Beginning of a science fiction novel i am currently working on. Very rough draft
|TO THOSE IN HIDING—REJOICE
TO THOSE IN HEAVEN—REPENT
TO THOSE IN HOMELAND—RETURN
The words were bleeding red down the face of the stone statue in front of the Barracks. A black smoke curled out of the ashes, tainting the sky with the smell of gunpowder and burnt flesh. Several tankriders and motorcarriers lay demolished in craters the size of houses. There was no sign of life as Utopia IV looked around in shocked disbelief.
Seconds earlier, the establishment now in ruins was preparing for his execution. His hands, dry and calloused, felt the cold, hard stone become wet with the red liquid. Utopia knew it was human blood, and he did not care. The wind blew through the concrete rubble and fueled the sparks of flame smoldering in the ashes of the past.
I am alone. The feeling rushed into his body as his eyes took in the surrounding waste. His blood-stained hand steadied himself against the statue and Utopia collapsed to his knees. Locks of coarse, dirty hair mingled with the dust and ash as his head met the hard ground. Small, wiry shoulders shook in silent emotion and the ground pooled with tears.
Utopia lay motionless under the towering effigy, falling into a sleep riddled with pain and torturous images. He saw men without faces marching to the beat of an invisible drum. Guns screamed and children wailed amid an ever-present roar of destruction. All around him a devilish fire consumed everything in its path. The skin on his arms and leg grew hot and melted off his body. Thoughts turned to butter and dissolved before they materialized as ghostly images drifting above the devastation.
It all started many years ago, when the first member of the High Council died. Cloning was only used to replace missing limbs and household pets, but when the first Councilor died—man became greedy.
March 6th, 2142 – New World Council Chamber
“Council Member Drake, step forward please.”
The chairman’s voice echoed off the metal walls and sent shivers down Grimm’s spine. He had always disliked the Chairman’s voice, so condescending and authoritative.
All eyes went to the scrawny, bi-speckled man seated in the far upper corner of the sloped benches. Council Member Drake had always been one of Grimm’s least favorite people and now he watched with contempt as the chairman appointed him to speak.
“I hear and obey High Chairman.”
Drake’s shoes squeaked as he stepped down each row of awe-inspired Council Members. For some reason Drake had always been held in high esteem by everyone. Grimm wondered if it were not for some propaganda ritual they revered him so.
“Council Members, I ask you to lend me your hearts and your minds for a few precious moments.”
Grimm watched as his fellow Members straightened their papers and rested their elbows on the desks in front of them. Drake, now standing near the High Chairman’s podium, continued,
“As you all know, our beloved Member Johann died last month in a tragic construction accident. Though it came as a shock, we know that he lived a full life and can only be glad for his quick and painless death. However, his wisdom and experience here in our Council will be greatly missed.”
Mutters of agreement passed through the Members. Some bowed their head in respect for the dead.
“Members, if I told you of a way in which Member Johann could sit with us again, would you believe me? Would you follow me as your guide into realms of the universe which God himself has not ventured?”
Grimm noticed Drake’s voice rise in passion and determination. He watched as each Member stared in awe as if at a divine prophet transforming before their eyes. Grimm stared intently at the High Chairman and nearly gagged as he saw tears well in the eyes of the monstrous man.
Grimm shook his head and rested it in his hands. Suddenly a gasp erupted in the Chamber. Everyone was staring at the West Entrance. Grimm followed their eyes and their pointing fingers. Standing in the doorway, helped on either side by attendants in light blue suits, was none other than Member Johann. Grimm couldn’t breathe. The faces on other Members assured him he wasn’t the only one.
Grimm looked anxiously toward the High Chairman, hoping the massive man would belch out an explanation. The leader’s eyes were flowing steadily now and to Grimm’s surprise he stood behind his podium and began clapping. The expression was contagious and soon Grimm was the only one in the chamber whose hands were at his side. Member Drake allowed the applause to continue for several minutes before holding his hands up in silence.
