THIS IS AN O.'. T.'. S.'. UNHOLY BOOK IN CLASS 0:
PLEASE BURN BEFORE READING
(C)opyright is a nasty word but the real author would appreciate being given the credit/blame she deserves and a link back to this site.
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From its perch on the tree branch, the bird sat motionlessly, its beady nocturnal eyes focused on the anoga beetle some fifteen feet below. Knowing of and caring nothing for the strange significance the humans of the region had placed on the ungainly insect, the bird saw only food and had determined some time ago that the beetle was destined to become a major component in its next meal. The only obstacle preventing the beetle from realizing its fate, was the fact that it was crawling up the leg of the small human who had been lying in the grass for more than an hour.
The bird blinked one eye disdainfully at the homo sapiens in an avian version of a sneer. It had no use for the noisy, dirty creatures at all, and the small ones were especially nasty. But eventually, the animal would raise itself up on its two legs and walk away, thereby leaving the anoga defenseless. Carefully, so as not to disturb the surrounding leaves, the bird tensed its shoulder muscles ready for the eventual dive, and lowered its head to more carefully watch the progress of its prey.
Slowly, the insect labored up ever higher toward the mountainous summit of the humans knee. Its heavy, hourglass shaped shell rocked unsteadily on long, spindly legs that appeared far too fragile to support such cumbersome armor, and yet, support it they did, aided by the hundreds of retractable, hair-like barbs that covered each leg and gripped any surface with which they came in contact. Now those barbs came in especially useful, slipping between the closely woven fibers of the humans trousers and clinging to them like miniscule climbing spikes.
And then . . .
In defiance of gravity and inefficient evolution and any other force or impediment that might have sought to keep it forever bound to the soil, the anoga beetle crested the apex of the humans knee and surveyed its next goal. Across the canyon of the creatures abdomen and chest, over the strange cliff-like crag of its chin, there was its face. The insect had no understanding of why it must get to the face, but it knew that once there, it would hop from the humans lips, to its nose, to its forehead.
Overhead, the bird saw the beetle emerge in full view. Now was the time. Hunger had overcome patience. The bird snapped its beak two times in a spasm of excited jitters and crouched, ready to drop. But at the last moment, the anoga suddenly became luminescent; its shell which before had been dull black, now glowed iridescent red as if it had caught fire. And with a hard shift in posture, the bird pulled out of its dive five feet above the insect and flew off into the night. Though not of the most intelligent species of its genus, the bird knew the minds of its ancestors, and its ancestors told it that birds who eats glowing anoga beetles are birds that die within minutes.
Even destiny occasionally makes mistakes.
Now the insect jumped. Gracefully, as if lifted by an invisible hand, it lifted off from the humans knee and landed delicately on its lips. Twice, the anogas inner fire pulsed and then again it hopped - this time, landing on the rounded peak of a nose. Twice more the beetle glowed and jumped one last time, coming to rest on the smooth plane of a youthful forehead. The glowing brightened to nearly the intensity of a glowing ember in a fireplace and then extinguished.
Even before the insect had touched his face, the boy knew it was there. The feeling of those spiny little appendages climbing up his leg had long since distracted him from his nightly stargazing. For almost an hour he had lain perfectly still in the dew dampened grass, waiting to see what would happen, because he had always been taught that is what you were supposed to do. But now the beetle had hopped and it had glowed. The show was over.
With a swift motion, Darius raised his right arm, scooped the anoga into his hand and then sat up. For a long series of minutes, he sat studying the strange looking insect. He had seen them many times, crawling over branches and leaves in the elaborate cages in the temples, but never crawling out in the open. He studied it more closely. Unlike other insect he had held, the anoga seemed more solid, more substantial, perhaps a side-effect of its great importance. The boy sniffed and frowned pensively. He had been touched. Chosen.
Darius. Get home, now. Its after dark.
The boy started slightly at the sound of his grandmothers voice cutting the silence of the meadow. Still staring at the insect in his hand, he tapped the reply button on the side of the small comm unit attached to his belt.
Okay. He answered through teeth clenched in annoyance, and then jammed the comms off button.
The anoga was now crawling exhaustedly across the palm of his hand. Darius carefully touched an index finger to its shiny, smooth shell and felt something like a very faint electrical shock. Quickly he pulled his finger away. His frowned deepened. He knew what he was supposed to do, what tradition demanded. This anoga had to be taken to an elder who understood such things, the signs had to be interpreted, and in those signs his future would be revealed.
With great care, the boy bent down and set the insect in the grass. Yes, he knew what he was supposed to do. Gradually, the pensive frown on his chubby, eight year olds face became a disarmingly vicious sneer. Then without a moments hesitation, he lifted his one foot and crushed the anoga under his shoe.
* * * * * * * * *
Darius Gideon! Where have you been? Why is your comm turned off?
The boy glanced at the heavy-set woman standing on the front porch, fists braced on her wide hips. He shrugged and pushed past her, reaching for the button to open the front door.
I was out back.
Watching for Netaris. Its supposed to be passing over us sometime this week.
