By William Markiewicz
(continued from last issue)
This "archival" story was inspired by a few of my dreams which I linked together.
Chateauroux is a small town, industrialized, hard working, a town without history. One morning before working hours, a thunderous noise shook the foundations of the buildings. Houses trembled, windows shattered, and everything from the steel mill to the toy factories burst into flames. The alerted firemen raced to the places of catastrophe but on their arrival new explosions blew them away, feeding the flames and destruction with their breath. The police approached the site of the disaster and they were not spared. The scene was totally unbelievable. Witnesses who viewed it from a distance might have said that the policemen shot one another, but no one was sure because there were no survivors to tell the real story.
Nothing but ruins and dust remained in the industrial zone. World media couldn't find a satisfying explanation of a drama that contained mystery and absurdity in equal parts. As for the government, it announced an "investigation" and even "arrests of suspects."
In every capital, on each of the four continents, a small group of three or four persons met in secret talks. The top representatives of the big powers were in close contact, though at lower levels nothing changed. The same polemics, boycotts, blockades, even scattered fights, continued. In those secret meetings opposite points of views clashed.
-- "It's an absurdity and barbarism, comparable only to Nazism," somebody claimed. "If this is the vision of the future that the powerful Interplanetary Federation presents to us, what do we have to hope for? We can see from their behaviour what their universe is!"
-- "We mustn't forget that we are not dealing with earth people." replied another. "Even here, we have examples of various mentalities. Aren't we all materialistic when our interests are at stake?"
-- "But there is something absolutely senseless," others stubbornly maintained. "Here they are, members of the powerful Interplanetary Federation, with no way to finance the works and they come here behaving like criminals. If they came as friends they would get whatever they wanted!"
-- "Really?" replied another skeptically.
-- "Well, after all, isn't it clear that their behaviour lacks elementary logic? Friendship or conquest -- we can understand both, but what is the meaning of this intimidation with the requirement to keep a secret?"
-- "They are enemies, we all agree, but the fact that they have chosen intimidation and not colonization gives us some breathing space."
-- "And when they begin organizing those projects they will surely disclose more about themselves."
So, when the expected phone calls came in the worlds' main capitals, the previously settled upon answer was "We agree." With some restrictions nevertheless: the work must not represent any danger for the planet and the governments would be allowed access to all levels of management. The Strangers rejected the second condition.
-- "You will send spies, we know, but we reserve for ourselves the entire direction of works and employees," said the 'Invaders.'
The details spelled out, the great work of organizing manpower could start. And a golden epoch seemed to rise for humanity; no more wars! No more unemployment! Funds freed from the arms race were now available to finance a marvelous future.
(Continued in the next issue)