Saturday, 25 June 2011

An Extract From The Nemesis List.

As colonists, you have elected your Colony directors, your station masters and your heads of law enforcement. You thought these people were in charge of your lives. Untrue: only the Planetary Heads of State have ever been in charge of your lives. You thought you voted for them in fair and just elections, but, I can reveal to you now, these men and women are bred, trained and taught the art of leadership. You didn’t vote a single one of them into office. Since the last wars blighted Earth’s past hundreds of years ago the Planetary Heads have abandoned democracy, the same way they have now decided to abandon our futures. Why upset humanity’s equilibrium with endless upgrades? Why confess to unimplemented advancements? Why not simply explain how dangerous innovation is? How much it might hurt us. Do any of us remember the days when scientists weren’t herded together like prisoners in Government enclaves? Does the Government consider us foolish enough not to understand that these people are now working not to advance the human race but to stifle it? Our bloody past has taught this Government to treat us like perpetual children never to be let loose with anything that might harm us. Never to give us a free choice in our own lives.Our reality is a lie. It’s time to fight for our future.

Alexander Calder
Head of the Charris Confederation.
Declaration of War.

Sixteen years ago...
The five-year-old boy was led down a battered corridor full of peeling paint. The trouser-cuffs of his blue pyjama suit dragged, his slippers flapped, too big for his tiny feet. It felt like an endless walk.
The strange woman tugging him along peered down at him anxiously.
‘Not much further,’ she said. She took him to a room, one with a bed, a wonky chair and a child-sized table. A cartoon was playing on an old wall-mounted monitor.
‘Spaceman Jo’, who breathed hard vacuum and didn’t get sucked inside out – lucky Jo.
The boy asked the woman about the background hum, about the coddling scent in the air. He’d never been on a ship before; he didn’t know they had a sound and a smell all their own. She told him about engine noise, about the drone of the air-filtration systems, about the floral-scented add-in that killed off any ‘nasties’ breathed into the air.
‘I understand that your name is Jake,’ she said. ‘But soon the doctor assigned to you will give you a new name.’ She smiled a tight smile, rubbing her hands together as if trying to wash them clean. ‘If the ship jumps, don’t be afraid. It jumps a lot.’
Jake knew about jump-gates and the folds in space they created. His father had shown him once, demonstrating with a scrap of paper. ‘Folds, you see, folds.’
Jake thought they must be going on a trip. He felt sure that one day soon those folds would take him back to his parents, to his brother, his sister. He’d been playing out in the fields, in the tall reeds; that’s the last he could remember of his home.
Later that day, he met the doctor assigned to him. His name was Milo. He looked friendly with his broad face and shiny red cheeks, but even though he smiled and smiled, there was a darkness in his eyes.
‘Session always begins on day three,’ he said, ‘that’s when you’ll meet Mr Lieberman.’
Jake didn’t know what session was. He didn’t care about day three. He didn’t want to meet Mr Lieberman. He just wanted to go home. He lay in his bed that night as the ship jumped from one place to another and cried, his fingers knotted into the covers. He screamed for his mother until finally Milo came in and touched something cold to his arm. ‘Sleep now,’ he said. ‘Go to sleep.’
The next day Jake had breakfast in the galley with all the other children, the sound of chatter alien to him, as was the closeness of all those other little bodies. He stared around at them, fascinated. He’d never seen so many children in one place. He babbled, excited to be with them all. He learned their names. Their special names: Nespi, Silnen, Lonil, on and on, names he’d never heard before. Names Milo had made up for them, they said. They were Group J-180. Jake liked that. He liked to feel a part of them. They whispered about their parents fearfully. It wasn’t allowed, they told him, to remember your real name or where you came from.
The ship jumped again that night. Jake screamed, everything around him twisting and buckling, coiling up and flying apart. Home never jumped.
Milo didn’t come into his room this time; another man did. He threw the covers off him and grabbed for his arm. ‘Damned planet-born brats are all the same,’ he snarled before the blackness came.
Jake cried the next day. So full of grief he couldn’t stop. He threw his fists at Milo when he came into his room. ‘I want to go home,’ he yelled. ‘Take me home.’
‘This is your home,’ Milo said, with a set jaw. ‘The Bliss is your home now.’
Day three brought his first session. A white room. A man in a white coat, with the palest grey eyes he’d ever seen. He stood with a computer slate, scrawling across it with a stylus. ‘Well now,’ he said, pausing to offer out his big hand. ‘I’m Aeron Lieberman.’
Jake swallowed and held out his hand. ‘Please can I go home?’ he asked as his hand was swallowed up. The man shook it very gently and smiled.
‘Let’s do this first, shall we?’ he said softly. He moved over to a panel on a long black box. He pressed a switch, and a door swung open. Inside stood a chair; it faced a flat black screen. ‘It’s a game. That’s all. You’ve played games before, haven’t you?’
Jake nodded.
‘Well this is a very special game. It makes you remember things. Things you’ll never forget.’ The man moved to a countertop. He put the slate down. ‘But you shouldn’t remember anything while you’re upset or angry, or even happy, because that does bad things inside your mind.’ Lieberman smiled again. ‘So we take all those things away and put you in what we call a Passive State. Do you understand?’
Jake didn’t. He nodded anyway, wiping a shaking hand over his face, determined not to cry. ‘Be a strong little man,’ his father always said.
‘Come here,’ Lieberman beckoned. ‘Session one is mathematics. Basic theory. Theory’s always a good place to start.’
He couldn’t be a strong little man; Jake ran for the door. Milo stepped across his path, holding out his hands to bar his escape.
‘No,’ he yelled, kicking out as Milo grabbed his arms and held on tight.
‘Just sit inside the box for today,’ he’d said persuasively. ‘Just a little practice. It’ll be over really soon. No harm done.’
He might be only five but Jake knew when someone was lying.
His new name arrived. He didn’t like it. It was J-Seventeen and a list of numbers and letters. ‘I don’t want it,’ he said, sticking his lip out and crossing his arms. ‘My name’s Jake after my grandpa.’
‘You can choose something simpler,’ Milo said, sitting down next to him on his bed.
‘Anything you like. We just don’t want you to be Jake any more. That’s the past. You could be . . . Jeven. That’s a good name. The J and the seven all together.’
Jake stuck his lip out a little further. ‘Don’t want it.’
‘If you decide to be Jeven I’ll bring you some treats, I promise.’ Milo smiled. ‘I’ll always keep my promises to you. You should keep yours too. That’s important. I always want you to do exactly what you say you’re going to. Can you do that for me?’
His father had said something similar about the truth and trust, being honest, being a good person.
Jake sniffed and nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said, wanting to make his father proud. Jeven, he thought, trying it out. Telling himself to always be Jake in his head, no matter what treats Milo brought him.
‘Jeven’s your adventurer’s name,’ Milo told him. ‘That’s what we are here. We’re adventurers in the world of science.’

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