The Council of 17 was in session for the 289th time when, for the first time in history, it was interrupted.
"Gabrielle! We've found it! We have, really and truly, finally found it!"
The interloper was a short man wearing the badges that proclaimed him to be a junior associate at the Guild of Seeing. The man was so excited, that when he dropped his standard of office, a sacred sceptre with the characteristic opal encrusted Eyeball of All-Seeing, he failed to apologise to it before he picked it up again.
Such a lapse of propriety, regarding both the sceptre and the holy rules of the Council in Session could mean only three things- the man was only posing as a Guildmember, and was in fact a spy, or he was mad…
Or he had news that was so truly amazing, he had stopped caring about almost three hundred years' tradition.
The Member for Death spoke, "Why do you dare to flaunt the rules set by our ancestors, Guildmember?" She asked in a hoarse voice edged with ice, "Who are you, and what news was so important that it could not wait for the ritual three days after the Session has ended, and instead has interrupted the Sacred Rites of Deliberation?"
The man ignored her, and began to run towards a dark-haired woman who stood a little to the left of the Member for Death, between the Members for Colour and Despair.
"Gabrielle! We found it! Did you hear?"
The Member for Philosophy stared at the man. She knew him well, for he was a close friend. Nathaniel was normally a sedate, quiet person. He had been given the unusual task of searching for things that no one believed in, and he had stoically searched, never questioning the whims of his guild, one of the many that fell under the rule of Philosophy.
What could possess him to act this way?
Gabrielle glanced at her fellow members, but they looked as bemused as she felt. There was no ceremonial method to follow here. She was on her own.
Biting back a sigh of frustration, Gabrielle turned to Nathaniel, and saw that he was practically jigging with excitement. Better to humour him before he sent more centuries' old rites into disarray. Although the Member for Chaos was looking more and more pleased with himself, the Member for Order's expression shouted Chagrin.
"What is it Nathaniel?" Gabrielle asked cautiously.
"We've found it! Utopia! The location has been discovered!"
Seventeen voices thundered, "WHAT?!"
An immediate hubbub ensued. Gabrielle looked worried, as depending on their natures, the various Members glared, rolled their eyes, or smiled benevolently at Nathaniel making catcalls, accusations, and queries as to the state of Nathaniel's sanity.
All, that is, with one exception.
The Member for Truth.
The short man stood.
"He's telling the truth, as he believes it."
Moments later, the Member for Artifice shook her head, saying, "As he believes it. This could be an elaborate ploy, designed to…" then she laughed, and flicked her grey-blonde hair in Nathaniel's direction. "But then why choose to say that he had found Utopia of all places?" She smiled ironically, and commanded, "Tell us of this so called Utopia that you have found Nathaniel, I would love to hear about it."
Behind her, the Member for Civilisation smirked and whispered to her neighbour, Order, "I would love to see what he comes up with. Here, we have been trying to establish our own utopia for generations, and this charlatan thinks he can walk right in here and disrupt our meeting with a bogus claim."
Order shook his head. "Remember back in the 1970s when that human politician… what was his name? Kizmer? Kisser? Oh, right Kissinger. He said something along the lines of, 'For other nations, Utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered; for Americans it is just over the horizon'?"
Civilisation gave him an amused look. "You got the quote word for word, sly Nikolai. Either way, when talking about Earthlings, the American civilisation was possibly closer to utopia than any of us ever admitted, but that is long gone now, destroyed by the wars, both hot and Cold. Tibet now… that was a country which got close to Shangri-la. But then the Chinese invaded, and last time I checked, they were still picking up the pieces…" then Civilisation noticed that she was the only one making a sound in the room.
She turned away from the grinning Order, and saw that every eye was on her.
"I'm sorry; did I make an inappropriate comment?"
"Care to join us, Vivian? Or don't you think that the discovery of this Civilisation concerns you?" asked Science, his voice desert-like.
Civilisation merely made her trademark expression, a meaningless, polite smile, but quietened, and so the others turned to once again face Nathaniel, who now looked defensive.
"I know that we have found it! I know!" he muttered defiantly.
The Member for Hope shook his head, wonderingly, and then asked, "How do you know?"
"Come look and see!" Suddenly, Nathaniel turned and started to jog off. Giving into their curiosity and forgetting their sense of decorum, several of the Members followed him, hiking up their ceremonial robes in a way that allowed better movement as they sprinted after him.
