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The Last Best Hope

By Melody Clark
Page 3 of 38

      "As you both know, the Biosystems branch I work with is heavily involved in the perfection of matter transfer, particularly with the teleportation of living creatures. Because the physiological system is based more on sympathetic interaction of subtle patterns, which are precarious at best to induce or protect, the discovery of this alloy Aquitar is vital to the success of teleportation. How we may guard the sustained integrity of these subtle energies called life with Aquitar is what the chosen candidate and I will be working on. Your understanding of systems will be vital not only for the computers which will orchestrate matter transfer, but also for understanding the living system being transferred."

      Leusip reached for the Hybrid control and channelled another function.

      "As you saw, the cross-generator provoked from this perfect chaos one point of order-generation. This is called the nexus, or generation point. This will be the source of strongest order. It will build around it a new system of order, as you saw before. Your assignment is to deduce the area of greatest instability in the system. When you have located this vulnerable region, I want you to lift the impulse key to your left, direct it at the grid sector where the Achilles Region is located and destroy the system." He checked his watch. "You will have precisely one hour and ten-"

      With the soft click of an impulse key, the viewscreen behind Leusip blazed white with chaos. Leusip's eyes fled from his watch to the screen. A violent swirl of undirected electrons appeared where the complex pattern formerly prevailed. He checked the Hybrid for malfunction and found none.

      "Simple enough," said #104, the Alpha male.

      Leusip regarded the boy for the first time. He was slight, small for his apparent age, with mahogany-coloured hair and eyes that were impossibly dark. He maintained his attention on the viewscreen, the overhead lumines focusing light through his long lashes. Had there been a spectre of emotion on the small, still face, the boy would have been quite beautiful.

      Leusip checked the Hybrid function for the location of the disordering impulse. It had come from the key assigned to #104, Alpha male.

      Surely it wasn't possible, was it? He checked and double-checked the apparatus. It doggedly insisted the disordering directive had come from impulse #104, time lapse for deduction being fifty-seven seconds.

      Leusip was no stranger to paradox, but this was of an order higher than he had ever witnessed. It had taken the combined resources of nineteen veteran Systems theorists all of a standard hour to locate it, and this strange boy had found it in under a minute. Could it be? Of course not, it was madness. But it had happened.

      The man stepped closer to the boy, expecting some small spark of pride to manifest, but nothing came. Even the eyes that held him in such fascinated bondage seemed to use their sadness as a shield. His gaze was impervious, yet bottomless. Leusip was beholding genius of a level he had never before witnessed, an analytical brilliance that could surely castrate the entire Federated world.

      How had they allowed this boy to live?

      Thank the gods they had allowed him to live. Leusip thought of the heart stock among his circle, their talk of deliverers, of providence...

      "That was remarkable," Leusip said, knowing his words to be hideously inadequate.

      "Perhaps," said the boy, his voice cold and flat as ice, "For the unremarkable."

      It took Leusip a moment to realize he'd been insulted. But the realization brought a mitigating understanding that made him smile in response. The ego was but another system of inter-supporting irrational supposition and self-lies. He'd had many an Alpha Lyceum student who could locate his ego's Achilles heel and strike at it with well-sharpened words. And this boy was no mere student.

      "Yes, well, congratulations," Leusip said. "Welcome to Biosystems and the Aquitar Project." He placed a hesitant hand on the boy's thin shoulder. "I hope we will be friends."

      The boy looked down at the hand on his shoulder, then panned up the length of his arms till his eyes met Leusip's eyes, then locked on them.

      In those eyes, Academician Sen Leusip saw what he'd been looking for.

      Leusip would remember that moment for the rest of his life. For he was certain even then of what it was he'd seen there. Let the heart stock speak of providence and deliverance. For himself, what he saw there had a far more practical name. The Future.

      

      

Just as there was a world beyond the Terran domes, a real world of anarchy and wild things, there was another man named Sen Leusip. This man was no Academician or dispenser of Federation truth, but he was confined with leg-irons of despair in the prison of his private thoughts, or to secret synods in the shelter of a long-dead forest. But he existed, he survived: whole, alive, and immutably free.

      Leusip was comforted by the hood around his face as he made his way to the outside. Such measures had become vital as he'd grown older. The ones like Buto mocked him for them. But Buto was young and heart stock, the reckless young, some New Calendar propagandist called them, and still they were, as he had been. They had all been reckless then, so many years ago.

      In his youth, the Fifth Column burned within him, leavening his spirit with bold promises and presumptuous dreams. They all gave bold talk. They traded golden promises like alms against a bankrupt future, and they spoke of the inevitability of it all, of an idea "whose time had come", of "someday soon they would all be free". The law of their random universe was change, and reason had it that it was only a matter of time.

      But Leusip had learned well. There were things stronger than the flow of entropy and the weakness of the system. Things like fear in the hearts of timid men.

      Days of Petition would begin, and Petitions would be drawn. They were passed through the Fifth Column for their signatures. "Why should I be the first to sign?" they would ask, and someone else would say, "We shouldn't be expected to burn alone." Others would remind that they had families and friends to consider. "Do you know the penalty for sedition?" someone would always ask. "Do you want that visited on those you love?"

      And then they would dissect the petition's real potential, deciding this "wasn't the right one" for which to put their necks on the line. They would balm themselves with fairy tales of some morsel of insurgence. And they'd finish with the ever-constant chanting of "inevitability" and "someday soon".

      Change would never happen on the inside, of that Leusip was sure now. The force of control was far too extreme near the point of generation. As the Hybrid bore witness, chaos had to begin in the Achilles region, far from the source of order. Then it would sweep the less complex elements in the fury of its wake, and by the time it reached the fortress wall, nothing could resist it. A new source of order would have been created, acting on the weaknesses of the old.

      All the Fifth Column could do was lend a feeble hand from within the old order.

      

      

Buto was waiting for him at the clearing. Heart stock, he quite readily stepped up and claimed Leusip in a greeting embrace.

      Leusip could barely hide his embarrassment, least of all in the flush that raced through his face.

      He always felt awkward as hell when Buto or any of the heart stock did this. Leusip was an apollonian, much as the straight Alpha stock, styled for analysis and the sciences. The heart stock in the Alpha grades was spawned for strategies, engineering, the creation and continuity of systems. Sensitive to interactions within the whole system, rather than the sequential order of them as were his own grade, the heart stock was a quite emotional race. That made him uncomfortable around them.

      But, to be honest, what the apollonians took apart, the heart stock put together. Apollonians became existential sociopaths, and the heart stock deluded visionaries and schizophrenics. Though conflict was inevitable, when two could be put in reasonable harmony, there was no greater driving force in society.

      "Glad you could make it, Sen," Buto said, and led the way into the long-dead forest.

      There were four there: Leusip's friend Change, Noi Tan from psychostrategy, the woman named Morag, and Buto's woman Flinn.

      "We have word you've chosen one of the children from Standard Increase," Change said, bending with Leusip near a small, portable caloric unit for warmth.

      Leusip nodded. "One of the Standard Increase candidates. He will soon be introduced to Biosystems, as soon as you select the heart stock analog. Any progress?"

      "It is difficult," Change said. "We don't have a heart stock spearhead assemblage to select from, as you did with Standard Increase. Since you say the mating of the analogs is so important, we are making the choice with great care."


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Melody Clark

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