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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Changeling: Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Katja Kiel had long, black hair, pale skin and electric blue eyes. She wore a large black ribbon in her hair which kept it in a tight pony tail out of her face. Her dress was also black, with only a white frilly edge at the bottom of her short skirt that stopped well above her knees, her long sleeves that ended at her wrist, and the small oval surrounding her neck. Her legs were covered by long black socks, which started at her toes and stopped slightly above her knees, leaving just a small band of smooth white skin between socks and skirt to tantalize the world. Her shoes were unobtrusive black leather laceless keds that stopped below her ankles. She was seventeen years old, just a few steps away from marriage and children with her fiance Jurgen Jaeger. As the only two psychics with German heritage, it had seemed like an obvious match. Katja would have done her duty by any man, but she had grown quite fond of Jurgen since the match had been decided upon ten years ago. He had brown hair and green eyes, so it was anyone's guess what their children would look like. Katja was the most beautiful and powerful girl in the world, and the reason humans would win this war, regain their freedom, and bring about a new dawn, the complete supplanting of the inferior by the superior. She was excited to be at Colette Brewnell's conference room, the center of power for all dissidents. She had been told to gather up the other psychics from across the world and teleport them all to the mill, to learn their new mission details. It didn't really matter which base psychics lived in between missions, because Katja's teleportation would be taking them to and fro, so it was more convenient if they all lived together in one place. It was a shame leaving her friends and family behind, but the war couldn't last that long. With Aisia's destructive power, if she was left to her own devices, there soon wouldn't be any homo sapiens left. And that was just one member of the MDT. To her left and right, all the most famous names among dissidents could be found. Autumn Brewnell, who had spontaneously declared war for all of them without consulting the higher ups, quite like the princess she halfway was, and torn up an entire SWAT team while escaping. Norn Lyles, the blue-eyed beauty who kept their entire operations safely out of sight from the authorities. Toland Ordun, the railgun. Azusa Riemann, their psychic scout that could find targets better than any multi-billion dollar satellite network. Felix Jones, who could take whatever they needed from the enemy by just conjuring it up. And his fiancee, Ivy Brooke, who could make indefinite copies of any physical object she had her hands on. Katja, Felix and Ivy would have to make regular teleporting rounds to resupply all the dissident bases in the world as the war dragged on. It wouldn't do to let anyone go without for spare parts, fuel, medicine or food.
Every psychic was here, in the same room. Some she knew personally, some she'd only met during solstices and equinoxes, when all the dissident groups gathered together to socialize and celebrate the turning of the seasons, and some she only knew by name and reputation. A lot of them were watching her admiringly, as though she could pull a magic trick any second now. Katja's foot swished back and forth, one leg crossed on top of the other at the thigh. Let them watch. It's only what I deserve.
Katja could teleport anyone who held hands with her, or with someone holding hands with her, or with someone holding hands with someone who was holding hands with her, and so on, as well as anything they could personally carry, up to about fifty people at a time. She could teleport them to anywhere in the world, though she needed to be fed the x,y,z coordinates by a computer to be at all accurate. It was tiring work. But in a pinch, she could probably do it thirty times in a day. More than enough to cover any eventuality. When she was a kid, it had been all she could do to teleport herself, but she had practiced with extra weight every day after school and home school was out, and become stronger than anyone imagined. The training had been part pride and part fun, but now it was going to conquer the world in the service of her species. It had worked out quite nicely for everyone.
"The enemy doesn't know where we went, and therefore hasn't mobilized its armed forces into any action. Most of its troops are still in reserve, living a normal civilian life. Obviously the world government could choose to draft much larger populations, but then again they wouldn't have anything to do once drafted either. Currently we are being handled as a 'criminal' case. The case of the disappearing dissidents, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit treason. Well, they're right there." Colette said. The crowd laughed with her.
"We can think of two situations wherein we come under attack. The world government combs every inch of ground and happens by sheer coincidence to walk through our illusionary veil, which would require enormous amounts of manpower and luck on their part, or a traitor in our midst reveals the location of our bases to the government and we are all liquidated out of the blue in a nuclear barrage. If there are traitors in our midst, they won't be able to communicate with the world government easily. No one is allowed to communicate with anyone outside our bases, and we have kept all frequencies jammed. The veil line is patrolled by thousands of adults day and night, such that it would take an entire unit being traitors together for any one in their midst to slip away. Even so, there's always a possibility that our security will fail, or some other threat will reveal us we haven't foreseen. Even if this looks like a one sided war, be aware that we are always just one move away from being checkmated. If the enemy finds our location there is literally nothing we can do to save ourselves." Colette warned.
