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

Chapter IV – Machine Messiah

By

Christopher Stewart ★ Bookcast Edition – March 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 - March 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.


Chapter IV

Machine Messiah

 There's a paradox in how people want immediate changes for themselves, while at the same time expecting the wider picture to remain stable. This paradox is reflected in the history of the Global Government as a recurrent trend, a cyclical phenomenon. People tend to elect Progressive National Governments, yet generally choose Conservatives to rule the Federation. But the intrinsic need for growth of nationalism is antagonistic to the intrinsic cultural obsolescence that stems from stability. Thus, eventually, when the dissonance between the two becomes too uncomfortable, upheaval becomes unavoidable. And although in times of upheaval, it is tempting to choose stability, and indeed a signification portion of the electorate seem to fall prey to the delusion, that's generally when the majority suddenly realize that electing Progressive Global Governments is the way out of the rut.  – Excerpted from An History of Ovelian Politics, 1st Edition, by Sayid Malaki, Ph.D., 2112


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IV. Machine Messiah

R

ichard Ramsay had become what he had sworn never to become as a young adult, or

so he would think increasingly often as he would happen to catch his reflection. Presiding at the table of the main conference room of the First Cruiser, comfortably sitting in a chair that was more akin to a pilot seat, waiting for communications lines to be established with the ground, he was once again mulling over his life. He had wanted to gaze outside the foremost vessel of the Federal Fleet, seeking to enjoy the spectacular sight Ovel offered from outer space, its white and blue orb starkly contrasting against the dark, starry immensity. However, he had rather discerned his own silhouette, echoing from the tainted window pane like the indistinct image returned by a faded mirror. And it had been enough to trigger that growingly intrusive reconsideration process which invariably led to the ineluctable observation that the reason why he now resembled a tired old man, was that he also felt like a tired old man. The veteran Conservative had never really planned to spend the majority of his lifetime in the political arena, nor had he envisaged being a member of the Global Government for eight consecutive mandates. And he surely never had dreamt of becoming the first Ovelian to be elected Chancellor of the Federation on three occasions, and in a row to top it all off. He could barely believe how quickly it had all gone by. His reign had lasted over sixteen years ! And he had been a representative for over forty years ! Perhaps for the first time in all this winning streak, the thin, balding, average looking man of average height wasn't threatened by the potential changes that were looming on the fast approaching horizon of decision day. In truth, part of him was relieved by the possibility of being discharged from the duties he deemed were only getting heavier. And the more he pondered the eventuality, the more it seemed like a desirable future. If there had been a surefire way to precipitate it, he would definitely have contemplated it. Not that anyone knew any of that, not even Chloe, his younger sister, dearest friend, and sole trustworthy confidante. Appearances had to be kept up, there was too much at stake. The politician simply couldn't end his glorious career with a resignation. He couldn't let his adversaries boast that they had successfully pressured him into early retirement, and he couldn't let commentators insinuate that his abdication was the widely anticipated admission of all his so-called wrongdoings. There were only a few more weeks of campaign to endure, so he could summon the courage to uphold his legendary status, properly complete his term, and hope for the best. The world leader could readily accept a defeat should he have to, yet he would have preferred his public life to conclude under more favourable circumstances. He reckoned that he could hardly have done a better job, still, guilt would often assail him. Whether he liked it or not, the planet itself The Threshold

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was in deplorable conditions. The population was ever on the rise, just as the debt, industrialization, and its unavoidable side-effects on the environment. In most of the federated nations, signs of decay were outweighing hints of positive development. Moreover, the lowest approval rate, not only of his own illustrious trajectory, but in all the recorded history of the Chancellery, was nothing to be proud of. And nor were the increasingly frequent allegations of corruption and malversation that plagued him and his entourage. Not that the statesman could deny them all, and nor would he, if he were ever asked to. After all, that's how his mentor, the Right Honourable Liam Ryan III, himself former Chancellor and son of a lineage of rulers known the world over, had taught him to perform his functions. { « When in the opposition, one should champion the widow and the orphan, loudly... when in power, one better nurture their alliances, discreetly » } the words of the dignified notable who had counselled him echoed in his mind. { « Democracy is relatively new to civilization, and its appearances can readily be maintained, but the politics of being in power have an history of their own » } he further remembered the notoriously controversial Conservative resolutely asserting some of his directing principles and opinions. { Good times ! } he ultimately reflected, smiling. Thus, the septuagenarian figured this was how he had himself handled his responsibilities, in his good conscience, for his entire tenure as an elected official. And he had the allies to prove it. –

