As Eena plotted her escape from Township 26, she never imagined departing in a plane with a mystery pilot for an unknown reason to an unidentified location.
The first citizen to be airborne since the Solar Flash of 2034, the twenty-five-year-old’s gut screamed this flight was not to fulfill dreams of freedom. Nor did landing at a ghostly airport amid surreal runways of haphazardly parked jets ease the tension in her belly. A man in uniform told her they were in Transtopia Metro, formerly Colorado Springs. He escorted her to an overhauled car, and they sped away, swerving around potholes until they skidded to a stop at the hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado.
The stale air of an old building assaulted Eena’s nostrils as she descended three flights of stairs, entered a long, narrow hall, and hesitated at the open door on the right. A man at a desk looked up from his clipboard to greet her by name and introduce himself as Doctor Olsen.
In the low-ceilinged room, the fluorescent lights buzzed and crackled a warning that she, a seeker of fellow insurgents, had landed in the lair of the controllers.
Head tilted, the doctor leaned back in his chair as though sizing her up beneath half lowered lids. Then he shifted forward and announced with the exuberance of a salesman, “You’re about to learn that today is your lucky day.”
At a loss, she stared blankly into gray eyes that matched the walls.
The official stood up. “But first a tour. Come with me.”
Past a succession of closed doors, the doctor’s shoes echoed an irregular staccato until, at a door labeled GESTATION CHAMBER, he paused to open it with an expectant flair. “Prepare yourself for the technology of the future.”
A sense of unease clenched her gut as Eena entered the dimly lit room where recessed florescence cast a blue glow on transparent tubes that lined the walls. The liquid in each glass womb buoyed a baby attached to an artificial umbilical cord, a conveyance from an automated source of metered sustenance. At the far end of the room amid the murmur of soft beeps, a clinician with a clipboard and an air of detached efficiency checked monitors and gauges.
“Behold the future workforce,” Olsen said as though a drumroll should accompany his introduction, “pride of the Social Engineering Initiative.”
The subterranean realm enmeshed the visitors in gloom while Doctor Olsen prattled on about in vitro fertilization procedures, and red lights blinked the pulse of infant hearts beating in indifferent voids.
Reeling from the impact of this violation of the biological ordering of life, Eena leaned against the wall. A chilling warmth curved into her spine, and she jerked forward, recoiling from contact with the container that held a floating infant.
Apparently enamored with his clinical underworld, Doctor Olsen remained oblivious to Eena’s emotional state and continued to lecture to an audience of one who heard only unintelligible babble.
He smiled at the conclusion of his dissertation. “Clones,” he said and, with a dramatic sweep of his arm, paused as though to let her absorb the implications of the surrounding wealth of potential.
A baby, orphaned from the soothing beat of his mother’s heart, sought comfort as he sucked a tiny thumb.
“Your future workforce, if you assume the mantle of your heritage—at least, on your father’s side.”
Eena struggled to withdraw her attention from the hypnotic hold of amniotic waters that answered every infant need except a mother’s devotion. Fighting back the assault of dizziness, she looked around for a chair. “I need to sit.”
She swayed. With a tight grip on her arm, Doctor Olsen hurried her away from the glass containers for the warehousing of cloned workers. The doctor’s shoes click-clacked past the dun-colored doors, and they returned to the room where the nightmare had begun.
When Eena’s head cleared, she sat across from the official and looked him straight in the eyes. “Please speak to me directly. You’ve alluded to ‘my lucky day’ and ‘my workforce.’ No more hints. Why am I here?”
Doctor. Olsen’s eyes flickered slightly as though impacted by the force of her impatience. He picked up a narrow book and slid it to her. “This is your genealogy on your father’s side.”
As Eena focused on the fifty-page chart of the family tree, he spoke another riddle. “Your father was what’s known as ‘a royal blood’—a direct descendent of Anu—ancestor of the puppeteers who have pulled the strings behind the human stage for thousands of years.”
