Chapter 2. Another Gale of Laughter
Beeko’s body would be whole again, and reasonably healthy in this dream realm, except for the fact that he is not himself. This oddity does not bother him. Instead he seems to identify with perfect ease as a slightly older, not so physically fit man, someone about thirty years of age who is carrying a short range, slug spitting weapon, dressed in greenish, loose fitting togs that the boy recognizes as some sort of armor-less field fatigues. It is all too obvious that this is by no means a professional soldier, much less a finely trained Human-mercenary (like Beeko himself) serving the grimly inhuman N’Molloue in the management and milking of their vast, star-spanning empire. Beeko the mercenary soldier dreams of something radically different. Something entirely alien to his own way of living.
Rather than fit into any known military mold, this dream individual carries no shield or armor other than a helmet, no sword or spear, nor even a bayonet at the muzzle end of his short rifle. He is armed in hopeless defense of his Earthly human homeland, which is currently being overrun by a closely related, but politically distinct people whose features, body conformation and language are all similar, though not exactly the same at all points. Both this fellow and his attacking relatives are so light in hair and skin coloration that they nearly cause Beeko to be contrastingly comparable to Zantchez herself. Which fact is by itself disorienting enough to make him want to forcibly lose his lunch, had he actually eaten a lunch.
Yet despite this emotional reaction he did not have a meta awareness, he took his sense of being the person of his dream at face value, and looked at his companions with accepting eyes. These manifestly are North Hemisphere natives, the same sort of people as those whose genes have polluted Beeko’s own bloodline, and truth to tell, polluted the bloodlines of half the human race. Yet for once in his life, Beeko was not thinking about this at all. He was totally focused upon the horror of the unfair and utterly unwinnable war now in progress for his alter ego. He accepted that this broad cheeked, blue eyed, wheat stubble haired, slightly pot bellied alter ego, whom he regarded as himself, was resigned to die in the fight, not in an effort to win his war, but simply to make the loss hideously expensive for the assailant nation. There was no question, no wavering, no doubt in the dream-Beeko’s mind about this.
There were a large number of unfortunate yet sizzlingly real reasons for this ugly, spirit grindingly pessimistic attitude. To start with, the overweening enemy had control of the sky, and rained city shattering bombs upon non-combatant populations without either mercy or let up. Thousands had already died in the first seventeen days of active fighting. All along, the much larger bully nation was broadcasting bald, transparent lies to the world that vigorously and categorically denied doing any such thing at all. Most of the globe who had access to satellite images, and broadcasts from the victims, watched in frightened outrage, while overstuffed N’Molloue-style economic chieftains of this burgeoning eastern empire of the north scrambled to back up their hand-picked front-man.
The world at large was frightened down to the roots of its soft, blunted teeth, because this heartless, attacking nation possessed more explosive nuclear devices than any other single nation on Earth, and were already taking absurd risks simply by prosecuting this unjust, indefensible war directly in the face of world-wide condemnation, and their victim’s firm belief that all future generations would judge these imperial pirates harshly.
And with that atomic club in hand, the attacker was signaling that if thwarted in its determination to absorb its much smaller neighbor into its re-emerging continent spanning empire, it would unlimber those vicious assets and risk general world war. There had already been two such all enveloping conflagrations in the preceding century, but this was the first time that it seemed likely that atomic bombs, most in the hands of the attackers, and nearly as many in the hands of the victim nations friends, might be employed at any moment. Right along with the character with whom he identified, Beeko was outraged, terrified, nauseated, and determined. An attitude entirely alien to any self respecting mercenary, no matter for whom he fought.
Yet the sleeping Beeko D’Ja did not care. He knew exactly what he felt, and did not question what it meant. In the dream he did not directly notice, but there was another difference being experienced, and therefore having an unremarked, yet corrosive effect on the his sense of identity. His unfocused mind did not fall directly into its rut of reproach, but daydreamed vaguely about things given up, joys and pleasures lost by the personality being dreamed. Most particularly a soft female form and three half grown children that Beeko’s alter ego and this feminine source of solace had engendered together over the preceding dozen years.
The overwhelming force of that psychological resonance of the dream followed him into sleep like the shadow of a man marching into sunrise. That sleep was sticky, troubled, irritable, and restless, and when he came out of slumber at last, D’Ja remained convicted, yet was utterly bewildered once again. “What was that? I have never had feelings like this. Never anything close, never heard of anybody having dreams like this. That was almost not a dream. At least not like any normal dream, but might on the face of it have been a historical record. A record of an unknown time in an unknown place, among lost unidentified peoples under unimaginable pressure. Why? And while I am at it, let me ask, why me and why now?”
