps it's only when conditions go beyond the intolerable that we can collectively decide to react. In my opinion, that epoch marked the height of the materialistic approach, and paradoxically, its distinctive characteristic lay in how it made increasingly evident that the system didn't work at all. It had been fundamentally flawed all along, yet it's as if around that time we acknowledged the flaws. And then the changes swept over us like a tsunami. It's amazing how quickly things can alter when everyone puts their shoulder to the wheel. We had become so concerned with the parts that we had forgotten the whole. The whole hadn't forgotten us though, and it reminded us spectacularly.

Basically, the idea was that everyone and everything was evaluated in terms of performance, productivity, and profitability. We were attempting to make every single process profitable, on the unfounded notion that if each part is profitable, then the whole will be profitable too. However, in doing so, we lost sight of the whole, which became less and less acceptable. So we ended up with a bunch of more or less profitable parts, that no more assembled into one coherent, efficient, satisfying whole. To use a crude analogy, it was as if every organ in our body were to be appraised according to its capacity to transfer oxygen to blood cells. Obviously, it can't work like that. The organs must be allowed to do what they do if the body is to function properly. That mentality had become ingrained in our culture through our education systems. Its aim was to shape productive workers. We were trying to mould people so they would fit the materialistic conception of the world. No wonder so many thought they were growing crazier with each passing day. Hey, even I was in that lot then. Now, instead of trying to tell people what to do, we show them how to recognize for themselves what their role is and how they can fulfil it. We help people become better persons first and foremost, and then the rest follows naturally. Our challenges are clearly very different now, but I believe we've made the choices that will afford us sustained peace and justice. And from these bases, anything is possible again. Eugene Pettibone, Pioneer Three.

★

Chapter I

Homeworld

« The Global Space Agency has confirmed the measurements of the space telescope. I can hardly believe she has done it again. Centuries of dedicated research couldn't even predict the existence of what she has foreseen in details. I don't know whether I should think of it as miraculous or as unavoidable. The year is drawing to an end. The campaign will be over soon. The timing could hardly be any more perfect, and the situation could hardly be any more inspiring. Words fail to convey how elated I feel. » – Excerpted from Bernard Sturn's diary entry for 46.4.2206

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B

ernard Sturn generally enjoyed travelling back to Ovel , and the present visit was

no exception. The prospects of meeting dear distant friends in the flesh and taking an extended stroll in non-virtually-simulated nature compensated more than enough for the long days aboard the not so comfortable shuttle. Indeed, the chance of temporarily leaving the sanitized living quarters and equally bland scientific facilities of the near desert Veshtar represented a welcome source of relief. The opportunity of again tasting the delightfully luxuriant chaos of urbanized life on the motherland was a rare treat. All that combined made him forget about the official motivations for the journey. Or rather, under normal circumstances, he would not have minded them much. A puzzling finding had made it necessary to advance the spaceflight by a few days, and the researcher had thus hastened to depart, with very little preparation time. The trips between the third and fourth planets usually coincided with their conjunctions, when the orbs approached their closest alignments, but even though the voyage had been a few days longer than usual, his enthusiasm was greater than usual too. This was a unique occasion. He was invited to comment on a discovery that was not as much singular as utterly unprecedented. And considering the promising changes looming on the political horizon, this was anything but routine business for the tall, dark haired, bespectacled man in his late forties. These were extraordinary times, and even possibly extraordinarily rewarding times, when he would at last witness the fruits of so many years of dedicated efforts bloom into full maturity. As an additional bonus, the rush had meant reaching Ovel just at the start of the weekend, enabling him to dine alongside some of his favourite people. Carrying a travel bag over his shoulder, and closely followed by his automated suitcase, the minimal, strictly essential baggage he had brought over with him, the famous scholar kept walking in the direction of the doors which led to the main parking lot. The driver who was supposed to have been sent to greet him typically waited for him there. The casually clothed expert scanned the busy terminal of the immense spaceport in the hopes of locating the employee of the Global Research and Development Administration. But his gaze was irresistibly attracted to the darkening sky he couldn't miss through the huge transparent dome covering the vast open space. Sunsets were definitely to be counted among the small pleasures of being on the homeland. And though he could only distinguish a few of the brightest stars that heralded the nightfall, the sight easily rivalled those common to the world he had escaped for a too brief while. As he again looked in front of him, amidst the many passengers who crowded the noisy area, the space engineer finally saw the person he was searching for. Standing by the entrance, dressed in the habitual black three-piece suit and wearing shades, the athletic, bearded, bald man was devouring one of his customary between meals collations, this time a gargantuan sandwich, which allowed the The Threshold

