Working Chapter 16 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

The blackouts hadn’t worsened much since the beginning, but Anders was worried at the inability he now had to properly keep time.  The days he was in were fine, but the seasons didn’t seem to shift how he quite remembered and he had no idea how much time lapsed when he blacked out.  There were clues all around, he knew that, but he found it impossible to focus on enough to get an answer.

One memory he had of summer involved cool temperatures, but no snow on the ground.  Another claimed that winter had not arrived without to first snow fall coming to pass.  The logical part of him tried desperately to sift through these memories, but the problem was that they were so basic and strongly held that they were simply unassailable.  At the same time he completely believed two versions of the truth.  Often it was actually multiple versions of the truth.  The only way for him to relax at all was to focus on some complex memory or a universal truth.

The coastline was a particularly useful place for this because people had either known what they were, lived near them or didn’t care because they lived in a landlocked part of the world.  So Anders sat, somewhere along the coast of Portugal, watching the Atlantic stretch out as far as his eyes could let him.

Immortality.  Finally achieved after centuries of fantasising and envy of the gods that our own minds had created.  Everlasting life.  The gift of the fountain of youth.  The holy grail.  Everything that could possibly be imagined was likely to now be reality.  Death would follow, it would lurk in hope, but never catch up.

Anders could not quite believe that he had achieved this immortality quite by accident.  His plan had jumped ahead of him, but he wasn’t quite as delighted as he had thought he would be.  There was the was still the nagging thoughts about whether or not it was true immortality and exactly what kind though.

If you went for the Norse model, immortality was the gift of longevity rather than indestructibility.  You could still die and cross to Hel’s realm.  Even if you survived that, there was always Ragnarok – the end of days.  That model, though familiar to even Anders’ own memories, wasn’t perfect.  It was better than what came before though, that was for sure.

Anders’ main issue was that he could not test the limits of his immortality, except by accident.  He wasn’t about to throw himself off a cliff just to see if he’d die or not.  Some months (or was it years) back he had scuffed himself up on some dirt track on the outskirts of Istanbul and those cuts had not healed immediately, so indestructibility seemed unlikely to be on the table for him.  Though, as it was so long ago, it begged to question as to whether the condition of immortality was newly manifested or had been with him since he absorbed the entire world’s consciousness.  Anders, and for that matter the consciousness of what remained of humankind became incredibly anxious at the very impossibility of finding out.

Direction – The Ministers Prime

Working Chapter 15 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

When Anders awoke it was sometime near dawn and he was still where he started, back some time which felt like very long ago. He groggily sat up without thinking about what he had done or where he wanted to go. All he knew in this moment that whatever was the most vital thing that he needed at this moment. Dehydration felt like it was setting in and besides his various desires for cigarettes, alcohol or coffee, he knew it was the only thing that would make him feel awake. Typically, he hadn’t thought to bring a bottle to the car, so he ventured into the nearby house, where he had memory of a store of bottles.

He walked slowly into the cellar of the house. It was cool even adjusting for the heat of the place, so when he ripped apart the plastic wrap holding six two litre bottles of water and greedily gulped most of the two litres down or over himself, it was at a cool and refreshing temperature. Sitting on the top of the cellar steps, he realised that he was entirely cantered and at peace. Presumably such a basic biological function was so universal that everyone was thinking the same thing all at once. It was calming, but did not last.

Generally, the thought was that little truth had come from the President, because she had been more of a self interested passenger in the whole affair. In a different sort of way, the General had also been a passenger, following orders and refusing to consider the morality of it all. The same principle broadly rolled down throughout the ranks, carried by self interest as it always is in war. Now the jury thought there was only one pair that could provide the truth that they sought. Two ministers, both Prime and prime suspects for delivering the truth. They needed to be round up and interrogated.

The first Prime Minister was Karl Duck of North America, a man that many thought was born and bred in the Navy and whose surname couldn’t have been more fitting. He brought a military efficiency to his Premiership which didn’t always sit well with his Members of Parliament, but inspired confidence from the voters who had tired of eight years of more or less technocratic rule that seemed to promise much and deliver little in the short term. There was no doubt in the jury’s mind that PM Duck had a hand in swaying the bloc towards a solution which essentially amounted to a blockade. In his youth, during the final major conflicts which set out the new blocs of the world, he had masterminded several crucial blockades of key rebel strongholds which starved them into submission. It’s no surprise he would try to use this tactic on a much larger scale when he felt threatened.

Then there was Prime Minister Ashish Zhén, the leader of the Greater China region. Premier Zhén was a true visionary in his early years having spearheaded the negotiations that lead to to formation of the Greater China bloc, years before he became Prime Minister. The party line was that these negotiations were constructive and filled with great energy from all involved, but it was clear that behind the scenes there was a significant amount of leverage and muscle at work. To his followers, even in the non-Chinese portions of the bloc, he was seen as a great unifier, but in truth it always takes a few generations for unity to really show. In any event, PM Zhén was confident in his position. That he stood by PM Duck was surprising to most given the icy state of affairs between them publicly, but then again, as self interest looms large, it’s not so surprising.