With those words, the dreamy sense of undisclosed truth that had dogged Eena’s youth snapped her to wakefulness. Her parents, now buried beneath the rubble left by a devastating tornado, had paraded vague, disparate images from her European lineage, bequeathing speculation as her only heritage from her father’s side.
Yet, the Hopi/Dine’ roots that endowed her mother with doe-eyed beauty and a placid disposition had woven living connections into her psyche. Cords pulsed a vibrant continuum as her mother midwifed countless births, placing each newborn on the mother’s breast close to her soothing heartbeat.
The evader was Eena’s tall distinguished father, a naturopathic physician of penetrating intelligence, who alluded to his ancestry with an offhand shrug. Now, as though again to cheat her yearning to know the truth, a chart compelled her gaze along a remote succession of titles and names. Unlike Hopi/Dine’ stories that quickened the pulse with tales of heroic feats, the inked genealogy entombed the echoes of the past in unresponsive silence.
The doctor’s droned words pummeled her ears while her eyes traced the schematic, confirming generations descended from a single ancestor: Anu.
“What about the rest of humanity? Are we—they—not the children of Anu?”
“Ah, the worker race. The remnant of a catastrophic flood, with switched off DNA.”
“Yes, genetically modified by the progenitors.”
“Anu’s cohorts, the progenitors, engineered a docile class of sturdy toilers, worshipful of royal hierarchies and willing to fight for them.”
“I don’t see the connection to inactive DNA.”
“Genetic keys responsible for independence, assertiveness, rebelliousness—traits like that.”
“Hmm, I think I’m getting it.”
“Problem is the coronal mass ejections and concurrent Earth changes have given the royal bloods some major headaches.”
Eena looked evenly at Doctor Olsen. “Other than blown transformers, fried engines and destroyed surveillance satellites?”
“Since Solar Flash, geneticists have made a startling discovery.”
“A reversal of the blocked genetic traits in captured insurgents, runners and out-of-the-box thinkers. My understanding is that a charged plasma field entering our solar system caused both Solar Flash and a magnetic reversal of the deactivated DNA.”
Eena nodded slowly. “You’re saying the plasma stream triggered a DNA switch-on of insurgent traits in certain worker-bred people.” Hope tweaked a sudden realization. I’m going to find these rebels. They are our allies.
Doctor Olsen whirled a pen between thumbs and forefingers. “Which brings us back to you, a mixture of royal blood and worker. There are many like yourself, children of defectors from the pure bloodline. But, after generations of intermarriage, their blood is more diluted than yours. To find a fifty-percenter is very rare, mostly because defections from the ruling class are rare.”
Eena could be doggedly persistent. “So, how does this revelation make me ‘lucky’?”
“You will never enjoy the prerogative of the ruling ten thousandth of a percent to set the course of human evolution. However, you are being offered an official role in the scientific design and ordering of the general population.”
Eena stared at him, her brain offering its own analogy. “You mean like a beehive.”
He looked startled as though such allusions to the natural ordering of life were far removed from his consciousness.
“You know, drones, nurses, scouts, guards, the queen—every insect in the hive doing its repetitive job instinctively and without question.”
He whirled the pen to a vertical position and tapped the end on the desk. “Yes, like that. The landlords are offering you a choice—either to spend your life as a drone or to serve as the queen’s attendant, so to speak.”
Eena imagined herself feeding the queen bee royal jelly. Unable to penetrate the soulless eyes across the desk, she examined the tightly intertwined fingers on her lap.
“However, if you accept this honor, you will have to swear an oath of loyalty to your royal bloodline and its right to rule.”
“I’m curious about my authority over runners from townships and insurgents against the Union of the Americas.”
The doctor’s next words sliced with a clean edge. “Eliminate them. Period. No exceptions.”
Eena scanned the jutting jaw past clamped lips to cold slate eyes.
