Three create easy mass transportation but one finds something more?
Winner of the Diversity Celebration 2003 Contest.
Alvarez, Liong and MacGerder create easy mass transportation but will they survive to reap the riches from it? And for one, is the misuse of the transport a curse or fate?
A Forgotten Heritage Lived
Rachael grunted as she stretched.
"It's no use Freddy. You're not going to find it before Cornelio gets here. I have to shower and get ready to meet his flight."
Freddy leaned back in the old office chair and rubbed his bleary eyes.
"I have to find it. You know it as well as I do. I don't find it I may as well make peace with my maker."
Rachael turned her weary black eyes toward Freddy. He stared at the computer screen and at the displayed code. She yawned and ran her hand through her short thick black hair then walked toward the showers.
As Rachael left the room, Freddy sighed and looked after her. He chewed on his lower lip before turning back to the computer screen. Freddy grabbed his unruly red hair with both his hands and yanked viscously. He muffled his scream between clenched teeth then went back to searching for the incongruence hidden in the code.
When Rachael came back into the small office Freddy was typing code. He didn't hear her. Rachael sighed. He must have found the error. She wouldn't have to stall Cornelio after all.
Taking a notepad from the desk she wrote a short note. She knew better than to interrupt Freddy when he was in the groove, so she laid the pad and pen on the desk and left without speaking.
Rachael looked in the full-length mirror before leaving the offices of Alvarez, Liong and MacGerder. She adjusted the cheeky red dress, which always distracted Cornelio. He liked the Asian and scarlet red mystique. Rachael scowled at her affected image. It was too late to change into something conservative now.
Freddy looked up when he heard the main office door slam shut. He glanced at the tablet with the message, “I've gone to pickup Corney.”
Freddy grunted. Rachael was the only one who got away with calling Mr. Alvarez, Corney.
Freddy leaned back in his chair knitting his fingers behind his head. He faced the computer screen, but he didn't see it. Rachael, Cornelio and himself had teamed up at ITT. They connected so well, they graduated at the top of their class of 2079. After a couple years separated by internships, Rachael contacted Freddy and Cornelio with the idea of starting their own business. As she put it, "...I have yet to find the magic that sparked in ITT. We three have something together that can never be found as long as we are separated. I say we make a partnership and see what magic evolves."
Freddy thought the use of the word magic was quaint, but attractive. He sent an answer to her letter that day. The next month he quit his grunt job and joined the team that was successful in ITT.
Freddy's eyes focused on a line of code. He frowned and shook his head. "Now that will never do." He started typing.
Rachael stood with her arms crossed and faced the security booth at Northwestern Airlines. She'd seen Cornelio's flight land as she parked in the lot. She surmised Cornelio would be walking out of the airlines secured area as she was trying to enter, so she decided to wait for him at the exit.
Rachael spotted the dark curly head bobbing within the crowd distinguishing Cornelio from all the light browns and blonds a few minutes after her arrival. She waved high so he would catch the movement.
Cornelio loosened his tie and unbuttoned the dark blazer. It was hotter in David City, Nebraska than in Seattle, Washington. He smiled and walked toward the red dress and slender waving arm. Rachael knew how to welcome a weary partner. As he shuffled through the bottleneck with the rest of the passengers he wondered why neither Freddy nor himself had ever pursued Rachael romantically. She was an attractive woman. Fifth generation boat people, she called herself. Her ancestors came from Laos and settled in Ohio in 1979.
He stepped through the gates and opened his arms in triumph. Rachael was at his side taking his brief case, and helping him remove his blazer.
"Well? What did the Gate's reps say?"
"They declined. As Mr. Spenser put it, 'Come back in another five or ten years when the technology has caught up with computer innovations'."
"Do you have that in writing?"
"Yes, the document for their decline of the product is in the brief case."
"Good, I will make sure it's given to the contract lawyer."
Rachael smiled broadly and Cornelio returned her smile. The first step for independent development was taken. They completed the necessary offering to the big corporate godhead, now they could go on their own.
Cornelio grinned at Rachael. "It is wonderful being a small nobody entity in this business. No one takes you serious."
Rachael and Cornelio laughed as they left the airport terminal.
"By the way, where is Fred"
"I think Freddy found the glitch in the code. He was typing furiously when I left."
"Really? He found it?"
"I don't know if he found it, but he definitely found something."
"How quickly can you get to the offices?"
Rachael laughed but didn't answer Cornelio. They both knew it would be a ten-minute drive whether they hurried or not. The car wouldn't allow for excessive speed.