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– –

« Chancellor Ramsay will talk to you now, Prime Minister Malaki » the veteran federalist heard his personal assistant announce, the voice coming from the communication device embedded in the well equipped armchair startling him. « Omar ! » the thin elder began with feigned cheerfulness, « how are you my friend ? » he politely inquired. « Very good, very good ! » ensured the Emir in a typical Middle Western accent, « thank you Richard ! How are you yourself ? » he immediately offered. « Couldn't be better ! » exaggerated the balding man, « how is the tech support business going ? » he then queried, « still blooming nicely I'm told » he mentioned with contrived interest. « Still blooming indeed ! » enthusiastically confirmed the young state leader, « we've just acquired one of our competitors » he shared with delight, stroking his dark goatee. « Oh ! Great, great ! » responded the aging politician, sounding livelier, « the Federation is always proud of the success of every one of its constituents » he declared in a formal and somewhat mechanical manner, « particularly when they're as prosperous as yours ! » he remarked, grinning for the first time of the conversation, « ahem... listen, Omar » Ramsay carried on after a brief pause, « I was just calling to assure you that my government will do everything in its power to help you out should you ever need it, my young friend » he submitted in an artificially upbeat tone. « And we thank you for it, Richard ! » acknowledged the heir to the Malaki dynasty, « the

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people of Hasania and its government are grateful for the way your administration has facilitated our accession to the Federation, Mister Chancellor » he dutifully stressed, « and you can be confident we will do everything in our power to help you out, should you ever need it, my estimable friend » he reciprocated, manifestly amused by the whole stratagem. « Excellent, excellent, Mister Prime Minister » the First Man of Ovel reacted with a little more feeling, « that's always good to hear, but especially during an electoral campaign » he insinuated, chuckling. « Indeed it is ! » at once concurred the Hasani statesman, chortling sympathetically, and then watching curiously as the experienced Conservative, who looked rather concerned, pushed a button on the armrest of his chair to mute his microphone, remaining pensive for some while, seemingly confused. « Well, ahem... » the career representative finally resumed, « I think we're about to dock to Harmo... ahem... to... Euthan – » « Euthenia Six ! » quickly whispered one of the advisers at the side of the federal ruler. « Euthenia Six... we're docking to Euthenia Six, Hassan » repeated the septuagenarian. « Ahem... that's Omar, Richard... Hassan is my father » promptly corrected the Emir. « Oh, right ! I'm terribly sorry ! » apologized the embarrassed elder, « let me retry that » he proceeded in haste, « we're docking to Euthenia Six, I'm told, my dear Omar » he then announced with forced levity and an emphasis on both names, « I'm sure you know how hectic elections can get my young friend, don't you ? » he masqueraded following a few interminable awkward seconds of speechlessness, hoping to justify his erratic conduct. « Ahem... sure Richard » Malaki replied without conviction, stopping for an instant as he wondered what to make of the lapses, « one day here and the next there, and you see so many faces you forget who is who » he diplomatically joked, seeking to ease the tension. « You got that right ! » joyfully agreed the veteran official, apparently struggling to recall the topic of the exchange, « so, as I was saying, I have to leave you now » he continued after a moment, « Omar » he accentuated again, « please transmit my salutations to your dear wife my young friend » he politely requested. « Ahem... I'll be sure to salute my concubines in your name, Richard » the Hasani Prime Minister promised, repressing a nervous laugh with difficulty, { the old man is forgetting things ! } he ultimately observed. « Ahem... huh... okay... » mumbled the aging politician, visibly upset and lost, « bye now, Omar » he concluded more audibly, following another incommoding pause. « Bye Mister Chancellor » bade the swarthy vicenarian, « thanks for your call ! » he lastly offered before ending the communication.