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pundit to confirm his identity from the distance. Waving at him, appreciating the gradually calming feeling that came from recognizing someone whose company had always been enjoyable, the former educator was glad and relieved to learn who would once more be in charge of his security over the weekend. After chomping at his hors d'oeuvre, Daniel Milton waved back in response and exited the hall via one of the many pairs of big sliding doors. The physicist hurried forward, zigzagging to avoid passersby. Valuing how the image of the archetypal scientist he nurtured afforded him unhindered progress despite his celebrity, he ultimately left the edifice. –

– –

« Where do I take you, professor Sturn ? » respectfully asked the chauffeur in a deep bass voice after swallowing what remained of the snack, removing his sunglasses as the public speaker joined him outside the intermodal station. « Good to see you again, Daniel ! » genuinely offered the quadragenarian, smiling, « I'll go straight to my hotel room to shower and change, and then I'll be eating out with friends » he declared as both men loaded the luggage into the trunk of the two-seater, « you have no idea how much I love the fresh air of our good old ball of rock » he commented after taking a generous intake of Ovelian atmosphere. « Well, sir, the air on Veshtar must be really bad because here it's polluted as hell ! » the big bodyguard retorted, prompting another wide grin on the face of the obviously tired project manager who proceeded towards the door of the compact transport. « I know, I know » concurred the renowned specialist, « but at least it's not lifeless and insipid » he noted in a more serious tone, recalling the clinical dryness of the labs as he sat alongside his muscular helper who raised his eyebrows and tilted his head to the side in agreement. « How was your trip ? » inquired the attendant as he started the engine. « A lot busier than normal » observed the consultant, « which was very welcome given that Veshtar is not at its closest from here these days » he pointed out to emphasize the unusual duration of the journey, « but that was to be expected after the news about the discontinuity, I mean, the discovery of the Global Space Agency... surely you must have heard ? » he queried the giant. « Of course, of course » corroborated the hefty driver, « everybody's been talking about that since they announced it » he reported at once, « you can't surf the net without seeing anomaly this and wormhole that these days » he remarked in jest, « you can go ahead and call it discontinuity » Milton told his client, « I've been brushing up on my physics lately you know » he asserted with enthusiasm and a proud smile. « Oh, haven't you now ? » replied the notable, remembering that the younger man at his side had always been amazingly bright for a barely schooled mountain of muscles, which was refreshing to witness as it starkly contrasted and weakened the popular cliché. « You bet I have ! » stated the oversized gastronome, playfully smug, « I can even tell you all about what the GSA folks saw through their space telescope up there » he claimed as he withdrew his stare from the road for a moment to weigh the reaction of the other.

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« Well, why don't you then ? » challenged the expert, noticing his interlocutor was more earnest, and how the spark in his eye hankered for a chance to show off the newly gained knowledge. « Oh... sure ! Thank you sir ! » began the security agent, surprised, « so, basically, what they've found up there is a wormhole, that some have been calling discontinuity, and also anomaly... and it's like a tunnel connecting two locations in space that are very far from one another » he first explained, « using this tunnel, it's possible to travel back and forth from one region of space to the other in no time, well, in far less time usually » corrected the chauffeur, absorbed in his account yet keeping both hands on the controls and his eyes on the traffic ahead of him, « but the weird thing about this one is that it has no depth... it's not a tunnel as much as a window... a frameless window » he described with a chuckle, glancing at his passenger in astonishment, « it's as if the two regions of space are stitched together in this particular location » he hazarded pensively, « some say it's big enough to fit one of our stations ! Can you imagine ? » he exclaimed, again looking quickly at Sturn.

The doctor of physics simply grinned and made a face that asked his athletic helper if perhaps the fascinating story was making him forget who he was talking to.