Cornelio got in the passenger side and Rachael got behind the control board. She pushed the button that secured the doors and harnessed them in. The code for their destination was preset so they were on their way as soon as the red console lights turned green.
Freddy smiled as he hit the enter button. The console blinked, then red lights changed to green. He was running a diagnostic when Rachael and Cornelio entered the office. He looked up and smiled. Then he turned his attention back to the screen before him.
"Well?" Cornelio leaned toward the screen and watched the diagnostic click through the fields of the program.
"So far so good. I have cleaned up quadrant three and, well, as you can see all lights are green.
"What did Gates Corp say?"
Cornelio smiled and laid his hand on Freddy's shoulder.
"They told us to petition in another five to ten years."
"Great! You gave them all the updates and the screening for the project as of two days ago?"
"I most certainly did. I was honest with the corp reps. It isn't my fault they didn't want to fuss with the inherent glitches still in the program."
Rachael came from an adjacent room as she loosened the cork from a bottle of Champagne.
"When are you going to send the research documentation report, Freddy?"
"Just as soon as these diagnostics are complete and no more glitches show up."
Cornelio slipped from the room and came back with drinking classes. Rachael poured each glass half full and handed Freddy his. The three watched for another ten minutes while the diagnostics ran through the last quadrant of the program. Then the 'Diagnostic Complete', message popped up. The results read, "No red flags located in this program code."
Three voices resounded from the walls of empty offices. They laughed and danced in circles. The second step to their independent business venture was now complete. It was up to Rachael Liong to complete the third step. Then they would be free to take the fourth step and market their research as undisputed owners and founders of the transportation breakthrough at hand.
"Mr. Greeson will see you now Ms. Liong."
Rachael put the "Computer Technologies Today" magazine down and walked into Mr. Greeson's office. She carried her brief case and wore a conservative business suit. Just before passing through the door, Rachael took a deep shaky breath.
"Please sit down, Ms. Lee-on."
Rachael ignored the mispronunciation and sat in the overstuffed leather chair. She noticed the man gazed at her bra line. She directed her gaze at the most prominent flaw possessed by Mr. Greeson. The mole just above his ear was huge.
"Ahem, would you like something to drink? We have coffee, or juice if you prefer." Rachael smiled at Mr. Greeson, who now looked her in the eye.
"Do you have tea?"
Mr. Greeson looked toward his secretary who answered.
"Yes we do. We have Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, or Imperial Green."
"I will take a cup of the Orange Pekoe, please."
"Yes, most certainly." The secretary left the room closing the door behind her.
"I understand you wish contracts and patents regarding a new business venture?"
Rachael turned toward the lawyer and nodded. He got right to business, which suited her.
"Yes, my partners and I have documented everything and I have the records and briefs here."
As she spoke, Rachael opened the brief case resting on her lap. She pulled out the various folders stored inside. "Here is the mission statement and the history of research with the documented times and dates of each breakthrough. Here is the required release from Gates Corporation, relinquishing all interest in our endeavors for the next five to ten years. Of course, we are aware the minimum time will most likely be enacted by the Gates Commission when applicable."
Mr. Greeson accepted the folders as the contents were described. "You realize I will have to get back with you on these, the volume is too much to be able to give an accurate reading and legal recommendation today."
"Yes, I have made arrangements to stay in Washington for the next couple weeks if necessary."
Mr. Greeson smiled broadly. Ms. Liong did her home work and gave him ample time to scour the documents.
"Have you visited our fair city before?"
"Yes, as a student. We took in all the national monuments for our history indoctrination. I am interested in seeing other sights this visit and have arranged a guide."
Rachael smiled and shrugged her shoulders as she saw Mr. Greeson's disappointment upon hearing her plans. The secretary came in with a hot pot of tea and placed it on the juice bar.
Mr. Greeson and Rachael skimmed through all the contents of the brief case. The secretary wrote down each memorandum as Mr. Greeson voiced them. By the time Rachael accepted the last cup of tea, they completed the day's business. Mr. Greeson and Rachael stood facing each other.
"I will give you a call in three days with any questions I may have. You are very thorough, however, so I suspect there won't be many questions. Did you study to be a lawyer at one time? You seem to have a firm grasp of business law."
"No, not really. I took the offered business law courses in ITT but that is all."
"Well, I am impressed. ITT must cover contract and corporate law pretty thoroughly."
Rachael grinned at the man's compliment. She chose not to tell him she had researched the relevant laws pertaining to Computer Technologies and the Gates Commission. In a way, she was home schooled in business law.
They shook hands and Rachael accepted Mr. Greeson's escort from his office.
"Well?" Cornelio's question was forced. Rachael avoided eye contact until she made her way through the terminal exits with the other passengers.