The world leader peeked around him at the members of his team who all averted their eyes from his anxious glances, busying themselves at their uDevs and notebooks, in a conspicuous silence that the disquieted man did not dare break. { No need to justify anything... such errors happen... they The Threshold

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know how I get during campaigns } he reflected apprehensively, { everything will be alright... there's no reason to worry } he thought, effectively calming himself down, if not totally then at least sufficiently to stay at the table and display an unfazed expression. Turning his attention to the young Emir's file that was open in front of him, the First Man of Ovel recollected events of his lifetime partnership with the Malakis, surely one of the most powerful families of the former Lands of the Sands, and indeed of the whole planet. The formidable fortune of the dynasty had been accumulated from the exploitation of the vast reserves of fossil fuel of the once almost desert and now terraformed Middle Western countries. Back at the epoch when the Global Government had not yet been established, nations still had complete control over the production of energy, and those unparalleled quantities of liquid petroleum had represented the saving grace of the otherwise impoverished region. The Conservative statesman had known four generations of Malakis. He had been personally acquainted with Omar and Abdel, the up and coming brothers and heirs, and also with Hassan, their father and current manager of the holdings. He had met the late Ahmed at a few mundane occasions, as the previous patriarch had always been close to the party, just as most males descendants of the bloodline it seemed. And he could rekindle blurry childhood memories of Sayid, the once renowned political historian, chronicling the foundation of the Federation on television. A Federation for which the balding elder did not care much anymore, or not as much as he used to at any rate. Given all that he had suffered for its sake over the course of his legendary career, the matter was certainly imaginable, if not excusable. Yet, he was bound by duty to verify that the alliances forged over the years were still secure enough to withstand the upcoming electoral stress test. And so the divided, weary chief would struggle with himself through the obligatory visits and courtesy calls to the deciders of the Conservative strongholds, including the Prime Ministers of the so-called artificial states, to the ranks of whom Omar Malaki had been the newest inductee. The septuagenarian remembered how, thanks to a loophole in the law, his first administration had found a way to facilitate the creation of the controversial lands, which typically were relatively small, low populated, very wealthy societies built around a single and generally virtual venture. As most of them were located on artificial islands, they had been so labelled in derision by numberless critics who loudly denounced their existence, claiming that they were as many insults to the spirit of the Constitution. Counting merely a few tens of thousands of citizens, and bringing comparatively very little to the union in terms of taxes or natural resources, they still had the privilege of voting, just like any other constituency. And although, officially, the legal procedure was always respected to the letter, it was only too obvious that these newly fabricated and federated man-made paradises had yielded their allegiance in exchange for an accelerated handling and a guaranteed approval of their requests, and who knew which further advantages. Ramsay recalled the opposition emphatically condemning the dubious manoeuvres during the The Threshold

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debates in the Global Chamber. Evidently, the detractors maintained that the rapid accretions had for main and possibly sole objective to strengthen the hegemony of the Conservatives on power, to the detriment of the representativeness that had traditionally been a core value of the democratic system. Considering that the average Ovelian republic sustained over one hundred million inhabitants, and that even space stations supported tens of millions of people, the Chancellor himself agreed that the accusations were justified, to some degree at least. Yet, in his opinion, most of those who threw them had no experience whatsoever of all the constraints that came with ruling. And those limitations, as far as he was concerned, amply warranted the otherwise questionable mode of action. Nevertheless, as a consequence, his adversaries had militated ever since, insisting that the abrogation of the One State One Vote principle in favour of a proportional scheme be appended to the agenda of the next round of Constitutional Review Conferences, held once every ten terms. One such series of talks was scheduled to take place before the end of the coming mandate, giving even more importance to the 2206 campaign. The world leader reckoned that, whereas his reelection would mean status quo, the advent of a Progressive Global Government would most probably set in motion an all-encompassing, and, to many, much welcome wind of change that would storm each and every branch of the Federation, and shake it to its constitutional roots. And, in truth, he couldn't assert that this would be a bad thing. –

– –

« Docking Operation Successful » suddenly announced a synthesized feminine voice over the public address system of the vessel, the automated notification startling the politician out of the intensity of his musings and back to the reality of the meeting room, wherein his teammates were in various states of agitation as they prepared to leave. « A Mister Bruno Gray is here to see you, sir » declared Peter Conrad, showing up at the door, « he insists he has an appointment ? » he remarked, displaying a quizzical air. « Oh yes ! » reacted the statesman, « I had almost forgotten about it » he mentioned right away, « personal matters, I've arranged it with him myself » he explained after a moment, in response to the speechlessness of his still puzzled assistant, « let him in and leave us » he finally commanded to his short, rugged, brown haired, bespectacled interlocutor who nodded obediently and promptly complied with the instructions.