“Please, fellow Members, do not applaud the man, but applaud the institution. If not for our ideal society and overwhelming support from the government, I assure you none of this would have been possible.”
Grimm sneered as Drake bowed in recognition to the High Chairman. To everyone’s surprise the Chairman waddled past the podium and embraced Member Drake in a monstrous bear hug. Laughter gave way to tears as Member Johann passed through the midst of the energetic crowd. Chairman officially adjourned the Council early in celebration of Johann’s return.
Grimm gathered his things and tucked them neatly under his arm. He caught the Chairman’s eye and began making his way across the room.
“Grimm! Science be praised! To think that we would see our beloved friend again…it’s too much for me you can be sure!”
The Chairman raised a sleeve and wiped the tears and snot from his reddened face. Grimm merely nodded.
“What is it my boy? Aren’t you pleased at this miraculous resurrection?”
Grimm considered not answering but his lungs were about to burst. He had to say something. They were acting like it’s him. He cleared his throat.
“Sir, you—you do realize that Johann is still,” Grimm paused as a Member walked past. “Johann is dead, Chairman. To view this—what is the word?—‘being’ as our friend is to betray the very meaning of friendship.”
The Chairman’s eyes bulged and his face distorted into a deep scowl. For a moment, Grimm thought he had gotten through the thick skull but soon he saw the large hands shake and the plump face tint red.
“Member Grimm, how can you say such nonsense? You would dare to denounce the rule of Science?!” The Chairman said, just loud enough to cause the Members still in the Chamber to walk toward them.
“Absolutely not sir, I was simply—“ Grimm knew it was no use to recant. Once the Chairman set his mind on someone’s defamation, there was no turning back.
“You’re telling me that Science has limitations—that it couldn’t resurrect Johann from the dead and return him to us?”
The Members were forming a circle around the two men, their eyes capturing the argument with intense scrutiny.
“Sir, I urge you to hear me out. That is not Member Johann!”
Grimm looked around the room in earnest, hoping to find someone to come to his aid. However, what he saw made his stomach turn. A door was open, and under its frame stood Member Drake and the ‘new’ Johann. They both appeared lost and confused, and after whispers between themselves, Drake approached the circle of Members.
“What seems to be the problem High Chairman?” Drake’s spectacles rested on his nose and his beady eyes peered over them, darting back and forth between Grimm and the High Chairman.
“It seems, Vice Chairman Drake, that we have a blasphemer in our midst.”
His words echoed throughout the silent Chamber and Grimm felt his knees weaken. My death sentence. Blaspheming against Science was the worst crime one could commit in the New World. Murder, drugs, rape, everything took a back seat to the disgrace of the modern god of Science.
“Does the accused have anything to say in his defense?” Drake sneered. Grimm could sense the slightest amount of excitement growing among the Members surrounding him. It had been almost ten years since the last Member was executed. They were well overdue for a show.
Realizing there was nothing he could do to change the outcome of his tragedy, Grimm was ready to forfeit his life. He had made a crucial mistake in trusting the Chairman to be reasonable, but there was no one else who would listen. The only person who had ever shared Grimm’s apprehension died and was now a product of the Science he dreaded. As Grimm was about to confess, the phrase ‘blaze of glory’ flew through his mind like the noon-day trainway. There was no time to debate, no time to consider. Grimm stepped toward the podium. Members darted out of his way as if he was a rotting plague. The white spotlights shone brightly as Grimm stepped to the microphone and gripped the wooden dais with shaking hands.
“Fellow members, I would never deny the sovereignty of Science,” Liar. “Nor would I attempt to set upon it binding chains of inadequacy. However, I would suggest we use caution when dealing with its overwhelming power. Simply because Science has no bounds does not mean its secrets are for us to uncover. My son is nigh on three and while he is capable of gripping a gun handle, it would be dangerous—even fatal for him to do so. This new step, this ‘height’ that Member Drake ref—“
“VICE CHAIRMAN DRAKE!” Boomed a voice from below.
“I apologize. I was unaware of the promotion, or even the existence of such a position. Let me continue Mem—“ Again a deep voice rang out from the first row of benches.