The woman dismissed the excuse.
I dont like you being out after dark. Its not safe.
The boy ignored her and moved into the house. Willa Gideon followed close behind her youngest grandchild, feeling a particular sort of annoyance building inside her. It was the same sort of annoyance she always felt when dealing with young Darius, the sort that comes from knowing that she was being ignored. She scowled at the dirt and wet grass plastered to the back of his shirt and trousers, but said nothing. Her eyes trailed down further until they glanced over his shoes and the peculiar smudges the left one was leaving on the sandstone floor.
Before she even realized what she was doing, the womans hand clamped down on the boys shoulder, halting any further forward movement.
Whats that on your shoe? She asked, even though she knew the answer.
The boy turned around slowly.
An anoga landed on me while I was out.
It landed on you? Willa asked, the hand moving from the boys shoulder to cover her mouth in astonishment.
Yeah. On my face.
The grandmother muttered something incomprehensible in the language of the country she had been born in.
Where is it, Darius? She demanded, a slight note of panic in her voice. What did you do with it?
He glanced up at her face, his expression implacable.
I stepped on it.
And then he was gone, walking through the house toward his bedroom, leaving a trail of faintly glowing footprints behind.
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Only a few short hours after passage of the Basc-Landen Accord by Confederacy leadership, Chief spokesperson of Gideon Environmentals, Trace Bartlett, held a press conference to announce that the company had successfully ended negotiations on what will be the largest planetary-based contract since the ratification of the Land and Resource Privatization Act two hundred and fifty years ago.
For a reported sum of 2.1 trillion marks (standard currency), exclusive drilling and refining rights to the Petalocha natural gas fields were purchased from Gideon Environmentals, the owners of the region, by FairCorp Resources ltd. Based in West Bervaisse on Maias, FairCorp has, in the last twenty-five years, become the single largest refiner and distributor of resource based products in the Confederacy.
Though Economists and Expansionists alike are applauding the deal as the next step in increasing wealth and stability to the settlement and terraforming efforts on Nazca, social support groups and environmental protection consortiums arent nearly so optimistic.
The repercussions of this are going to be enormous. Maybe more than we can handle. Says Marta Henlinger, director of Hearts and Hands, a Tenochit City social service organization. Three years ago the city was flooded with refugees from the Sapa region resettlement and we still havent found housing and work placement for them all. Were estimating almost twice as many refugees in this wave, and there is simply nothing here for them. People are going to be living on the street, homeless and hungry and no one will be able to help them.
Is she right?
Darius Gideon thinks not.
GE has always been committed to helping those displaced by development, and that commitment extends to not only assisting people to adapt to their new environments and lifestyles, but to help them flourish in the long run as well. The companys President said this morning in a statement delivered to news agencies this morning.
But at the same time, people must be willing to accept change as a natural part of life. We cannot force people to take advantage of the services made available as part of the resettlement program. In the end, it all comes down to the choice of the individual.
Resettlement of the Petalocha region is set to begin next month.
The man sat for a long time, silent and motionless, staring at the flat screen in his hands. If there had been anyone else in the canteen, they might have been mesmerized by the his face while he read the morning news. Below the buzz of close cropped, wheat colored hair, his sharp facial features had formed a range of subtle expressions. There had been mild amusement, annoyance, wistfulness, and then finally the tight-lipped, tense-jawed scowl that revealed inner anger.
No, not anger. Rage.
But there was no one else in the dining call, and thats precisely why Olan Algar was there. In the two years since his appointment as chairman of the movement, it had been his morning habit to arrive in the canteen an hour before the days first meal was scheduled to be served, while everyone else was still going through the slow, yawning process of waking. At this time of morning, he could savor his coffee in silence, prepare himself for the hours of work ahead, and read. Once the canteen opened for regular service, the room would be roaring with activity and the noise of at least 75 people newly awakened and ready for another day. There would be talking and laughing, blaring music, and potential danger caused by whizzing, high-velocity balls slung around in the occasional two person lacrosse match (which almost always ended with a innocent bystander being hit by a stray pass - which in turn almost always led to shouted insults against the offenders parents/grandparents/ancestors, followed by a hasty retreat made by the offender him or herself before the matter could come to blows). Silence would be banished and concentration rendered impossible.
Algar glanced at his watch and after determining that he still had another half hour of time to himself, he began reading the last article for a second time. On the surface, there wasnt much to it. It was a standard headline blurb about a matter that had become so routine that the reporting agencies didnt even bother printing the details anymore: GE was selling development rights to more land. More towns were being cleared. More refugees were being created and they would flock to cities that had no room for them. But to the sharp faced man with the wheat colored hair, the short article shouted out a fact that sent an icy shudder down his back.
They had known!
He was certain of it. Someone had fed their plans to the enemy, and the enemy had responded swiftly and severely. Without the citizens of Petalocha, the action that had been so meticulously calculated for that region was impossible. Without the citizens, the movement was nothing more than a bunch of people with big ideas, sitting around in their secret hide-out, complaining. There would be no Phase One, and without Phase One, all of the preparation and planning that had been done over the last sixteen years would have been done for nothing.