The balding elder remained seated as the last few advisers were slowly heading out, on their way to the industrial station. He waited in silence for a while, watching his departing collaborators, until a conspicuously dark grey suited figure eventually appeared at the entrance, the visitor and the host staying quiet until completely alone. « Welcome aboard the First Cruiser, Bruno » greeted the septuagenarian, standing up to formally receive his guest, « your first time in here if I'm not mistaken ? » he hazarded, gesturing towards a chair at the corner of the table to indicate where the short overweight dark haired man could sit, and then closing the door behind him. The Threshold

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« Indeed it is » corroborated the bureaucrat, nervously wondering about the propriety of conversing with the Chancellor on a first name basis, « thanks... Richard » he tentatively offered as he sat, « she's an impressive ship » he went on a little more cheerfully after a while, looking around the vast area. « I suppose so » pensively agreed the Conservative chief who had grown so accustomed to the spacecraft that he had become oblivious to its imposing size, « it's very kind of you to accept to my invitation on such a short notice » he commented, sitting back down. « It's a privilege one can hardly refuse » Gray politely observed, « besides, as coincidence would have it, I'm here on official duty » he immediately shared. « Then we'd better not disappoint the fates who have facilitated our collaboration » the veteran representative submitted, attempting to hint at his motivations for contacting the president of the Civil Servant Syndicate, but manifestly, the other did not catch on. « Oh, ahem... » mumbled the quinquagenarian, struggling between the requirements of his position and his deference for the authority of the notable, « I have to tell you right off the bat that my organization cannot promise anything as far as the upcoming election is concerned » he maintained in a stuffy manner, « you see, the Syndicate has a very strict code that binds its membership to the prime aim of perennity » he justified in a similarly declamatory fashion. « So I've heard » replied the world leader, repressing his amusement with difficulty as he recalled the reputation of the underground union of functionaries. « And so » the public worker carried on, « the CSS can only collaborate with parties and party officials according to the measure in which they can guarantee the permanence of its members and the continuity of the organization » he pointed out, talking as if he were reciting an article of law that he had learned by heart, « and thus, we traditionally refrain from divulging our allegiance until the very last days of a campaign, and only do so when the polls are unambiguous » he concluded, smiling smugly. « So I've heard, Bruno » repeated the federalist, appalled as always by the weather vane attitude that the Syndicate was well-known for adopting at such times, yet not letting his personal opinion transpire, « but let me assure you that all this has nothing to do with the reasons why I wanted to have a chat with you » he insisted, much to the astonishment of his interlocutor. « Oh ! » the guest reacted in embarrassment, « sorry » he quickly apologized, { okay, what have we got here ? } he reflected, perplexed. « You see » the politician continued, « unlike you, I've been in this situation before, as I'm sure you can imagine » he confidently explained, « and, for the record, and with all due respect » he considerately mentioned, « I don't think the Syndicate ever had much weight over the results of any global election » he bluntly asserted.

Insulted, the dark haired civil servant frowned and crossed his arms in response, remaining quiet, { be careful old man, we can make you fall if we decide to } he mused vindictively. The Threshold

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« So, that being said, let me be clear » the septuagenarian went on, « you're not here to have a conversation with the chief of the Conservatives » he declared in a commanding tone, « nor have you been summoned by the head of the Federation » he further stressed, « but rather, you're here to have a talk with Richard Ramsay, senior citizen of Ovel and seeker of a – » the statesman paused for emphasis, « knowledge » he uttered solemnly, staring intently into the eyes of his visitor, hoping he could assess his sentiment on the matter, « which your fellowship is also seeking, if my informations are correct, and they usually are » he ventured, noticing an undeniable spark of curiosity in the expression of the bureaucrat. « I'm listening » Gray prudently acknowledged after a short deliberation, { this is getting really interesting, what do you have for me old man ? } he wondered, keen to discover more. « While this citizen is still Chancellor, Bruno » the thin elder resumed following a brief silence, « he's in excellent position to help the CSS in its attempts to obtain the secrets of those who refer to themselves as the Community » he candidly suggested, stopping for a few seconds to let the proposition sink in, « clearly, through its numerous ramifications, your fellowship can avail itself of an amazingly wide range of collaborators » the veteran representative then remarked, « yet, the Chancellor has powers that all these individuals won't ever have » he hinted haughtily, « powers which could significantly increase your chances of achieving your aims » he lastly insinuated, grinning subtly, { be open-minded now, young man } he thought, aware that the other could use the words against him. « Hearing this is as much of a surprise as it is of a pleasure » the quinquagenarian happily revealed after a suspenseful moment, to the relief of the experienced ruler, « but I cannot guarantee anything without first submitting the issue to our advisory board » he dutifully noted in his formal voice, « however, between you and me, Richard » he carried on in a friendlier fashion, « I don't see why they wouldn't be as enthusiastic as I am about your generous offer » he commented, visibly optimistic. « Well, very good then ! » cheerfully replied the federalist, manifestly delighted with the turn of events, « I guess I'll be hearing from you soon ? » he queried right away. « Indeed you will, sir » politely confirmed the president of the Syndicate, slowly nodding in appreciation, « but, if I may, Richard, why the sudden interest ? » he asked, pensive. « Let's just say that, in light of all that has happened in both my professional and personal life lately » the politician began after some consideration and a sigh, « I have reasons to suspect that the mysteries which this order preciously guards, and teaches only to its most advanced disciples, or so I'm told, may very well be much more significant than we have dared believe thus far » he vaguely answered, cautious not to disclose too much of his real motivations. « We can agree on that ! » assured the smiling public worker, { he knows things... he must have learned something about their supernatural abilities } he immediately supposed. « Well, this has been a very fruitful exchange » the septuagenarian mentioned, evidently