To the surprise of Philosophy, the Members for War and Barbarism were the first to behind Nathaniel as he moved towards the Observatory of the Guild of Seeing.
"But then they know, better than most of us what an absence of Utopian society is like. They probably would be quicker to spot it than Civilisation, and quicker to accept it too," she thought.
She looked behind herself, and watched as Order and Civilisation reluctantly lagged behind, and marvelled at their lack of enthusiasm.
A few minutes later, and the group was standing in front of the main observation screen. A small planet, with blue oceans and green/brown landmasses floated in the centre.
"Earth?" scoffed Darkness, "but you tried here last century!"
"It's changed," insisted Nathaniel. "Look at the read outs!"
As one, the Members gazed at the screen. The happiness meter was a little higher than average, but that was the only difference that they could see from the last time…
Wait, the happiness meter was higher that average?
Philosophy craned her neck to see over Colour's broad back, and looked at the systems of government.
A Global Socialist Democracy! The humans had finally done it!
Nathaniel looked up at her. "See? After the collapse of the United States as a world power, the United Nations finally managed to pass the Legislation, which allowed for the dissolution of any government or otherwise body that created a military force. The arms manufacturers went bankrupt, because a coalition of billionaires who wished to see an end to war bought the controlling shares, and then caused economic collapse to each and every one of them. For fifty years, they played this game, until people began to manufacture non-lethal weapons. These were allowed for the police and security organisations, and gradually, the supplies of ammunition and working lethal weapons declined until they no longer existed, except as relics of a past age."
"What is the Social System like?" asked Peace, her eyes shining at the concept of a civilisation without the tools to self-annihilate.
"All people are given free education and housing to start with, but those people with more currency are allowed to, if they wish, purchase homes that are beyond the basic, and to live in more choicest locations. All people have equal rights, be they male, female, of whatever race, culture or creed."
"That's easy to say, but is it really true?" Chaos grinned, "Humans have an alarming tendency towards self-destruction that baffled our predecessors, until they realised that the silly creatures don't consider themselves to be one race."
"Yes, but remember how the Pandemic wiped out maybe 10 of all people? In the ensuing chaos, the humans finally realised that it did not matter what nationality they had, they died in the hundreds of thousands, regardless, and it was only by supporting one another that they managed to crawl out of the cavity that they had slipped into."
"It was this, the previous Reconciliations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Sunni and Shiites, the election of Mohammed Al-Munajjid as the leader of Afghanistan, and the establishment of the Compulsory Charity Project, that caused the Muslim peoples to enter a golden age of no war. The people found that peace suited them, and their countries prospered more than they had for centuries. Other wars, both civil and about money ceased as of necessity during the pandemic, as the Armed forces were forced to work together to ensure the safety of the civilians- the only part of the job description of military officer which was paradoxically held to be the most important part, but was also the aspect least attended to. The enmities against the west had ceased with the collapse of the United States, and with the end of the ready supply of lethal weapons…"
The Member for Capital, who had been silent until now, interrupted him. "But what of Africa and the Pacific Islands? You forget that last time we looked almost the whole continent of Africa was in a state of upheaval, while the islands were little better off."
"No longer," smiled Nathaniel, his excitement rising again, "you remember I mentioned the Compulsory Charity Project?
"Well an amalgamation of several of the world's largest charities, including Sans Medicins, the Red Cross, and World Vision put forward a challenge to the United Nations; to distribute more evenly the wealth of the world, without causing global conflict…"
"And?" Capital was impatient.
"The ambassador from Japan, Hanako Nakagawa, came up with the proposal to take 0.03 of the money that would normally be taxed already by the specific governments, and to put it towards the development of the economies of the various African Nations. Competent individuals from each African country were selected and trained to sustain and improve on their Trade and Finances, and as soon as their economies were up and running, they were released from the program."
"But why did this work better than the previous loans of money given by the United Nations and various governments?" wondered Order, who was genuinely surprised.
"You forget that previously, the loans given were just that- loans. Not gifts, which could be used as the governments saw fit, but strings-attached contracts, of which the interest incurred caused the impoverished governments of the developing countries increasingly great debt.