Jurors were focussed, Judge was in session, only witnessed remained to appear. They had been summoned and while there was not strict penalty that could be levied for non-compliance with the summons, the jury was intent on compelling their appearance. Accusations were being levied, but again no real penalties existed. This was an exercise in truth. So it was that when all of Anders, as judge and the other parts of him as jury, focussed all energy on the summons, the memories of the Ministers Prime Duck and Zhén, they appeared and were interrogated together.

“There are many questions to answer, but chief among them, and in reality the only true question, is why?” Anders the judge queried the memories of the Ministers Prime.

A lull and then the simplistic chorus from them both rang through, “We had no other option.”

This was an unacceptable truth, the jury ruled quickly. It may be one of their memories, but it was practiced and reused a thousand times. It would not suffice in these circumstances, where the Ministers Prime had no authority and no power. They were probed again.

Zhén’s measly response was found, “I was reluctant, but I had no choice to protect my people.”

This brought up memories or rage and a giant uproar from the righteous indignation of armchair diplomats and the pure hatred of the disenfranchised. Zhén was a great leader to only a select few and those were mostly dead. He was ruthless and no one believed that he would do anything for the benefit of his people. This was all about retaining his power and position within the Triumvirate.

“To the truth of the matter!” Was the rallying call from the jury.

Then they found the kernel of truth, “I was worried that I would be left out and that the work that needed to be done would be beneficial to my standing. If I challenged the others and I was left out of the pact, no one would believe me until it came true and then they’d behead me for not joining in. It’s only now that we’re stuck together that any of my people grow a moral conscience.”

There was truth in this. Really everyone was angry with Anders, but they were starting to understand their current situation and understand Anders’ motivations to a point. The bottom line was that the reckless, dehumanising behaviour of the Triumvirate pushed Anders over the edge and humanity into Anders. There were no good answers, but truth gave some comfort and understanding.

It was only Duck’s memories left to be interrogated. There was little will from judge or jury as they all knew the truth would be terribly unsatisfying. Nonetheless they pressed forward with the clear hateful memories of Zhén hanging nearby.

“And you, Duck, what is your excuse? What is your reason?”

Silence in Anders’ head as they probed for the suitable memories.

“I wanted to do it.”

“That is too simple and too cruel. What was your motivation?”

“I wanted to do it. I only care about me and mine. It was necessary to have the other territories involved, but I simply didn’t care about them either. North America has always been the Greatest of the blocs and I wanted to ensure that continued. If we had made a plan to help those from Europe or Africa, it would have been at our expense. We would have had to let people into our home and this was simply unacceptable on the scale we would have needed. I wanted to. It was the easiest route. I did it and I wouldn’t change my decision even now.”

Direction – First of the Triumvirate

Working Chapter 14 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

Anders mind had been at work work while his body received its much needed rest from struggle and strain.  When he was in this peaceable state, no consciousness vied for dominance or lobbied to have their thoughts brought to the fore.  It was as if they all enjoyed a short rest – like the political community during labour day weekend in Washington DC or the spring bank holiday in London.  Of course it would never last, but the moment was still there for posterity and if it could happen once it could certainly happen again.

As the slumber ended and Anders stretched out his stiff body after sleeping in the folded down rear of the Ford SUV, his jury began to filter back into the box.  They were grumpy, angry and numerous, doing their best not to act like a crazed mob and only just succeeding.  Anders called the proceedings to order in his head and shouted out for the next witness, “We know you survived and that you are amongst us.  We call you to share your version of events clearly and truly.”

There was a small side debate over whether it was worth calling aides and other advisers.  Anders quashed this debate quickly though as clearly there were only three other main actors – the key decision makers.  Instead, he shifted the debate back to how the could find them within Anders head.  There were many ludicrous suggestions that popped into the forefront of Anders mind, suggestions that showed a complete lack of understanding of the situation.  “Send a search party,” “Let’s Lynch them,” and “can’t we use the space satellites,” were amongst the most ridiculous.

It occurred to Anders that perhaps the most straightforward way was to concentrate on the people themselves, one at a time, with great focus, until their memories came to the forefront.  He concentrated on one of the names that was familiar to him from the news – President of South America, Micaela Calouthino.  As he remembered, and other memories rang true with this, she was a short woman, with shoulder length dark hair, piercing eyes and an intellect to be reckoned with.  She was constantly on international news programs fending off any criticism of South American immigration and environmental policies and doing so eloquently and convincingly, which is why there were so many memories of her.