"Washington is pleasant this time of year. And, I had opportunity to visit some nice restaurants."
Cornelio grabbed Rachael's arm, turning her to face him. "You know I wasn't asking for a travel report. Do we have clear patent rights or don't we?"
Rachael laughed nodding her head. "We are in business and Gates cannot touch us for five years."
"Old Bill is rolling over in his grave on this one." Cornelio grinned as he spoke.
Rachael and Cornelio didn't talk the rest of the way to the office. Step four was going to be harder to implement. The transportation technology wasn't developed. Preliminary research grants existed, but everything was still raw theory.
Confidence was high for Alvarez, Liong and MacGerder, however. When they put their minds together, magic happened.
Rachael woke up and looked around. Something was wrong. Jungle noises and suffocating heat surrounded her. She looked down reassured she was still wearing the business suit she'd worn when she stepped into the transport chamber. But, this dense foliage, rotted vegetation and bird and frog calls was a far cry from David City.
Rachael stood slowly and turned darted looks at her surroundings. Where had the operator sent her?
Rachael breathed in short gasps as she spun. Her chest constricted. She felt the urge to run, but where? Everywhere she looked was nothing but dense jungle. Finally, she forced herself to sit down and take in deep regular breaths. She found the transponder bracelet on her wrist and pushed the switch on. It was a standard emergency measure they had implemented the first year when the transport booths had been erected for public use. But, after the first year there had not been any mistransports. Billions used the booths every day and they had a perfect safety record for the last three years. Cornelio warned her to not trust the system now that the Gates Commission was nearing their legal take over of the patent rights. It had turned out to be a short five years. But Alvarez, Liong and MacGerder were well set for their early retirement. Mr. Greeson even guaranteed each ten percent of the net world profits for the next five years.
Rachael's thoughts raced. She forced herself to calm.
It was just a simple glitch. The operator set in a wrong latitude or something silly like that. I'm really very lucky, I could have been plunged into the depths of the oceans like happened in a few of the first mistransports.
She looked at the bracelet on her wrist. The light blinked amber. It would be just a matter of minutes and the rescue team would be triangulating her distress beacon. All she had to do was sit tight and wait.
Rachael wondered what kind of press this was going to generate? It was only fitting a glitch would show up now. After all, Gates personnel were the sole operators in the booths. Any legal ramifications would be directed toward Gates Corporation and not them.
An hour passed. "Where am I?" The scream was absorbed by the jungle. Rachael looked at the bracelet for the hundredth time. It still blinked.
Rachael stood again. She stretched. Then she removed the blazer and tied it about her waist. She looked around and chose a direction. Her timid attempts to push through the jungle foliage soon turned into aggressive clawing. After ten minutes she'd gone ten yards. Rachael sat down puffing for air. She wiped the sweat from her face with the sleeve of her blouse. She bit her lower lip and forced herself to calm. "I will not cry. I'm not a baby and the teams will find me soon." She placed all the confidence she could muster behind those words. But when the sound of her voice faded, all she could hear were birds and tree frogs.
"What do you mean she is missing?" Fred MacGerder stared at the David City operator.
"Just that. Richwood, Ohio says they sent her two hours ago. We never retrieved her and we can't pick up a distress beacon anywhere around the world. She is just ... gone." The man threw up his hands.
"That is impossible!" Freddy screamed. Men and women looked in his direction frowning. A few recognized the red headed business man and shook their heads as they went about their schedules.
"Have that jackass send me the coordinates he punched in for Ms. Liong's transport. I want to see them now!"
While he waited, Freddy called Cornelio and told him about Rachael.
"...Yes, Cornelio that is all I know right now. I'm waiting on the coordinates."
"I will be there in ten minutes Fred. Don't kill anyone until I get there, okay?"
"Yea, no problem. I will wait until you can help me before I start strangling these imbeciles." Freddy glared at the booth operator. He made sure his voice carried to the man's ears.
"Now see here Mr. MacGerder. I had nothing to do with the sending. You know darn well, it's the guy on the oth..."
"Yea, yea, yea, but if you send me will you lose me, too?"
The man blanched at the acid dripping from Freddy's accusation.
The man turned away from Freddy as the printer started clacking. He handed the coordinates to Fred as soon as the machine spit out the paper. Freddy scratched the back of his head and whistled. "We send people with three sets of coordinates; longitude, latitude and elevation."
"So what the hell is this fourth set of numbers?"
"Four sets, sir?"
Fred handed the paper to the operator. The operator looked at the fourth set and shrugged.
"Looks almost like a year. It consists of four numbers and it looks like 1926?"