"In an effort to conceal our location, we have decided to attack enemy targets by dart board throwing. To be more precise, by randomized number generating. Azusa has kindly drawn up a list of target locations for us in the last week. We will go about executing these missions in a random pattern. The proximity of the targets to our bases will not be correlated. Therefore, enemy pattern recognition computers will find nothing but noise. The enemy falls into three categories: Command, military, and ideological targets. We're not sure how much use it is to kill politicians, since the whole world believes in the same things and they can just appoint new ones, but we're going to kill them anyway, because they were the ones who passed the marriage lottery law. We'll continue to kill them, no matter what new congressmen they appoint, simply to demoralize their leadership and help prod them to surrender. As for military targets, it's obvious. No nation will ever surrender unless its military is defeated. It's our job to destroy the enemy's fighting strength, such that the civilians understand that resistance is futile and surrender becomes preferable. We must replace their hope with despair, and the only way to do that is defeat them precisely where they are strongest. Unless we can prove to the five billion people of the world that there's really nothing they can do to fight us, they'll continue fighting us forever, no matter how many civilians we killed. Furthermore, at least in the short term, we wish to benefit from the accumulated human and material capital homo sapiens have created all across the world. Massive bloodshed is counterproductive. Homo sapiens can still work the jobs they are trained for and provide all the basic goods we're used to receiving through welfare, and they can still be induced to have and raise our children, of course raised according to our standards and in our public schools, which would greatly facilitate the growth in human population. If we do win this war, all the girls in this room will have their eggs harvested, fertilized by the men in this room, and given to surrogate families across the world to raise. The same is true for all humans. We want a large world population, but we simply can't take care of everyone properly ourselves. Homo Sapiens will be of vital help to us as we transition up the evolutionary ladder. Without them, it would take centuries for the world's population and economy to recover. To reduce bad blood and bitter feelings between our two groups, its imperative to limit civilian casualties and property destruction during your missions. No antimatter bombs." Colette looked at Aisia Verininkov sternly, who bowed obediently from her chair at the table.
"The problem with attacking the enemy's military is that they might shoot back." Colette started, and the room laughed.
"I know each of the psychics in this room is not afraid of any tool in the military's arsenal, but the numbers will be heavily against us, and only a few of you have any defensive techniques. A psychic who can start fires can be killed by a stray bullet just like anyone else, and we simply can't afford to lose psychics in battle. If we are taking any casualties at all, it will increase the morale of the enemy, because it will become apparent they can win, and we will run out of forces before they do, and have to withdraw from the battle. It might take generations of hiding out before we are ready to try again. It's an eventuality with little hope. To defeat the enemy military, I want all of you to ask yourselves how your psychic powers can defend each other, as well as eliminate the enemy. You will be fighting in teams, so it's time you started practicing together as a team. Battle won't begin until this council is convinced you can come back safe and sound every fight. Does everyone here understand? Every one of you must survive this war or we won't even start it. Convince us you have the power to win or we'll simply hide out here forever, and breed a new generation of psychics who can handle the job." Colette met the eyes of every psychic in the room, then nodded to herself that they understood.
"The last target is the enemy's culture warriors. We need to deprogram the brainwashed civilian masses of homo sapiens. This will be necessary if we're to live alongside them for the next hundred years, and it will help bring about a speedier surrender if they are not continuously bolstered by spiritual leaders to continue their resistance. One good speech by an opponent is worth legions of troops. Remember Churchill's speech to the British during World War II? We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the hills, etc. Speeches are powerful. Words have consequences. Beliefs have consequences. It is time we dealt with the power of their speech givers, words and beliefs. Azusa has drawn up a long list of popes, patriarchs, bishops, mullahs and the like, to undercut their religious nonsense. Then there's the entertainment industry. Any film or television show that badmouths us since Autumn Brewnell declared war is a target on our hitlist. We will no longer allow any slanders against us to pass unpunished."
The room broke out into a spontaneous cheer. Katja was the first to jump to her feet, clapping joyously. More than anything else, she couldn't stand every day in class being insulted by her inferiors. She couldn't stand having to let all of it pass by, as though people could just say whatever they liked to whoever they liked, no matter how much pain it caused, and no matter how false or stupid it was. She hated homo sapiens for their words more than their deeds. She hated them for talking to her and about her as though they knew anything at all. And now she could help kill the people who did so? Marvelous. Oh, thank you Colette. We simply must prove to her we can fight. I want to kill the badmouthers and shut the whole world up for good. Soon the whole room followed Katja’s lead, whistling and clapping and stamping their feet in approval of the council’s decision. Azusa sat demurely with her hands folded in her lap, smiling, her eyes brown but sparkling. She of course had known about the decision a week ago.