« Oh, well, I'm sure you can imagine » continued the embarrassed bodyguard after a brief pause, « but here's the really strange part » he announced, somewhat perplexed, « because of the distance that separates our galaxy and the galaxy on the other side of the window... clearly it's a lot older than ours and located much farther from the center of the universe than we are » he submitted in a garbled manner, « it moves away from us at a very high speed, because the universe is constantly expanding, right ? » Milton went on tentatively, « and so, time flows faster over there than it does over here » he finally declared, « well, as seen from here that is, because over there they don't see the difference » he stressed at once, « it's all about relativistic physics... but surely you know all about that, right sir ? » laughed the attendant, promptly assessing the expression of the renowned pundit. « Well, I must say I'm impressed » the former teacher answered, { that's not quite it, but he has manifestly considered the situation... perhaps I better be careful not to discourage him } he mused, undecided, « sounds like you really worked hard to figure this out, Daniel » he offered supportively. « Thanks sir ! » the bald giant responded with another even prouder smile as he pulled off the road and headed into the entrance of the towering hotel's underground parking lot, « I even made the calculations to double check the distance between the galaxies » he noted after the few seconds the turn had taken, « a little over four thousand megaparsecs » he confidently stated. « Hmm... okay » the scientific adviser intervened, reflecting that the younger man would have to learn the truth sooner or later, « first, I really must mention that we don't know at this point whether it's a wormhole or something else altogether » he dutifully emphasized,

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« if it's a wormhole, it's very different from what we've been expecting » he maintained in an authoritative voice, stopping for a moment to let the information sink in, « second, if it were indeed a case of relative velocity time dilation, as many news sources suppose » the famous researcher observed, « time would actually flow slower, not faster » he asserted, puzzling his interlocutor, « don't forget that, as the name say, the velocity is relative, and thus the dilation would be reciprocal » he reminded the neophyte, « in other words, no matter which side one would be on, time would always appear to flow slower on the other side » the expert remarked, « and obviously this is not what is going on here » he calmly concluded. « What is going on then ? » inquired the baffled security enforcer after a while. « Well, the short answer is, we simply don't know » the scholar chuckled, « which is why we use vague terms such as anomaly and discontinuity to refer to this... phenomenon » he explained, unable to find a more precise word, « it's entirely possible that we've stumbled upon something that our current models of the universe haven't predicted » he eventually suggested, contemplative, « which is as exciting as it is disturbing » he commented with a knowing grin. « Hmm... and why is that ? » the chauffeur wondered following another pause, not quite certain he had made sense of the proposition. « Because it means there's something we've missed » Sturn chortled again, « yet, this can only lead to further discoveries » he submitted in an optimistic fashion, « and ultimately, to a better understanding of the world we live in » he finally affirmed.

While the quiet athlete was clearly bewildered by all that his passenger had just taught him, the physicist was more concerned by what he had seen, or indeed what he had not seen, as they had travelled towards the heart of Triton Aeolus. It seemed that with every trip, nature receded a little more from the scenery to make room for more buildings. Probably he had been too deeply engaged in the conversation with his bodyguard, but this time around, apart from some contrived landscaping alongside the boulevard, he hadn't noticed even a single tree during the short ride from the spaceport to the hotel. He could remember the time, not that long ago, when a lush forest was still standing tall between the outskirts of the capital city and what was now the nation's biggest intermodal station. However, over the years, the two areas had evidently merged into one dense jungle of concrete and steel. Paradoxically, as the transport slowed down and halted in the lower levels of the parking lot, the space engineer could hardly recall when the garage had last been freshened up. In fact, had it not been for a few electoral posters sporting the chubby face of Edward Rogers, which added some colour to the otherwise mostly grey environment, the place would have looked exactly like it always looked, only dirtier, and possibly with even paler paint than on his previous visit. As the two men stepped out of the vehicle to grab the scientist's baggage from the trunk, it The Threshold

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suddenly occurred to the dark haired quadragenarian that the Liberals had manifestly ensured that the only visible political placards were those of their party leader. And if it was somewhat odd given that both the city and the state had traditionally been Conservative strongholds, it was even odder considering that the establishment notoriously accommodated dignitaries and officials of the Federal Government almost exclusively. If the edifice had stayed the same, perhaps the times were changing.