“There were so many odd modes of thinking, so many big first letter symbolic representations. What did it mean that EU = UN = NATO = US? Why did all of this mystery together = a single direction, west? Why is it that there was no consideration for north or south, as if only east and west mattered? If that was a true view of past times in the northern hemisphere, was it any wonder that the dregs of that civilization had settled at the bottom of the planet, far to the south of all of that evil, self-annihilation? Flopping down like a blanket of inadequacy upon our ancestral survivors? Leaving us to famine and frequent still-births until rescued by our generous benefactors?”
Then Beeko, deliberately slowing his breath as before a battle, backed himself up, and began considering more fundamental questions as they applied to him personally. “Is it even possible that what I experienced is really how the world of the past ended? In one way, it certainly presented itself as if it were, but that seems unlikely on the keen front edge of it. Or has some strange spirit entered me? If so, was it through my left nostril or my right? Have my brains simply been scrambled by the trauma of my wounding? Who would know? Who can consult with me on this? Where is that lovely nurse…that beautiful Zantches? Could she maybe help me?” Once again, the young man struggled to lift his eyelids.
It might have been only minutes later, or perhaps an entire day had fled while his mind experienced that disturbing dream. But now the light was different, the boy was alone, and much about the space that he occupied became optically clear. It was a large cubical with a steel-gray floor, a washed-out peach hued ceiling, and rich cream walls all around. There were two wide doorways, both paneled firmly shut with what looked very much like a natural wood. Surprising, because natural wood was never used for building material on any N’Molloue sponsored Mercenary base. Not even for non-structural elements such as door panels or window frames. Most importantly, this quick scan showed Beeko that he was entirely alone, with no fellow infirmary patients, no doctors, and most importantly to him, no nurse. Now the youth was confronted with a dilemma, should he call out, or merely wait?
The young man decided that he could always call out if waiting grew too long, and in the meantime he could examine the various contents of the shelving, and piles of machinery that he could make out from his bed. The cream tinted shelving presented no insoluble mysteries, being familiar cylindrical tubes of fluid potions, and jars of compressed pills indistinguishable from any infirmary shelves he had ever seen. The technology in evidence was wholly different, looking little like the instruments with which every human-mercenary soldier had occasion to become familiar with over the last three and a half centuries. What was it? What was it designed to do? Why was it so different? Where is this? ‘New Beginnings?’ where is that? Is it a free floating station? Is it a planet? Why has he never heard of it before?
Then an entirely novel thought struck him. A sneaky idea so outrageous that regardless of the fact that the clues have been kicking Beeko’s shins and slapping his face for every second since his first swim to woozy consciousness with his right leg missing, he had been unable to entertain until the present split-second. Could it be that this was a non N’Molloue base where he lay? Could it be that some never suspected, stealthy element among his human civilization had managed to create some obscure form of cypher community beyond the alien empire’s reach? How was it possible for any human ship to get beyond the sphere of N’Molloue imperial reach? There had always been unsubstantiated rumors about such attempts far in the past, during the first century of N’Molloue imperial help. Even Beeko’s mother, so humiliated that it was most likely her distant New Zealand colonial ancestry that had bled through and tainted her child that she was always a conspicuous upholder of the most conservative social order on station, where she lived with her four children, would whisper about those tales.
Oh, not directly to Beeko, but now and then he could hear her pillow-talk voice as she entertained a lover in the night. Nevertheless, despite his awareness of such gossip, just to ask these things leaves him stunned at the possibility. At first partial recovery from having considered this, his reaction is to cry out, “Impossible!” Yet he remained silent despite himself and considers what the results of such a broad deception could mean; first for humanity as a whole, then for Earth as a planet, and finally for Beeko D’Ja as an individual.
It was risky, it was a terrible gamble, it was frightening almost to the point of causing him to panic inside of his rib cage, but it was also thrilling. Beeko loved the thought, until he found himself hating it for the space of one breath out of every five that he took. Yet the fact that pleasure radiated throughout his entire form for four breaths out of five, kept him enthralled. He was in fact almost as enthralled by this unauthorized idea as he was by his nurse.