"Yea, that's what it looks like to me too. Fred looked at the paper in the operator's hand.
"And these numbers sure aren't for David City. Give me a world map."
Cornelio found Fred slumped over a map when he arrived.
"What you got Fred?"
Freddy looked up with a tear streaked face. "She's out of our reach Corney. She's gone."
"The operator in Richwood sent her to Laos."
"Laos? That's where her family's from. We should be able to send a team to get her. There's no hostilities in Laos, so why you say she is out of our reach?"
Fred handed Cornelio the printout of the coordinates.
"We can't find her, because her signal has been dead for over a hundred and fifty years."
Rachael woke up and looked at her watch. She'd slept for twelve hours. The jungle was dark around her, but the noises were just as loud. The rescue team should have shown by now. Rachael decided she would try to walk out with the coming of morning.
Rachael pushed herself through the foliage for three hours. When she stopped for rest she caught a rushing sound of water. She pushed with frantic effort toward the sound. A half hour later she was rewarded with the sight of a small falls and broad dark river. Rachael stood staring at the sight before her. Where in the hell am I?
A strange noise broke through her confusion. The voices were strangely familiar, yet incoherent. It took a few moments before she realized she'd heard this language when she was a small child. Her grandparents use to speak this melodic noise. "I am in Southeast Asia somewhere. But why haven't the rescue teams found me? Southeast Asia is not a trouble spot."
From her vantage point in the jungle, Rachael watched three women appear by the bank of the river. They carried baskets filled with clothing. She frowned and watched as the women started washing the bundles in the river. The clothing was typical for Asian women of the Buddhist conservatives. Rachael shook her head trying to clear it for thoughts of reason that would not come. Had she been transported to an isolated area of jungle where Buddhists survived the purging wars?
Rachael waited, then followed the women along a path. She thought she had been clever, but when she came upon the village, she found herself staring face to face with a dozen native Asian men. They each held an old musket pointed at her.
"I am lost. I don't mean any harm. I'm lost and hungry and thirsty." Rachael put up her hands in a surrendering gesture as she spoke.
The men buzzed. One shouted something but she didn't understand what he said. Then another man spoke in French. She recognized the question, "Who are you?"
She answered with the beginning French response and told them her name. The buzz got louder and an elderly man stepped forward. He repeated "Liong?"
Rachael nodded and smiled. She repeated her name, "Liong." Then she told them, "I am an American. I'm American." The men quieted as she broke into hysterical laughter and sagged to the ground.
I do not know why I wrote this journal. It won't be an instrument used to save me from the fate I have lived these last thirty years. Obviously, it was never found and used to return me to my own time and home, else I would not be here writing this during my last days.
I've written an account of my life beginning about three months after my arrival in this village. It took me three months to realize help was not forth coming. That was when the first French soldiers passed nearby on their way to disputed Laotian/Vietnamese lands.
The Captain in charge of the group spoke English and he translated a newspaper article for me. I made him repeat the date three times. August 12, 1926. I remembered my knees buckled and I fell into the cane chair after Jean Louis apologized for the lateness of the news. He explained the paper was already three weeks old when he picked it up and that had been a week before. I expected him to joke about how it took a century before any news reached this deep in the jungle. I do not remember much about the article he read. My mind spun and numbed with the knowledge that I was transported back over a century in time. I still wore the transponder bracelet, but it no longer blinked. It started to make sense why there were no rescue teams. The technology to track my signal wasn't invented yet.
That night I started writing this journal. Maybe, it will be found and questions regarding my fate will be answered. So I write this post summary, or is it really an introduction? Well, no matter. I am dying. I am fifty eight years old and the village physician has informed me that I have a tumor. I am very sick. When I asked him if it was cancer, he looked at me the way he often has through the years. I had once again surprised him with my casual knowledge of things that were recently learned concepts for him.
Over the years, I have taught Bao Ch'iang English and he in turn has taught me Laotian and French. We have talked extensively about Christianity and Buddhism. I still pray to Jesus, but I also meditate and find a serenity I've never thought I could attain. I have helped Bao with the sick in exchange for his kindness and protection.
The struggle of the Laotian Tribes were never dwelt upon in school history. I remember very little about the struggle between the United States and Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, though I knew my ancestors fled to America because of that struggle. I've lived the history that leads up to those terrible wars.