Her host glared ominously. “You will be watched.”
She turned a page as though intently studying the family tree. “How long do I have to decide?” Concealing emotions that broiled behind an impassive face, Eena watched the doctor’s raised eyebrows register surprise—as if it were inconceivable she would choose to be any kind of worker other than a privileged official.
“One week. If you decide to accept this honor, your rigorous personality purification processes will begin.”
She nodded placidly while revulsion for the probable nature of “rigorous personality purification processes” churned her stomach.
Doctor Olsen leaned back in his chair to look at her over the pen twirling between his thumbs and index fingers. “I must warn you. You will not want to betray your benefactors with the slightest bending of the SEI policies.”
“Social Engineering Initiative.”
“I understand.” Eena closed the record of her lineage.
The doctor’s lips contrived a smile. He placed the pen in the black mesh metal holder, retrieved the book and brusquely tidied his desk. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Eena cocked her head, her eyes focused on the red binders lining the shelf behind Doctor Olsen. “So, what happens to those babies when they outgrow the containers?”
“Nurseries, of course, where they’ll be raised according to the strict guidelines of the SEI. The coming generation of workers will be our design from test tube to gestation tank to first through tenth developmental stage management facilities. None of these fortunate children will be subjected to the whims, outbursts, indecision, coddling—generally faulty modeling of biological parents. Instead, scientific protocols will steer their growth to an appropriate slot in the corporate workforce. When the grid is restored, we will resume the Enhanced Human Phase of the SEI.”
“Bionic humans with chip enhancements for ongoing and instant responsiveness to directives from the central A.I.”
This assertion jolted Eena from appalled to perplexed.
Doctor Olsen seemed to enjoy her confusion. “Also known as ‘The Black Sun,’ placed in space countless ages ago by a race of sentient robots.”
Eena leveled her return gaze as this information meteor cratered her brain.
“I’ve presented you a brief introduction to this.” He pointed to the row of two-inch blood red volumes, books one through eight. “The Manual for Social Engineering Objectives and Protocols.” As he read aloud the title, consummate zeal sounded each word.
A silent void engulfed Eena as the deafening whoosh of tiny hearts pulsed humanity’s doomed future. She struggled to hold her shoulders erect.
Eena stood, lifted her chin, and nodded that the meeting was concluded. As she turned toward the driver seated in the hall, she felt like sprinting from this realm of gloom, but with stoic resolve, forced herself to walk through the door.
Imperial Governor Charles Scholtz awaited his next appointment behind imposing carved teak doors. His office resided on the tenth floor of a still-standing tower bordering the scene of charred rubble—all that remained of the northern two-thirds of Transtopia Metro, the former Colorado Springs. A fifty-two-year-old of impeccable royal lineage, he resented the power shrink caused by Solar Flash. He resented being stripped of unbridled manipulation of those known as underlings, workers and eaters. He resented the severed connection with his god, the Black Sun.
Following the population-leveling effects of Solar Flash, remnants of the powerful Landlords of the World, such as himself, had settled in the midst of the underlings. But from this height he could look down on the workers crawling like ants along the sidewalk below. While he was exiled from his secluded mansions and denied access to the sky watch satellite, that elevated point of view helped keep things in perspective.
The governor’s superior positioning enabled him to endure tiresome, but necessary, meetings with SEI officials. Awaiting his next encounter with annoyance, he looked at the refurbished electronic clock. While contact with social engineering scientists that groveled for his favor was an irritant, he did want to know about Doctor Olsen’s meeting with the half-breed. As much as he disliked acknowledging a defector’s offspring, she could prove useful.
Accustomed to godlike powers prior to Solar Flash, Scholtz and fellow progeny of Anu had siphoned the revenues of corporate appendages from the sale of arms, pharmaceuticals and petroleum. Meanwhile, humanity, the bionic workforce-in-the-making, breathed nano-particles rained from aircraft trails that cobwebbed the skies.