– –

« Tell me Daniel, have you been following the campaign ? » asked the pundit, « I've been trying to, but on Veshtar, as you know, the department is under Conservative control » he observed, waiting briefly as if to measure the weight of his words, « so it's very hard to know what is really going on over here » he continued, glancing at his interlocutor as the two of them walked to the elevator, « the perspective of an Ovelian citizen would surely be very interesting » he ultimately offered. « Well sir, I'm flattered » the attendant responded, « but I'm not sure my opinion would be much of use to you sir » he remarked, trying to dodge the interrogation, « I mean, no offence, but I really don't like to discuss or even think about politics and politicians » he explained, frowning, « they all seem the same to me » the oversized driver carried on as the lift's doors swiftly opened in front of them, « vain, corrupted, manipulative, deceitful » he enumerated, as if temporarily unmindful of who he was talking to, « I mean, I know some of your friends are politicians and all but, and again no offence sir, but it's really not my cup of tea » he declared as he rested the luggage onto the elevator's floor, frustration rising in him as he recollected some of the recent events in the political arena. « You know... » the bespectacled consultant replied following a momentary silence, while verifying that the lift was headed for the main storey, « that might precisely be why your opinion would be so much more interesting » Sturn suggested in the hopes of persuading his reticent helper. « Well, if you insist sir » the chauffeur answered, sighing conspicuously. « Actually I do, Daniel » the renowned public speaker affirmed with humour, « what do you know about that Coalition » he immediately proceeded, focusing his inquiry, « are there still rumours about it ? » he queried, although he was already aware of the facts. « Rumours ? » exclaimed the athlete, « it's more than rumours at this point, professor » he stressed, staring at the former educator to assess his reaction, « they announced it a few days ago » he asserted, incredulous at the other's ignorance of the matter, « I'm surprised you haven't heard about it yet » emphatically added the muscular gentleman as they both exited the elevator and entered the lobby.

The large open space had not changed much either, reflected the researcher as his bodyguard and him advanced towards the reception. The hotel must have been very profitable given its habitual clientele, but the management had obviously decided that renewing the decor was not at the top of the list of investments. Still, the vast room, and indeed the entire building, had a antiquated charm all its own. The Threshold

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« You know what, sir ? » resumed the bearded giant, having pondered the question, « this might actually be the first inspiring political news I've heard my whole life » he submitted half-jokingly, « with so much diversity of views brought under one roof, they won't – » he hesitated, wondering to which extent he could allude to the allegations of corruption that plagued the Conservative government in the presence of one of the most illustrious member of the RDA, « they... might be able to find better solutions to some of the issues we're facing » Milton hinted, adjusting his aim in mid-sentence, « a change could actually be very good » he ventured after a while, « it's not as if things are that great under the old geezer – » he noted, suddenly pausing in embarrassment, « I mean, our Right Honourable Federal Chancellor Ramsay, of course » he concluded, chuckling as he tried to guess the leanings of the scientist from his expression as they reached the front desk. Apart from a barely perceptible smile, the physicist didn't respond, and instead busied himself checking in and getting his uDev programmed with the access code to his suite. In the meantime, his hefty attendant went straight for the bowl of complimentary mint flavoured chocolate candies on the countertop and filled the inside pockets of his jacket. The imposing gastronome then turned around and scanned the area to see if somebody had noticed them walking in, and as expected he recognized two blond men dressed in that unmistakable shade of dark grey. Sitting in the lounge, not too far from the elevator, apparently working at their notebooks, they were manifestly acting as if they were not watching his passenger and him. Wryly grinning at the near twins in the distance, he nevertheless appreciated the tenacity of the unwanted individuals who were still harassing the scholar despite repeated warnings. He could imagine a few reasons why considering where the space engineer lived, and what was the nature of his endeavours. However, doubts remained as to their true motivations. { Good thing I refused } thought the bald driver, recollecting the time when the Syndicate had attempted to recruit him, only a few weeks after the Administration had hired him. Although they supposedly frowned upon agents who came from the military, they had approached him to serve as security specialist, stressing that his thorough experience would definitely benefit their underground organization. But he had ultimately declined because of their own reputation.