“Tell them what you told me Member Grimm. Tell them you think Johann is dead, that Science failed us. Tell this to his face Grimm!”
A loud roar erupted from the crowd and Grimm heard footsteps approaching the podium and felt hands tug at his suit and pants. Suddenly with mob-like strength Grimm was dragged from the stand and thrown to the floor. Cries of ‘traitor’ and ‘enemy’ filled the room and Grimm heard several Members beg for the privilege of execution.
The High Chairman raised his stubby arms in the air and the room fell silent. Grimm was jerked to his feet and held between two rough looking Members.
“I believe we should allow the privilege of execution to go to our dear friend, who has been hurt the most by this betrayal.”
Hushed whispers drifted across the surface of the crowd as each Member discussed who this special person was.
Grimm watched helplessly as the Chairman nodded at Drake, who in turn spoke in a calm, serene voice.
“Member Johann, step forward please.”
The muscles in Grimm’s body tensed and shivers rocketed up and down his spine as a frail old man approached him. White hair clung tightly around the man’s temples and in his thin mouth an antique pipe hung gently to the side. Grimm remembered the first time he had smelled the aroma from his old friend’s pipe. So long ago.
“Member Grimm,” Johann’s voice was unmistakable. “I hereby condemn you to death. I will be your deliverer from the life of betrayal. Let it be known your last words brought you out of the darkness.”
The grip on Grimm’s arms tightened and Grimm knew what was demanded of him. His quote would strengthen the Members faith and set the matter of his death to rest forever. A few simple words and he would become a veteran martyr of the NW, most likely dying in some freak accident. For the Members to know that repentance comes in the end, established the Council as the proper authority.
Grimm looked around at the cold, stone faces and after a deep breath, said his last words.
“God be praised and forgive you for your pathetic imitation of Him.”
Curses flew and fists connected with the side of Grimm’s face. A sharp needle pricked under his ear. He was suddenly very tired.
August 15, 2162 — Vertigo East, Liberty City
“Stewart! Breakfast’s ready! Find your slippers and get down here, your eggs are getting cold!”
Stewart moaned and rolled out of bed. Matching fuzzy slippers sat on the carpet near the wooden bedstand. Well, that’s a first. This morning was the first time in several months his slippers were by his bed. Yesterday they were behind the lavatory in the hall bathroom and the day before that they were under the coffee table in the foyer. His knees ached and his back was stiff as he stood to his feet. The window shade was open and he looked out at the rising sun. For thirty years he had lived on the fifty-second floor of Vertigo East, and for thirty years he had listened to his wife’s call to breakfast. They were married shortly after his graduation from the School of Business and had moved into their apartment a month later. Stewart looked out across the city and breathed deep, letting the sun’s rays soak into his sore body. He was old. This year he would turn fifty-eight, just two years short of the almost unanimous lifespan. Sixty was on the horizon and with it questions and concerns by the truckload.
“Coming!” The slippers slid softly across the low beige carpet and when Stewart’s hand touched the doorknob, a small spark shot from his finger. A loud ‘ouch’ echoed down the hallway and within seconds, his wife’s head appeared around the corner.
“What’s the matter dear? Is it your knees?” Her voice was calm, yet concerned.
“I told you should have it replaced with one of them neuroknees they talk about on the televisor. Those things are so nifty…and they come with a free set of hearers.” Her voice trailed as she went back into the kitchen and Stewart was left shaking his head and walking slowly down the hallway. Confounded woman, does she ever give up? For years Ellenore had tried to convince him to trade a limb for some new contraption made by the Medicals. Every time Stewart managed to change the subject or tell her he would think about it, while in reality he had already thought about it and was sick of the idea. I’m a man, not a machine. But he didn’t push his way onto her. They had been through a lot together, and ever since their son had died she had been extra sensitive toward his health.
Their son, Johnson Almin Tribador, died twenty one years ago last May. An accident near his school had claimed the lives of many, mostly elderly teachers, but Johnson had been walking home from school and was lost in the tragedy.