The White Sun’s temper tantrum interrupted that glorious reign. But within a decade, by means of a restored grid and the rigorously re-implemented Social Engineering Initiative, the royal lineage of Anu would rise again.
He turned to the wall map of Sector 10. A red circle targeted the vast forested portion bordered on the south and west sides by six townships plus Techno City, and on the east by Transtopia Metro. He needed the labor of every underling survivor to restore the hierarchy of dominance as soon as possible. Yet, he suspected an absentee workforce of hundreds, whose skills were essential to reconstruction, to be secreted in those mountains. And he knew that runners from the townships had escaped to that rugged terrain along the Continental Divide.
He sighed in response to a tap at the door. “Yes?”
“Doctor Olsen is here.”
Not disposed to pleasantries, Imperial Governor Charles Scholtz stared at the approaching scientist and nodded for him to sit.
Olsen swallowed nervously. “Eena Burgemeister escaped, taking five runners with her.”
Outrage swallowed Scholtz’s initial disbelief. An insolent half-blood, not only rejecting his generosity, but also collecting runners.
Leveling a hard stare at the man opposite him, he spoke with controlled fury. “We will find them.” He scanned the forest enclosed in red on the map as though their whereabouts would jump out at him until the angry jab of his finger tore a hole in the heart of the mountain forests.
A gentle gust of pine-scented air feathered Eena’s cheek as she recalled the suffocating blow—the stark presentation of wall-to-wall containers of infants—that propelled her escape from Township 26 to Three Mountains Community. Following the forest trail atop Quartz Mountain, she shook off the memory of the visit to Fort Carson. Nonetheless, in the early morning freshness the silken strands of a dew-laden web warned that the control network would soon spider to Three Mountains. In a few years, the cords woven by surveillance satellites, the censored World Wide Web and sky-born, population-subduing nanites would again ensnare the planet. Inevitably, the claws that wound the surrounding townships in strands of deception would bind the escapees in this mountain haven, enabling the spinners of the web to devour the runners’ creative juices.
Eena’s feet, moccasined in Matoskah’s gift, felt the strong roots that secured earth and trees; yet, each step heralded humanity’s precarious future. Of course, it was foolish for a woman in possession of a single pistol to strategize—okay, fantasize—how Three Mountains, a tiny, unarmed community of DNA-triggered runners, could depose a heavily weaponized regime. Yet she did. Mine is the only gun. But before this saga ends, we will possess an arsenal. A warbler’s trill echoed her intent.
Eena had taken the problem to the old medicine man, who, in his familiar, enigmatic way, silently pushed together a little pile of grass and held an ignited stick beside it. What did that have to do with her impassioned query? No more was forthcoming. They’d have to continue that conversation—such as it was—another time.
A herd of deer crossed the trail ahead as she recalled the words of Doctor Olsen: “Through the SEI, the landlords are breeding a docile herd and culling the DNA-triggered insurgents.” She wondered if she was so rebellious because of genes switched on by charged fields. Or was it the bloodline she shared with those she most detested?
Curiously, the lead pair of deer turned a sharp right at a tree beside the trail. Watching the next three execute the exact same swerve, she smiled inwardly. She and the landlords did have one desire in common: both wanted to find these insurgents. Freedom seekers. Divided, we’re conquered; united—perhaps still conquered. But, who knows, maybe our rebellious spinnerets will weave our own web of power.
Not one of the deer continued behind the tree to follow the herd’s path. As Eena puzzled over the deer’s odd behavior, her eyes followed a vine that wound its way straight up the trunk. Intertwined vines about thirty feet high formed a wide, symmetrical archway between two trees. The midsection of the arch grew as if extending over something solid. But no support was there, causing her to pause and ruminate over nature’s remarkable feat. Knowing it’s silly for a grown woman to respond to a childlike impulse, in which any opening is an invitation, she stepped through the vine bower—and into another world.