« Guess what, sir ? » began the oversized chauffeur, « two clowns from... how do they call themselves again ? The Civil Servant Syndicate ? » he mentioned mockingly, « looks like there's two of them waiting for you over there » he announced, motioning with his head in the direction of the duo of unmissable bureaucrats, « want me to handle them sir ? » he asked eagerly, his eyes even more bright than usual. « No, no, thanks Daniel » promptly replied the researcher, first in a serious tone, « please don't hurt them » he then chortled, to the dissatisfaction of his interlocutor, « it's okay, I

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can deal with them » he ensured, reflexively squinting as if to increase the sharpness of his stare as he peered around the vast open space to locate the pair of undesirables, and, finding them, nodding at them in feigned respect, much to their annoyance, « help me to my room » the quadragenarian requested after a few seconds, « and then give me about one hour to get ready » he instructed while proceeding towards the main lift, « those two guys will surely come for a visit, but I'll personally make sure that they don't stay long » he hinted, smiling at the disappointed bodyguard and tapping him on the shoulder, « then you drive me to the restaurant, and you have your evening off... do we have a deal ? » he offered the younger giant. « You bet we do sir ! » Milton cheerfully declared, « and may I be so bold as to enquire where you'll be eating ? » he carried on in a humorous manner. « Oh ! Of course, of course, my good man » answered the former teacher in a playfully aristocratic voice, « tonight your beloved patron will be dining at Briskin's mind you ! » he went on with an equally caricatural air of complacent superiority. « Oh, Briskin's ! Where the decor is second to none ! » joked the bearded attendant as the door of the elevator opened, « a most excellent choice, if I might add, sir ! » he concluded in the best faked connoisseur impersonation he could muster, and the two men burst into laughter as they entered the lift, unable to contain their amusement any further.

If the prospect of working for the Research and Development Administration had been more a deterrent than an incentive when he had decided to leave the University, the doctor of physics could nevertheless appreciate the distinctive advantages that accompanied the prestigious position. Having to reside on Veshtar had been a harsh price to pay at times, yet in return it afforded him numerous privileges, such as the possibility of travelling for free all over the Federation and lodging in some of the best hotels on the planet and onboard space stations, as long as it involved some official reasons or another. The generous expense account allowed him to eat at the finest restaurants, and enjoy the most sought-after entertainment performances, artistic presentations, and sporting events. It often bothered him that the Administration also took care of his safety, however it meant one less worry, and a significant one at that given the important rise in criminality that was plaguing many Ovelian megapolises. As his hefty chauffeur and him walked into the luxury suite that the RDA had booked on his behalf, the famous scientist reflected that he had selected the wisest career option. All in all, the often exaggerated material comforts that it had brought him, if very pleasing, were for the most part only minimally substantial. But what he really treasured was rather how his circumstances enabled him to concentrate his attention on the activities he deemed truly worthwhile, namely, his projects, and his understanding of himself and the world he lived in. Gazing at the spectacularly furnished apartment, he thought that the large space and its tastefully designed grandeur were somewhat wasted on him. Actually, he only needed a place to sleep. Very probably, no visitors would even see the impressive interior while he occupied it, or even less benefit from it. And he was too well aware of the growing The Threshold

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masses of citizens whose basic needs were barely met, when they were met at all. After putting down the luggage alongside the bed, the imposing security enforcer inspected each room. Coming back into the hall, displaying an indubitable expression of satisfaction, he then proceeded to report on his investigations.

– –

« Looks like they got everything right » began the bald giant as Sturn headed towards the bedroom, « the bar and fridge are full, I mean, the fridge was full » he quickly emphasized with a mischievous grin, « no conspicuous threats, and no cams, bugs, or sensors that my universal device can detect, and the app has been upgraded just this morning » declared the athletic gentleman, stretching his pockets to store the muffin and the bottle of juice he had grabbed in the kitchenette, « you sure you don't want me to wait and take care of the two suited monkeys, sir ? » he inquired, getting back into bodyguard mode, as the dark haired quadragenarian was already busy taking his clothes out of his suitcase and hanging them in the closet. « Yes ! » cheerfully replied the renowned consultant, too succinctly, and facing away from his interlocutor, absorbed in his plans for the rest of the evening, wondering whether he should call his friend to confirm his arrival, { she surely knows, but it's always such a joy to talk to Aeira } he mused as he recalled her soft voice and felt warmth fill his heart, « oh, sorry » the researcher then acknowledged, guessing he might have been unclear, turning to Milton who was standing in the doorway and had stayed silent for a while, « yes, I'm quite sure, Daniel » he reiterated in a graver and clearer manner, « I'll handle them » he confidently stated, « but thanks anyhow, and sorry to deprive you of some well deserved fun » he commented in a lighter tone, smiling knowingly. « Can't blame a guy for trying » laughed the muscular man in response as he went to the entrance, « I'll be back in one hour then » he assured after a moment, « just call me if you need anything » he lastly mentioned. « Excellent ! Thanks ! Bye ! » exclaimed the scholar as the driver exited the suite. « Later, sir ! » the chauffeur bade from the corridor just before the door of the apartment closed behind him.

