Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Worrying Implications

In various labs, meeting rooms and offices scientists met, trying to understand the 'Event' as it had been called. Theories were offered, some found more plausible than others but there was still a great gnawing sense of unease, of fear. The unknown can be something fascinating but it can be terrifying too, especially when that unknown apparently destroyed your children, your friends and neighbors. Governments worldwide were trying to understand what happened and if it was going to happen again. Information was sent around, groups pored over data, many of them quietly both praising and scolding Carpathia.

On the one hand, he had addressed the situation and had managed to, amazingly, calm multitudes of people and get them to feel more optimistic which was honestly an impressive feat. But then he claimed that the reason this occurred was due to some kind of 'electromagnetic field' which was utter nonsense. Unfortunately it had grabbed the attention of people desperate for any kind of idea of what was happening which meant that they were going to have to fight the conventional wisdom when they got a better idea of what happened. But what made it worse...well that was announced by one flustered woman

"This is utter CRAP!" she got up, staring at all the data in disgust, pacing, taking a few deep breaths before recovering. "It's crap, as it is everything we knew went out the window with the event. Thermodynamics was violated in at least three ways, not to mention all kinds of things we thought we understood about biology being apparently disproven. The rules basically just got rewritten, we're trying to play chess using the rules for checkers." She looked around the table, some of them looked surprised at the outburst but more than a few of them nodded or gave her a look of agreement. There were webcams recording what she had said and she noticed on her laptop messages were starting to accumulate, some agreed with her, some pleaded with her to calm down, and some asked flatly what they were to do. She sighed, apparently she still had their attention so she continued,

"Right now we can't even be sure what caused this, but there are a few things we do know. Carpathias electromagnetic field explanation is holding for now but we need to come up with an actual answer. The other theories out there claim either space aliens or an angry god. The news has shown dozens, hundreds of people protesting at the Vatican and other religious sites. The US government is dealing with dozens of inquiries about Roswell and other various UFO phenomena. Right now we have a duty to figure out what happened but we don't even know where to start. We have to do something soon, we have a responsibility to find out the truth and make sure people know."

She didn't mention the last part, the elephant in the room that had been wandering around since the first few days after the Event. The elephant had gotten larger when scientists working in weapons research and other military endeavors were joining in on the project and trying to offer any help. People had thought about what occurred at Israel during the joint attack. They had managed to throw the attack back, destroy harmlessly every nuclear weapon, and even managed to somehow be able to salvage fuel from all the vehicles. People had called it a miracle but there were some who also remembered Chaim Rosenwigs formula. Israel had lately been advancing incredibly in technical development and while Israel had claimed confusion with the rest of the world few people had accepted it. They couldn't imagine that something like that could happen without a cause. The event had a similar mystery quality to it and the thought flashed, however fleeting, that they might be responsible for this. Perhaps it was an accident, perhaps it was purposeful, but whatever happened...they didn't want to say aloud what they wondered, mostly for fear that they might all frantically grab onto it or that it would reach the world before they could be sure and cause another round of riots and panics.

She sat again and started going over the papers again as theories flew hoping for progress, all the while the elephant in the room grew ever larger.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Display of Power

Posted for the authors Huitzil and Inklesspen

Nicolae, having made his way around most of the table, now approached Harper, asking him to stand. After shaking his hand, as he'd done with all the others, he said, "Mr. Harper, you shall be introduced as the ambassador of the Great States of North America, stretching from the North Pole to the Panama Canal. I welcome you to the team and confer upon you all the rights and privileges that go with your new station. May you display to me and to those in your charge the consistency and wisdom that have brought you to this position."

Buck could hardly believe his ears. Just like that, Nicolae had abolished the United States, the same as he'd done for Ireland, Ghana, South Korea, New Zealand, Columbia, and even his home nation of Romania. What's more, Harper seemed to be the only one of these new "ambassadors" who'd even been a head of state!

