Commonwealth Essay – Fifty Years Into the Future

"2058 – Prelude"

PHASE ONE – 25th December 2057

The Christmas of 2057 didn't have anyone in a particularly festive mood at all. The Earth's natural resources had mostly run dry, excepting some precious but ultimately useless minerals, and countries that had previously relied on the exportation of such natural resources for profit were now in various stages of economic breakdown and more or less constant civil strife. Amidst the chaos, three power blocs had formed: the European Union, comprising all the nations of the European "continent" (they insisted it was a continent), Iceland, and some parts of Russia. Also was the so-called Human Reform League, comprised of China, Russia, Japan and some of the Asian nations, which had done a pitiful little "reforming" since its formation. Last but not least was the United States of America, now including member states not only from the former USA, but also from both of the North and South American continents.

As is usual in any human situation, there was hostility amongst the three powers – in fact; they had fought a nuclear war of crippling dimensions for some twenty years – but in view of the global energy crisis, they decided to call a truce and set their scientists to work to find a solution. A (literal) bright idea was proposed by one of the leading Russian scientists on the team. His suggestion involved a large, complex network of solar panels set up above and beyond the Earth's atmosphere, constantly sending energy back to the mother planet by means of three "Pillars of Heaven", one for each of the power blocs. (One must keep in mind that, at this point, technology was sufficiently advanced to propel fully-automated warships into space and keep them there, so as to better be able to drop bombs on one's enemies. The Russian scientist in question rightly proposed another method of using aforementioned technology.) His suggestion was quickly implemented, and as we speak, two of the three Pillars have already been completed – the Sverniy in St. Petersburg (it was reckoned that Russia, with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, could best defend it) and the Caledfwlch in Southern France.

Naturally, every system must have its disadvantages. The major disadvantage of this system was, of course, the fact that it left most independent nations without viable sources of power. This led to the development of a new social structure, the "energy elite", so to speak, and making states close to the Pillars extremely attractive targets for jealously and (at worst) attack, if only for the fact that they usually possessed at least one solar energy pipeline. The Pillars themselves were, of course, perfectly safe – after all, who would be foolhardy enough to destroy on of the world's only sources of energy?

Interlude

25th December, Falchion Republic

"Preparations for the Independent Army's next expedition are underway, sir!"

"Thank you."

The Falchion Republic was a seemingly random union of member states from around the world, independent from and hostile to any of the three power blocs for what its leaders called "moral and ethical reasons". It was a powerful union in its own right, much of its power grounded in nuclear weapons, deep space technology and genetic engineering. Officially neutral during the great nuclear war, it had, however, played its own game of chess by supplying arms to various nations when their aims coincided.

It was also unique in that it was led by a senate comprising members of the former nobility. Monarchy had been something they had overthrown, and attempts at Communism had met the same fate, but the so-called democracy was really only half a democracy. The people were happy with the arrangement, however – governments were chosen on a strict basis of genetics, personality and intelligence, and everyone knew that the unshakeable power of the Senate was what most intimidated the outside world. This last statement was true. The outside world viewed the High Council as a group of highly intelligent madmen, which may not have been so far from the truth.

Leading the senate was Aelwyn Rutherford, owner of Rutherford Military Industries and a suspiciously large number of genetics-related facilities. He had unquestionable ties – romantic ties, so some whispered – with Kamille Austerlitz (chairman of the AINT Austerlitz Institute of Nuclear Technology), who also represented his state on the senate. The rumors were either genially ignored by both or overlooked amidst piles of paperwork.

Aside from them were two undeniably important influencing factors: Estelle Austerlitz, Kamille's sister, and Louis P., general of the Independent Army on which the Republic's latest exploit was so dependent. All four were now gathered in Aelwyn's bedroom, discussing military strategy (or, in Louis's case, whether or not to commence operations).

"All you have to do is come up with a viable plan. Better yet, just decide whether or not to go ahead and leave the planning to me," Estelle ground out, lying face-down on the couch, smothered in pillows and books. She opened her eyes – cobalt blue shot through with silver – and stared straight at the General. "Or don't you trust me?"

Louis sighed. This happened every time someone disagreed with Estelle.

"Of course I do, Stelle. But we just snubbed the EU this morning on grounds of ethics and here you are trying to use the IA as a scapegoat for something that is so obviously wrong?"

"How is it wrong, Louis?" Aelwyn demanded. "We're hardly depriving the Reformists of their energy sources. They have three nuclear energy plants in Siberia alone! We're doing this so we can distribute the energy to the struggling independent states as required and finally end the tyranny of the three power blocs!"

The General hesitated. Yes, that much was true – but he had grown up with Aelwyn, and he knew that Aelwyn Rutherford never did anything that didn't benefit him in the long run. Why would he want to run an energy charity for the world?

No, he couldn't believe that. Knowing Aelwyn, the taking of St. Petersburg was the beginning of some great plan.

Estelle's eyes staring at him – seemingly I into his head – jolted him out of his reverie.

She rolled over so that her back was facing him, several tomes falling onto the ground as she did so. Uncharacteristically, neither she nor Aelwyn made a move to pick them up.

"You know, Lou, you don't have to do this if you don't want to," she told him, so softly that he was surprised he could hear her at all. He almost missed the edge to her voice – was it a warning, or was it pity for something she already knew would happen? – but not quite.