The pundit took his uDev from its belt clip and sat on the mattress. –

« Call Aeira » the science popularizer commanded the device.

Much to the disappointment of the expert, a prerecorded video greeting informed him that the woman was unavailable, and asked him to leave a message at the signal, which he did when he heard the conventionally annoying high pitched sound. « Good evening wise lady ! » joyfully began the former educator, « it's always a pleasure The Threshold

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to see and hear you » he offered, both arms extended as he held the small gadget in front of him so as to film himself while he spoke, « although I definitely prefer the live Aeira to the recorded version » he pointed out following a short break, « as you probably know, I've just checked in at the hotel » the physicist announced, « and I should be at Briskin's in about an hour, as planned » he enthusiastically asserted right away, « looking forward to see you all, in person this time ! I'm surprised you're not answering by the way... I hope we're still on ! » he shared, loud knocks suddenly interrupting his stream of thoughts. Looking briefly in the direction of the hall, the project manager immediately knew who was visiting him. « Okay ! Guess who's at the door ? And right on schedule as always ! I better go ! See you in a short while dear Aeira ! » he hastily concluded his video mail before switching the uDev off and dropping it on the bed. As more insisting pounding echoed in the suite, the space engineer rushed to the entrance to meet his predictable disturbers, addressing them from the vestibule.

– –

« Sorry to have made two respectable civil servants wait for so long » the quadragenarian almost shouted, « I must commend you on your punctuality, and perseverance » he went on in mock politeness, recognizing the expected dark grey figures as he partly opened the door, « I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you before » he noted as he stared with feigned severity at the two blond men. « Actually, it's the fourth time we meet only this year professor Sturn » naively responded the first of the two similarly dressed individuals, not quite getting the gist of the remark, prompting his near twin colleague to throw a quizzical and slightly disapproving glance at him. « But we hope you'll do this time professor » replied the second uninvited guest, turning his attention back to the researcher with an air of smugness that eventually triggered a long, silent, yet unmistakable { ah ! } of gradual illumination on the part of the other now somewhat less naive visitor, and a surprised nod of acknowledgement from the visited, which encouraged the keener of the two harassing representatives to pursue his crusade, « as you surely know by now professor Sturn, the Syndicate is considerably interested in acquiring some – » he paused to carefully weigh the word, « knowledge... that we know you have access to » submitted the unimaginatively clothed bureaucrat, with a noticeable effort to sound self-important. « Yes, I know » dryly corroborated the scientific adviser, « the Syndicate has made that part crystal clear already » he further mentioned. « Well, in the hopes that you'll wisely reconsider your position » carried on the first and equally boringly apparelled functionary, « the Syndicate has deemed proper to improve its

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offer » he revealed, self-satisfied. { What will they come up with this time ! } reflected the scholar, annoyed, « okay... listen gentlemen » he suddenly reacted, « I have no intention whatsoever of collaborating with your Syndicate » he asserted with conviction, « I don't know how many times I'm gonna have to repeat this, but I sincerely hope it's the last time » he suggested in a raising voice, anticipating it would deter the pesky civil servants. « We also hope it's the last time, professor Sturn » calmly answered the originally deemed naiver but quickly point-gaining interlocutor, struggling to conceal a smile of relief and self-contentment as he saw that his wit was earning him two looks of newly discovered respect. { Okay, how do I get rid of them ? } wondered the pundit, having reached the limit of his patience, { let's cut this short for now } he immediately decided, « however interesting your new offer might be » he announced, obviously not amused, « I have an appointment in less than an hour » the former educator explained, « so if you would please excuse me, I'll go shower while you guys exit the premises and let me get ready » he ordered, motioning as if he were about to forcefully shut the half-open door, startling the closest of the two men who bent down to pick up the documents the unexpected gesture had made him drop to the feet of the apparently angered physicist. « As you wish, professor » politely consented the second public worker, seeking to defuse the tension, yet adding, « we will contact you again soon » after a brief, measured break, as his colleague finally straightened up. « I'm sure you'll try » retorted the exasperated expert, feeling his heartbeat increase, and then promptly subduing the embryo of frustrated rage that threatened to overcome him. « We will » maintained the first grey suited individual as the two visitors swiftly turned around and proceeded to the elevator.