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satisfied, « but if you'll please excuse me now, Bruno » he announced, signifying that their chat was over, « this busy old man has a full agenda again today I'm afraid » he chuckled, bending forward and putting his hands flat on the long table, as if he were getting ready to stand up. « Oh, don't bother » Gray obsequiously offered at once, « I can only imagine the pressure you must be under » he observed as he rose, « it's been both a real privilege and a true joy to meet you, Richard » he finally acknowledged with deference before he headed towards the exit of the large room, already picturing the reactions of his associates to the unlikely news. « Thanks again Bruno ! » responded the statesman, « my assistant will escort you out of the ship » he concluded as his guest left.

The party leader pondered the bold, albeit calculated move. It could have easily backfired as the predecessors of the civil servant had a reputation for being manipulative. Still, he could always have denied raising the topic if his visitor had threatened to blackmail him using his unorthodox, if not downright scandalous proposal. After all, most Conservatives, even the religiously inclined, were not generally known to concern themselves with the activities of the Community, apart perhaps for the few radicals who systematically disdained the spiritual order. But Ramsay had never even been one of the religiously inclined, not until recently that is, and no one else knew about his newly found passion anyhow. Nobody would have bought into the allegations. And in any case, he had ways to unearth more convincing arguments if that hadn't tempered the zeal of the bureaucrat. Furthermore, prior to the meeting, the First Man of Ovel had been undecided about the whole question of whether securing the collaboration of the CSS was a sound strategy or an utter waste of time. The fellowship was regarded as a joke by many all across the Federation, and understandably so given how the gossip portrayed it. According to the urban legend, its founders had established the Syndicate after surmising that they had nothing short of the most important jobs on the planet, and that such an advantage was worthy of protection. So, in addition to the already existing labour union, they had created the parallel structure, complete with thorough rules of conduct and a dress code. Its specific mission consisted in overseeing the continuity, through changes in regimes, of the functions its members were appointed to, so as to facilitate their permanence, and thus allow them to increase their influence within the Global Administration. Or at least, that was what the unflattering hearsay persistently suggested. Could the extravagant tale only be a misperception ? More to the point, the Chancellor knew that the underground organization was purported to nurture an ongoing curiosity for the mysteries of the Community, and the uncanny faculties such as prescience and remote vision they were supposed to confer upon the initiates. Given their common interest, and despite its bad name, the consortium had thus appeared as a potential ally, probably the only one he could ever hope to gain considering his title, circumstances, and far from unanimously lauded career. The Threshold

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From the outside, the thin elder hadn't successfully ascertained the credibility of the accounts. Syndicate or not, many laughed at federal bureaucrats anyway, so telling rumour from fact was often a tricky endeavour. Who knew if those who derided them for the lack of originality in the way they were similarly attired, or for the sheer dubiousness of their so-called prime aim, were not unwittingly strengthening stubborn prejudices, or even simply venting jealousies ? And surely, while there must have been some truth to the many anecdotes of public workers hellbent on overly rigid methodology, or displaying an almost pathological reliance on directives and protocols, how representative really were such reports ? The septuagenarian couldn't ignore that, evidently, civil servants had privileged access to an impressive range of officials, databases, documents, and processes of all denomination. And clearly, they weren't subjected to anywhere near as much scrutiny as politicians were. Therefore, in terms of possibilities at any rate, the fellowship had indeed the means and the occasions to yield some degree of power and manipulate the course of events as its objectives required. To which extent it actually did so was another matter entirely. Still, manifestly, the CSS could effectively be more than a mere popular myth. Investigating on his own had remained the safest way to get to the bottom of things, and his efforts had led him to Bruno Gray, who had inadvertently corroborated many of the stories. Though the aging statesman had definitely been bold, fragmentary findings were already rewarding his temerity. – – – – –