"You should go home and rest up."

"While you still have a chance."

Those were the words Aelwyn caught falling from her lips – not for Louis, but just for him. As was that smile, and the silver flicker of madness in her eyes.

He was the only one who noticed.

Yes, the only one who noticed. Who else could be expected to? He had killed her, with his own hands he had killed her, precious, betrayed Sybelle. He had killed her, and then he had killed her father when he knew what the man had done – and all that even when the man was blood of his blood, flesh of his flesh, oh, his Father, for the love of God!

And then he had trusted the fragile, betrayed infant into Carmen Austerlitz's keeping, and then he had wondered if it might not have been better to kill her, after all, and himself as well, then it would be forever him and Sybelle in the Savage Garden, or was that Hell?

She looked too much like his mother. He resembled her as well, or so he was told, that shrunken corpse floating in a tank in his father's lab. And both of them had raven hair, yes, but she was the clone. She was his mother, and he couldn't kill her again – he had killed her once through childbirth – even if she had given life to his father's madness, even if that madness had resulted in poor, suffering, all-seeing Sybelle.

He knew that she must know. Whatever it was he thought she knew, he wasn't quite sure. Not really. But she knew something, had to, and she wasn't stopping him. So maybe he was right. Or maybe she was beyond caring about the ones who, like him, had made far too many mistakes, made too many to suffer like herself.

Either way, it was too late to stop now.

END PHASE ONE

PHASE TWO – 27th December 2057

"He got his wish," Estelle intoned blandly, reclining on her usual couch in the family library, machines pumping the chemicals she needed into her body. She relished her freedom; that she didn't have to be hooked up to those machines all day, but it was inevitable that she had to be conditioned every week or so.

Kamille would never know any better, but she remembered, quite distinctly from previous "lifetimes", the once-upon-a-time ties between the Rutherfords and her present family, which had now been erased from all living memory, save perhaps her own. The woman in her dreams was her mother, and his mother, and her brother's mother – which brother? Both. And in those dreams too was a darker-haired steward, and the glaringly white walls of a laboratory that had once been her whole world. There were a host of other names: Ophelia, Helen, Cassiopeia…but most vividly, Sybelle. Or Cybele? And in that lifetime was not Kamille Austerlitz, but Aelwyn Rutherford. Aelwyn as a boy, Aelwyn and his madness, Aelwyn and his father's madness.

There were blood and sweat and tears. And for what? He had only failed yet again, hadn't he, without giving so much as a thought to the pain that every wire, every needle, every breath and every lifetime inflicted upon her.

Dark hair, red-gold eyes. The knife, the blood, and tears that were not her own.

And then the Messiah.

"How can you be so calm about it?" Kamille demanded. "If it's as you say, Louis has been dead for hours!"

"It is always as I say, unless I lie about it," came the simple reply. "It couldn't have been prevented, could it? At least, this way, he died with a clear conscience."

"But, Stella," he protested. Then he gave up, walked round the couch, and put his arms about her. "Please, please promise me you'll live," he whispered. "I won't cry. Just promise me."

She closed her eyes, refusing to look at him.

"I hate it when you cry," she began. "But I can't promise. I can only promise you that you will live, and Aelwyn will live, and next year will be a monumental year in the history of mankind."

Take the hint, my dear one. Cassandra is always right but she is never believed. In this era, I am Cassandra. Believe me

He got up and left without looking back.

"Typical Kamille," she murmured, switching off the conditioning devices and walking to the window.

What does it matter? I shall die. And that is all I want.

END PHASE TWO

Epilogue: "Mother of the Gods"

"Sybelle – darling Sybelle."

The ruby eyes, streaked with gold, stared at her through the viewscreen.

"You killed me once. I remember."

"Don't say that."

"It's the truth."

"May I call you "Mother"? I never had a chance to do that. You are my mother, you know."

She shrugged.

"I can pretend to be for your sake – since you are killing me again and I take it I will not live to remember."

He shook his head vehemently.

"No, I promise you that you will not."

There was a comfortable silence. Estelle – Sybelle? – had yet to deliver the fatal blow on the Sverniy; the blow that would wipe St. Petersburg off the map and herself off the face of human history.

"I'd like to promise you one thing more."

The "goddess" inclined her head, amused.

Oh, what richness. Here is what he will promise me: the world to be swept clean of evil and madness, humanism and ethics all around. And he believes it. But all that will happen is annihilation, because humanity will never satisfy him, and at the end of it he will be left in a void, a serpent chewing on his own tail, and then I will live again.

Remember: I always tell the truth, unless I lie.

"Oh, you poor lost child."

Mother, he thought. And then the world exploded.

It was 2058, and the stage was set for destruction the likes of which the world had never seen before.

Addendum (31st December 2058):

The world as we know it came to an end this morning, with the firing of the nuclear cannon, the Cybele, from space. Some civilians – those that remained after the mad rampage of Aelwyn Rutherford across the globe in the quest for the "morally unblemished" – were evacuated to the space stations and prototype colonies. It is in one of those space stations that I sit now, typing this on an antique "laptop".

I always tell the truth, unless I lie. And I do not lie.

I really must go; it's medicine time.

Stella L'ange