President Calouthino counted her intellect as her number one asset, as did so many of the commentators around the world.  She was a strong person who carried a populous type of wit around with her to bed dispensed at any uncomfortable moment on policy or action by her administration.  News outlets would devote reels of airtime to her quipping that, “It’s better to have a senator who is well satisfied and focussed on the work of the people than a chaste priest at the wheel,” in response to allegations of one of the top senators in her party frequently using the services of prostitutes in his office and potentially tipping them from public funds.  The news outlets proceeded to replay this clip rather than focus on the story at hand.  Luiz Pesco, the senator in question, eventually got reprimanded and let off with a small fine which would be deducted from his monthly pay check for the remainder of his four year term.  This was her greatest power and what people remembered about her the most.  Then there was her ability to befriend people, drinking caprinhas with members of different parties on the beach frequently to resolve polarised issues and never having a loyal follower turn on her.

Anders grasped for memories of her family.  They were under the surface somewhere as she had always been very protective of her family.  There was a daughter and a son, and a loving husband, this much was fairly public and off repeated information.  Beyond that it was a struggle as she kept her family life very secretive, Presidebt Calouthino did.

And then the witness appeared, her memories found by focussing on those closest to her.

The jury analysed the memories and then Anders as the chief inquisitor began his line of questioning.

“Do you have a side of the story that you’d like to share with the rest of us, President?”

The response came with passion, “I am and always will be fiercely loyal to my people.  They voted for me as they knew I would always represent their interest even in the most difficult of circumstances.  This was more difficult than most, but there were no other options.”

“Systematic murder by cutting the rest of the world off from you and your allies was the only option?  This sounds an awful lot like conspiracy or war than simply a lack of options,” the inquisition retorted, “Be advised President, we are after the truth of the matter here, not the plain facts.”

“I stand by my decision to agree to the Prime Minister’s suggestion as it was the best course of action for my people.”

“Inadequate Micaela,” Anders yelled in his mind, losing his temper with the steadfast President, but also seeing parts of her motivation, “There are many of your constituents amongst us that are very upset indeed with your rash actions.  How would you explain yourself to them?”

This was a slightly harder truth to pull out of the consciousness of Micaela.  When everyone was alive and protected, there was little concern about the morals of the whole thing, though there were of course objectors.

“It was impossible to foresee the events which led us to where we are.  That much is undeniable, though it is admitted that our actions were a direct cause of the event.  The truth is that I thought the General and the Prime Minister were too bullish and too eager to pursue such a drastic course of action, but when faced with the wall of statistics and projections which have been so painstakingly compiled, and told that timescales don’t allow for experimentation, what possible other action could have been taken?”

“We have heard this from the General.  Was it not possible to take a few more months or even weeks to come to a conclusion?  It appears to us that no such consideration was truly given, but the easiest and most prosperous short term course of action for those involved was taken.  This is unacceptable.”

“What you have done is what is unacceptable.  How can I possibly be so culpable when you pulled the trigger?  I reacted to the situation in front of me, with the interests of those who I represented in mind.”

Many of the jury understood the feeling, and yet there was still an enraged feeling of anger that this is how decisions were made.  “It is a shame that this is the truth of the matter for you.”

Anders passed out once again in the SUV, spent from his trial.

Direction – An SUV for the night

Working Chapter 13 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

There wasn’t t anything resembling privacy in this new world order.  Though it didn’t stop some from trying to take advantage of the ‘needle in a stack of needles’ effect that ostensibly was Anders mind at present.  It wasn’t as if a neighbouring consciousness could raise the alarm and point out the culprit swimming right next to them in Anders mind.  No, this hunt for the triumvirate was more akin to trying to remember where you left your keys if you had 9 billion sets of keys.

The inquisition of the General had been relatively simple, but it had strained Anders mind nonetheless.  He lie passed out on the bluff where he had been sitting for some time, now with the sun close to setting.  There was no danger present and yet he felt the primal need to find shelter as the darkness approached.  The SUV he had thought of earlier would do just fine seeing as he could then use it for the next leg of his journey.

Anders groggily pulled himself off the floor and stretched his limbs, the air between some of his joints making a satisfying pop as he did so.  The SUV was a short walk down the main road adjacent to the beach.  He walked at a leisurely pace, his memory of the area so honed that he could easily find his way to the SUV blindfolded.

The keys were in a drawer by the main entrance to the house – the same place they had always been and where he always remembered putting them and incidentally a very similar place to where most put them.  It was all second nature.  It was all as he remembered.  Waltzing between the front door and the driveway, keys in hand ready to drive to work.  Only, of course, this work was very different from that which his memories alluded to.

A Ford SUV sat in the driveway right where it’s previous owner had left it.  The details of the make, model, colour and condition excited parts of his mind, notably those that had designed it, but the vast majority had a nonplussed reaction – it was just another car after all.  Tonight this car was also shelter.  Anders reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a chocolate flavoured protein bar.  Branded and loaded with artificial claims and tastes to compliment the artificial proteins.  It certainly had convinced most of Anders that it was an effective substitute for real food.  Still, effective as it was, it lacked that essence and love in food, like he had cooked when he first absorbed the consciousnesses of that group of friends.  They had shown him the initial joy of food, but the night was late for that and work was afoot.  He cradled into his Ford SUV for the night – he would rest for the night and begin his interrogations again in the morning.