"This caused them to spiral downhill at an alarming rate, which could only be partially alleviated by the request for loans from other people to pay off the previous loans, thus removing some of the problems of interest, but still leaving the debtee nations on uneven standing with their more fortunate neighbours…"
"Oh, I comprehend," interjected Capital, "You mean to say that with the development of sustainable economies, as opposed to stop-gap measures to help them eke out an insecure financial existence, the less fortunate nations like say, Ethiopia, were finally given a chance for fiscal independence…"
"And with the development of these economies watched by unbiased dedicates, I daresay corruption was vastly eradicated from the system," commented Barbarism wryly, "and the private armies would have been much diminished, what with the deposing of their benefactors, and the cease of lethal arms production."
Nathaniel's glee at the Member for Barbarism's astute point made him temporarily speechless.
The Members for Science and Nature, who had been conferring for a short while, took advantage of the break in the conversation to make their own inquires.
Said Nature, "But what of that Global Warming problem? The humans seemed quite disturbed by that the last time we observed them, and their contradictory use of millions of fossil-fuelled devices, such as…keas, I think they called them, didn't they Science?"
"Cars, Nature, Cars."
"Oh, right. As I was saying, how did they overcome that insanity that they so often perpetuated? I was under the impression that despite the idea of Global Warming being widely accepted in many parts of the world, that did not alter the behaviour of the humans in the slightest. In fact, didn't their consumption of both these objects and the oils and gases that ran them increase shortly before we completed our survey?"
Nathaniel pointed to a corner of the screen, and replied, "It would seem that they changed their behaviour after all. The principal energy production methods here seem to be hydroelectric plants, private solar panels on most houses, and wind turbines.
"The cars that you both mentioned," here he nodded towards Nature and Science, "are run on hydrogen- the only by-product is water, and this can hardly be called a substance biologically detrimental to the Earth's environment."
After that revelation, there was a long period of hush, as each of the Members contemplated the implications. They had found a Utopia, but it was not theirs.
And that truly upset Civilisation. How dare this upstart world discover their perfect way of government and general existence before hers did? Without a word, she caught the eyes of Order and Artifice, and made a small sign. War and Barbarism saw what they were doing, but only shrugged- it was an atrocity, but nothing out of the ordinary for these two Members. And the fact that it was not them perpetrating, well, some of the most horrific crimes had occurred in societies that considered them selves to be better than others, and wasn't that what the claim of Civilisation seemed to entail?
The Members Civilisation, Order and Artifice moved forward as one, and cast their vote.
"This arrogant Society of Earth must be destroyed!" they cried, and before the horrified Members Philosophy, Knowledge or Peace could voice an opposition, Civilisation slammed down the button, which commanded the obliteration of Earth.
But before the Members could watch the effects of their rashness, Nathaniel suddenly disconnected the power supply of the screen, so that it went blank.
"Hey! I wanted to see the explosion!" whinged Chaos.
A deep pause occurred, as the truth of what had just happened filtered through to the Members' consciousness.
The Utopia was gone.
The Members left the room, strangely silent.
There was nothing left to see.
Peace and Knowledge were choked with repressed fury, and as they made their egress, both took the chance to glare viciously at Civilisation and her cohorts. There would be a reckoning for this, but it would come later, when they were both calmer, and thus could use biting accusations, to deepen the cuts to their rivals' quick.
Civilisation herself, as well as Artifice and Order, felt strangely subdued. They should feel triumphant that they had destroyed their rivals!
Yet… all had a bad taste in their mouths.
Discouraged, they slunk out of the Observatory, and were soon followed by the other Members.
She stayed behind, and leant on the chair where the melancholy form of Nathaniel had sunken.
"You do realise that you can't ever speak of this," she stated conversationally, "otherwise, cousin or not, they may have to kill you. They may yet, if you don't leave now."
Nathaniel's expression was saddened, as he murmured something.
Philosophy shook her head. "What?"
"I said it is lucky that I disconnected that particular button months ago, otherwise there could have been an even greater tragedy than today."
Philosophy smiled slightly, "I told you that they would never listen. They are too proud, too set in their ways."
Nathaniel stood up slowly and stretched, and said, "I'll see you in Utopia Gabrielle."
"I doubt it, Nathaniel. I must stay here, to aid our own growth."
Nathaniel laughed sarcastically, and then left for the shuttle.