Carpathia moved on to Buck, but this time he seemed to hesitate. Without waiting to be asked, Buck stood to his feed, holding his notebook and pen awkwardly at his side. The smile on his face felt transparently false as he shook hands with the man. "Mr. Williams, my friend," said Carpathia, "I thank you for coming here today, and I hope you'll fulfill your journalistic responsibilities here as well as you have in the past. This is a truly momentous occasion." As everyone applauded, Buck didn't know what to do or how to respond. He'd come here wanting to find out what Carpathia was doing, for his Global Weekly article, but now that seemed to be exactly what Carpathia wanted of him. What did God want? He realized he didn't have any idea. Still confused, he sank into his chair.

Thankfully, Nicolae had moved on. He gave a perfunctory thank-you to Stonegal for all the help et cetera et cetera and made his way back to where he'd started, near the door. He turned to the security guard posted there. "Mr. Otterness, would you please hand me your sidearm?" The guard didn't seem to find anything unusual in his request, but simply unsnapped his holster and handed the gun over.

Nicolae raised the .38 and cocked it. "Mr. Stonegal, I will not be needing your help any more." He fired the gun into the back of Stonegal's head. For a moment after the blast, there was a stunned silence, everyone in the room trying to comprehend what they had just seen. Then the screaming began; not just Hattie, but most of the people in the room. Another shot rang out, and Todd-Cothran, the first of the two men to have been named ambassador of Britain, fell to the floor. "I will have silence," the man with the gun said, not loudly. The screaming stopped. Buck hadn't even been able to hear him over the noise, but he knew just what Nicolae had said, as apparently had everyone else.

"I have made you rulers of the ten federations of Earth, but you will remember that I am in control here," he said. "This is my display of power. You may go outside and tell anyone you want what you just saw. I will not try to stop you. Shout it from the rooftops, if you like. You just saw the Secretary-General of the United Nations murder a man in cold blood for no reason, and there is nothing you can do about it. This world is mine."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fatherly advice

How Rayford might have handled the Chloe-Buck thing if he was a human being.

"Hi Rayford," Buck Williams said. "May I speak to Chloe?"

"Yes, just-" He broke off: Chloe was frantically shaking her head and gesturing to put the phone down. "No, Buck. I don't think she wants to talk to you right now."

"Why not?" His tone was all outraged innocence, with just a hint of brattish whining. "Look, Rayford, I want to sort this out with her. But she won't even tell me what the matter is - she just drops these little hints and expects me just to intuit what she means. How am I supposed to work it out if she won't even speak to me?"

Rayford sighed. He knew young people had different moral codes to their elders, but even the brashest teenager would have been able to work out why Chloe was angry with Buck. There was no way a seasoned journalist could be so oblivious. "I don't think it's all that hard to work out."

"You mean you know? What has she told you?" The eagerness in his voice almost made Rayford doubt his previous assessment. It didn't sound feigned: maybe Buck really was desperate to know what he'd done wrong.

But Rayford wasn't about to explain it to him. The conversation would be far more messy than he had the stomach for, especially with Chloe still within earshot. "No, I'm not going to get involved. You respect Chloe, and leave her alone unless she decides she wants to speak to you. And just ... just grow up." He put the phone down before Buck could protest.

Chloe took a tentative step towards him. She looked exhausted, but also grateful. "Thanks for dealing with him."

Rayford shook his head. "I bought you some time, that's all. Eventually, you're going to need to deal with him yourself."

"I don't ever want to see him again."

"I know, but that's going to be hard, isn't it? Are you going to stop going to New Hope? Force him to stop going?"

Her composure broke. She sat down on the bottom step and let the tears start falling again. Rayford sat beside her, stroking her shoulder and feeling utterly useless.

"What would you do, Dad? If you were me?"

For the millionth time, Rayford wished Irene was there. She would have had the perfect advice for a time like this: something that would make Chloe feel better and help her find the best way forwards on her own. He'd never realised how much she did to keep the family going until she was no longer there to do it.

"I don't know, honey. But maybe ... you need to tell him how you feel, in words even he can't misunderstand. If he's got any decency at all, he'll have to..."

"That's it, isn't it? What can he do now? I'm sure he didn't mean to lead me on like this, but now the damage is done."

"It's not up to you to bear the worst of the damage, though," Rayford said firmly. "None of this is your fault. He needs to start putting things right. And ... well, from what he said just now, I don't think he's capable of doing that without you spelling it out for him."