Our little village is nestled deep in the mountains of North Laos. It is defendable against Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east. Cambodian forces once invaded deep enough so they were a hundred miles from our village. But what shocked me the most was when the Japanese forces invaded during the thirties. Many of the men of our village fought beside the French against the Japanese. It was a terrible time when the Japanese forces defeated the French. Everyone in the village was forced to flee deeper into the mountains. It was Bao Ch'iang, who lead everyone to a hidden sanctuary he knew about as a child. The Japanese were defeated, as I told Bao they would be, and we returned to our village. I also told him there would be a great dissension between the French and all of Indochina. I counseled him not to side with the French because it would be bad for everyone when the French fell.
Bao Ch'iang became a wise counselor and leader of the village because of the things I told him. I heeded his warnings about telling others of my foresight into things that have not yet happened. He explained that sorceresses have a tendency to disappear and no trace of them ever found again. It was when he used the Laotian word for sorceress that I remembered a phrase my great grandmother used to say to my mother when I was a child. My grand-dame didn't like that I was named Rachael. She insisted it was a sorceress's name and it would bring bad luck to me. I told Bao about this memory and his eyes misted with his tears. All he would say was my great grandmother was right in her way, but he believed our village would not have survived without my bad luck.
When he said that, I found myself settled to my fate. There was a reason beyond the control of the transport operator for my being here. There was a divine purpose for what had to be an intentional misdirection on the operator's part.
I have met the grandparents of my five times removed great grandparents who will flee to America in 1979. My seven times removed great grandmother came to me and asked for a blessing upon her son. At first I declined, but she insisted. After counseling with Bao, I acquiesced. I revealed some of the knowledge I carry of their children's children. So, I have ensured that my great grandmother will tell my mother it is bad luck to her child that she has named me a sorceress's name. By revealing this future, which is my history, have I changed history? Bao and I have discussed this many times. He insists my being sent here was a part of history and the event could not be changed without changing the world and times I came from.
When my time comes I have asked Bao that I be given the traditional Buddhist ceremony with one exception. Instead of my first name, say only I was a child of Liong. Also, I want my cross necklace to be placed in the urn with my ashes but not burned with my body. It has my name engraved upon it and the date of my baptism. Bao has promised to do these things. He has also sworn that my journal will be placed with my remains so when it is found so too will I be found.
I was twenty-eight when my life changed forever. Now with this account of my life from September 12, 1926 until today, November 20, 1956 I will lay aside my journal and write in it no more.
Cornelio Alvarez and Fred MacGerder looked at each other. They both shared the same frown, yet their eyes sparkled. They used a ritual phrase as passport given to them by Rachael's grandmother three months ago. Today they stood at a place the world didn't know existed. Each man dabbed at the perspiration threatening to blind him. Their loose cotton shirts were soaked and clung to their chests and backs. They had walked a long way and each man swayed as he bowed to the leader of the mountain village hidden in the Laotian jungle.
"I have waited many years for this phrase to be spoken. The keepers of The Child of Liong Shrine have waited all their lives and I am the one to hear these words spoken by foreign tongues."
Freddy closed his eyes as the little brown man in the sarong spoke. Tears slipped down his cheeks and he could not speak with the lump tightening his throat.
"Then we have found her?" Cornelio exercised better control over his voice, but barely.
The Monk nodded and smiled. "Do you wish to pay your respect? She left a written account of her spiritual journey."
Cornelio and Fred looked at each other. Their eyes sparked with energy, but they hesitated.
"According to records, she's been dead since 1956, Corney. That was thirty years after..."
"Yes, I know Freddy. I just didn't expect her to leave, well you know... She will be talking beyond her grave and I'm not sure I'm ready for that."
Freddy placed a brotherly hand on Cornelio's shoulder. "We have all the time we need. It is like a pilgrimage. We are visiting the remains of the first person to travel in time."
Cornelio nodded acknowledging the truth to what Fred said.
Cornelio looked at Fred. "She wondered many times what her ancestry was all about. Let's see if she found out?"
With those words the monk lead the two partner's to the interior of the shrine. On a platform surrounded by many candles and flower petals they saw a simple urn. Beside the urn was a large, thick hard-bound book. The monk gave a nod and Fred approached the platform. Tentatively, he opened the cover. Sprawled in a neat cursive, he read aloud the words, "Hello, if you are reading this then you have told the keeper of my shrine you have come to see The Child of Liong. I can only hope that you are either my parents or my good friends Freddy and Corney. This account of my experiences since arriving at Phu Dang was written specifically for these four people in mind. However, if by chance you are not family or friend I have known, I still give my permission to those speaking the ritual phrase to view my history."
The signature, Rachael Liong, was scrawled across the bottom of the page.
Fred caught his breath and choked. He turned and looked at Cornelio who stood next to him.
"Yes, we have found her."
Tears wet both men's cheeks.