“All right, settle down.” Colette smiled back at them, pleased at the impact she had made, but waved her arms downwards to try and control the volume. Katja clapped a few more seconds just to prolong the joy of the moment, but finally bowed and returned to her seat. The rest followed her example, and the conference room was quiet again.
“We will not be settling personal vendettas, so sorry.” Colette smiled. “But there are other ideological targets on our radar. Newspaper publishers and editorialists. Writers of books, magazines, plays, operas, or ballets that demonize us. College professors who spent their careers labeling us insane liars. Song composers that had anything about hand holding and kumbayah singing equality, or anything about how evil dissidents were for keeping to themselves. We are wiping the cultural board clean. If the war ends with some of these people still alive, we’ll just go on executing them for their crimes anyway. I don’t want any spokesman for the other side left alive. They have had their three hundred year reign. Now it’s our turn. I won’t have our airwaves or children’s heads polluted with their ideological garbage. We will start clean, without pied pipers leading anyone astray. If civilian homo sapiens want to whisper to each other about the glories of multiculturalism or what evil Nazis we are, fine. But if the nail sticks out we will bash it down, with the full might and fury of our assassination team. Aside from politicians, the ideologues are yours to hunt, AT. Sorry, MDT, but you’ll be focused on dismantling the enemy military.”
A few members of the MDT groaned, but they understood the logic of not misallocating scarce resources.
“For now, we’re going to drill. Both teams will be given computer simulations, and live training against our own soldiers, of course armed with blanks, in an attempt to figure out how to flawlessly defeat your targets. The training will continue until your team is invincible. It’s up to you when that happens. Oh, and Autumn, your punishment is still on, so don’t think you can weasel out of it with any excuses about drills. If you want to train more, educate your monkey faster.” Colette told her daughter. Katja kept her face straight, but she was quite pleased to see their princess taken down a peg. Leadership wasn’t passed down by descent, but by the amount of trust adults had in your wisdom and ability to lead. Autumn had a long way to go before she could inspire that. Katja had no interest in the job herself. Government was tedious when you already agreed with the ideals of the government. It just meant talking to people and filling out forms. It’s not like the dissidents had any legislative body. Their laws had all been set in stone centuries ago, and followed to the letter ever since. They were good laws. Changing them would mean obliterating their entire nature and purpose. They were the laws that made people human beings, and not just homo sapiens. It was suicide to change them. Treason. Insanity.
“Everyone, a toast.” Colette raised her wine glass, and the others followed suit. Drinking past the blood alochol limit was forbidden as an act of personal degradation, just like drugs or fornication. But for special occasions, everyone could enjoy a glass or two of something fine. It was a way of distinguishing an occasion as special, to drink alcohol during it, no different from dressing up to be especially pretty. Though girls were encouraged to do that all the time, since it simply freshened up the atmosphere and daily life when girls set off their personal beauty more flamboyantly. The outside world was drab in comparison, in a sort of communist utilitarian insistence on simplicity and comfort. Girls rarely had long hair, or wore anything different from boys. Combined with their obesity, their dark skin, and their unsymmetrical faces it was a constant freak show. The whole world was drowned in the ugliness of homo sapiens. Humans had no intention of repeating the same mistakes. The things you were around most often, the people most of your life was spent with, had to be beautiful, if anything was going to be beautiful, if Beauty was going to exist at all in the world, as more than just an idle concept or a few days of vacation. Human girls wore skirts, not jeans. If they did wear jeans, for instance if they were moving something or hiking or just extremely modest, they wore skirts over them, to show they meant no harm.