{ Okay, this is going too far now, we have to do something about these guys } the quadragenarian mused, { what have I ever done to deserve these two ? } he pondered as he refrained from slamming the apartment door before going back to the bedroom.

★ Although he had never found a mention to that effect in the canonical scriptures he had been granted the rare privilege of reading, long, hot showers frequently brought the scientist to an altered state of consciousness all its own. At such times, he often experienced vivid visions of his near future along with more blurry glimpses of possible distant events to come. Once in a while, he would even be graced to access valuable insights into his own nature. And on that particular evening, the first of the budding weekend, the Intermediary State of Sublime Vapour, as he jokingly referred to it, also had its share of revelations for the tall researcher. The Threshold

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2206 : Window Onto A New World

I. Homeworld

Up for consideration, as the consultant rapidly figured out, was the solution to his reflexive question about the recurrent manifestations of the harassing members of the Civil Service Syndicate. And as he could now recognize, they were the consequences of attempting to keep a veil of secrecy over the hard-won knowledge he had gained, instead of disseminating it as far and wide as he could, as the traditional wisdom encouraged practitioners to do. { But, as the Councillors say, that was then, and this is now } he thought resolutely. Still, the bothersome encounters were undeniably happening periodically, and doubts lingered. Sturn then had a starkly lifelike and momentarily bewildering impression of standing naked alongside a table where Aeira and their companions were eating and conversing, with fog floating around, as if he had been teleported in an unknown restaurant. But the surprise and embarrassment faded as he was relieved to realize that the mirage merely signified that their upcoming get together would not be cancelled as he had feared. As the famous scholar calmed down, he forayed into the political territory, and there he saw disturbing flashes of Jake Harvey, one of the pupils of his lady friend. The blond man was slated to become an important actor of the newly composed Coalition of Progressive Parties. But the images suggested that the exceptionally charismatic up and coming politician was seemingly bedevilled by some intangible force. { Probably a stellar of some kind } supposed the space engineer, witnessing the dark and confused scenes which evoked very unpleasant memories that required all his powers of concentration to shake off. Steadying his mind again, the former educator was rewarded with a soothing choir of soft, feminine voices singing chordal music, which he immediately acknowledged as his uniquely personal doorway into the domain of planetary intelligences. Soon after, his otherworldly voyage climaxed on echoes of a commanding, confident, mature female slowly repeating, { « it is crucial that we save her, you must not fail in your duty » } that briefly frightened him. But the dream abruptly vanished as the water heater apparently ran out of hot liquid and his own shouts of shock sharply startled him back to the actuality of his bathroom and its glacial shower stream. Swiftly stepping out of the cold place, as he suppressed words of disapproval directed at the depleted apparatus, it occurred to the scientific adviser that it was more probably serendipity once again intervening in order for him to be ready in time for the gathering. Quickly drying himself up, he hurried to his bed to look at his handheld and was glad to ascertain he wasn't late. He started to dress, putting on the clothes he had selected before his extended visionary adventure. He was nearly done when he heard knocks on the door and Milton entering, so he rushed into the hall to meet him, eventually reaching him in the lounge area. –

« Time to go professor Sturn ! Are you ready ? » inquired the smiling security agent as he

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– – – – – –

I. Homeworld

took a strawberry from the platter of tasty treats on the bar. « Just about, Daniel » replied the physicist, « let me grab a few things and then we're off » he added as he returned to the bedroom. « May I take this, sir ? » the imposing bodyguard asked from across the suite. « Of course you can take a strawberry ! » the researcher uttered loudly. « No, I mean the whole thing, sir ! » clarified the athletic attendant. « Oh ! Sure, go ahead ! I'll request another one ! » the pundit chortled. « Thanks sir ! » exclaimed the chauffeur, « this big body of mine needs fuel you know ! » he justified in an upbeat manner, displaying an assertive grin as his client came back into view. « Tell me, Daniel » responded the project manager, « what have you been doing this past hour ? » he wondered with faked severity as he watched the jolly giant empty the tray in a transparent plastic bag he carried in his pocket. « Hmm... I grabbed a bite downstairs » admitted the perpetually hungry fellow, the two men once more bursting into laughter as they walked out of the apartment.