« You have less than half an hour before your speech, sir » announced Conrad, showing up at the entrance of the meeting room. « What ? » Ramsay responded following an awkward, confused silence. « Your speech to the Conservative Assembly of Euthenia Six, sir » clarified the attendant, noticeably concerned. « Oh... yes » slowly acknowledged the ruler, looking embarrassed and somewhat irritated, « sorry, I was lost in thought » he promptly justified. « Looks like the campaign is having its toll on you, sir » observed the assistant, « you've been forgetting things lately » he candidly mentioned.

Apart from a frown, the veteran federalist didn't react at first, offended. But as he pondered the remark, it soon became obvious to him that he had just been offered what he hadn't even begun searching for. –

« Thank you, Peter » the balding man finally replied with a slightly grave face, the words visibly perplexing his interlocutor, « I'll be with you in a moment » he immediately noted, « but first get me Chloe on the communicator » he commanded in his habitual impersonal manner, yet with a fleeting smile. « Sure, sir » monotonically complied the tricenarian, still quizzical, before disappearing

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from view, once more leaving the other to his musings. Under normal circumstances, the Conservative would have been delighted by the prospect of chatting with his little sister. He had always appreciated the now retired nurse, as she was his sole disinterested friend, and thus the only one worthy of the valued prerogative of being the confidante of his older brother Ricky, as she still called him. Chloe Ramsay Nowak had been happily remarried to a wealthy architect, who had bequeathed her a considerable fortune a few years earlier. Childless, the widow was savouring a generally trouble-free existence. She spent her time working in hospitals, orphanages, and rest homes, for the sheer joy of having a positive impact on the lives of those less lucky than her, and there was evidently an endless supply of them. That same sheer joy she would gladly radiate without reservations upon all who surrounded her, and that was why he liked her so. However, these were not normal circumstances. –

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« Hello Ricky ! » cheerfully greeted the usually cheerful lady, to the undeniable pleasure of the Chancellor who couldn't repress a sincere grin, not that he had been really wanting to anyhow. « Hello Chlo » reciprocated the thin elder, displaying conspicuously less enthusiasm than he commonly did when conversing with his dearest relative, « ahem... I assume I'm not disturbing you ? » he asked hesitantly. « Not at all ! » assured the grey haired woman, « I was just about to go out and get a few goodies for breakfast » she shared, her puzzled expression contrasting with the triviality of her comment, « is everything alright ? » she queried, feeling something strange about the whole occurrence. « Well... maybe not » the statesman submitted enigmatically after a short silence. « What do you mean, maybe not ? » wondered the blue-grey eyed sexagenarian, « what's going on ? » she inquired, concerned for the well-being of her beloved brother. « Could you do me favour ? » simply responded the increasingly mysterious politician. « A favour ? » the nurse reacted in surprise, « what's going on Ricky ? » she repeated, her insistence betraying her worry. « I would like you to book me in for some tests » sombrely requested the federalist. « What !? » exclaimed the lady, « what kind of tests ? Tell me what's going on Richard ! » she demanded again in a distressed voice. « I... I... » Ramsay stammered, stopping for an instant to settle on a phrasing, « some of my advisers seem to think I might be suffering from Alzheimer's disease » he bluntly lied. « What !? » shouted the alarmed woman. « And I'd like to prove them wrong » at once added the world leader, somewhat calming his sister, « but I don't want anybody else to know, you see ? » he pointed out to justify the course of action, « there could be rumours, and rumours at this stage of the campaign could have irreversible consequences » he explained, successfully convincing his relieved