Having pondered the idea, Beeko clears his throat, and remembering that in the infirmaries to which he is accustomed, it is always unnecessary to shout, simply sinks back into his pillows, speaks to the air as if to a friend standing right beside him. “Hello, this is Beeko D’Ja, I know not my room number. I am alone, I have just awakened, I am hungry. Please, as soon as is doable, send in a nurse. I have no idea of how long I slept, how long it has been since any bandaging I have been given has remained in place, how long it has been since last I ate. Or even where this infirmary is actually located. I will not know these things without your help, so I quietly await your attention while feeling very dependent. Please relieve me of this weakness.” D’Ja was very pleased with this performance, and smugly congratulated himself upon its subtle deftness as he awaited answer.
He did not wait long. One of the doors to his room slid quietly into the wall beside it, and a female, much older than Zantches barged in, already talking. “Very nice young man. You must have some idea of what is going on and where you are, or you would not have worded that pretty request in quite that way.” This creature was elderly, her face deeply creased, and the hair on her head, though un-regulation long, was peppered liberally with gray. Beeko notes that this person surely must be at least one hundred, and possibly older. What was she doing working with her hands like a beginner? Then he noticed her garments. They, like those worn by Zantches were a blouse and pantaloons cut to minimize restriction, in swirling colors. This time rose, lavender, and the most brilliant shade of yellow that Beeko had ever seen worn upon any human body. Once this had registered, he was caught between wanting to stare, and needing to close his eyes against the glare.
Mastering his skittish self with a soldier’s stern discipline, he did not quite do either, but craftily shifted his gaze a few degrees to one side, as if anxiously scanning the environment for threats, as he replied, “Look, is it time for me to eat? I do feel a trifle hungry.” Back came a chuckle and the message,, “Oh you will never NOT feel hungry, soldier. You are back to the metabolic status of teenager again, as long as you are growing out that limb. Then, after it is grown, you will stay hungry as you exercise it up to size so that your two legs match. Your stomach is going to be working hard this year. Never you fear. But I suppose you want to know where you are, why you are here, and what all of this means…. OH, and by the way, I ought to tell you a thing or two about me. Being self-focused like all other humans, I will start with that. My name is Telmmah M’tcho, and I am one of fourteen hundred or so “Never-borns” who now live on this globe, which is designated ‘New Beginnings.’
“Our other free colony, a planet called ‘New Hope,’ has about seventeen hundred such unusual persons upon its surface. Less than one hundred are left in the hidden tunnels back on Earth, from which we, meaning every human in existence, all started.” Her coal black eyes seemed to grow impossibly dark as she confided, “We are called ‘Never-born,’ because we were never registered with the official administration, which has always, naturally, answered to the resident N’Molloue imperial governor. But that does not tell you much of what you truly want to know, does it? New Hope is nearly one hundred years older than New Beginnings, and has over nineteen million human settlers upon it, where New beginnings which is merely twenty-two years old. Where you have landed has a population just a shade over two million. Is this enough for you to ponder, boy, or are you up for a few more facts before your brain goes catatonic?” D’Ja is not certain about catatonia, but he is certain that he is thirsty for facts, now more than ever. “Let’s try for more, and If I freeze stiff and stare at nothing, you can just leave me to it, OK?”
The strangely intimidating never born waited to answer until she had plopped down on the bed, taking advantage of the space where Beeko’s leg should have been. This time the wrinkled woman’s chuckle sounded more like a cackle as she threw her head back and laughed. She did this without any apparent thought of her age, station in life, or dignity. “A brave young man, but then again, all soldiers are brave are they not? Either that or stupidly unable to properly assess risk. Do you know, by the way, to which group of soldiers you actually belong?” Beeko is slow to volley back, but when he does he makes sure that he sounds thoughtful and sincere rather than flippant. Oh, I assess risk all of the spirit blessed time, but no one can know everything. The whole art of war is uncertainty. A good soldier does not only do the right thing at first, but improvises along the way when things go wrong. This time I could not, but at other times I could.”
“An example of your improvisational skill, is this?” The brightly clad Telmmah remains irreverent while continuing to project a feeling of gravitas as massive as that of any N’Molloue imperial governor that D’Ja had ever observed at a distance across a number of mercenary base parade grounds. There was not much to say to this, so he chose simply to look fixedly at the woman and not speak at all. Which, not surprisingly, was greeted by yet another gale of laughter.