Algar stared at the picture of Darius Gideon that was grinning smugly at him from the readers screen. Rage began boiling in him once again. With his teeth clenched together, he slowly raised his right hand, extending the index finger and thumb in the same way a child might, pretending their hand is a pistol, and pressed his fingertip to the point between the grinning images eyes. If there had been anyone else in the canteen at that moment, they would have heard him whisper.
* * * * * *
Hayden Aaron Pratchett stifled a yawn, blinked hard and wished like hell he was back in bed. The morning had started off so nicely. Warm, comfortable bed. Warm, comforting presence of his wife beside him in the bed. A hazy, half-conscious sort of amorousness that couldnt quite decide if it was content to remain a slight, gentle urge or if it had ambitions to evolve into a bit of sleepy, early morning sex. So nice. But all that had been quickly pushed aside when the alarm had gone off.
As though she had been launched, Ella had jumped out of bed with more energy and enthusiasm than anyone has the right to show at 0500 in the morning, and announced:
He's here this morning. We've got to go!
With a groan, the IP in charge of Internal Security, had grudgingly forced himself into a sitting position and frowned at the flurry of movement that was his wife zipping around their quarters, frantically getting dressed. The same scene played itself out every two months when the Roadman passed through the area and stopped at the complex to hold services. Hed long ago stopped trying understand why she was so excited about the visits. It was just some guy who droned on and on about how mysterious the universe is, sang songs in a language that most of the people in the service wouldnt understand, and passed around that all too familiar dish of faintly luminescent paste that gave everyone a severe and persistant case of the grins for an hour or two.
It was just church.
At the front of the room which was normally used for mid-level briefings, the short, white haired man had begun his droning.
In a respectful way, weve all come here today to meditate on the mysteries of creation and learn, if we may, what our place is within it all.
Instantly, Hayden felt another yawn building in response to the Roadmans monotone voice, but the impulse was thwarted by a peculiar tingling feeling that seemed to emanate from the roots of his back teeth. The sensation was immediately followed by a voice in his head that spoke in a mocking parody of the Roadman.
And while your place in the universe may be simple and unassuming, mine however, is of the utmost important. I am here, my brothers and sisters, to bore the hell out of you.
Hayden inhaled sharply, held his breath for several seconds and willed himself not to laugh. The Roadman continued, unaware.
As a people we are at a crossroads. Our culture is in peril. On all sides we are confronted by those who wish to destroy our beliefs and our way of life. And it is only by a return to the old ways that we will survive.
And when I say old ways, I mean OLD WAYS. Ways that so old that no one remembers them. And because no one remembers them, I can respectfully come before you today and tell you whatever stupid crap comes into my head, pretending that it's ancient wisdom, and you will BELIEVE!
In the seat to Haydens right, Kurt Deloria was trying his best to foster a serious, contemplative expression. But the deputy IPs efforts were in vain. Anyone who noticed the way his chest and shoulders were shaking spasmodically, would know that he was laughing. Two seats ahead of them, a junior security officer suddenly leaned forward and covered his face with his hands.
We must live pure lives. The Roadman continued. Pure in thought, pure in deed, pure in word.
On second thought, scratch that. Purity blows. The spirits have told me that the really real old ways demand much debauchery and dirtiness. Yes! The dirtier the better. Strong drink and loose women, say the spirits! And that reminds me of the time I spent the weekend in Matthiessen. Had fifteen hundred marks in my pocket and . . .
For forty minutes the battling monologues continued. The Roadman carried on his earnest, yet thoroughly tedious sermon, while Yumni Black visciously lampooned his every word. Covertly, of course. And for forty minutes the members of the movements security force who had attended the service out of duty to their culture, religion and their captain (who was compelled to attend himself out of a desperate fear of being forced to sleep alone for an undetermined length of time), coughed sneezed, wheezed, and pretended to fall into spontaneous prayer.
Then finally, mercifully, it was over, and to the complete bemusement of the others in the room, fourteen people erupted into gales of laughter seemingly for no reason whatsoever.
Ella Pratchett stared at them with an expression of mixed annoyance and amusement.
It was my brother again, wasnt it? She asked.
In the hall, Yumni appeared with a huge, satisfied grin on his face. Clearly visible against his left cheek was the thin black wire of a headset microphone.
Good stuff, eh? His grin widened.
Yeah. Deloria answered. Best yet. You really outdid yourself this time.
Thank you, thank you. But I was starting to sweat it there at the end. Thought I was going to run out of material before the old man ran out of prayers.
Well, at least you know the new receiver implants work. Ella said with mock disdain.
Indeed they do, O most esteemed sibling. Yumni replied. He looked as though he were about to say more, but an announcement over the buildings PA system interrupted.
All IPs, Deputys and section leaders are to report to the main briefing room immediately. Thank you.
The group looked at one another for a moment, slightly confused about the unscheduled meeting so early in the morning, and then started off toward the other side of the complex.
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