Girls wore their hair longer on average, and adorned it with more accessories. Humans didn’t have tatoos or piercings, except for earrings which were just too pretty to forsake. But they did have enough fashion sense to set off the curves of their body, rather than hide them in dumpy gray bags like homo sapien ‘sweatsuits.’ They had appealingly translucent and transparent filmy skirts and shirts, revealing nothing because of course there was another decent opaque layer underneath. And there were shirts and dresses of all sorts, showing off shoulders, collarbones, backs, midriffs, legs and cleavage. Public decency was demanded and expected, but there was a great deal of flexibility within those standards. Girls were expected to find for themselves what fashions appealed to them. Decency was not at war with feminine beauty. The two complimented each other. What was covered accentuated what wasn’t covered, and what wasn’t covered accentuated what was covered, especially if moving shifted those two boundaries the slightest amount. Furthermore, girls wanted to be appreciated for more than just their fertility, that instincts had implanted in boys to care about, and boys didn’t want to constantly have to be thinking about sex whenever they wanted to appreciate the lines and curves of a girl they met in public. Limits enhanced people’s lives, because it discouraged arms races -- girls dressing ever more sluttily to gain ever more attention -- and kept people focused with the delights of aesthetics instead of just instincts, which soon became overwhelmed and deadened to over stimulation just like any primitive drug that appealed to any primitive part of the brain.
You could say that the difference between human brains and animal brains was that we had desires that couldn’t be over stimulated, that couldn’t be deadened, and never wore out. Feelings like love, and listening to music, and intellectual curiosity. You could instantly tell if a desire was animalistic simply by the question of whether it could be sated or not. Animal desires weren’t bad in themselves. Humans were animals and had to live, after all. But when they started to conflict with human desires, they were bad. And when a human chose an animal desire over a human desire, they ceased being human. They devolved. They degraded. They lost all their honor and any reason to be proud. They died the death.
“To Atlantis.” Colette said simply, and took a sip. Katja smiled to herself. They were not a nation, the world hadn’t let them be. But if they were a nation, that would have been the nation’s name. It was a wonderful toast.
“To Atlantis,” Katja murmured, and sipped her own exotic and somewhat bitter wine. She had no tongue for these things, but she liked that the taste was strange and hard to swallow all at once. It was appropriate. The other psychics had all done the same, with the same quiet reverence.
“Hail victory!” Aisia Verininkov shouted, and downed the rest of her wine. She had a fey look, and Katja wondered if she still remembered that order about antimatter deployments. Aisia threw her wine glass to the ground and tossed her hair and head to look at the others when it shattered.
It didn’t take long for her peers to join Aisia’s new toast exuberantly.
“HAIL VICTORY!” Katja shouted with all the others, feeling the delight of the ancient war cry and the thrill of its forbidden nature. Somewhere, one of my ancestors had said the same words, for the Lost Cause. And somewhere the spirit of her ancestor was watching Katja happily, the girl who would restore everything to how it should have been. Watch me, spirits. I am a German, like my fathers before me. And I will see to it that the 4th Reich really does prevail. She swallowed the rest of her wine in one go and smashed her wine glass to the floor. This was the way to start a war.

* * *

"I hope they didn't offend you." Valentine Winter squeezed Benjamin's hand as they left the council chamber. She was wearing an eccentric mix of yellows and blues, alongside her traditional wide brimmed white hat. Valentine didn't have pale skin, she had white skin. She was an albino, which was both her curse and her blessing. She couldn't take the sun very well, and she couldn't see very well even after multiple laser surgeries to correct her eyes. But it did make her the most beautiful girl in the world. With snow white hair, snow white skin, and an otherworldly combination of eyes, one red and one purple, all due to a lack of melanin. Her parents had come from Canada, which was now just a geographic unit instead of a political one, and both had looked normal enough, but albinism was a recessive trait that skipped through the generations. She was glad. There had been plenty of beautiful girls in the conference room. But many had looked alike to one another, while none had looked anything like her. She was Valentine Winter, the albino psychic, the most exotic life form in existence. Her parents had affianced her to another exotic, a purebred Jew, with very plain looking brown eyes and black hair. Her albinism wouldn't reach the next generation, but that was okay. She wasn't sure her kids would enjoy hiding from the sun their whole lives. And it would be fine so long as people took enough pictures of her now to enjoy her beauty forever. It could be her legacy to mankind. That and winning this war for their eternal future reign, of course.
"Aisia's battlecry?" Benjamin grinned wryly. "Don't worry about it. My parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents all knew who they were joining centuries ago. It was better to ally with Nazis who judged you on the basis of merit than stay around muds who only cared about conformity. If we hadn't joined the dissidents, we would have been bred to death long ago. How many Jews are left in the outside world? Are they at all intelligent anymore, or just average, because they stopped choosing their partners wisely? Meanwhile there are two Jews in our inner circle, ready to lead the Nazis to victory once and for all."
"One and a half, Azusa Riemann is half Japanese you know. Plus, once we marry, I'll be destroying your genes too." Valentine said.