The Threshold

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About the Series

A

t the turn of the century, Ovel must face the consequences of its accelerated growth. One

hundred and twenty seven federated countries and eleven sovereign nations, spread across the homeland and in colonies settled onboard orbiting stations and on a nearby planet. Fourteen billion inhabitants struggling to thrive under the rule of a corrupted Global Government, in power for over forty years. Fuelled by a recent scientific finding, the once in a lifetime discovery of a discontinuity in the cosmic fabric of the neighbouring space, a coalition of politicians is willing to stand up for the people and radically change things. Now relegated to the ranks of an obscure sect, the once dominant Community and its disciples must effectively handle the requirements of the Celestials to ensure that the most favourable of all possible destinies comes to pass. Meanwhile, halfway across the world, a young monk must learn to collaborate with the Enlightened Ones in order to successfully discharge the essential task he has accepted to fulfil in behalf of his monastery. Will the crucial 2206 electoral campaign climax on the emergence of a charismatic Progressive leader, or will the decried Chancellor prevail despite the many forces scheming for his downfall ? On a background of environmental and financial crises, and religious influences intertwining with political manoeuvres to determine the fate of the overpopulated orb, The Threshold chronicles the evolution of the Ovelian civilization as it heads towards unprecedented upheaval.

★ Contact Facebook Profile : https://www.facebook.com/the.threshold.2206 Google Plus Profile : https://plus.google.com/u/0/104660427672333556879

★ The Complete Edition of The Threshold - 2206 : Window Onto A New World is available in the following locations Kindle Format on Amazon ePub Format on Lulu

About the Author

C

hristopher Stewart loves to try his hand at various artistic endeavours, but if there's one discipline he's perfecting, it must be the art of blooming late.

He has studied for a long time, played football even longer, spent a significant part of his adult life developing software on a full-time basis and invested what remained in the pursuit of his ideal of creating meaningful music in the context of a rock ensemble. He has founded the prolific yet still album-less Quebec-based progressive rock outfit Poligraf in 1998 and has never been quite the same since. He has been practising Buddhism dead-seriously since the mid 90s, until he finally awakened to the fact that it teaches living happiness. His interests range from psychology, physics, and philosophy, to mysticism, divination, the arts and the creative process, and, obviously, multitasking and clichés. Pick any task, tag it with the word « impossible, » assign it to him, and he’ll be hard at work for years before the first suspicion finally pops in his mind.

★ Contact Email : christopher.stewart@gmail.com Facebook Profile : https://www.facebook.com/christopher.andrew.stewart Google Plus Profile : https://plus.google.com/114005406455037130049 Twitter Profile : https://twitter.com/poligraf

★ Also Available as eBooks On the Meaning of Sin

Credits Chapter Titles The titles are meant as a tribute to the musicians. Special thanks to the members of Yes for their musical genius, and to Jon Anderson in particular for sharing his vision with the world. Fonts Linux Libertine : http://www.linuxlibertine.org/ Vollkorn : http://friedrichalthausen.de/ Philosopher : http://jovanny.ru/ BorisBlackBoxx : http://manfred-klein.ina-mar.com/ Quirkus : http://www.peter-wiegel.de/ Ubuntu : http://font.ubuntu.com/ Liberation : from the Fedora Linux Distribution : http://fedoraproject.org/ Images Sanwuisusp : Jiangmen Ferry Piers Arturo "Feralaas" Mann : Twilight at Acapulco Software Open Office : http://www.openoffice.org/ FreeMind : http://freemind.sourceforge.net/ The Timeline Project : http://thetimelineproj.sourceforge.net/ Gimp : http://www.gimp.org/ Blender : http://www.blender.org/ References Most of my book design questions have found an answer on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer : http://www.thebookdesigner.com/

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The Threshold Bookcast : Chapter 1 – Homeworld