Questions

Stepney made his way to his office, Harlow marching alongside him, talking endlessly. Arcane theories, tales of days gone by, indulgence in strange substances given by gods and inhaled by man. Stepney blocked him out as best he could, nodding from time to time until they reached his office.

Harlow glanced at him, his face a mixture of amusement and disappointment. “This is where I leave, isn’t it?”

“It is.”

“She doesn’t like me, does she?”

“She doesn’t know you.” Even as he said it, Stepney knew it was not an answer.

“One does not have to know a person to hate them, Stepney. Often quite the reverse is true.”

“I know. Calvin is a woman of science. It is to be expected.”

“She hates me because she does not understand me. Cannot explain me or my kind.” In spite of the smile, Harlow’s voice was tinged with bitterness. Bitterness, anger and self-righteous fury in one.

“She believes she can.”

“She believes she can. She knows she cannot. She is a woman of the physical world and anything outside of that world is a threat. Such as me.”

“Perhaps.”

“I will see you soon, Stepney. Be careful. Keep your eyes and ears open.”

“I shall.” The two men shook hands, and Harlow made his way into the city, lost amid the towers reaching into the heavens, the colossal images beamed over the heads of the people. The world of today, the promise of tomorrow. Stepney smiled a little and made his way into his office, pausing only to collect his jacket and collection of tools before returning once more to the streets.

As he walked, making his way to visit Calvin and those at her lab, his mind returned to her outburst of the previous night. The city of Celestis was built on human endeavour, on logic and beauty, grace and science. It was a city in which the universe was god and god the universe, investigating its workings the highest form of worship. All things could be known, all things discovered, given the correct data.

Men such as Harlow threw this into chaos. There were few of them. The Neurophants. Those who could see into the mind, who could understand the soul. They provided data, interpreted signs, knew what others could not know and saw things others could not see. They were immersed in the constant flow of the universe, bringing forth data without meaning, knowledge without context.

Or so they claimed. To others they showed intuition masked in symbolism and representation. To others, such as Calvin, they were simply charlatans, liars working on occasional guesswork with the good fortune of an unusual perspective.

Perhaps none of them were correct. Perhaps they all were.

Stepney arrived at the lab, glancing at the posters which greeted him as he entered the building. Obscure mathematical in-jokes, instructions for one item or another. Calvin stood nearby, making notes as she read the results on an assistant’s terminal. She stared at the notes, at the terminal, back at the notes.

“These results appear to be on target. Continue.” As she turned she noticed Stepney and approached him.

“How goes the investigation?”

No time for pleasantries. “It goes. I came to talk to people. To you. Those in your lab.”

Calvin stared at him for a moment. “This project is to go live soon. Very soon. Time is of the essence. We cannot afford to be sidetracked.”

“I will try to work around your schedule. But we must talk.”

Calvin nodded and glanced at one of the assistants milling around the lab. “You. I must leave for some time. I will return soon. In the meantime, you are to keep track of results, note any irregularities, give directions to those who need them. Understood?”

The assistant looked at her calmly. “Understood.”

Stepney and Calvin made their way from the lab, down corridors festooned with intricate symbols, obscure formulae, the code for the world being created here. Eventually they reached her office. Unlike his own, it was orderly, restrained, each thing in its rightful place. On the desk, a terminal showed her work of the time, simulations for the next probe to be sent into the heavens. Calculations, communications, records.

She eyed him coldly. “What is it you want?”

“Information. That is all.”

“Go ahead.”

“How long had Hypa been here?”

“Three months. She was from one of the schools of instruction, showed her way with numbers from an early age. She was…is…a genius.” Her cheeks went red, her eyes unreadable, as the mistake sank in. She shook her head brusquely and continued. “She worked with us on the simulations, the holograms, the models. Taught men twice her age more about mathematics than most of them had even considered.”

“What of her parents, her personal life?”

“We did not discuss it. It was not relevant to the project.”

“Did she have family?”

“She did not say.”

“Friends.”

“None that she mentioned. A few people, from the school of instruction, would come to visit from time to time. One of them is here today.”

“I must speak to them.”

“Of course.”

“Please understand, Stepney, it is not that we do not live, nor love. We are people like you or anyone else. We live, we love, we dream. But in this place, at this time, our focus can only be on the work. We are working to bring mankind to the stars, to free us, one and all, in body and mind. Through the wisdom and insight we are creating, a new world may be born. We cannot afford to be led astray by emotion and other trivialities.”

“I understand.”

“You do not, Stepney. You judge us, though you may not know it.”

“Perhaps.”

After their discussion ended, Stepney took to speaking to each of the people from the lab in turn. Each gave the same answers, described the same world. Young, bright, friendly, dedicated. And now missing, disappeared to some unknown place with neither warning nor explanation. As he prepared to leave he noticed a girl standing in the doorway of Calvin’s office, donated to him for the morning as she continued her work. The girl seemed nervous, almost shy. This break of emotion in such a sterile environment left Stepney disoriented, uncomfortable.

“May I help you?”

The girl entered the room and approached him, her eyes flitting from side to side nervously. “You are finding Hypa, yes?”

“Her and the others, yes.”

“Only, I found this the other day.” She passed him the device. A memory cube, capable of recording a short message and projecting it into the world, playing it back as a three dimensional video. “We share a house. She had it in her room. I’d gone in to borrow something and saw it on her desk. She was angry when she found me looking at it.” The girl began to cry, sobbing softly. “Is that why she left?”

“No. Of course it isn’t,” Stepney replied. He could not be sure, yet somehow was. “Do you know what it is?”

“No. I never played it. I didn’t dare go near it again after how upset she was. She is never upset. Never angry. But this was different.”

“Thank you. This may be very helpful.” Stepney took the device from her, popping it into his pocket. As he looked back at her, he saw the tears coating her cheeks, the tiny shakes of her body.

“Please bring her back. I miss her. We all do.”

Stepney felt something inside him drop. She was so young, so helpless, lost and confused. He knelt slightly and took her head in his hands. “What is your name?”

“Mary.”

“I want you to understand this, Mary. I will move heaven and earth to make things right again for you.” Stepney kissed her forehead lightly and held her as she embraced him, weeping softly into his chest.

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Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 12:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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