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interlocutor who had been listening to him expectantly. « And if you go through the official channels » the widow continued, « journalists could have access to the information eventually » she further rationalized, « and no doubt they would investigate » she lastly supposed. « Exactly ! » concurred the balding man, happy to hear the other provide a good argument herself, « and not everybody in the Party is my ally, as you know » he reminded her. « And a few columns about the old geezer undergoing tests for AD, whatever the results might be, could be enough to damage your credibility » the dignified nurse proposed, her tone clearly conveying the aversion she had developed towards certain editorialists. « Or something along those lines, yes » vaguely corroborated the career representative, deliberately leaving the issue unresolved. « And why would they think you have AD ? » the sexagenarian suddenly questioned after some consideration, still apprehensive about the health of brother. « Ahem... I'm not quite sure » hesitated the aging Chancellor, having to substantiate his story, « I guess they think they have seen signs, or symptoms » he suggested, recognizing as he did that he was stating the obvious, « I might have forgotten a thing or two lately, and I guess I've been irritable too » he then admitted to better support his claim, « but I'm always like that during a campaign, aren't I ? Have you noticed something unusual about me lately ? » he ultimately asked. « No... not that I can remember » the generous woman answered, « let me think about it » she carried on pensively, remaining quiet for a while, « I can't recall anything unusual » she concluded, appeased by the observation. « Then maybe you have AD ! » tentatively retorted the veteran statesman, provoking the laughter of his confidante who was once again genuinely serene. « I think you're right » the lady noted after the hilarity had subsided, « given that we're in the middle of a campaign, I can definitely see how they might be thinking that about you, now that you mention it » she commented in a more serious manner. « Ah, forgive them, many of them are new here » the elder submitted, his sister chortling in response, « by the way, what kind of tests are they ? » he wondered after a moment. « Ahem... if I remember correctly » the widow began, with an accent on the verb so as to return the joke, her relative chuckling in reaction, « cognitive tests... and brain scans » she soon asserted, « a brain scan would resolve the question beyond – » « But wouldn't I have to properly identify myself to the staff for a brain scan ? » Ramsay anxiously interrupted. « Oh ! Good point... I see what you're aiming at » assumed the retired nurse, « something somewhat less formal » she imagined, not waiting for approval, « it would be far easier to stay incognito for cognitive tests, yes » she agreed, twice emphasizing the cog in humour, « but the physician will recognize you, obviously » she finally warned. « Of course, but physicians are bound by oath... it's not a problem, I can live with that ! »

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– – –

IV. Machine Messiah

the federalist enthusiastically sanctioned, « book me in for some incognitive tests ! » he hazarded in a playful spirit. « Ha ha ! Incognitivo ! » musically exclaimed the sexagenarian, « cognitive tests it shall be, then ! » she told her brother in childish levity, once more stressing the same syllable. « Perfect, perfect ! » repeated the politician, amused as he reflected that the conversation had gone rather well, « I'll have Peter call you to let you know when I'll be in town » he ensured immediately. « Great ! » the cheerful woman offered, « I guess that means I'll be seeing my dear Ricky soon ? » she quickly inquired. « This week... I think » replied the world leader, overlooking the opportunity for another funny remark. « If your memory is right ! » completed the merry lady, not missing a beat, to the delight of her interlocutor who heartily expressed his joy.

And just like the spontaneous exuberance of the career representative manifestly relieved the benevolent widow, that of the nurse reminded the statesman of how his tedious electoral activities had demoralized him in the recent weeks, pretty much as large parts of his life had deadened him in the recent years. Seeing Conrad suddenly reappearing at the main door of the conference area, pointing at his wrist to signify that it was high time to board the space station, the balding elder promptly nodded at him in understanding. –

– – –

« I'll be right with you, Peter » Ramsay declared, the assistant acknowledging quietly and departing at once, « I'm afraid the chief of the Conservatives has to hasten to the National Headquarters where he is expected to deliver an inspired speech to the party members » he informed his confidante, with a healthy dose a self-derision. « You better run then ! » suggested the woman, « see you soon ! » she eagerly added. « Yes ! » happily confirmed the federalist « bye Chlo ! » he bade more pensively. « Bye ! » the lady concluded the call.

Alone in the room, the Chancellor took a deep breath and reflexively lifted his head to stare at the ceiling for a moment, as if imploring the sky to infuse him with the courage to resume his duties. He then reached into an inner pocket of his jacket, pulled out a flask, swallowed a sip of his favourite scotch, and wiped his lips using his sleeve. After carefully replacing the bottle in its secret location, he slowly rose and walked to the exit.

★ The Threshold

43

Christopher Stewart


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 ESO : ESO-Ring-shaped-Nebula-phot-34a-04 Casey.B.Bassett : Integrated Emergency Operations Center (IEOC) 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 4 – Machine Messiah