"Not all of my family is psychic, and thus obligated to marry out. There are still thousands of Jews among the dissidents. But it wouldn't matter either way. Jews didn't interbreed in the past for three reasons, religion, merit, and prejudice. Those reasons no longer apply, so there's no point staying Jewish any longer. We were prejudiced against others, and others were prejudiced against us, which threw up a wall of hatred that couldn't be pierced. But everyone here judges each other based on capability and ideals, not ethnicity. As for religion, most Jews, including my ancestors, gave that up long ago as stuff and nonsense. And as for merit, there's no one who merits my love more than you. You're the most beautiful psychic in the world." Benjamin said.
"I know." Valentine preened. "I just. . .no one here wants to gas Jews. I've never met anyone who doesn't accept you totally and fully. And if I did, I would give them an earful. It's just that everything went downhill after the Nazis lost. We have long memories, and we all know where this anti-discrimination stuff began."
"And a good part of that downhill slide was Jewish activism." Benjamin accepted responsibility freely. "Jews were so intent on protecting themselves, they threw out every possible prejudice or discriminatory standard or collective identity they could find. Using their own intelligence and organization, as well as their status as heroes of suffering, they turned the entire world towards the madness of perfect equality through perfect nondiscrimination. Even though the other races took it up and pushed it forward long after Jews had disappeared as a population, there's no proving they would have done so without us. If that means humans want a 4th Reich to counterbalance our overreaction, then it's only our just desserts. You watched me, didn't you? I joined in the toast too. I don't exactly wish the Nazis had won World War II. But I do want Atlantis to win this war. As much as anyone. I want to marry my purple eyed amazon. Not a hunchbacked flea-bitten stranger. I'll hail our victory any time."
"And if we give the roman salute?" Valentine worried.
"It's fine." Benjamin said.
"And if we goose step, or wear the swatstika on our uniforms?" Valentine worried.
"I'll deal with it." Benjamin said, though his face did look like he was eating something bitter. "I can't just spend my time wailing about how offended I am by my own comrades. What's important is installing the culture and genes of our new nation across the world. Not what flag we fly or how we salute while we do so."
"I could ask Aisia to tone it down. . ." Valentine offered, the two walking through the corridors to their newly assigned rooms. They were still separate rooms, since marriage was meant to be special, which meant they couldn't sleep together until they actually married. Since Valentine was only 15, that was still an infinite wait away. Even though she wanted him so much. Patience. It will be a great wedding night.
"Don't. That will just cause guilt on her part, and then resentment for me making her feel guilty, and then more resentment because she has no reason to feel guilty, and then she'll complain to her friends about the stupid paper-skinned Jew who tries to control everyone through his sensitive emotions and manipulates everyone else to hate themselves just because they are doing what they know is right. It would be a catastrophe. I wouldn't be able to get along with my team at all."
"I wish they hadn't taken me off the assassination team." Valentine sighed, swinging his hand in hers as they walked side by side. "We could have spent all that time together."
"Bad luck." Benjamin agreed.
"But outside of work, we have more time than ever. No school!" Valentine smiled happily. School had been hell for her. She had been so exotic no one had even known where to start insulting her. Diversity was only appreciated here, where people had enough confidence in themselves to tolerate the accomplishments of others. Outside, there wasn't tolerance for anyone.
"There's still your parent's lessons." Benjamin said.
"Cancelled. Mother said that if I'm ready to kill and die for mankind, I've learned everything I need to learn." Valentine did a little curtsy.
"How very practical." Benjamin laughed. "Well, my parents still want me to read up. This great mind of mine isn't allowed to stop until I've created a new mathematical theorem, or at least until I escape them at 18."
"That's horrible." Valentine sympathized.
"It's not so bad. Math is interesting." Benjamin said.
"If you say so." Valentine looked nonplussed.
"I do." Benjamin insisted, leaning over to kiss her.
"Math sure is interesting." Valentine breathed, her eyes looking straight into her lover's and whipping quickly back and forth, her body on tiptoes to reach his lips, her arms pulling his body tight against hers.
"You could seduce a gargoyle." Benjamin complained, quickly stepping out of her embrace.
"Awww." Valentine pouted, her arms outstretched for him to come back.
"No, I'll die if I try that one more time." Benjamin turned her down. "It's math for me. I'll see you at dinner, okay?"
"Okay." Valentine agreed, bowing her head to him. She acted disappointed, but she was exhilarated. From how good she had felt, and how much of an impression she had left on him. It had been her total victory.

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